Sorted by New


Attention! Financial scam targeting Less Wrong users

The comments baffle me. I think it can be taken for granted that people on this site have an elevated sense of skepticism -- perhaps not enough to repel ALL scams, but certainly enough to recognize a scam when your attention is explicitly drawn to it contemporaneously. Why are we now wasting time with in-depth discussion ABOUT scams and methodology, WITH the scammer in the conversation? And if you believe him not to be a scammer, why are you putting a burden of proof onto him to countersignal "fishy behavior" rather than simply lay out behaviors which will not be tolerated, or setting up an escrow Bitcoin wallet?

Rationality Quotes December 2014

You lost me at "junk heap." There is no conscious choice available to a layperson ignorant of philosophy and logic, and such ways of life are perfectly copacetic with small-enough communities. If anything, it is the careful thinker who is more shackled by self-doubt, better understood as the Dunning-Kruger effect, but Ayn Rand has made it obvious she never picked up any primary literature on cognitive science so it's not surprising to see her confusion here.

Quote from 1971's The Romantic Manifesto.

Rationality Quotes May 2014

Unfortunately this self-debasing style of contradiction has become the norm, and the people I talk to can instantly notice when I am pouring sugar on top of a serving of their own ass. Perhaps they are simply noticing changes in my tone of voice or body language, but in sufficiently intellectual partners I've noticed that abruptly contradicting them startles them into thinking more often, though I avoid this in everyday conversation with non-intellectuals for fear of increasing resentment.

Doubt, Science, and Magical Creatures - a Child's Perspective

Perhaps the tooth fairy doesn't magically sense baby teeth under pillows, but she has to be sent a telepathic note from the child's parents first.

Rationality Quotes August 2013

In Bakemonogatari, the main characters often encounter spirits that only interact with specific people under specific conditions, although the effects they have are real (and would manifest to another's eyes as inexplicable paranormal phenomena). As such it's more a request about shoring up inconsistencies in sense perception, than it is about inconsistencies in belief.

MetaMed: Evidence-Based Healthcare

I suspect that later, when they have more presence in the public and expert view, they will open up new payment options to increase visibility of their reports, but only after they have employed significantly more researchers and run them through rigorous epistemic ethics training. Otherwise, there's little stopping a Big Pharma company from hiring Metamed for a $3,000 report, and then posting a biased summary of the report on their news page, along with an "APPROVED BY METAMED" sticker. Even worse if Metamed considers the "approval sticker" to be useful to spreading awareness of evidence-based medicine. The potential for corruption is just too high.

Rationality Quotes February 2013

If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide that proves they should value evidence? If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument would you invoke to prove they should value logic?

--Sam Harris

Rationality Quotes December 2012

A: Embodies the Way. B: Has studied. P(A|B)>P(A|~B). P(A|B)0.

Causal Universes

There is a hugely successful webcomic called Homestuck (maybe you've heard of it; it raised over $2 million in one month to make a game out of it) and a significant part of the comic's events are reliant on time travel. The comic itself is dense and insanely complex, so I will do my best to spoil as little as possible, because to my knowledge there are no plot holes, and in the end it all makes sense if you keep reading through to Act 5 and beyond.

The basic idea is that the four main characters are playing an immersive video game called Sburb, and the game takes place within their universe. In Act 4, Dave is shown in a Bad Future where something happened and made the game unwinnable. At some point he had created time-tables that let him go back and forth in the timeline, became the Knight of Time, and eventually decided to go back and Make Things Right. We then learn that Sburb, the game-universe, encourages the use and abuse of stable time loops, but punishes those who try to change fate by killing the errant traveler. This leads to a handful of dead Daves piling up, the equivalent to Dumbledore discovering his own sticky notes, except more gruesome.

The biggest mystery of Act 4 was the fact that the Dave from the Bad Future came from a Doomed timeline, but his interference in the Alpha timeline was critical to winning the game. In fact, his interference caused a grandfather paradox, as he prevented the events that caused him to go back. Normal causality had to be thrown out the window. This caused a hurricane of argument on the MSPA forums over which time travel theory used Occam's Razor the best.

My personal favorite was developed by myself and BlastYoBoots, and we called it Wobble Theory. It worked like a turing machine: Sburb steps through the initial seed of the universe and tries to see if certain conditions are met, chief among them being the WIN or LOSE condition, but there are additional caveats fhpu nf erdhvevat gung nyy vagre-frffvba pbairefngvbaf gnxr cynpr, gur cynagvat bs gur Sebt Grzcyr, gur cnffntr bs Wnpx Abve naq gur Pebfolgbc/Srqben, rgp. If these conditions were not met, the universe would mark down places where things had gone right (i.e. adhered to the Alpha timeline as decided), constrain those, and see what else it could tweak. The most-often changed variable would be a Time player's decisions, as they were literal butterfly effects who could bring huge changes back to the present after their decisions had propagated into a Doomed future. In this way, the Alpha timeline was like a vigorously shaken wet noodle, grabbed from one end and pinched along its length until it stopped wobbling.

Eventually, the comic explained that Immutable Timeline Theory was the winner. Sburb had literally calculated the entire timeline AND all of its off-shoots in one go; that something happened was "AN IMMUTABLE FACT THAT WE ARE STATING FOR THE RECORD." The various problems with this are explained away with a turtles-all-the-way-down demeanor, and going into those explanations would only spoil more than I want to.

The short version is that Andrew Hussie literally exists in-universe as the author of the comic, and if he says the timeline ought to go this way, it will.

Rationality Quotes November 2012

It's an example of how even absurd amounts of research can fail to move a religious thought. I think too many people will fail to get the joke and the potential for abuse is too high.

Load More