Gwern_Branwen

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The Bottom Line

"For the person who reads and evaluates the arguments, the question is: what would count as evidence about whether the author wrote the conclusion down first or at the end of his analysis? It is noteworthy that most media, such as newspapers or academic journals, appear to do little to communicate such evidence. So either this is hard evidence to obtain, or few readers are interested in it."

I don't think it's either. Consider the many blog postings and informal essays - often on academic topics - which begin or otherwise include a narrative along the lines of 'so I was working on X and I ran into an interesting problem/a strange thought popped up, and I began looking into it...' They're interesting (at least to me), and common.

So I think the reason we don't see it is that A) it looks biased if your Op-ed on, say, the latest bailout goes 'So I was watching Fox News and I heard what those tax-and-spend liberals were planning this time...', so that's incentive to avoid many origin stories; and B) it's seen as too personal and informal. Academic papers are supposed to be dry, timeless, and rigorous. It would be seen as in bad taste if Newton's Principia had opened with an anecdote about a summer day out in the orchard.

Rationality Quotes 26

If anyone was curious about the Eva/Warhammer one; the exact link is http://www.fanfiction.net/s/3886999/5/Shinji_and_Warhammer40k

(I'm reading it through and while I'm much more familiar with Eva than Warhammer, it's definitely better than most fanfiction.)

The Failures of Eld Science

And a quick note to those who think I'm echoing Brennan: I am, here, but my point differs in that I don't think it was a matter of 'training'.

I think if you abducted all the old greats, gave the necessary experimental data, and gave them a few months to produce the new theory before they were dragged out to the shed and shot, then they could do it just as well as these students. It's all about motivation.

It's not a matter of competency at paradigm shifts, if you will; it's accepting that one needs to happen now and you are the one who needs to do it. But there's no normal way to convince a scientific community of this; isn't it true that most new paradigms fail to pan out?

The Failures of Eld Science

Brandon: If we're still discussing possible failures, I'd like to chuck in one of my own.

  • They didn't know that they were looking for a better theory.

The students in this story have the incredible advantage that they are starting from a wrong theory and know this for certain, and not merely suspect or hold as a general philosophy-of-science principle 'there's probably a better theory than the current one'. This gives them several things psychologically: 1) the willingness to scrap painfully won insights and theories in favor of something new and 2) saves them from spending all their time and effort patching up the old theory.

I know in the past when I've tried my hand at problems (logic puzzles come to mind) that I am far more motivated and effective when I am assured that there is in fact a correct answer than when I am unsure the question is even answerable.

The Thing That I Protect

EJ: It takes a much harder kick to the head to hurt as much as a kick to the balls.

As a martial artist (tae kwon do, specifically), I have been kicked in the head and balls many many times - and I would much rather be kicked in the head than the balls. The strongest kick to the head I've taken hurt a fair bit and made me groggy for an hour; but the strongest kick (which wasn't very) to my balls ruined my entire day.

True Ending: Sacrificial Fire (7/8)

Dan: Obviously part 8 is the 'Weirdtopia' ending!

(I mean, we've had utopia, dystopia, and thus by Eliezer's previous scheme we are due for a weirdtopia ending.)

War and/or Peace (2/8)

Kevin: I don't think Eliezer meant to seriously suggest FSN is as good as Hamlet, but rather to continue his theme of 'strange future' (and maybe as part of a background viewpoint that 'one period's high culture is a former period's low pop culture' - which is true of Shakespeare BTW).

That said, I've always felt based on the animes that Tsukihime was Type-Moon's best work, and not FSN.

To Spread Science, Keep It Secret

John: quite right. This actually reminds me of one of the common threads in Michael Crichton's works. From Jurassic Park:

'...Malcolm said. "A karate master does not kill people with his bare hands. He does not lose his temper and kill his wife. The person who kills is the person who has no discipline & no restraint, and who has purchased his power in the form of a Saturday night special. And that is the kind of power that science fosters, and permits. And that is why you think that to build a place like this is simple." "It was simple!", Hammond insisted. 'Then why did it go wrong?"'

Or:

'"I will tell you what I am talking about," he said. "Most kinds of power require a substantial sacrifice by whoever wants the power. There is an apprenticeship, a discipline lasting many years. Whatever kind of power you want. President of the company. Black belt in karate. Spiritual guru. Whatever it is you seek, you have to put in the time, the practice, the effort. You must give up a lot to get it. It has to be very important to you. And once you have attained it, it’s your power. It can't be given away: it resides in you. It is literally the result of your discipline.

Now what is interesting about this process is that, by the time someone has acquired the ability to kill with his bare hands, he has also matured to the point where he won't use it unwisely. So that kind of power has a built-in control. The discipline of getting the you so that you won't abuse it. But scientific power is like inherited wealth: attained without discipline. You read what others have done, and you take the next step. You can do it very young. You can make progress very fast."'

BHTV: Yudkowsky / Wilkinson

Ian C.: What are you talking about? There were thousands of terrorist attacks in those 7 years.

Unless you mean in the continental US. In which case Bush's record doesn't compare well to even Clinton's... (2001-1993 = 8)

OB Status Update

aj: I voted for LessWrong.com not for its sound but because it's easier to remember OvercomingBias.com and LessWrong.com

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