All of alienist's Comments + Replies

Rationality Quotes Thread March 2015

No, science is not a set of answers; it is a procedure.

Nassim Taleb

4James_Miller7yTrue for scientists. But for most people science is indeed a set of answers
Rationality Quotes Thread March 2015

Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

Richard Feynman, What is Science?

0gedymin7yThis description fits philosophy much better than science.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 113

Thinking about it, the situation is basically the AI box experiment from Voldy's point of view. He has a boxed unfriendly super-intelligence (Harry) that he's going to destroy just as soon as he finishes talking to it.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 113

Interesting, so it all comes down to a version of the AI box experiment.

6TobyBartels7yOnly now we and Eliezer have swapped places.

"Write what you know" is pretty good writing advice. What's really curious is whether anyone will be able to conclude from the True Ending how EY broke out of the box the first time.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 112

Of course Keats isn't alluding to contemporary literature, but to works that have lasted long enough that one can be confident their popularity isn't limited to a particular moment.

9Nornagest7yIn that instance, yes; but these are the Romantics we're talking about. They referenced each other all the time. Pop culture references are not a new thing. They just stop being pop after a certain amount of time passes.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 109

If the laws of reality are simulated, then they must be computable.

Depends on what they're being stimulated on.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 108

Offhand, I can't think of a book which mentioned the phrase.

Every haggadah in existence.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 108

From a RL point of view it's because Eliezer, for his post on the importance of learning from history, is extremely unfamiliar with cultures and times other than his own.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapters 105-107

Well, that raises the question how exactly does magic interact with aliens? Come to think of it how do hocruxes interact with Terran non-human sentients?

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 108

Magical Britain's culture is subtly but deeply different from that of the muggle country that shares its borders; it would be profoundly weird if there were no surprises, no culture shock.

The jarring thing is precisely that it isn't. The sexual attitudes of the fanfiction community have a lot more in common with general contemporary western post-protestant sexual attitudes then with the sexual attitudes of any other (contemporary or historical) culture.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 108

Then again Eliezer has been imposing modern sexual attitudes on the Wizarding World, whether out of ignorance or a desire to be politically correct I'm not sure. In any case, I find it one of the most jarring aspects of the fic.

7sketerpot7yNot just modern sexual attitudes, but specifically the sexual attitudes you see in the Harry Potter fanfiction community. And I'm sure it was meant to be jarring. Magical Britain's culture is subtly but deeply different from that of the muggle country that shares its borders; it would be profoundly weird if there were no surprises, no culture shock.
Innate Mathematical Ability

Given the state of computing at the time, it's possible that computer time really was more valuable then graduate student time.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 108

If you're going to be using old definitions "lovers = having sex" is a pretty recent change in meaning.

but it's just the fact that "virgin = intact hymen" is a pretty silly notion to begin with.

Um, the relevant property is that the man can be sure the woman's child will be his, and for that "virgin = intact hymen" is useful.

5ChristianKl7yI'm not sure it's even the current meaning. I would call two religious people who avoid sex before marriage lovers before they have sex.
4[anonymous]7yWell, given that I've been asked if I was dating someone who lived on the opposite coast, by someone who knew about the fact that she lived on the opposite coast, and knew that I hadn't been over there in quite some time... Then again, it could still be a recent change in meaning, just reversed by the internet.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapters 105-107

The Pioneer horcrux might just be an evil surprise for another planet some day.

Probably not, space is incredibly empty.

0TobyBartels7yThe main danger, I would imagine, is that somebody searching for signs of extraterrestrial life [that is, extra-their-terra, not extra-our-terra] might actually seek it out. (Hopefully anyone with the technology to make such a search successful already knows about magic and can safeguard against it.)
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapters 105-107

What's a full system of numerals? Even in Proto-Uralic, you could say ‘four and one’, and a human mind would understand that

Are you sure? My understanding (from reading some anthropology paper I chanced across is that people in cultures without full number systems do get more confused by large numbers.

