All of bojangles's Comments + Replies

Many Weak Arguments vs. One Relatively Strong Argument

I haven't read the comments yet, so apologies if this has already been said or addressed:

If I am watching others debate, and my attention is restricted to the arguments the opponents are presenting, then my using the "one strong argument" approach may not be a bad thing.

I'm assuming that weak arguments are easy to come by and can be constructed for any position, but strong arguments are rare.

In this situation I would expect anybody who has a strong argument to use it, to the exclusion of weaker ones: if A and B both have access to 50 weak argumen... (read more)

0nyralech6yI think that another problem in the context of a debate is with people in often throwing down a lot of arguments []. If the weak arguments all come from a single source within a short period of time I tend to discount their arguments (perhaps too much).
1JonahS8yMy main reaction to this is that understanding a subtle situation requires much more careful reflection than occurs in the course of a debate, or in the course of watching a debate. It often takes 500+ hours. So I concede your point, but in practice, don't I think that it's so relevant — if one is confining oneself to a few hours of attention, then one's prospects of coming to an epistemically sound position aren't very good in any case.
Rationality Quotes June 2013


If it's accepted that GREEN and RED are structurally identical, and that in virtue of this they are phenomenologically identical, why think that phenomenology involves anything*, beyond structure, which needs explaining?

I think this is the gist of Dennett's dissolution attempts. Once you've explained why your brain is in a seeing-red brain-state, why this causes a believing-that-there-is-red mental representation, onto a meta-reflection-about-believing-there-is-red functional process, etc., why think there's anything else?

-2DanArmak8yPhenomenology doesn't involve anything beyond structure. But my experience seems to.
Rationality Quotes June 2013

Here's how I got rid of my gut feeling that qualia are both real and ineffable.

First, phrasing the problem:

Even David Chalmers thinks there are some things about qualia that are effable. Some of the structural properties of experience - for example, why colour qualia can be represented in a 3-dimensional space (colour, hue, and saturation) - might be explained by structural properties of light and the brain, and might be susceptible to third-party investigation.

What he would call ineffable is the intrinsic properties of experience. With regards to colour-... (read more)

3DavidAgain8yI'm not sure pleasure/pain is that useful, because 1) they have such an intuitive link to reaction/function 2) they might be meta-qualities: a similar sensation of pain can be strongly unpleasant, entirely tolerable or even enjoyable depending on other factors. What you've done with colours is combine what feels like a somewhat arbitary/ineffable qualia and declare it inextricable associated with one that has direct behavioural terms involved. Your talk of what's required to 'make the inversion succesfully' is misleading: what if the monkey has GREEN and antsiness rather than RED and antsiness? It seems intuitive to assume 'red' and 'green' remain the same in normal conditions: but I'm left totally lost as to what 'red' would look like to a creature that could see a far wider or narrower spectrum than the one we can see. Or to that matter to someone with limited colour-blindness. There seems to me to be the Nagel 'what is it like to be a bat' problem, and I've never understood how that dissolves. It's been a long time since I read Dennett, but I was in the camp of 'not answering the question, while being fascinating around the edges and giving people who think qualia are straightforward pause for thought'. No-one's ever been able to clearly explain how his arguments work to me, to the point that I suggest that either I or they are fundamentally missing something. If the hard problem of consciousness has really been solved I'd really like to know!
2DanArmak8yI realize that non-materialistic "intrinsic qualities" of qualia, which we perceive but which aren't causes of our behavior, are incoherent. What I don't fully understand is why have I any qualia at all. Please see my sibling comment.
Don't Get Offended

Not about intelligence specifically, but I believe this was the first (well-known) paper making the claim:

The point is that even if the heritable component of (say) intelligence among white people formed a bell curve, and the heritable component of intelligence among black people formed a bell curve, a priori you'd expect the two curves to be pretty much the same.

(Lewontin's other conclusion, that "race" is "biologically meaningless", is ... (read more)

CogSci books

I wouldn't recommend agreeing with him about a lot of things, but he's definitely worth paying attention to.

The gist of "The Mind Doesn't Work That Way," from what I can tell so far:

So partly sparked by his own work, modularity became an important idea in cognitive science; not all parts of your mind do the same jobs, or have access to the same information. For example, knowing the Müller-Lyer illusion is an illusion doesn't ruin the effect.

Some cognitive scientists of an evolutionary bent saw functional modularity, with the functions defined by ... (read more)

What are you working on? August 2012

Things your list reminds me of:

Some other favourites of mine:

... (read more)
Rationality Quotes April 2012

I stopped being afraid because I read the truth. And that's the scientifical truth which is much better. You shouldn't let poets lie to you.

-- Bjork

Rationality Market Research

From such experience, this might be a fruitful approach to trying to shift the gender imbalance in the community. It's unfortunate that describing oneself as a rationalist can have the potential to come across as having a superiority complex, and doubly unfortunate is how common-place is the meme of rationality being a "men's" thing (all women are slaves to their bleeding vaginas, amirite?)

