All of Furslid's Comments + Replies

Religion's Claim to be Non-Disprovable

Because religion cites their ancient texts as authority, their historical teachers as guides and examples to be emulated. And this is a necessary part of many religions which would not survive without it.

Trial by combat is gone, and no one cites the code duello as a legal text. Law firms don't cite a professional duelist as a respected founding member to be emulated.

The theory of the four elements is gone. Scientists no longer cite Aristotle as an authority on physics. "Ipse dixit," isn't used even when Aristotle was right.

The theories of col... (read more)

Desire is the direction, rationality is the magnitude

I actually like that line. There are a lot of people and organizations that are portrayed as rational and evil. Walmart sacrificing all soft values to maximize profit and the robot overlords systematically destroying or enslaving humanity are also views of rationality. They can be used as objections as much as Spock can. This quick joke shows that problems like this are considered, even if they aren't dealt with in depth here.

8Kindly7yPart of it might just be the order. Compare that paragraph to the following alternative:
Keep Your Identity Fluid [LINK]

Funny that the first word of a post rejecting the concept of an identity is "I".

Try dialing down the ridicule. No arguments are made, but you manage to call the opposing ideas ludicrous and ridiculous.

Also try dialing up the empathy. There are some reasons for embracing any belief beyond being unable to accept one's own error. Try to understand why someone might believe or act in a different way.

Trying to Try

Failure is always possible. However there are two responses to failure. One is to be happy with having made the attempt. This does not make failure less likely in the future.

The other is to actually engage with and analyze your failure. If you didn't flip the switch, your failure is a failure. You figure out why you came up with a plan that didn't work. If the switch needs to be flipped again tomorrow, you will have a better chance of flipping the switch tomorrow. If some button needs to be pressed tomorrow, you won't likely fail at button pressing for the same reason you failed at switch flipping.

Doing rather than trying is a commitment to the second response to failure.

Announcing the Complice Less Wrong Study Hall

It's asking for a password to join. What's the password?

1Lachouette6y(Note: if you're confused because it's not asking you for a password, that's because Malcolm replaced the embedded tinychat channel with his own chat. So we're finally rid of the bane of tinychat!)

The password is 'lw'. (context: It's not a security thing, it's there to keep random TC users from stumbling into the room without being familiar with its purpose)

Uncategories and empty categories

Savory and spirit are two different types of uncategories. Savory starts by having a well defined and narrow category, flavor. Then it uses negation to eliminate a portion of that category. The color green isn't sweet, but that doesn't make it savory because green isn't a flavor. I have some other valid uncategorical definitions of this type.

A mongrel is a dog that doesn't belong to any recognized breed of dog. Manslaughter is the killing of one human by another human, without the intent of seriously wounding or killing. Health is the state of a living... (read more)

How much does consumption affect production?

First, is that because they are different things it's not a contradiction to what I said.

The second is that elasticity is not validly applied to long term supply curves, as they are not a function of supply in terms of price.

How much does consumption affect production?

Long term supply curves are different than supply curves. They are similarly named, but different concepts.

Supply curves measure supply at a price.

Long term supply curves measure market equilibrium supply as demand changes over time.

The elasticity measurement is the derivative of supply with respect to price. It cannot be applied to long term supply curves.

1Timothy Telleen-Lawton7yI agree with your definitions of the two curves, although I don't know what point you're making by the distinction. In either case we can ask, "how much will changes in demand affect equilibrium quantity?" In a constant-cost industry, the answer will be 1:1 in the long-run (as indicated by a flat, or infinitely elastic long-run supply curve), but as you gradually shorten the scope over which you're looking at the market, making it a shorter- and shorter-run supply curve, it will steepen (elasticity decrease) such that the answer is "less than 1:1".
How much does consumption affect production?

I'm sorry, that is correct. You were describing a supply curve that doesn't behave normally. So I can't say anything about demand curves. I apologize for the cheap shot.

