All of jferguson's Comments + Replies

> A question I have here is, why not try for low calories per litre instead of (or as well as) low calories per gram?

I think calories per gram is usually what people study due to some combination of:
- this is the way somebody chose to measure "energy density" early on and it stuck for whatever reasons things stick
- in cooking and/or conducting experiments, mass is pretty much always easier to measure than volume (even with liquids, in my opinion...)
- we see this metric work pretty well -- better than basically any other known single factor, is my impres... (read more)

Reported numbers vary quite a bit (perhaps in part because the physical activity intensity of training or warfighting also varies), but you might be interested to know that soldiers in training or active duty might hit something like 4000-5000 kcal/day in energy expenditure, maybe thousands more for outlier people and/or circumstances.

A PSA for those who might like to have less body fat: a number of observational and experimental studies find that the energy density of your diet (as in, calories per gram) is a very, very good predictor of ad libitum caloric intake. I doubt that an increase in the caloric density of our diets fully explains the obesity epidemic -- there's probably something to the "hyperpalatability" idea (though hyperpalatable foods are almost always very energy dense too), habitual nicotine and THC intake trends probably matter, I'd buy that some contaminants even if n... (read more)

A question I have here is, why not try for low calories per litre instead of (or as well as) low calories per gram? Some thoughts on that: * The relevant thing would be density after chewing, not density on the plate. Maybe there's not much variance in that. (If so, maybe "swallow your food without chewing" is an unrealized life hack for losing weight, with the caveat that it increases your risk of choking and dying.) * Maybe your stomach will break down less-dense contents faster? A very naive model says that if you compress something, its surface area decreases so there's less for acid to react with but the same mass. So it'll take longer to fully dissolve in an acid bath, but take up less volume initially. I don't know which will take up more litre-seconds in total, or if that's the right question to think about. Plus at some point things leave the stomach and I don't know what triggers that. * How does this whole thing work with fluids? Presumably they leave your stomach quite fast, so per-calorie they should contribute less to satiety than solids?
Huh – I wonder if this has helped me since I made a concerted effort to eat leafy greens regularly (basically every day). I always liked the 'fact' that celery has net-negative calories :) I do also lean towards eating fruit raw versus, e.g. blended in a smoothy. Make-work for my gastrointestinal system!

I strongly disagree with this interpretation of those overfeeding studies. From what I can tell (though I couldn't access every study SMTM cites), "overfeeding" is usually defined relative to the output of one of the typical BMR/TDEE estimation formulas given a person's parameters, not based on actual measurement of a subject's TDEE. Those formulas are fine for a baseline guess, but even the most accurate ones are going to be substantially off in either direction for a fair number of people! Some of the difference is unaccounted-for NEAT, some of it is dif... (read more)

Related to this, I assume? (Don't click that until after you take the survey.)

For a brief period of time, maybe a month or two ago, the favicon for the site was "< X" (less than, then a red X). I liked it more than any variant of "LW" I've seen so far, but whoever actually decides must not have, and unfortunately it wasn't around long enough that many people who you'd hope would get it would get it.

I'd be the first to buy three LW shirts and a bumper sticker if they were ever made.

Shouldn't you ask when the respondent thinks the Singularity will occur before mentioning the year 2100, to avoid anchoring?

If the survey is still going on, might want to remove your mention of the year 2100 as well, also to avoid anchoring.

I hate cognitive biases. I read your comment right before I went to take the test. "Ha!" I thought to myself, "clearly members of Less Wrong wouldn't be as effected. Why even bother mentioning it?" And then I clicked on the link while I thought about the singularity. "Hmm, 2100 is a decent year maybe it'll be 20 years before that though..." And I filled in my race/education/sex. "Hmm maybe it would be after that though, due to...oh god, it's the anchoring effect! Quick think of other numbers! 2090! 2110! Damnit... (read more)

Also possibly better to ask if before when for the same reason. And differentiate between blank = 'it will not occur' and 'no opinion.'

I don't think it's accurate to say LW focuses on atheism. Consider: this is the only post whose title involves atheism or any religion on the first page of the discussion section (40 posts, for me).

I predict that the lesson behind this exchange will turn out to be "Don't argue with people who think consciousness is fundamental".

