All of infotropism's Comments + Replies

Free research help, editing and article downloads for LessWrong

Hi, could anyone help me obtain

"Limits of Scientific Inquiry" by G. Holton, R. S. Morison ( 1978 )


"What is Your Dangerous Idea?: Today's Leading Thinkers on the Unthinkable." Brockman, John (2007)

Thanks in advance

The second book on your list can be found here: []
The both of these are books, so I don't have ready access to an electronic copy, but both are very cheap to buy Limits (5.5 USD [] ) and Dangerous (4 USD [] ). I would guess you can also find them on pirating sites.
Dreams with Damaged Priors

So yes, you'd likely lose the fun of normal dreaming - experiencing weird stuff, letting the insane flow of your dreams carry you like a leaf on a mad wind and not even feeling confused by it, but rather feeling like it was plain normal and totally making sense, having lots of warm fuzzy feelings and partway formed thoughts about your experiences in that dream.

Yet you might on the other hand gain the fun of being able to, for instance, capitalize on your dreaming time to learn and do some thinking. Not to mention the pleasure and sense of security derived from knowing your rational mind can work even under (some) adverse conditions.

Good points, but; * I have plenty of time to think and don't feel like I'm in any rush. Sleeping is time off. * I've been pleased by my mind's acuity under some very adverse conditions indeed. And terrified by its fragility on other occasions (forest rave a couple of months back, not pretty). But dreams are too far removed from reality to be much use in training myself. Like I said - as soon as I become lucid (or at least aware that I'm dreaming) things stop being interesting.
Are You Anosognosic?

From the popularity of the "Strangest thing an AI could tell you" post, and anosognosia tidbits in general, this topic seems to fascinate many people here. I for one would find it freakishly interesting to discover that I had such an impairment. In other words, I'd have motivation to at least genuinely investigate the idea, and even accept it.

How I'd come to accept it, would probably involve a method other than just "knowing it intuitively", like how I intuitively know the face of a relative to be that of a relative, or how I know with ... (read more)

The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You

This, applies more generally than to anosognosia alone, and was very illuminating, thank you !

So, provided that as we grow, some parts of our brain, mind, change, then this upsets the balance of our mind as a whole.

Let's say someone relied on his intuition for years, and consistently observed it correlated well with reality. That person would have had a very good reason to more and more rely on that intuition, and uses its output unquestioningly, automatically to fuel other parts of his mind.

In such a person's mind, one of the central gears would be that... (read more)

Absolute denial for atheists

There's no such thing as an absolute denial macro. And I sure hope this to trigger yours.

Have you ever heard creationist talk ? For me that is proof of its existence.
Absolute denial macro can be an artifact of being Bayesian-rational, and being absolutely convinced (P=1, or ridiculously close to it) about something that just happens to be false. If you use your brain's natural ability to generate most plausible hypotheses consistent with data, and P(arm is not paralyzed)=1, then P(it's daughter's arm) > P(arm is paralyzed), so this hypothesis wins. If it's disproved, you just go for the next hypothesis, and you have plenty of them before you have to go for one with P=0 that happens to be true.
No, you wont!
2Z_M_Davis13y []) EDITED because Markdown (which is infuriating) won't allow parentheses in URLs, nor does subsituting ")" seem to work.
The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You

Yes I would. Why the acute interest ?

Is it because by admitting to being able to believe that, one would admit to having no strong enough internal experience of morality ?

Experience of morality, that is, in a way that would make him say "no that's so totally wrong, and I know because I have experienced both genuine guilt and shame, AND also the embarrassment of being caught falsely signaling, AND I know how they are different things". I have a tendancy to always dig deep enough to find how it was selfish for me to do or feel something in particu... (read more)

Actually saying that everyone is amoral would amount to admitting no internal moral life, so if you do believe that all people are sociopaths, you certainly shouldn't say it. On the other hand, saying that there are circumstances under which you could come to hold such a belief is a bit different. It shouldn't logically lead to a conclusion about what sort of person you are, but as the proposition that everyone is amoral is itself a morally repugnant one, I predict not many people will want to associate themselves with it even to the extent that you have.
Our society lacks good self-preservation mechanisms

Now we have a lot higher GDP

Yes indeed. Do you expect that to remain true after a nuclear war too ? More basically, I suppose I could resume my idea as follows : you can poke a hole in a country's infrastructure or economy, and the hole will heal with time because the rest is still healthy enough to help with that - just as a hole poked into a life form can heal, provided that the hole isn't big enough to kill the thing, or send it into a downward spiral of degeneration.