0TobyBartels7yI still don't know what a full number system is, although you and nydrwracu refer to it again. Is the claim that English has one but Proto-Uralic didn't? If so, how is the distinction drawn? The case of the Pirahã is different. They have less of a number system than the rabbits of Watership Down, and less of a number system than has already been established for Parseltongue. It makes sense that they couldn't learn to count [although the children could, if I remember correctly what I've read about them]. But I find it much harder to believe that a culture that can count to 4 can't learn to count beyond that. As for confusion, I'll buy that you get confused much earlier if you grew up counting to smaller numbers. Most English speakers have no good idea how big a million is, even if they're comfortable with the word. Nobody has a good idea how big 3^^^3 is.
2[anonymous]7yRight, that's the claim about the Piraha at least: their language has no numerals, only two terms for 'smaller amount' and 'larger amount' and then circumlocutions for things like 'many': I haven't seen other studies, but I'd assume that people in cultures without full number systems would get confused by large numbers, just since they don't have practice with them. Now, the claim about the Piraha is that they wanted to learn to count -- after Everett noticed they couldn't count, they got worried that they were getting ripped off in trade -- but couldn't. I don't know how much to trust that, though.
Virtue, group and individual prestige

Except most examples aren't this harmless.

Virtue, group and individual prestige

One problem is that things like this tend to lead to affective death spirals. You start praising virtue X (which is a virtue because it leads to positive effect Y), then you start especially praising the extremely virtues practitioners willing to do X even when it doesn't lead to Y.

0[anonymous]7ySo, like Olympics level athletics, where winning takes skills that are increasingly irrelevant to any other use of them?
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapters 105-107

It could be that EY is overestimating how "obvious" (for lack of a better word) everyone else will find something "obvious" to him.

3dxu7yThat's possible, but (unless I'm misremembering) the one reader who did guess the plot said it seemed "obvious" to him/her as well, which is evidence in favor of it being obvious once you see it.
Natural Selection of Government Systems

My point is that you can't simply rely on other countries having reached a "sufficiently advanced economic or mental stage" to stop defection. You do actually need to rely on force.

0cleonid7ySorry it was not sufficiently clear, but this is precisely the point I was trying to make in that paragraph. The real question was not whether the deterring force would be needed (obviously it would), but how to organize it effectively. In particular, how to solve the free rider problem which is intrinsic to all military coalitions?
The Galileo affair: who was on the side of rationality?

Yes, not quite a trial but the condemnations at the University of Paris. In every statement falsifiable among them, the church was eventually correct, e.g., the universe isn't infinitely old, vacuum exists, astrology is bunk.

The Galileo affair: who was on the side of rationality?

Before Newton unified terrestial and celestial mechanics, you needed to keep them separate whether you were using a geocentric or a heliocentric model. You still needed a sublunary sphere sphere around the Earth where things slow down and fall and break and decay on their way towards the End of Time, while God and the Angels watch us from their perfect and immutable Heaven. Neither the geocentric nor the heliocentric model had an advantage in terms of explanatory power here.

If the earth has a sublunary sphere, that suggests the earth is 'special', which is certainly more parsimonious in a geocentric universe. Also why doesn't earth's sublunary sphere cause it to fall into the sun?

0V_V7yEither way the Earth has to be special. Because nobody figured out that the Sun had gravity before Newton.
Control Theory Commentary

Also, controllers are more robust then utility agents. Utility agents tend to go haywire upon discovering that some term in their utility function isn't actually quite well-defined. Keep in mind that it's impossible to predict future discoveries ahead of time and what their implications for the well-definiteness of terms might be.

Open thread, Feb. 9 - Feb. 15, 2015

How do you know Vladoft isn't actually his alias?

The Truth About Mathematical Ability

I find it interesting that no one has yet mentioned Grothendieck's rather eccentric later behavior.

2Dr_Manhattan7ydo you feel it is relevant to the article's thesis?
Rationality Quotes Thread February 2015

The amusing thing is that Jennifer Hibben-White is no more using science then her opponents, and probably using Google just as much.

Stupid Questions February 2015

Well, a lot of abbeys were self-supporting.

Behavior: The Control of Perception

(I know I'm not IlyaShpitser, but better my reply than no reply.) I have several papers on the arXiv, and the very first time I submitted one I remember it being automatically posted without needing endorsement

How long ago was this? I believe the endorsement for new submitters requirement was added ~6 years ago.

