All of Abd's Comments + Replies

Cold fusion: real after all?

Thanks, Eliezer. You suggested "Although many claims have been made and some claims continue to be made, none of the claims has ever been replicated reliably despite a very great deal of effort."

That is what the article claims. "The term was popularised with the work of Pons and Fleischmann, which gained tremendous publicity but was irreproducible.[1]

The citation is to a study on that clearly demonstrates the opposite. The entire Rational Wiki article is trolling, designed to insult and irritate, which is typical of the RatWik... (read more)

Cold fusion: real after all?

Wow, it's been more than two years since I commented on Less Wrong. Great article here, though, as usual with cold fusion, it still contains some misunderstandings. Let me dispose of some of them by fiat.

Anything to do with Rossi is not science. There have been demonstrations and tests, including one with a level of independence that remained inadequate. Rossi is commercial, his methods are secret, and so any reports from him cannot be reproduced. It's trivially easy to dismiss Rossi as a fraud, but on closer examination, the matter is complex. He might be... (read more)

Why Real Men Wear Pink

Apathy isn't ever a virtue.

Why are you telling me what I can or cannot consider a virtue?

Ah, you may consider anything you like about anything. You may, for example, consider anorexia a virtue.

However, if simple indifference is a virtue, then I have a limitless supply of virtue, because I am indifferent to a limitless supply of possible objects.

"Lesser social awareness" is a recognized psychological impairment (it means "lesser than normal," or "lesser" as in lessened for the individual), perhaps a developmental or affec... (read more)

-1Kawoomba8yAt this point we probably need to find a common definitional basis. Merriam-Webster: A-pathy, from pathos (emotion), "without feeling". 1. lack of feeling or emotion: impassiveness 2. lack of interest or concern: indifference Example: "People have shown a surprising apathy towards these problems." Neither does wiktionary imply anything generally abnormal about apathy, their example from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: Notice how apathy is not automatically a descriptor of a universal stance relating to everything, but as in the above examples, can be limited in scope to certain issues. As did I. If you started out by defining apathy as necessarily "abnormal", of course it would follow that it is necessarily abnormal, but that would be nothing but circular reasoning. Also, using non-standard definitions should be pointed out lest it cause confusion. Now to my original comment: How is your "apathetic about food" relevant to "apathetic about status signalling"? My statement was limited to the latter. I'm not extolling the general virtue of apathy, stoicism, or anorexia? Your cognitive resources are limited. So is your lifespan. So are mine. I find it virtuous not to waste either in vast proportions on tribal hierarchy squabbles. With the rampant obsession about status signalling, dress codes, formulaic conversations, I find it of importance not to call apathy about social status a deeper problem, nor an indicator of one (the original "may be" did not qualify that claim, as I explained). Calling it a "deeper problem" I'd straight out object. Calling it an indicator of a deeper problem is a skewed perspective if it can also be an indicator for a perceived virtue. I'm not advocating torn pants here (which in Western civilization are often worn for signalling reasons, alas), but a (to me) more sensible (and productive!) freeing up of some resources by being relatively more apathetic concerning that topic.
Why Real Men Wear Pink

Apathy isn't ever a virtue.

It might indicate that something is irrelevant, but it was only stated that this "may be" an indicator of a "deeper problem," i.e., various psychological disorders do have apathy, particularly a loss of concern for how one appears to others, as a symptom.

4Kawoomba8yWhy are you telling me what I can or cannot consider a virtue? Consider any topic you are invested in, the degree of such ranging from "apathetic regarding topic X" to "highly invested regarding topic X". Relative apathy about a topic translates to a greater degree of indifference regarding that topic / less of a stake in that issue. Is it so inconceivable for you to be apathetic towards, say, antiquated traditions, and to consider that indifference as a positive trait, as a virtue? Some meditative frameworks strive towards apathy / indifference towards many areas in life, and regard such as virtuous. You misread the parent comment: Apathy about reduced status and lesser social awareness were cited as examples (e.g., exempli gratia) of deeper problems. Even if the referent had been indicator, the "may be" would not be involved either way.
5Vaniver8yNot even to Stoics []?
Rationality Quotes November 2012

I adopted an African girl. What "race" is she? What determines this?

What determines it? Ancestry. Race is basically a way of asking "who were your ancestors?" and accepting a blurry answer because, well, each person has a lot of ancestors!

That is not what "race" means when people use the word. Race is a division of humanity into categories. Who determines the categories? Do those categories naturally occur? On what does the "race" category depend? Can "race" be identified visually? Can it be genetical... (read more)

5[anonymous]8ySorry I ddin't read all of your wall of text yet, but I find it fishy that you're allowed to redefine "racism" to mean "non-hating acknowledgement of differences due to ancestry" but Vaniver isn't allowed to use race in the normal sense of "what's ur ancestry?".
Rationality Quotes November 2012

The fact is, race is a good predictor of things like civilization, intelligence, violence, etc. I offer no explanations.

Eh? What is this thing you call "race," Earth Monkey?

We used to think the answer was obvious. You know, it's obvious what "race" someone is, isn't it? Until you start to look at the details.

Race is a cultural convention. There is a science of population genetics, and it isn't about "race." Rather, people use population genetics to infer the social marker called "race."