Yes, I already try to adhere to that. The reason I came to LW to ask around was because I just wanted to make a succinct reply containing some relevant reading materials and a short summary of the error going on. Emotions do play a significant role in human cognition, and we are not by a long stretch good Bayesian reasoners. But there's no special reason why we have to treat emotions and our current modes of cognition as if they are innately good or fundamentally not understandable. Some evidence supports this as mentioned in many of the comments above. I'm very grateful to have LW as a resource when it comes to cases like this. I think my own explanation of all of the above would probably have been mostly "correct" but horribly imprecise and nebulously flowing around lots of peripheral topics that won't directly bear any fruit.

Going off this post of his, it sounds like people who take a daily multivitamin should have dramatically lower morbidity for at least some diseases that aren't already typically associated with nutrient deficiency. Studies on that subject already exist, and I can predict what they'll have to say, though I can't look for them right now.

Are these works of psychology and neuroscience really illustrating that human emotion governs decision making?

Yes, they are. It sounds to me like your friend is exactly right. The claim that humans mostly use their subconscious minds in decision-making isn't controversial.

Could you clarify what you mean by "the Bayesian point of view"? What does your conception of those words in that order have to say about human cognition?

I believe the above comments had essentially the right idea. He is trying to say that since most human cognition is subconscious and governed by emotion (i.e. we don't have direct access to it, per se) then it's philosophically wrong to try to formulate processes for decision making in the Bayesian/decision-theoretic sense. He claims that not-3 implies that 1 is useless and 4 will only give incorrect results, where I've borrowed the numbered propositions from RichardKennaway's comment.

Long ago, I used to worry about situations where I do awkward things (and was pretty awkward), but then I remembered everybody else is too busy worrying about themselves looking awkward to really care about my awkwardness. I stopped being strongly awkward after that, and of course I'm much happier--it was probably the one "turning point" in my life where I went from anxious/unhappy to calm/happy. (It was at about the age of 12, IIRC)

I can't figure out which post you've recently made that's relevant to this. Could you link it?

Should have been more clear. I updated the main post. Scroll down.

Probably not. The methods used to get the desired phenotype are obviously not something that was happening before humans, but the desired phenotypes are pretty much always analogous to something that could have happened without human intervention (resistance to some environmental condition, different nutritional content, etc.), but didn't because they don't improve fitness in nature. Genetic engineering is pretty damn impressive, but it's not magic--drought resistance and increased vitamin A content and those sorts of things have an opportunity cost to the... (read more)

What are some examples of plausible (not necessarily likely or expected) experiences that would lower your degree of belief in your religion?

Good question. Answered above.
This is a very important question, and I'd like to draw (Calcsam's) attention to it by posting this comment.

I have a pretty poor work ethic for boring things--college is fun and I like doing most of the work, but I couldn't bear adding and subtracting meaningless numbers for hours. That may or may not be typical of college students, but college probably signals something more like (general work ethic) x (interest + talent in specific field), while this would signal (general work ethic) x (tolerance for repetitive, boring tasks), which would have its own uses but doesn't necessarily apply to many jobs that usually require degrees.

Less funny; it kills the joke. Lever is pronounced like "never" in American English. Better late than never, etc.

There was a fair amount of stuff in there that I "knew" I wanted to read (some LW sequences stuff among them). I've found a bit more success by putting things I actually want to read in my top-level bookmarks, right at the front, because then it causes clutter which I want to reduce (by reading and removing them). The difference may just be in that I'm less likely to bookmark something with this system in the first place, but it feels like it works.

This sounds exactly like Read It Later. I don't know what the differences are between the two, but it's an alternative if you're looking for something like this. Anyway, my experience with this sort of thing is that I never feel like reading all the momentarily-interesting things I discover when I come back to them later. I think that by putting it off, you place reading about an interesting idea into the "this is something you want to put off for later" mind category and it never gets read, or at least that's what it felt like in my experience.

Read It Later used to (further) ruin my attention span until I uninstalled it. I would only read blog snippets and forum posts which were too short to bother delaying, whereas substantial articles and papers all ended up RIL'd into oblivion.
Do you like that it's this way, or would you rather that you got around to reading the stuff?