In the standard economic models, supply and demand curves have elasticity that is a positive, finite number. Infinitely elastic curves are not possible within the standard models.

The priors I start with, for any market, are that it behaves in a manner consistent with these economic models. The burden of proof is on any claim that some market is behaving in a different manner.

2Timothy Telleen-Lawton7yThanks for acknowledging that. I think standard economics agrees with your vision of "~always positively-sloping finite supply curves" in the short term, but not necessarily the long term. Here's a quote from AmosWEB [http://www.amosweb.com/cgi-bin/awb_nav.pl?s=wpd&c=dsp&k=perfect+competition,+long-run+production+analysis] (OK, never heard of them before, but they had the quote I wanted)
How much does consumption affect production?

Cumulative elasticity = Supply Elasticity/(Supply Elasticity - Demand Elasticity).

A cumulative elasticity factor of one means a demand elasticity of 0.

A completely inelastic demand curve is not to be expected in standard economics, and as such it is an inappropriate prior. Thanks for the math demonstrating my point.

0Timothy Telleen-Lawton7yI believe your math skipped a step; it seems like you're assuming that Supply Elasticity is 1. I actually claim in the original article that "the 'price elasticity of supply' in the arbitrarily long term becomes arbitrarily high". In other words, as "length of 'term'" goes to infinity, the Supply Elasticity also goes to infinity and the cumulative elasticity factor approaches 1 for any finite Demand Elasticity. Stepping back, I worry from your sarcastic tone and the reactive nature of your suggestions that you assume that I am trying to 'beat you' in a debate, and that by sharing information that helps your argument more than it helps mine, I have made a mistake worthy of mockery. Instead, I am trying to share an insight that I believe is being overlooked by the 'conventional wisdom' of this community and is affecting multiple public recommendations for rational behavior (of cost/benefit magnitude ~2x). If I am wrong, I would like to be shown to be so, and if you are wrong, I hope you also want to be corrected. If instead you're just debating for the sake of victory, then I don't expect you to ever be convinced, and I don't want to waste my effort.
How much does consumption affect production?

What you are effectively claiming is that there are no suboptimal producers of chickens. Unless every producer of chickens is ideally located, ideally managed, ideally staffed, and working with ideal capital there are differences in production costs.

There is a reason, that economics assumes that the amount of a good supplied changes as price changes, and I haven't seen any argument that exempts the case of chickens.

Also, how does the market create less chickens as demand falls? If there are differences in cost, the highest cost producers leave the market as price falls. Easy to answer with the standard assumptions, but almost impossible with your nonstandard prior.

1Timothy Telleen-Lawton7yIt's not that this will ever actually be the case, but the argument is that, in the long term, the market approaches what you would expect with such assumptions (and continues to have short term fluctuations away from that). But yes, even this assumption is clearly not actually true in all cases (as with all assumptions in neoclassical economics); the better question is whether it's a good simplification (enough to form a reasonable prior) or whether there is a better simplification we can consider (either simpler or more accurate). The estimates I'm critiquing in the original post assume "short term elasticities are the best prior for long term elasticities" and I am advocating that "a better prior for the long term cumulative elasticity factor [http://www.animalcharityevaluators.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/cef.pdf] is 1". The explanation of both of these issues is the short term supply curve (which is not flat). In the short term, if people stop eating chicken, the price drops, and the producers that are (in the short term) able to improve their (expected long term) profits by scaling or shutting down do so.
How much does consumption affect production?

No. It's true long term as well.

What you have listed are forces that drive the cost of production down. However, they cannot flatten all costs. For example, some locations are better for producing chickens than others. Better weather, cheaper labor market, ease of transportation to slaughter, etc. These factors cannot be cloned.

It's only the marginal producers that have costs at or just below the price.