I adopted an African girl. W... (read more)

2ArisKatsaris8yGenetically differentiated human populations defined by phenotype. A quote from wikipedia: "Forensic physical anthropologist and professor George W. Gill has said that the idea that race is only skin deep "is simply not true, as any experienced forensic anthropologist will affirm" and "Many morphological features tend to follow geographic boundaries coinciding often with climatic zones. This is not surprising since the selective forces of climate are probably the primary forces of nature that have shaped human races with regard not only to skin color and hair form but also the underlying bony structures of the nose, cheekbones, etc. (For example, more prominent noses humidify air better.)" While he can see good arguments for both sides, the complete denial of the opposing evidence "seems to stem largely from socio-political motivation and not science at all". He also states that many biological anthropologists see races as real yet "not one introductory textbook of physical anthropology even presents that perspective as a possibility. In a case as flagrant as this, we are not dealing with science but rather with blatant, politically motivated censorship".
9Vaniver8yWhat determines it? Ancestry. Race is basically a way of asking "who were your ancestors?" and accepting a blurry answer because, well, each person has a lot of ancestors! That version of race is obviously a biological reality, because people have different ancestries, even going back long distances, and the ancestry distribution can be geographically plotted. If you go back thirty generations for me, I would need to have about a billion distinct ancestors for there to be no inbreeding; the entire world didn't have that many people! Europe, the probable source for most of my ancestry, only had about 50 million people thirty generations ago, and even then it's unlikely that all of them are my ancestors- for one, many of them didn't have any children! I'd estimate somewhere less than 10% of the total world population at any point since 1000 AD is in my ancestry, and the distribution of their contribution to my ancestry is pretty localized. It's probable there's many people out there who share none of my ancestry for a full thirty generations back, and there's one who (probably) shares it completely. Knowing she was adopted from Africa, odds are good that she's mostly African. That's only one step more informative than "human," since it only gives you the archaic racial category- Negroid- which tells you as much as "Caucasoid" or "Mongoloid." Ethnicity would give a much narrower picture- about one person in six is African, but only about one person in four thousand is Gurage. Adding on the data that she's Ethiopian muddies the picture- due to its northeastern position, Ethiopia has been the site of significant mixing [], and there's quite a bit of ethnic diversity: the primary ethnicity, Oromo, is only a third of the population- your Chinese daughter, though, most likely has significant Han ancestry (92% of the population of mainland China). So, using the archaic terms and assuming she's from one of the
Rationality Quotes November 2012

We are seeing political memes here, standard stories or arguments. First, the mercury in CFLs compared to the impact of incandescents. That one is just plain silly, and hairyfigment cited some good sources. Sure, mercury in CFLs is a matter of concern, but in the real world, we must compare choices until we have better ones.

As to Female Genital Mutilation, I have a perspective on it, as I have a daughter from Ethiopia, a place where female circumcision is practiced, and there was some suspicion that she had been circumcised. (Believe it or not, it's not al... (read more)

Empirical claims, preference claims, and attitude claims

I don't know how much to trust the Wikipedia article, but logical positivism, in its strong forms, is meaningless. That is, it is based on a proposition that by its own criteria, is not verifiable. However, what is truly valuable -- because I say so! -- is developing a recognition of what is verifiable and what is not. To go further and claim that unverifiable statements are therefore meaningless is to go too far.

A writer here wrote, about the statement "[JB] sucks." And another commented, what if "JB's music is objectively crappy music??&qu... (read more)

Empirical claims, preference claims, and attitude claims

Anyone who would propose "objectively crappy" isn't expressing rationality. There is no "objectively crappy," unless you have objective standards for "crappy," and apply them objectively.

I think Justin Bieber sucks.

I'm not going to tell my daughter that, because it's just my own reaction, and my daughter would kill me.

Okay, okay, she wouldn't kill me. She'd just tell me I'm an idiot. She'd be right.

I'm training her to distinguish between judgment and fact. It's a task, she's eleven. She does understand, when she's sane. But th... (read more)

0[anonymous]8yThis is my provisional position about aesthetics: aesthetics is a two-place word [] (“X likes Y”), but for human Xi's, “X1 likes Y”, “X2 likes Y”, “X3 likes Y” etc. are correlated with one another. Therefore, one could draw a network like Network 1 in “Neural Categories []” with the nodes labelled “X1 likes Y”, “X2 likes Y”, “X3 likes Y” etc.; but such a network would be infeasible to compute, so one can approximate it with a network like Network 2 with the central node labelled “Y is beautiful”. This is usually useful, but breaks down outside the domain of applicability of the approximation, i.e. when considering stuff that lots of people like and lots of people hate such as Justin Bieber's music; but even then, a smaller Network 2-type network with only aesthetic judgements of a certain group of people (e.g. musicians, or people like lukeprog [] who've heard lots of different music, or people with IQ above 130, or whatever) may (or may not) be useful.
1BerryPick68yI upvoted you, partially because I agree with you, but also because I liked that you gave an actual real-world scenario and it helped me understand the issue more clearly.
-1Peterdjones8ySo it's not objective, unless it is. How do you know there aren't objective standards?
Empirical claims, preference claims, and attitude claims

For example, how do you classify your very first (meta-)claim: "None of them are falsifiable claims about the nature of reality." Is it an opinion?

The snarky answer: It's not a falsifiable claim.

Any claim might be falsifiable if it is adequately specified, so that it becomes testable. If a claim, as stated, isn't falsifiable, it might become so through specification. The author hints at this with:

"Justin Bieber sucks". There are a few ways we could interpret this as shorthand for a different claim.

And some of the "different... (read more)

Rationality Quotes November 2012

China forces everyone to use it.

Oversimplified. One-child policy. I have an adopted Chinese daughter, I went to China for the adoption in 2002, and I talked about the policy with Chinese working for the adoption agency.

"Artificial birth control" is one method by which Chinese might avoid unwanted children, but if anyone is forced to use it, that's not official by the government. However, there were isolated, unofficial actions taken by local officials, sometimes, cases of forced abortion.

See also Two-child policy.

Normal enforcement of the pol... (read more)

Bayes for Schizophrenics: Reasoning in Delusional Disorders

And frankly, looking at the world that way, I think I'd rather be dead than continue to perform in this environment. So all my attempts at "motivation" and "effort" get tainted by that evaluation.