Not quite. I'm saying that the purpose of disagreeing and trying to convince people of things, from an evolutionary sense, is usually to signal to others (or yourself) that you are wise. It's dressing like a winner: smart people actually do sometimes disagree with others because they have some wise, compelling reason to believe otherwise, so openly and aggressively disagreeing is an easy way to signal "I'm smart!". Smart people themselves often get caught up in this (If you've read HP:MoR, Dumbledore represents what I'm saying pretty well).

My poi... (read more)

Basically, yeah. Intelligence, maturity, realism, various things you'd associate with wisdom.

So what you're saying is, I should signal that my arguments are worth listening to because it is me who is saying them and I am "awesome", rather than because they themselves are compelling? Y'know what, it makes no sense whatsoever in a logical sense, but psychologically it does make a lot of sense. One person said that people don't convert to Religions, that compel them with Truth, they convert to Prophets, who compel them with charisma.

How do I get my points across to a theist? Well, I don't. You'll never change anyone's mind by "convincing" them unless they're already a very good rationalist, and even then, it's not really guaranteed to work.

"Convincing" is more often about signaling, whether to yourself or people besides the one you're trying to convince. If your goal is to change someone's mind, try to make them think they already agree with you. I'm not aware of an effective way to do this for theists or "spiritual" people or new-agers or anyone else in that category.

Signalling what exactly? "Wisdom"?

I know 1024 slices of Wonder bread isn't 1024 times as useful to a regular hungry person as one slice of Wonder bread. The first slice is the one which the util is defined as, then all the additional utils would be like "something else" that gives exactly as much enjoyment, or just that exact amount of enjoyment but 1023 more times.

Well, imagine if a util were like ten years of constant joy. In that case, I'd rather have n = 1. Similarly, if a util is like finding a penny, I really don't care what n is, but I may as well go with a pretty large one so that if I do "win", I actually notice it. I chose n = 10 because a 10% chance for 1024 slices of Wonder bread on an empty stomach sounds much better than a sure shot for one slice of Wonder bread when I'm hungry (I'd barely even notice that), and also much better than a tiny chance for some ridiculously high number of utilons (I almost certainly won't be able to enjoy it). n = 9 and n = 11 would also be okay choices; I didn't arrive at 10 analytically.

The problem here is that a "util" (insofaras this is meaningful by itself) isn't like any one consistent thing, because by definition it isn't subject to diminishing marginal utility, etc.

Depends on what a util is. The probability of an event is a pretty well-defined concept, but what a util means to me is free-floating without something to compare it to. If one util is a slice of Wonder bread on an empty stomach for a well-nourished person, then let's go with n = 10.

Why does it matter? How exactly are you choosing n?

Your use of "pointlessness" makes me think of something. Saying that someone's life has a point (purpose) usually means they have some long-term goal that they work toward, which implies thinking about future possibilities and developing abstractions like "purpose". Not to say that the animals most people eat can't think into the future, but if they do live "in the moment" to a much greater extent than humans, doesn't that greatly reduce the cruelty argument? I think a sufficiently unintelligent human would be happy to sit and... (read more)

I don't think cows and chickens have much real sense of long term contentment. Pointlessness was perhaps a bad choice of word, since it implies human-style abstract thinking. I didn't mean the chicken sits in its cage thinking "man, what is the meaning of life? Why do I sit hear every day? Nothing changes... nothing gets accomplished, what am I doing with my lif--" (abruptly gets its head cut off). But I do think there may be a sort of proto-wondering. There's no complex question or desire for change, it just sits there with a vague dissatisfaction about its existence. I don't think there's a way to prove this yet, and probably never. (Unless we identify the exact neuron pattern for it in humans and discover something very similar in chickens. Maybe.) Food and sleep are definitely sources of pleasure, but being able to get exercise is another important one. Resting is nice, but if you're stuck in the same place too long you get cranky and irritable, and if you're stuck in the same place for weeks. I believe chicken-farming is less ethical than cow farming because chickens are literally stuck in either a 1'x1' box for their entire life, or they are thrown in a giant coop where each chicken still only gets about a cubic foot of space. In addition, they are given growth hormones to maximize production of meat, making them grow larger than their legs can support, leaving them practically immobile if not actually breaking their legs. Describing this situation as "they get to sit around and eat all day" is pretty significantly mischaracterizing it. On the flipside, cows by nature need to be able to graze, so they usually get to move around. I consider that a step up, but if they injure themselves while walking they're pretty much screwed. I'm a little less angry about this because, honestly that IS the situation they'd face in the wild (by contrast, the chicken situation is absolutely nothing like how they'd exist in the natural world). But they still are pumped full

A lot of us probably just call it akrasia and shrug (me included). I don't know any convincing reason for eating meat that doesn't make one immoral by usual modern standards.