But yes, society isn't quite an organism in the same sense. There you probably could... (read more)

As I said, economy of countries destroyed after WW1 and WW2 picked up where it left extremely quickly, and definitely did not result in lasting return to stone age as some imagine. This makes me guess the economic disruption of a global thermonuclear war wouldn't be that long either. This is an outside view, and it's pretty clear, but I understand some people would rather take an inside view, which would be much more pessimistic.
The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You

Well, kidding aside, your argument, taken from Pearl, seems elegant. I'll however have to read the book before I feel entitled to having an opinion on that one, as I haven't grokked the idea, merely a faint impression of it and how it sounds healthy.

So at this point, I only have some of my own ideas and intuitions about the problem, and haven't searched for the answers yet.

Some considerations though :

Our idea of causality is based upon a human intuition. Could it be that it is just as wrong as vitalism, time, little billiard balls bumping around, or the ye... (read more)

Our society lacks good self-preservation mechanisms

What should be realized here, however, is that Hiroshima could become a relatively ok place because it could receive a huge amount of help for being part of the country with such a high GDP.

Hiroshima didn't magically get better. A large scale nuclear war would destroy our economy, and thus our capability to respond and patch the damage that way. For that matter, I'm not even sure our undisturbed response systems could be able to deal with more than a few nuked cities. Also please consider that Hiroshima was nuked by a 18 kt bomb, which is nothing like th... (read more)

How could it receive huge amounts of help if in 1949 where rebuilding started Japan did not have high GDP? Now we have a lot higher GDP, and if all our major cities are too expensive to rebuild, we can just move to other cities. Based on similar situations (WW2, fall of Soviet Union), disruption of economy will most likely not last long, so people after global nuclear war will most likely have plenty of money to use.
The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You

1 ) That human beings are all individual instances of the exact same mind. You're really the same person as any random other one, and vice versa. And of course that single mind had to be someone blind enough not to chance upon that fact ever, regardless of how numerous he was.

2 ) That there are only 16 real people, of which you are, and that this is all but a VR game. Subsequently results in all the players simultaneously being still unable to be conscious of that fact, AND asking that you and the AI be removed from the game. (Inspiration : misunderstandin... (read more)

5) Nine-word horror story: "We've had puberty, yes. But what about second puberty?"
The idea of Evidential Decision Theory is related to causality not existing. You only use correlation in your decision. Also, the laws of physics mention only correlation. This makes sense, as it's all we can really measure.

I may be a bit too paranoid but it occurred to me that I should doublecheck the apparent nature of 4. So I copy and pasted the entire text segment into an automatic ROT 13 window (under the logic that my filter wouldn't try to censor that text and so if I saw gibberish next to 4 just like with the others I'd know that there was a serious problem). I resolved that I would report a positive result here if I got one before I tried to read the resulting text, to prevent the confabulation from completely removing my recognition of the presence of text. I can report a negative result.

Number 1 is the core of the Buddhist religion. Coincidence? I think NOT.
2) is also an episode of Red Dwarf. I had the idea for 3) myself recently in the context of an SF story. Specifically it would be about how life, the universe and everything look when times goes the other way. The cutest part was that whenever you do something and don't know why you did it, it's because the time-reversed consciousness which shares your atoms exercised his free will. 4) is just awesome.

Number 6 is unfortunately one of the self-undermining ones: if it were true, then there'd be no reason why your memories of having examined the AI should be evidence for the AI's reliability.

Why'd you leave numbers 2 and 4 blank, though?

