All of akshatrathi's Comments + Replies

I'm working on

1) Synthesising biologically active and structurally challenging molecules for my PhD. See link.

2) Relaxing Stories iPhone app: The app is able to relax the user in under five minutes by listening to visually enhanced stories read by soothing voices.

3) Science communication: Writing about latest advances in chemistry for a wider audience. Also, reaching out other graduate students and institutes to get involved in communicating science.

Another explanation is motivated bias; we feel good thinking well of ourselves and badly of others, and because of that don't look very critically at our positive claims about ourselves

Surely there must be more than the reason that you give.

I enjoyed your article and as a scientist, I've been interested to understand this: what seems an intuitive method to use to solve a scientific problem is not seen as an intuitive method while solving 'other' problems.

By 'other', I mean things like psychological problems or problems that arise from conflicts amongst people. It may be obvious why it is not 'intuitive' but what goes beyond my understanding is most will not even consider using the scientific method for the latter types of problem ever.

The zero-sum bias seems to be also responsible for the the concept of karma which is a ubiquitous concept (not just amongst Hindus). The roots of this can be found in the ancient religious texts like the Bhagvad Gita and go on to support what multifoliatrose says in the post.

But if karma was how the world worked games would tend towards having higher, not lower, absolute sums.

The different emotions permitted for different sexes could well be because of evolutionary reasons not just social reasons.

That's a really nice view to have on emotions. And frankly, I've known it all along but never put it the way you have. Cheers!

What bothers me is that in case of 'emotional expressions' in a profession, it is possible to fake it and am sure we have seen examples of such (hypocrites) in our life. But may be in a given situation it is rational to fake it.

PS: Could you give the source of the Hitler example?

Whenever I notice myself thing "I knew that all along," it reminds me to check for hindsight bias. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. It's one of the easier biases to catch, once you have that cached pattern set up.
It sounds plausible, but I think its something of a premature conclusion. Consider how one would best fake an emotion: simply by motivating oneself to feel that way. Faking an expression is much much harder than simply choosing a field that matches your own moods and preferences. The reason we see people who don't appear genuine in high ranking positions as well as very low ones is that they are motivated by something other than the above, a drive for excellence or desperation where feelings do become a tool, but thinking in terms of the majority its easier to assume convention and self-discipline makes most peoples professionalism indistinguishable from any other motivator they might feel.

Interesting piece.

I agree with Drahflow and utilitymonster here though. An argument needs to be made in the context of the audience. Unnecessary details about an argument may dilute the effect of your speech. And stating the obvious (which it may be to the audience) makes one look like an arrogant guy, who is assuming that the audience wouldn't know.

Yet, I agree with you in the example you give about being truthful to kids. Making an argument based on truth and stating that truth may be a good way of dealing with kids. And as you claim it is showing in their development.

Say you survive the next 20 years and say your probability to die in the 20 years hence be < 10%. Would you sign up for cryonics then? If not, what is that probability of death which will make you sign up for cryonics?

PS: How did you come up with the probability of < 1% about your own death?

3mattnewport13y []

I second Michael's question

I've resolved not to die before my parents do, because I don't want them to suffer the grief my death would cause.

How would you make sure that will not happen?

I'll rephrase. I've resolved not to die voluntarily before my parents do.

Does a fighter plane have a black box, like the one that is there in passenger planes?

Yet in health, we see action as inherently dangerous; while in economics, we see inaction as inherently dangerous. Why?

That is a very good point, I must appreciate that you noticed it. I would say that one of the reasons that happens is because people resist change. In health, any action would mean there could be something wrong that can happen. Thus, it is made a mandate that every possible wrong be checked before such an action takes place. Hence, the inherent danger in action.