If the whole thing seems way too daunting, you can consider simply cutting back rather than going... well.... cold turkey. (Pun semi intended). If you approach it solely as a health issue and try to reduce your meat intake to what is actually recommended, that by itself would probably be a tremendous improvement.

I have to wonder what a spammer's motivation is in spamming here. Isn't LW's usual readership exactly the people who are unlikely to think "Oh, this looks legitimate, I should buy a Silver Pandora Necklace!"?

Not ironically, there are ancient posts from Elizier and Robin concerning exactly this: "I Don't Know." and "You Are Never Entitled to Your Opinion"

Actually I found the exercise interesting for that reason. On most of them I had what I considered no idea, but the requirement to get actual numbers forced me to clarify just what the limits on "don't know" were. (Only one I got wrong by its standards was the Pacific coastline one. I did the area/volume ones by starting by estimating the size of Connecticut...)

I think it's an important skill in general to be able to estimate things, though I might just think that because I got a 9/10 on that test.

Good estimation may not always be useful in the real world if you're giving someone else an estimate on how long something will take (wide estimates are perceived as bad estimates by most, as many of the comments on that blog show intentionally or unintentionally), but it is fun, and I've seen it be personally useful before.

I interpreted it as "the length of the coastline as represented on a high-detail world map", which got me a good estimate.

Kegels may help. Kegels might help everything, really.

It's how I learned Bayes' rule, actually.
:P So I've heard.

Websites about atheism are a different group of people than websites about rationality. There's overlap, to be sure, but the people who are "passionate" about being irreligious don't tend to gravitate here; my view of a typical LWer is that they may go through a phase of thinking lack of religion is worth spending a lot of time discussing, but then they move past it because it's not a very difficult question. LWers talk about their atheism, but usually only when provoked.

Would they really? I'm not a parent, but I at least like to think I'd spend extra money teaching my kids useful things that are also status signals, like economics or calculus or writing (real writing, not "don't split infinitives"). Basically anything you could easily get tutoring for is a better use of time and money than grammar education.

Would you still say that if you lived in an area where the local, everyday language was of exceptionally low status - e.g. Ebonics, Brummie, or Neapolitan?
And are the kids going to give everyone they meat a lecture on calculus? Also, the rules probably wouldn't include "don't split infinitives". Using that as your mental example is skewing your intuition. Notice that on most internet forums posts with bad spelling and grammar are taken less seriously. This is because readers see that they signal low quality content.

The traditional response to this on the FES website is that airplanes aren't actually flying from one side of the disk to the other. They might go around the periphery to some extent, but outside the disk is probably either a lot of nothing or a very, very large, cold field of ice. So, that would make a trip from the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Horn take much, much longer than a spherical-ish Earth would predict.

That's why I assign such a low probability to this--that, and the motion of the stars in the Northern and Southern hemispheres working exactly the w... (read more)

I'm not generally one to get over-excited about peoples' bad reasons for being creationists, but the leap from "Evolution due to natural selection doesn't provide obvious explanations for every single thing that every living thing ever does or has" to "The King James Version of the Bible as generally remembered and interpreted by Protestants is exactly right" is always staggering when I can tease it out of people explicitly.

As far as non-kinesthetic responses to awful arguments go, I guess I would call it a general feeling of discomfort... (read more)

For many ambitious people, I'd guess that their ambition isn't because they want to achieve some other goals, but because they actually enjoy "being ambitious"--they want to do everything very well because they feel good about being the best or near the best. Not to label myself "ambitious" and lump myself in with people who work far harder, but as an example, I'm a university student studying engineering. I could have coasted through my various math classes getting Bs and stopped right at the minimum requirements to graduate, but I did... (read more)

Doesn't the anthropic principle already deal with the FTA? Not that it's wrong to have more than one way to go about an argument, but in my experience, every somewhat-reasonable religious person (i.e. anyone you might be able to get through to) who has the anthropic principle explained to them says "Hmm, I suppose you're right, that's not a very good way to prove the existence of the Protestant Christian God exactly as presented in the King James Version of the Bible".