0satt7yMy first submission was in 2012. I'm fairly sure I read about the potential endorsement-for-new-submitters condition at the time, too.
Quotes Repository

Meta: How is this supposed to be different from the existing rationality quotes thread?

8spxtr7yThe idea is that it's not specifically for quotes related to rationality or other LessWrong topics.
Natural Selection of Government Systems

This threat is still relevant, as many nations have not yet reached the economic or mental stage when they are no longer interested in territorial conquests.

If your political system requires no one in the world to defect, your political system is unworkable.

2cleonid7yNaturally, political systems which require no one to defect are unworkable. But what makes you think that defection is an insolvable problem in this particular system? Just like individual people can act jointly against aggressive criminals, individual states/provinces/communities can act jointly against aggressive regimes.
Natural Selection of Government Systems

The different states of the US each have different policies and allow free migration of individuals.

One problem that causes in the US, is people moving from badly run states to well run states and voting for the bad policies that caused them to leave their original state in the first place.

0TheAncientGeek7yAhem. Scots in England. Ahem!
Open Thread, Feb. 2 - Feb 8, 2015

Well, Rome was basically a welfare state two millennia ago.

Reductionist research strategies and their biases

I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mean that there are conditions under which being sexually attracted to members of the same sex is evolutionarily advantageous?

Or do you mean that the genetic trait that manifests as homosexuality, manifests as another, advantageous, trait under some circumstances? If so, this seems like a version of Darreact's "imprinting" theory.

-1TheAncientGeek7yNot disadvantageous just means not disadvantageous.
Open Thread, Feb. 2 - Feb 8, 2015

There are reasons the lbgt community is so down on attempts at curing the gay - "suicides and mental breakdowns".

As opposed to, you know, ordinary tribal feelings against defection. There are elements in the deaf community that oppose attempts to cure deafness as well.

2Izeinwinter7yThose too, but the negative impact and severe paucity of efficiency are quite real enough. About the only people still trying this today are religiously motivated quacks, with predictably depressing results, but even the historical attempts by people honestly trying to help as opposed to following the mandates of their imaginary friends in the sky had very bad results. Sometimes sexuality shifts over time. We have nothing even resembling a clue why, or how to do that deliberately. If you tell me you know people conversion therapy worked for, I will not doubt you. People given chalk tablets for treatment routinely get better from very fatal diseases in double blind studies Not often, but it happens. This does not mean chalk tablets are a panacea. Or, you know, medicine at all.
Open Thread, Feb. 2 - Feb 8, 2015

The so-called "weak efficient market hypothesis" is more-or-less correct. The "strong efficient market hypothesis" falls apart once you attempt to taboo "efficient".

Another way to phrase this is that in some strict sense market "inefficiencies" exist, finding them is a hard problem. (The general case of this problem is NP-hard.)

Open Thread, Feb. 2 - Feb 8, 2015

Or rather anyone who claims it does is branded an "evil homophobe" thus no one would dare publish a stady claiming it does.

7gjm7yPeople have been trying to "cure" homosexuality since times when attitudes to homosexuality were very different from what they are now. If it's curable then there should (at least) be credible studies from earlier years saying so. Are there? (Robert Spitzer published a study as recently as 2001 claiming to find evidence that some homosexual people can become heterosexual, so evidently it was possible to dare to do that then. He has since publicly changed his mind, which of course can be interpreted in different ways.)
Open Thread, Feb. 2 - Feb 8, 2015

My understanding is that the US schedule is much more aggressive than the European one.

Open thread, Jan. 26 - Feb. 1, 2015

Surely no, because Abraham built the Ka'aba, and he came later. But if Adam's religion was missing one of the pillars of Islam, then how was he a Muslim?

Well, according to this article:

According to Islamic tradition, the Kaaba was built by Adam as a place of worship, and then later reconstructed by Abraham and Ishmael.

Stupid Questions February 2015

For the same reason tribes living near the edge of starvation have especially strong cannibalism taboos.

Open Thread, Feb. 2 - Feb 8, 2015

Probably not the way it's done in the USA (from what I gather, drivers' licences are basically being handed out like candy), but the way it's handled in most European countries - requiring comprehensive education, practical exercise and independent examination on trafic laws, behaving in traffic and operating a car.

