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Does it occur to anyone else that the fable is not a warning against doing favors in general but of siding with "outsiders" against "insiders"? When the farmer protects the venomous snake from the people trying to kill it, from a human perspective he's doing a bad thing. When the heron recommends white fowl as a medicine, even he were not to himself become a meal, he's not doing the bird community any favors. And the farmer's wife, in letting the heron go, is depriving her husband of vital medicine.

Best thought-out utopia ever:

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, all the cops have wooden legs And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth and the hens lay soft-boiled eggs The farmer's trees are full of fruit and the barns are full of hay Oh I'm bound to go where there ain't no snow Where the rain don't fall, the wind don't blow In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, you never change your socks And little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks The brakemen have to tip their hats and the railroad bulls are blind There's a lake of stew and of whiskey too And you can paddle all around 'em in a big canoe In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains the jails are made of tin, And you can walk right out again as soon as you are in There ain't no short-handled shovels, no axes, saws or picks, I'm a-goin' to stay where you sleep all day Where they hung the jerk that invented work In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

I think the word "kill" is being grossly misused here. It's one thing to say you have no right to kill a person, something very different to say that you have a responsibility to keep a person alive.

Keep posting. Once a week, even once a month, is better than never. If you can get more authors than provide high quality content, great, but if you can't, that's okay, don't worry about quantity.

To be precise, in every case where the environment only cares about your actions and not what algorithm you use to produce them, any algorithm that can be improved by randomization can always be improved further by derandomization.

Isn't this trivially true? Isn't the most (time) efficient algorithm always a giant lookup table?

Consider this scenario:

There are a large number of agents independently working on the same problem (for example, trying to find a string that hash-collides with some given string), but they cannot communicate in any way, they don't have any identification information about each other, they don't know how many other agents there are working on the problem (they aren't even sure there are any). It seems to me that each agent should decide at random where to start searching, not to fool each other but to avoid pointlessly duplicating each others' work.

Are you sure there is always something better than randomness?

I think it's worth mentioning that Kasparov will have a harder time accurately predicting your moves than you will have predicting his. Each of you knows that Kasparov will win, but this will much more likely be due to a blunder on your part than a brilliancy on his. He may well reason, "sooner or later this patzer is going to hang a piece", but he will have no way of knowing when.

Here's what I find difficult to understand from an evolutionary perspective: why do we have a sense that we ought to do what is right as opposed to what society wants us to do? Why are we even capable of making this distinction?

Cat Dancer,

The frequentist answer of 1/3 is effectively making the implicit assumption that the parent would have said "at least one boy" either if both were boys or if there were one of each, and "at least one girl" if both were girls. Eliezer2008's 1/2 answer effectively assumes that the parent would have said "at least one boy" if both were boys, "at least one girl" if both were girls, and either with equal probability if there were one of each. "No alternative" assumes the parent is constrained to (truthfully) say either "at least one boy" or "at least one girl", an assumption that strikes me as being bizzare.

Will Pearson, you could not be more wrong. Winning money at games of chance is precisely what probability theory was designed for.

Thank you for a correct statement of the problem which indeed gives the 1/3 answer. Here's the problem I have with the malformed version: I agree that it's reasonable to assume that if the children were a boy and a girl it is equally likely that the parent would say "at least one is a boy" as "at least one is a girl". But I guess you're assuming the parent would say "at least one boy" if both were boys, "at least one girl" if both were girls, and either "at least one boy" or "at least one girl" with equal probability in the one of each case.

That's the simplest set of assumptions consistent with the problem. But the quote itself is inconsistent with the normal rules of social interaction. Saying "at least one is a boy" takes more words to convey less information than saying "both boys" or "one of each". I think it's perfectly reasonable to draw some inference from this violation of normal social rules, although it is not clear to me what inference should be drawn.

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