1Timothy Telleen-Lawton7yIn the specific example, they could be cloned by expanding in the good locations. More generally, if you're claiming that there's a limited supply of good locations from which to produce chickens, then that reduces to a "finite inputs" argument I discuss in the last section of the OP. (For further discussion see responses to this comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/lgy/how_much_does_consumption_affect_production/btt4] .) In short, I agree that such effects can create a sloping long term supply curve in some cases, but I also believe that there are other effects that can lead it to slope the opposite direction, and it's not immediately obvious which wins out. My prior is that the long term supply curve for an arbitrary product is virtually flat. Said another way, if you're going to argue that the long term cost-per-widget is higher when producing 2X widgets than X widgets, then you have to argue that the effect of finite inputs outweighs gains to scale and other factors. I haven't seen such an argument generally or in the case of chickens.
How much does consumption affect production?

Basic economics that explains why the cost of chicken will drop. You are ignoring supply curves, and these exist because not all producers are identical. The drive in change of costs is competition among chicken producers.

There is a price for chicken, say 10$ per unit. To make a profit, each producer must produce chicken at less than that price. However, not all producers are making chicken at the same cost. Some are more efficient than others. Some spend 9$ making a unit, some spend 8$. Some could produce chicken for 10$ a unit and don't.. When d... (read more)

2Timothy Telleen-Lawton7yThis is true in the short term, but in the long term, the dynamic changes for producers: * The producers that know how to make chickens for $8 scale up or their production strategy is replicated by others. * The marginal cost of production (and hence price) keeps falling until all producers are making no profit (relative to opportunity cost of capital) * The industry can scale up/down (in the long term) to meet changing demand, but it can't drive prices any lower. If prices were any higher the industry would scale up in the short term and keep expanding until the price fell back to the Cost in the long term. The elasticity of the demand curve changes less than the supply curve in the super long term, but if you agree with me that the supply curve is virtually flat at that point, then the elasticity of the demand curve is negligible (because as the supply curve shifts left and right, the only point on the demand curve that matters is quantity @ price = Cost/Supply price).
Knightian uncertainty: a rejection of the MMEU rule

No, the difference is that con artists are another intelligence, and you are in competition. Anytime you are in competition against a better more expert intelligence, it is an important difference.

The activities of others are important data, because they are often rationally motivated. If a con artist offers me a bet, that tells me that he values his side of the bet more. If an expert investor sells a stock, they must believe the stock is worth less than some alternate investment. So when playing assume that odds are bad enough to justify their actions.

0[anonymous]7yNot sure where your comment disagrees with mine. I think you're describing the same thing as "update to a state of belief that makes the bet unprofitable".
Confound it! Correlation is (usually) not causation! But why not?

I'm pointing out that your list isn't complete, and not considering this possibility when we see a correlation is irresponsible. There are a lot of apparent correlations, and your three possibilities provide no means to reject false positives.

0[anonymous]8yIt ends with “etc.” for Pete's sake!

You are fighting the hypothetical. In the least convenient possible world where no dataset is smaller than a petabyte and no one has ever heard of sampling error, would you magically be able to spin the straw of correlation into the gold of causation? No. Why not? That's what I am discussing here.

Confound it! Correlation is (usually) not causation! But why not?

You're missing a 4th possibility. A & B are not meaningfully linked. This is very important when dealing with large sets of variables. Your measure of correlation will have a certain percentage of false positives, and discounting the possibility of false positives is important. If the probability of false positives is 1/X you should expect one false correlation for every X comparisons.

XKCD provides an excellent example. jelly beans

8gwern8y
The Evolutionary Heuristic and Rationality Techniques

I think that this is an application of the changing circumstances argument to culture. For most of human history the challenges faced by cultures were along the lines of "How can we keep 90% of the population working hard at agriculture?" "How can we have a military ready to mobilize against threats?" "How can we maintain cultural unity with no printing press or mass media?" and "How can we prevent criminality within our culture?"

