Rationality Quotes December 2012

by Thomas1 min read3rd Dec 2012230 comments

6

Rationality Quotes
Personal Blog

Once again, here's the new thread for posting quotes, with the usual rules:

Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be voted up/down separately.  (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments.  If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)

  • Do not quote yourself
  • Do not quote comments/posts on LW/OB
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.

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Politics, after all, is the art of persuasion; the political is that dimension of social life in which things really do become true if enough people believe them. The problem is that in order to play the game effectively, one can never acknowledge this: it may be true that, if I could convince everyone in the world that I was the King of France, I would in fact become the King of France; but it would never work if I were to admit that this was the only basis of my claim.

  • David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years

politicians and leaders worldwide don’t like to be associated with toilets, even state-of-the-art toilets. This sanitation stigma distorts international and national development agendas.

chairman of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation

The quote was brought to my attention by a student in my Economics of Future Technology course who is writing on sanitation in the developing world.

[-][anonymous]9y 15

Pecunia non olet.

Vespasian

[-][anonymous]9y 46

.

Nor of course must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle’s question: whether “democratic behaviour” means the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy. For if they did, it could hardly fail to occur to them that these need not be the same.

(..)

Even if they don’t read Aristotle (that would be undemocratic) you would have thought the French Revolution would have taught them that the behaviour aristocrats naturally like is not the behaviour that preserves aristocracy. They might then have applied the same principle to all forms of government.

-- Screwtape, from "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" by C. S. Lewis.

8taelor9yI can't find a source for the quote at the moment, but I remember reading that F. A. Hayek once said something along the lines of "The greatest enemy of capitalism is the capitalists."

Hayek was right. Capitalists in a mixed-economy seem to be in something analogous to a prisoner's dilemma. It would benefit any individual capitalist to seek monopoly privileges for their own firm, but it hurts all of them if any significant number of them do so.

3Eugine_Nier9yNot to mention this [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h3/superstimuli_and_the_collapse_of_western/].

Among a great many other things that chess teaches you is to control the initial excitement you feel when you see something that looks good. It trains you to think before grabbing, and to think just as objectively when you're in trouble. When you're making a film you have to make most of your decisions on the run, and there is a tendency to always shoot from the hip. It takes more discipline than you might imagine, to think, even for thirty seconds, in the noisy, confusing, high-pressure atmosphere of a film set. But a few seconds' thought can often prevent a serious mistake being made about something that looks good at first glance. With respect to films, chess is more useful in preventing you from making mistakes than giving you ideas. Ideas come spontaneously and the discipline required to evaluate and put them to use tends to be the real work.

-Stanley Kubrick

1Multiheaded9y-A Softer World [http://www.asofterworld.com/]

It has been said that the past is a foreign country. Well, it is certainly inhabited by foreigners, people whose mindset was shaped by circumstances we shy from remembering. The mother of three children who gave birth eight times. The father of four children, the last of whom cost him his wife. Our minds are largely free of such horrors, and not inured to that kind of suffering. That is the progress of technology. That is what is improving the human race.

It is a long, long ladder, and sometimes we slip, but we've never actually fallen. That is our progress.

the past is a third-world country

The past is in some respects worse than a third world country. In the United States around 1900, the life expectancy ranged from around 50 climbing steadily to reach around 60 around 1930 (curiously the Great Depression didn't cause a slump in life expectancy, although the rate of growth did slow). Source with related data(pdf). But, if one looks at current life expectancy in many countries in the developing world, most countries exceed the US-1900 numbers. Similar comparisons can be made for literacy and many other metrics of success. The middling developing countries today are better in many ways than most of the US was in 1900.

Also, third world countries can buy the used stuff we don't want anymore. The past can't do that.

4Luke_A_Somers9y... do we actually sell a lot of used goods overseas like that? I think 'slightly obsolete' holds up a lot better.
1[anonymous]9yThis is why my family only buys computers while on vacation in the US.
8JoshuaFox9yLife expectancy can be misleading. The poorest countries are still caught in a Malthusian trap, so that when modern medicine and other technology extend life, the increased population means that everyone is poorer. So, increased life expectancy can correlate with greater poverty. See George Clark, A Farewell to Alms.
5[anonymous]9yI dunno... Generally people will have fewer children if they expect all of them to survive to adulthood than if they expect most of them to die before, and fewer children per couple all other things being equal means that each of them will be better off. I think I've seen a few TED talks about that.

You might expect that, having learned of the existence of immortal life, man would dedicate colossal resources to learning how the immortal jellyfish performs its trick. You might expect that biotech multinationals would vie to copyright its genome; that a vast coalition of research scientists would seek to determine the mechanisms by which its cells aged in reverse; that pharmaceutical firms would try to appropriate its lessons for the purposes of human medicine; that governments would broker international accords to govern the future use of rejuvenating technology.

NYT article titled "Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality?"

The next line of the article after the above quote is "But none of this happened."

If you were taught that elves caused rain, every time it rained, you'd see the proof of elves.

Ariex

3Manfred9yAh. Positive bias.

I was once, years and years ago, falsely accused by someone of egregious dishonesty, and after I put forward evidence that the accusation was false, was told, "Let's just agree to disagree." At which, of course, I exploded; I would not be agreeing to disagree about whether I had been completely dishonest, thank you very much. And every time someone uses the phrase I am tempted to say, "We don't need to agree to disagree because we already are disagreeing." I think what gets me is that it's such an unbelievably low standard that almost anything would be more intellectually robust; why not agree to something more ambitiously intellectual, like swapping book recommendations, or having a temporary cooling-off period, or going to a third party for arbitration or advice, or anything else, really?

I thought that "agree to disagree" had become a fixed expression meaning something like "stop discussing this for now even though we don't agree, because we have more productive things to do/talk about".

Yes, but understanding that makes it harder to get annoyed at people.

8DaFranker9yNot really. I usually see it used more as "I think you're an idiot, but don't want to bother explaining why, so let's talk about / do something else instead." I believe the most appropriate corresponding expression is that the disagreement is "swept under the rug".

Molten variables hiss and roar. On my mind-forge, I hammer them into the greatsword Epistemology. Many are my foes this night.

--Nate Silver Parody Twitter Account @fivethirtynate, on the night of the presidential election

[-][anonymous]9y 34

Anyone who values truth should stop worshipping reason. We all need to take a cold hard look at the evidence and see reasoning for what it is. ... [M]ost of the bizarre and depressing research findings [about cognitive biases] make perfect sense once you see reasoning as having evolved not to help us find the truth but to help us engage in arguments, persuasion, and manipulation in the context of discussions with other people.

