All of JohnWittle's Comments + Replies

2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey

I took the survey, now give me my ~40 upvotes.

(is the free karma just an incentive to take the survey? or do 45 people really think that commenting that you took the survey is a valuable contribution to the discussion?)

0[anonymous]7yWhere's the number 45 coming from here?
Open Thread, June 2-15, 2013

Heh, I would have bid 0.5btc if I had known I would be the only bidder...

7Vaniver9yThis makes this exchange [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/hlo/open_thread_june_215_2013/945i] all the more amusing.
Problems in Education

Yes, we are for-profit. Most grants stipulate that some proportion of the grant money be spent on an evaluation of the project.

Seduced by Imagination

This is an interesting thought. I started out a heroin addict with a passing interest in wireheading, which my atheist/libertarian/programmer/male brain could envision as being clearly possible, and the 'perfect' version of heroin (which has many downsides even if you are able to sustain a 3 year habit without slipping into withdrawal a single time, as I was). I saw pleasure as being the only axiomatic good, and dreamed of co-opting this simple reward mechanism for arbitrarily large amounts of pleasure. This dream led me here (I believe the lesswrong wiki ... (read more)

Fake Reductionism

A better example of an anti-reductionism argument would be the behavior of supercooled helium. I am not a solid state physicist myself, but I have been told by an anti-reductionist that superfluidic helium behaves non-reductionistically. I do not know if this is true. The person also told me that solid state physicists tend to be non-reductionists. I also don't know if that is true, but if I needed to know if reductionism were true, I would immediately go study solid state physics, since superfluidic helium seems to me to have the highest probability, out of any phenomenon I've observed, of being a counterexample.

0[anonymous]8yThis alleged person knows absolutely nothing about solid state physics, and is parroting back the opinions of other, better esteemed anti-reductionists. To label anything that can be described by the laws of Quantum Mechanics as Anti-reductionist is so far borderline ludicrous. QM is our current best theory for how the parts in the sum-of-parts behave. The math is settled, the science is done, the rest is technological minutiae. EDIT: I Apologise for my hyperbole. I know that is a very extraordinary claim, and I must confess that is somewhat hyperbole. Let me give an analogy: What we know now of solid state physics, is like knowing Hamiltonian Classical Mechanics, compared to reality being General Relativity and QFT. We know the answer to the tenth decimal place. We have located the Hypothesis Region [/lw/jo/einsteins_arrogance/] pretty accurately. That much I know. The Rachet of Science Turns, But Never Backwards. [/lw/on/reductionism/], I am no expert in solid state physics. I am knowledgable of QM phenomena and have rewritten my intuitions thoroughly. To give an example, I actually draw little scribbles on paper of wavefunctions in 1d and 2d and try to intensely visualize fields. On the rigorous side, I try for all my life to escape the tyranny of classical notions like "points" and use more topoligical methods. I have accepted that I live in a quantum/relativistic universe with a classical brain. And I am putting my excellent mathematical reasoning skills to work at weeding out whatever doesn't fit. I dream of solving the problems inherent in the Anthropic Principle one day, and I intend to make a stab at that title. But enough about me. CONCLUSION: This person, saying "Solid State Physics does not have Reductionism Nature" is spouting semantic nonsense, as I see it. Sure they might have a vague idea, but they are most probably Professing [/lw/i6/professing_and_cheering/] an argument from someone else. That someone else has probably misunderstood what
Qualitatively Confused

I don't think there is ever a direct refutation of religion in the Sequences, but if you read all of them, you will find yourself much better equipped to think about the relevant questions on your own.

EY is himself an Atheist, obviously, but each article in the Sequences can stand upon its own merit in reality, regardless of whether they were written by an atheist or not. Since EY assumes atheism, you might run across a couple examples where he assumes the reader is an atheist, but since his goal is not to convince you to be an atheist, but rather, to be aware of how to properly examine reality, I think you'd best start off clicking ‘Sequences" at the top right of the website.