Individual rationality does not necessarily solve these problems in a pre-industrial ... (read more)

Yes, Virginia, You Can Be 99.99% (Or More!) Certain That 53 Is Prime

It would more likely be user error. I believe 53 is prime. If it isn't then either mathematics is broken or I have messed up in my reasoning. It is much more likely that I made an error or accepted a bad argument.

53 not being prime while having no integer factors other than 1 and itself would break mathematics.

Yes, Virginia, You Can Be 99.99% (Or More!) Certain That 53 Is Prime

Your list actually doesn't go far enough. There is a fourth, and scarier category. Things which would, if possibly render probability useless as a model. "The chance that probabilities don't apply to anything." is in the fourth category. I would also place anything that violates such basic things as the consistency of physics, or the existence of the external world.

For really small probabilities, we have to take into account some sources of error that just aren't meaningful in more normal odds.

For instance, if I shuffle and draw one card fro... (read more)

0NancyLebovitz8yWould 53 not being prime break mathematics?
0somervta8yLNC, not the law of identity, I think.
How sure are you that brain emulations would be conscious?

Absolutely. I do too. I just realized that the continuum provides another interesting question.

Is the following scale of consciousness correct?

Human > Chimp > Dog > Toad > Any possible AI with no biological components

The biological requirement seems to imply this. It seems wrong to me.

How sure are you that brain emulations would be conscious?

It's a thought experiment. It's not meant to be a practical path to artificial consciousness or even brain emulation. It's a conceptually possible scenario that raises interesting questions.

0Juno_Watt8yI am saying it is not conceptually possible to have something that precisely mimics a biological entity without being biological.
How sure are you that brain emulations would be conscious?

That is probably the best answer. It has the weird aspect of putting consciousness on a continuum, and one that isn't easy to quantify. If someone with 50% cyber brain cells is 50% conscious, but their behavior is the same as as a 100% biological, 100% conscious brain it's a little strange.

Also, it means that consciousness isn't a binary variable. For this to make sense consciousness must be a continuum. That is an important point to make regardless of the definition we use.

0Error8yI find I feel less confused about consciousness when thinking of it as a continuum. I'm reminded of this, from Heinlein:
How sure are you that brain emulations would be conscious?

Very sure. The biological view just seems to be a tacked on requirement to reject emulations by definition. Anyone who would hold the biological view should answer the questions in this though experiment.

A new technology is created to extend the life of the human brain. If any brain cell dies it is immediately replaced with a cybernetic replacement. This cybernetic replacement fully emulates all interactions that it can have with any neighboring cells including any changes in those interactions based on inputs received and time passed, but is not biolo... (read more)

7ChrisHallquist8yNote that I specifically said in the OP that I'm not much concerned about the biological view being right, but about some third possibility nobody's thought about yet. This is similar to an argument Charlmers gives. My worry here is that it seems like brain damage can do weird, non-intuitive things to a person's state of consciousness, so one-by-one replacement of neurons might to similar weird things, perhaps slowly causing you to lose consciousness without realizing what was happening.
4Juno_Watt8yWhy would that be possible? Neurons have to process biochemicals. A full replacement would have to as well. How could it do that without being at least partly biological? It might be the case that an adequate replacement -- not a full replacment -- could be non-biological. But it might not.
The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ

Why are we talking about jobs rather than man-hours worked? Automation reduced man-hours worked. We went from much longer work weeks to 40 hour work weeks as well as raising standards of living.

AI will reduce work time further. If someone can use AI to produce as much in 30 hours as they did in 40, they could chose to work anywhere from 30 - 40 hours and be better off. Many people would chose to work less as they compare the marginal values of free time and extra pay.

Why are we seeing long term unemployment instead of shorter work weeks now? Is this inevitable or is there some structural or institutional problem causing it?