I'm not saying we should all stop reasoning and go with our gut feelings. Gut feelings are sometimes better guides than reasoning for making consumer choices and interpersonal judgments, but they are often disastrous as a basis for public policy, science, and law. Rather, what I'm saying is that we must be wary of any /individual/'s ability to reason. We should see each individual as being limited, like a neuron. A neuron is really good at one thing: summing up the stimulation coming into its dendrites to 'decide' whether to fire a pulse along its axon. A neuron by itself isn't very smart. But if you put neurons together in the right way you get a brain; you get an emergent system that is much smarter and more flexible than a single neuron.

In the sam

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[-][anonymous]9y 32

In December of each year, the New York Times film critics, like film critics everywhere, write Deep Think pieces about what patterns in the movies released in the current year tell us about Trends in the Big Issues. The annual answer ought to be: Virtually nothing, because what gets released in a single year is a close to a random sample of projects that had been in the works for years and happened to come to fruition now. But that never stops the critics from pontificating on 2012: The Meaning of It All.

--Steve Sailer, here

"It's frightening to think that you might not know something, but more frightening to think that, by and large, the world is run by people who have faith that they know exactly what is going on." - Amos Tversky

One in four Americans has an opinion about an imaginary debt plan

A new poll from Public Policy Polling found that an impressive 39 percent of Americans have an opinion about the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan.

Before you start celebrating the new, sweeping reach of the 2010 commission’s work, consider this: Twenty-five percent of Americans also took a stance on the Panetta-Burns plan.

What’s that? You’re not familiar with Panetta-Burns? That’s probably because its “a mythical Clinton Chief of Staff/former western Republican Senator combo” that PPP dreamed up to test how many Americans would profess to have an opinion about a policy that did not exist. They found one in four voters to do just that.

Panetta-Burns’ nonexistent policy proposals were supported by 8 percent and opposed by 17 percent of the voters surveyed. Simpson-Bowles’ real policy proposals had stronger favorables, with 23 percent support and 16 percent opposition.

Devil's advocate time:

They don't know nothing about it. They know two things.

  1. It's a debt reduction plan
  2. It's named after Panetta and Burns

Here are some reasons to oppose the plan, based on the above knowledge:

  • We don't need a debt reduction plan, just keep doing what we're doing and it will sort itself out.

  • I like another existing plan, and this is not that one, so I oppose it.

  • I've heard of Panetta and (s)he's a complete douchebag. Anything they've come up with is clearly junk.

  • I haven't even heard of either of them, so what the heck would they know about debt reduction?

  • They're from different parties, there's no way they could have come up with something sensible.

  • I've heard 10 different plans described, and surely this is one of them. I can't remember which one this is, but I hated all of them so I must oppose this too.

And of course you can make a very similar set of reasons to support it. Not trying to rationalise people's stupidity or make excuses for them as such, just present the opposing argument in all its glory. Ok maybe making excuses for them is exactly what I'm doing. But honestly, how many of your political opinions, as a percentage, including all those that you don't know you have until asked, are really much better than the reasons above?

8[anonymous]9yIf you were being polled about an unfamiliar plan, would you more likely think that a) the pollster was asking you about a fictional plan, or b) that the pollster was doing a genuine survey, and that you just hadn't heard about that plan yet? Granted, forming an opinion about something in the absence of any knowledge, just because someone asked you for your opinion, is another matter entirely.

This might be a distinction without a difference. The trick was to get people to think they knew about some topic X well enough to profess an opinion on it, even though in fact they didn't know the first thing about X. Making sure that X doesn't exist is just a cheap way to implement this trick.

8[anonymous]9yI would think b), and say that.
3gwern9yIsn't it damning either way, and this dilemma the point of the setup?
2Nornagest9yDepending on the phrasing and any specifics of the plan presented to me, I might conclude that it was not only fictional but deliberate FUD; that sort of misdirection's not unheard of. If I were given nothing but a label, though, I'd likely assume B.
4[anonymous]9yThe actual question [http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_National_1204.pdf] was "Do you support or oppose the Panetta-Burns plan?" (The previous question was "... the Bowles-Simpson plan?") So you could infer that the two were related, and possibly partisan/opposing plans, but not much more than that.
4Alejandro19yThanks for linking to the full results, very interesting. I was surprised at first glance by: both because I assumed more people had heard of him (which shows, I guess, I live in a bubble and don't correct enough for it), and because I had assumed a more favorable score, with perhaps only extreme Republicans having an unfavorable opinion. I guess I was failing to take into account that the kind of people who follow polls with so much dedication to have heard of Silver are almost all committed partisans.
7bbleeker9yNitpick: 'not sure' isn't the same as 'haven't heard of him'. There are lots of things I know about that I don't have an opinion on.
1JoshuaZ9yThis maybe makes more sense in an open thread than as a rationality quote. This certainly is interesting. While at a glance, really bad metacognition looks like the chief culprit, there are other explanations. For example, they could be confusing Panetta-Burns with something else they've heard of. I'd be curious in particular if the poll asked the same people about Panetta-Burns it asked about Simpson-Bowles. One could conceive of someone not remembering the name and thinking that is what was being talked about. Also, this may to some extent be purely a demonstration that people don't like to look ignorant, and so they've said yes, but that that vocalized knowledge wouldn't have any impact on their actual behavior.
3Alejandro19yWhat intrigues me the most is not that people said they knew of it, but that they had a formed opinion for or against. If they didn't ask about Simpson-Bowles to the same people, then maybe as you suggest people had an opinion on S-B but misremembered and thought that this was the topic. But if they did, then the only explanation I can think of is that 8% of the people have such a strong positive prior for "bipartisan plans devised by a Clinton Chief of Staff/former western Republican Senator combo” that they agree with them without knowing what they are, and the reverse is true for 17% of the people.
[-][anonymous]9y 28

.

-5BerryPick69y

Long quote to make a simple point, but relevant. (Context: this is from a Star Wars novel, so it's fiction.)

A death hollow is a low point where the heavier-than-air toxic gases that roll downslope from the volcanoes can pool.

The corpse of a hundred-kilo tusker lay just within its rim, its snout only a meter below the clear air that could have saved it. Other corpses littered the ground around it: rot crows and jacunas and other small scavengers I didn't recognize, lured to their deaths by the jungle's false promise of an easy meal.

I said something along these lines to Nick. He laughed and called me a Balawai fool.

"There's no false promise," he'd said. "There's no promise at all. The jungle doesn't promise. It exists. That's all. What killed those little ruskakks wasn't a trap. It was just the way things are."

Nick says that to talk of the jungle as a person-to give it the metaphoric aspect of a creature, any creature-that's a Balawai thing. That's part of what gets them killed out here.