Where as in case of economics, actions are usually taken to stop a change ... (read more)

I suspect that a lot of it has to do with how much control people imagine that they have in economics vs. health. Economics is just a lot of people making choices. This leads many to imagine that, to fix any economic problem, we just need to get everyone to make the right choices. Indeed, the "get everyone to" part is often elided, and so we imagine that "we just need to make the right choices". Thus, doing the right thing is naturally imagined as something within our power. Any economic problem can be solved; it's just a matter of will. There is therefore a bias towards action. On the other hand, most people accept that much of their health is beyond anyone's control. They accept, for example, that no one can keep them from dying. Since they acknowledge that some bad health states cannot be solved, they fear putting themselves into such a state. On the other hand, the body usually appears to work just fine without any intervention (e.g., your heart beats without anyone consciously making it do so). There is therefore a bias against action.

I believe that scientists can change fields easily and sometimes make bigger impact in the new fields they enter. I think it’s because people who move do not look at the same problem from the traditional point-of-view. This enables us to come up with unique solutions. We are not trapped by dogma and if we are bold we can rise quickly.

-- Aubrey de Grey

He may have, for his own reasons, not been happy with the ease with which he achieved something great. His selfishness at this point is not for the fact that he may still be able to contribute to the field and yet he chooses not to but for the fact that he will be happier if he had to work harder on something before achieving greatness. That is his value system. I think his choice is justifiable.

Sure, but it's also reasonable for him to think that contributing something that was much harder would be that much more of a contribution to his goal (whatever those selfish or non-selfish goals are), after all, something hard for him would be much harder or impossible for someone less capable.

The second advantage claimed for naturalism is that it is equivalent to rationality, because it assumes a model of reality in which all events are in principle accessible to scientific investigation.

-- Phillip E. Johnson

I feel dirty now.

So few of us really think. What we do is rearrange our prejudices.

-- George Vincent

--Napoleon Bonaparte; quoted by his secretary in Memoirs of Napoleon (1829-1831)

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.

-- Albert Einstein

7Paul Crowley13y
Many quotes are widely attributed to Einstein. Please provide chapter and verse on when and where he said this.
"It is always disconcerting to disagree with Einstein." Nevertheless, I think I disagree with this; or at least believe it is vague enough to be abused.

The point of this post was to show that persisting at something while being irrational can only cause harm. Of course, "Never give up" is not bad advice, but Eliezer's advice is be rational and accept defeat when you need to.

I must stress here the point that I appreciate clarity, order, meaning, structure, rationality: they are necessary to whatever provisional stability we have, and they can be the agents of gradual and successful change.

-- A. R. Ammons

However, they are not any more boring than making DNA sequences, and that's the current aim of most living systems.

Making a DNA sequence will count as (an extremely low level activity) [] which is necessary to support non-boring activities. It is a very simple argument that these are the very activity we stop thinking about and concentrate on novel activities.


"You might want to get some coffee."

I find this the most humorous bit in the post. Smarter than Yudokowsky? May be.

I quite like your point, now that you put it minus the rigidity. Your argument, first looked like what SilasBarta said. But I agree with you on trying to make this debating smarter.

There is certainly scope to improve the way comments are structured at lesswrong. May be showing who voted up a comment would be a good start. Then we can move to associating certain messages with a group of people who agree to that point. And yes, it is important to maintain flexibility while making these changes.

Given that we're not supposed to be using voting to express agreement or disagreement, I propose that a second voting system should be put in place if we go this route.

I've joined KGS. Look forward to playing GO!

I'll create one, should be either under "new rooms" or "social", named "LessWrong". To help those interested, KGS is an acronym for Kiseido Go Server, url is [], where you can either download a java app or use the one with your browser. Registering is not needed. So, let's hope something good comes out of this.

During a sleep experiment, I used to record my mental performance by a simple arithmetic game. Start with a 3 digit number, subtract 9, then 8, then on. Time yourself in the task. If the result is ±3 seconds to my average score, means I am quite active.

That reminds me of "counting doubles" from Ender's Game: 2, 4, 8, 16 ... etc until you lose track.

If we're taking the US as a reference point, I would argue that adults should be punished a lot less for most crimes...

Could you elaborate?

A well made argument. Particularly agree to the one-size-fits-all argument.

