All of Aleksander's Comments + Replies

3) Digital blueprints of preserved brains are made available for anyone to download. Large numbers of simulations are run by kids learning how to use the simulation APIs, folks testing poker bots, web search companies making me read every page on the Internet to generate a ranking signal, etc. etc.

And even if you do, then the only viewpoint you will have really falsified is one which postulates that (a) the state vector collapse is caused by consciousness, and (b) concludes that therefore any consciousness has to do the trick, even one simulated on a quantum computer. I have met exactly zero physicists who'd treat (a) seriously, but even if you believe in (a), (b) still doesn't need to follow (someone could believe that only real human brain makes the magic happen).

(I assume you were referring to experiment 3. from Deutsch's "Three experimental implications of the Everett interpretation in Quantum Concepts in Space and Time.")

I know quite a lot of people who didn't, all I'm saying if you do, chances are you might like Fargo as well.

(If on the other hand you preferred The Wire, then you should try True Detective.)

If you enjoyed Breaking Bad, try Fargo. The two are best TV shows I watched in years and in my mind have a certain common flavor.

1Adam Zerner9y
I actually watched a few episodes of Breaking Bad and didn't love it. I didn't find it that exciting and couldn't help but be skeptical that the storyline could last so many seasons, so I stopped watching. I know that everyone loves Breaking Bad though; this is just my one data point. I'm trying not to get caught up in too much TV, but I'll keep Fargo in mind.

Military power of EU was not enough to stop or seriously inconvenience Milosevic.

What? Did he invade an EU country?

Hey it's a good question. I'd pick Happiness.

When I was much younger I might have said Truth. I was a student of physics once and loved to repeat the quote that the end of man is knowledge. But since then I have been happy, and I have been unhappy, and the difference between the two is just too large.

Wow thanks, I believed this one until five minutes ago.

I think both questions are informative, they just test a different thing.

To give an analogy from copmputer science, the question about hydrogen atom is similar in spirit to, "Would you be able to implement quicksort?", whereas the one about Bell theorem is more like, "Would you be able to reconstruct the halting problem proof?" The latter seems like a much higher bar. I'm curious, do you think there exist many people who can actually reconstruct the proof of Bell's theorem, but who can't solve the Schrodinger equation for the hydrogen a... (read more)

Maybe the answers given (either in the Bell theorem case or in the Schrödinger equation case) could be “Yes, right now”, “Not off the top of my head, but I know where to look stuff up” and “Can I prove the what?”
I had assumed something in between -- deriving the energy levels, and the eigenfunctions for the levels with E < 0.

I liked this short story on that topic, which I believe was written by Yvain:

Freud's psychoanalysis has been often put in the same category of "Copernican" things as heliocentrism and evolution.

The article makes it even more worse by conflating joy and happiness.

Many articles that talk about happiness do that, including the often cited paper about how supposedly the connection between income and happiness breaks down at a certain level.

Yes, and as far as that argument goes I think the case ifs good that the connection between some forms of happiness breaks down while it doesn't for other forms.

I don't think that means you are smarter than that Harvard professor. He is a very successful person and has reached heights coveted by many very smart people. It just means that the game he is playing is not one where you get ahead by saying things that make sense.

For example, if you listen to a successful politician and spot a false statement he utters, that does not mean that you are smarter than that politician.

Yes, academics are supposed to raise the status of their institution. This brings in money, which helps educate students, which makes the world a better place. Unsuccessful replication threatens this. Plus, replication does nothing to advance social justice.

This is why we can't have social science. Not because the subject is not amenable to the scientific method -- it obviously is. People are conducting controlled experiments and other people are attempting to replicate the results. So far, so good.

So, you say people are trying the scientific approach. My guess is, the nature of the problem is such that nothing much came out of these attempts. No great insights were gained, no theories were discovered. Real scientists had nothing to show for their efforts, and this is why the these fields are now not owned by... (read more)

This may have happened.

