Jacob Falkovich

Writes Putanumonit.com and helps run the New York LW meetup. @yashkaf on Twitter.

Wiki Contributions


The honor system sucks ass. Men want to fight for fun or to defend their tribe (I did both!) but not to be compelled into a fight by any random moron insulting them or they'll face social repercussions from within their own people.

Countercounterpoint: I just wanted to fight in rationalist fight club and it was great fun, I don't really care about winning (and not much about training).

By "everything is just experiences" I mean that all I have of the rock are experiences: its color, its apparent physical realness, etc. As for the rock itself, I highly doubt that it experiences anything.

As for your red being my red, we can compare the real phenomenology of it: does your red feel closer to purple or orange? Does it make you hungry or horny? But there's no intersubjective realm in which the qualia themselves of my red and your red can be compared, and no causal effect of the qualia themselves that can be measured or even discussed.

I feel that understanding that "is your red the same as my red" is a  question-like sentence that doesn't actually point to any meaningful question is equivalent to understanding that HPoC is a confusion, and it's perhaps easier to start with this. 

Here's a koan: WHO is seeing two "different" blues in the picture below?

I tried to communicate a psychological process that occurred for me: I used to feel that there's something to the Hard Problem of Consciousness, then I read this book explaining the qualities of our phenomenology, now I don't think there's anything to HPoC. This isn't really ignoring HPoC, it's offering a way out that seems more productive than addressing it directly. This is in part because terms HPoC insists on for addressing it are themselves confused and ambiguous.

With that said, let me try to actually address HPoC directly although I suspect that this will not be much more convincing.

HPoC roughly asks "why is perceiving redness accompanies by the quale of redness". This can be interpreted in one of two ways.

1. Why this quale and not another?

This isn't a meaningful question because the only thing that determines a quale as being a "quale of redness" is that it accompanies a perception of something red. I suspect that when people read these words they imagine something like looking at a tomato and seeing blue, but that's incoherent — you can't perceive red but have a "blue" quale. 

2. Why this quale and not nothing?

Here it's useful to separate the perception of redness, i.e. a red object being part of the map, and the awareness of perceiving redness, i.e. a self that perceives a red object being part of the map. These are two separate perceptions. I suspect that when people think about p-zombies or whatever they imagine experiencing nothingness or oblivion, and not a perception unaccompanied by experience, or they imagine some subliminal "red" making them hungry similar to how it would affect a p-zombie.  There is no coherent way to imagine being aware of perceiving red, and this being different from just perceiving red, without this awareness being an experience. All you have is experience. 

HPoC is demanding a justification of experience from within a world in which everything is just experiences. Of course it can't be answered! If it could formulate a different world that was even in principle conceivable, it would make sense to ask why we're in world A and not in world B. But this second world isn't really conceivable if you focus on what it would mean. The things you're actually imagining are seeing a blue tomato or seeing nothing or seeing a tomato without being aware of it, you're not actually imagining an awareness of seeing a red tomato that isn't accompanied by experience.

I understand where you're coming from, but I think that norms about e.g. warning people about writing from an objectionable frame only makes sense for personal blogs and it's not a very reasonable expectation for a forum like LessWrong. These things are always very subjective (the three women I sent this post to for review certainly didn't feel that it assumed a male audience!). While a single author can create a shared expectation of what they mean by e.g. "warning: sexualizing" with their readers I don't think a whole community can or should try to formalize this as a norm.

Which means that it's on the reader to look out for themselves. I'm not going to put content warnings on my writing, but if you decide based on this post that you will not read anything written by me that's tagged "sex and gender" that's fair. 

This was a very interesting read. Aside from just illuminating history and how people used to think differently, I think this story has a lot of implications for policy questions today.

The go-to suggestions for pretty much any structural ill in the world today is to "raise awareness" and "appoint someone". These two things often make the problem worse. "Raising awareness" mostly acts to give activists moral license to do nothing practical about the problem, and can even backfire by making the problem a political issue. For example, a campaign to raise awareness of HPV vaccines in Texas lowered the numbered of teenage girls getting the vaccine because it made the vaccine a signal of affiliation with the Democrat party. Appointing a "dealing with problem X officer" often means creating an office of people who work tirelessly to perpetuate problem X, lest they lose their livelihood.

So what was different with factory safety? This post does a good job highlighting the two main points:
• The problem was actually solvable
• The people who could actually solve it were given a direct financial incentive to solve it

This is a good model to keep in mind both for optimistic activists who believe in top down reforms, and for cynical economists and public choice theorists. Now how can we apply it to AI safety?

The best compliment I can give this post is that the core idea seems so obviously true that it seems impossible that I haven't thought of or read it before. And yet, I don't think I have.

Aside from the core idea that it's scientifically useful to determine the short list of variables that fully determine or mediate an effect, the secondary claim is that this is the main type of science that is useful and the "hypothesis rejection" paradigm is a distraction. This is repeated a few times but not really proven, and it's not hard to think of counterexamples: most medical research tries to find out whether a single molecule or intervention will ameliorate a single condition. While we know that most medical conditions depend on a whole slew of biological, environmental, and behavioral factors that's not the most relevant thing for treatment. I don't think this a huge weakness of the post, but certainly a direction to follow up on.

Finally, the post is clear and well written. I'm not entirely sure what the purpose of the digression about mutual information was, but everything else was concise and very readable.

This seems very obviously incorrect. Googling "how to make boyfriend happy" brings up a lot of articles about showing trust, making romantic gestures, giving compliments, doing extra chores, etc.

That's true, but I think this sort of thing isn't usually given as "dating advice" for women and many would bristle at the suggestion that the girl has to do and practice all those things to find a happy relationship. A girl who's googling "how to make boyfriend happy" instead of "how to get boyfriend" is already on the right track.

And again, I'm not saying that women don't contribute to relationships or marriages — they clearly do and you can make the fair argument that it's more than 50% on average. I'm saying that they don't signal their abilities and willingness to contribute in the early phases of mating and courting, and all advice about how to find a boyfriend doesn't talk about that at all.

Jack Sparrow is clearly recognized as a man by me, you, and everyone we know. Maybe where you grew up all men were limited in their gender expression to be somewhere between Jack Sparrow and John Rambo, in which case you really wouldn't need more than two genders. But that doesn't begin to cover the range of gender expression we see, not in some abstract thought experiment or rare medical edge case but in our very own community.

Just as a data point for you: I made the conscious decision to spend 100 hours on Elden Ring the day I bought it, and have spent almost none of these 100 hours feeling conflicted or shamed. Writing this post was also fun — was writing the comment fun for you?

I don't want to go into a discussion of all the topics this touches on from self-coercion to time management to AI timelines to fun, just a reminder to be careful about typical minding.

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