A certain kind of personal trap has been laid out and described, quite well. There is a set of ideas or "takes" on reality that have been accepted as real, but ideas and takes are never real. The error is widespread and normal, even encouraged, but when the content goes awry, the results can be devastating.

The key in the above stat... (read more)

Firewalling the Optimal from the Rational

I pointed to sources that contain huge lists of sources, including such studies. Some of what I pointed to is free. There is no need to reproduce this here. The relevance here is to cascades, which occur without "conspiracies."

A common response to a cascade being pointed out is to call the observer a "conspiracy theorist," and that happens even if no conspiracy has been alleged. That people might be unconsciously motivated by issues of reputation and "face" is just what's so for human beings.

I mentioned funding and was explici... (read more)

0aceofspades8yI agree that low carb diets are an effective means of weight loss relative to low fat diets for people in the aggregate. I do not agree that they are in the aggregate better for reducing mortality than DASH, and I think my personal health is optimized by eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, and lean protein and avoiding all else.
2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey

Hm. When I originally read your description of solving the matrices, it seemed to me like your algorithm was shaped the wrong way- I would look at the matrix, identify the transformation, predict what the right answer would be, and then find it in the options. (I only used serious thought and hypothesis falsification on the last question.) Now I'm less confident that I understand my algorithm for identifying the transformation.

That loss of confidence is a clue that you are understanding the process better.

How do you "identify the transformation&quo... (read more)

2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey

There is little doubt in my mind that there is an age-related shift. Calling it "bad" would be shallow. There is a trade-off.

I don't see it as a difference in "ability to solve," but rather as a difference in the speed with which untrained heuristics can be used. That could be related to the effect I've long noticed, a marked decline in an ability to multiprocess, to handle multiple independent threads or processes. If solving the matrix involves testing a large number of possibilities, the more that can be tested at once, the faster th... (read more)

0Vaniver8yIt certainly beats the alternative! Hm. When I originally read your description of solving the matrices, it seemed to me like your algorithm was shaped the wrong way- I would look at the matrix, identify the transformation, predict what the right answer would be, and then find it in the options. (I only used serious thought and hypothesis falsification on the last question.) Now I'm less confident that I understand my algorithm for identifying the transformation.
Meta: What do you think of a karma vote checklist?

I'm not sure it will do much good, but here is the post, and this is a permanent link to the discussion as it stands now. This was a goodbye post, to AD, one of the seemingly saner members of the RationalWiki community, an elected moderator. There is a link in my goodbye post back to AD's comment in a discussion that included history, but that's a lot more than I expect people here to be interested in. Suffice it to say that the user has a history of being exactly what he says he is, a highly effective troll. He says "professional."

(To understan... (read more)

Meta: What do you think of a karma vote checklist?

A "public vote system" has been used for centuries in standard deliberative process. You go to a Town Meeting and think that a question should not be considered, and you so move, and that is subject to immediate and very public vote. Private voting systems have been used and often have an abusive effect. Such systems, in standard process, when allowed, generally require a supermajority. Elections are an exception, where secret ballots are standard.

Much comment here seems to assume yes/no on "private." It's possible to collect data on &q... (read more)

Meta: What do you think of a karma vote checklist?

By the way, setting up a "reason" option, is an excellent idea, properly implemented. It could be a checklist, with one option being to enter a specific explanation. This then becomes metacomment, only in-the-face of those concerned to look at it. Layering.

Meta: What do you think of a karma vote checklist?

I'm new here and might not understand the present karma system completely or correctly. I like it, in certain ways, but I also know, from long internet history, that systems like this can be abused.

A well-known and acknowledged internet troll just openly threatened (on RationalWiki, where I've retired) to come here and harass me. I know what he does. I'm not concerned about argument from him, the karma system will handle that. However, he will also do these things, it can be predicted:

*He will look at all my past contributions and will down-vote them as mu... (read more)

1Emile8yCould you give a link?
Logical Pinpointing

I don't have an answer to the specific question, only to the class of questions. To approach understanding this, we need to distinguish between reality and what points to reality, i.e, symbols. Our skill as humans is in the manipulation of symbols, as a kind of simulation of reality, with greater or lesser workability for prediction, based in prior observation, of new observations.

"Apples" refers, internally, to a set of responses we created through our experience. We respond to reality as an "apple" or as a "set of apples," o... (read more)

2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey

Interesting, Friendly-HI. I was pointing to something distinct from both. In the Wikipedia article, "crystallized intelligence" is not about "knowledge," per se, but is something integrated. What has shifted for me is "fast," when it comes to a series of new analyses of my sensory input. I'm not that kind of fast any more. However, "depth" appears to have increased.

To me, it's important that I distinguish my accumulated experience from "truth." It's just my accumulated experience, my past. The present and future remain open, as long as I'm alive.

Rationality Quotes November 2012

What I've observed in myself about reports of "God" doing something I'll describe as "insufficient curiosity." I have frequently not asked how the person identified the source as "God."

White beard, what? No, I've assumed, way too easily, that their actual experience doesn't matter.

And this could also be quite interesting if the person is a mathematician. Depends on what is more important to us, solving the unsolved math problem, and perhaps understanding heuristics, or coming up with evidence that something unexpected is going on. Can't explain it? Goddidit. Q.E.D.

Digging the Bull's Horn

The key is confirmed experimental results that are other than predicted by established theory. When theory is very well established, there is a tendency to out-of-hand dismiss contradictory results as probable errors. Sometimes that "theory of error" is accepted without the errors ever being identified. This especially can happen if there is mixed success in confirmation, which can happen when a phenomenon is not understood and is difficult to set up.