For me, the anthropic principle was much less satisfying than the issue with the intrinsic value of life, which is why I took the trouble to write it up. Your mileage may vary.

You could also say that humans have utility functions, but they can change quickly over time because of trivial things. Which, I admit, would be near-indistinguishable from not having utility functions at all (in the long-term), but saying that you have a utility function and a set of preferences at one instant in time seems true enough to allow for decision theory analysis.

This seems like it would make the statement "humans have utility functions" devoid of value, as you point out. A single-valued utility function must be curlless (i.e. no cycles) to be a sensible utility function- but humans seem to demonstrably have cycles. It's not just a "grass is greener" phenomenon where, once I choose John McCain, I immediately regret it and wish I had picked Clinton (i.e. a quick change over time), but that the utility function is not single-valued- the reason why people prefer McCain to Clinton is different for the reason they prefer Clinton to Obama. If you asked someone "If you had to pick one candidate from all three, who would you pick?" they would be stumped- i.e. the decision theory analysis would hang. Now, generally what people do in these situations is tease out the causes of the preferences, and try to weight them- but it's obviously possible to get another cycle going there. (Also check out Perplexed's comment [] below.)

In terms of what's written down on paper, I don't think it was mentioned at all, which implies legality. But, practically speaking, are governments really ever okay with part of their territory claiming they don't have to pay taxes anymore? I suspect people in the southern states were aware of the answer.

Yes. The real answer turned out to be "right is whoever wins the war."

My experience of the world is not made less by lack of language but is essentially unchanged.

This is curious.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the dominant view nowadays that human's special kind of consciousness is largely a result of language, because we're able to formalize (and build on) notions and have an internal dialogue and all those other useful things? Does anyone else think this guy's experiences could at least point away from language as the root of sapience? Or am I just looking too much into that sentence?

Agreed. If we could define a friendly AI now, then by point 3 we would also already be able to define a perfectly functional and just state (even if putting it into practice hadn't happened yet).

The linked article, second image. Though, I don't know the credibility of the study it was based on.

and I'm exposed to it constantly

Have you noticed which specific situations make you think about Christianity and cause the discomfort? Is it any reference to the religion, or something more specific, like during discussions of morality?

Living in America-- it's basically unavoidable in this culture.

~55% of natural science college professors believe in some kind of ESP, as do ~35% of psychology college professors.

I can't really form a coherent response to that.

My instinctive response to that chart was "YOU LIE!" I suspect the data is either based on a skewed sample, an incredibly broad definition of ESP, or simply wrong.

I expect the true number to be far higher than I'd like to believe, but 55% just doesn't make sense.


Why not just enforce keeping meetup posts in the discussion area? I've always imagined that "casual" LW readers, who are pretty unlikely to go to a meetup and probably don't even have an account here, tend to only read the front page, while people who actually post and have LW occupy a decent amount of their day are pretty likely to read the discussions too, and also are the kind of people who would care about a meetup. This does make it so that casual readers are less likely to be transformed into LW junkies, but I'm curious if the arrow of caus... (read more)

What do you think a meaningful probability, if one can be assigned, would be for the first strong AI to exhibit both of those traits? (Not trying to "grill" you; I can't even imagine a good order of magnitude to put on that probability)

I don't think I can come up with numerical probabilities, but I consider "massively smarter than a human" and "unfriendly" to be the default values for those characteristics, and don't expect the first AGI to differ from the default unless there is a massive deliberate effort to make it otherwise.

Do you believe that there's truly no chance a powerful AI wouldn't immediately dominate human society? Or restated: will a strong AI, if created, necessarily be unfriendly and also able to take control of human society (likely meaning exponentially self-improving)?

It's very likely, but not necessary. If it's substantially smarter than humans, yes, whether or not massively recursive self-improvement plays a role. By "substantially smarter", I mean an intelligence such that the difference between Einstein and the average human looks like a rounding error in comparison.

I agree, at least with the first and last examples of more-likely. 1% is probably too high.

How about "Just the barest inkling above not immediately dismissed" instead of a specific number.

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