5[anonymous]9yShorter work weeks didn't just happen. It took a huge amount of effort from unions, which were a lot more powerful then than they are now. Most jobs don't let you freely trade off how long you work for how much money you get. There are fixed per-employee costs, so businesses would rather have one person working 40 hours per week rather than two people working 20 hours per week. Especially when 40 is the norm and wanting to work less is "lazy".
Singleton: the risks and benefits of one world governments

I don't think that's the relevant difference between forestry and fishing. Forestry can be easily parceled out by plot in a way that fishing can't. Forests can be managed by giving one logging concern responsibility for a specific plot and holding them responsible for any overlogging in that area and for any mandated replanting.

Fishing has to be managed by enforcing quotas, this is a much more difficult problem even for a single government. I haven't done research in fishing, but do we see fishing being managed well in areas that are under the jurisdiction of one government or governments with good cooperation (like the great lakes)? Or for species that's habitat is within the coastal waters of one government?

Singleton: the risks and benefits of one world governments

Why is it legitimate to assume that a singleton would be effective at solving existential risks? A one world government would have all the same internal problems as current governments. The only problems that scaling up would automatically eliminate are those of conflicts between different states, and these would likely be transformed into conflicts between interest groups in one state. This is not a reduction to a solved problem.

There are wars of secession and revolution now. There are also violent conflicts among ethnic and religious groups within on... (read more)

3Stuart_Armstrong9yContrast fishing (an international "commons") with forestry (a series of national commons). Many countries have successful forestry programs that preserve quite decently; but the devastation caused by overfishing is extreme. These two industries are not fundamentally different, but the fact that one requires international cooperation and the other doesn't seem to make all the difference. You could also glance at the successful international pollution reductions (eg CFCs and acid rain). A singleton should be able to do better than the painstakingly negotiated treaties of today! On specifics, the WHO seems to have a pretty decent track record on pandemics (not nearly as good as it should me, much better than it could be). I'm not all that knowledgeable on the various rules governing fissile materials, but they seem to be working acceptably, in any place that they can be enforced. And, of course, regulations of synthetic biology and AI are essentially impossible without a singleton or extreme global coordination.
2timtyler9yHistorically, those have caused some major problems... Warring political parties are generally less dangerous than warring nation states. Revolutions can happen, but they aren't too common - especially in well-designed political systems.
Fermi Estimates

I'm just pointing out the way such a bias comes into being. I know I don't listen to classical, and although I'd expect a slightly higher proportion here than in the general population, I wouldn't guess it wold be a majority or significant plurality.

If I had to guess, I'd guess on varied musical tastes, probably trending towards more niche genres than broad spectrum pop than the general population.

Fermi Estimates

Because of the images of different musical genres in our culture. There is an association of classical music and being academic or upper class. In popular media, liking classical music is a cheap signal for these character types. This naturally triggers confirmation biases, as we view the rationalist listening to Bach as typical, and the rationalist listening to The Rolling Stones as atypical. People also use musical preference to signal what type of person they are. If someone wants to be seen as a rationalist, they often mention their love of Bach and don't mention genres with a different image, except to disparage them.

8Qiaochu_Yuan9yI think you're conflating "rationalist" and "intellectual." I agree that there is a stereotype that intellectuals only listen to Great Works like Bach or Mozart, but I'm curious where the OP picked up that this stereotype also ought to apply to LW-style rationalists. I mean, Eliezer takes pains in the Sequences to make anime references specifically to avoid this kind of thing.
Fermi Estimates

Out of the price of a new car, how much goes to buying raw materials? How much to capital owners? How much to labor?

Fermi Estimates

Out of the price of a new car, how much goes to buying raw materials? How much to capital owners? How much to labor?

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
Fermi Estimates

Different method. Assume all 300 million us citizens are served by a Wal Mart. Any population that doesn't live near a Wal-Mart has to be small enough to ignore. Each Wal-mart probably has between 10,000 and 1 million potential customers. Both fringes seem unlikely, so we can be within a factor of 10 by guessing 100000 people per Wal-Mart. This also leads to 3000 Wal-Marts in the US.