Who ever observed a "causation" ? Did you, like, expect causation particles jumping between atoms or something ? Only correlation exists.

But all that correlation has to be caused by something!

I really don't think I could believe #4. I mean, sure, one hippo, but all of them?

Why did you include number 4? Who disagrees with that?

1G Gordon Worley III13y
Very clever with #10.
Number 9 was pretty funny.
The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You

Funnily enough, you realize this is quite similar to what you'd need to make Chalmers right, and p-zombies possible, right ?

I thought Chalmers is an analytic functionalist about cognition and only reserves his brand of dualism for qualia.
Our society lacks good self-preservation mechanisms

Under those assumptions your estimates are sound, really. However, should we only count the direct deaths incurred as a consequence of a direct nuclear strike ? Or should we also take into account the nuclear fallout, radiations, nuclear winter, ecosystems crashing down, massive economy and infrastructure disruption, etc. ? How much more worse does it get if we take such considerations into account ?

Aside from those considerations, I really agree with your idea of getting our priorities right, based on numbers. That's exactly the reason why I'd advocate antiagathic research above a lot of other things, which actually kill and make less people suffer than aging itself does, but not everyone seems to agree to that.

Right now 350–500 million people a year suffer from malaria, billions live in places of massive economy and infrastructure disruption, and with health prospects most likely worse than first world person would have in post-thermonuclear-war environment. I doubt fallout would be that bad in the long term. Sure, there would be higher cancer rate, but people would abandon the most irradiated places, take some precautions, and the overall loss of healthy lifespan would most likely be of the same order of magnitude as a couple of decades of progress of medicine. For all I know people after a potential 2100 thermonuclear warfare might live longer and healthier than us.
Our society lacks good self-preservation mechanisms

I see your point, sometimes we may have already written the bottom line, and all that comes afterward is trying to justify it.

However, if an existential risk is conceivable, how much would you be ready to pay, or do, to investigate it ? Your answer could plausibly range from nothing, to everything you have. There ought to be a healthy middle there.

I could certainly understand how someone would arrive at saying that the problem isn't worth investigating further, because that person has a definite explanation of why other people care about that particular qu... (read more)

By all means, discuss the risks we face. However, my council is to bear in mind the sociological explanation for the "the end is nigh" phenomenon. 2012 isn't the first year in which the end of the world has been predictied. Are you actually concerned about the risk? Or are you attempting to signal to others what a fine fellow you are by alerting them to potential danger. Or is it that you wish to meet and form alliances with other people who want to help with the fine and noble cause of helping to SAVE THE WORLD? We understand the sociological explanation for the "DOOM" bias. Let us therefore exercise due caution in its immediate vicinity.
Our society lacks good self-preservation mechanisms

A fair point. So what you're telling me is that we should desire a future civilization that is descended from our own, probably one that will have some common points with current humanity, like, some of our values, desires (or values, desires who'd have grown from our own) etc. ?

It is not my wish to advise what people should or should not desire. However, there being no humans around does not necessarily a disaster make. Maybe the humans transcended their bodies, adopting a new, high-technology medium, which finally allows our brains to be copied and backed up. A disaster? Or the ancient dream of conquering death come true? That would seem to depend on your perspective.
Our society lacks good self-preservation mechanisms

How many deaths, directly or indirectly derived from the pope's prohibition, would be enough for his influence to be considered negative in this case ?

Our society lacks good self-preservation mechanisms

Technological progress seems to be necessary, but not sufficient to ensure our civilization's long term survival.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem quite adamant on arguing against the idea that our current civilization is in danger of extinction, when so many other people argue the other way around. This seems like it has the potential to degenerate into a fruitless debate, or even a flame war.

Yet you probably have some good points to make; why not think it over, and make a post about it, if your opinion is so different, and substantiated by facts and good reasoning, as I am sure it must be ?

