If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post (even in Discussion), then it goes here.
Notes for future OT posters:
1. Please add the 'open_thread' tag.
2. Check if there is an active Open Thread before posting a new one.
3. Open Threads should be posted in Discussion, and not Main.
4. Open Threads should start on Monday, and end on Sunday.
Here's an interesting application of elementary probability theory.
Syria recently held an election, in the midst of a civil war. Dr. Bashar Hafez al-Assad wins post of President of Syria with sweeping majority of votes at 88.7%.
The elections were a sham. The vote counts are completely fraudulent. And you can learn this just from the results page linked above, without knowing anything about Syria or its internal politics. How?
The results are too accurate.
"11,634,412 valid ballots, Assad wins with 10,319,723 votes at 88.7%". That's not 88.7%, that's 88.699996%. Or in other words, that's 88.7% of 11,634,412, which is 10,319,723.444, rounded to a whole person.
The same is true about all other percentages in this election. In one of the results there's even a bad rounding error: 4.3% cast for Al-Nouri is 11,634,412 * 0.043 = 500,279.716 votes which is rounded down to 500,279 votes in the results instead of the closer 500,280. As a result, the total number of all alternatives (three candidates + incorrect ballots) differs from the total number of valid ballots by 1 (442,108 + 10,319,723 + 500,279 + 372,301 = 11,634,411 and not 11,634,412. If they were rounding correctly, their f... (read more)
I have no idea how likely it is, but an alternative explanation is that the vote counts were first converted to percentages to one decimal place, then someone else converted them back to absolute numbers for this announcement.
Referenda on things like secession or constitutional change tend to have extreme landslide victories or defeats, even ones generally agreed to have been fair.
Lots of these are in the 80s and 90s.
This is the universe's occasional reminder to you that you should be keeping backups of your files: https://plus.google.com/103530621949492999968/posts/cpydtJGE5e6
U.S. Marshals are auctioning off 29,656.51306529 bitcoins seized from the Silk Road bust.
I have to say that there is a definite cyberpunk feel in the US government auctioning off purely virtual assets that it obtained cracking down on a marketplace located at a hidden cyberspace address.
I am thinking about forming a non-profit organization called "Thalassocracy Now". The sole purpose of this organization will be to convince the Singaporeans to set up a confederation of coastal charter cities in various impoverished places bordering the Indian and South Pacific oceans (east Africa, India, the Persian Gulf, southeast Asia, etc). The cities will be ruled by the draconian but honest and efficient Singaporean government. They will be linked together by trade routes, naval and air power, and a common legal and administrative framework. The inhabitants of the cities will have some minor influence over their own city's government, but no broader political power; the basic bargain will be: if you don't like it here, leave.
Okay, just kidding, I am not actually planning to do this. But I think someone should.
After watching a bunch of videos at 2x, speed, I'm pretty sure my internal monologue has increased in speed. Huh.
Hello, emic-and-etic. You've spent nearly five solid hours so far making a post every few minutes consisting primarily of chunks copypasted from elsewhere, mostly Wikipedia, and few expressions of your own thinking. How about introducing yourself and passing the Turing test?
The more useful contrarians are those who tell the truth, because it is the truth, even if everyone else disagrees or disapproves. Merely telling things that others disagree with ignores the crucial issue of being right (and noticing when you're not).
http://i.imgur.com/xY5UbCh.jpg Whiteboard at Future of Humanity Institute (Oxford University) giving several individuals' estimates for:
P(Disaster kills >50% of humans in next century) P(We're in a computer simulation created by an advanced civilization) P(Humanity goes extinct in next century)
Loving the forename, forename, BOSTROM, forename, forename!
I frequently see parents stressing out and forcing their kids (3+) to eat or eat enough, when the kids don't want to eat. So which one is it? Do kids really lack the capacity start eating before it becomes unhealthy and need to be coerced.... or are parents doing something irrational?
That seems... less than obvious to me. One could as easily say that modern food-preservation technology (refrigeration, sealed containers, chemical preservatives) enabled snacking, and that preindustrial people would have had a stronger incentive to eat preplanned meals. That's a just-so story, granted, but most of the preindustrial cooking methods I'm familiar with would have taken hours and produced food for many people: not exactly conducive to eating individually as a response to hunger.
Of course, eating at precisely 7:00 or whatever is enabled by modern timekeeping, but my understanding is that the concept of a noon or an evening meal has been around for a long while. (Breakfast in the modern sense is more recent, though.)
What do you do when you have nothing to do? I mean no phone, book, etc.
I like to kill time by just multiplying numbers or trying to ROT-x words, but it's kinda dull.
