Basil Marte

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Discontinuous progress in history: an update preexisted the electric telegraph for speed of information over land. (Although it has some related systems, such as heliographs.)

I'd guess materials science as a field with several discontinuous leaps. Bessemer process, duraluminium, carbon fiber reinforced plastics: I think these are the most famous candidates. (It's hard to put it into metrics, but nearly all non-immobile things were structurally built out of wood until Bessemer/Martin steel came around.)

Rocketry is intimately related to nuclear bombs. The impetus to develop it came from the fact that now a small payload could destroy a city. (In WW2, a V2 occasionally leveled an apartment block or two. This is not a performance that justifies investing in an ICBM.) The early space race was largely a demonstration of this capability, as a rocket capable of accelerating a multiple-ton payload into near-circular orbit required to hit the other side of the earth is necessarily capable of accelerating a few-hundred-kg payload into low earth orbit, and vice versa. for power used in an active sensor (mostly searchlights and radars)?

Cortés, Pizarro, and Afonso as Precedents for Takeover

Regarding Africa, late 19th century technology solved at least *two* crucial problems that prevented European takeover before. One was that Europeans themselves would die to tropical diseases, solved by quinine. The other was that Europeans' *horses* died to nagana (known as sleeping sickness in humans), solved by steam riverine ships.

Cognitive Biases due to a Narcissistic Parent, Illustrated by HPMOR Quotations

I think a part of the observations are better explained by Harry (any a few other characters) being at Kegan stage 5. Without going into the rest of the theory (which I think messed up stages "3" and "4"), consider three concepts of property:

  • "Stewardship" concept: the village holds pretty much everything in common. Saying "This is Bob's X" is equivalent to "Bob takes care of this X on behalf of everyone in the village, and is rewarded in status". Expressed in formal legal language, everyone in the village has usufruct. (As a side note, this view of "property" explains a lot of leftist complaints about "the rich". If you start from the premise that they are supposed to act as stewards over the wealth implicitly entrusted to them by The Community, then the way they spend it is subject to popular review, including the possibility that The Community revokes its trust and gives the wealth to others.) Stuff can be destroyed if the village moot decides so. (I suspect people in this headspace equate fairness with their estimate of what the village moot's decision would be, if convened.)
  • "Platonic label" concept: each villager owns a plot of land with a fence around it. Legal systems run on this view, which assumes that each object has an invisible label hanging on it, saying who its owner is. (Cue "but is this X really Bob's?" arguments.) If you own it, you are allowed to destroy it, i.e. nobody has a right to complain (if you still fulfill all contractual obligations you have toward them). (People in this headspace equate fairness with impartial, procedural justice.)
  • "Politician" concept: you are the feudal lord of the village, 10% of all the crops grown are yours, no matter whose land it is growing on. You take an active interest in the villagers' lives, because even if you aren't benevolent at all, resolving problems that hold up production are still beneficial to you. If you are benevolent, then you get people to do things that they will endorse in retrospect. (Relate to concept of extrapolated volition. Do not try this at home.) If you are the only one in the village who thinks in this manner, you might as well say to yourself that you own the village, and entrust parts of it to (unwitting) stewards, since you can predict what they are going to do with it. Playing normal is useful in the presence of other politicians (e.g. you can draw on accumulated social status; and they might not notice you are a politician).

Harry, Quirrell, Dumbledore, and some other characters are very clearly thinking in the last mode. This mostly explains points:

