What are your contrarian views?

by Metus1 min read15th Sep 2014812 comments


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As per a recent comment this thread is meant to voice contrarian opinions, that is anything this community tends not to agree with. Thus I ask you to post your contrarian views and upvote anything you do not agree with based on personal beliefs. Spam and trolling still needs to be downvoted.

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Dualism is a coherent theory of mind and the only tenable one in light of our current scientific knowledge.

5TheAncientGeek7yWhich dualism?
5DanielLC7yDo you mean that, without strong evidence that we don't have, we should assume dualism, or that we have strong evidence for dualism? If it's the second one, can you give me an example of such a piece of evidence?
4pragmatist7yI upvoted because I disagree (strongly) with the second conjunct, but I do agree that certain varieties of dualism are coherent, and even attractive, theories of mind.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Human value is not complex, wireheading is the optimal state, and Fun Theory is mostly wrong.

2VAuroch7yWhat would you have to see to convince you otherwise?

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

The replication initiative (the push to replicate the majority of scientific studies) is reasonably likely to do more harm than good. Most of the points raised by Jason Mitchell in The Emptiness of Failed Replications are correct.

Imagine a physicist arguing that replication has no place in physics, because it can damage the careers of physicists whose experiments failed to replicate! Yet that's precisely the argument that the article makes about social psychology.

8Osuniev7yI read this trying to keep as open a mind as possible, and I think there is SOME value to SOME of what he said (ie no two experiments are totally the same and replicators often are motivated to prove the first study wrong)... But one thing that really set me off is that he genuinely considers a study that doesn't prove its hypothesis as a failure, not even acknowledging that IN PRINCIPLE, this study has proven the hypothesis wrong, which is valuable knowledge all the same. Which is so jarring with what I consider the very basis of science that I find difficult to take Mitchell seriously.

There is no territory, it's maps all the way down.

There are no maps, it's reality all the way up.

5shminux7yYou might be facetious, but I suspect that it is another way of saying the same thing.
1TheAncientGeek7yI suspect it isn't. The words map and territory aren't relative terms like up and down.
1hyporational7yI meant to communicate the latter. We share this view.
8DanielLC7y"The territory" is just whatever exists. It may well be an infinite series of entities, each more refined than the last. It's still a territory. If there is no territory, what is a map?
5shminux7yI don't normally call it a map, I call it a model, but whatever the name, it's something that turns observations into predictions of future observations, without claiming that the source of these observations is something called "reality". This can go as much meta as you like. The map-territory model is one such useful model, except when it's not.
5jsteinhardt7yI think this post should win the thread for blowing the most minds. (I'll upvote even though I think your position is tenable, since I only assign it 20% probability or so.)
4polymathwannabe7yThat sounds awfully like social constructionism.
3shminux7yNever heard of it until now, had to look it up, couldn't find a decent writeup about it. This link [http://groundedtheoryreview.com/2012/06/01/what-is-social-constructionism/] seems to be the best, yet it does not even give a clear definition.
2D_Malik7yCan you unpack this? At the moment it seems nonsensical, in a "throwing together random words and hoping people read profound insights into it" way.
7shminux7ySure. Have you actually seen "the territory"? Of course not. There are plenty of unexplained observations out there. We assume that these come from some underlying "reality" which generates them. And it's a fair assumption. It works well in many cases. But it is still an assumption, a model. To quote Brienne Strohl on noticing [http://lesswrong.com/r/lesswrong/lw/l02/what_its_like_to_notice_things/]: To most people the map/territory observation is such a "one and the same". I'm suggesting that it's only a hypothesis. It gives way when making a map changes the territory (hello, QM). It is also unnecessary, because the useful essence of the map/territory model is that "future is partially predictable", in a sense that it is possible to take our past experiences, meditate on it for a while, figure out what to expect in the future and see our expectations at least partially confirmed. There is no need to attach the notion of some objective reality causing this predictability, though admittedly it does feel good to pretend that we stand on a solid ground, and not on some nebulous figment of imagination. If you extract this essence, that future experiences are predictable from the past ones, and that we can shape our future experiences based on the knowledge of the past, it is enough to do science (which is, unsurprisingly, designing, testing and refining models). There is no indication that this model building will one day be exhausted. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. It has happened many times throughout human history that we thought that our knowledge was nearly complete, there was nothing more to discover, except for one or two small things here and there. And then those small things became gateways to more surprising observations. Yet we persist in thinking that there are ultimate laws of the universe, and that some day we might discover them all. I posit that there are no such laws, and we will continue digging deeper and deeper, without ev
2D_Malik7yThanks for explaining, upvoted. But I still don't see how this could possibly make sense. But our models have become more accurate over time. We've become, if you will, "less wrong". If there's no territory, what have we been converging to? ...Yes? I see it all the time. I seem to recall someone (EY?) defining "reality" as "that which generates our observations". Which seems like a fairly natural definition to me. If it's just maps generating our observations, I'd call the maps part of the territory. (Like a map with a picture of the map itself on the territory. Except, in your world, I guess, there's no territory to chart so the map is a map of itself.) This feels like arguing about definitions. I see how this might sorta make sense if we postulate that the Simulator Gods are trying really hard to fuck with us. Though still, in that case, I think the simulating world can be called a territory.
3shminux7yIndeed they have. We can predict the outcome of future experiments better and better. We've become, if you will, "less wrong". Yep. If there's no territory, what have we been converging to? Why do you think we have been converging to something? Every new model asks generates more questions than it answers. Sure, we know now why emitted light is quantized, but we have no idea how to deal, for example, with the predicted infinite vacuum energy. No, you really don't. What you think you see is a result of multiple layers of processing. What you get is observations, not the unfettered access to this territory thing. It is not a definition, it's a hypothesis. At least in the way Eliezer uses it. I make no assumptions about the source of observations, if any. First, I made no claims that maps generate anything. maps are what we use to make sense of observations. Second, If you define the territory the usual way, as "reality", then of course maps are part of the territory, everything is. Not quite. You construct progressively more accurate models to explain past and predict future inputs. In the process, you gain access to new and more elaborate inputs. This does not have to end. I realize that is how you feel. The difference is that if the assumption of the territory implies that we have a chance to learn everything there is to learn some day, construct the absolutely accurate map of the territory (possibly at the price of duplicating the territory and calling it a map). I am not convinced that it is a good assumption. Quite the opposite, our experience shows that it is a bad one, it has been falsified time and again. And bad models should be discarded, no matter how comforting they may be.
2[anonymous]7yIs that contrarian? In the community I come from (physics), that's a pretty commonly considered theory, even if not commonly held as most probable.
9shminux7yI'm an ex-physicist, and I am pretty sure that realism [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_realism], and more specifically scientific realism, is the standard, if implicit, ontology in physics.
1TheAncientGeek7yThat depends on exactly what itis supposed to mean. Some people se it to mean that reality is not accessible outside an interpretational framework - that's a Bailey version. A Motte version would be that there is literally nothing in existence except human-made theories. Physicists often aren't good at stating or noticing degrees of realism and anti realism, since they aren't trained for it,
3[anonymous]7yI didn't interpret shminux's statement as being about realism. There is also the theory that as we move into higher and higher energy we will cover more and more and more specific rules and never reach the terminal fundamental rule set. in other words the fundamental rules of the universe are fractally complex with the fractal function being unknowable.
1TheAncientGeek7yMaybe. But Shminux also says that the territory is a map, not that it is unmappable.

Open borders is a terrible idea and could possibly lead to the collapse of civilization as we know it.

EDIT: I should clarify:

Whether you want open borders and whether you want the immigration status quo are different questions. I happen to be against both, but it is perfectly consistent for somebody to be against open borders but be in favor of the current level of immigration. The claim is specifically about completely unrestricted migration as advocated by folks like Bryan Caplan. Please direct your upvotes/downvotes to the former claim, rather than the latter.

[-][anonymous]7y 18

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Current levels of immigration are also terrible, and will significantly speed up the collapse of the Western world.

4TheAncientGeek7yCitation required.
3VAuroch7yI'm not clear on whether it's actually a good idea, but if Bryan Caplan's arguments are the best available, it's definitely a horrible idea. He sidesteps all the potential problems without addressing them, or in some cases draws analogies that, when actually considered properly, indicate that it would be a bad idea.
7Azathoth1237yI particularly like how he manages to switch between deontology and consequentialism in the same argument.
3bramflakes7yActually here I disagree. There are many counterarguments listed on the Open Borders site, and for that I give him credit. Especially as he actually attempts to engage with racialist arguments, rather than dismissing them.
6VAuroch7yI remember at one point encountering the Open Borders site, considering that it sounded like a pretty good idea, then reading through much of the site and becoming decreasingly convinced as I read the specific arguments, which consisted of more holes than solid points. Recently, it's come up again, specifically in an interview with Caplan which was going around (I saw it via Kaj). Again, I was initially intrigued by the idea, but the more I saw of the actual arguments, the weaker they seemed. He seems to routinely deflect the significant concerns with non-denials and never actually address the pragmatic reasoning against it.
2Punoxysm7yWhy do you believe this? Countries with the most liberal immigration policies today don't seem to be on the verge of collapse.
4bramflakes7yEbola is more an argument for colonialism than against open borders but let's not be picky.
9shminux7yEbola is an example of a locally-originated virulent existential threat open borders fail to contain, biological, social or otherwise. Controlled borders, despite all the issues, at least can act as an immune system of sorts.
3roystgnr7yDefine "controlled borders"? In the "open borders" context the debate is usually about residency and citizenship restrictions, but in the context of ebola those don't matter; tourists and airline workers and cargo ship crews and so on all carry diseases too.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

As a first approximation, people get what they deserve in life. Then add the random effects of luck.

Max L.

Why do Africans deserve so much less than Americans? Why did people in the past deserve so much less than current people? Why do people with poor parents deserve less than people with rich parents?

5MaximumLiberty7yI count "the circumstances into which you are born" as luck. I'd guess it is the biggest component of luck, along with being struck by a disabling genetic condition or exposed to pandemic. So, the first observation has more salience in similar groups of people. So, for example, the group of people that I hang out with or work with are roughly similar enough for desert to have more salience than luck. But perhaps that means that birth-luck should be the first approximation, then desert, then additional luck. Max L.
6DanielLC7yCan you give me an example of something that is neither desert nor luck?
3MaximumLiberty7yVery nice question; better, in fact than the statement to which you responded.. Examples I have in mind: * Personal level injustice. * Social injustice. * How other people treat you. But my primary point was whether things for which we are personally responsible is a bigger or lesser influence than luck. That is, if I am guessing with little knowledge, I am going to guess desert before luck for most groups with which I'd be interacting. (Also, I am thinking that variation in luck, when the fact of variation if predictable and bad luck can be insured or mitigated, is desert, not luck.) Particular applications might make it more clear. If you don't have a job in America, and you appear physically able to work, my first guess is that you are the biggest contributor to your unemployment. If you are unhealthy in America, and weren't born with it, my first approximation will be that you contributed mightily to your poor health. And so on. Max L.
1DanielLC7yIf you fail to buy car insurance, you deserve the expected cost? I was thinking deserving something bad meant you did something bad, not that you did something stupid. When you say "deserve," do you mean to imply that it is terminally better for people who deserve more to get more, and people who deserve less to get less?
4MaximumLiberty7yIf you fail to buy auto liability insurance and cause an accident (which is entirely predictable over long periods), then my first guess is that you deserve the impoverishment that comes from the situation. If you fail to buy uninsured motorist insurance and are in an accident that you don't cause (which is entirely predictable) and faulty driver has no insurance and can't pay (which is also entirely predictable), then my first approximation is still pretty good. It is a little off because you could be beset with e string of bad luck. I think of it the other way around. If I see someone happy and reasonably well off, I am first going to say that they had a hand in it. If I see someone continually unhappy or impoverished (setting aside birth luck), my first guess is also going to be that they are mainly responsible for their own outcomes. Turning it round, they are usually getting what they deserve. Whether that is better or not depends on more than individual morality, so no, I'm not saying it is better. Also, the examples seem to have focused on material outcomes, since they are easier to talk about, but I'm also thinking of non-material things. Relationships, self-esteem, etc. Max L.
4polymathwannabe7yWhat ethical theory are you using for your definition of "deserve"?
2MaximumLiberty7yIt is a fine question, since the word "deserve" is the link between an observation and a judgment about the person. I don't think I need an answer to it to make the observation that most people here don't hold that view. Which is a good thing, because I don't think I have a satisfactory answer beyond rough moral intuition. Max L.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Feminism is a good thing. Privilege is real. Scott Alexander is extremely uncharitable towards feminism over at SSC.

Yes, Yes, No. Still upvoting, because "Scott Alexander" and "uncharitable" in the same sentence does not compute.

9spxtr7yI consider him a modern G.K. Chesterton. He's eloquent, intelligent, and wrong.

Do you mind telling me how you think he's being uncharitable? I agree mostly with your first two statements. (If you don't want to put it on this public forum because hot debated topic etc I'd appreciate it if you could PM; I won't take you down the 'let's argue feminism' rabbit-hole.)

(I've always wondered if there was a way to rebut him, but I don't know enough of the relevant sciences to try and construct an argument myself, except in syllogistic form. And even then, it seems his statements on feminists are correct.)

7spxtr7yFortunately, LW is not an appropriate forum for argument on this subject, but for an example of an uncharitable post, see Social Justice and Words, Words, Words [http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/07/social-justice-and-words-words-words/].
5gattsuru7yFor a very quick example, see this Tumblr post [http://slatestarscratchpad.tumblr.com/post/97172941001/so-the-old-less-wrong-and-possibly-slate-star] . Mr. Alexander finds an example of a neoreactionary leader trying to be mean to a transgender woman inside the NRx sphere, and then shows the vast majority response of (non-vile) neoreactionaries to at least be less exclusionary than that, even though they have ideological issues with the diagnosis or treatment of gender dysphoria. Then he describes a feminist tumblr which develops increasingly misgendering and rude ways to describe disagreeing transgender men. I don't know that this is actually /wrong/. All the actual facts are true, and if anything understate their relevant aspects -- if anything, I expect Ozy's understated the level of anti-transmale bigotry floating around the 'enlightened' side of Tumblr. I don't find NRx very persuasive, but there are certainly worse things that could be done than using it as a blunt "you must behave at least this well to ride" test. I don't know that feminism really needs external heroes: it's certainly a large enough group that it should be able to present internal speakers with strong and well-grounded beliefs. And I can certainly empathize with holding feminists to a higher standard than neoreactionaries hold themselves. The problem is that it's not very charitable. Scott's the person that's /come up/ with the term "Lizardman's Constant [http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/04/12/noisy-poll-results-and-reptilian-muslim-climatologists-from-mars/] " to describe how a certain percentage of any population will give terrible answers to really obvious questions. He's a strong advocate of steelmanning opposing viewpoints, and he's written an article about the dangers of only looking at the . But he's looking at a viewpoint shown primarily in the <5% margin feminist tumblr, and comparing them to a circle of the more polite neoreactionaries (damning with faint praise as that might be, s
2Jiro7yBeing 5% of the group doesn't mean they are 5% of the influence. The loudest 5% may get to set the agenda of the remaining 95% if the remaining ones are willing to go along with things they don't particularly care about, but don't oppose enough to make these things deal-breakers either.
1Azathoth1237yIt also helps if the 5% have arguments for their positions.
7Larks7yAccording to the 2013 LW survey [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jj0/2013_survey_results/], the when asked their opinion of feminism, on a scale from 1 (low) to 5 (high), the mean response was 3.8 , and social justice got a 3.6. So it seems that "feminism is a good thing" is actually not a contrarian view. If I might speculate for a moment, it might be that LW is less feminist that most places, while still having an overall pro-feminist bias.
5Azathoth1237yHow would you define "privilege"?

Easier difficulty setting for your life in some context through no fault or merit of your own.

7Azathoth1237ySo would you describe someone tall as having "height privilege" because they're better at basketball?

I'd argue that height privilege (up to a point, typically around 6'6") is a real thing, having nothing to do with being good at sports. There is a noted experiment, which my google-fu is currently failing to turn up, in which participants were shown a video of an interview between a man and a woman. In one group, the man was standing on a footstool behind his podium, so that he appeared markedly taller than the woman. In the other group, the man was standing in a depression behind his podium, so t that he appeared shorter. The content of the interview was identical.

Participants rated the man in the "taller" condition as more intelligent and more mature than the same man in the "shorter" condition. That's height privilege.

9jefftk7yThere's also a large established correlation between height and income, though not enough to completely rule out a potential common cause like "good genes" or childhood nutrition.
1TheAncientGeek7yYou really need riders to the effect that privilege of an objectionable kind is unrelated to achievement or intrinsic abilities,
6spxtr7yThis [http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Privilege] is a good definition. In particular, "Anti-oppressionists use "privilege" to describe a set of advantages (or lack of disadvantages) enjoyed by a majority group, who are usually unaware of the privilege they possess. ... A privileged person is not necessarily prejudiced (sexist, racist, etc) as an individual, but may be part of a broader pattern of *-ism even though unaware of it." No, this is not a motte.

Why the "majority group" qualifier? Privilege has been historically associated with minorities, like aristocracy.

