All of JohnEPaton's Comments + Replies

Making Beliefs Pay Rent (in Anticipated Experiences)

If a belief turns deadbeat, evict it.

This might be challenging because our beliefs tend to shape the world we live in thus masking their error. Does anyone have any practical tips for discovering erroneous beliefs?

0ChristianKl6yMaking predictions about the world based on your beliefs and seeing whether those predictions hold true.
-1TheAncientGeek6yIf a belief encapsulates a value, if it's about how you want the world to be, why shouldn't it shape the world, and why should you evict in?
2Nectanebo9yThe post you replied to is helpful advice for doing just that. When what you specifically anticipate doesn't line up with what happens, that's discovering a possible erroneuos belief.
Neuroscience basics for LessWrongians

Thanks for the clarification. You're right that artificial intelligence and neuroscience are two different fields.

Reinforcement Learning: A Non-Standard Introduction (Part 1)

I'm just wondering whether it's true that the Markov property holds for minds. I'm thinking that a snapshot of the world is not enough, but you also need to know something about the rate at which the world is changing. Presumably this information would require the knowledge of states further back.

Also, isn't there an innate element of randomness when it comes to decision making and how our minds work. Neurons are so small that presumably there are some sort of quantum effects, and wouldn't this mean again that information from one step previous wasn't enough.

I don't know, but just some thoughts.

0harshhpareek9y(Assuming Mind=Brain, i.e. the entire mind is just the physical brain and no "soul" is involved. Also, Neurons aren't really all that small, they're quite macroscopic -- though the processes in the neurons like chemical interactions need quantum mechanics for their description) In Newtonian Mechanics, it is sufficient to know the positions and velocities (i.e. derivaties of position) of particles to determine future states. So, the world is Markov given this informatio. In Schrodinger's equation [], you again only need to know \Psi and it's time derivative to know all future states. I think the quantum properties of the brain are adequately described just with Schodinger's equation. You do need to include nuclear forces etc in a description of the brain. You may need quantum electrodynamics, but I think Schrodinger's equation is sufficient. My physics education stopped before I got here, but Dirac's equation [] which may be necessary to model the brain seems to require the second time-derivative of the wavefunction -- so you may need the second order time-derivatives to make the model Markov. Can someone who knows a bit more quantum physics chime in here? EDIT: Reading the wiki article more carefully, it seems Dirac's equation is also first order
0royf9yIn the model there's the distribution p, which determines how the world is changing. In the chess example this would include: a) how the agent's action changes the state of the game + b) some distribution we assume (but which we may or may not actually know) about the opponent's action and the resulting state of the game. In a physics example, p should include the relevant laws of physics, together with constants which tell the rate (and manner) in which the world is changing. Any changing parameters should be part of the state. It seems that you're saying that it may be difficult to know what p is. Then you are very much correct. You probably couldn't infer the laws of physics from the current wave function of the universe, or the rules of chess from the current state of the game. But at this point we're only assuming that such laws exist, not that we know how to learn them. p and q are probability distributions, which is where we allow for randomness in the process. But note that randomness becomes a tricky concept if you go deep enough into physics. As for the "quantum mind" theory, as far as I can tell it's fringe science at best. Personally, I'm very skeptical. Regardless, such a model can still have the Markov property, if you include the wave function in your state.
The Mere Cable Channel Addition Paradox

What is the tradeoff between average utility and total utility? Presumably a world with only ten people who all have tremendous utility would be just as repugnant as Parfit's world.

0Thrasymachus9yIt should be noted that if you have any tradeoff between average and total util you can still get MAPed into the RP: just add enough 'total' utility in the A+-->B move so this compensates for the drop in average, and then iterate. Lexical priority would work (read average util, and only use total util as a tiebreaker), but this view seems to stand or fall with average util: if we find average util too costly, average util+lexically inferior total util is unlikely to be significantly cheaper.
Neuroscience basics for LessWrongians

I think he's saying that the brain is not just the genome. What you see as an adult brain also represents a host of environmental factors. Since these environmental factors are complex, so then is the brain.

Yes you could probably use some machine learning algorithm to build a brain with the input of a video feed. But this says relatively little about how the brain actually develops in nature.