That's a function of the venue of this discussion. The blog's founder goes to existential risk conferences - and so here we see the opinions of his supporters. Doom prophecies are an old phenomenon. The explanation appears to me to be mainly sociological: warning others about risk makes you look as though you are contributing positively. If the risk doesn't actually exist, then it needs manufacturing - so that you can still alert others to the danger. Of course, the bigger the risk, the more important it is to tell people about it. Existential risks are the "biggest" risks of all - so they are the most important ones to tell people about. Plus, alerting people to the risk might help you to SAVE THE WORLD! Thus the modern success of the "doom" meme.
Our society lacks good self-preservation mechanisms

I sometime wonder why people think this outcome is bad.

Mind if I ask, but, as opposed to considering it good ?

Indeed. Successfully colonising space is conventionally part of our Glorious Future.
Our society lacks good self-preservation mechanisms

hypothetical "disasters", civilisation doesn't end - it is just that it is no longer led by humans

You'd think that's actually pretty much what most of us humans care about.

Prepare for disappointment, then. My estimate of the chances of humans persisting for much longer is pretty tiny. Future civilisation is likely to be descended from current civilisation - but humans are much more likely to survive in museums than anywhere else. That outcome is not necessarily a disaster - it could be one of the best possible outcomes. Having humans in charge would be really, really bad for civilisation's health and spaceworthiness.
Our society lacks good self-preservation mechanisms

Whether those catastrophes could destroy present humanity wasn't the point, which was whether or not near misses in potential extinction events have ever occurred during our past.

Consider it that way : under your assumptions of our world being more robust nowadays, what would count as a near miss today, would certainly have wiped the frailer humanity out back then; conversely what counted as a near miss back then, would not be nearly that bad nowadays. This basically means, by constraining the definition of a "near miss" in that way, that it is... (read more)

Total extinction has expected value that's pretty much indistinguishable from minus infinity. Global thermonuclear war? Oh sure it would kill some people but expected number of deaths and amount of suffering from let's say malaria or lack of access to fresh water in the next 100 years is far higher than expected death and suffering from a global thermonuclear war in the next 100 years. Even our most recent total war, WW2, killed laughably small portion of the fighting population relative to historical norms. There's no reason to suspect WW3 would be any different, so number of deaths would most likely be rather limited. And as countries with low birth rates (that is pretty much all countries today) have historical record of trying very hard not to get into any war that could endanger their population (as opposed to send bombs to other countries and such), chance of such a war is tiny. So let's say 1% chance of global thermonuclear war killing 100 million people in the next 100 years (expected 1 million deaths) versus 1 million deaths a year from malaria, and 2 from diarrhea. I think we have our priorities wrong if we care about global thermonuclear wars much. (of course people might disagree with these estimates, in which case they would see a global thermonuclear war as more important issue than me)
Our society lacks good self-preservation mechanisms

Though that doesn't immediately make it non fictional evidence, dysgenic pressure (as well as the flynn effect and the possibility of genetic engineering as possible counters) is also being briefly mentioned in Nick Bostrom's fundamental paper Existential Risks - 5.3.

Our society lacks good self-preservation mechanisms

Well, there possibly was the Toba supereruption, which would fit being a near miss.

Arguably, we were very close too during the cold war, and several times over - not total extinction, but a nuclear war would've left us very crippled.

We're much safer against even very rare natural disasters like Toba (and others that act through climate) than it was historically. The kind of disaster that could wipe as out gets less and less probable every decade. I'm not even sure if the kind of asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs would be enough to wipe out humanity now, given a few years of prior warning (well, it would kill most people, but that's not even close to getting rid of the entire humanity). I seriously dispute the idea that we were very close to nuclear war. I even more seriously dispute the idea that it would have any long term effects on human civilization if it happened. Even in the middle of WW2 people's life expectancy was far higher than historically typical, violence death rates were far lower, and I'd even take a guess that average personal freedoms compared quite well to the historical record.
The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Truth About Morality and What To Do About It

Minor quibble, interesting info :

"like expecting the orbits of the planets to be in the same proportion as the first 9 prime numbers or something. That which is produced by a complex, messy, random process is unlikely to have some low complexity description"

The particular example of the planet's orbit is actually one where such a simple rule exists : see the law of Titius Bode

Theism, Wednesday, and Not Being Adopted

In maybe 15 years of time, Wednesday comes to this place, or what this place has become by then. She is still a Mormon, and is welcomed. She is interested in participating, because she is open minded enough, educated, and the community is tolerant and helpful. So she gets to learn about rationality, and is taken into the process of becoming a rationalist herself, and a productive, healthy member of the rationalist community.