GHash.io reaching 51% is somewhat surprising. It seems that one of three unlikely-sounding situations hold:
Some inconvenient truths (well, "facts") from the quotes in the latest slatestarcodex post (see the sidebar):
The most reliable way to create a lasting community is basing it on shared religion AND costly personal sacrifices. Secularity doesn't cut it, even if demanding sacrifices.
Being religious signals trustworthiness: "The highest levels of wealth ...[is]... created when religious people get to play a trust game with other religious people."
" religion in the United States nowadays generates such vast surpluses of social cap
Sometimes I come up with scenarios where nothing seems to be wrong yet something still bugs me.
Say there is an economy of two people, Alice and Bob. Bob has an object, say a monthly newspaper, that he personally values at $5. Alice values the newspaper at $7 and thus they are willing to exchange the object at some price strictly between $5 and $7. Now Charlie, who values the newspaper at $10, comes along and is willing to bid a higher monetary amount than Alice, taking her opportunity to make an economic surplus of less than $2.
Did the mere presence and va... (read more)
Request: can someone please reply to this post, and then immediately edit their reply? I'm curious whether the version in my inbox will remain the non-edited version. (I'd give ~80% that it will, 10% that the message doesn't get sent until after a short window, and 10% that the message gets edited after being sent.)
Regular reminder that, yes, there really have been some pretty smart philosophers in previous eras: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramsey%E2%80%93Lewis_method
Frank P. Ramsey seems to be generally regarded as a prodigy. But I have a vague impression that Lewis has a mixed reputation and some even think he's outright crap. But everything of his I've seen mentioned seems at worst merely plausible and important to consider, and at best maybe decades ahead of its time. Does anyone know why he might have a bad reputation with some?
David Lewis is generally regarded as one of the most formidable philosophers of the last century in terms of sheer intellectual firepower. I'm not aware of anyone who thinks he's outright crap. His papers are incredibly well-written - dense, but very well argued and lucid. On topics of interest to LW: he made significant contributions to causal decision theory, the interpretation of probability, the compatibilist account of free will, physicalism about the mind, and the counterfactual analysis of causation.
However, he has been criticized for too often directing his impressive abilities towards an ill-conceived task - the revival of armchair speculative metaphysics. I think this is a fair criticism. Lewis was very adept with logic and mathematics, but he was, as far as I can tell, insufficiently familiar with the sciences, and this shows in his metaphysics.
That said, the idea for which he is most often criticized -- his modal realism -- is now making somewhat of a comeback in the form of Tegmark's Level IV multiverse hypothesis. It's still a fairly fringe and very controversial idea, of course, but its now being taken seriously in at least some non-philosophical circles. It also ap... (read more)
Do figuring out why you think something is true and seeing if there's some way to check on it (and, if cheap enough, checking on it) have names as rationality skills?
Are there any methods for selecting important public officials from large populations that are arguably much better than the current standards as practiced in various modern democracies?
For instance in actual vote tallying like Condorcet seem to have huge advantages over simple plurality or runoff systems, and yet it is rarely used. Are there similar big gains to be made in the systems that leads up to a vote, or avoids one entirely?
For instance, a couple ideas:
Yes, Venice elected Enrico Dandolo. I'm not sure if "this" elected him, because he was of the intermediate period 1176-1268, but probably a multi-tier voting system.
It depends on your definition of "the West." Some people insist that Byzantium is not part of the West. This is probably the point where Venice joined the West. But is "self-destructive" a natural category? Wars are destructive. Would it have been less barbaric for the Crusade to follow its original plan and conquer Muslims? What does it matter that you, a millennium later, see Venice and Byzantium as one? That didn't stop Constantinople from enslaving its Venetian population in 1171.
Some people attribute the Renaissance to Greek manuscripts fleeing Constantinople when it fell a 250 years later. I imagine you condemn the sack because you think it lead to that fall. Was Constantinople doing anything with those manuscripts? They weren't having their own Renaissance. My impression was that already in 1200 Venice was the greater center of learning.
Anyhow, Byzantium wasn't his constituency. As I said, the voting system elected a leader with wide support who didn't use the mercenaries to sack his local rivals. Also, it achieved what Coscott asked for: a highly capable leader, who saved his city from an idle army, improvised a use for it, and, as a blind centenarian, lead the army to great victories.
I made the case for the likelihood of the Singularity here, and one of my favorite authors, John Wright, really didn't like what I said. My response to him is here.
I thought it largely ignored the points and positions Wright made, and the counter-arguments weren't great. (I like Bostrom, but when someone makes a laughable claim like materialism is associated with no great philosophers, that's not a good time to bring him up; that's a time to invoke Hume, the Atomists and Stoics, Dennett, etc.)