7Azathoth1237yDoes it have to be a majority group? For example, does this [http://www.vdare.com/articles/the-jena-six-through-the-looking-glass] compared with this [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_lacrosse_case] count as an example of "black privilege"? Would you describe the fact that some people are smarter (or stronger) than others as "intelligence privilege" (or "strength privilege")?
5Prismattic7yThat's in the bailey, because of "enjoyed by a majority group."
4ChristianKl7yWhy focus only specific majority groups and thereby ignore things like men in domestic violence issues getting a lot less help from society than women? Nearly everyone has some advantages and disadvantages. It's often not helpful to conflate that huge back of advantages and disadvantages into a single variable.
4VAuroch7yLike a few others, I agree with the first two but emphatically disagree with the last. And if you were right about it, I'd expect Ozy to have taken Scott to task about it, and him to have admitted to being somewhat wrong and updated on it. EDIT: This has, in fact, happened.
6whales7ySee this tumblr post [http://ozymandias271.tumblr.com/post/91071378453/wait-female-privilege-doesnt-exist-whats-female] for an example of Ozy expressing dissatisfaction with Scott's lack of charity in his analysis of SJ (specifically in the "Words, Words, Words" post). My impression is that this is a fairly regular occurrence. You might be right about him not having updated. If anything it seems that his updates on the earlier superweapons discussion [http://squid314.livejournal.com/329751.html] have been reverted. I'm not sure I've seen anything comparably charitable from him on the subject since. I don't follow his thoughts on feminism particularly closely, so I could easily be wrong (and would be glad to find I'm wrong here).
5VAuroch7yOK, those things have indeed happened, to some degree. Above comment corrected. I still don't understand what is uncharitable about the Wordsx3 post specifically. It accurately describes the behavior of a number of people I know (as in, have met, in person, and interacted with socially, in several cases extensively in a friendly manner), and I have no reason to consider them weak examples of feminist advocacy and every reason to consider typical (their demographics match the stereotype). I have carefully avoided catching the receiving end of it, because friends of mine have honestly challenged aspects of this kind of thing and been ostracized for their trouble.
2[anonymous]7yThere's something wrong with the first link (I guess you typed the URL on a smartphone autocorrecting keyboard or similar). EDIT: I think this [http://ozymandias271.tumblr.com/post/91071378453/wait-female-privilege-doesnt-exist-whats-female] is the correct link.
2whales7yYeah, that happened when I edited a different part from my phone. Thanks, fixed.
1Princess_Stargirl7yImo this quote from her response is a pretty weak argument: "The concept of female privilege is, AFAICT, looking at the disadvantages gender-non-conforming men face, noticing that women with similar traits don’t face those disadvantages, and concluding that this is because women are advantaged in society. " In order for this to be a sensible counterpoint you would need to either say "gender conforming male privilege" or you would need to show that there are few men who mind conforming to gender roles. I don't really see why anyone believes most men are fine with living out standard gender norms and I certainly don't see how anyone has evidence for this. If a high percentage fo men are gender non-conforming and such men are at a disdadvantage in society then the concept of male privilege is seriously weakened. And using it is dangerous as it might harm those men to here that they are "privileged" when this is not the case (at least in terms of gender, maybe they are rich etc).
3Prismattic7yI agree with claim 1 for some definitions of feminism and not for others. I agree with claim 2. I think that Scott would agree wtih claim 1 (for some definitions) and with claim 2 as well, so I disagree with claim 3.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Superintelligence is an incoherent concept. Intelligence explosion isn't possible.

How smart does a mind have to be to qualify as a "superintelligence"? It's pretty clear that intelligence can go a lot higher than current levels.

What do you predict would happen if we uploaded Von Neumann's brain onto an extremely fast, planet-sized supercomputer? What do you predict would happen if we selectively bred humans for intelligence for a couple million years? "Impractical" would be understandable, but I don't see how you can believe superintelligence is "incoherent".

As for "Intelligence explosion isn't possible", that's a lot more reasonable, e.g. see the entire AI foom debate.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Buying a lottery ticket every now and then is not irrational. Unless you have thoroughly optimized the conversion of every dollar you own into utility-yielding investments and expenses, the exposure to large positive tail risk netted by spending a few dollars on lottery tickets can still be rational.

Phrased another way, when you buy a lottery ticket you aren't buying an investment, you're buying a possibility that is not available otherwise.

2Elo7ydisagree because the cost of the possibility is too high.
1DanielLC7yIf one lottery ticket is worth while, why not two? Are you assigning a nonlinear value to the probability of winning the lottery? That causes a number of problems.
6moridinamael7yAt the risk of looking even more like an idiot: Buying one $1 lottery ticket earns you a tiny chance - 1 in 175,000,000 for the Powerball - of becoming absurdly wealthy. The Powerball gets as high as $590,500,000 pretax. NOT buying that one ticket gives you a chance of zero. So buying one ticket is "infinitely" better than buying no tickets. Buying more than one ticket, comparably, doesn't make a difference. I like to play with the following scenario. A LessWrong reader buys a lottery ticket. They almost certainly don't win. They have one dollar less to donate to MIRI and because they're not wealthy they may not have enough wealth to psychologically justify donating anything to MIRI anyway. However, in at least one worldline, somewhere, they win a half a billion dollars and maybe donate $100,000,000 to MIRI. So from a global humanity perspective, buying that lottery ticket made the difference between getting FAI built and not getting it built. The one dollar spent on the ticket, in comparison, would have had a totally negligible impact. I fully realize that the number of universes (or whatever) where the LessWrong reader wins the lottery is so small that they would be "better off" keeping their dollar according to basic economics, but the marginal utility of one extra dollar is basically zero. edit: Digging myself in even deeper, let me attempt to simplify the argument. You want to buy a Widget. The difference in net utility, to you, between owning a Widget and not owning a Widget is 3^3^3^3 utilons. Widgets cost $100,000,000. You have no realistic means of getting $100,000,000 through your own efforts because you are stuck in a corporate drone job and you have lots of bills and a family relying on you. So the only way you have of ever getting a Widget is by spending negligible amounts of money buying "bad" investments like lottery tickets. It is trivial to show that buying a lottery ticket is rational in this scenario: (Tiny chance) x (Absurdly, unquantifiably
4DanielLC7ySo your utility function is nonlinear with respect to probability. You don't use expected utility. It results in certain inconsistencies. This is discussed in the article the allais paradox [http://lesswrong.com/lw/my/the_allais_paradox/], but I'll give a lottery example here. Suppose I offer you a choice between paying one dollar and getting a one in a million chance of winning $500,000, and paying two dollars and getting a one in one million chance of winning $500,000 and a one in two million chance of winning $500,001. You figure that what's basically a 0.00015% chance of winning vs. a 0.0001% chance isn't worth paying another dollar for, so you just pay the one dollar. On the other hand, suppose I only offer you the first option, but, once you see if you've won, you get another chance. If you win, you don't really want another lottery ticket, since it's not a big deal anymore. So you buy a ticket, and if you lose, you buy another ticket. This results in a 0.0001% chance of ending up with $499,999, a 0.00005% chance of ending up with $499,998, and a 99.99985% chance of ending up with -2$. This is exactly the same set of probabilities as you had for the second option before. No it would not. Or at least, it's highly unlikely for you to know that. Suppose MIRI has their probability of success increased by 50 percentage points if they get a 100 million dollar donation. This means that, if 100 million people all donate a dollar, their probability of success goes up by 50 percentage points. Each successive one will change the probability by a different amount, but on average, each donation will increase the chance of success by one in 200 million. Furthermore, it's expected that the earlier donations would make a bigger difference, due to the law if diminishing returns. This means that donating one dollar improves MIRI's probability of success by more than one in 200 million, and is therefore better than getting a one in 100 million chance of donating 100 million
3Lumifer7yYou're looking at the (potential) benefits and ignoring the costs. The costs are not negligible: "Thirteen percent of US citizens play the lottery every week. The average household spends around $540 annually on lotteries and poor households spend considerably more than the average." (source [http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/09/crafty-nudges-and-prize-linked-savings-accounts.html] ). Buying a second ticket doubles your chances, obviously. For each timeline where you buy a lottery ticket there is one where you don't. Under MWI you don't make any choices -- you choose everything, always. You've never been poor, have you? :-/ It is just as trivial to show that you should spend all your disposable income and maybe more on lottery tickets in this scenario.
2moridinamael7yI'm only commenting to the rationality of one individual buying one ticket, not the ethics of the existence of lotteries. Buying one ticket takes you from zero to one, buying two tickets takes you from one to two. 1/0 = infinity, 2/1 = 2. Buying anything more than 1 ticket has sharply diminishing utility. I realize this is a somewhat silly line of argument, so I'm not going to sink any more energy defending it. I don't think we understand each other on this point. I was referring not to choosing, just winning. And the measure of the winning universes is a tiny fraction of all universes. But that doesn't matter when the utility of winning is sufficiently large. And the chance of a given individual buying a ticket isn't 50% in any meaningful quantum-mechanical sense, so "For each timeline where you buy a lottery ticket there is one where you don't" isn't true. No, and I wouldn't recommend that a poor person buy lottery tickets. My original claim was that buying lottery tickets can be rational, not that it is rational in the general case. That's true. People also say that you should donate all your disposable income to MIRI, or to efficient charities, for exactly the same reasons, and I don't do those things for the same reason that I don't spend all my money on lottery tickets - I'm a human. My line of argument only applies when you want a Widget and have no other way of affording it. I don't really feel strongly enough about this to continue defending it, it's just that I'm quite sure I'm right in the details of my argument and would welcome an argument that actually changes my mind / convinces me I'm wrong.
3Lumifer7yI treat buying lottery tickets as buying a license to daydream. Once you realize you don't need a license for that... :-)
2warbo7yThere are ways to win a lottery without buying a ticket. For example, someone may buy you a ticket as a present, without your knowledge, which then wins. No, it is much more likely that you'll win the lottery by buying tickets than by not buying tickets (assuming it's unlikely to be gifted a ticket), but the cost of being gifted a ticket is zero, which makes not buying tickets an "infinitely" better return on investment.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

The dangers of UFAI are minimal.

7DanielLC7yDo you think that it is unlikely for a UFAI to be created, that if a UFAI is created it will not be dangerous, or both?
3[anonymous]7y“Dangers” being defined as probability times disutility, right?
6lmm7yWith the caveat that I'm treating unbounded negative utility as invalid, sure.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

For many smart people, academia is one of the highest-value careers they could pursue.

Clarify "many"?

2jsteinhardt7y~30% maybe?
5[anonymous]7yWhat about “smart people”? IQ > 100? IQ > 115? IQ > 130? IQ > 145?
3jsteinhardt7yLet's say IQ 145 or higher? ETA: Although I would push things like conscientiousness into the picture as well if I were trying to be more precise; but for the sake of not writing an essay I'm happy to stick with an IQ cutoff.
8bramflakes7yHighest value for the person, for society, or both? Also, by "high value" do you mean purely monetary or do you mean other benefits?
3jsteinhardt7ySociety. For the second question, not quite sure what it would mean to provide monetary value to society, since money is how people trade for things within society rather than some extrinsic good.
2atorm7yIt sure isn't great for the smart people.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Utilitarianism is a moral abomination.

2polymathwannabe7yI am very interested in this. * Exactly what is repugnant about utilitarianism? (Moi, I find that it leads to favoring torture over 3^^^3 specks, which is beyond facepalming; I'd like to hear your view.) * I guess the moral assumptions based on which you condem utilitarianism are the same you would propose instead. What moral theory do you espouse?

Exactly what is repugnant about utilitarianism?

It's inhuman, totalitarian slavery.

Islam and Christianity are big on slavery, but it's mainly a finite list of do's and don'ts from a Celestial Psychopath. Obey those, and you can go to a movie. Take a nap. The subjugation is grotesque, but it has an end, at least in this life.

Not so with utilitarianism. The world is a big machine that produces utility, and your job is to be a cog in that machine. Your utility is 1 seven billionth of the equation - which rounds to zero. It is your duty in life to chug and chug and chug like a good little cog without any preferential treatment from you, for you or anyone else you actually care about, all through your days without let.

And that's only if you don't better serve the Great Utilonizer ground into a human paste to fuel the machine.

A cog, or fuel. Toil without relent, or harvest my organs? Which is less of a horror?

Of course, some others don't get much better consideration. They, too, are potential inputs to the great utility machine. Chew up this guy here, spit out 3 utilons. A net increase in utilons! Fire up the woodchipper!

But at least one can argue that there is a net increase of util... (read more)

I disagree, but my reasons are a little intricate. I apologize, therefore, for the length of what follows.

There are at least three sorts of questions you might want to use a moral system to answer. (1) "Which possible world is better?", (2) "Which possible action is better?", (3) "Which kind of person is better?". Many moral systems take one of these as fundamental (#1 for consequentialist systems, #2 for deontological systems, #3 for virtue ethics) but in practice you are going to be interested in answers to all of them, and the actual choices you need to make are between actions, not between possible worlds or characters.

Suppose you have a system for answering question 1, and on a given occasion you need to decide what to do. One way to do this is by choosing the action that produces the best possible world (making whatever assumptions about the future you need to), but it isn't the only way. There is no inconsistency in saying "Doing X will lead to a better world, but I care about my own happiness as well as about optimizing the world so I'm going to do Y instead"; that just means that you care about other things besides morality. Which pr... (read more)

Lots to comment on here. That last paragraph certainly merits some comment.

Yes, most people are almost entirely inconsistent about the morality they profess to believe. At least in the "civilized world". I get the impression of more widespread fervent and sincere beliefs in the less civilized world.

Do Christians in the US really believe all their rather wacky professions of faith? Or even the most tame, basic professions of faith? Very very few, I think. There are Christians who really believe, and I tend to like them, despite the wackiness. Honest, consistent, earnest people appeal to me.

For the great mass, I increasingly think they just make talking noises appropriate to their tribe. It's not that they lie, it's more that correspondence to reality is so far down the list of motivations, or even evaluations, that it's not relevant to the noises that come from their mouths.

It's the great mass of people who seem to instinctively say whatever is socially advantageous in their tribe that give be the heebie jeebies. They are completely alien - which, given the relative numbers, means I am totally alien. A stranger in a strange land.

Isn't it better to classify people in a

... (read more)
5gjm7yI'm repeating myself here, but: I think you are mixing up two things: utilitarianism versus other systems, and singleminded caring about nothing but morality versus not. It is the latter that generates attitudes and behaviour and outcomes that you find so horrible, not the former. You are of course at liberty to say that the term "utilitarian" should only be applied to a person who not only holds that the way to answer moral questions is by something like comparison of net utility, but also acts consistently and singlemindedly to maximize net utility as they conceive it. The consequence, of course, will be that in your view there are no utilitarians and that anyone who identifies as a utilitarian is a hypocrite. Personally, I find that just as unhelpful a use of language as some theists' insistence that "atheist" can only mean someone who is absolutely 100% certain, without the tiniest room for doubt, that there is no god. It feels like a tactical definition whose main purpose is to put other people in the wrong even before any substantive discussion of their opinions and actions begins. It's both. (Just as a literal purchase may be both at great cost, and of great benefit.) Which is one reason why, if this person -- or someone who feels and acts similarly on the basis of utilitarian rather than religious ethics -- acts in this way because they genuinely think it's the best thing to do, then I don't think it's appropriate to complain about how grotesquely subjugated they are. What do you believe my code to be, and why?
1atorm7ySeconding the question "What moral theory do you espouse?"
6pianoforte6117yUnder utilitarianism, human farming for research purposes and organ harvesting would be justified if it benefited enough future persons. Under utilitarianism the ideal life is one spent barely subsisting while giving away all material wealth to effective altruism/charity. (reason being - unless you are barely subsisting, there is someone who would benefit from your wealth more than you). Also there is no way to compare interpersonal utility. There is a sense in which I might prefer A to B, but there is no sense in which I can prefer A more than you prefer B. We could vote, or bid money but neither of these results in a satisfactory ethical theory.
[-][anonymous]7y 26

AI boxing will work.

EDIT: Used to be "AI boxing can work." My intent was to contradict the common LW positions that AI boxing is either (1) a logical impossibility, or (2) more difficult or more likely to fail than FAI.

8Jayson_Virissimo7y"Can" is a very weak claim. With what probability will it work?

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

It would be of significant advantage to the world if most people started living on houseboats.

Having political beliefs is silly. Movements like neoreaction or libertarianism or whatever will succeed or fail mostly independently of whether their claims are true. Lies aren't threatened by the truth per se, they're threatened by more virulent lies and more virulent truths. Various political beliefs, while fascinating and perhaps true, are unimportant and worthless.

Arguing for or against various political beliefs functions mostly (1) to signal intelligence or allegiance or whatever, and (2) as mental masturbation, like playing Scrabble. "I want to improve politics" is just a thin veil that system 2 throws over system 1's urges to achieve (1) and (2).

If you actually think that improving politics is a productive thing to do, your best bet is probably something like "ensure more salt gets iodized so people will be smarter", or "build an FAI to govern us". But those options don't sound nearly as fun as writing political screeds.

(While "politics is the mind-killer" is LW canon, "believing political things is stupid" seems less widely-held.)

6VAuroch7yWhile I mostly agree, trying to devise political systems that would encourage a smarter populace (ex. SSC's Graduation Speech with the guaranteed universal income and abolishing public schools) seems like a potentially worthwhile enterprise.
4DanielLC7yI agree that forming political beliefs is not a productive use of my time in the same way that earning a salary to donate to SCI to cure people of parasites is. I disagree that this makes it silly. The reasons you gave may not be the most noble of reasons, but they are still perfectly valid.
2[anonymous]7yTwelve people disagree with this? I'm surprised. I was going to downvote for ‘not in the spirit of the game, obviously not a contrarian view’, but I guess I was a victim of the typical mind fallacy.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

There probably exists - or has existed at some time in the past - at least one entity best described as a deity.

3FiftyTwo7yDefine deity?

Roko's Basilisk legitimately demonstrates a problem with LW. "Rationality" that leads people to believe such absurd ideas is messed up, and 1) the presence of a significant number of people psychologically affected by the basilisk and 2) the fact that Eliezer accepts that basilisk-like ideas can be dangerous are signs that there is something wrong with the rationality practiced here.