Motl with his immature style and his political extremism is very easy to mock, but I don't think he's intentionally contrarian. When he writes about physics at least his opinions agree with the mainstream view as far as I can tell. Three examples

  • Some time around 2005 Motl frequently exchanged hostilities with another blogger, Peter Woit of Not Even Wrong (that's actually how I first heard of LM: I was following NEW which frequently linked to Molt's blog to mock him). The disagreement was that Woit was a critic of the String Theory whereas Motl was a defe

... (read more)
I agree that Motl has an occasional keen insight, but it is usually and unfortunately buried under a mountain of opinionated nonsense. And I don't mean his political opinions, whatever they are, which I never pay attention to. Given that there are bloggers out there who are consistently insightful, like Baez, Aaronson, Carroll and others, I find that life is too short to look for nuggets of wisdom in his piles of garbage. Incidentally, I used to like Woit's writings before, but I find them a bit lower quality lately. Sometimes he sounds like Motl, only more respectful. Anyway, if you like we could discuss the merits of a particular point Motl makes, dissociated from the source of it. Unfortunately, I am not qualified to decide whether vacuum fluctuations in vacuum are "real" enough to eventually produce Boltzmann brains, but I tend to agree that, even if they are, they dissipate too fast in a de Sitter space to produce Boltzmann brains in any quantity.

Motl with his immature style and his political extremism is very easy to mock, but I don't think he's intentionally contrarian. When he writes about physics at least his opinions agree with the mainstream view as far as I can tell. Three examples

  • Some time around 2005 Motl frequently exchanged hostilities with another blogger, Peter Woit of Not Even Wrong (that's actually how I first heard of LM: I was following NEW which frequently linked to Molt's blog to mock him). The disagreement was that Woit was a critic of the String Theory whereas Motl was a defe

... (read more)
[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

I don't disagree with any of that. Who knows, could be even one and the same experience which people raised in one culture interpret as God's presence, and in another as enlightenment.

The research summarized in this book seems to suggest that this is indeed the case.

So while the original quotation talked about not thinking at all, your revised version urges that we think as little as possible. How does it qualify as a "rationality quote"?

You tell me; I have to squint pretty hard to make it read as telling me something useful about rationality.
It can be rationally beneficial to realise now much mediation is involved in perception, in the same way it is useful to replace naive ealism with scientific realism. Relatively unmediated perception is also aesthetically interesting, and therefore of terminal value to many.

While we are quoting Perelandra

"How far does it go? Would you still obey the Life-Force if you found it prompting you to murder me?"
"Or to sell England to the Germans?"
"Or to print lies as serious research in a scientific periodical?"
"God help you!" said Ransom.

A parallel passage from 1984: "You will understand that I must start by asking you certain questions. In general terms, what are you prepared to do?' 'Anything that we are capable of,' said Winston. O'Brien had turned himself a little in his chair so that he was facing Winston. He almost ignored Julia, seeming to take it for granted that Winston could speak for her. For a moment the lids flitted down over his eyes. He began asking his questions in a low, expressionless voice, as though this were a routine, a sort of catechism, most of whose answers were known to him already. 'You are prepared to give your lives?' 'Yes.' 'You are prepared to commit murder?' 'Yes.' 'To commit acts of sabotage which may cause the death of hundreds of innocent people?' 'Yes.' 'To betray your country to foreign powers?' 'Yes.' 'You are prepared to cheat, to forge, to blackmail, to corrupt the minds of children, to distribute habit-forming drugs, to encourage prostitution, to disseminate venereal diseases--to do anything which is likely to cause demoralization and weaken the power of the Party?' 'Yes.' 'If, for example, it would somehow serve our interests to throw sulphuric acid in a child's face--are you prepared to do that?' 'Yes.' 'You are prepared to lose your identity and live out the rest of your life as a waiter or a dock-worker?' 'Yes.' 'You are prepared to commit suicide, if and when we order you to do so?' 'Yes.' 'You are prepared, the two of you, to separate and never see one another again?' 'No!' broke in Julia. It appeared to Winston that a long time passed before he answered. For a moment he seemed even to have been deprived of the power of speech. His tongue worked soundlessly, forming the opening syllables first of one word, then of the other, over and over again. Until he had said it, he did not know which word he was going to say. 'No,' he said finally.