If one is going to respond at all (and given how intemperate his response was, I would personally feel no obligation to reply), one should try to do at least a decent job which doesn't demonstrate one's opponent's claim that materialists don't know "enough philosophy to argue with a freshman" and possibly fostering a back-fire effect. (Hopefully wittily, like quoting some of Wright's bile and then sardonicly noting that Wright's religious conversion after a heart attack is itself an excellent example of materialism.) Strawmen are common enough without becoming a living one.
I just noticed the link to the pdf of the 2012 Winter Solstice Ritual is dead and I wondered if anyone had a mirror for it?
I was trying to figure out how big 3^^^3 was, which led to the following interesting math result. How high would a power tower of 3's have to be to surpass a googolplex raised to the googolplexth power? For what value of X is (3^^X)>(googolplex^^2)? I don't have the full answer, but an upper bound for X is 16. A power tower of 3's 16 high is guaranteed to be vastly larger than a googolplex raised to itself. And when you consider that 3^^^3 is a power tower 7.6 trillion 3's tall... it's way larger than I thought.
I'm hoping to get a quick reaction to the following situation: I'm leaving a job in Asia and want to look for work in my native US. I've been away for two years. First I thought that since the cost of living is much lower here, I should do the job search here and only return to the US after getting an offer. But based on "local candidates only" restrictions in job ads and some recent advice I got on Quora, I'm now thinking it might be best to show up soon in California with $6K in savings, check in to a cheap hostel and look from there.
Heh.... (read more)
People sometimes say that it doesn't really matter whether things like MWI are true (as opposed to the Copenhagen interpretation), since knowing whether it is correct or not wouldn't affect your decision-making unless you are willing to kill yourself. I've been trying to come up with a scenario where you can exploit that knowledge without actually killing yourself and this is where I am at so far:
Say for the sake of argument that in a nuclear war big cities like London or New York have a much better chance of being nuked versus Sitka, Alaska or Swansea,
What is that way?
Here are 100 people. A few of them are really happy, but the rest are all fairly miserable. What to do? Kill all the miserable ones, then the average happiness shoots up!
That's my view of quantum suicide, and just to spell it out, I think it's pretty silly. That all 100 of the people are, in some sense, "you" does not change my view of it. Moving to New York in order to make sure that a nuclear war would kill you is like getting a DNR notice put on your bed in hospital. It may be a sensible thing to do, but if so is independent of MWI.
It was suggested I post here, but there's a TV Tropes fork at https://allthetropes.orain.org/wiki . It uses mediawiki software and gets rid of the censorship at TV Tropes. (I suspect this one will never get rid of the strikeout tag for dubious reasons.)
Merely knowing about the confirmation bias helps to avoid it.
Or so I think. Ever since reading about the confirmation bias and taking some time to think of examples where I fell prey to it I catch myself following up a thought of this makes so much sense or this fits my exerience so well with a simple confirmation bias and thinking of alternative explanations or counter examples. The use for myself is not yet obvious and it is obvious I do not do this with perfect consistency. Another observation is that applying this debiasing takes conscious effort and ... (read more)
I wonder if we could field test any arguments for beliefs commonly held on LW or by similar communities, but not within more anti-science communities whose typical members have very different backgrounds and worldviews than ours.
An interesting reddit post on anti-vaccine advocates, and how to (not) convince them they are mistaken: http://www.reddit.com/r/IWantToLearn/comments/27r44b/iwtl_how_to_make_my_mom_friend_understand_antivac/ci3lxqb
New open thread
When is this course of action reasonable? http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2014-06-14/
I'm about to start working with a remote writing buddy. We're going to send each other emails for 'clocking in' purposes, but we also want to use some kind of screen-sharing or remote login software to keep tabs on each other. Does anyone have any good recommendations for software along those lines? My netbook is sufficiently slow and old that if I'm not careful even typing can get pretty laggy, so resource- or processing-light software would definitely be preferred.
I was going through (yet again) the quantum mechanics sequences. I got new perspective about being a mechanic of configuration spaces. I am still at a loss on what kind of mathematical entity a wave-function is and couldn't compute anything with them. I guess they are somehow an animation of complex points in 3 real dimensions?
There was a lot of talk about splitting but I kinda gathered that there must be a counterpart ot it. If you can't compute the next state of a "world" from how it looks now but have to look at the neighbours in configuration... (read more)
Here is an MWI perspective from an actual physicist: http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2014/02/12/the-many-worlds-of-quantum-mechanics/
A very thorough explanation of QM by Sean, much better quality than the QM sequence: http://preposterousuniverse.com/eternitytohere/quantum/
Relevant video debate: http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2014/05/29/quantum-mechanics-smackdown/
Read/watch those first.
I just read an AI thriller by Greg Iles called 'The Footprints of God'. Don't want to spoiler it, so I'll just say that it strikes me as singularity-lite.
Also, here's an objectivist Harry Potter treatment.