9fubarobfusco7yMy contrarian idea: Roko's basilisk is no big deal, but intolerance of making, admitting, or accepting mistakes is cultish as hell.
7Sarunas7yAre you sure you have pinpointed the right culprit? Why exactly "rationality"? "Zooming in" and "zooming out" would lead to potentially different conclusions. E.g. G.K.Chesterton would probably blame atheism [http://www.chesterton.org/ceases-to-worship/][1]. Zooming out even more, for example, someone immersed in Eastern thought might even blame Western thought in general. Despite receiving vastly disproportionate share of media attention it was such a small part of LessWrong history and thought (by the way, is anything that any LWer ever came up with a part of LW thought?) that it seems to wrong to put the blame on LessWrong or rationality in general. Furthermore, which would you say is better, an ability to formulate an absurd idea and then find its flaws (or, for e.g. mathematical ideas [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banach%E2%80%93Tarski_paradox], exactly under what strange conditions they hold) or inability to formulate absurd ideas at all? Ability to come up with various absurd ideas is an unavoidable side effect of having an imagination. What is important is not to start believing it immediately [http://lesswrong.com/lw/18b/reason_as_memetic_immune_disorder/], because in the history of any really new and outlandish idea at the very beginning there is an important asymmetry (which arises due to the fact that coming up with any complicated idea takes time) - an idea itself has already been invented but the good counterarguments do not yet exist (this is similar to the situation where a new species is introduced to an island where it does not have natural predators, which are introduced only later). This also applies to the moment when a new outlandish idea is introduced to your mind and you haven't heard any counterarguments by that moment, one must nevertheless exercise caution. Especially if that new idea is elegant and thought provoking whereas all counterarguments are comparatively ugly and complicated and thus might feel unsatisfactory even after you hav
5Jiro7yThe quotes indicate that I'm not blaming rationality, I'm blaming something that's called rationality. You're replying as if I'm blaming real rationality, which I'm not. Censoring substantial references to the basilisk was partly done in the name of protecting the people affected. This requires that there be a significant number of people, not just that there be the normal number of people who can be affected by any unusual idea. His explanations have varied. The explanation you linked to is fairly innocuous; it implies that he is only banning discussion because people get harmed when thinking about it. Someone else linked [http://lesswrong.com/lw/kjv/link_another_lesswrongers_are_crazy_article_this/b4fw] a screengrab of Eliezer's original comment which implies that he banned it because it can make it easier for superintelligences to acausally blackmail us, which is very different from the one you linked.
3lmm7yIt's whatever makes LW different from the wider population, even the wider nerdy-western-liberal-college-educated cluster. The general population of atheists does not have problems with basilisks, and laughs them off when you describe them to them. It also received a disproportionate amount of ex cathedra moderator action. Which things are so important to EY that he feels it necessary to intervene directly and in a massively controversial way? By their actions we can conclude that the Basilisk is much more important to the LW leadership than e.g. the illegitimate downvoting that drove danerys away. I don't think this addresses the original argument. If these ideas are dangerous to us then we are doing something wrong. If you're saying that danger is an unavoidable cost of being able to generate interesting ideas, then the large number of other groups who seem to come up with interesting ideas without ideas that present a danger to them seems like a counterexample. I don't know, but the LW leadership's statements seem to be grounded in the claim that there were
2ChristianKl7yAt the time the Basilisk episode happened Eliezer was a lot more active in general then when the illegitimate downvoting happened. If you look at the self professed skeptic community there are episodes such as elevator gate. If you go a bit further back and look at what Stalin did, I would call the ideas on which he acted dangerous. It's pretty easy to speak about a lot of topics in a way that the people you are talking to laugh and don't take the idea seriously. A bunch of that atheist population also treats their new atheism like a religion and closes itself from alternative ideas that sound weird. For practical purposes they are religious and do have a fence against taking new ideas seriously.
2Sarunas7yWhat ideas does the general population of atheists have in common besides the lack of belief in God? And what interesting ideas can you derive from that? F.Dostoevsky (who wasn't even an atheist) seems to have thought that from this one could derive that everything is morally permitted. Maybe some atheistic ideas seemed new, interesting and outlandish in the past when there were few atheists (e.g. separation of church and state), but nowadays they are part of common sense. No, the claim of this hypothetical Chesterton would not be that atheism creates new weird ideas. It would be that by rejecting god you lose the defense against various weird ideas ("It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense." - G.K.Chesterton). It is not general atheism, it is specific atheist groups. And in the history of the world, there were a lot of atheists who believed in strange things. E.g. some atheists believe in reincarnation or spiritism. Some believe that the Earth is a zoo kept by aliens. In previous times, some revolutionaries (led not by their atheism, but by other ideologies) believed that just because the social order is not god given it could be easily changed into basically anything. The hypothetical Chesterton would probably claim that had all these people closely followed church's teachings they would not have believed in these follies since the common sense provided by the traditional christianity would have prevented them. And he would probably be right. The hypthetical Chesterton would probably think that the basilisk is yet another thing in the long list of things some atheists stupidly believe. Yes, on LessWrong the weirdness heuristic is used less than in more general atheist/skeptic community (in my previous post I have already mentioned why I think it is often useful), and it is considered bad to dismiss the idea if the only counterargument to it is that is weird. Difference in acceptance of weirdness heuristic probably comes from
2Jiro7yXiXiDu's screenshot is damning because it indicates that Eliezer banned the Basilisk because he thought a variation on it might work, not because of either PR reasons or psychological harm. Unless you think he was lying about that for the same reason he might want to lie about psychological harm.
1Sarunas7yWell, in that post [http://lesswrong.com/lw/kjv/link_another_lesswrongers_are_crazy_article_this/b4fw] by Xixidu, there is a quote by Mitchell Porter (that is approved by Eliezer) that, combined with the [reddit post] I have linked earlier, seems he was not able to provide a proof that no variation of basilisk would ever work given that there are more than one possible decision theory, including some exotic and obscure ones that are not yet invented (but who knows what will be invented in the future). Eliezer seems to think that humans minds are unable to actually rigorously follow such a decision theory strictly enough that would be required for such a concept to work. But the human ability is such a vague concept, it is not clear how one can give a formal proof. However, it seems to me that an inability to provide a formal proof seems to be an unlikely reason to freak out. What (I guess) has happened was that this inability to provide a proof, combined with that unnamed SIAI person's nightmares (I would guess that Eliezer knows all SIAI people personally) and the fear of the aforementioned potential PR disaster might have resulted into the feeling of losing control of a situation and made him panic, thus resulting into that nervous and angry post, emphasizing the danger and need to protect some people (and leaving out cult PR reasons). This is my personal guess, I do not guarantee that it is correct. Is an inability to actually deny a thing equivalent to a belief that negation of that belief has a positive probability? Well, logically they are somewhat similar, but these two ways to express similar ideas certainly have different connotations and leave very different impressions in the listener's mind what was the person's actual degree of belief. (I must add that I personally do not like speculating about another person's motivations why he did what he did when I actually have no way of knowing them)
1lmm7yI think many users do not think it's a serious danger, but it's still banned here. It is IMO reasonable for outsiders to judge the community as a whole by our declared policies. Coming up with absurd ideas is not a problem. Plenty of absurd things are posted on LW all the time. The problem is that the community took it as a genuine danger. If EY made a bad decision at the time that he now disagreed with, surely he would have reversed it or at least dropped the ban for future posts. A huge part of what this site is all about is being able to recognize when you've made a mistake and respond appropriately. If EY is incapable of doing that then that says very bad things about everything we do here. What's cultish as hell to me is having leaders that would wilfully deceive us. If there are some nonpublic rules under which the basilisk is being censored, what else might also be being censored?
1Sarunas7yWell, nobody in LW community is without flaws. People often fail (or sometimes not even try) to live up to the high standards of being a good rationalist. The problem is that in some internet forums "judging the community" somehow becomes something like "this is what LW makes you to believe, and even if they deny it, they do it only because not doing it would give them a bad image" or "they are a cult that wants you to believe in their robot god" which are such gross misrepresentations of LW (or even thedrama surrounding the basilisk stuff) that even after considering Hanlon's razor one is left wondering whether that level of misinterpretation is possible without at least some amount of intentional hostility. I would guess that nowadays a large part of annoyance at somebody even bringing this topic up is a reaction to this perceived hostility. No, neither it says very bad things about everything we do here, nor about everything we do here. Whenever EY makes a mistake and fails to recognize and admit it, it is his personal failing to live up to the standards he wrote about so much. You may object that not enough people called him out on that on LW itself, but it was my impression that many of those that do e.g. on reddit seem to be LW users (as currently there are few related discussions here on LW, there is no context to do that here, besides, EY rarely comments here anymore). In addition to that on this thread there seems to be several LW users who agree with you, thus definitely you are not a lone voice, among LWers there seem to be many different opinions. Besides, on that reddit thread [https://www.reddit.com/r/Futurology/comments/2cm2eg/rokos_basilisk/] he seems to basically admit that, in fact, he did make a lot of mistakes in handling this situation. It has just dawned to me that while we are talking about censorship, at the same time we are having this discussion. And frankly, I do not remember when was the last time a comment was deleted solely for bring
6Emile7yDoes "rolling my eyes and reading something else" count as "psychologically affected"?
2polymathwannabe7yMay I suggest reading Singularity Sky by Charles Stross, which has precisely such a menacing future AI as an antagonist? (Spoiler: no basilisk memes involved in the plot; they're obviously not obvious to everyone who thinks of this scenario.)
2polymathwannabe7yI agree with this so much that, in order to not affect the mechanics of this thread, I'm going to upvote some other post of yours.

[opening post special voting rules yadda yadda]

Biological hominids descended from modern humans will be the keystone species of biomes loosely descended from farms pastures and cities optimized for symbiosis and matter/energy flow between organisms, covering large fractions of the Earth's land, for tens of millions of years. In special cases there may be sub-biomes in which non-biological energy is converted into biomass, and it is possible that human-keystone ocean-based biomes might appear as well. Living things will continue to be the driving force of non-geological activity on Earth, with hominid-driven symbiosis (of which agriculture is an inefficient first draft) producing interesting new patterns materials and ecosystems.

3Gunnar_Zarncke7yUpvoted because it is much too specific (too many conjunctions) to be true. Even if many of them sound plausible.
3CellBioGuy7yBah, I'm always doing that. I have clusters of related suspicions which I put down in one big chunk rather than as separate possibly independent points. If I had to extract a main point it would be the first bit, biological hominids descended from modern humans existing tens of millions of years from now with their most obvious alterations to the world being an extension of what we have begun with agriculture.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Fossil fuels will remain the dominant source of energy until we build something much smarter than ourselves. Efforts spent on alternative energy sources are enormously inefficient and mostly pointless.

Related claim: the average STEM-type person has no gut-level grasp of the quantity of energy consumed by the economy and this leads to popular utopian claims about alternative energy.

5RomeoStevens7yIt isn't very hard to do a little digging here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_generation#mediaviewer/File:Annual_electricity_net_generation_in_the_world.svg [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_generation#mediaviewer/File:Annual_electricity_net_generation_in_the_world.svg] China's aggressive nuclear strategy seems reasonable.
7moridinamael7yNot exactly sure what you mean by "digging." I already comprehend the quantities of energy being consumed because of my education and experience in related fields, it's the average person who I think does not, since I hear them saying things about how a small increase in solar panel efficiency is going to completely and rapidly "cure us of our fossil fuel addiction." Also, your figure only reflects electricity generation, not total energy consumption which is a much higher figure. Currently non-hydrocarbon fuel sources for transportation is very fringe. The truth is that the price of fossil fuels has always and will continue to fluctuate in accord with simple supply-demand economics for a long time to come; the cheaper it gets to make energy via alternative methods, the cheaper fossil fuels will become to undercut those alternative sources.
9RomeoStevens7yI looked through the numbers and the trend line. I updated in your direction. Even nuclear can't make a big dent without true mass production of reactors, which almost certainly will not happen.
2Izeinwinter7yI give it well over 70 percent chance of happening. Mostly because I am expecting coal and gas to get really unpleasantly expensive in the next two decades. The remaining 30 percent is mostly taken up by "Technological surprise rendering all extant generation tech obsolete. One of the small-scale fusion plants working out very well, for example.
1ChristianKl7yWe have roughly doubling in solar panel efficiency every 7 years. That's not what I would call "small increase".
1moridinamael7yEven if solar panels were 100% efficient it would not change the overall picture very much. Solar panels are expensive and do not use space efficiently.
1ChristianKl7yWith efficiency I meant the amount you pay per kilowatt hour. It's a variable that has seen consistent doubling every 7 years over the last two decades. Space on top of most buildings is unused and there are huge deserts that aren't used.
2FiftyTwo7yIs this a claim about the choices we will make or what is possible? If 1 I can buy it as an argument that states will not be rational enough to choose better options, if 2 I think its false.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Frequentist statistics are at least as appropriate as, if not more appropriate than, Bayesian statistics for approaching most problems.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Reductionism as a cognitive strategy has proven useful in a number of scientific and technical disciplines. However, reductionism as a metaphysical thesis (as presented in this post) is wrong. Verging on incoherent, even. I'm specifically talking about the claim that in reality "there is only the most basic level".

[-][anonymous]7y 18

Meta-comment: I'm not sure that structure or voting scheme is particularly useful. The hope would be to allow conversation about contrarian viewpoints which are actually worth investigating. I'm not sure how you separate the wheat from the chaff, but that should be the goal...

Yes. Contrarian position: This thread would be better if we upvoted contrarian positions that are interesting or caused updates, not those that we disagree with.

3FiftyTwo7yUpvote interestingness, downvote incoherence, ignore agreement and disagreement?
2DanielLC7yI think it might be better to have one where you upvote things you agree with, and just never downvote.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

An AI which followed humanity's CEV would make most people on this site dramatically less happy.

4DanielLC7yDo you mean that, if shown the results, we would decide that we don't like humanity's CEV, or that humanity desires that we be unhappy?
4lmm7yWhat Nancy said, so 1, and instrumentally but not terminally 2.
4NancyLebovitz7yOr possibly that if the majority of people got what they want, most people at LW would be incidentally made unhappy.
3[anonymous]7yMy intuition is in agreement with this, but I would love a more worked out description of your own thoughts (in part because my own thoughts aren't clear).
5lmm7yMost of humanity hates deviants and I don't think there's anything incoherent about that value.

I don't think you could get enough of humanity to agree on what should be considered "deviant" to make that value cohere.

1John_Maxwell7yWhat cross-section of humanity are you familiar with?
1lmm7yFamiliar with? Using the most obvious definition I'd say only my girlfriend. Due to where I live I have neighbours from a wide variety of races and religions and mostly a different class from the people I grew up with, which is different again from the class I work in now. I haven't lived for any substantial time in a different country. Does that answer your question?
1John_Maxwell7ySo you know there are these people called "hipsters" who take pride in showing off their deviance and compete with one another to be deviant in interesting and original ways, right? Do you know many of them?
4lmm7yAnd everyone loves hipsters, right? Fellow hipsters of course support each other, but the wider world has nothing but respect and admiration for these people. Satisfying everyone's values would certainly mean there were more hipsters around and that hipsters were encouraged to be even more hipster-ey.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

The notion of freedom is incoherent. People would be better off abandoning the pursuit of it.

3[anonymous]7yFreedom meaning what? Free choice? I don't believe in that. The right to make any choice which doesn't impair the choices of others? I strongly agree with that.
2shminux7yWhat do you think of Free Will Is as Real as Baseball [http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2011/07/13/free-will-is-as-real-as-baseball/] ?


I think LW is already too biased towards contrarian ideas - we don't need to encourage them more with threads like this.

Treated as a "contrarian opinion" and upvoted.

I think this thread is for opinions that are contrarian relative to LW, and not to the mainstream.

e.g. my opinion on open borders is something that a great majority of people share but is contrarian here, shown by the fact that as of the time of writing it is currently tied for highest-voted in the thread.

3Adele_L7yI think it's still a problem relative to LW.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Causal connections should not be part of our most fundamental model of the Universe. Everything that is useful about causal narratives is a consequence of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is irrelevant when we're talking about microscopic interactions. Extrapolating our macroscopic fascination with causation into the microscopic realm has actually impeded the exploration of promising possibilities in fundamental physics.

3DanielLC7yThat would explain why it took so long for someone to discover timeless physics.

That sentence has the same air of paradox about it as "Many solipsists believe ...". (Perhaps deliberately?)

A word of advice: Perhaps anyone posting a comment here with the intention of voicing a contrarian opinion and getting upvotes for disagreement should indicate the fact explicitly in their comment. Otherwise I predict that the upvote/downvote signal will be severely corrupted by people voting "normally". (Especially if these comments produce discussion -- if A posts something you strongly disagree with and B posts a very good and clearly-explained reason for disagreeing, what are you supposed to do? I suggest the right thing here is to upvote both A and B, but it's liable to be easy to get confused...)

[EDITED to add: 1. For the avoidance of doubt, of course the above is not intended to be a controversial opinion and if you vote on it you should do so according to the normal conventions, not the special ones governing this discussion. 2. It is possible to edit your own comments; if you read the above and think it's sensible, but have already posted a contrarian opinion here, you can fix it.]

Social problems are nearly impossible to solve. The methods we have developed in the hard sciences and engineering are insufficient to solve them.

8pragmatist7yWould you disagree with the claim that several significant social problems have in fact been solved over the history of human civilization, at least in parts of the world? Or are you saying that those were the low-hanging fruit and the social problems that remain are nearly impossible to solve? What would you say about the progress that has been made towards satisfying the Millennium Development Goals [http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/report-2013/2013_progress_english.pdf]?
3Azathoth1237yLooking at the list, I would say that to the extent progress has been made towards them (and to the extent they're worthy goals, the "sustainable development" one is trying to solve the wrong problem and the "gender equality" one is just incoherent) it is incidental to the efforts of the UN.
2shminux7yYvain seems to agree [http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/10/society-is-fixed-biology-is-mutable/].
4Azathoth1237yThe problem with Yvain's argument is that it appears to be an example of the PHB fallacy "anything I don't understand is easy to do". Or rather the "a little knowledge" problem "anything I sort of understand is easy to do". During the Enlightenment, when people first started talking about reorganizing society on a large scale, it seemed like a panacea. Now that we have several centuries extremely messy experience with it, we know that it's harder than it at first appeared and there are many complications. Now that developments in biology seem to make it possible to make changes to biology it again looks like a panacea (at least to the people who haven't learned the lessons of the previous failure). And just as before, I predict people will discover that it's a lot more complicated, probably just a messily.