Our evolution as mammals has forced us to protect our young ones for the survival of our species. The concerns CronoDAS has made are from the perspective of a modern society, especially that of western countries. Even now, millions of kids in third-world countries do not have the option to choose most of the things in that list. In such a situation, more responsible adults need to make a decision on behalf of the children and make available whatever they can for their own benefit.

So... when your willpower is all gone, you continue doing the activity with... what?

Although, I have no desire to do it, I force myself to do it. So it can be argued that it is till your willpower to do it. But this willpower is not for the activity but for the sheer reason of doing a little more of an activity. Thus, this willpower is orthogonal to the willpower of doing the activity.

An article in the NY times is an interesting read, mentions something close to my technique.

Children ought to have fundamentally lower status, not just because they're children per se, but because they're stupid and useless.

I am not a parent myself but I've been told a lot of times by my parents and others that they have learnt a great deal from children. Thus, calling them useless is not fair.

Also, even now children in rural India are treated as future bread-earners. Thus, taking care of them and helping them grow is seen as an advantage to the parents.

Stupid, yes they may be but then weren't we all?

I'm going to be talking about more mundane situations, and the point I want to make is that beliefs are very different objects from the act of communicating those beliefs.

Isn't this what happens in a courtroom drama? The lawyers bend facts by the way they communicate it to maximize the utility of their argument. I haven't observed a real court case but can come up with scores of examples from bollywood movies!

I believe it is possible to increase one's willpower reserve. I follow a simple technique to that effect. Every time my willpower to do something is over, I stretch myself to do that activity a little longer. Next time, I find myself stretching it beyond that and so on until I have a sufficient reserve of willpower for that activity.

So... when your willpower is all gone, you continue doing the activity with... what?

I believe that each individual's store of willpower is different. May be you are one of those individuals with a huge reserve and thus don't find it a limited resource.

Thanks for the welcome. I had a few simple questions. How to get bullet points in comments? How to make text into hyperlinks? and How to get that blue line on the left margin when quoting something?

Much of it is explained by the text that appears when you click the "Help" link below the comment. (Look below the text window at the right.) But to do those three things specifically: 1. Bulletted lists: Put an asterisk (*) at the beginning of each line corresponding to an item on the list. Edit: You may need to put a space after the asterisk. 2. Hyperlinks: Put the text you want visible in square brackets, then immediately after (no space) the URL in parentheses. Thus: [Three Worlds Collide]( []) becomes Three Worlds Collide []. 3. Blockquotes: Put a greater-than (>) sign at the beginning of each quoted line (including blank lines between paragraphs). The full specification of the Markdown Syntax [] has more detail.
Comments use markdown formatting []. It's very similar to how one might format an email.
  • Name: Akshat Rathi
  • Location: Oxford, UK
  • Age: 22
  • Education: B. Tech (Pharmaceutical Chemistry & Technology), currently studying towards a D. Phil. in Organic Chemistry

I grew up in India but in a family where religion was never forced on the individual. I think I became a rationalist the day I started countering superstition and its evils through reasoning. Now as a scientist I find myself rationalising every experimental outcome. As a chemist, I get angry every so often when I have to settle for an empirical outcome over a rational one.

I was introdu... (read more)

Welcome! I'm sure we'll be glad to get your input. Incidentally, if you're interested in checking out some of the posts, there are a couple places which are quite good to start: * The About page [], which has a list of sample posts, mostly written by Eliezer Yudkowsky and imported from Overcoming Bias, and * The Top Rated page [], which includes many very good posts from the recent, Less Wrong era.

I am sure that I must've done this as well.

I have to keep constant vigilance not to do this myself!

A documented example would definitely be appreciated so that we know what we are looking for in a particular situation. Otherwise getting stuck in this loop of winning arguments by double-counting evidence is very easy.

Furthermore, my experience with smart people strongly suggests that they are less likely to develop that capacity.

I agree. The students with the highest IQ in my high school are not the ones who are most successful in life now.