It's a metaphor that shades the way you think: talk of the jungle as a creature, and you start treating it like a creature. You start thinking you can outsmart the jungle, or tr

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0Raemon9yI have a rule - I only read Star Wars fiction when it's by Matthew Stover. (He made the Revenge of the Sith novelization way better than it had any reason to be) Another of this books, "Traitor", has an interesting example of a "true" prisoner's dilemma.
0Fyrius9yI've read two non-Stover Star Wars novels and judging from those, your rule might be a good idea. What's this about an example of a prisoner's dilemma in Traitor, though? I read that one too, but I don't remember what part you're referring to. (Well, there was a prisoner who had a dilemma, but...)
2Raemon9yTraitor is a really good book and you should not read the following unless you've already read it: Va gur svefg unys (ol sne gur zbfg vagrerfgvat unys), lbh unir Wnpra yrneavat gb pbzzhavpngr jvgu na vasnag jbeyq-zvaq ivn cnva. Gurl unir n ybg bs vagrerfgvat artbgvngvbaf (n ybg bs arng rknzvangvba bs Wnpra'f - naq znal cebonoyl ernqref - anvir zbenyvgl). Wnpra vf n fynir, ohg unf rabhtu cbjre gb erfvfg gung gur zvaqfrrq unf gb jnfgr n ybg bs gvzr oernxvat uvz. Wnpra pnerf nobhg gur yvirf bs gur bgure cevfbaref, gur zvaqfrrq bayl pnerf nobhg gur urnygu gur jbeyq. Bire gur pbhefr bs frireny jrrxf/zbaguf (hapyrne), ng svefg jvgu zhghny qrsrpgvba, gurl obgu yrnea gb pbbcrengr jvgu rnpu bgure, naq gur erfhyg vf gung Wnpra vzcebirf dhnyvgl bs yvsr sbe gur cevfbaref, naq gur zvaqfrrq orpbzrf gur zbfg cebfcrebhf bs gur bgure eviny zvaqfrrqf. Hagvy gur svany vgrengvba bs gur qvyrzzn pbzrf. Gurl pbzr gb n qrny jvgu rnpu bgure - Wnpra jvyy xvyy nyy gur eviny zvaqfrrqf gb rafher "uvf" zvaqfrrq orpbzrf qbzvanag, naq va erghea uvf zvaqfrrq jvyy frg gur cevfbaref serr. (Jub bgurejvfr jbhyq unir orra xvyyrq, fvapr gurl jrer ab ybatre arprffnel) Ubjrire, arvgure bs gurz jvyy arrq rnpu bgure nsgrejneqf. Wnpra vf fgvyy orggre bss vs ur pna pbzcyrgryl fnobgntr uvf pncgbe'f cynaf (xvyyvat "uvf" zvaqfrrq nf jryy nf gur bguref), naq gur zvaqfrrq vf ng yrnfg fbzrjung orggre bss vs vg yrgf nyy gur cevfbaref trg xvyyrq. Nf vg gheaf bhg, Wnpra qrpvqrf gb qrsrpg (ohg vf ceriragrq sebz qbvat fb ol n guveq cnegl), ohg gur zvaqfrrq sbyybjf guebhtu ba vgf cebzvfr gb frg gur bguref serr.
0Fyrius9yOh, right. I see.

A person is said to exhibit rational irrationality when it is instrumentally rational for him to be epistemically irrational. An instrumentally rational person chooses the best strategies to achieve his goals. An epistemically irrational person ignores and evades evidence against his beliefs, holds his beliefs without evidence or with only weak evidence, has contradictions in his thinking, employs logical fallacies in belief formation, and exhibits characteristic epistemic vices such as closed-mindedness. Epistemically irrational political beliefs can reinforce one’s self-image; boost one’s self-esteem; make one feel noble, smart, superior, safe, or comfortable; and can help achieve conformity with the group and thus facilitate social acceptance. Thus, epistemic irrationality can be instrumentally rational.

If I falsely believe the road I am crossing is free of cars, I might die. So I have a strong incentive to form beliefs about the road in a rational way. However, if I falsely believe that import quotas are good for the economy, this has no directly harmful effects. (On the contrary, the belief can have significant instrumental value. It might make me feel patriotic; serve my xen

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4TimS9yI think this quote might have the analysis backwards. Politicians are not irrational for spouting irrational nonsense - because that is what voters want to hear. I'm not sure if that is accurately described as "epistemically irrational" because some of the politicians probably know what the correct answers are. None of that creates incentives on voters to be epistemically irrational - except for game-theoric reasons. There certainly are costs to voters being epistemically irrational (assuming one believes there are meaningful differences between the political parties - which may not [http://lesswrong.com/lw/mg/the_twoparty_swindle/] be the local consensus.
5James_K9yExcept that an individual vote have a negligible effect on who wins an election, so voters have no incentive to figure out which political party best represents their goals.
0TimS9ySomeone recently wrote a post analyzing optimal voter behavior. It turns out that anyone who would vote in a country where a random voter is selected to decide the election should vote in the current setup [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/faq/does_my_vote_matter/]. Plus, voting has knock-on effects for future elections.
7Eugine_Nier9yAnd most people wouldn't vote rationally in that country either.
-3roland9yI wish we would reconsider the upvote/downvote mechanics on LW.
7rocurley9yCould you elaborate?

Well,

it is exactly what the quote said:

The cost to the typical voter of voting in epistemically irrational ways is nearly zero. The cost of overcoming bias and epistemic irrationality is high. The psychological benefit of this irrationality is significant. Thus, voters demand a high amount of epistemic irrationality.

In the case of LW, voting irrationally has almost zero costs. You don't get penalized for voting wrongly(Incidentally I suggested trying to implement some measure of this kind and guess what... I was downvoted). The penalties are more indirect, like diminishing the amount of epistemically correct contributions.

So why would you assume that LW would be less prone to have this sort of problem?

The evidence suggests that the problem should actually be worse on LW, see1, 2.

When you have run the length of various practices and none of those practices remain in your mind, that very lack of mind itself is the heart of "all things." When you have exhaustively learned the various practices and techniques and made great effort in disciplined training, there will be action in your arms, legs, and body but none in your mind; you will have distanced yourself from training, but will not be in opposition to it, and you will have freedom in whatever techniques you perform. You yourself will be unaware of where your mind is, and neither demons nor heresies will be able to find it.

— Yagyū Munenori, The Life-Giving Sword

[-][anonymous]9y 22

"Right and wrong do exist. Just because you don't know what the right answer is — maybe there's even no way you could know what the right answer is — doesn't make your answer right or even okay. It's much simpler than that. It's just plain wrong."

--Dr. House

Truth comes out of error more easily than out of confusion.

-Francis Bacon

5Jayson_Virissimo9yThis is a duplicate [http://lesswrong.com/lw/g1/rationality_quotes_may_2009/d14] from 2009.