  • 2: Harry is interested in other people who think in a similar way, which is correlated with power.
  • 4: Harry is very unsubtle about thinking in this way. Others (Dumbledore, Snape) put on some facade that passes for normal. Quirrell is unsubtle to Harry, and doesn't act normal but mysterious to others. For Draco (and Lucius), it is socially acceptable that they think in this way, because Lucius is an actual politician, and it is common knowledge that Draco plays the role of a politician (even at the times when he doesn't think like one).
  • 7: Harry is correct in that very few students (any not many professors) think like this. Note that Draco gave him the advice to control his interaction with others in chapter 7.
  • 10: As in point 7, Harry did things that the characters later agree were right. Do not try this at home.
  • 3 & 13: Harry is explicit that people living in the first two headspaces are NPCs relative to those who live in the third. Saying this out loud is extremely offensive. (It offends their feeling of having a free will. Speculation: people sort-of identify with what they estimate they have control over. A demonstration that they have less control over their car than they expected (i.e. an accident), or that in a fight another person can move their limbs, is mildly traumatizing. Pointing out that they are poor drivers or (implicitly) threatening to control them runs headfirst into an ego defense.) Nonetheless it is true that interacting with "NPCs" is boring. If you already know what they are going to say, why listen? This causes Harry's sense of being alone except for Quirrell (IIRC he didn't yet see through Dumbledore's facade, and Snape said he doesn't want company).
Leaving a line of retreat for theists

No experience, just an idea: create a line of retreat for a "smaller version" of the topic before confronting the whole, to make the concept more available. First, answer "what would you do if it turned out that you(r friends) were mistaken about some minor details of God", and only after that ask about nonexistence. (I'd guess that more iterations would be seen as condescending.)


There isn't, and the article is committing a type error. The terrain isn't a map, reality isn't a model/theory.

Unless you are using a model to approximate the behavior of a system that is of exactly the same kind, i.e. using a computational model to approximate another computational thingy, in which case you could indeed have the model that exactly coincides with what it is to describe. This may even be useful, e.g. in cryptography. But this is an edge case.

Qualitatively Confused

To be charitable to the postmodernists, they are overextending a perfectly legitimate defense against the Mind Projection Fallacy. If you take a joke, and tell it to two different audiences, in many cases one audience laughs at the joke and the other doesn't. Postmodernists correctly say that different audiences have different truths to "this joke is funny" and this state of affairs if perfectly normal. Unfortunately, they proceed to run away with this, and extend it to statements where the "audience" would be reality. Or very charitably, to cases of people comparing quoted statements, where it is again normal to remind the arguers that different people can have different maps. Of course, it would be far more helpful to tell them to compare the maps against reality, if indeed there is anything the maps claim to be maps of.

That Alien Message

"Three of their days, all told, since they began speaking to us.  Half a billion years, for us."

I think this severely breaks the aesop. In three frames, hum-AGI-ty learns the laws of the alien universe. But then the redundancy binds, and over the next hundred thousand frames ("It's not until a million years later, though, that they get around to telling us how to signal back.") humanity learns little more than how to say "rock". Then "it took us thirty of their minute-equivalents to [...] oh-so-carefully persuade them to give us Internet access", altogether 3*10^6 years up to that point.

siderea: What New Atheism says

I'm putting it here, because the insight clicked when reading this article: perhaps one of the most important of "our" characteristics is simply being bad at compartmentalization?

"The New Atheists contend that the beliefs we hold have consequences for our conduct." -- Let's assume this view is basically typical mind fallacious, and the majority mostly compartmentalize away their religious beliefs. (Beliefs-as-attire, to be worn in the appropriate context only.) What would happen to those people who don't natively do this?

Three Dialogues on Identity

Recognition that the so-called "repugnant conclusion" isn't repugnant at all. Total utility maximization involves an increase in the population---eventually, not necessarily right now---as most human lives have positive subjective utility most of the time (empirically: few people commit suicide).

Reductio ad absurdum: what would the universe be worth without humans in it to value it? Lesser reductio: what would a beautifully terraformed planet be worth, if humans were present in the universe, but none on that planet?

Additionally, beyond the "material" ("industrial"?) aspect, people derive much of their enjoyment of life from social interactions with other people; it would be remiss not to use this nigh-inexhaustible source of utility. This category just so happens to include, among other things, the joy of being with one's children.

Where Physics Meets Experience

"There's no third-party experiment you can perform to tell you the answer."

While it's irrelevant to the anthropics/quantum physics debate, I almost immediately thought: let's put an electrode onto one side of an Ebborian brain-paper, and give it a train of pulses while it splits. Ask the Ebborian that "inherits" the other side of the brain, how many pulses it experienced.

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