There are also people who claim that they feel God's presence in their heart, you know.

And people who claim to see cold fusion and canals on mars. There is a happy medium between treating empirical evidence as infallible, and dismissing it as not conforming to your favourite theory.

I believe them. I don't believe in God, but I do believe that it's possible to have the subjective experience of a divine presence -- there's too much agreement on the broad strokes of how one feels, across cultures and religions, for it to be otherwise. Though on the other hand, some of the more specific takes on it might be bullshit, and basic cynicism suggests that some of the people talking about feeling God's presence are lying.

Seems reasonable to extend the same level of credulity to claims about enlightenment experiences. That's not to say that Buddhism is necessarily right about how they hash out in terms of mental/spiritual benefits, or in terms of what they actually mean cognitively, of course.

Only a small fraction of math has practical applications, the majority of math exists for no reason other than thinking about it is fun. Even things with applications had sometimes been invented before those applications were known. So in a sense most math is designed to be fun. Of course it's not fun for everyone, just for a special class of people who are into this kind of thing. That makes it different from Angry Birds. But there are many games which are also only enjoyed by a specific audience, so maybe the difference is not that fundamental. A large p... (read more)

Spot on. Pure, fun math does benefit society directly in at least one way, however, in that the opportunity to engage in it can be used to lure very smart people into otherwise unpalatable teaching jobs. In fact, that seems to be the main point of "research" in most less-than-productive fields (i.e. the humanities).

While we're on the subject, what words would you use to differentiate "proof" from "evidence" in Polish?


Catholics accept the theory of evolution and have for a long time now.

Yes, but Catholics have no problem with the idea that God can manifest his will via seemingly natural processes that play out over a long timespan.

Yes, I understand that and I didn't mean to criticize your argument, which is good, I meant to attack the original source which was trying to impress the audience with a large number without explaining where it really comes from (which you did explain). Sorry that I didn't express this more clearly.

The cited value isn't wildly off base, in the same sense it wouldn't be wildly off base to say that if you work at McDonald's and invest every penny you made, after 40 years you'll be a millionaire. So car ownership is really expensive in the same sense in which McDonald's pays really well.

Sure; I don't dispute any of that. Not to accuse you of doing this, but I'm a little bemused at how my post seems to have been taken as a broad apologetic for the ancestor's cost calculator when I was trying to make the point that, when you're playing with values in the high hundreds of dollars per month, conclusions like "investing this will make you a millionaire after 35 years" prove a lot less than they sound like they do. Hell, the first sentence even says that bicycles aren't the important thing to be thinking about there. So in other words, I think we agree. I could probably have been clearer with my examples, though.

One can turn any expense into a high number by applying some not-quite-realistic rate of return[1] over a long period of time. I remember reading a web comic which applied this procedure to an iPhone, with enough creativity you could probably make coffee at Starbucks into a million-dollar expense as well.

In some sense it is true, if you invest regularly and wait a long time you'll likely accumulate considerable savings. But singling out one particular expense for that kind of treatment, without the context which you provided above, is exactly what Lumifer ... (read more)

The corresponding number at 3.5% is $500,000. I wasn't trying to argue for any particular value, merely that the cited value isn't wildly off base, and that long-term investment is how you get into its neighborhood.

I think he answered your question by providing an example on the spot.

I had failed to generate this as a hypothesis, but now that you bring it up, it makes the second possibility appear much more likely since it provides a possible motivation for the non-cooperativity. (This looks a bit like the conjunction fallacy, but it's not really because possibilities that I had simply failed to think of play a role here...)

I've wondered why more people don't train to be software engineers. According to wikipedia, 1 in 200 workers is a software engineer. A friend of mine who teaches programming classes estimates 5% of people could learn how to program. If he's right, 9 out of 10 people who could be software engineers aren't, and I'm guessing 8 of them make less in their current job than they would if they decided to switch.

One explanation is that most people would really hate the anti-social aspect of software engineering. We like to talk a lot about how it's critical for tha... (read more)

1Said Achmiz10y
This... does not imply that all those people can learn to be software engineers. Software engineering is not just programming. There are a lot of terrible software engineers out there.
I suspect that most people don't think of making the switch.