We Don't Have a Utility Function

The difference between instrumental and terminal values are in the perception of the evaluator. If they believe that something is useful to achieve other values, then it is an instrumental value. If they are wrong about its usefulness, that makes it an error in evaluation, not a terminal value. The difference between instrumental and terminal values is in the map, not in the territory. For someone who believes in astrology, getting their horoscope done is an instrumental value.

0Eugine_Nier9yIn practice this criterion is frequently circular. See also the blue minimizing robot [http://lesswrong.com/lw/6ha/the_blueminimizing_robot/].
We Don't Have a Utility Function

Nyan, I think your freedom example is a little off. The converse of freedom is not bowing down to a leader. It's being made to bow. People choosing to bow can be beautiful and rational, but I fail to see any beauty in someone bowing when their values dictate they should stand.

We Don't Have a Utility Function

I think your definition of terminal value is a little vague. The definition I prefer is as follows. A value is instrumental if derives its value from its ability to make other values possible. To the degree that a value is not instrumental, it is a terminal value. Values may be fully instrumental (money), partially instrumental (health [we like being healthy, but it also lets us do other things we like]) or fully terminal (beauty).

Terminal values do not have the warm fuzzy glow of high concepts. Beauty, truth, justice, and freedom may be terminal valu... (read more)

1Eugine_Nier9yEither that or a bias. The difficulty (or even impossibility) of separating out biases from terminal values is the main problem with thinking of oneself as a VNM-utilitarian.
Voting is like donating thousands of dollars to charity

A couple of assumptions that you did not state. You assume that your favored candidate's budget contains truly optimal uses of charitable dollars. You need a step down function unless your preferred charity is funding government programs.

You assume that the opposition candidate's spending is valueless. Otherwise you need to consider the relative merits.

You assume that there is no portion of the opposition budget that is preferable. If you believe that each candidate has some portions right, you need to be subtracting this spending from the value of your... (read more)

6falenas1089yNo, they don't all have to be assumed. What needs to happen is something resembling their budget, on the order of plus or minus a few trillion dollars, is implemented. ETA: However, even this is unlikely to be entirely affected by the outcome of the presidential election, as this depends mostly on Congress.
2TraderJoe9y[comment deleted]
Logical Pinpointing

Not quite. They don't go all the way to completing an ought statement, as this doesn't solve the Is/Ought dichotomy. They are logical transformations that make applying our values to the universe much easier.

"X is unjust" doesn't quite create an ought statement of "Don't do X". If I place value on justice, that statement helps me evaluate X. I may decide that some other consideration trumps justice. I may decide to steal bread to feed my starving family, even if I view the theft as unjust.

Logical Pinpointing

Justice, mercy, duty, etc are found by comparison to logical models pinned down by axioms. Getting the axioms right is damn tough, but if we have a decent set we should be able to say "If Alex kills Bob under circumstances X, this is unjust." We can say this the same way that we can say "Two apples plus two apples is four apples." I can't find an atom of addition in the universe, and this doesn't make me reject addition.

Also, the widespread convergence of theories of justice on some issues (eg. Rape is unjust.) suggests that theories... (read more)

0Randy_M9y"theories of justice are attempting to use their axioms to pin down something that is already there" So in other words, duty, justice, mercy--morality words--are basically logical transformations that transform the state of the universe (or a particular circumstance) into an ought statement. Just as we derive valid conlcusions from premises using logical statements, we derive moral obligations from premises using moral statements. The term 'utility funcion' seems less novel now (novel as in, a departure from traditional ethics).
The Useful Idea of Truth

Counter-example. "There exists at least one entity capable of sensory experience." What constraints on sensory experience does this statement impose? If not, do you reject it as meaningless?

1Nisan9yHeh. Okay, this and dankane's similar proposition [http://lesswrong.com/lw/eqn/the_useful_idea_of_truth/7jms] are good counterexamples.
The Useful Idea of Truth

Internal consistency. Propositions must be non self-contradictory. If a proposition is a conjunction of multiple propositions, then those propositions must not contradict each other.

