All of Hansenista's Comments + Replies

Thanks for the info. I opened this post for the same reason as you, and now that I've read this I'm going to close it.

By that criterion, anything people can have an opinion on is "mindkilling". Yes, people are vulnerable to becoming entrenched in any way of thinking, but some are less vulnerable to such than others. And in my experience, diets are something people tend to be open to a variety of opinions on.

Anything people can have an opinion on is potentially mindkilling, yes, but I was saying diets are actually so for very many people. Basically, my experience runs counter to yours: I've seen a lot of people being unreasonable and irrational about dieting, whether or not they are/were dieting themselves. I'm happy that you can have rational conversations about diets with people. I still think my experience isn't extraordinary and so diets would be a poor choice for the OP's question.

Too vague; "a low fat diet" could be taken to mean replacing fats with carbs, replacing fats with proteins, or just eating less in general. Otherwise I think it's a fine idea.

Diets are mindkilling. Someone who is or has been on a diet, or has someone important to them who has, will treat choice of and necessity of dieting as a purely affiliation/signalling game.

Clearly cheering on a sports team and checking a bookie's odds fulfill two different functions. One is about signaling, whereas the other is about improving your knowledge.

Trying to convince someone to forsake one in favor of the other makes about as much sense as telling them to buy a Prius instead of learning to juggle.

Agreed. Teaching someone to differentiate those two would still probably qualify as raising the sanity waterline, though. People do make wagers and answer research questions based off the "social signalling" behavior, and I doubt that this is usually desired or worthwhile behavior (i.e. I doubt many people make bad $100 bets because they want to signal loyalty. I think they make them because they are genuinely confused)

It's still a good idea, though. If you changed it to, say, paleo vs. Okinawan diets, I think it would work fine.

How, exactly, is this discussion a "waste of time"? If it is worth having an IRC channel, it is worth taking the time to ensure that it functions smoothly.

I second badger's recommendation of the Princeton Companion. In fact, I expect that reading it might give you some ideas of your own as to what math to study.

You say below that you are interested in "fundamental" mathematics. Based purely on that, I would recommend abstract algebra, number theory, or some sort of course in proofs.

Also, this might seem obvious, but go talk to a math professor if at all possible. Much of the answer to this question depends on what the specific courses open to you are.

There is no reason an action like this can't have a compound cause. I would guess that, in the hypothetical, the person is not actually thinking "Okay, I'll preface this with 'obviously' so that I look good." However, it is likely that, since saying "obviously" is high status, they wouldn't think too hard about whether the thing is in fact obvious - certainly not as hard as if they were about to say something low status.

He made this reply before Eliezer's second post. Given that fact, it seems at least more fair than it would otherwise have been.

The criticism was fair, but I was objecting to the scale, which Mitchell_Porter has since called a "massive overreaction". One should verify that one's complaints really are falling on deaf ears before even making a threat, let alone carrying it out. (Props to MP for (and EY) for changing their minds.)

It would be very surprising if all the substantial advice one had for me turned out identical to what merely mortal soft transhumanists with environmental and social concerns are already saying.

Obviously a human author cannot foresee what "substantial advice" a transhuman intelligence would actually offer; therefore the story's god probably just functions as a mouthpiece for the author. I suggest you stop thinking about whether a superintelligent being would in fact say the things that character does, and start thinking about whether those things make sense on their own terms.

You don't say. I know an authorial tract when I see one; but putting aside my basic distaste for the form and considering the short story as persuasive writing, I'd say it's actually worse. It presents little reasoning, practically no evidence, and not even any especially interesting ideas. There's nothing there but a sketch of a future history and a few generic environmental and social warnings, and I can get that without the smug overtones (well, without the same smug overtones, at least) on any left-leaning transhumanist blog.

Probably the price of organ meat would go up, while the price of "normal" meat would go down. That's basically a winner for everyone.

Except those of us who already like organ meat...

The fact that people insist on calling it by its French name, rather than "fat liver", is a testament to the marketing that has to be done to support interest in it.

The study of variable quantities is called "al-jabr" not because mathematicians want to make it sound exotic, but because of historical accident. Unless you have particularly good reason to think otherwise, I would guess foie gras is the same way.