English has a pronoun that can be used for either gender and, as an accident of history not some hidden agenda, said pronoun in English is "he/him/&c."

Edited: VAuroch is the best kind of correct on "neuter" pronouns. Changed, though that might make a view less controversial than I thought (all but 2 readers agree, really?) even less so :)

6VAuroch7yI consider this an incoherent claim. "A neuter pronoun", inherently, is one that can be applied to individuals regardless of gender (actual or grammatical). That's what people want when they wish English had a neuter pronoun. 'He/him/his' is not such a pronoun. "They/them/their" is.
7Ixiel7yNope. "Of all the men and women here, one will prove his worth" is grammatical and does not imply a man IMO. I'm not defining myself right of course, just clarifying why my contrarian claim is coherent.
3VAuroch7yThat was historically true, but many women and nonbinary people disagree with the statement that it is still true. And it was never neuter; it used to be the case that using male pronouns for an unspecified person was grammatically valid.
1[anonymous]7yHow about "every married person should love his husband or wife"?
[-][anonymous]7y 15

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Artificial intelligences are overrated as a threat, and institutional intelligences are underrated.

6RowanE7yOverrated in LessWrong, or globally? I upvoted assuming the former, although I agree that institutional intelligences are an underrated threat.
1[anonymous]7yI intended the former. I'm not sure if it would make sense to say it's the case globally: certain institutional intelligences are sometimes taken as threats (see: the global warming debate), but there isn't really a theory, or even a widespread concept, of institutional intelligences in general. (My suspicion is that it was worked out to some extent in the '30s, and then WW2 went the way it did and the Cold War came around and all that made it seriously unfashionable.)

There are some I hold:

  • 1: evolution isn't inherently slow. Sometimes/often it can be faster than any other known method.
  • 2: thinking is nothing but evolutionary process in our heads. No really deep secrets here to be uncovered.
  • 3: from 1 and 2 a really near Singularity is possible, but not mandatory
  • 4: the infinity is not even a coherent concept
  • 5: there are no aliens nearby, life is rare (but this is not a contrarian position anymore)
  • 6: Venus is hot due to volcanoes
  • 7: Mother Nature is a stupid bitch. Some species - like wild dogs of Africa - make everything even worse
  • 8: the Universe is not only to conquer, but to re-shape completely
  • 9: Rome was magnificent, Carthage was not
  • 10: the Relativity isn't coherent either

These are 10 different propositions. Fortunately I disagree with most of them so can upvote the whole bag with a clear conscience, but it would be better for this if you separated them out.

2Peter Wildeford7yI agree with this meta-comment. Should I downvote it?
5gjm7ySee my earlier comment on this [http://lesswrong.com/lw/kzn/what_are_your_contrarian_views/bbjn].
2[anonymous]7yCare to explain this one?
1DanielLC7yWhat do you mean by this? Do you just mean that it doesn't make any sense for something infinite to actually exist, or do you mean that set theory, which claims the existence of an infinite set as an axiom, is inconsistent? Why? It seems to me that it would be obvious if the standard theory that Venus gets most of its heat from the sun was wrong, since we can easily see how much it absorbs and emits and look at the difference. Besides which, you'd need expertise to have a reasonable chance of coming up with the correct explanation on your own. Do you have relevant expertise?

The universe we perceive is probably a simulation of a more complex Universe. In breaking with the simulation hypothesis, however, the simulation is not originated by humans. Instead, our existence is simply an emergent property of the physics (and stochasticity) of the simulation.

1Ronak7yWhy? This looks as if you're taking a hammer to Ockham's razor.
1AABoyles7yIn the strictest sense, yes I am. I design, build and test social models for a living (so this may simply be a case of me holding Maslow's Hammer). The universe exhibits a number of physical properties which resemble modeling assumptions. For example, speed is absolutely bounded at c. If I were designing an actual universe (not a model), I wouldn't enforce upper bounds--what purpose would they serve? If I were designing a model, however, boundaries of this sort would be critical to reducing the complexity of the model universe to the realm of tractable computability. On any given day, I'll instantiate thousands of models. Having many models running in parallel is useful! We observe one universe, but if there's a non-zero probability that the universe is a model of something else (a possibility which Ockham's Razor certainly doesn't refute), the fact that I generate so many models is indicative of the possibility that a super-universal process or entity may be doing the same thing, of which our universe is one instance.
1btrettel7yI do think its useful to use what we know about simulations to inform whether or not we live in one. As I said in my other comment, I don't think a finite speed of light, etc., says much either way, but I do want to note a few things that I think would be suggestive. If time was discrete and the time step appeared to be a function of known time step limits (e.g., the CFL condition [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Courant%E2%80%93Friedrichs%E2%80%93Lewy_condition] ), I would consider that to be good evidence in favor of the simulation hypothesis. The jury is still out whether time is discrete [http://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/33273/is-spacetime-discrete-or-continuous] , so we can't evaluate the second necessary condition. If time were discrete, this would be interesting and could be evidence for the simulation hypothesis, but it'd be pretty weak. You'd need something further that indicates something how the algorithm, like the time step limit, to make a stronger conclusion. Another possibility is if some conservation principle were violated in a way that would reduce computational complexity. In the water sprinkler simulations I've run, droplets are removed from the simulation when their size drops below a certain (arbitrary) limit as these droplets have little impact on the physics, and mostly serve to slow down the computation. Strictly speaking, this violates conservation of mass. I haven't seen anything like this in physics, but its existence could be evidence for the simulation hypothesis.
1btrettel7yThis is not true in general. I've considered a similar idea before, but as a reason to believe we don't live in a simulation (not that I think this is a very convincing argument). I work in computational fluid dynamics. "Low-Mach"/incompressible fluid simulations where the speed of sound is assumed infinite are much more easily tractable than the same situation run on a "high Mach" code, even if the actual fluid speeds are very subsonic. The difference of running time is at least an order of magnitude. To be fair, it can go either way. The speed of the fluid is not "absolutely bounded" in these simulations. These simulations are not relativistic, and treating them as that would make things more complicated. The speed of acoustic waves, however, is treated infinite in the low Mach limit. I imagine there are situations in other branches of mathematical physics where treating a speed as infinite (as in the case of acoustic waves) or zero (as in the non-relativistic case) simplifies certain situations. In the end, it seems like a wash to me, and this offers little evidence in favor or against the simulation hypothesis.
1AABoyles7yHuh. It never occurred to me that imposing finite bounds might increase the complexity of a simulation, but I can see how that could be true for physical models. Is the assumption you're making in the Low Mach/incompressible fluid models that the speed of sound is explicitly infinite, or is it that the speed of sound lacks an upper bound? (i.e., is there a point in the code where you have to declare something like "sound.speed = infinity"?) Anyway, I've certainly never encountered any such situation in models of social systems. I'll keep an eye out for it now. Thanks for sharing!
1Lumifer7yAs a trivial point, imposing finite bounds means that you can't use the normal distribution, for example :-)
1btrettel7yGlad you found my post interesting. I found yours interesting as well, as I thought I was the only one who made any argument along those lines. There's no explicit step where you say the speed of sound is infinite. That's just the net effect of how you model the pressure field. In reality, the pressure comes from thermodynamics at some level. In the low-Mach/incompressible model, the pressure only exists to enforce mass conservation, and in some sense is "junk" (though still compares favorably against exact solutions). Basically, you do some math to decouple the thermodynamic and "fluctuating" pressure (this is really the only change; the remainder are implications of the change). You end up with a Poisson equation for ("fluctuating") pressure, and this equation lacks the ability to take into account finite pressure/acoustic wave speeds. The wave speed is effectively infinite. To be honest, I need to read papers like this [http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00102208508960376] to gain a fuller appreciation of all the implications of this approximation. But what I describe is accurate if lacking in some of the details. In some ways, this does make things more complicated (pressure boundary conditions being one area). But in terms of speed, it's a huge benefit. Here's another example from my field: thermal radiation modeling. If you use ray tracing (like 3D rendering) then it's often practical to assume that the speed of light is infinite, because it basically is relative to the other processes you are looking at. The "speed" of heat conduction, for example, is much slower. If you used a finite wave speed for the rays then things would be much slower.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

The SF Bay Area is a lousy place to live.

Max L.

Developing a rationalist identity is harmfull. Promoting a "-ism" or group affilication with the label "rational" is harmful.

2Slider7yMaking your mind work better should not be a special action but a constant virtue. Categorising people into class A people that reach this high on sanity waterline and class B people that reach that high isn't healthy. Being rational isn't about being behind a particular answer to some central question. Being rational shouldn't be about social moment and it's inertia but about arguments and dissolving troubles. The word choice itself is misleading as the word has very differnt meaning in mainstream use. It enforces and communicates an aura of superiority that hinders intercton with other same level disciplines. If being rational is about "prosperity by choice" or "prosperity by cognition" there exist other branches of "winning" that should not be positioned as enemies but rather accomplishes. There is atleast "prosperity by trust" and "prosperity by accumulation".
[-][anonymous]7y 12

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

American intellectual discourse, including within the LW community, is informed to a significant extent by folk beliefs existing in the culture at large. One of these folk beliefs is an emphasis on individualism -- both methodological and prescriptive. This is harmful: methodological individualism ignores the existence of shared cultures and coordination mechanisms that can be meaningfully abstracted across groups of individuals, and prescriptive individualism deprives those who take it seriously of community, identity, and ritual, all of which are basic human needs.

[-][anonymous]7y 12


Previous incarnations of this idea: Closet survey #1, The Irrationality Game (More, II, III)

[Contrarian thread special voting rules]

I would not want to be cryonically frozen and resurrected as my sense of who I am is tied into social factors that would be lost

4jaime20007yWould you be willing to freeze if your family did? Your friends and family? Your whole country? Or even if everyone in the world was preserved, would you expect the structure of society post-resurrection be different enough that you would refuse preservation?
3FiftyTwo7yI'm not usre about the friends and family examples, it would depend what I thought that future society would be like. If cryonics was the norm I probably wouldn't opt out of it because I would have reasonable expectation of, if resurrection was successful, there being other people in the same situation so there would be infrastructure to support us. The social factors I'm thinking of include the skills, qualifications and experience that I have developed in my life, which would likely be irrelevant in a world that can resurrect me. At best I would be a historical curiosity with nothing to contribute.

All of your claims in this comment are factually incorrect.

Shootings of blacks are more likely to make the national news

Have you ever looked at statistics on shooting deaths? Accepting for the sake of argument that more shootings of black victims may show up on the news in an absolute sense (which I don't believe is actually true), it totally ignores the priors. If a white victim is shot, with high probability that will make the national news; if a black victim is shot, with an extremely high probability it will barely make local news and will receive no national attention. Ferguson wasn't unusual because a young black man shot; it was unusual that anyone paid any attention. Young black men being shot is far too commonplace to make the news under ordinary circumstances.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Politically, the traditional left is broadly correct.

4iceman7yCorrect meaning what? I'm interpreting "the traditional left" as a value system instead of a set of statements about the world.
6lmm7yCorrect meaning that we would prefer the outcomes of their policy suggestions to the outcomes of other policies, or I guess generically that their values are an effective mechanism for generating good policies.
3[anonymous]7y"Traditional" left meaning what? Communism? Socialism? Democrats?

Traditional as in not the radical left or any post-neocon positions. Socialism. Approximately the position of the leftmost of the two biggest political parties in a typical western-european country.

2Salemicus7yIn the typical Western-European country, the leftmost of the two parties has abandoned Socialism and instead espouses the politics of Social Democracy or the Third Way.
2BrassLion7yI downvoted you because I mostly agree - depending on how broadly you mean broadly. I suspect this is a not uncommon position here, and I would not even be surprised if it were a plurality position.
9lmm7yThat's fine. In some recent threads I've taken what I felt was a mainstream if leftist position, written (IMO) reasonable, positive arguments - and been downvoted for it, to the extent that I'm entertaining the hypothesis that LW is full of libertarians who are strongly opposed to such views. Confirming that out one way or the other is useful information.
4Prismattic7yI also have the general impression that in the past few months there has been an uptick of uncharitable tinman-attacks on progressivism by libertarians in the LW comment threads. Curiously, there seems to be less overt hostility between reactionaries and progressives, even though they're much further apart than libertarians and progressives (although this might be because the more hostile Nrx were more likely to exit after the creation of Moreright).
2FiftyTwo7yI've had the same feeling. I suspect there are loud reactionary and libertarian minorities and a large number of liberal quiet people

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Humanities is not only an useful method of knowing about the world - but, properly interfaced, ought to be able to significantly speed up science.

(I have a large interval for how controversial this is, so pardon me if you think it's not.)

3Azathoth1237yDo you mean humanities in the abstract or the people currently occupying humanities departments?

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

There is nothing morally wrong about eating meat, and vegetarianism/veganism aren't morally superior to meat-eating.

5Lumifer7yThat looks like a mainstream position, not contrarian.
2blacktrance7yIt's contrarian among LWers, which is what the OP asked for.
6Lumifer7yIs that so? I know there are some vocal vegetarians on LW, I am not sure that makes them the local mainstream.
9Prismattic7yI think there are more LW members who are meat-eating and feel hypocritical/gulity about it than there are actual vegetarians.
7Lumifer7yLooking at the 2013 poll: I can't speak to the feeling of guilt, but vegetarians are a small minority here.
2falenas1087yFor most of the vegetarians I know, the issue isn't inherently eating meat. It's the way the animals are treated before they are killed.

How is that better explained by dualism?

5TheAncientGeek7yIndeed. Two way interaction uis as well or better explained by physicalism.

This seems pretty similar to the irrationality game. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but personally I would try the following formula next time (perhaps this should be a regular thread?):

  • Ask people to defend their contrarian views rather than just flatly stating them. The idea here is to improve the accuracy of our collective beliefs, not just practice nonconformism (although that may also be valuable). Just hearing someone's position flatly stated doesn't usually improve the accuracy of my beliefs.

  • Ask people to avoid upvoting views they already agree with. This is to prevent the thread from becoming an echo chamber of edgy "contrarian" views that are in fact pretty widespread already.

  • Ask people to vote up only those comments that cause them to update or change their mind on some topic. Increased belief accuracy is what we want; let's reward that.

  • Ask people to downvote spam and trolling only. Through this restriction on the use of downvotes, we lessen the anticipated social punishment for sharing an unpopular view that turns out to be incorrect (which is important counterfactually).

  • Encourage people to make contrarian factual statements rather than cont

... (read more)


Is there some way to encourage coherence in people's stated views? For some of the posts in this thread I can't tell whether I agree or disagree because I can't understand what the view is. I feel an urge to downvote such posts, although this could easily be a bad idea, since extreme contrarian views will probably seem less coherent. On the other hand, if I can't even understand what is being claimed in the first place then it's hard for me to get much benefit out of it.

5ChristianKl7yThat's to be expected with it comes to contrarian views. A lot of positions are not widely held because they are complicated to understand or take certain background knowledge. If you would give me a bunch of academic math problems I wouldn't understand the problems. In math it's fairly easy to say: Hey math is complicated, it's okay that I don't know enough about the topic to understand the claim. But in other areas the same applies. Understanding what other people think is often hard when they differ substantially from yourself.
2Gunnar_Zarncke7yThis thread is mixed up. A top level meta comment (like in the irrationality sequence) is missing for example.
[-][anonymous]7y 9

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

The necessary components of AGI are quite simple, and have already been worked out in most cases. All that is required is a small amount of integrative work to build the first UFAI.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Moral realism is true.

I think you are just blind to these things.

I have highly accomplished female friends who tell me horrible stories. I have highly accomplished friends with black skin who tell me horrible stories.

3Azathoth1237yCan I have some more specifics. Also note that in the parent I specifically referred to "race privilege", the situation with "female privilege" is more complicated.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

You can expect to have about as much success effectively and systematically teaching rationality as you could in effectively and systematically teaching wisdom. Attempts for a systematic rationality curriculum will end up as cargo cultism and hollow ingroup signaling at worst and heuristics and biases research literature scholarship at best. Once you know someone's SAT score, knowing whether they participated in rationality training will give very little additional predictive power on whether they will win at life.

3John_Maxwell7yI'd like to hear a more substantive argument if you've got one. Do you think there are few general-purpose life skills (e.g. those purportedly taught in Getting Things Done, How to Win Friends and Influence People, etc.)? What's your best evidence for this?
1Risto_Saarelma7yI think that there is a huge unseen component in life skills where in addition to knowing about a skill, you need to recognize a situation where the skill might apply, remember about the skill, figure out if the skill is really appropriate given what's going on, know exactly how you should apply the skill in that given situation and so on. There isn't really an algorithm you can follow without also constantly reflecting on what is actually going on, and I think that in what basically looks like another instance of Moravec's paradox [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moravec%27s_paradox], the big difficult part is actually in the unconscious situation awareness and the things you can write in a book like GTD and give to people are a tiny offshoot on that. No solid evidence for this except for the observation that there don't seem to be self-helpy systems for general awesomeness that actually do consistently make people who stick with them more awesome.
1John_Maxwell7yOK, what if you were to, say, at the end of each day brainstorm situations during the day when skill X could have been useful in order to get better at recognizing them? Could meditation be useful for this?

Then why, despite the xenophobic laws of the 19th and early 20th centuries, are East Asians a dominant minority in the US? Why, despite a millenium of antisemitism, are Ashkenazim getting 27% of Nobels and making up about quarter [edit: not sure of exact number] of US billionaires?

White people have treated all nonwhites like trash at some point or another, yet there's a giant variation in outcomes. Racism as an all-powerful explanation of black dysfunction is untenable.

White people have treated all nonwhites like trash at some point or another

I think that most peoples have treated some other tribe as trash at some point or another. The particular case which prompted this response was the English and the Irish, but the list of examples is very long.