2RobinZ9yI think the condition is necessary but not sufficient. How would it deal with the post-utopian example in the article text?
How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

Of course I do try to help people read cues better. However, the problem is behavior. Misreading cues can lead to bad behavior, but someone can know they are making someone else uncomfortable and still act that way. I make no assumption about why someone does something. I only ask that they stop.

My point were that accepting creepiness is not cool and that low status is not what makes the behavior wrong. They were not meant to help people avoid being creepy, and naturally are not helpful.

How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

No, I am not saying that being a mind reader is required. Obviously we use physical and verbal cues. The point is that there is a goal to be achieved. The goal is not making people uncomfortable. It is not controlling the behavior of low status males.

The example was meant to provide a clear counterexample to "Don't do X when low status." That implies "X is acceptable when high status." It isn't. In fact, we often view high status creepers as much worse. It's worse if the boss is touchy-feely at work than if a coworker is.

6SilasBarta9yOkay, but then why do you assume the problem is that the person doesn't know X is wrong, rather than that the person misread the cues, and thus diagnose the problem with long expositions of "don't do X" rather than "hey, here's how to read cues better"? More importantly, why do so many people respond as you did, despite it being about as helpful as "The problem is that you need to sell non-apples!"
How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

No, it is not don't do X with low status. It is don't do X when unwanted. Status may influence what is wanted, but it does not excuse unwanted physical contact. It is just as wrong for the alpha male to do this as the omega male. For instance, I know someone with OCD who really does not like being touched. Are you saying it would be ok for some high status person to leave her uncomfortable with an unwanted hug?

No, it is not don't do X with low status. It is don't do X when unwanted.

So the rule is to use a mind-reader?

Are you saying it would be ok for some high status person to leave her uncomfortable with an unwanted hug?

I'm saying that the rare failure of a heuristic does not make it wrong to employ the heuristic; it just means that the user of it should stop employing it after it is known for this (very unusual) case.

There exist people who are extremely allergic to peanuts, so much that taking them out would cause a negative reaction far worse than an u... (read more)

How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

I think the most important advice is not "Don't be a creep." It is "Do not tolerate creepiness in others."

If someone is accused of being a creep do not back them up or dismiss their accuser unless you are damn sure they weren't being creepy. If someone looks creepy based on social cues (ex. is focusing on someone much more intently than it is returned.) consider creating a break in the conversation that would allow for a graceful exit. If someone is consistently creepy, especially with touching or gross innuendo and will not stop they should not be welcome in your group.

Assume guilt!

The noncentral fallacy - the worst argument in the world?

So, telling if the argument is an example of the worst argument in the world requires telepathy and precognisence. We cannot observe the intentions of an actor, only their actions. We also cannot tell the total results of an action. In fact there may be disagreements on intention and likely results.

Someone may believe that "Martin Luther King JR was a criminal" is not the worst argument in the world. They may believe that he acted out of a desire to overturn valuable social norms and that the results of civil disobedience would be further dis... (read more)

The noncentral fallacy - the worst argument in the world?

All of the arguments are of the form A is an X, when A is not a typical example of X. Here are some arguments that are of that form.

-"Having sex with an passed out stranger is rape."
-"Sleep deprivation/sensory deprivation/stress positions is torture."
-"Writing and cashing bad checks is theft."

Are these all instances of the worst argument in the world? If they aren't examples of the worst argument in the world, why not?

If the main reason that these arguments are acceptable is our disapproval of A, then your worst argument in the world is not a valid. It is just a way to discount rhetoric you don't like.