It is very difficult to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if the cat is not there.

— Confucius, allegedly (quoted in The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed)

Edit: The rationality relevance might need some explanation. The way I've seen this aphorism used is this: it's sometimes hard to distinguish between a task that's achievable but very difficult (and that it therefore might make sense to spend time/effort on), and a task that is impossible (and thus is a complete waste of time/effort).

If you spend some time searching for the cat in the dark room, you might not find it. Is that because finding it is difficult (after all, this is what you might quite plausibly expect, if you assume that the cat is there), or because the cat is not there and you're wasting your time?

7[anonymous]9ySee also the anonymous expanded version [http://lesswrong.com/lw/f8x/rationality_quotes_november_2012/7v8s].

It’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking; and it’s also easier to do little things we know we can do than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about.

John Cleese

transcript

Do not read written works and think, "This is the Way." Written works are like the gate to approach the Way. Thus, there are people who remain ignorant of the Way regardless of how much they have learned and how many Chinese characters they know. Though they face the pages and read as skillfully as though they were annotating the ancients, they are ignorant of the truth and so do not make the Way their own.

— Yagyū Munenori, The Life-Giving Sword

Nevertheless, it is quite difficult to approach the Way without studying. Still, one cannot say that a man embodies the Way simply because he has studied and speaks well. There are also people who are naturally in harmony with the Way and who have never studied at all.

— Yagyū Munenori, The Life-Giving Sword

9Grif9yA: Embodies the Way. B: Has studied. P(A|B)>P(A|~B). P(A|B)0.
2[anonymous]9y“it is quite difficult to approach the Way without studying” is more like P(A|~B) << 1.
5Kindly9yIn fact, the quote says nothing at all about lower bounds on P(A|B). It's possible that it's even more difficult to approach the Way by studying.
0faul_sname9yTrue, but only if P(B) > P(~B) (that is, if more people study than don't study).
1Sengachi9yAh, we are forgetting that sometimes books may be actively misleading, and may deviate one from truth (no matter how much you read those propaganda books, they probably won't tell you what you really need to know).
0faul_sname9yAh, I had misread the quote, and confused P(A|B) with P(B|A). Nevertheless, I think your objection is with the statement that P(A|B) > P(A|~B).
[-][anonymous]9y 18

.

4beoShaffer9yThe sounds interesting, but could use more context.
[-][anonymous]9y 13
0[anonymous]9yI am loving LessWrong so much right now, you guys.
2cypher1979yI read that as meaning something along the lines of, "if Nature is truly so wonderful, why did dogs leave it (to become domesticated)?"
[-][anonymous]9y 18

.

1Kenny9ySomeone responded: and @afoolswisdom replied:

The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.

-- Eden Phillpotts

Yes, the universe is full of things waiting for our wits to grow sharp enough that we stop anthropomorphizing them...

TELL ME ABOUT IT.

The universe is full of sharp things, waiting to skewer us.

No idea what I got the sudden urge to respond with that.

"...they have all these experts' predictions about the year 2000 and I kid you not they are fucking psychotic. Just not even close, like oh we'll be growing cars in vats and having nuclear wars with China and then black rainbows will drain the earth of its oxygen and kill everyone except our moon colonists. Experts. I mean people cannot predict shit. We think we can and we fucking can't."

"Well, how about this — that man, unlike animals, is a creature who experiences an insurmountable need for knowledge? I've read that somewhere."

"So have I," said Valentine. "But the trouble is that man, or in any case the common man, easily overcomes this need for knowledge of his. It seems to me that he doesn't have such a need at all. There's a need to understand, but knowledge is not required for that. The God hypothesis, for instance, gives one an unparalleled ability to understand absolutely everything, while discovering absolutely nothing... Give a person a highly simplified model of the world and interpret any event on the basis of this simplified model. Such an approach required no knowledge. A few memorized formulas plus some so-called intuition, so-called practical acumen, and so-called common sense."

Roadside Picnic, Boris and Arkady Strugatsky

But are we asking too much when we declare that our drugs need to work through single defined targets? Beyond that, are we even asking too much when we declare that we need to understand the details of how they work at all? Many of you will have had such thoughts (and they've been expressed around here as well), but they can tend to sound heretical, especially that second one. But that gets to the real issue, the uncomfortable, foot-shuffling, rather-think-about-something-else question: are we trying to understand things, or are we trying to find drugs?

Derek Lowe, In the Pipeline

I don't have any previous experience with this sort of thing, but judging from what I hear and read, I'm supposed to be asking why all this is happening, and why it's happening to me. Honestly, those questions are about the farthest thing from my mind.

Partly, that’s because they aren't hard questions. Why does our world have gravity? Why does the sun rise in the East? There are technical answers, but the metaphysical answer is simple: that’s how reality works. So too here. Only in the richest parts of the rich world of the twenty-first century could anyone entertain the thought that we should expect long, pain-free lives. Suffering and premature death (an odd phrase: what does it mean to call death "premature"?) are constant presences in the lives of most of the peoples of the Earth, and were routine parts of life for generations of our predecessors in this country—as they still are today, for those with their eyes open. Stage 4 cancers happen to middle-aged men and women, seemingly out of the blue, because that's how reality works.

As for why this is happening to me in particular, the implicit point of the question is an argument: I deserve better than this. There are tw

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3bbleeker9yThat reminded me of this: Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask: "Why me?" And a voice answers: "Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up". Charlie Brown
-2chaosmosis9yThis conclusion is accurate unless he used a specifically Christian definition of "moral order".

We're Nature's conscience. One day, we'll finally make it listen and realise what a monster it's been all along.

Catharine G. Evans

1Will_Newsome9yCatharine, peasant.
2Mestroyer9yfixed.

The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.

The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon the public approval of police actions.

Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observation of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.

The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.

Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.

Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice, and warning is found to be insufficient.

Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

Police should always direct their

... (read more)
4NancyLebovitz9yWhy the British police are still almost entirely unarmed [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19641398]
2wedrifid9yWow! I had no idea (and approve wholeheartedly, given that it does seem to work). Thanks Nancy.
4[anonymous]9yHomer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm. Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad. Homer: Thank you, dear. Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away. Homer: Oh, how does it work? Lisa: It doesn't work. Homer: Uh-huh. Lisa: It's just a stupid rock. Homer: Uh-huh. Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you? Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
5nshepperd9yPerhaps he should have said "conspicuous absence". An absence of tigers is only conspicuous if you would otherwise expect tigers everywhere.
2[anonymous]9yIn principle, yes. In practice, it would be very hard to tell how many more crimes per year, divided per X, there would be if counterfactually the police's budget was reduced by $X/year all other things being equal (looking at how other countries are doing will have huuuge confounding effects), and I suspect most people would overestimate that.
0pedanterrific9ySpecious, not spacious.
0[anonymous]9yFixed.
0wedrifid9yOk, now, which character from the Simpsons would be capable of reading the causality sequence, understand the math and reliably evaluate the evidence actually given about police efficiency by absence of crime and disorder? Because if Lisa said directly or herself intended the above story to be analogous then I'd call her naive and confused. Given what is known about the relevance of law enforcement, not considering low crime to be---all else even remotely approximating equal---strong evidence about the effectiveness of the police would be utterly absurd.
2Alejandro19yBy my count, three: Lisa, Professor Frink, and "Stephen Hawking" (the caricatured version of himself that Hawking played on the several occasions he guest-starred on the show). Jumping to Lisa's defense here, as the quoted dialogue was about the Bear Patrol, a costly government initiative to keep the town safe from bears, launched in response to the only bear sighting in decades. It was army1987 who applied it to regular (human) crime.
2Nick_Tarleton9yI know this is meant to be an ideal for the police, but it could also be read as a descriptive claim about public favor, and it's worth noting that that claim is sometimes false: how often do people approve of police bashing the heads of $OUTGROUP?
2NancyLebovitz9yThis is true-- and it's also the case that sometimes the law supports abuse of an outgroup. I don't know enough about Peele's era to have an opinion about how those issues played out for his police force.
2Eugine_Nier9yAgreed. It's also not the lack of police visibly dealing with crime.
[-][anonymous]9y 12

Responsibility is not a pie to be divided.

Johanna Schroeder

3simplicio9yAnother example: a person who commits a murder may be able to point to a troubled past - for example, an abusive parent. The implication is that responsibility is a conserved quantity (like probability mass), so if the parent is guilty, then the murderer must be LESS guilty - that's what the 'Officer Kripke' defense wants us to conclude, and that is the (characteristically leftist) misunderstanding of responsibility. The symmetrical (characteristically conservative) mistake is to imagine that any discourse about exogenous factors contributing to a willful bad act (bad education etc.) is 'letting the criminals off the hook.' Broadly speaking, we want to increase the prevalence of moral luck (perhaps by some manner of social engineering) while still holding individuals as morally responsible as before.
-1Eugine_Nier9yI would like to point out that this is more-or-less what the system was focused on doing before "liberals" started disassembling it.
2[anonymous]9yWhat?

"Speed is what distinguishes intelligence. No bird discovers how to fly: evolution used a trillion bird-years to 'discover' that - where merely hundreds of person-years sufficed." - Marvin Minsky

2gwern9yhttp://web.media.mit.edu/~minsky/papers/AlienIntelligence.html [http://web.media.mit.edu/~minsky/papers/AlienIntelligence.html]
-2Thomas9yIt may be easier with already evolved intelligence.
[-][anonymous]9y 11

After all, if someone says “you motherfucking asshole, the sky is blue, I hope you kill yourself” the sky is still blue and you should not believe the sky is green because that person was a dick.

-- Ozy Frantz

"There are lives at stake, Sherlock! Actual human lives - just, just so I know, do you care about that at all?"

"Will caring about them help save them?"

"No."

"Then I'll continue not to make that mistake."

-- Sherlock (BBC series), season 1, episode 3 "The Great Game"

Yes, I know that if you correct for differences in caring due to distance/scope insensitivity/etc. it does help save them, and that caring doesn't preclude skepticism about which actions are helpful, and that in this particular case Sherlock should have refused to respond to blackmail and there'd have been fewer deaths. But it works as a retort to "can't say no" spending. Don't give to some counterproductive charity because you care about starving kids in Africa, give to the Against Malaria Foundation because it makes fewer kids dead.

4[anonymous]9yI might quote that the next time I see "like this if you care" on Facebook.
[-][anonymous]9y 10

Bertie in particular sustained simultaneously a pair of opinions ludicrously incompatible. He held that in fact human affairs were carried on after a most irrational fashion, but that the remedy was quite simple and easy, since we all we had to do was to carry them on rationally.

--John Maynard Keynes on Bertrand Russell

[-][anonymous]9y 9

"Well, the first rule is that you can't really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang 'em back. If the facts don't hang together on a latticework of theory, you don't have them in a usable form.

You've got to have models in your head. And you've got to array your experience—both vicarious and direct—on this latticework of models. You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You've got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head."

--Charles Munger http://ycombinator.com/munger.html

1Viliam_Bur9yAny serious experiment proving this? There are ways to win at life that don't require understanding of many things.
0Desrtopa9yAnd certainly ways to succeed in a school environment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/iq/guessing_the_teachers_password/] without understanding what you're supposed to be learning about.
0[anonymous]9yEh. That could have maybe been phrased better with less hyperbole. But I don't think he is literally making a prediction about practical life outcomes. I think he A) implicitly classes understanding as a terminal value here and B) is using failure to mean not achieving your goals (in this case understanding). That seems reasonable enough. I think a decent chunk of folks on lesswrong would value epistemic rationality even if it was proven that it didn't make their lives any better along other axes. In any case you can dump the "fail" part from the quote and the general idea about mental models is fine.
[-][anonymous]9y 9

I judge men by what they do, not who their fathers were.

selenite on Yvain's blog

Reading the context (it's said in response to an evangelical trying to use Lewis' Trilemma) just makes it plain badass.

8Randy_M9yBad-ass, but not instrumentally rational. I'm going to be polite to the police chief's (or mafia boss', etc.) son, even if the boy is rather a jerk. (Yes, I know it's possible to be polite even when forming a poor judgement, but the context was "Doesn't it matter")
0BerryPick69yVery good point.

Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics.

  • David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Edit: Yup, apparently that's a famous quote by Bradley which I read for the first time in that book. Good catch.

A Google search attributes this to Gen. Omar Bradley.

But although no ideal obliterates the ugly drudgery and detail of any calling, that ideal does, in the case of the soldier or the doctor, exist definitely in the background and makes that drudgery worthwhile as a whole. It is a serious calamity that no such ideal exists in the case of the vast number of trades and crafts on which the existence of the modern city depends.