1Risto_Saarelma9yThat's just the thing. It makes a big difference whether we're talking about a (not necessarily human) brain in general, or a specific, particular brain. Artificial intelligence research is concerned about being able to find any brain design it can understand and work with, while neuroscience is concerned with the particulars of human brain anatomy and often the specific brains of specific people. Also, I'd be kinda hesitant to dismiss anything that involves being able to build a brain as "saying relatively little" about anything brain-related.
Neuroscience basics for LessWrongians

You make a good point that the genome does not completely determine how the brain is set up. Environment is hugely influential in how things develop. I recently read that things the expression of our genes can be influence by things called transcription factors, as well as process called slicing and transposition. Each of these things is effected by the environment. For example, if your a small rat pup and your Mom licks you then this will trigger a cascade of hormones that will end up changing your DNA and your amygdala so that you release less stress hor... (read more)

0MaoShan9yAs was pointed out in the article, however, many parts of the brain's larger structure, finer wiring, and even the mechanisms for encoding gene expression including epigenetics (which we are only beginning to explore) are nearly identical between individuals of a species. Neuroscience and medical practice in general would be in sad shape of they didn't take advantage of the knowledge gained by these "erroneous" attempts. Knowing everything about one particular brain would only benefit the owner of that brain, while knowing a lot about the general workings can benefit many, including potential AI programmers.
3shminux9yYes, this would define "looks attractive to a certain subset of humans" (i.e. those who find this set of features attractive). However, there is no such thing as "looks attractive to all humans and aliens", which is what Woman.sexiness is supposed to represent.
Chaotic Inversion

I'm not sure if I completely get this post. Are you saying that the amount of time when you cannot work is chaotic or not? If I get it correctly, you're saying that when you feel like you cannot work you can often look at various things that are going on (such as when you last had a meal, what time it is, whether you recently exercised etc...) and then use these factors to add an element of predictability into your down time. Is this right?

Welcome to Less Wrong! (2012)

That's cool that your studying a combination of Psychology and Engineering. I'm doing something similar and it seems to be very rare to find someone who is working in both of those fields. I'm sure that in the UK people would be even less understanding of this. It seems like over there you just choose one subject and that's all you do for the next three years. Keep on looking at those library books. I think the most important thing as an undergrad is to follow your interests even if this means dialling back on the effort you put into class work.

Welcome to Less Wrong! (2012)


My name is John Paton. I'm an Operations Research and Psychology major at Cornell University. I'm very interested in learning about how to improve the quality of my thinking.

Honestly, I think that a lot of my thoughts about how the world works are muddled at the moment. Perhaps this is normal and will never go away, but I want to at least try and decrease it.

At first glance, this community looks awesome! The thinking seems very high quality, and I certainly want to contribute to the discussion here.

I also write at my own blog,

See you in the discussion!


Why space stopped captivating minds ?

I'm twenty and I feel like I missed the space conquest spirit completely. When I think about the scientific interests that appeal to my generation, I think that advances in health, computing, and sustainable energy seem far more important. I believe that we haven't really lost our need for conquest it's just moved into domain closer to home. The question now is, how can we improve life on earth? How can we extend life? How can we collect and analyze data in better ways than before?

I think that the decline of violence in the world may have something to do w... (read more)

Leaps of faith in college selection

I think that since you already know your basic criteria, it doesn't really matter which specific school you choose. The reality is that you're probably going to get a pretty much equivalent education wherever you go. I'd consider prestige to some extent. Not because this will mean a better education, but because prestigious school often attract better students, and if you get in this will help you with building solid connections.

I think this is one of those things that isn't really worth stressing about. Just look at the list of twenty or so that you have... (read more)

What are the boundaries?

A potential boundary is that between the seemingly objective and subjective. At the moment, science seems to be set on measuring things outside of the self. There is relatively little exploration of what one subjectively perceives. This facet of existence is almost completely ignored, even in psychology. I think in time this boundary will have to dissolve. There really is no good way of separating the outside world from the inside world.

Another one could be the artificial boundary between nature and nurture. It seems like the expression of all genes is me... (read more)