Problems in Education

It depends entirely on when you were in school. At present day, most of a student's path is determined by whether they are selected for 8th grade Algebra (in fact, if you were to rank all of the factors possible in determining a person's lifetime earnings, the factor at the top would be whether you took Algebra in 8th grade). The 7th grade math teacher's recommendation is the primary factor in this particular decision, and middle school teachers are incompetent at predicting whether a child could succeed at advanced math 4-6 years later.

in fact, if you were to rank all of the factors possible in determining a person's lifetime earnings, the factor at the top would be whether you took Algebra in 8th grade

Citation needed, especially for a claim of causality.

4RichardKennaway9yOk, that's just a made-up mish-mash of English and Latin.
An Abortion Dialogue

Alright. I can see the usefulness of deontology in determining if an abortion doctor acted in a way worthy of praise or blame, but I feel as though the issue isn't whether or not we put abortion doctors in prison, or whether we allow mothers to have abortions. The issue comes down to whether we want to live in a world where every possible potential human is realized, and has the opportunity to exist. Since humans are just a pattern of neurons, this goal isn't realizable today, since the possible human "JohnWittle who, while writing a comment on a blog... (read more)

Deontology for Consequentialists

I never came across that word during my four years of studying latin. What declension is it?

0RichardKennaway9yFrom my two years of studying Latin I know that evitandum is second declension neuter gender, being a gerund. In Latin the word can also be an adjective, in which case it is second declension and inflected for all genders. Cf. the English word "inevitable" = unavoidable.
An Abortion Dialogue

What could an ethical framework be if not the way you decide what actions to take in order to maximize your values? Obviously consequentialism has nothing to say about what those values are, but it rules out the idea that an act of omission with consequence 'foo', and a proscriptive act also with consequence 'foo', can be morally distinguished.

0Alicorn9yYou are asking extremely basic questions. Try again after you've read the post I linked.
The Best Textbooks on Every Subject

To a non string theorist, string theory seems like a theory which makes few testable predictions, like phlogiston. That's the feel I got from it from whenever I read all the relevant Wikipedia articles, anyway. If it is not like phlogiston, but actually useful for designing experiments, then obviously I concede.

My annoyance came from the fact that my 06:45:05 comment got a few down votes, while the parent got deleted for reasons unknown. I can't remember who the parent was, or what it said, and it bothers me that they deleted their post, while I feel an ob... (read more)

-1whowhowho9yit made testable predictions and was falsified for them. There are a lot of retrodictive and purely theoretical constraints on a candidate ToE, they have to be pretty good just to be in the running.
The Best Textbooks on Every Subject

Without knowing anything in particular about the difference between Quantum Loop Gravity or why M-theory is useful, I concede the point, although I'm a bit annoyed that I feel obligated to leave my comment there to collect negative karma while the parent, whoever they were, felt no similar obligation and removed any context my comment might be placed in.

-2whowhowho9yWhat? I really didn't understand that.
An Abortion Dialogue

Hmm. I guess I had not considered people on this forum might not be consequentialists. And yet you are somewhat of a known community figure, and not as a contrarian. Is consequentialism not evident? I ask as an honest inquiry to someone whose username I recognize (being a sort of lesswrong == sequences person myself) and therefore is at least aware of the Standard position for certain, and yet is not known for the reason of contradicting the Standard position (like Caledonian might be).