[Contrarian thread special voting rules]

I bite the bullet on the repugnant conclusion

[Contrarian thread, special voting rules apply]

Engaging in political processes (and learning how to do so) is a useful thing, and is consistently underrated by the LW consensus.

3shminux7yJust a reminder, the local meme "politics is the mind killer" is an injunction not against discussing politics, but against using political examples in a non-political argument.
4FiftyTwo7yAgreed. But there is also a generally negative attitude towards politics

A big pie, rotating in the sky, should have apparently shorter circumference than a non-rotating one, and both with the same radii.

I can't swallow this. Not because it is weird, but because it is inconsistent.

There is no inconsistency. In one case you are measuring the circumference with moving rulers, while in the other case you are measuring the circumference with stationary rulers. It's not inconsistent for these two different measurements to give different results.

Dollars and utilons are not meaningfully comparable.

Edited to restate: Dollars (or any physical, countable object) cannot stand in for utilons.

3DanielLC7yCan you explain what is wrong with the following comparison? The value of a dollar in utilons is equal to the increase in expected utilons brought by being given another dollar.
3polymathwannabe7yThe problem is the law of diminishing marginal utility. Translating from dollars to utilons is not straightforward at all; how much utility that dollar gives you depends on factors like how many dollars you already have, how much you owe, what services you can sell, and how much you know about what to do with money. For that same reason, utilons do not add up linearly by giving you a second, third, etc., dollar.
5Alejandro17yRight; assuming (falsely of course) that humans have coherent preferences satisfying the VNM axioms, what can be measured in utilons are not "amount of dollars" in the abstract, but "amount of dollars obtained in such-and-such way in such-and-such situation". But I wouldn't call this "not being meaningfully comparable". And there is nothing special about dollars here, any other object, event or experience is subject to the same.
1polymathwannabe7yEvery time there's an argument that goes like, "Would you pay a penny to avoid scenario X?", which in real life means actually "Would you sacrifice a utilon to avoid scenario X?" and therefore requires us to presuppose that dollars can stand in for utilons, something special is being assumed about dollars.
2Alejandro17yBut "Would you pay a penny to avoid scenario X?" in no way means "Would you sacrifice a utilon to avoid scenario X?" (the latter is meaningless, since utilons are abstractions subject to arbitrary rescaling). The meaningful rephrasing of the penny question in terms of utilons is "Ceteris paribus, would you get more utilons if X happens, or if you lose a penny and X doesn't happen?" (which is just roundabout way of asking which you prefer). And this is unobjectionable as a way of testing whether you have really a preference and getting a vague handle on how strong it is. I would prefer if people avoided the word "utilon" altogether (and also "utility" outside of formal decision theory contexts) because there is an inevitable tendency to reify these terms and start using them in meaningless ways. But again, nothing special about money here.
1polymathwannabe7ySeconded. But then we would also need to avoid using language that sneaks disguised utilons into the conversation.
2Alejandro17yUtilons do not exist. They are abstractions defined out of idealized, coherent preferences. To the extent that they are meaningful, though, their whole point is that anything one might have a preference over can be quantified in utilons--including dollars.

My current understanding of U.S. laws on cryonics is that you have to be legally pronounced brain-dead before you can be frozen. I think that defeats the entire purpose of cryonics; I can't trust attempts to reverse-engineer my brain if I'm already brain-dead; that is, if my brain cells are already damaged beyond resuscitation. I don't live in the U.S. anyway, but sometimes I consider moving there just to be close to cryonics facilities. However, as long as I can't freeze my intact brain, I can't trust the procedure.

8RomeoStevens7ybrain dead does not necessarily refer to damaged brain cells. It often refers to electrical activity. As people have been resuscitated after the cessation of brain activity (i.e. human's are cold bootable) without loss of personality it seems reasonable to still give cryonics a go.

[ Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

MWI is wrong, and relational QM is right.

Physicalism is wrong, because of the mind body problem, and other considerations, and dual aspect neutral monism is right.

STEM types are too quick to reject ethical Objectivism. Moreover moral subjectivism is horribly wrong. Don't know what the right answer is, but it could be some kind of Kantianism or Contractarianism.

Arguing to win is good, or to be precise, it largely coincides with truth seeking,

There is no kind of smart that makes you uniformly g... (read more)

3polymathwannabe7yThere are so many problems with this post I wish I could vote several times. One example: how can you claim both "A physicalistically respectable form of free will is defensible" and "Physicalism is wrong?"
2ChristianKl7yToo much statements in a single post.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Somewhere between 1950 and 1970 too many people started studying physics, and now the community of physicists has entered a self-sustaining state where writing about other people's work is valued much, much more than forming ideas. Many modern theories (string theory, AdS/CFT correspondence, renormalisation of QFT) are hard to explain because they do not consist of an idea backed by a mathematical framework but solely of this mathematical framework.

Friendliness by mathematical proof about exact trustworthiness of future computing principles is misguided.

I sense this opinion is not that marginal here, but it does go against the established orthodoxy: I'm pro-specks.

2polymathwannabe7yMeaning, in this [http://lesswrong.com/lw/kn/torture_vs_dust_specks/] scenario, I prefer 3^^^3 specks to 50 years of torture for one person.
5RomeoStevens7yI think that my objection is that the analysis sneaks in an ontological assumption: sensory experiences are comparable across a huge range. I'm not very sure that's true.
2fubarobfusco7yWhat's your reasoning? I expect serious attempts at an answer to have to cope with questions such as — * How many degrees of pain might a human be capable of? Is the scale linear? logarithmic? * How does the 'badness' (or 'natural evil' [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_evil], classically) of pain vary with its intensity and its duration? (Is having a nasty headache for seven days exactly seven times worse than having that headache for one day, or is it more or less than seven times worse?) * How does the 'badness' of some pain happening to N people scale with N? (If 100 people stub their toes, is that 100 times worse than one person stubbing his or her toe and 99 going safely unstubbed?) Even if questions such as these can't be given precise answers, it should be possible to give some sort of bounds for them, and it's possible that those bounds are narrow enough to make the answer obvious.
5polymathwannabe7yYou want a scientific scale for measuring pain? Take your pick. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pain_scale] Not only is there no universally standardized measure of pain, the reason why I'm pro-specks is that I don't believe that pain distributed over separate brains is summable. It does not scale. Elsewhere EY argued that a billion skydivers, each increasing the atmosphere's temperature by a thousandth of a degree, would individually not care about the effect, but collectively kill us all. The reason why the analogy doesn't apply is that all the skydivers are in the same atmosphere, whereas the specks are not hurting the same consciousness. Unless the pain is communicable (via hive mind or what have you), it will still be roundable to zero. You could have as many specks as you like, each of them causing the mildest itch in one eye, and it would still not surpass the negative utility from torturing one person. Edited to add: I still don't have a clear idea of how infinite specks would change the comparison, but infinites don't tend to occur in real life.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

The study and analysis of human movement is very underfunded. There a lot of researches into getting information about static information such as DNA or X-ray but very little about getting dynamic information about how humans move.

7NancyLebovitz7yI agree with this, so I'm telling you instead of upvoting.
1[anonymous]7yExcept for the purpose of making CGI actors' movements look realistic.
4ChristianKl7yThat's mostly not done within biology but by companies that produce closed-source knowledge and proprietary algorithms for the purposes of CGI.

I think raising the sanity waterline is the most important thing we can do, and we do too little of it because our discussions tend to happen amongst ourselves, i.e. with people who are far from that waterline.

Any attempt to educate people, including the attempt to educate them about rationality, should focus on teens, or where possible on children, in order to create maximum impact. HPMOR does that to some degree, but Less Wrong usually presupposes cognitive skills that the very people who'd benefit most from rationality do not possess. It is very much in... (read more)

Is this supposed to be a contrarian view on LW? If it is, I am going to cry.

Unless we reach a lot of young people, we risk than in 30-40 years the "rationalist movement" will be mostly a group of old people spending most of their complaining about how things were better when they were young. And the change will come so gradually we may not even notice it.

5chaosmage7yI don't think anybody has explicitly spoken out against it, but it seems to me everyone acts quite opposed to the idea.
8ChristianKl7yI think video are the wrong medium. Videos have the problem of getting people to think they understand something when they don't. People learn all the right buzzwords but that doesn't mean that they actually are more rational. Kaj Sotala for example designs a game for his master thesis that's intended to teach Bayes method. I think such a game would be much more valuable than a video that explains Bayes method. We have prediction book and the Credence game as tools to teach people to be more rational. They aren't yet on a quality level where the average person will use them. Focusing more energy on updating those concepts [http://lesswrong.com/lw/kxv/open_thread_september_814_2014/bb6m] and making them work better is more valuable than producing videos. CFAR also does develop teaching materials. A core feature of CFAR is that it actually focuses on produces quality instead of just producing videos and hoping that those videos will have an impact. I know that there someone in Germany who teaches a high school class based on CFAR inspired material.
4John_Maxwell7ySeems pretty sensible to me. I'm not that worried about a 30-40 year old "rationalist" movement, however... in the same way the ideas on LW appealed to me as a teen, it seems likely that they will end up appealing to other teens, if they end up hearing about them (stuff like e.g. HPMOR makes it likely that they will).
1Three-Monkey Mind1yI agree, and I'm in favor of this sort of thing. I try to do this sort of thing among my friends. Sometimes it works, at least a little bit. On the other hand, if we're trying to save Earth from being turned into paperclips, we ought to focus our efforts on people who're smart enough to be able to meaningfully contribute to AI risk reduction. On the other other hand, there are people here who could help with sanity-line-raising materials who can't help with rationality training as a way to avert AI x-risk. On the other other other hand, some people who might be able to help with AI risk might get into the possibly-less-important sanity-waterline-raising projects, and this would be a bad thing.

I find it difficult to believe that houseboats are inherently less expensive. It seems more likely that there's some reason house boats cannot be made as large and expensive as regular houses, so the average houseboat is much cheaper than the average house, even if it's more expensive than a house of the same quality.

The internet gets much more difficult if you don't live in cities. While it mitigates the costs of people not living near each other, it does not remove them. There are still lots of people putting large amounts of time into physically commuting.

Why not use mobile homes? They can't be stacked in three dimensions like apartments, but at least you can put them in two-dimensional grids.

2epursimuove7yThere certainly are houseboats much larger and more expensive than regular houses. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rising_Sun_(yacht%29]
2Kaninchen7yMotor homes might well make more sense for this. The reason I came to this view is that I like canals and so houseboating seemed like a pleasant idea; at around the same time, I read this NY Times piece [http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/upshot/everyone-wants-to-be-a-homeowner-why-not-a-foodowner.html?abt=0002&abg=0] suggesting that home ownership is not necessarily a good thing. Houseboating seemed like a way of dealing with that; motorhomes simply didn't occur to me as a (probably better) alternative.

I'm not the OP, but I'll throw a quote into this thread:

There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

2Azathoth1237ySo which crimes would you take off the books and what percent of prisoners would that remove?
6Lumifer7yWe can start with the drug war, things like civil forfeiture, and go on from there. You might be interested in this book [http://www.harveysilverglate.com/Books/ThreeFeloniesaDay.aspx]. The problems with the US criminal justice system go much deeper than just the abundance of laws, of course.
3Azathoth1237yCivil forfeiture doesn't fill prisons. The problem with having to many felonies is not that prisons get filled with people being punished for silly things, it's that the people who do get punished for silly things tend to correlate with the people actively opposing the current administration.
1Lumifer7yThere are a LOT of problems with having too many felonies, but that's a large discussion not quite in the LW bailiwick...
1Azathoth1237yAgreed, but the discussion was about there supposedly being too many people in prison.

I'm not sure what you mean by provably-secure, care to elaborate?

It sounds like it might possibly be required and is certainly not sufficient.

1VAuroch7yProvably-secure computing is a means by which you have a one-to-one mapping between your code and a proof that the results will not give you bad outcomes to a certain specification. The standard method is to implement a very simple language and prove that it works as a formal verifier, use this language to write a more complex formal verifying language, possibly recurse that, then use the final verifying language to write programs that specify start conditions and guarantee that given those conditions outcomes will be confined to a specified set. It seems to be taken for granted on LW and within MIRI that this does not provide much value because we cannot trust the proofs to describe the actual effects of the programs, and therefore it's discounted entirely as a useful technique. I think it would substantially reduce the difficulty of the problem which needs to be solved for a fairly minor cost.

That is not in the rules for the thread. Given the karma toll (and the fact that sufficiently downvoted comment threads get collapsed), it would be a bad idea to make it one of the rules. I think you should simply not vote on comments you agree with, and I suggest reversing any downvotes you've made for this reason.

I do agree that without downvoting it is hard to differentiate between views the community agrees with and views the community has no real opinion about, but I don't think adding this information is worth the disadvantages of downvoting for agreement.

5Azathoth1237yI assume you meant: "I think you should simply not vote on comments you agree with".

I am quite happy not to have a lengthy debate with you on this topic.

I'm sure Bradford isn't the greatest place to live, but (1) it's better than many US inner cities, (2) the UK seems quite far from collapse, and generally (3) "such-and-such a country allows quite a lot of immigration, and there is one city there that has a lot of immigrants and isn't a very nice place" seems a very very very weak argument against liberal immigration policies.

8Azathoth1237yOn the other hand, "such-and-such a country allows quite a lot of immigration, and the niceness of a city inversely correlates with the number of immigrants there" is a stronger argument. Especially if I can get an even stronger correlation by conditioning on types of immigrants.
7gjm7yStronger, yes. But ... * It's far from clear that the central premise is correct. (Cambridge has a lot of immigrants and I think it's very nice. I'm told Stoke-on-Trent is pretty rubbish but it has few immigrants. Two cherry-picked cases don't tell you much about correlation but, hey, that's one more case than bramflakes offered.) * The differential effects of immigration within a country might look different from the overall effects on the country as a whole. (Toy model, not intended to be a description of how things actually are: suppose some immigrant group produces disproportionate numbers of petty criminals and brilliant business executives; then maybe areas with more of that group will have more crime but by the magic of income tax the high earnings of the geniuses will make everyone better off.) * For some people -- I am not claiming you are one -- the very fact that a place has more immigrants (or more of particular "types of immigrants", nudge nudge wink wink) makes it less nice. Those who happen not to feel that way may have a different view of the correlation between niceness and immigration from those who do. To take a special case, the immigrants themselves probably don't feel that way, and for some who favour liberal immigration policies the benefit to the immigrants is actually an important part of the point.
3Azathoth1237yActually they probably do. That's why they immigrated in the first place. Well it's remarkable how strong a correlation there is between one's support for immigration and how strong a bubble one has around oneself to protect oneself from them. Look how many of the most prominent immigration advocates live in gated communities.
5gjm7yI can think of reasons why someone might migrate from country A to country B other than preferring country B's people to country A's. [EDITED to add: Maybe I should give some examples, in case they really aren't obvious. Country B might have: a better political system, less war, more money, better treatment for some group one's part of (women, gay people, intellectuals, Sikhs, ...), less disease, nicer climate, lower taxes, better public services, better jobs, better educational opportunities. Some of those might in some cases be because country A's people are somehow better, but they needn't be, and even if in fact Uzbekistan has lower taxes because it has fewer Swedes and Swedes have a genetic predisposition to raise taxes, someone migrating from Sweden to Uzbekistan for lower taxes needn't be aware of that and needn't have any preference for not being around Swedes.] I am interested: How strong, and how many? Do you have figures? (And how does it compare with how many of the most prominent advocates of anything you care to mention live in gated communities? The most prominent people in any given group are more likely to be rich, and richer people more often live in gated communities.) In any case, assuming for the sake of argument that there is indeed a positive correlation between being "protected" from immigrants and supporting letting more of them in: I don't understand how your reply is responsive to what I wrote. It seems exactly parallel to this: "Many people advocate prison reform for the sake of the prisoners." "Oh year? Well, a lot of those people prefer to live in places with lower crime rates." Which is true enough, but hardly relevant. There's no inconsistency between wanting some group of people to be better off, and having a personal preference for not living near a lot of them.
5Azathoth1237yRich people are more likely to advocate open boarders. As for prominent people: Mark Zuckerberg bought the four houses surrounding his own "because he wanted more privacy" [http://cnsnews.com/mrctv-blog/craig-bannister/sen-sessions-zuckerberg-spent-30-million-four-houses-secure-his-borders] . Bryan Caplan prides himself on the bubble [http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/03/my_beautiful_bu.html] he's constructed around himself.
3gjm7yAgain, I'd be interested in the statistics. (That isn't a coded way of saying I think you're wrong, by the way. But I'd be interested to know how big the differences are, whether it depends on what you mean by "rich", etc.) I'm not sure why this is relevant. I'm guessing that both of those people advocate open borders, but surely the absolute most any observation of this form could show is that there are at least two people in the world who advocate open borders for bad reasons, or advocate open borders but are terrible people, or something. How can that possibly matter?
4Azathoth1237yOf course, one consequence of this is that if enough Swedes migrate they'll destroy the aspect of Uzbekistan that attracted them in the first place. It is hypocritical in the original sense of the term, the one from which the word's negative connotations derive, i.e., a leader who insists that the group make sacrifices for the "greater good" without participating in those sacrifices himself.
4TheAncientGeek7y"... niceness of a city inversely correlates with the number of immigrants there" Ask any Native American, ho ho.

Changing minds is usually impossible. People will only be shifted on things they didn't feel confident about in the first place. Changes in confidence are only weakly influenced by system 2 reasoning.

3Prismattic7yYou may find this article [https://www.contributoria.com/issue/2014-05/5319c4add63a707e780000cd] by Tom Stafford (of Mindhacks) to be of interest.

Coherent Extapolated Volition is a bad way of approaching friendliness.

[-][anonymous]7y 6

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Utilitarianism relies on so many levels of abstraction as to be practically useless in most situations.

2DanielLC7yI denotationally agree. In a given situation, utilitarianism will most likely have negligable value. But I think those others are a big deal. Knowing where to donate money makes a much larger difference than every other choice I make combined. In my experience, utilitarians are much better at deciding where to donate.