  • G. K. Chesterton
4[anonymous]9y.
8Luke_A_Somers9yAre you serious? Just about every job out there from plumbing and electric line repair, to clerk at the DMV.
0[anonymous]9y.
6gwern9yThat's not how Chesterton is using it, though; he's using it about the myths and stories that justify a profession: doctors talk about saving lives (rather than making money), soldiers talk about saving the country from vicious greedy foreigners (rather than making money), etc. He regards these myths as ennobling in the best sense: adding meaning to life, a raison d'etre, ikigai etc.; you could read his Napoleon of Notting Hill as an illustration of this idea, especially towards the end.
3[anonymous]9y.
-2ewbrownv9yNot quite. The plumber and electrician are necessary for the existence of the city. The DMV clerk is needed only for the enforcement of a licensing scheme - if his office shut down completely the city would go on functioning with little or no change.
4Kindly9yThere would need to be some sort of alternate mechanism for ensuring that people learn to drive a car safely before driving a car. Presumably that mechanism would involve some replacement job for the former DMV clerk.
2ewbrownv9ySuch a mechanism may be desirable, but it isn't necessary for the existence of cities. There are plenty of third world countries that don't bother with licensing, and still manage to have major metropolises. But my point was just that when people talk about 'trades and crafts on which the existence of the modern city depends' they generally mean carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other hands-on trades, not clerks and bureaucrats.
0abramdemski9yPolice, judges, and lawyers would be OK in this respect. (I'm not advocating elimination of the DMV, but now that I think about it, it sounds not-too-bad. Court orders to stop repeat offenders from driving sounds like, potentially, a better system than licensing?)
5Bugmaster9yGiven their already heavy workload, they'd need to create a separate department just to deal with all the traffic violations. Hmm... Besides, and perhaps more importantly, I'd rather instill a social expectation that driving requires a certificate, which in turn requires some training, than deal with "repeat offenders" after they'd run someone over because they couldn't steer properly.
-4Nominull9yIs it really a modern city without conservatives whining about poor service at the DMV? Although I guess if you got rid of all the clerks service would probably get even worse.
2Sengachi9yI would argue that everybody complains about poor service at the DMV.
0Nominull9yI'd point to myself as a counterexample, I appreciate the DMV sticking it to those externality-creating motorists while I enjoy proper liberal low-emissions modes of transportation.
6Randy_M9yBut as that is not the purpose of the DMV, I find your appreciation only validates complaints. That is, you share the view that the DMV creates some amount of misery of automobile drivers, you just don't happen to object to that group being that miserable.

I like doing math that involves measuring the lengths of numbers written out on the page—which is really just a way of loosely estimating log_10 x. It works, but it feels so wrong.

Terminology, afterall was nothing. So long as we can reach the idea itself.

-- Algernon Blackwood, The Damned

The exposure of truth sometimes results in tragedy. However, no matter how tragic the truth may be, it would be an even greater tragedy to avert one's eyes from it.

  • Edgeworth, from Phoenix Wright (which I haven't actually played)

If you are hiding in a basement from the Nazis, this isn't true. If you are going to be tortured for the whereabouts of people hiding from the Nazis, you should also avert your eyes and avoid finding out where they are hiding. The fact that instrumental and epistemic rationality are sometimes at odds is another tragic truth.

Just remember, most people most of the time are not about to learn the location of a refugee just before being tortured by Nazis.

The fact that instrumental and epistemic rationality are sometimes at odds is another tragic truth.

Which we should not avert our eyes from.

0arborealhominid9yVery good point!
5MugaSofer9yFixed that for you.

"Science is a differential equation. Religion is a boundary condition."

Alan Turing, Alan Turing: the Enigma (Vintage edition 1992), p. 513

0[anonymous]9y.
3EndlessEnigma9yI'd say that is a fair answer. Without more context it’s hard to say exactly what Turing meant; he might have been referring to the different ways science and religion each handle causality. In science, causes are local in space and time -- perfectly modeled by a differential equation. In religion, causality is placed by fiat: a First Cause (boundary condition at the beginning of time) or final causes (teleology). Another way of looking at the quote is to notice that physics especially concerns itself with continuous changes in space and time. Each infinitesimal chunk of spacetime is governed by its immediate neighbor. But this leads to a difficult question as you expand the system under consideration: who or what determines the ultimate boundary conditions of the differential equation?

The "mountain-sea" spirit means that it is bad to repeat the same thing several times when fighting the enemy. There may be no help but to do something twice, but do not try it a third time. If you once make an attack and fail, there is little chance of success if you use the same approach again.

Myiamoto Musashi, Book of the Five Rings.

