Cosmos' Comments

Less Wrong Parents

I know, right?? laughs

Meetup report: How harmful is cannabis, and will you change your habits?

Then someone pointed out that since we responded out loud, there may have been an anchoring effect here.

This is standard epistemic hygiene - have everyone come up with an answer quietly before saying it out loud. (I suspect our natural inclination against lying is enough to keep people honest.)

Bayes for Schizophrenics: Reasoning in Delusional Disorders

To continue with the bias theme, how about confirmation bias? They settled on the most available theory that fits all the facts, and then it becomes part of their identity, they begin to rally the soldiers. Is their delusion that they are Jesus really that much less sticky than someone's political party?

Bayes for Schizophrenics: Reasoning in Delusional Disorders

TDCS isn't depolarizing neurons with magnetism, it doesn't disable brain regions at all. Instead it is running a direct current across them. This appears to permanently increase or decrease its level of excitability. o_O

Bayes for Schizophrenics: Reasoning in Delusional Disorders

Yvain, it seems like some of this is potentially answered by how this interacts with other cognitive biases present.

Re: specific delusions, when you have an entire class of equally-explanatory hypotheses, how do you choose between them? The availability heuristic! These hypotheses do have to come from somewhere inside the neural network after all. You could argue that availability is a form of "priors", but these "priors" are formed on the level of neurons themselves and not a specific brain region: some connection strengths are stronger than others.

I would not wish brain damage on anyone, but should one of us have that unfortunate circumstance befall us I would be extremely inclined to go talk to them. I am so damn curious what this feels like from the inside! I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that the thought of having to build completely new neural connections to get around existing damage sounds like an insanely interesting challenge...

I also wonder about reasoning our way out of delusional states. The closest parallel that most people have access to would be the use of various psychoactives. I have heard multiple reports of people who have reasoned their way out of delusional conclusions on cannabinoid agonists and 5-HT2A agonists (and dopamine agonists, with lesser evidence).

The most difficult challenge would appear to be kappa opioid agonism, a dissociative state induced by the federally-legal herb salvia divinorum. Most users report being unaware they ingested a substance at all, no awareness of having a body, and no concept of self-identity, coincident with extreme perceptual distortions. I am no longer clear what Bayesian reasoning would even look like for some points in mindspace.

Edit: I thought of another relevant state: delirium induced by anticholinergics. Unlike 5-HT2A agonists where people do not confuse perceptual distortions for reality, in delirious states people do routinely believe that what they are perceiving is actually occurring. Unfortunately these states are widely regarded as unpleasant, and no rationalist I know personally has experimented with sufficiently large doses of anticholinergics.

Bayes for Schizophrenics: Reasoning in Delusional Disorders

I had the exact same thought myself back in 2008, so I asked an experimental psych professor about this. At the same, he said that the TMS devices that we had are somewhat wide-area and also induce considerable muscle activation. This doesn't matter very much when studying the occipital lobe, but for the prefrontal cortex you basically start scrunching up the person's face, which is fairly distracting. Maybe worth trying anyway.

I've wanted to get my hands on a TMS device for years. Building one at home does not seem particularly feasible, and the magnetism involved is probably dangerous for nearby metal/electronics...

Tips for Starting Group Houses

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Reply to Holden on The Singularity Institute

Thanks for the excellent idea! I did in fact email Lukeprog personally to let him know. :)

Reply to Holden on The Singularity Institute


"Applications for a contribution of pro bono professional services must be made by Deloitte personnel. To be considered for a pro bono engagement, a nonprofit organization (NPO) with a 501c3 tax status must have an existing relationship with Deloitte through financial support, volunteerism, Deloitte personnel serving on its Board of Directors or Trustees, or a partner, principal or director (PPD) sponsor (advocate for the duration of the engagement). External applications for this program are not accepted. Organizations that do not currently have a relationship with Deloitte are welcome to introduce themselves to the Deloitte Community Involvement Leader in their region, in the long term interest of developing one."

Deloitte is requiring a very significant investment from its employees before offering pro bono services. Nonetheless, I have significant connections there and would be willing to explore this option with them.

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