Nuclear physics is such a field, where quantum mechanics is incredibly successful at making accur... (read more)

Rationality Quotes November 2012

I suggest the downvoting was due to quibbling about the word "moral" when:

The usage was peripheral, the more active phrase there was "technological progress." But "moral progress" does have a referent, morality is merely as perceived, it's subjective, that's all. Konkvistador, "moral progress" is something made up by Earth monkeys, and only applies to Earth monkeys dealing with Earth monkeys.

It may have no meaning for one who is not an Earth monkey.

The conclusion, the point of the quote, was ignored. That conclusion ... (read more)

Firewalling the Optimal from the Rational

In comments on this thread, the issue of diet and "consensus" came up. Why I consider this topic important here, quite in line with what EY asserted in his post, is shown in this New York Times column by John Tierney.

The issue is not this or that alleged fact. ("Saturated Fat is Harmful," or "Saturated Fat is Good" or even "We don't know") The issue is how we know what we know, and what we don't know, and how individual and social fallacies lead to possible error.

Tierney writes about cascades, social phenomena that c... (read more)

Firewalling the Optimal from the Rational

For some of the other side, see a review of Taube's latest book, "Why We Get Fat".

The author is Harriet Hall, supposedly a skeptic, but what I can see in the review is a set of assumptions that are, for her, unchallenged. Small example: salt. A few people with high blood pressure may benefit from salt reduction. Most people don't. Some people may be harmed.

Taubes again in the New York Times, Salt, We Misjudged You.

The summary:

This attitude that studies that go against prevailing beliefs should be ignored on the basis that, well, they go against p... (read more)

Firewalling the Optimal from the Rational

Okay, read Taubes' article in the New York Times, "What if it's all been a big fat lie?". That's ten years old, there has been research published since then, but nothing to change the basic conclusions.

I suggest reading it before the rest here!

The organizations are not "scientific." They are largely political creatures, and how they are funded can be an issue. If cholesterol is not the problem, what happens to the statin drug market? But I don't know that recommendations are driven by funding.

Taubes is a thorough science writer, a skept... (read more)

0aceofspades8yThis pattern-matches exactly to everything else conspiracy theory related I have ever read, and by that I mean it misinterprets the relative incentives. You speak of organizations that apparently face financial loss if they turn out to be wrong, but you provide no convincing reason for why they would lose funding if they revised their positions due to new evidence. You also don't mention the huge profits an organization would surely make if it provided compelling evidence for how to actually lower the risk of the largest cause of death in the United States. In particular: -I'm not going to read a book rather than reading the results of randomized, controlled trials or meta-analyses of many such studies. -You say you "could point to studies." Then do it.
2Abd9yFor some of the other side, see a review of Taube's latest book, "Why We Get Fat" []. The author is Harriet Hall, supposedly a skeptic, but what I can see in the review is a set of assumptions that are, for her, unchallenged. Small example: salt. A few people with high blood pressure may benefit from salt reduction. Most people don't. Some people may be harmed. Taubes again in the New York Times, Salt, We Misjudged You [] . The summary: This attitude that studies that go against prevailing beliefs should be ignored on the basis that, well, they go against prevailing beliefs, has been the norm for the anti-salt campaign for decades. Maybe now the prevailing beliefs should be changed. The British scientist and educator Thomas Huxley, known as Darwin’s bulldog for his advocacy of evolution, may have put it best back in 1860. “My business,” he wrote, “is to teach my aspirations to conform themselves to fact, not to try and make facts harmonize with my aspirations.” What Taubes encounters: Gary Taubes is a Blowhard [] Center for Science in the Public Interest [] These critics have in common that they misrepresent Taubes. He's raising possibilities, not claiming proof. However, what Taubes points to is the possibility that what they have been advocating for decades might be harming people. This is unthinkable. He must be wrong, so they will find every flaw, real or imagined, ignoring the central problem, that sound research has never done more than imply possible harm, and that at best reduced salt, for normal people, may have a tiny effect on longevity, and, in the other direction, may have serious consequences, increasing mortality. People who
Firewalling the Optimal from the Rational

There is a lot of really bad "science" out there on diet, there was a political decision made in the 1970s to promote low-fat diets, in spite of what most scientists thought. For a detailed story on this, and on what is known about fat and carbohydrates in diet, I suggest Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories.

While little about diet is certain, the bulk of the scientific evidence is that "high saturated fat intake," in the context of a low-carbohydrate diet, does not increase real cardiac risk. On the contrary, high-fat low-carb di... (read more)

-1aceofspades9yWould you mind linking to this research that shows low carb diets lower cardiac risk factors? All I really know about the matter is that in the aggregate people who actually study diet generally conclude that Atkins-like diets are not optimal for health. In particular, the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control, the American Heart Association, and the World Health Organization all seem to conclude that saturated fats directly increase cardiovascular risk. You're also arguing against anything said by these organizations when discussing highly processed carbs. DASH specifically recommends making at least half of grains consumed whole, and the implication seems to be that the ideal would be eating no refined grains.
2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey

The URL is incorrect, the comma at the end should be removed. Here is the page

2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey

Well, when I went back and looked at a couple of problems, I was able to solve them, so far. It was definitely, then, an issue of time. (When I find the solution, I expect, it is completely clear and the missing frame is fully specified, and it's reasonably simple. I.e., "obvious in retrospect," as you wrote.)

I do know, independently, that my "multiprocessing" abilities have declined, and that these would be likely be important to any algorithm for solving these problems. I'm sure I could improve my time with practice.

Thanks for your kind thoughts and for the link. I'll check it out.