4DaFranker9yAlthough I would infer him to have already been aware of certain exceptions, e.g.: If you and your opponent both know eachother to be skilled and masters of the way, then attempting the same tactic a third time becomes a different tactic; you are making an attack which your opponent would never expect you to try again. It's a common failure mode of intermediate-level students of a competitive discipline to fall prey to the simplest tactics used by the weakest beginners, simply because they expect their opponent not to use said weak and simple tactics. For example, experienced chess players losing repeatedly to a complete beginner because they're used to playing against stronger and stronger opponents as they were gaining their experience. I've seen it happen often, and it's happened to me too. ETA: I acknowledge that the example above isn't quite what is seen out there. What I had in mind was a one-off thing - of intermediate players, a "significant amount" (not the majority, but I'd guess "enough so that most experienced players have seen it happen more than once") go through a point at least once where they repeatedly lose against a player much less experienced than them, because of the reasons above. This second point is also debatable, but I think it's worth splitting and distinguishing between the two.
6lavalamp9yHuh? AFAIK, chess players pretty much never lose to players rated 400 Elo less, and higher rated players are more consistent. This applies double for Go. I think a weaker version of this statement ("repeatedly"->"more often than one naively might expect") might be true for poker.
5Will_Newsome9yI defy the data.
5Desrtopa9yWhat works in chess does not necessarily generalize to swordfights. In a duel your responses to your opponent's techniques are mostly cached actions carried out on reflex, and and any ideas you might have about how many times your opponent is likely to try any particular move are not likely to have that much influence on how you react. How you set up the move certainly makes a difference, the same technique can be used in many different ways, but if you take a specific approach and your opponent defeats it once, you shouldn't count on it working the next time, and if they defeat it twice, you should be even more confident it won't work if you try it again. From my experience as a fencer, I can affirm that facing a beginner can be disorienting, because when you train to respond to intelligent and efficient techniques, unintelligent and inefficient ones are just confusing. I've never known an experienced fencer to lose to a newbie, because when one person is using efficient techniques and the other isn't, and both are unfamiliar with how to respond to their opponent, the efficient one will win, but it can be pretty frustrating. On the other hand, having a newbie opponent try the same thing repeatedly even when it's not working is one of the least troublesome things they're likely to do.
5[anonymous]9yChess openings are largely cached among professionals.
2Kindly9yThey're usually not cached at the level where you have any chance at all of losing to a complete beginner.
2Nornagest9yNot in a ten-point bout. Very rarely in a five-point bout. I've seen it happen in one-point bouts, though. Agreed on trying the same thing multiple times. Part of this is that fencing (whether epee fencing or the slower katana play that Musashi was talking about) is decided on the quarter-second level, a couple orders of magnitude below what you'd get even in speed chess, but I think informational effects are just as important in this case. A great deal of the metagame of martial arts depends on having the correct low-level reactions to your opponent's moves, and working memory has a lot to do with this; trying the same thing twice will prime your opponent quite strongly to respond to it a third time, no matter how strong a fencer you are. (It's possible to exploit this by trying a superficially similar move that'll defeat the expected counter, or to feint a move you previously used and go to a second-intention attack.)
2Desrtopa9yAt my club, I don't think anyone really fenced one-point bouts. Three rarely. The newbie would sometimes get points though, so if they had been fencing one point bouts, they would have had a chance. Five was the standard where I fenced, and I don't remember seeing a newbie ever win one.
2DaFranker9yAnything else would have surprised me. Fencing would probably not have acquired its current status and reputation had it been so reliant on things other than training and skill.
0DaFranker9yYes, I fully agree that things will work differently depending on the specific rules of the specific competition. I'm mostly referring to questions of strategy and metagame. In terms of a specific type of strike in fencing, for instance, things have to become a bit more contrived for this to become applicable. Two really great fencers could, for instance, face off in a duel of mindgame meta, where one strikes twice in a manner that is unlikely to succeed, but is an attack on the pacing of the duel, attempting to take control of it, which the other will respond to. On the third attempt of this technique, the opponent might anticipate a slight change in the technique, such as the strike turning into an actual attack, and prepare a more diverse set of reactions to counter how their opponent might avoid their default reaction (which they have now seen twice, and may have figured out a way to circumvent). Then, the game takes more depth, as both fencers become aware that there are more possible reactions, but that who takes control of the battle's pacing will depend on the attacker's anticipation of their opponents' style and possible reactions. As I said, very contrived, but I could plausibly see this happening in high-caliber duels, naturally occurring at the quarter-second level or faster, particularly for fencing from what I know.
2JoshuaZ9yAre you sure you aren't just remembering outliers or some other explanation? I've had superficially similar experiences but as far as I can tell, it was due to a simple lack of thinking on my part when playing against the very weak players.
2RolfAndreassen9yIn context, this particular quote seems to be talking more about large-scale battles than individual duels. So, if you've already launched your cavalry at the enemy twice, and they were driven off in disarray each time, then another try is probably not going to work even if your enemy doesn't expect it.
2Decius9yI didn't see any discussion of strategy or leadership in the Book of the Five Rings. I have, however, seen many cases in competitive gaming where correctly judging what my opponent was expecting me to do allowed me to counter them more effectively. There are a large number of meta-levels there, and operating two levels above your opponent is typically as bad as operating one level below them.
3RolfAndreassen9yIt appears to me that Musashi intends his principles to be applicable to either duel or battle. There are several illustrations that imply that he is not just talking about duels: I suspect that 'flanks' might be a more idiomatic translation of that last. But at any rate it is clear that Musashi does not limit his advice to individual combat.
1IlyaShpitser9yOne interesting question here is what are the features of games where this does happen? In my view a much weaker player may win against a much stronger player in a game where the following features are present: (a) There is strong "metagame" (that is, multiple equilibria). A beginner may not be aware of the current equilibrium and may defect in hard to predict ways that may give an advantage. (b) There is randomness. A much stronger player may be modelled as a computationally omnipotent adversary. Such adversaries still cannot "read the minds" of randomness sources. A game that interprets a beginner's flailing as randomness can make it situationally powerful. (c) The game is short enough such that the stronger player cannot learn what's going on due to (a) or (b) quickly enough to turn the tide.
1wedrifid9yUnless, say, you're going to overwhelm a critical position with superior numbers and superior technology at a tactically convenient time. In some such cases being utterly predictable even has benefits. People who know they are going to lose and die if they fight are more inclined to surrender or flee. (This has obvious advantages if you are a pirate with a fearsome who doesn't want casualties.) That actually sounds like solid advice in most situations. (Assuming 'fail' excludes 'weakened them significantly but did not quite defeat them'. Obviously a second attack then should be evaluated as a different approach.)
0thomblake9yYes. The whole thing should be read as elaboration of one piece of advice - the individual sentences are not meant to stand on their own. If you're overwhelming the enemy with multiple attacks, then none of them should be counted as failure. And FWIW, Musashi was primarily writing about swordsmanship, not command.

Stripped to its essentials, every decision in life amounts to choosing which lottery ticket to buy. . . . Most organisms don't buy lottery tickets, but they all choose between gambles every time their bodies can move in more than one way. They should be willing to 'pay' for information---in tissue, energy, and time---if the cost is lower than the expected payoff in food, safety, mating opportunities, and other resources, all ultimately valuated in the expected number of surviving offspring. In multicellular animals the information is gathered and translated into profitable decisions by the nervous system.

  • Steven Pinker

Perhaps there is nothing in Nature more pleasing than the study of the human mind, even in its imperfections or depravities; for, although it may be more pleasing to a good mind to contemplate and investigate the application of its powers to good purposes, yet as depravity is an operation of the same mind, it becomes at least equally necessary to investigate, that we may be able to prevent it.

-John Hunter

The workshop was invigorating because nearly everyone seemed confused.

John Preskill

We don't expect kittens to fight wildcats and win - we merely expect them to try.

--Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

I'm not talking about the mindkilling politics of Starship Troopers today. The quote's about doing the impossible. A while back Kyre posted a link to Minus #37, and without context, it hit me like a knife in the guts. I didn't know that she was a godlike reality-bender. To me she was just a kid who stepped up to take a swing, she was Tiffany Aching.

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go... (read more)

That's been posted before, and appears to have made it far enough into the LW vernacular to be used without explanation although not without scare quotes. You do give more context for it, though.

"They're running on the same neural architecture that I am and I'm a person."

Florence Ambrose (Fictional Biological AI, referring to machine AIs)

"Now," said the voice of lock and window-bar,
"You must confront things as they truly are.
Open your eyes at last, and see
The desolateness of reality."

"Things have," I said, "a pallid, empty look,
Like pictures in an unused coloring book."

"Now that the scales have fallen from your eyes,"
Said the sad hallways, "you must recognize
How childishly your former sight
Salted the world with glory and delight."

"This cannot be the world," I said. "Nor will it,
Till the heart's crayon spangle and fulfill it."

-- Richard Wilbur, At Moorditch

Whoever in discussion adduces authority uses not intellect but rather memory.