I think this is uncontroversial if taken as referring to the following two things:

  • The meaning of a statement depends on its context. (E.g., "that's a red herring" might mean different things when pointing at a net full of fish and when listening to a debate.)
  • A statement may contain indexical terms whose reference varies with time or place or whatever. (E.g., one person may say "I have a headache" and another "I do not have a headache" and there is no contradiction.)

and controversial but not startlingly so if taken as refe... (read more)

If you don't regulate them you don't pay directly but pay in medical cost for conditions such as asthma. You also get lower children IQ which is worth something. According to the EPA calculations the children IQ is worth more than the increased monetary cost of coal plants due to mercury regulation.

As a social scientist (who spends a LOT of time and effort developing rigorous methodology in keeping with the scientific method), I find your dismissal of my entire academic superfield disgraceful. Perhaps you've confused social science with punditry?

So you're claiming that there is no way in which the US police and justice systems treat black people differently that isn't reducible to intelligence or conscientiousness differences?

Ehrr.. Just No. Nuclear might be able to make that case, tough mostly the problem there is sticking with over-grown submarine reactors (pwr's are an asinine choice for use on land) but coal and gas? Those are, if anything underregulated due to excessive political clout. Fossil fuels will get more costly for straightforward reasons of supply and demand. The third world is industrializing, and the first world is going to use ever more electricity due to very predictable changes like the coming switch to all-electric motoring (Which, again, will not be dri... (read more)

5moridinamael7yUnfortunately it is not quite this simple. The current oil price is on the order of $100 per barrel, but it never broke $40 per barrel prior to 1998. See figure. [https://www.e-education.psu.edu/drupal6/files/engr312/lesson10/EIA_chron-2008.gif] Also see this figure [http://inflationdata.com/articles/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Inflation_Adj_Oil_Prices_Chart.jpg] which is in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars, and shows another huge spike around 1980. The reason for these tremendous spike in price isn't simple supply-demand - complex nonlinear political factors are almost certainly to blame, and price stickiness is partially why oil remains as expensive as it is. It doesn't cost even in the ballpark of $100 per barrel to get oil out of the ground and it won't for a very very long time. The upshot is that the price of oil will continue to beat out other sources of energy by just enough to keep those sources of energy at a marginal level of profitability, because oil (and other fossil fuels) can remain profitable at much lower prices. I would also point out that the scenario you have just described is highly complex and conjunctive, while "oil continues to do what it has been doing" is an intrinsically simple hypothesis.
3CellBioGuy7yPrice is set on the margins. The marginal barrels of oil coming out of the ground are certainly in the ballpark of $100, from various shale and tight deposits.
1Lumifer7yThe oil prices do not play by the economics textbook rules because most of the world's oil production is controlled by governments and governments have a variety of interests and incentives beyond what a profit-maximizing purely economic agent might have.
1Izeinwinter7yOil is nearly utterly irrelevant to electricity, however. Nobody sane produces electricity on anything but the most minor of scales using it, and given mass-market electric cars, it is never going to be able to compete on price with electricity. charging a 100 kwh battery pack from bone dry to full would cost an average of 12 dollars and change in the US. That is the equivalent of a gas price of <60 cents per gallon, and electric cars are a better driving experience. (well, a car with a 100 kwh battery back certainly will be. That's a lot of oomp.) The sauds aren't going to be able to beat this transition just by dropping the price of oil for a year or two, nor are price hikes on the electric side going to do it - most of the cost of electricity to private consumers is taxes, so even quite large rises in the cost of coal and gas will not translate one-to-one as end-customer pain, and the differential in price is simply to large. More importantly, the electrification of the world continues apace, and most of the places joining the age of the electron do not have vast coal reserves of their own. The secular pressure to go nuclear is only going to rise, and most of the world is well beyond the reach of the various groups dedicated to the defense of helpless Actinides.
1Lumifer7yAt the moment. But your scenario assumes that most of transportation switches its energy source from petrol/diesel to electricity. That implies that the demand for oil will drop through the floor. And that implies that oil will become very cheap. Which in turn implies that it will again start to make sense to burn it to make electricity to recharge the car batteries. Remember that electricity is not a source of energy. To support your case for nuclear you need to show that coal and hydrocarbons will be unable to support the energy needs of the humanity in the near future. Whether cars run directly on hydrocarbons or whether there is the intermediate stage of electricity involved does not matter much for this issue.
1Izeinwinter7yOil has uses other than automotive fuel - way before it reaches the point where it becomes competitive with coal or uranium for stationary power plants, demand from the plastics, avionics and the petrochemicals industry is going to put a floor on the price. I don't expect the saudi oil to stay under the sand, but as an energy player, the global oil industry is doomed. Coal is going to be raking in money hand over fist for a while as prices spike, but once a transition to fission starts, - and high coal prices will get that started - they are done for too. King coal only still reigns at all because the world has been collectively insane about fission due to living in the shadow of the atomic bomb.
1Lumifer7yCertainly true and yes, that will put a floor under the price. That's good, isn't it? People have been pointing out for quite a while that just burning something as useful as oil is pretty silly. It also means that the world is not going to run out of oil in the foreseeable future, right? I don't know about that -- there is an awful lot of gas around. Do you happen to have some sort of a timetable for your predictions? While that may be true, I don't see any signs of the world becoming more sane.
1moridinamael7yI assure you that this is not true, unless I misunderstand you. edit: The Finding and Development cost of a typical worthwhile shale play is $1.50/Mcf (many are even better), the current natural gas price is $3.50/Mcf. Of course there are crappy fields with higher F&D cost, and these won't be drilled until prices are high enough to justify it. In effect there is a continuum of price/barrel out there in the world and this is not what controls present day prices.

If its price was less than or equal to the price of normal meat, I'd buy it, otherwise, I'd stick with normal meat.

Then they stretch. Or break.

Special relativity is consistent. It just isn't completely accurate.

It's inconsistent with solid-body physics, but that's due to the oversimplifications inherent in solid-body physics, not the ones inherent in special relativity.

Trying to fit solid-body physics into general relativity is even worse. With special relativity, it works fine as long as it doesn't rotate or accelerate. Under general relativity, it can only exist on flat space-time, which basically means that nothing in the universe can have any mass whatsoever, including the object in question.

The full meaning of a statement depends on the context in which it is made.

I'm lost at "socially agreed". I define models as useful if they make good predictions. This definition does not rely on some social agreement, only on the ability to replicate the tests of said predictions.

Our society is ruled by a Narrative which has no basis in reality and is essentially religious in character. Every component of the Narrative is at best unjustified by actual evidence, and at worst absurd on the face of it. Moreover, most leading public intellectuals never seriously question the Narrative because to do so is to be expelled from their positions of prestige. The only people who can really poke holes in the Narrative are people like Peter Thiel and Nassim Taleb, whose positions of wealth and prestige are independently guaranteed.

The lesson is... (read more)

3polymathwannabe7yWhat exactly does that Narrative say?

Why would he answer you without first being a billionaire?

1FiftyTwo7yWhat possible evidence can you have for the existence of a great truth which is by definition not available to you?

Finding better ways for structuring knowledge is more important than faster knowledge transfer through devices such as high throughput Brain Computer Interfaces.

It's a travesty that outside of computer programming languages few new languages get invented in the last two decades.

3gjm7yThese are two separate (though related) propositions. For the purpose of this thread it would be better to separate them. (You'd probably also get more karma that way :-).)

I mean that moral statements have a truth-value, some moral statements are true, and the truth of moral statements isn't determined by opinion.

1shminux7yWhat does it mean for a moral statement to be true? After all, it is not a mathematical statement. How does one tell if a moral statement is true? EDIT: it seems like a category error to me (morality is evaluated as if it were math), but maybe I am missing something.
2Lumifer7yIn many religions (which do tend towards moral realism :-/) morality is quite similar to physics: it describes the way our world is constructed. Good people go to heaven, evil people go to hell, karma determines your rebirth, etc. etc. Morality is objective, it can be discovered (though not exactly by a scientific method), and "this moral statement is true" means the usual thing -- correspondence to reality.

Well previous generations' nouveau riche had better taste.

Not from the point of view of the previous generation X-)

Aren't RVs even cheaper?

And shacks made out of plywood and corrugated iron are cheaper still.

This seems close to the (liberal) mainstream. Why do you think it is contrarian on LW?

7Princess_Stargirl7yI do not think most people consider this a problem on the par of the Soviet Gulag. Though possibly I am wrong.
2Lumifer7yThe problem with the Soviet Gulag wasn't so much its size, but rather the whole system it was part of and things which got you sent to it.

That doesn't seem especially contrarian to me, given the base premise that cryptocurrency has legs in the first place. At the very least, it seems obvious that easy-to-trace and difficult-to-trace transaction systems have different and complementary niches.

2Ander7yI thought it was contrarian, but perhaps I am wrong? I've seen plenty of 'every altcoin is worthless, dont ever buy any' comments in discussions in the past.
4lmm7yI think it's a small (but loud and motivated) group of bitcoin fans that think that, with most people taking your position (at least conditional on the statement that any cryptocurrency is useful at all).
[-][anonymous]7y 4

I'm upvoting top-level comments which I think are in the spirit of this post but I personally disagree with (in the case of comments with several sentences, if I disagree with their conjunction), downvoting ones I don't think are in the spirit of this post (e.g. spam, trolling, views which are clearly not contrarian either on LW nor in the mainstream), and leaving alone ones which are in the spirit of this post but I already agree with. Is that right?

What about comments I'm undecided about? I'm upvoting them if I consider them less likely than my model of the average LWer does and leaving them alone otherwise. Is that right?

3shminux7yI interpret the intention as "upvote serious ones you disagree with, downvote trolls, ignore those you agree with". In other words, you are not judging what you think LW finds contrarian, you are reporting whether you agree with the views posters perceive as contrarian, not penalizing people for misjudging what is contrarian. Hopefully this thread is a useful tool for figuring out which views are the most out of the LW mainstream, but still are taken seriously by the community. 10+ upvotes would probably be in the ballpark.

I can, but I don't want to fall into that inferential canyon.

2Scott Garrabrant7yI think that if you actually can defend them, it might be worth it to go through the canyon. Inferential canyons are a lot easier to cross when your targets are aware of their existence and are willing and able to discuss responsibly. ("worth it" is of course relative to other ways you discuss with strangers on the internet}

I think most people who suffer from back pain suffer from back pain because their muscles do something they shouldn't do. RSI is probably also an illness that has to do with muscles engaging in patterns of activation that's aren't healthy.

I personally had to relearn walking after 7 weeks of being in bed in the hospital. You need an amazing number of different muscles to walk and if you don't use a bunch you are walking suboptimally.

These days you can use approaches such as Feldenkrais to relearn how to use all your muscles but Feldenkrais isn't really s... (read more)

2NancyLebovitz7yI think I've found a scientifically-based system [http://www.whatthefoot.co.uk/] . It's based on anatomy, and uses pressure plates to establish how people move their weight when they stand and walk. Unfortunately, the book costs $60, and is a book of principles and facts, not methods. Even though it's directed toward body-workers rather than people in general, it still doesn't include the exercises for activating the appropriate movement patterns to improve walking. Nonetheless, I'm experimenting cautiously with what I can get out of it-- gently shifting the weight transfer patterns in my feet while walking toward what's recommended, for example. This may be doing some good, but I'll do more of a report later. Author's blog [http://www.anatomyinmotion.co.uk/blog/]
1John_Maxwell7yThis book solved my RSI, FWIW: http://saveyourself.ca/tutorials/trigger-points.php [http://saveyourself.ca/tutorials/trigger-points.php]

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Improving the typical human's emotional state — e.g. increasing compassion and reducing anxiety — is at least as significant to mitigating existential risks as improving the typical human's rationality.

The same is true for unusually intelligent and capable humans.

For that matter, unusually intelligent and capable humans who hate or fear most of humanity, or simply don't care about others, are unusually likely to break the world.

(Of course, there are cases where failures of rationality and failu... (read more)

If you measure a wheel with a ruler, and the wheel is moving relative to the ruler, then your measurement assumes that both ends of a piece of the wheel line up with both ends of a piece of the ruler at the same time. Whether these events happen at the same time, and therefore whether this is a measurement of the wheel, are different depending on the frame of reference.

I've never heard the term before, but in context I'd guess it means something like "an explanation that implies we're less important than the previous explanation did". Heliocentrism vs. geocentrism, evolution vs. a supernatural creation narrative culminating in people, etc.

  1. Once you actually take human nature into account (especially, the the things that cause us to feel happiness, pride, regret, empathy), then most seemingly-irrational human behavior actually turns out to be quite rational.

  2. Conscious thought processes are often deficient in comparison to subconscious ones, both in terms of speed and in terms of amount of information they can integrate together to make decisions.

  3. From 1 and 2 it follows that most attempts at trying to consciously improve 'rational' behavior will end up falling short or backfiring.

My understanding is that the idea is to post opinions you actually hold that count as contrarian.

5Jiro7yI was mostly thinking of the one about open borders. Hardly anyone thinks that open borders would destroy civilization, but that's an exaggerated version of "open borders are a bad idea". If I disagree that they would destroy civilization, but I agree that they are a bad idea, should I treat it as a contrarian opinion or a non-contrarian opinion? Furthermore, it sounds like that would not qualify as "opinions you actually hold" unless the poster thought it would destroy civilization.
3Azathoth1237yReally? I consider it obvious for a sufficiently strong definition of "open boarders". Also it wouldn't completely destroy civilization because the open boarders aspect would collapse before all of civilization did.

No, we don't. That's making recommendations as to how they can attain their preferences. That you don't seem to understand this distinction is concerning. Instrumental and terminal values are different.

History isn't over in any Fukuyamian sense; in fact the turmoil of the twenty-first century will dwarf the twentieth. A US-centered empire will likely take shape by century's end.

I will elaborate if requested.

[-][anonymous]7y 3

So, um, what's the problem, then?

There are no problems. UFAI could be constructed by a few people who know what they are doing on today's commodity hardware with only a few years effort.

2RichardKennaway7yThe outside view on this is that such predictions have been made since the start of A(G)I 50 or 60 years ago, and it's never panned out. What are the inside-view reasons to believe that this time it will? I've only looked through the table of contents of the Goertzel book -- is it more than a detailed survey of AGI work to date and speculations about the future, or are he and his co-workers really onto something?
4[anonymous]7yMy prediction / contrarian belief is that they are really onto something, with caveats (did you look at the second book? that's where their own design is outlined). At the very highest level I think their CogPrime design is correct in the sense that it implements a human-level or better AGI that can solve many useful categories of real world problems, and learn / self-modify to solve those categories it is not well adapted to out of the box. I do take issue with some of the specific choices they made in both fleshing out components and the current implementation, OpenCog. For example I think using the rule-based PLN logic engine was a critical mistake, but at an architectural level that is a simple change to make since the logic engine is / should be loosly coupled to the rest of the design (it's not in OpenCog, but c'est la vie. I think a rewrite is necessary anyway for other reasons). I'd swap it out for a form of logical inference based on Bayesian probabalistic graph models a la Pearl. There are various other tweaks I would make regarding the atom space, sub-program representation, and embodiment. I'd also implement the components within the VM language of the AI itself, such that it is able to self-modify its own core capabilities. But at the architectural level these are tweaks of implementation details. It's remains largly the same design outlined by Goertzel et al. AI has been around for almost 60 years. However AGI as a discipline was invented by Goertzel et al only in the last 10 to 15 years or so. The story before that is honestly quite a bit more complex, with much of the first 50 years of AI being spent working on the sub-component projects of an integrative AGI. So without prototype solutions to the component problems, I don't find it at all surprising that progress was not made on integrating the whole.

"There exists no rationality curriculum such that a person of average IQ can benefit from it" and "there exists no rationality curriculum such that a person of LW-typical IQ can benefit from it" are not the same statement.

And there are some not entirely healthy subcultures around extensive meditation practices (detachment from the physical world as in "the only difference between an ideal monk and a corpse is that the monk still has a beating heart" and so on), which might be trouble for someone who really wants an algorithm

... (read more)

The last was disappointingly predictable.

Nonbinary people consider themselves neither male nor female, both male and female, male and female individually but at different times, or any other vector combination of genders besides {1,0} and {0,1}; naturally, they are all transgender. They're fairly uncommon, largely because the idea that identifying as nonbinary is not available to the vast majority of people and would be stigmatized if they did choose to adopt it.

1Ixiel7yHuh, interesting. I had never heard of that, thank you.

When I said humanities I didn't mean social sciences; in fact, I thought social sciences explicitly followed the scientific method. Maybe the word points to something different in your head, or you slipped up. Either way, when I say humanities, I actually mean fields like philosophy and literature and sociology which go around talking about things by taking the human mind as a primitive.

The whole point of the humanities is that it's a way of doing things that isn't the scientific method. The disgraceful thing is the refusal to interface properly with scien... (read more)

3Azathoth1237yFunny humanities people were saying the same thing about genetic racial differences until said difference started showing up.

To get direct verification of length contraction we'd need to take something big enough to measure and accelerate it to a substantial fraction of the speed of light. Taking the fact that we don't have such direct verification as a problem with relativity is exactly like the creationist ploy of claiming that failure to (say) repeat the transition from water-dwelling to land-dwelling life in a lab is a problem with evolutionary biology.

I'm already taking "speck" to have that meaning. Even raising the threshold (say, 3^^^3 people stubbing their toe against the sidewalk with no further consequences), my preference stands.