In the USA you also need to pass a test that includes both an exam on traffic laws and a road test. As far as, handing them out "like candy", true you generally don't hear of people who couldn't pass the test, but do Europeans regularly have problems passing the exam?

2Lumifer7yIn many European countries getting the driver's license is very expensive -- we're talking hundreds and thousands of euros.
3Emily7yI'm in the UK. I know a handful of people who've taken 8 tries or more to pass the practical test. They're not the norm, but I'd say passing it on your first go is regarded as mildly surprising! I'd guess two attempts is possibly the mode? It's an expensive undertaking, too, so most people aren't just throwing themselves at the test well before they're ready in the hope of getting lucky.
3MathiasZaman7yThe particulars of the exam will vary from country to country, but Belgium supposedly has one of the more lax ones and even here you routinely hear of people failing their driving exam. I actually looked it up because of your question and according to wikipedia []: * About 47% of the written (theoretical) exams are successes. It's hard to say how many people fail, since you can try several times (and fail all of them). * Around 56% of the road tests are successful. Again, people can take multiple tests per year if they fail (although this is limited somewhat in that you need to spend time and money after failing every second attempt).
Rationality Quotes Thread February 2015

Just because you say you understand (or even think you understand) doesn't mean you do.

Rationality Quotes Thread February 2015

You may not like his ethics, but you've no right to call him unethical.

In that case who is Alfred Bester to tell me who I can or can't call "unethical"?

Stupid Questions February 2015

Like people said, also a few centuries ago welfare programs did not exist.

Open thread, Jan. 26 - Feb. 1, 2015

Presumably that means they want their kids exposed to Christian values and Christian services.

0Lumifer7yAnd they are exposed. But if the kids are actually not Christian, recognizing that seems to me an entirely reasonable thing to do. And by the time kids want to hold their own religious services (presumably "kids" are teenagers at this point), the wishes of parents matter less.
Open thread, Jan. 26 - Feb. 1, 2015

Well, their parents did choose to send them to a Christian school.

2Lumifer7y...yes, and?
Open thread, Jan. 26 - Feb. 1, 2015

Trans is so incurable that despite the side-effects it is considered much easier to change the body than the mind.

That depends on the motivations and rationality of those doing the considering.

February 2015 Media Thread

What does "plied her with alcohol" mean? Does it mean that Shermer spiked her drink or force fed her alcohol? Most likely she was drinking with him had a little too much to drink when up to his hotel room, had sex with him, in the morning regretted it and decided to declare it non-consensual.

Calling an encounter like the above "rape" is precisely what I'm objecting too.

5NancyLebovitz7yMaybe it's as you describe, and maybe he was ignoring her saying no repeatedly. Why privilege only the hypothesis that makes Shermer innocent? Also, the other accusations, while short of rape, are of bad behavior. Would you trust an ethicist who went around hitting people?
5JoshuaZ7yYeah, this is a problem. It is possible that such a situation is only retroactively declared to be non-consensual, but that's not what he's being accused of. He's being accused of it actually being non-consensual. Do you agree that non-consensual sex with a severely inebriated individual is rape? Because that's the central accusation here.
Open thread, Jan. 26 - Feb. 1, 2015

My understanding is that mainstream Christians think non-Christians can go to heaven as long as they didn't have the chance to become Christian - e.g. Moses, or some undiscovered Amazonian tribe - as long as they lived righteously.

Well, Dante put the righteous pagans in Limbo (the 1st circle of hell). As for Isrealites, they got to heaven because they were followers of G-d after all.

Guardians of Ayn Rand

Rather, I was suggesting that OWS, anti-semitism, etc, all come from the same place, which is some primal dislike of so-called market dominant minorities.

One related observation, I noticed that looking at most ethnic stereotypes (by group X of group Y) they tend to fall into two broad categories: "Group Y are subhuman idiots", and "group Y are evil practitioners of black magic." Possibly substitute "black magic" with equivalent concept from group X's worldview. (Note: if the horns affect goes sufficiently far group X ma... (read more)

Guardians of Ayn Rand

At minimum, the fact that you used links only to examples involving Jews really misses the point, especially given that Jews were hated for many reasons that had nothing to do with economics but were rather religious.

Yes, but all Salemicus's examples were specifically about economics.

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