  • Leonardo da Vinci
8Bakkot9yIn discussions I'm a lot less interested in which of us is more intelligent than which of us is correct. I don't see what's wrong with using one's memory.
1Larks9yThere's nothing wrong with appeal to authority either.
6BerryPick69yWikipedia tell me that this is true.
-3Sengachi9yThere is nothing wrong with appeal to authority jointed with all the evidence that said authority uses in their argument, subject to disagreement and rebuttal the same as everything else. That's not how most people appeal to authority, though.
2Larks9yNo, you don't have to understand why someone believes something to believe justified that they are justified in believing it. All I need is to believe justifiably that they're generally a good judge of facts in this domain. To hold otherwise would be an extremely unreasonable standard that would prevent me from ever learning pretty much anything. Whereas in fact, I'm perfectly justified in believing in, say, the existence of Argentina, even though I've never observed it myself.
3Alejandro19y* Galileo Galilei, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems

It is not that we propose a theory and Nature may shout NO. Rather, we propose a maze of theories, and Nature may shout INCONSISTENT.

-- Imre Lakatos, ‘‘Criticism and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes,’’

0gwern9yhttp://lc.zju.edu.cn/STS/LunWen%5Cupfiles%5C718d4c37-99a5-4424-a715-3251456eae2c.pdf [http://lc.zju.edu.cn/STS/LunWen%5Cupfiles%5C718d4c37-99a5-4424-a715-3251456eae2c.pdf] pg 162

It would be a coincidence if the link that can be most easily strengthened turned out to be the weakest link.

--Seth Roberts, Online Teaching vs. What?, which also makes the point that the best books on a subject are rarely if ever textbooks

3MixedNuts9yMost improvement mechanisms have diminishing returns.

Don't think, try the experiment.

-John Hunter

4b1shop9yIn the context of probability theory: Don't prove, try the Monte Carlo.
0[anonymous]8ysoreff's point [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fqd/rationality_quotes_december_2012/807e] applies to that too, though I won't give any concrete examples for (ahem) acausal reasons [http://lesswrong.com/lw/v2/prices_or_bindings/].
4soreff9yWhether that is good advice or not depends on the evidence already in hand, and the difficulty of the experiment. Will ice survive heating to a million kelvin at standard pressure?

Before he could put into practice something he had heard, the only thing Tzu-lu feared was that he should be told something further.

Confucius, Analects V.14

One of my strongest stylistic prejudices in science is that many of the facts Nature confronts us with are so implausible given the simplicities of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics, that the mere demonstration of a reasonable mechanism leaves no doubt of the correct explanation.

  • P.W. Anderson
2simplicio9yI'm having a bit of trouble parsing this... an "implausible fact that nature presents us with" like what? And when the author speaks of a "reasonable mechanism" do they mean a reasonable hand-wavy reduction to QM, or a reasonable mechanism in the language of the special science being discussed? All of this being a long way of saying, an example would help.
1Manfred9yThe specific context is that of the surprising behavior of magnetic impurities in metals. When one writes down a quantum mechanical model to describe putting magnetic impurities into a metal, it turns out that one can leave out quite a lot (e.g. lattice structure) and still get the right answer. Because the right answer is "so implausible given the simplicities" etc etc, one doesn't expect to get the right answer more than one way, so the insight from the simplest model necessary is sufficient.

To test reality we must see it on the tight rope. When the verities become acrobats, we can judge them.

  • Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey

Nothing is worth doing pointlessly.

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 8

4RobinZ9yDo you know where in the Meditations this quote arises? I tried searching for "worth" in a couple online versions, but all I found was from the end of Book Seven here [http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2680]: ...which, in this [http://classics.mit.edu/Antoninus/meditations.html] version, reads:
3Jayson_Virissimo9yIt is in Book 8. I edited the original post to make this clear. The George Long translation reads: My Latin version (I don't know who translated it) reads: I'm not sure which version is the most accurate, since I can't understand Koine Greek [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koine_Greek].
1[anonymous]9yDepending on what one means by “pointlessly”, that's either incorrect (there are such thing as terminal values) or obviously tautological.
8Jayson_Virissimo9ySomething being obviously tautological doesn't preclude it from being useful advise (for humans). * My Brain: "If I completed this task, would it actually amount to anything of value?" * Another Part of My Brain: "Uh, not really." * My Brain: "I should stop doing this task."

Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.

  • George Washington
[-][anonymous]9y 0

Just because someone isn't into finding out The Secrets Of The Universe like me doesn't necessarily mean I can't be friends with them.

-Buttercup Dew (@NationalistPony)

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"Proof is for mathematics and alcohol."

-- Common response to requests for proof of scientific results

[-][anonymous]9y 0

Pardon my sanity in a world insane.

-- Emily Dickinson

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...How to differentiate a zombie who acts like a human from a “real” human with inner life? Fuck you!

...If we are the bad guys, all we have to do is change our behaviour. But in fact nature is not a good Mother Nature, it’s a crazy bitch.

@zizek_ebooks, a Twitter account remixing quotes from Slavoj Zizek's texts.

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On Earth we need more who work more and criticize less, who build more and destroy less, who promise less and resolve more, who say better today than tomorrow.

Ernesto Che Guevara (ironically enough)

I think we've got too much focus here on criticizing bad stuff, deconstructing lies, weighing and doubting between options, and dreaming of uncertain futures. As opposed to working hard, building stuff, making decisions, and starting on it right now..

@Akrasia, @WhyOurKindCan'tCooperate, @HalfARationalist @ApologistVSRevolutionary @SelfImprovementVSShinyDistr... (read more)

Man plans, and God laughs/
Like the ant and the grasshopper./
(But the real version. Where the ant let the grasshopper die)

-Today's A Softer World. Not the first time that it's had transhumanist sentiments.

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I don't have a solution but I admire the problem

  • Ashleigh Brilliant

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Ris'n with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die; Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.

--Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (traditionally, the third verse -- starts at 2:52 in the linked video)

An unusual choice, to be sure. But notwithstanding the obvious religious content, I actually find this piece of the hymn to be a beautiful expression of genuine transhumanist sentiment. We've previousl... (read more)

Biscuit: The only loss you experience, is the loss you feel. As of today, I have no leg, and yet I've lost nothing. You have let the loss of your body part shape you into something weak and insane.

...

Duv: Your philosophy! Your source of strength! It's a joke! Close your eyes to the pain all you want, the results are still there! I'm still flightless and you're crawling!

2Luke_A_Somers9yAnd then she loses, hard, and he wins. I'm not feeling it.

Once an idea has taken hold of the brain, it's almost impossible to eradicate

  • Inception movie
5ChristianKl9yI don't think that really true. Human's are quite capable of changing their mind. They are also capable of forgetting.
9shminux9yThey are especially prone to forgetting that they had changed their mind.
7Eugine_Nier9yThey're especially prone to forgetting what caused them to believe an idea, and only remembering that it was well justified.
3ChristianKl9yOften times people don't even know what causes them to believe an idea the moment they adopt that idea.
0NancyLebovitz9yI'm inclined to think that ideas are more likely to be overwritten with some remnants showing through than to be completely forgotten.