0MixedNuts9yBuilding on what TimS said, I would make a lot fewer assumptions if you explained things as you would to a toddler rather than express complex ideas in five highly ambiguous words and then complain I didn't interpret each word exactly the way you meant to. You still haven't answered the question of why nature looks a whole lot like it has laws. Even if true, how can you possibly know that the model we have tested ten thousand times and confirmed each time is a surface model and not the truth? Disagree. First, a probabilistic law is still a law; take nondeterministic Turing machines for example. Second, with the exception of some interpretations of QM, probabilistic models claim to be approximations of the true (or still approximate but a level deeper) laws when the human trying to use it lacks information or time to compute. Sometimes we find nature disobeying situation A's law in situation B, but there always turns out to be a law that governs A, B, and C. Clearly we're not using "believe" the same way. I call bullshit. Physicists catch exceptions to current theories all the time, and then work hard to find where it came from, and either devise new theories or fix the loose cable in their setup. Where's the list of exceptions discovered by mysterians? You should probably interpret it as "what most reductionists advocate" and use "the version of reductionism I think is right" for the other thing, if you hope to talk to people who call themselves reductionists without making them shout "What the actual fuck?".
0TimS9yIn the abstract, there's nothing incoherent about using others' technical vocabulary with different meanings. But: 1) You are misleading yourself if you think you are communicating effectively with them. 2) Your statements about their positions will make no sense to them. 3) It comes off as quite arrogant - essentially you are asserting you know better how a concept works without even attempting to justify the assertion (or even noticing that such an assertion is necessary) If Eliezer says he is a reductionist1 and you say he is not a reductionist2, you haven't done anything particularly clever or praiseworthy.
Uncritical Supercriticality

This "general understanding" might be so for some (most?) in the LW community, but my prior on that is, like, highly unlikely that a single individual in a few words has "adequately dealt" with centuries of human experience and thought and inquiry. What is quite possible is that EY has addressed certain outlines of the subject;.Generally I'm in agreement with him, but also see certain unexplored points. I'm continuing to read, and as I read more, I find both more agreement and more of what I usually call "edges."

I wouldn't dre... (read more)

Uncritical Supercriticality

Thanks, shminux. Yes, you understood me. I do get the sense, though, that MixedNuts is getting it. We'll see.

Uncritical Supercriticality

Yes. If accurate, unambiguous communication is the purpose, that's true, though for that purpose, even in English, terms must be specifically defined for context. Jargon. Seems to me that this happens around here.

If a different form of communication is the purpose, such as with poetry, Arabic might even be optimal.

However, the Qur'an does explain why it's in Arabic. It's because Muhammad was Arab. And so was his community.

Did you notice the place where I mentioned that each of the seven "dialects" (sets of meanings for words) and the seven "... (read more)

0RichardKennaway9yWell, duh. For the same reason, the Torah is in Hebrew, the New Testament was originally in Greek, and the Buddhist scriptures were originally in Pali. It's almost as if, to communicate an idea to people, you have to express it in their language. Fancy that! I did, but I lack your faith in the value of ambiguity and obscurity, regarding them instead as deepity engines.
Uncritical Supercriticality

Is this specific to the Arabic language, or is it just the mismatch there will be between any two languages?

It's not specific to Arabic, but Arabic is particularly amenable to such wide interpretation.

I note that Christians take a completely different view of their sacred text: it must be provided to everyone in their own language, the better for them to understand it.

Well, what Christians? Some Christians do insist on studying the "relatively original" texts.

And the problem Christians face is different. To some extent, they don't have the... (read more)

0shminux9yI'd caution against creating a TLP on virtues of Islam, or any other religion for that matter. While it might be obvious to you that Islam is like nothing else, the inferential gap to the LW community is basically uncrossable, so you will only get whacked again. The general understanding is that Eliezer has adequately dealt with faith and religion when discussing belief in belief, and that Reductionism does not need faith, let alone any specific religion or scripture. I am guessing that the inferential gap works the other way, too: you likely misunderstand some of the standard ideas accepted and discussed here. It would be a good exercise in rational thinking to identify and analyze such inferential gaps between you and the more mainstream LWers.
2RichardKennaway9yIf communication is the purpose, that is a defect, not a virtue.
Uncritical Supercriticality

I don't know that we diverge. We have not discussed this. Do remember, above, that I said that the difference between a theist and atheist was only a thin space. It might not even be an important space. However, that could depend on what he means by "atheist" and what I mean by "Muslim," which has been the whole point of this discussion, coming as commentary on EY's "Uncritical Supercriticality."

His post seems to me to be about this problem we have of making assumptions about people and positions from affliiations, and what am... (read more)

0shminux9yYou are most welcome, though my assessment of our exchange is less glowing, given that neither of us changed their worldview to any significant degree.
Uncritical Supercriticality

So, your deity-like thing is distributed among human brains, and synchronizes by communication between humans?

Okay, this is a "deity-like thing." It's not a deity. It's a thing. I gave examples showing the arising of something more than individual intelligence, and by that I mean immediate intelligence, not something built up (like the collection of experimental reports -- which is another kind of intelligence).

Once when attending Mass a a child, I felt like I was connected to some unfathomable entity, and connected through it to the other

... (read more)
1MixedNuts9yDo you mean "Reality" as in "this stick of deodorant, and this penguin, and this meson, and this symphony, and this greengrocer, and so on"? Because it is pretty cool, and everything in it has ties of various natures and strengths to everything else which is pretty cool to, and totally has the number two spot on the list of things I worship. (Number one is the ability to feel worshippy-awed emotions. Bootstraps.) But it seems to want things like "quantum evolution should be unitary", not things like "no child should be driven to suicide". I admire the set-of-things-that-exist, but I don't approve of it. Yes, it contains moral agents, and those agents have to change it from the inside because there's no outside, but it also contains shitty parts. Can't see why I should be accepting the whole deal. Dude. You need separate words for "believing it exists" and "not shrieking 'Augh kill it with fire'". Of course if I pretend the stove can't burn people it won't be harmless. That doesn't mean I'm fine with the stove burning people. Behaving as if a model works is most of what I mean by "belief" in the first place. Sure, don't get overattached to a model, and keep checking it. I'm not sure I get it. If you mean "Whatever happens is what reality wants to happen", then clearly reality only ever wants the force to be equal to the charge times the electric field or something. Yeah, fine, it also wants some people to have a desire to eradicate malaria and a good shot at succeeding after a few millennia. But since it can do anything, why didn't it want malaria not to exist in the first place? If your answer is along the lines of "It can't decide to want stuff", please explain why it's something you like rather than an extremely shiny toy. If it's along the lines of "It decided that way", please explain why it's something you like rather than an unspeakably evil cosmic monster. If it's along the lines of "Foolish mortal, your talk of 'good' and 'evil' is a mere human illusion
Uncritical Supercriticality