My question : and after a few months or years of that, does she still remain a Mormon, or a believer in the supernatural ?

If yes, how ... (read more)

Excuse me, would you like to take a survey?

I agree with Vladimir too, you can't always pinpoint people like that.

I'd say I'm uncommitted too. By that I mean to encompass the general idea that I agree with a lot of the ideas that come from, for instance, libertarianism, and at the same time, with a lot of the ideas behind communism. As I never heard of a good synthesis between the two, so I stand uncommitted.

"Self-pretending" is not as useful as we think

Self fulfilling prophecies are only epistemically wrong when you fail to act upon them. Failing, maybe out of cynicism, sophistication or simply being too clever, rationalizing them away; the result will be the same.

There's a potential barrier there. You can tunnel through it, or not. Tunneling can sound magical and counterintuitive. It's not. There are definite reasons why it can work.

Sometimes, however, you don't know those reasons, but can observe it appears to work for other people anyway. Then you may want to find a way to bootstrap the process, lik... (read more)

This is a big insight among some of the "natural" PUA schools: that seeking tricks can in itself be evidence of a deeper lack of confidence... one that higher-quality women will pick up on. Or, to put it another way, you can't trick your way to sleeping with a woman who really has higher self-esteem than you. I don't know if that's a true statement, it's more of a pseudo-aphorism to illustrate something that is true: namely, that PUAs who use tricks and lies get women who don't believe they deserve anything better than tricks and lies.
This Didn't Have To Happen

Do you also, simply, desire to live ?

Or do you mean to say that if your life didn't possess those useful qualities, then it would be better, for you, to forfeit cryonics, and have your organs donated, for instance ?

And I'm actually asking that question to other people here as well, who have altruistic arguments against cryonics. Is there an utility, a value your life has to have, like if you can contribute to something useful, in order to be cryopreserved ? For then that would be for the greatest good for the greatest number of people ?

A value below whic... (read more)

Go Forth and Create the Art!

where rationality is easily assessed it is already well understood; it is in extending the art to hard-to-assess areas that the material here is most valuable.

My question is : as well understood as it is, how much of it do any single individual here, know, understand, and is able to use on a recurring basis ?

We'll want to develop more than what exists, but we'll build that upon - once we have it - a firm basis. So I wonder, how much knowledge and practice of those well understood parts of rationality, does it require of the would-be builders of the next tier ? Otherwise, we stand the risk, of being so eager as to hurriedly build sky high ivory towers on sand, with untrained hands.

Go Forth and Create the Art!

This article is definitely relevant - I hadn't seen anyone dare being honest about how most of philosopher's thoughts, of old, are not to be blindly revered, and are indeed highly flawed. They aren't right, they aren't even wrong. Thanks for the link.

Open Thread: April 2009

Don't you find it more aesthetically appealing that way ? Also, I'm French :-)

Open Thread: April 2009

Be that as it may be, what is a captial ? I understand the need for proper grammar and orthography in our dear garden, but there's something intriguing going on there :-)

Agreed. First it's just missing captials, then next thing you know weird spaces appear around question marks.
Open Thread: April 2009

So a lack of captials deserves a downvote ?

Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism

I get error 403 trying to access it. But I suppose you meant this : remember santa

Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism

I don't place any confidence in my intuition as a general, indiscriminately good-for-everything case. I try to only have confidence on a case by case basis. I try to pay attention to all potential bias that could screw my opinion, like anchoring. And try to not pay attention to who wrote what I'm voting upon. Then I have to have a counterargument. Even if I don't elaborate it, even if I don't lay it down, I have to know that if I had the time or motivation, I could rather reply, and say what was wrong or right in that post.