People are automatically repulsed by "fat liver". They're not repulsed by "the restoration". Foie gras needs to hide its original-language meaning to avoid turning away some people; algebra doesn't. Not a particularly relevant comparison, I think.

So far as I know it's not an acquired taste (e.g., generally unpleasant), so people would probably want it even if nobody were "bending their preferences".

I think most of the discussion of “bending preferences” and “acquired taste” underestimate the variance of tastes across the population. I've seen someone on LW saying that they didn't enjoy wine, and therefore suspecting that whoever claims to enjoy wine must be doing it for signalling. The idea that maybe some people actually enjoy wine and some don't doesn't seem to have occurred to them (where by some I mean ‘a sizeable fraction of the population’). Likewise, I'd be shocked to find that the fraction of people who actually like foie grass the first time they try it is 90%.
They have to do some bending to get people to notice its existence in the first place, let alone deem it worthy of trying a first time. The fact that people insist on calling it by its French name, rather than "fat liver", is a testament to the marketing that has to be done to support interest in it. I don't pretend this is a cure-all, or that we can always end livestock torture by not promoting its tasty products -- that would be endorsing a "just world fallacy". But sometimes we really do make our hard choices a lot harder than they need to be.

After reading it over again, I think I agree with you.

Would you describe doctors as "medicine promoters"?


You're asking someone who reads a lot of Robin Hanson.

In the second paragraph, I would strike this line:

Parents don't do everything their children ask.

as it seems to interrupt the flow.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
I think it helps establish the overall parent-child metaphor, which is important to the work.

I think removing it was a fine call. It is a nice paragraph, of course, but as you said, the entire thing is nicely written. And the next paragraph:

God would prevent it from ever actually happening, of course. At the very least, he’d visit some shade of gloom in Khan's heart. But in the mathematical answer to the question “What if?”, there is no God in the axioms.

conveys the same idea well enough.

If I were adding in the torture paragraph, it'd probably actually replace the "shade of gloom" paragraph. I think they end up closely stacked against each other - if you're saving the three lines from "gloom" then the slight length of "torture" isn't too bad. Then it's just "which is more powerful," which I'm still mulling over.

Maybe we should embrace an opportunity to put our rationality skills into practice.

It's always nice to hear that people are deriving utility (other than just the fun of discussion) out of all the stuff we talk about on this site. With that said, I wouldn't emphasize the first benefit you listed too strongly.

Yeah, it's true that surrounding yourself with people who agree with you on stuff is fun - and productive, if you agree correctly. But it's not a specific benefit of rationality - if you happened to believe that decisions should be made by searching your heart for the Holy Spirit's guidance, you would get exactly the same sense of sub... (read more)

I've heard Quakers praise Quaker desicion-making (like consensus, but with more pretense at being influenced by the Spirit) for the warm feeling it gives them. But those are only the ones who haven't snuck out before the meeting due to the incredibly long time it takes.
The less enthusiastic they are, the better reading that would be.

I understand the point you are making about ratios of frequencies, but by that logic, equal tempered music would presumably be automatically inferior to music in just intonation, because the consonant intervals are more consonant in just intonation than E-12 tuning.

Well, yeah. That's the only reason that people still talk about just intonation - it's considered a virtue that its intervals sound cleaner than equally tempered ones. Equal temperament is the standard because it allows transposition between keys, not because of some objection to how pure and clean just intervals are.

Yes, I understand that. What I'm arguing here is that a musical system with greater harmonicity is not neccessarily objectively better.
Another potential fix is to adjust timbres (i.e. sound spectra) so that they sound cleaner in equal temperament. See this example (MP3) from William Sethares' work (ironically, the only 12-TET piece from his freely-available samples). Sounds kind of uncanny and off-key to me, but that could be due to being unfamiliar with alt. tunings. YMMV. ETA: The Hammond organ also used 12-TET frequencies to generate its "harmonic partials", so it was effectively just as "clean" in 12-TET as other instruments are in just intonation. On the other hand, many people would judge the effect as excessively "bland" and "indistinct". But the sound spectrum of the Hammond organ was not very complex to begin with; applying the same fix to other instruments will probably give more appealing results.

"The Way Things Work" books.

Seconded (or thirded). One of my favorite books as a child as well; it was one of my first thoughts on reading the original post.