Where did you get this "disembodied" from?

Dichotomy. Either it's embodied, and I want to know where and why it can be called "reality's intelligence" rather than "several billion entirely unrelated intelligences", or it's not and I want to know how that works.

Aristotelian logic, right? Look at the assumption:

"entirely unrelated." Where did that come from? If they are intelligent, and if the Reality that they encounter is connected, they are not unrelated.

Something is missing here. There is an intelligence that ... (read more)

0MixedNuts9ySo, your deity-like thing is distributed among human brains, and synchronizes by communication between humans? Once when attending Mass a a child, I felt like I was connected to some unfathomable entity, and connected through it to the other people in the church. Is that anything like what you're referring to? (The other people were actually bored out of their skulls and discreetly making fun of the prayers. Probably a bad example.) So, yeah, if groups of appropriately behaving people can and do act as morally better and smarter than individuals, that's awesome and possibly worship-worthy. (Possibly because I worship anything that looks at me the right way, but still.) But I was under the impression that Islam involved a deity that created the universe, and had more power over it than a group of well-coordinated humans. (Like, programming an oven to announce floods.) The only way I see this claim could be salvaged is heavy solipsism (well, it's more like pluripsism in that case), that non-sentient objects are created by this hive mind. In which case, who's the asshole who decided on malaria?
Uncritical Supercriticality

Just an idea: you create the meaning. You see what you choose to see, when it comes to seeing "meaning."

Huh, interesting. Why is the Qur'an then superior to the Bible, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Tintin, or a blank piece of paper?

Well, "superior" has a lost, unspecified standard. I've never encountered anything else like the Qur'an. It claims that it is not the first "message", and I can see traces elsewhere. However, the best alternative mentioned above is the "blank piece of paper." If you can receive the message ... (read more)

Uncritical Supercriticality

Stuff exists -- or appears to exist -- that many of us detest as human beings. That's obvious. What does this mean about Reality itself? It does demolish naive conceptions of Reality, for sure. Or of God. Same thing!

So what is the sophisticated answer that makes it okay? I've seen attempts, but they were less than convincing

"Okay" is a human judgment. Any story that makes it "okay" is a human story, invented, because "okay" does not exist in Reality, just as "not okay" does not exist.

So you aren't convinced by ... (read more)

3MixedNuts9yThanks for replying. Unfortunately I understand exactly nothing of what you wrote. Certainly "okay" is not fundamental. And certainly any judgement and subsequent action of something being okay or not is going to come from an okayness-judging being (that would be humans), which may be flawed. (And whether "okay" comes from humans or not is confusing, but not germane to my point.) But I'd be... surprised... if "okay" didn't refer to a thing that exists. Marlene is happily married and raises her long-awaited child. Manda died at seven in a freak accident. Those situations evoke strong emotions in me. I desire to create more situations like the former and fewer like the latter. I desire to ally with those who share such desires, and oppose those who don't. Is this mistaken? If you cut me, do I not bleed? Maybe the knife is a concept and the blood is an illusion, but I still want to know how the concept and illusion work. Well yeah, if you're telling me "Don't rage against malaria", you've got some splainin away to do. I don't understand the words and can't parse the sentence. Does "detestable" mean the usual stuff - people starving to death or being burned alive or dropping their ice cream on the sidewalk and so on? If not, can you give some examples? What do you mean by "acceptance"? Is it something like "Yes, I am lost in the wilderness - no whining about how terrifying that is, no denial about how likely I am to die, it's time to focus on survival alone."? If so, that's a beneficial attitude. But there's no trust or security here - you know on a gut level that bad things happen, and want them to stop happening. And you don't like the universe that lets such things happen. So unless you're arguing for "Reality is evil, burn it" that's either not what you mean or I'm missing a step.
2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey

I would be careful with the interpretation of your results.

Well, what I wrote was banter.

There are many kinds of intelligence. The test measures a particular kind, one that could probably be simulated (AI) with relative ease (I'm not saying it's easy, but that what is involved is a series of tests, trials, of possible transforms, and then a checking of transforms that work for simplicity. It's looking for an aha! pattern.

I know that I'm not as good at this now as I was when younger. A related example: I'm looking for my black waist pack, in my office, a... (read more)

0Vaniver8yHere's [] a 2010 Master's Thesis that does pretty well on it. I remember someone came up with a better algorithm in the last year, but I'm not finding it quickly.
1Friendly-HI8yAs age progresses, we also see a natural shift of intelligence from "fluid" to "crystallized" intelligence. The first kind is fast, adaptable and more creative, good for problem-solving, learning new things and pattern-recognition. The second kind is concerned with facts and knowledge, but also implicit knowledge/skills like how to drive a car. IQ tests really measure fluid intelligence, less so the crystallized kind. Some IQ tests have a few questions that probe your crystallized intelligence as well, like "What was the name of the ship Charles Darwin sailed on to the Galapagos islands?" (often with 4 answers to choose from). But usually you get very few questions like those, if any at all. Those two "kinds" of intelligence aren't completely independent though, as one would expect your fluid intelligence has a high impact on your crystallized knowledge. []
Uncritical Supercriticality

I don't think you don't mistrust Islam as a concept.

