All of Gwern_Branwen's Comments + Replies

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 al... (read more)

Rationality Quotes 26

If anyone was curious about the Eva/Warhammer one; the exact link is

(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) save... (read more)

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!

... (read more)
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 not for its sound but because it's easier to remember and

In Praise of Boredom

Zaphod: kind of funny, given the many foreign words in English - ennui, weltschmerz, melancholy etc.

Planning Fallacy

1) Procrastinating until the last moment to actually do the work (you have never heard of students doing that, have you?) :-). This is a common reason that no matter how long people are given to complete a task, they do not complete it on time, or do so at the last minute.

David, I think you're kind of missing the point here. The question is whether students could predict their projects' actual completion time; they're not trying to predict project completion time given a hypothetical version of themselves which didn't procrastinate.

If they aren't self-a... (read more)

She has joined the Conspiracy

Tom: I agree. The last Dungeons & Discourse comic merely had Kimiko as a logical positivist.

Serious Stories

TGGP: why are you opposed to the idea that we may want to retain parts of pain?

If we could get rid of the 'painfulness' of pain, and keep the informative part of pain, that'd be ideal. With no pain at all, we're in the situation of someone with nerve damage who might lose a limb to gangrene when she accidentally damages something but doesn't notice it. (Anyone for The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever?)

Painless pain isn't all that strange an idea:

'The second pain pathway is a much more recent scientific discovery. It runs parallel to the sensor... (read more)

2pnrjulius10yOn the other hand, there must be some downside to pain asymbolia, or we'd all have it. (Plainly the mutation exists; why isn't it selected for?)
Rationality Quotes 22

Shard: it's a theodicy; specifically, I think it's a divine plan theodicy ( ). (This isn't surprising, given Wolfe's intellectual interests.)

In this blog context, I suppose one could argue, it is a suggestion that it would not necessarily be a bad thing for a superintelligence to simulate humans/sentient-beings in unpleasant or unhappy situations if the dis-utilities of the simulated humans are not merely very much tinier than the utilities t... (read more)

Growing Up is Hard

Doug S.: do you have any links to that? As described, it sounds like you're plagiarizing Borges...

Patri: Yes, I too thought of the Algernon principle when reading Bostrom's paper; I've never seen that exact phrase used in any formal work (although the Red Queen principle is similar), but I know I've seen people reference informally the 'Flowers for Algernon principle' or just 'the Algernon principle'.

Dunbar's Function

'Buller is well known in the community he is attacking for misrepresenting the claims of the literature, ignoring evidence that contradicts his views, and generally engaging in academic malpractice. (He also doesn't understand the most basic principle in evolutionary biology, adaptationism.) Responses to these criticisms, which he has made before, are gathered here:'

Another good link from the SciAm comments is

Rationality Quotes 20

Hm, another Tsukihime quote. I wonder if perhaps Eliezer should one day do A Seed AI programmer's guide to Anime"? :)

Living By Your Own Strength

For anyone wondering where the quote is from: Morisato-san is Keiichi Morisato of the anime/manga franchise Oh My Goddess!, and the speaker is Belldandy.