My decisions and arguments, could... (read more)

Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism

If I were in your shoes, I'd be fairly scared of posting about this again if I'd expect to be shot down. But please don't be afraid. I think such a post would really be interesting.

If it is shot down, that's a fact about the ideas, or maybe how they were laid down, not about you, after all. In that case, it's up to the people who disagree, to explain how they think you're wrong, or why they disagree.

If you hold the ideas you're exposing, as dear, or part of your identity, it may even hurt a bit more than simply being rebuked, but even then, really, I think it'll only help the community, and you, to move forward, to add them on the mat, and see where it leads.

Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism

That was my first idea. But I am not the only player here. I know I overcompensate for my uncertainty, and so I tend to never downvote anything. Other people may not have the same attitude, for down, and upvoting. Who are they ? Is their opinion more educated than mine ? If we all are too scrupulous to vote when our opinion is in fact precious, then our occasional vote may end up drowned in a sea of poorly decided, hastily cast ones.

Besides, I am still only going to downvote if I can think of a good reason to do so. For sometimes, I have a good reason to downvote, but no still no good reasons, or even no time, to reply to all ideas I think need a fix, or those which are simply irrelevant to the current debate.

You are trying to fight fools [] with your intuition. How much confidence [] do you place in it? Is your intuition more informed than the decisions of average voters? Hard to say, I wouldn't be so sure in this compound statement. It only becomes clear where you know yourself to be competent or ignorant, above or below the "average voter". At least abstaining from voting has clear semantics, you don't introduce your judgment at all. On the other hand, in many cases it should be easy to recognize poor quality.
Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism

Obeying. Even though I had some strong reasons to upvote. Edit : you're running for a record there - the most downvoted comment on LW :-)

Gotta do something with all that karma. :)
Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism

Don't overcompensate ? Reversed neutrality isn't intelligent censorship, and downvoting people more than usual, just to obey the idea that now you should downvote, won't work well I think. Take a step back, and some time to see the issue from an outside view.

Agreed --- What seems to be happening, funny enough, is an echo chamber. Eliezer said "you must downvote bad comments liberally if you want to survive!" and so everyone's downvoting everyone else's comments on this thread.
Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism

And the interesting question is : given decentralized censorship, or even no censorship at all, what sort of community can emerge from that ?

My impression is that 4chan is resilient from becoming a failed community, because they have no particular goal, except maybe every one doing what pleases themselves on a personal basis, given it doesn't bother everyone else.

Any single individual will, pretty naturally and unwittingly, act as a moderator, out of personal interest. 4chan is like a chemical reaction that has displaced itself towards equilibrium. It w... (read more)

Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism

The karma system isn't enough for the purpose of learning; I fully agree to that. And to the point of this article, I usually don't downvote people, rather I try to correct them if I see something wrong. That, if anything, seems more appropriate to me. If I see an issue somewhere, it isn't enough to point it, I must be able to explain why it is an issue, and should propose a way to solve it.

But Eliezer has me swayed on that one. Now I'll downvote, even though I am, indeed, very uncertain of my own ability to correctly judge whether a post deserves to be do... (read more)

I disagree, I don't think you should downvote what you don't understand. This will only pull the discussion to the level of the least competent people.
The ideas you're not ready to post

Not the mathematical proof.

But the idea that if you don't yet have data bound to observation, then you decide the probability of a prior by looking at its complexity.

Complexity, defined as looking up the smallest compressed bitstring program for each possible turing machines (and that is the reason why it's intractable unless you have infinite computational ressources yes ?), that can be said to generate this prior as the output of being run on that machine.

The longest the bitstring, the less likely the prior (and this has to do with the idea you can make ... (read more)

The ideas you're not ready to post

So maybe, to rephrase the idea then, we want to strive, to achieve something as close as we can to perfection; optimality ?