4Jiro7yIf you're already taking "speck" to have that meaning, then your statement "Unless the pain is communicable (via hive mind or what have you), it will still be roundable to zero." would no longer be true.
4polymathwannabe7yGranted. Let's take an example of pain that would be decidedly not roundable to zero. Say, 3^^^3 paper cuts, with no further consequences. Still preferable to torture.
6gjm7y(What I'm about to say is I think the same as Jiro has been saying, but I have the impression that you aren't quite responding to what I think Jiro has been saying. So either you're misunderstanding Jiro, in which case another version of the argument might help, or I'm misunderstanding Jiro, in which case I'd be interested in your response to my comments as well as his/hers :-).) It seems to me pretty obvious that one can construct a scale that goes something like this: * a stubbed toe * a paper cut * a painfully grazed knee * ... * a broken ankle * a broken leg * a multiply-fractured leg * ... * an hour of expertly applied torture * 80 minutes of expertly applied torture * ... * a year of expertly applied torture * 13 months of expertly applied torture * ... * 49 years of expertly applied torture * 50 years of expertly applied torture with, say, at most a million steps on the scale from the stubbed toe to 50 years' torture, and with the property that any reasonable person would prefer N people suffering problem n+1 to (let's say) (1000N)^2 people suffering problem n. So, e.g. if I have to choose between a million people getting 13 months' torture and a million million million people getting 12 months' torture, I pick the former. (Why not just say "would prefer 1 person suffering problem n+1 to 1000000 people suffering problem n"? Because you might take the view that large aggregates of people matter sublinearly, so that 10^12 stubbed toes aren't as much worse than 10^6 stubbed toes as 10^6 stubbed toes are than 1. The particular choice of scaling in the previous paragraph is rather arbitrary.) If so, then we can construct a chain: 1 person getting 50 years' torture is less bad than 10^6 people getting 49 years, which is less bad than 10^18 people getting 48 years, which is less bad than [... a million steps here ...] which is less bad than [some gigantic number] getting stubbed toes. That final gigantic number is a lot less than 3^^^3; if you r
1polymathwannabe7y(Small nitpicking: The pain from "a multiply-fractured leg" may bother you longer than "an hour of expertly applied torture", but the general idea behind the scale is clear.) In this case I'd choose as you do, just as in Jiro's example: The problem with these scenarios, however, is that they introduce a new factor: they're comparing magnitudes of pain that are too close to each other. This not only applies to the amount of pain, but also to the amount of people: I'd rather be tortured for 12 than 13 months if those were my only options, but after having had both experiences I would barely be able to tell the difference. If you want to pose this problem to someone with enough presence of mind to tell the difference, you're no longer torturing humans. (If psychological damage is cumulative, one month may or may not make the difference between PTSD and total lunacy. Of course, if at the end of the 12 months I'm informed that I still have one more month to go, then I will definitely care about the difference. But let's assume a normal, continuous torture scenario, where I wouldn't be able to keep track of time.) This is why, runs into a Sorites problem that is more complex than EY's blunt solution of nipping it at the bud. In another thread (can't locate it now), someone argued that moral considerations about the use of handguns were transparently applicable to the moral debate on nuclear weapons, and I didn't know how to present the (to me) super-obvious case that nuclear weapons are on another moral plane entirely. You could say my objection to your 50 Shades of Pain has to do with continuity and with the meaningfulness of a scale over very large numbers. Such a quantitative scale would necessarily include several qualitative transitions, and the absurd results of ignoring them are what happens when you try to translate a subjective, essentially incommunicable experience into a neat progression of numbers. (You could remove that obstacle by asking self-aware
2Jiro7yThat was in response to your idea that small amounts of pain cannot be added up, but large amounts can. If this is true, then there is a transition point where you go from "cannot be added up" to "can be added up". Around that transition point, there are two pains that are close to each other yet differ in that only one of them can be added up. This leads to the absurd conclusion that you prefer lots of people with one pain to 1 person with the other, even though they are close to each other. Saying "the trouble with this is that it compares magnitudes that are too close to each other" doesn't resolve this problem, it helps create this problem. The problem depends on the fact that the two pains don't differ in magnitude very much. Saying that these should be treated as not differing at all just accentuates that part, it doesn't prevent there from being a problem.
1gjm7yDoesn't that make the argument stronger? I mean, if you're not even sure that 13 months of torture are much worse than 12 months of torture, then you should be pretty confident that 10^6 instances of 12 months' torture are worse than 1 instance of 13 months' torture, no? So that was the option I described as "abandon continuity". I was going to ask you to be more specific about where those qualitative transitions happen, but if I'm understanding you correctly I think your answer would be to say that the very question is misguided because there's something ineffable about the experience of pain that makes it inappropriate to try to be quantitative about it, or something along those lines. So I'll ask a different question: What do those qualitative transitions look like? What sort of difference is it that can occur between what look like two very, very closely spaced gradations of suffering, but that is so huge in its significance that it's better for a billion people to suffer the less severe evil than for one person to suffer the more severe? (You mention one possible example in passing: the transition from "PTSD" to "total lunacy". But surely in practice this transition isn't instantaneous. There are degrees of psychological screwed-up-ness in between "PTSD" and "total lunacy", and there are degrees of probability of a given outcome, and what happens as you increase the amount of suffering is that the probabilities shift incrementally from each outcome to slightly worse ones; when the suffering is very slight and brief, the really bad outcomes are very unlikely; when it's very severe and extended, the really bad outcomes are very likely. So is there, e.g., a quantitative leap in badness when the probability of being badly enough messed-up to commit suicide goes from 1% to 1.01%, or something?) If you mean that anyone here is assuming some kind of moral calculus where suffering is denominated in torture-years and is straightforwardly additive across people, I thi
4Jiro7yPresumably, you still think that large amounts of pain can be added up. In that case, that must have a threshold too; something that causes a certain amount of pain cannot be added up, while something that causes a very very slightly greater amount of pain can add up. That implies that you would prefer 3^^^3 people having pain at level 1 to one person having pain of level 1.00001, as long as 1 is not over the threshold for adding up but 1.00001 is. Are you willing to accept that conclusion? (Incidentally, for a real world version, replace "torture" with "driving somewhere and accidentally running someone over with your car" and "specks" with "3^^^3 incidences of not being able to do something because you refuse to drive". Do you still prefer specks to torture?)
3polymathwannabe7yAs I stated before, doctors can't agree on how to quantify pain, and I'm not going to attempt it either. This does not prevent us from comparing lesser and bigger pains, but there are no discrete "pain units" any more than there are utilons. I would choose the certain risk of one traffic victim over 3^^^3 people unable to commute. But this example has a lot more ramifications than 3^^^3 specks. The lack of further consequences (and of aggregation capability) is what makes the specks preferable despite their magnitude. A more accurate comparison would be choosing between one traffic victim and 3^^^3 drivers annoyed by a paint scratch.
4Jiro7yIf you can compare bigger and smaller pains, and if bigger pains can add and smaller pains cannot, you run into this problem. Whether you call one pain 1 and another 1.00001 or whether you just say "pain" and "very slightly bigger pain" is irrelevant--the question only depends on being able to compare them, which you already said you can do. What you say implies that you would prefer 3^^^3 people with a certain pain to 1 person with a very slightly bigger pain. Is this really what you want?

It may be unusual to use accelerating reference frames, but they work just fine in classical physics.

No they don't. From an accelerating reference frame, an object with no force on it will accelerate. You can only get it to work if you add a fictitious force.

I don't think it's accurate to call it incoherent for accelerating reference frames. If you try to alter the coordinate system so that something that was accelerating is at rest, and you try to predict what happens with the normal laws of physics, you'll get the wrong answer. But it never says you s... (read more)

This has the problem that beliefs with a large inferential distance won't get stated.

Is it useful to have beliefs with a large inferential distance stated without supporting evidence? Given that the inferential distance is large, I'm not going to be able to figure it out on my own am I? At least having a sketch of an argument would be useful. The more you fill in the argument, the more minds you change and the more upvotes you get.

The rest of your points seem to boil down to the old irrationality game rule of downvote if you agree, upvote if you di

... (read more)

For a rotating object of sufficiently small mass, the mass can be ignored, and reasonably accurate results can be found with special relativity.

They mustn't. All should be smooth just like those Einstein's train. No resulting breaking force is postulated.

The force is due to chemical bonds. They pull particles back together as their distance increases. These chemical bonds are an example of electromagnetism, which is governed by Maxwell's laws, which are conserved by Lorentz transformation.

Granted, whether a field is electric or magnetic depends on your point of reference. A still electron only produces an electric field, but a moving one produces a magnetic field as well. But if you perform the... (read more)

Only if the rotating object is sufficiently massive.

One meter.

I just want to clarify. I'm assuming the particles are not connected, or are elastic enough that stretching them by a factor of 1.005 isn't a huge deal. If you tried that with solid glass, it would probably shatter.

Come to think of it, this looks like a more complicated form of Bell's spaceship paradox.

He will see each spaceship contract. The distance between the centers of the spaceships will remain the same.

[-][anonymous]7y 3

Any work on AI implementation is seriously downvoted here.

I was thinking of already spun cylinder and then adding the sticks by accelerating them to place.

If you had the same sticks already in place the stick would feel a stretch. If they resist this stretch they will pull apart so there will be bigger gaps between them. For separate measuring sticks they have no tensile strenght in the gaps between them. However if you had a measuring rope with continous tensile strenght and at a beginning / end point where the start would be fixed but new rope could freely be pulled from the end point you would see the numbers ... (read more)

My understanding is that this is explicitly meant not to be quite the same thing as the Irrationality Game. Specifically, in the IG the idea is to find things you think are more likely to be true than the LW consensus reckons them; here (I think) the idea is to find things you think are actually likely to be true despite the LW consensus.

How is that a contrarian statement? Obviously natural language is heavily context-dependent. So what exactly do you mean when you say that?

I've always had problems with MWI, but it's just a gut feeling. I don't have the necessary specialized knowledge to be able to make a decent argument for or against it. I do concede it one advantage: it's a Copernican explanation, and so far Copernican explanations have a perfect record of having been right every time. Other than that, I find it irritating, most probably because it's the laziest plot device in science-fiction.

7Azathoth1237yTechnical explanation: the problem with MWI is that it makes the fact that density matrices [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Density_matrix] work seem like a complete epistemological coincidence. Incidentally, I remember a debate between Eliezer and Scott Aaronson where the former confessed he stopped reading his QM textbook right before the chapter on density matrices.
2pragmatist7yI don't understand what you mean. Could you explain? I'm familiar with QM, so you don't need to avoid technicality in your explanation.
6Azathoth1237ySuppose we have two jars of qubits: Half the qubits in jar (1) are in state |0> and the other half are in state |1>. Half the qubits in jar (2) are in state |+> and the other half are in state |->. Notice that although from a classical Bayesian MWI perspective the two jars are in very different states, there is no way to tell them apart even in principal.
2[anonymous]7yBTW, that's the only reason why I'm not fully convinced by realist interpretations of QM.
2TheAncientGeek7yAgainst Many Worlds [http://arxiv.org/pdf/grqc/9703089]
1polymathwannabe7yBroken link, but files 9703089 and 9704039 appear to be the relevant ones.
1TheAncientGeek7yThanks. Fixed. Doing links on a tablet is a nightmare.


You can't solve AI friendliness in a vacuum. To build a friendly AI, you have to simultaneously work on the AI and the code of ethics it should use, because they are interdependent. Until you know how the AI models reality most effectively you can't know if your code of ethics uses atoms that make sense to the AI. You can try to always prioritize the ethics aspects and not make the AI any smarter until you have to do so, but you can't first make sure that you have an infallible code of ethics and only start building the AI afterwards.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Toxicology research is underfunded. Investing more money into finding tools to measure toxicology makes more sense than spending money into trying to understand the functioning of various genes.

4NancyLebovitz7yI'm not sure whether I agree or disagree. What's your line of thought?
5ChristianKl7yScientific progress has a lot to do with having powerful tools. If you get more powerful tools you can easily get a bunch of new insight. As a result it's worthwhile to focus most of our efforts on building better tools instead of funding specific insights. Secondly the standard way to judge whether something is poisonous is to see how big of a dose you need to kill rats. If the substance doesn't kill rats or reduce their lifespan but it just reduces their IQ our tox tests don't pick it up. That means that we might have pesticides in use that do things like reducing IQ at doses that are legally allowed without our testing procedure being able to tell. Practically we could measure variables like the heart rate of a labrat via infrared for it's whole lifespan and see whether it shows unusual patterns. Every action that the rat does in their lifetime could be measured. The rat lives in a controlled environment where a lot of information besides whether or not the rat dies can be gathered. Of course we already do some additional tests such as a test for whether a substance might cause cancer that has nothing to do with rats but in general we could do much better at measuring toxicology. On the one hand that means that we could regulate harmful substances where we currently don't know they are harmful. On the other hand drug development also get's cheaper if you catch bad drugs while you do your tests with rats and before you run expensive trials with humans.

Awfully presumptuous of you to tell people what they should prefer.

[Read the OP before voting for special voting rules.]

The many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is categorically confused nonsense. Its origins lie in a map/territory confusion, and in the mind projection fallacy. Configuration space is a map, not territory—it is an abstraction used for describing the way that things are laid out in physical space. The density matrix (or in the special case of pure states, the state vector, or the wave function) is a subjective calculational tool used for finding probabilities. It's something that exists in the mind. Any 'interpretation' of quantum mechanics which claims that any of these things exists in reality (e.g. MWI) therefore commits the mind projection fallacy.

(2) the internet makes it less necessary for most people to live in cities.

Your mileage may vary. Getting internet made me yearn to move to a larger city where I could meet more interesting people and do more interesting stuff---which in the end I did.

Whoops. Fixed.

So? The Roman Republic managed to expand its holdings even as it was decaying into the Empire.

Yes, as hominids have been for more than a million years. An expanded toolkit though, even compared to today (though its possible that not all of our current tools will have the futures many of us expect, in the long run). Good manipulation of electromagnetism alone is having very interesting effects that we have only really begun to touch on, and I expect biotechnology and related things to have interesting roles to play. All of this will have to occur within the context of ecological laws which are pretty immutable, and living systems are very good at evolving and replicating and surviving in many contexts on this planet.

If you don't want much cost of moving you can simply rent a flat.

[-][anonymous]7y 2

I mean that the component pieces such as planning algorithms, logic engines, pattern extractors, evolutionary search, etc. have already been worked out, and that there exist implementable designs for combining these pieces together into an AGI. There aren't any significant known unknowns left to be resolved.

3Azathoth1237yThen where's the AI?
5[anonymous]7yAll the pieces for bitcoin were known and available in 1999. Why did it take 10 years to emerge?

A houseboat is rather less expensive

I am pretty sure that out of two equivalent houses the one which floats would be noticeably more expensive, and more expensive to maintain, too. Houseboats are typically less expensive than houses because they are smaller and less convenient.

Indeed. I would in principle be willing to apply a similar argument to RVs, but (since living in an RV holds no aesthetic appeal for me, whereas houseboating does) I am rather less aware of what the logistics would be like.

I don't think that's true. To my eyes hipsters are this generation's nouveau riche; people who have money and some kind of status, but don't conform to upper-class tastes. The wealth and status precedes the hipsterism, it doesn't derive from it.

[-][anonymous]7y 2

From “The Irrationality Game” (emphasis as in the original):

You have to actually think your degree of belief is rational. You should already have taken the fact that most people would disagree with you into account and updated on that information. That means that any proposition you make is a proposition that you think you are personally more rational about than the Less Wrong average. This could be good or bad. Lots of upvotes means lots of people disagree with you. That's generally bad. Lots of downvotes means you're probably right. That's good, but

... (read more)

So, Romila Thapar is not a Dalit activist, just a historian (I'm guessing this is a source of confusion; I could be wrong).

I'm saying they should have read up before starting their project.

I can't find the study for some reason, so I'll try and do it from memory. They randomly picked from a city Dalits (Dalit is a catch-all term coined by B R Ambedkar for people of the lowest castes, and people outside the caste system, all of whom were treated horribly) and people from the merchant castes to look for genetic differences. Which is all fine and dandy - but ... (read more)

Are you basically claiming that those black people who test highly on IQ tests don't get discriminated against?

1Azathoth1237yGiven things like Affirmative Action and all the pressure to have a "diverse workforce" they're mostly the beneficiaries of discrimination. There aren't many high IQ blacks and there's a lot of demand for them.
[-][anonymous]7y 2

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Homeownership is not a good idea for most people.

No I'm not. I am assuming the exact batteries that are going to be coming out of the factories currently being built. Because when it comes to it, nobody is going to give a half a damn that they have to take a mid day break of thirty minutes the one time a year they visit aunt Greta three states over. Tesla is aiming at 200 mile range. At legal speeds, that is just under four hours of driving on the highway. Try and recall the last time you did more than that in one day? Now, for that trip, would a 30 minute lunch break have ruined your life?

The actual p... (read more)

1Lumifer7yY'know, that number bothered me so I decided to check. Are the annual gas expenses really $4,500? Let's see. An average American car drives somewhere around 12,000 miles per year. A contemporary sedan running on gas goes for around 30 miles per gallon (EPA combined numbers). This means that a car burns about 400 gallons of gas per year. I filled up yesterday for $3.15 per gallon, but let's say the average current price is $3.25. 400 * $3.25 = $1,300 per year. This is the average annual gas expense. And if you buy a small (still ICE) car, you can get gas mileage up to about 40 mpg, I think. For such a car the annual costs of gas would be below a thousand dollars. Where does your $4,500 number come from?
1Lumifer7yNo need to try, I drive long distances on a fairly regular basis. Your estimate of half an hour for a full recharge also seems to have nothing to do with the current reality [http://www.teslamotors.com/charging]. I trust you've heard of the typical mind fallacy? People are different. Trying to pretend everyone does the same thing isn't particularly useful. And assuming electricity costs go up by how much? One reason gas costs so much is because it's a source of revenue for the government. Do you think the government will just forget about this revenue or maybe electric won't be so cheap after all? You are predicting a huge spike in demand, right? LOL. OK, then, it's a simple way to become rich. Short the stocks of everyone who depends on ICE engines -- engine manufacturers, most obviously, but there's a large ecosystem around that -- and go long Tesla and its ecosystem. In ten years you should be swimming in money. On a bit more serious note, clearly electric cars make sense for some people and some uses. They also clearly do NOT make sense for other people and other uses. Of course there will be more electric cars on the road in ten years. But there will be ICE cars as well.