Most studies I've read find that actual productivity doesn't go up much with the extra hours in the long run, especially for knowledge workers

Not as clear cut as people like to assert, see e.g.,

If you have data for knowledge workers specifically that paints a different picture I'd like to hear about it.

It probably differs a lot from person to person.

Financial markets are positive-sum. If you just buy a bunch of stocks and hold onto them, on average you'll outperform cash.

If you buy a stock A at price X, somebody must be selling you stock A at price X. If buying turns out to be a good deal (that is, the discounted dividends Y you collect from holding stock A are greater than X), then selling must turn out to be a bad deal: if the other party held stock A they would have collected the profit Y-X that they forfeited to you. Your gain is their lost profit, therefore the market is zero-sum between investors. Add transaction costs and it becomes negative-sum. This analysis is simplified by the fact that I didn't take into account risk aversion and the fact that different parties can discount future utility in different ways (different discount rates or even hyperbolic discounting). But I suppose that when it comes to collective investors such as mutual funds or banks, these parameters can be considered to be roughly the same. The stock market is not (necessarily) zero-sum or negative-sum as a whole, since money is transferred from companies to investors each time dividends are paid, but the way the investors slice the cake between them is negative-sum.
Not necessarily. First, it depends on the market. Some are zero-sum, and about others one can say that they are NOT zero-sum, but that's it. They might be negative-sum or positive-sum, depending on the circumstances. That also depends. Average over what? Which countries and what time periods?

Isn't it a little bit self-contradictory, to propose that smart people have beaten the market by investing in Bitcoin, and at the same time, that smart people invest in index funds rather than trying to beat the market? Or in other words, are those who got rich off Bitcoin really different from those who picked some lucky stocks in 1997 and cashed out in time?

That's a good point but I'm going to argue against it anyway.

Unlike a lucky stock, Bitcoin wasn't accounted for by mainstream markets at the time. An index fund amortizes the chances of lucky success and catastrophic failure across all the stocks into a single number, giving roughly the same expected value but with much lower variance. Bitcoin wasn't something that could be indexed at that point, so there was no way you could have hedged your bet in the same way that an index fund would let you hedge.

I recall a humorous one of the Lem's Ijion Tichy stories (can't find a link ATM), where on one of the planets under constant heavy meteorite bombardment the mandatory logging and cloning tech was used as a routine way to revive the victims, replacing fatalities with minor inconveniences.

It's the Twenty-Third Voyage in Star Diaries.

And he in turn might respond by asking how you feel about thinking like a dinosaur.

I would not be enthusiastic about Star Trek transporters, no. And yes, I would like to know how shminux feels about thinking like a dinosaur; that does seem to capture my intuitions rather well.

You might as well ask, "Who is the president of America?" and then follow up with, "Ha ha got you! America is a continent, you meant USA."

The continent is basically never called just “America” in modern English (except in the phrases “North America” and “South America”), it's “the Americas”.
I don't think you're making the argument that Yvain deliberately wanted to trick people into giving a wrong answer -- so I really don't see your analogy as illuminating anything. It was a question. People answered it wrongly whether by making a wrong estimation of the answer, or by making a wrong estimation of the meaning of the question. Both are failures -- and why should we consider the latter failure as any less significant than the former? EDIT TO ADD: Mind you, reading the excel of the answers it seems I'm among the people who gave an answer in individuals when the question was asking number in millions. So it's not as if I didn't also have a failure in answering -- and yet I do consider that one a less significant failure. Perhaps I'm just being hypocritical in this though.

Here is an example which I discovered only recently and which for me is 10x the awesomeness of house cleaning.

I like to work on casual games as a hobby, I haven't released many but it's something I like to do. I am a software engineer and have no art skills. You can make a game with no art, or make a port of some game for which the art exists. It is limiting.

Enter the miracle of Elance. You can find good artists on that site, with experience making art and animations for games, and they're very affordable. I think they charge less per hour than house clean... (read more)

But doesn't this undercut the original point a bit?