I mistrust all concepts, in theory.

In fact, of course, I rely on concepts in daily life. In practice, I trust some. But they are all suspect, because, compared to the pure possibility of emptiness, they limit us. We trade that loss for utility.

Concepts are great! But the map is not the territory. If I want to know the territory, I have to experience the territory, any map will distract me. If I have chosen to travel from A to B, then a map can be very useful.

Ideally, I have the map, I can plot a course... (read more)

2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey

question 26 only. rot13

Frcnengryl pbafvqre gur "znva yvar," naq gur npprffbel yvarf. Va rirel genafsbezngvba, gur znva yvar ebgngrf pbhagrepybpxjvfr 45 qrterrf. Gung yrnqf gb N, Q, naq R nf cbffvovyvgvrf. Va gur gjb iregvpny genafsbezngvbaf, gur npprffbel yvarf pbaarpg gb gur raqcbvagf bs gur znva yvar. Gung yrnirf bayl N. Gurer vf nyfb n pbafvfgrapl va gur ebgngvba bs gur fznyyre yvarf, ohg vg'f zber pbzcyrk gb rkcerff. Guvf vf yvxryl abg gur orfg nafjre.

In looking again at the survey, I answered no questions at all, and got an IQ score of 78. I... (read more)

0CuSithBell9yI agree with your analysis, and further: Gurer ner sbhe yvarf: gur gjb "ebgngvat" yvarf pbaarpgrq gb gur pragre qbg, naq gur gjb yvarf pbaarpgrq gb gur yrsg naq evtug qbgf. Gur pragre yvarf fgneg bhg pbaarpgrq gb gur fvqr qbgf, gura ebgngr pybpxjvfr nebhaq gur fdhner. Gur bgure yvarf NYFB ebgngr pybpxjvfr: gur yrsg bar vf pragrerq ba gur yrsg qbg, naq ebgngrf sebz gur pragre qbg qbja, yrsg, gura gb gur gbc, gura evtug, gura onpx gb gur pragre. Gur evtug yvar npgf fvzvyneyl.
2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey

Should we answer here? Some people are still taking the test. I have this issue with a number of comments in this thread. The instructions did not mention anything about reading the comments before taking the survey.

1[anonymous]9yIf you're concerned with that, you can use ROT-13. But yeah, we should have told people not to read comments before taking the survey.
Uncritical Supercriticality

I guess we should first agree on what the term "intelligent" means.


[edit: I didn't see an alternate meaning for what I wrote. I meant that it was smart to check for or seek agreement on the meaning, not that "intelligent" means "smart," a mere synonym.]

I do not have a good definition, but let's borrow the one given by Eliezer. It ought to be an instrumentally good one, given that constructing an intelligence (a "friendly" one) is his life's goal:

But relative to the space of low-entropy, highly regular go

... (read more)
1shminux9ySo, if you agree with EY's definition of intelligence, where do you think you two diverge, him being an atheist and you a Muslim?
Uncritical Supercriticality

Dude, you don't get to distrust "ism"s when you belong to an organized religion. Some even-handedness, please!

"Belong to an organized religion." Huh? Do they own me? MixedNuts thinks I don't mistrust "Islamism?" Where did that come from?

Therefore, I don't believe anyone who says "Maybe the true laws of nature aren't reductionist after all" if they can't show me an exception to current theories that looks non-reductionist.

Problem is, this is a non-reductionist point of view, because it asserts that a map is th... (read more)

1RichardKennaway9yYes. No. A few small parts of it do: human brains, to a lesser extent other animals, and that's it, as far as we've seen. There might also be intelligent aliens somewhere in the vastness. If that's enough to say that Reality has the quality of intelligence, it is also enough to say the Reality has the qualities of being inebriated, sober, radioactive, inert, rarefied, dense, at 3 degrees C, at 10 million degrees C, every possible colour and none. ETA: In other words, "Reality has the quality of intelligence" is a deepity []: true in a trivial sense and false in a trivial sense, but when the two senses are expressed by the same sentence, it sounds profound.
0MugaSofer9yHow? Incidentally, I suspect that you would not hold some of the beliefs you appear to hold if you had read the sequences. That's not a criticism as such, but still.
-2MixedNuts9yI don't think you don't mistrust Islam as a concept. I think you tackle the concepts directly, rather than adding an extra barrier of "this is an abstracted ideology, I don't buy those". You call yourself a Muslim, not an independent theologian with ideas from Islam. Well obviously, once you accept that everything else follows. What I'm asking is why you think that, give that it looks very lawful: objects fall down, energy is conserved, if a prediction is true on Monday it stays true on Tuesday, every exception to known rules turns out to obey deeper rules with practical consequences we can exploit. Why can't we just say "The thing has looked absolutely lawful for millenia, case closed"? ?!?!?? As I see it, the reduction that works best is "Here are the elementary particles, here are the laws that govern them, everything else follows from that. Maybe the particles and laws are also made of parts, we're still looking.". I can't see what's non-reductionist about natural laws - I'm not even sure reductions are possible without some laws, though they don't have to be as rigorous as ours look. Cell membranes are permeable to water, I contain cell membranes, I am not permeable to water. By "reality" we do mean the set of cell phones and pineapples and copies of Alice in Wonderland and horses and so on, right? Clearly, whether it's real-in-some-philosophical-sense or not, it contains intelligence: you, me, Deep Blue. But the whole set doesn't seem to be intelligent itself; to coordinate its intelligent parts into a higher-level structure, or to build intelligence out of non-intelligent parts. And if it's not an intelligent being that can make decisions, or even a perfectly lawful mechanism you can control if you understand it well enough, I have to stop asking why you trust it and ask what trusting it even means. I have no clue what I said that sounded even vaguely like that. I mean, I know at least two Muslims, so I can see there's no Muslim hive mind. And I said in
Uncritical Supercriticality

You are welcome, shminux. Since you used this collection of letters, "reductionism," and appear to posit that my view is "incompatible" with it, I looked it up. Yukdowsky's article, for starters. Aside from EY using the device of positing a series of stupid arguments to refute, and being a bit naive about what others "believe," when he actually gets to the definition, it seems quite like the way I think. In fact, if I hadn't noticed this many times, reading his work, I'd not be bothering with LW at all.