0turnipradish9yNone of the three examples proposed are the WAiTW. From Yvain's article, the distinction between the Worst Argument in the World and something that isn't is more about good intentions combined with good outcomes rather than whether or not the undesirable outcomes match the definition of the action. If a certain action both has good outcomes and is well-intended (e.g. abortion - done for the sake of the mother's or father's livelihood, not to maliciously kill a "human" being), then it does not fit the definition of "murder" because it doesn't share the intentions of murder, even though the "bad" outcomes are similar. Murder is unjustifiable; abortion is justified by the benefits it brings to already existing people and also because it does not affect any existing person negatively. Same can be said for genetic engineering - it is done with good intentions and would ideally produce good results, and while some outcomes may share some characteristics with eugenics (e.g. altering the gene pool), the means to reach the outcome are far more ethical and nobody is negatively affected by genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is morally justifiable. Eugenics is not. Now, examining the example of rape - having sex with a sleeping person who is a stranger to you is done with wrong intentions - malicious lust, selfishness, thirst for power, and lack of compassion for the victim. The outcomes are equally bad - complete violation of the victim, extreme fear induced in the victim (upon awakening, but most definitely real), pain inflicted upon the victim (involuntary penetration is going to hurt upon awakening, along with any other possible violence used), risk of pregnancy and STD's, the list goes on. There are no good outcomes of forcing sex upon a sleeping stranger and it shares all the wrong intentions and most of the bad outcomes of the more commonly reflected upon back-alley rape. But it still fits every definition of the word (i.e. sex without consent). Having sex with a
1Desrtopa9yI would say that they are all examples. Just because they would fly in typical discourse doesn't mean that they aren't very bad arguments, it's just that they're very bad arguments in favor of reasonable positions.

Consider a X that is bad for reasons R1, R2 and R3. R1 and R2 are really strong, while R3 is quite minor.

Consider an atypical case of X, A, which has only the reasons R1 and R2. Saying "A is X" doesn't do much harm. The real reasons for which you reject X (R1 and R2) are present in A, so saying "A is X so A is wrong" is acceptable.

Now consider another atypical case of X, B, which only share R3. Saying "B is X so B is wrong" is using the emotional power of the horror of R1 and R2, which B doesn't have, against B, just because... (read more)

Tips for Starting Group Houses

Make sure that you don't just have an agreement on what everyone wants. It is inevitable that either someone will not meet the house's expectations or will interpret the expectations in a different way. You also need some sort of a process for resolving whatever issues may come up.

4ShannonFriedman10yAgreed, its important to be realistic. With the hot tub, I made a detailed list of all expected expenses, plus margin for unexpected - I think I heard that projects usually cost about 20% more than the estimate. It ended up costing quite a bit more in practice, so I checked with people to see if they were okay with the upward adjustment, and then asked for a max that they were willing to spend so that I could continue working on it without continued asking at every point. We were able to make it happen for under the max. Another trick with group houses is making payment optional/voluntary - sometimes projects can get blocked because not everyone wants to contribute equally, so its good to just ask people to chip in what its worth to them, or whatever it is that they want to chip in, and see if you can cover expenses in a way that works for everyone. There are a lot of different options. As far as people not living up to expectations, that can definitely be an issue. I personally get around this by trying to automate as much as possible. Getting a housekeeper, and including expense of paying the housekeeper to take care of the hot tub was part of the expense estimate I gave that everyone agreed to.
SotW: Avoid Motivated Cognition

One of the key markers of rationalization I've seen is rationalizations ignore tradeoffs and other option. This is obviously true only about the rationalizations about actions and policies. For instance "I want to eat the whole cake to help the sugar industry..." never finishes "...and this help to the sugar industry is worth any ill health effects." or "...and this is more efficient than other ways to help the sugar industry,"

One activity that might help is to give people a plausible proposition to argue for in their own li... (read more)

Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI)

Would you mind explaining how what I have said is ahistorical nonsense?

Yes, at the end of the 18th century there was transatlantic trade. However, it was not cheap. It was sail powered and relatively expensive compared to modern shipping. Coal was generally not part of this trade. Shipping was too expensive. English industry used English mined coal. Same with American and German industry. If shipping coal was too expensive, why would charcoal be economical? You have jumped from "transportation existed" to "the costs of transportation... (read more)

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