A possible consequence of this is that, when it's phrased explicitly as such, the idea of a "rationality community" conjures up images of boorish men... (read more)

3taryneast10yTotally agree. I'll also add the invalid sterotype of "rationality is emotionless" slams smack bang into the equally invalid stereotype of "women are supposed to be emotional beings"... which doesn't help.
2Michelle_Z10yWhat does "GEB" stand for? So far I've encountered that people think rationalists are "smarter" and perhaps "intellectual snobs." I have not come across anyone saying they would disapprove of a rationalist community, but so far have not found anyone that thinks the idea of being around those people would be a good thing. I think the exact quote would be "they would analyze everything I say." or something to that effect. The intellectual snob bit needs to be weeded out, along with the idea that it's not a welcoming place to discuss ideas.
Rationality Market Research

I do it in a roundabout way. I've gotten far fewer people started off by trying to teach them about biases directly than by saying "dude check out this fanfic it's awesome HARRY'S A SCIENTIST," or by showing them Crab Canon from Godel Escher Bach and telling them the rest of the book's just as much fun, or by showing them the game of life. Once they're hooked on these marvelous new ways of thinking, I show them the blog.

5Raemon10yThe goal here isn't to spread the rationality meme - it's to figure out whether "rationality" is a good word to use to describe the set of ideas contained within the rationality meme. Methods of Rationality and the Game of Life are only interesting to a narrow portion of the population. My dad's a rational guy and I thought he'd like Methods of Rationality - he hated it. The people who've liked it that I've shown it to are almost exactly in my demographic - 20 something males who already nerdy, geeky, and have similar sense of humor to me. I think Rationality is important enough that we should not be limiting ourselves to that demographic. At the very least it warrants our consideration. I'm thinking of doing a followup post that takes a step back and talks about the questions I set aside in my first paragraph, to discuss the overall problem more thoroughly before getting too attached to particular solutions.
3bojangles10yFrom such experience, this might be a fruitful approach to trying to shift the gender imbalance in the community. It's unfortunate that describing oneself as a rationalist can have the potential to come across as having a superiority complex, and doubly unfortunate is how common-place is the meme of rationality being a "men's" thing (all women are slaves to their bleeding vaginas, amirite?) A possible consequence of this is that, when it's phrased explicitly as such, the idea of a "rationality community" conjures up images of boorish men talking about how "you're irrational if you get offended when I say women are sluts who always cheat! IT'S SCIENCE!", which is not at all an inviting atmosphere. Stuff like that is something that does itself need to be combated, but in the meantime, books like GEB perfectly illustrate how whimsical and fun - AND WELCOMING - real rationality can be, introducing important concepts and making the reader feel brilliant and excited to learn, without the triggering the defensiveness that can occur through the implication that, if I want to teach you rationality it must mean I think you're "not good enough" the way you are.
Toronto Less Wrong Meetup - Thursday Feb 17

I'm interested (lurker as well)

Duke of York's classy, so is Bedford Academy (same area), O'Grady's is aight and has an upstairs that's less crowded. Red Room (college and spadina) has good food and relatively cheap pitchers but only takes cash

Torture vs. Dust Specks

Construct a thought experiment in which every single one of those 3^^^3 is asked whether he would accept a dust speck in the eye to save someone from being tortured, take the answers as a vote. If the majority would deem it personally acceptable, then acceptable it is.

2ata10yHow about each of those 3^^^3 is asked whether they would accept a dust speck in the eye to save someone from 1/3^^^3 of 50 years of torture, and everyone's choice is granted? (i.e. the ones who say they'd accept a dust speck get a dust speck, and the person is tortured for an amount of time proportional to the number of people who refused.) I'm not quite sure what I'd expect to have happen in that case. That's harder than the moral question because we have to imagine a world that actually contains 3^^^3 different (i.e. not perfectly decision-theoretically correlated) people, and any kind of projection about that kind of world would pretty much be making stuff up. But as for the moral question of what a person in this situation should say, I'd say the reasoning is about the same — getting a dust speck in your eye is worse than 50/3^^^3 years of torture, so refuse the speck. (That's actually an interesting way of looking at it, because we could also put it in terms of each person choosing whether they get specked or they themselves get tortured for 50/3^^^3 years, in which case the choice is really obvious — but if you're still working with 3^^^3 people, and they all go with the infinitesimal moment of torture, that still adds up to a total 50 years of torture.) Edit: Actually, for that last scenario, forget 50/3^^^3 years, that's way less than a Planck interval. So let's instead multiply it by enough for it to be noticeable to a human mind, and reduce the intensity of the torture by the same factor.
0HonoreDB10yThe point of Torture vs. Dust Specks is that our moral intuition dramatically conflicts with strict utilitarianism. Your thought experiment helps express your moral intuition, but it doesn't do anything to resolve the conflict. Although, come to think of it, I think there's an argument to be made that the majority would answer no. If we interpret 3^^^3 people to mean qualitatively distinct individuals, there's not enough room in humanspace for all of those people to be human--the vast majority will be nonhumans. It can be argued, at least, that if you pick a random nonhuman individual, that individual will not be altruistic towards humans.
3benelliott10yThis doesn't work at all. If you ask each of them to make that decision you are asking to compare their one dust speck, with somebody else's one instance of torture. Comparing 1 dust speck with torture 3^^^3 times is not even remotely the same as comparing 3^^^3 dust specks with torture. If you ask me whether 1 is greater than 3 I will say no. If you ask me 5 times I will say no every time. But if you ask me whether 5 is greater than 3 I will say yes. The only way to make it fair would be to ask them to compare themselves and the other 3^^^3 - 1 getting dust specks with torture, but I don't see why asking them should get you a better answer than asking anyone else.
Rationality quotes: October 2010

above "invented analytic geometry" Descartes or just above meditations descartes?