The problem is that they're trying to study areas where it's really hard to get enough scientific evidence.

No one's saying that forces "just build up" by virtue of applying for a long time. Azathoth123 is saying that in this particular case, when these particular forces act for a long time they produce a gradually accumulating change (the rotation of the ring) and that as that change increases, so do its consequences.

That isn't an example where a truth value depends on context, it's an example where making the correct deductions depends on the correct theoretical background.

However I agree that quantifying what you haven't first understood is pointless.

Actually that's not a big deal. Technically you need general relativity to do that, but it's just a quotient space on special relativity. In any case, it works out exactly the same as an infinite series of ladders and garages.

There is one thing you have to be careful about. From the rest frame, the universe could be described as repeating itself every, say, ten feet. But from the point of view of the ladder, it's repeating itself every five feet and 8.8 nanoseconds. That is, if you move five feet, you'll be in the same place, but your clock will be off by 8.8 nanoseconds.

The latter derives from the former:

If my actions are spontaneous and uncaused, I'm not responsible for them.

If my actions are mechanically determined by atoms in my brain, I'm not responsible for them.

Sensory experiences that reliably change utility functions are hard to reason about.

In the normal example, where the ladder is straight and moving forward, it has only one reference frame. Strictly speaking, each rung has a different reference frame, but they differ only by translation.

From what I understand, you modified it to a circular ladder spinning in a circular garage. In this case, each rung is moving in a different direction, and therefore at a different velocity. Thus, each rung has its own reference frame.

No-one can follow instructions like "increase activation of the iliopsoas by 3%", even if you somehow validated a causal model that made that a useful thing to do in some situation.

The problem is that we don't really know which instructions people can easily follow and which they can't follow. If the problem is "increasing activation of the iliopsoas by 3%" you can empirically test various interventions. Without having a casual model of what kind of movement is good, you can't validate interventions and determine whether the interv... (read more)

[-][anonymous]7y 2

“claim[ing] that special relativity can't handle acceleration at all ... is like saying that Cartesian coordinates can't handle circles”

See http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Relativity/SR/acceleration.html

But then again, the question whether the study of flat spacetime using non-inertial reference frames counts as SR depends on what you mean by SR. If you mean the limit of GR as G approaches 0, then it totally does.

The OP was claiming that special relativity was incoherent, not just that it wasn't absolutely exact.

If you want absolutely exact results, you'll need a theory of everything. There are quantum effects messing with spacetime.

The Copernican principle states that there's nothing special or unique or privileged about our local frame of reference: we're not at the center of the solar system, we're not at the center of the galaxy, this is not the only galaxy, and the next logical step would be to posit that this is not the only universe.

4DanielLC7yI do not believe in reincarnation of any sort. I believe this is my only life. It has been believed that the Earth was flat. I'm sure at least someone had considered the implication that the Earth goes on forever. This has turned out to be false. The Earth has positive curvature, and thus only finite surface area. Quite a few people have considered the idea that atoms are little solar systems, which could have their own life. It turns out that electrons are almost certainly fundamental particles. And even if they're not, the way physics works on a small scale is such that life would be impossible. Similarly, galaxies do not make up molecules. Even if there are other forces as would be necessary, the light speed limit combined with the expansion of the universe creates a cosmological event horizon. Beyond a certain scale, it is physically impossible for anything to interact. There are a variety of physical theories that predict other universes. They work in different ways, and tend not to be contradictory. It would be unwise to reject them out of hand, but it would be equally unwise to automatically accept them.

What about the twin paradox?

Multiplication: so this looks like you're again referring to meanings being context-dependent (in this case the meaning of "= 5332114"). So far as I can see, associativity has nothing whatever to do with the point at issue here and I don't understand why you bring it up; what am I missing?

Redness: yeah, again in some contexts "red" might be taken to mean some very specific colour; and yes, colour is a really complicated business, though most of that complexity seems to me to have as little to do with the point at issue as associativity ... (read more)

I'm going to assume mass is small enough not to take GR into effect.

From the point of view of a particle on the toroid, the band it's in will extend to about 1.005 meters long. Due to Lorentz contraction, from the point of reference of someone in the center, it will appear one meter long.

Just to clarify, you mean that there is a context in which "0 = 1" is a true statement, which is not tantamount to redefining "0", "=", or "1"? That is, in some alternate universe, "0 = 1" is consistent with the axioms of Peano arithmatic?

If you have a large number of spaceships, each will notice the spaceship in front of it getting closer, and the circle of spaceships forming into an ellipse.

At least, that's assuming the spaceships have some kind of tachyon sensor to see where all the other ships are from the point of reference of the ship looking, or something like that. If they're using light to tell where all of the other ships are, then there's a few optical effects that will appear.

The way freedom is usually formulated, in the notion of free will or free choices.

1TheAncientGeek7yThis is frustrating: I think I can argue against the standard argument of he incoherence of FW...but you haven't given it...or any other,

OP asks for honest opinions, something you actually believe in.

3pragmatist7yYeah, my comment was an attempt at humor. Tough crowd, I guess.

Why is it inconsistent?

5shminux7ySpecial Relativity + some basic mechanics leads to an apparent contradiction in the expected measurements, which is only resolved by introducing a curved space(time). So this would be a failure of self-consistency: the same theory leads to two different results for the same experiment. However, the two measurements of ostensibly the same thing are done by different observers, so there is no requirement that they should agree. Introducing curved space for the rotating disk shows how to calculate distances consistently.
2Thomas7yI have two photos of two different pies, one of rotating one and one of not rotating. Photos are indistinguishable, I can't tell which is which. On the other hand, both pies have one-to-one correspondence with photos an one should be slightly deformed on the edge. Even if it is, on the photo can't be. The photo is perfectly Euclidean. I have measured no Lorentz contraction.
5gjm7yIn other news, the earth is really flat because photographs of the earth are flat.
4DanielLC7yJust to clarify, is the spinning pie a set of particles in the same relative position as with a still pie, but rotating around the origin? Is it a set of masses connected by springs that has reached equilibrium (none of the springs are stretching or compressing) and the whole system is spinning? Is the pie a solid body? What exactly we're looking at depends on which of the first two you picked. If you picked the third, it is contradictory with special relativity, but there's a lot more evidence for special relativity than there is for the existence of a solid body. Granted, a sufficiently rigid body will still be inconsistent with special relativity, but all that means is that there's a maximum possible rigidity. Large objects are held together by photons, so we wouldn't expect sound to travel through them faster than light.
2Slider7yPlace red and white equilength rulers on the edge of the cylinder. The rotating cylinder will have more and shorther rulers. Thus the photos are not the same. Even better have the cylinder slowly pulse in different colors. The edges will pulse more slowly thus not being in synch with the center. Related phenomenon is that moving ladders fit into garages that stationary ones would not.

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Sitting down and thinking really hard is a bad way of deciding what to do. A much better way is to find several trusted advisors with relevant experience and ask their advice.

4RomeoStevens7ycorollary: sitting down and thinking hard can be a good way to come up with strategies for finding good sources of advice.
2Elo7ybeen contemplating this recently. not sure if I agree or disagree. but going to come to my conclusions soon. Just need to find some time to sit down and thing about it...

I don't think you answered my question. (Perhaps because you think it's meaningless or embodies false presuppositions or something.)

Aside from the facts that (1) the same utterance can mean different things in different contexts, (2) indexical terms can refer differently in different contexts, and (3) different values and preferences may be implicit in different contexts, do you think there are further instances in which the same statement may have different truth values in different contexts?

(I think the boundary between #1 and "real" difference... (read more)

This looks like two posts I saw quite a while ago where contrarian posts were also intended to be up-voted. I can't seem to find those posts (searching for contrarian doesn't match anything and searching for 'vote' is obviously useless). Nonetheless those posts urged to mark each contrarian comment to clearly indicate the opposite voting semantics to avoid unsuspecting readers being misled by the votes. Maybe someone can provide the links?

3[anonymous]7yNow that there's the karma toll, using downvotes to mean anything other than ‘I don't think this comment or post belongs here’ is a bad idea. Also, now we have poll syntax. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I'd want to vote comments in this thread according to whether they're interesting or boring, regardless of whether I agree with them.
4Azathoth1237yI really wish there was a way to suspend the toll for irrationality game posts.
3polymathwannabe7yI only remember this one: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/jvg/irrationality_game_iii/ [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/jvg/irrationality_game_iii/]

Dutch booking has nothing to do with preferences; it refers entirely to doxastic probabilities.

You can be Dutch booked with preferences too. If you prefer A to B, B to C, and C to A, I can make money off of you by offering a circular trade to you.

1Transfuturist7yAnd if I'm unaware that such a strategy is taking place. Even if I was aware, I am a dynamic system evolving in time, and I might be perfectly happy with the expenditure per utility shift. Unless I was opposed to that sort of arrangement, I find nothing wrong with that. It is my prerogative to spend resources to satisfy my preferences.

Why is my terminal value pleasure? Why should I want it to be?

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

As long as you get the gist (think in probability instead of certainty, update incrementally when new evidence comes along), there's no additional benefit to learning Bayes' Theorem.

[-][anonymous]7y 1

You're going to have to explain what meta-ethical view you hold such that "prefer on reflection given full knowledge and rationality" and "should prefer" are different.

I see your distinction now. That is a good classification.

To go back to the low-Mach/incompressible flow model, I have seen series expansions in terms of the Mach number applied to (subsets of) the fluid flow equations, and the low-Mach approximation is found by setting the Mach number to zero. (Ma = v / c, so if c, the speed of sound, approaches infinity, then Ma goes to 0.) So it seems that you can go the other direction to derive equations starting with the goal of modeling a low-Mach flow, but that's not typically what I see. There's no "Mach numb... (read more)

Truncated normal is not the same thing as a plain-vanilla normal. And using it does mean increasing the complexity of the simulation.

If I say "I prefer not to be tortured more than you prefer a popsicle", any sane human would agree. This is the commonsense way in which utility can be compared between humans. Of course, it isn't perfect, but we could easily imagine ways to make it better, say by running some regression algorithms on brain-scans of humans desiring popsicles and humans desiring not-to-be-tortured, and extrapolating to other human minds. (That would still be imperfect, but we can make it arbitrarily good.)

This isn't just necessary if you're a utilitarian, it's necessary if your moral system in any way involves tradeoffs between humans' preferences, i.e. it's necessary for pretty much every human who's ever lived.

You can not collect high taxes on gasoline and electricity both

Well a lot of European countries are doing just that. Or rather they have "sustainable energy" mandates, which from the consumer's point of view function as a high tax on electricity.

So if we reduced sentences what effect do you think that would have on crime rates? Remember three strikes was passed in response to crime rates being too high.

2TheAncientGeek7yDrastically increasing sentences didn't drastically reduce crime, so... Comparable countries have lower crime rates and lower prison populations, so they must be doing something right. You don't have to keep moving the big lever up and down: you can get Smart on Crime.
[-][anonymous]7y 1

(Why are you expecting apparent sizes to match real sizes in the first place? The Sun looks as small as the Moon as seen from Earth, do you think it actually is?)

Of all light rays entering your eye right now, the ones coming from parts of the object farther away from you departed earlier than the ones coming from parts closer to you. If the object moved between those two times, its image will be deformed in a way that, when combined with Lorentz contraction, foreshortening, etc., will make the object look the same size as if it was stationary but rotated. ... (read more)

Hey, it's a step up from denying outright that certain types of immigrants will commit more crimes. A lot of people have drank that Kool-Aid.

Computational Social Science

The definitions that I found are very wide and very fuzzy, and, essentially, boil down to "social science but with computers!". Is it, basically, statistics (which nowadays is often called by the fancier name of "data science")?

Oof. You just trampled one of my pet peeves: Social Science is a subset of the Sciences, not the Humanities.

There's still a persistent anti-positivist streak in the Humanities in the US, but mostly positivism has just been irrelevant to the work of Humanities scholars (though this is changing in some interesting and exciting ways).

More importantly, the social sciences in the US are overwhelming positivist, even amongst researchers whose work is not strictly empirical. I wish I could take credit for those good influences, but I think you're probably the one deserving of kudos for managing to become a rationalist in such a hostile environment.

You DO realize that even if Tesla's wildest dreams are realized and they double the world production of lithium ion batteries, they can sell at most a few hundred thousand cars a year...

1Izeinwinter7yYhea. Musk isn't breaking ground on big enough factories. That is why I am saying ten years for the switchover rather than much less than that. But once the world spots someone in bog-standard manufacturing making more money than god, everyone, their sister, and the crazed aunt nobody wants to talk to will pile in.
2ChristianKl7yIncreasing the amount of lithium that get's mined each year isn't as easy of just retasking a factory to another task.
2Osuniev7yBut things ARE moving in this direction, I believe. Bolivia is trying to figure a way to start getting money from the world's largest reserve of lithium, currently untouched because under the natural wonder Salar de Uyuni

If you read the whole article instead of quote-mining it for damning-looking sentences, you will see that that's incorrect.

They modelled, performed experiments, and compared the results. That's how science works. The fact that the article also mentions what happens in the models beyond the experimentally-accessible regime doesn't change that.

No, it is true for shooting deaths by police as well. Every time a white person is shot by a policeman, it's national news. When a black person gets shot by police, it's Tuesday.

3bramflakes7yAre we living in the same universe?
1Lumifer7yIt is not. Police shoot a lot of people and, funnily enough, no one knows exactly how many [http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-many-americans-the-police-kill-each-year/] .

Yeah, but it's a "paradox" only in the sense of being confusing and counterintuitive, not in the sense of having any actual inconsistency in it. The point is that this is a situation that's already been analysed, and your analysis of it is wrong.

China isn't going to keep sacrificing tens of thousands of it's people to the demon smog every year.

And a simple solution to this is just to copy the current-day US which does not use a lot of nuclear power and also does not sacrifice many people to the demon smog.

Your rope is moving faster and faster, whether or not it goes all the way around the galaxy. The relations between different bits of the rope are pretty much exactly the setup for Bell's spaceship paradox.

In that case, you can't even prefer one person with pain to 3^^^^3 people with the same pain.

(And if you say that you can't add up sizes of pains, but you can add up "whether there is a pain", the latter is all that is necessary for one of the problems to happen; exactly which problem happens depends on details such as whether you can do this for all sizes of pains or not.)

The core of the issue is that I can write decent Anki cards given my context-based truth which I couldn't write otherwise if I wouldn't think the context based frame.

The core issue is whether your argument amounts to context based truth, or context based meaning.

Are you sure the ladder point equivalences are not (0 ft, 0ns) and (20 ft, -8.8ns)?

It depends on which direction it's moving. I didn't bother to check the sign.

Thinking about it now, if it's going in the positive direction, then it should be (20 ft, -8.8ns). You are correct.

That doesn't solve the problem. The transition from "cannot be added up" to "can be added up" happens at two adjacent points.

That's why we are waiting 10000000 years to get to a substantial speed.

Yes, and over 10000000 the forces can build up. Consider army's example of the stretching rope. Suppose I applied force to one end of a rope sufficient that over the course of 10000000 years it would double in length. You agree that the rope will either break or the bonds in the rope will prevent the rope from stretching?

The same thing happens with the rotation. As you rotate the object faster the bonds between the atoms are stretched by space dilation. This produces a restoring... (read more)

Well, I thought it was funny

Actually from the point of view of the ladder the universe still repeats at every ten feet.

No, it does not. I think I messed up before and it's actually 20 feet and 8.8 nanoseconds. From the the point of view of the garage, the coordinates (0 ft, 0 ns) and (10 ft, 0 ns) correspond to the same event. From the point of view of the ladder, the coordinates became (0 ft, 0 ns) and (20 ft, 8.8 ns). They still have to be the same event.

The universe is definitely repeating itself to be off by a certain time, and the distance it is off by is not ten feet.

Could you point me to a standard document that defines "the reference standard"?


When it comes to learning color terms I did have LW people roughly saying: "You can't do this, objective truth is different. Your monitor doesn't show true colors".

That was probably me. You can define colors objectively, it's not hard. That includes colors in a digital image given a color space. However what you see on your computer monitor may (and does) differ considerably from the reference standard for a given color.

[-][anonymous]7y 1

I upvoted it because of the last sentence. Physicists are well aware that the differential equations (as opposed to the boundary conditions) of our universe are most likely CPT-invariant.

4pragmatist7yYes, they are aware of this, but there are many examples of physicists failing to grasp the full significance of this fact. There is a difference between physicists acknowledging the CPT-invariance of fundamental laws, and fully embracing the philosophical consequences of this invariance. Huw Price's Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point documents a number of cases of physicists failing to do the latter. For further examples, see the mess of a priori causality conditions and chronology protection conjectures in GR, largely motivated by a desire to avoid "causal paradoxes". Tachyons are declared unphysical for similar reasons. So-called retrocausal interpretations of quantum mechanics, a very promising research topic IMO, are largely unexplored. Advanced (as opposed to retarded) solutions to differential equations are ruled unphysical. I could go on. There is still a big unwritten assumption in theoretical physics that proper scientific explanations must account for things that happen now in terms of things that happened earlier. I can't think of any reason for this bias beyond an attachment to causal narratives.
3shminux7yClassical GR actually rules out changing the past (while allowing CTCs), despite the common misconceptions about it. The Novikov's self-consistency principle was self-admittedly a way to say "there is no new physics other than GR". Hawking's famous chronology protection paper mainly showed that QFT cannot be done in the standard way on a wormhole background. They are generally "declared unphysical" because the time-travel aspects cannot be analyzed self-consistently. Plus there is little evidence for it. However, non-propagating tachyon fields are not incompatible with GR. For example, a 2+1D slice of a 3+1D Schwarzschild black hole contains induced FTL matter fields, Kaluza-Klein style. PM me if you want more details. I can't imagine how an interpretation can be a promising research topic. I think this is overstating it. As long as a model is capable of predicting future observations based on the cu