Samuel Hapák

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Arguments for the existence of qualia

Most of people believe in an existence of the world around us. When I say existence, I don't mean existence in a mathematical sense such as "there exists ε > 0", I mean existence as something "real", "fundamental".

On the other hand, the very same people believe there is nothing such as "soul, qualia, god, call it whatever you like it". I find that strange, because every single argument against existence of soul can be used against existence of the physical world around us.

Take this one for example:

"Of course you say that you feel like you're more than a mere atoms, that's just a manifestation of the way atoms inside you are aligned."

And contrast it with:

"Of course it seems that mathematical model is real and stuff is happening there, it's by the very definition of that mathematical model that it should look real".

Being the (Pareto) Best in the World

Something is missing in this explanation. Why isn’t everyone super rich?

No, it's not The Incentives—it's you

It's a huge difference whether the reviewer is some anonymous person unrelated to the journal or whether it's an editor in chief of the journal itself. I don't think it's appropriate to call the latter peer-review (there are no "peers" involved), but that's not important.

Editor in chief has a strong motivation to have a good quality journal. If he rejects a good article, it's his loss. On the contrary, anonymous peer have stronger motivation to use this as an opportunity to promote (get cited) his own research than to help journal curate the best science.

Let me try to rephrase the shift I see in science. Over the 20th century, science became bureaucraciesed, the process of "doing science" was largely formalised and standardised. Researchers obsess about impact factors, p-values, h-indexes, anonymous peer reviews, grants, currents...

There are actual rules in place that determine formally whether you are "good" scientist. That wasn't the case over the most of the history of the science.

Also the "full-time" scientist who never did any other job than academy research was much less common in the past. Take Einstein as an example.

No, it's not The Incentives—it's you

Royal Society in 1660 and current academia are very different beasts. For example the current citations/journal’s game is pretty new phenomenon. Peer-review wasn’t really a thing 100 years ago. Neither complex grant applications.

No, it's not The Incentives—it's you

Academia in the current form isn’t Lindy. It’s not like we’re doing this thousands of years. Current system of Academia is at most 70 years old.

No, it's not The Incentives—it's you

Is it necessary so? Today science means you spend considerable portion of your time doing bullshit instead of actual research. Wouldn't you be in a much better position doing quality research if you're earning good salary, saving a big portion of it, and doing science as a hobby?

No, it's not The Incentives—it's you

Some important things can be a source of income, such as farming. Farming is pretty important and there are no huge issues with farmers doing it for profit.

Problems happen when there is a huge disconnect between the value and reward. This happens in a basic research a lot, because researchers don't have any direct customers.


Arguably, in a basic research, you principally can't have any customers. Your customers are future researchers that will build on top of your research. They would be able to decide whether your work was valuable or whether it was crap, but you'd be pretty old or dead by that time.

No, it's not The Incentives—it's you

Very nice. Few notes:

1. Wrong incentives are no excuse for bad behaviour, they should rather quit their jobs than engaging in one.

2. World isn't black or white, sometimes there is a gray zone where you contribute enough to be net+, while cut some corners to get your contribution accepted.

3. People tend to overestimate their contribution and underestimate the impact of their behaviour, so 2. is quite dangerous.

4. In an environment with sufficiently strong wrong incentives, the only result is that only those with weak morals survive. Natural selection.

5. There is lot of truth in Taleb's position that research should not be a source of your income, rather a hobby.

On alien science

Yeah, I think you're right. There are two types of explanations:

  • those which compress information
  • those which provides us with faster algorithms to reason about the world

The three-body systems is the example of the latter. As is lots of math and computer science.

On alien science

Good property of scientific theory is that it serves as a data compression. Les bits you need to explain the world around you, the better theory. This is IMO very good definition of what explanation is.

Also, the compression usually is lossy, such as Newtonian mechanics.

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