Yet I'm suspicious of an... (read more)

1shminux9yI guess we should first agree on what the term "intelligent" means. I do not have a good definition, but let's borrow the one given by Eliezer []. It ought to be an instrumentally good one, given that constructing an intelligence (a "friendly" one) is his life's goal: Now, I assume that your definition would not be identical to his, so feel free to express it here.
-2MixedNuts9yDude, you don't get to distrust "ism"s when you belong to an organized religion. Some even-handedness, please! I've seen a lot of things, like bananas, planes, philosophical dissertations, moods, religious experiences, and equations. In each case where I was able to look, I found that those things were made of parts, and that if you removed the parts and their interactions there was nothing left over. In each case where someone told me otherwise, they had no convincing evidence. Therefore, I don't believe anyone who says "Maybe the true laws of nature aren't reductionist after all" if they can't show me an exception to current theories that looks non-reductionist. You said earlier and talk about reality being intelligent. The way I understand your claim is a sort of pantheism, where the universe is an intelligent, divine being. (I know very little of Muslim worldviews but that's not the sort of theological claim I associate with Islam.) I can see the appeal, but if there's intelligence, where's the brain? I've never seen intelligence that didn't come from a very specific kind of structure. Show me how the universe has that structure, or why the mountains of evidence against disembodied intelligence are invalid. You also said Augh what the fuck is wrong with you, reality kills 150000 people everyday and does nothing against torture, why would you ever trust it? On an unrelated note, which bits of the Qur'an struck you most? I've tried to read the thing several times, but it's even more boring that the genealogical parts of the Bible, and all I've gathered so far is "OBEY", which is right there in the name, and platitudes like "Be just, don't be evil".
Uncritical Supercriticality

I read Carrier. Interesting.

Reality, for me, is either Theostoa (without the ether construct) or SuperTheostoa, and I can't distinguish them, and I can't imagine how to distinguish them. Any mental thingie that might be ascribed to SuperTheostoa might be a not-understood, non-mental characteristic of Theostoa.

But both Theostoa and SuperTheostoa are covered by the word Reality. Aside from reality, there is nothing. When we "worship" other than Reality, we are led astray, leading me to the credo of Islam. Laa ilaaha illa 'llah, there is no object-w... (read more)

2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey

Took the IQ test. Humbling. Score 110.

IQ test in high school, 156. SAT 793/800 verbal, 783/800 math. Cal Tech. Yatta yatta. But that was many years ago. It's pretty obvious what happened. Timed test. I only finished, in the time, about 2/3 - 3/4 of the questions, maybe a bit more, I didn't keep count. (I skipped questions that weren't popping up right away, thinking I'd come back. Didn't have time.)

I'm 68 years old. I used to be able to hold a conversation on the phone and read a book at the same time, about something completely different. That disappeared... (read more)

0johnlawrenceaspden9yI wouldn't be humbled just yet, especially if you found some of the problems impossible rather than complicated but doable. A lot of people seem to have got unexpectedly low scores on this test. (And no-one's said 'Wow I usually do really badly on IQ tests but that one gave me a great score') Go and read [] (don't look at the answers, just the methods) and then go back and redo the test. I imagine you'll then get a much higher score. Then go and work out exactly what and why the answers on that test are as they are. (Perla has missed some of the explanations, but it's very satisfying to work out what the answers actually are. They're all perfectly logical and obvious-in-retrospect). After that you should be reasonably confident that you'll do very well on any similar tests in future. What that tells you about the nature of IQ tests and their calibration is debatable.
2Friendly-HI9yI would be careful with the interpretation of your results. It is very uncommon to loose 46 points even over a whole lifetime, given the assumption that nothing bad happened to your brain. Intelligence is one of, if not even the most stable personality trait known to psychology. That is why losing more than two standard deviations without any apparent reason apart from ageing should be treated as a less likely explanation than either of the following ones: You were compared to the wrong age group. An IQ of 100 is defined as the mean score for your age group. So if you were compared to people in their 20-30's that would easily explain the unfavorable result. Your test score needs to be compared to 68 year olds (or perhaps 65 to 70 year old people). It's quite safe to say however, that you got slower compared to your younger self and other young people for that matter. Here is another explanation that may fit very nicely to your score pattern. [] Excerpt: But a rather curious situation occurs when we examine the scores of gifted students on these various sets of norms. In 1960, a five-year-old achieving a mental age of 8.0 would have had an IQ score of 165. In 1972, that same raw score only yielded an IQ of 153, a difference of 12 points. Differences between the Stanford-Binet Revision IV, published in 1986, and the 1972 norms appear to be at least 13.5 points in the moderately gifted range (Thorndike, Hagen & Sattler, 1986), which would bring the same child's score down below 140. This is a loss of one IQ point per year from 1960 to 1986 for children in the gifted range. In this 26 year period, average students needed to obtain only 8 more points to make up for the average gains in intelligence of the general population, whereas gifted children needed to obtain over 25 more points to match previous scores * 1 1/2 standard deviations of IQ. This seems like an u
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