If we do, we may then start laying the bases, as well as collecting practical advices, general methods, on how to do that. Though not a step by step absolute guide to perfection, rather, the first draft of one idea that would be helpful in aiming towards optimality.

edit : also, that's a st Exupery quote, that illustrates the idea, I wouldn't mean it that literally, not as more than a general guideline.

The ideas you're not ready to post

I have an idea I need to build up about simplicity, how to build your mind and beliefs up incrementally, layer by layer, how perfection is achieved not when there's nothing left to add, but nothing left to remove, how simple minded people are sometimes being the ones to declare simple, true ideas others lost sight of, people who're too clever and sophisticate, whose knowledge is like a card house, or a bag of knots, genius, learning, growing up, creativity correlated with age, zen. But I really need to do a lot more searching about that before I can put something together.

Edit : and if I post that here, that's because if someone else wants to dig that idea, and work on it with me, that'd be with pleasure.

0Paul Crowley13y
Do you understand Solomonoff's Universal Prior?
I'm skeptical of the concept as presented here. Anything with the phrase "how perfection is achieved" sets up a strong prior in my mind saying it is completely off-base. More generally, in evolution and ecosystems I see that simplicity is good temporarily, as long as you retain the ability to experiment with complexity. Bacteria rapidly simplify themselves to adapt to current conditions, but they also experiment a lot and rapidly acquire complexity when environmental conditions change. When conditions stabilize, they then gradually throw off the acquired complexity until they reach another temporary simple state.
Rationality Quotes - April 2009

"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."

God (presumably), Revelation 3:16

Rationality Quotes - April 2009

"On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."

Charles Babbage

I remember someone on slashdot replied to that quote by saying, basically, If you're a mid-19th century member of Parliament, and you're presented with a machine design you don't understand (and don't expect to), by a respectable person asking for money, but you have a basically non-mysterious view of the world, what kinds of questions can you ask to determine whether the idea is scam? The question Babbage complains about is an excellent one. If the designer claims it can get the right answers no matter what you've input into the machine, thus relying on reading your mind, you can know it's just a crude attempt at scamming you.
Rationality Quotes - April 2009

There will always be a large difference between those who'd ask themselves "why won't things work as they are meant to" and those asking themselves "how could I get them to work". For the moment being, the human world belongs to those who would ask "why". But the future belongs, necessarily, to those who'd ask themselves "how".

Bernard Werber

And a few interesting reversed proverbs and quotes that ring truer than the original ones there (for those who can read French). [] Like : In doubt, abstain ! In doubt, search further !
Rationality Quotes - April 2009

Philosophy easily triumphs over past and future evils. But present ones, prevail over it.

Maxim 22 François de La Rochefoucauld

My Way

Among the only differences I could think of, is that noticing the difference between black and white has almost only negative connotation today, while noticing it between males and females is a more mixed bag. What if it was possible to attach positive affect reactions in excess to negatives ones, to that color difference ? Would it still be good to abolish people's noticing ? Though, color of skin isn't a category in the same sense sex is; it doesn't correlate with so much potential difference.

This also leads to the other reason why you'd think it's impor... (read more)

This basically sums up my thoughts on the matter. Either gender differences are intrinsic sex differences viewed through cultural lens, in which case erasing the differences isn't possible anyways baring advanced technology; or they're pure socially constructed groups with sex-biased membership in which case the proposition that gender is more relevant than any other social group identity strikes me as weakly defended at best.
It's true - a woman can take pride in being caring, empathic, etc. A man can (secretly) take pride in being aggressive, competitive, etc. Blacks in America are constantly told to take pride in being black, but aren't supposed to take pride in any specific traits - just specific events in history. (I saw an Indian woman, trying to compliment a black man, say very sincerely that blacks were good at sports. He was not pleased. The fact that this could seem funny is strange.) Absorbing all cultures into a single culture would be bad; I say this based on experience with genetic algorithms. If we eliminated race, it would increase cultural entropy. And I've got to think there must be similar advantages to having different races, as opposed to churning out people with SNPs chosen independently with probability proportional to their worldwide frequency.
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