To me, the knowledge of human psychology which makes clear why humans f... (read more)

0TheOtherDave9yAlicorn is reasonably well-known as a local non-consequentialist, I think. At least, I know her that way, and I'm not deeply plugged into the LW social milieu.
1Alicorn9yHere's some background reading [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1og/deontology_for_consequentialists/] with more details about my personal views in the comments. I consider consequentialistic shut-up-and-multiply kind of thinking appropriate for questions of prudence and simply don't think it constitutes morality. I'm definitely an oddity within LW.
An Abortion Dialogue

We want to figure out a head of time what we should do in morally ambiguous situations. An easy way to find discrepancies in our ethical framework is to invent thought experiments where some particular aspect of a scenario is made arbitrarily large or small. Would you kill a person to save two people? why? would you kill a person to save 200 people? why? what about killing a billion people to save two billion? If we actually have values which we'd actually like to maximize in the world around us, slight differences in the specific details of these values m... (read more)

An Abortion Dialogue

After reading the entire debate this comment spawned... if the goal is to determine whether we should support abortion legalization and fewer restrictions (possibly up to infanticide? (!)), or perhaps support more heavy regulation, it seems like arguing over whether an action is reactive, proactive, etc can't possibly have any relevance, and seems like a particularly virtuist way of looking at things.

Are we not solely interested in consequences? What are our values and how do we maximize them? Clearly saying we value "human life" isn't enough, an... (read more)

0Alicorn9yWhat you mean we, consequentialist?
The Best Textbooks on Every Subject

As opposed to not elevating any particular hypothesis out of the hypothesis-space before there is enough evidence to discern it as a possibility. Privileging the Hypothesis and all that.

1whowhowho9yThe majority of physicists working on those kinds of questions are using some form of M-theory of string theory. The next nearest rival is Loop Quantum Gravity. Other theories are minority views. M-theory is favoured because milage can be got out of it in terms of research. The metaphor or a random grab into hypothesis-space isn't appropriate.
The Best Textbooks on Every Subject

For someone who currently has a teacher's-password understanding of physics and would like a more intuitive understanding, without desiring to put in the work to obtain a technical understanding (i.e. learning the math), I would recommend Brian Green's Fabric of the Cosmos, which I feel does for physics (and the history of physics) what An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes Law does for Bayesian probability. It goes through history, starting with Newton and ending with modern day, explaining how the various Big Names came up with their ideas, demonstrates how ... (read more)

The Level Above Mine

there are aggregate behaviors that cannot be understood from looking at the individual constituents in isolation

Can you give me an example of one of these behaviors? Perhaps my google-fu is weak (I have tried terms like "examples of top down causality", "against reductionism", "nonreductionist explanation of"), and indeed I have a hard time finding anything relevant at all, but I can't find a single clearcut example of behavior which cannot be understood from looking at the individual constituents in isolation.

1EHeller9yThe fore-mentioned spontaneous symmetry breaking shows up in a wide variety of different systems. But, phase changes in general are probably good examples.
The Level Above Mine

I have no disagreement that high level behaviors are wildly variable, unpredictable, and all of the other words which mean "difficult to reduce down to lower level behaviors". Yes, wildly different constituent parts can create the same macroscopic behavior, or changing just a single lower level property in a system can cause the system to be unrecognizably different from before. But my point is that, if the universe is a physics simulator, it only has to keep track of the quarks. When I wake up in the morning, the universe isn't running a separat... (read more)

1EHeller9yNo one knows how to define a quark at human length scales, they aren't meaningful degrees of freedom.
1shminux9yFirst, I am not comfortable modeling the universe as a computer program, because it's implicitly dualist, with the program separate from the underlying "hardware". Or maybe even "trialist", if you further separate the hardware from the entity deciding what program to run. While this may well be the case (the simulation argument), at this point we have no evidence for it. So please be aware of the limitations of this comparison. Second, how would you tell the difference between the two cases you describe? What would be an observable effect of running the ""human wake-up" program which tells the quarks how to behave"? If you cannot tell the difference, then all you have left is the Bayesian inference of the balance of probabilities based on Occam's razor, not any kind of certainty. Ellis and Co. actually argue that agency is an example of "top-down causality" (there would be no nuclei colliding in the LHC if humans did not decide to build it to begin with). I am not impressed with this line of reasoning, precisely because when you start investigating what "decide" means, you end up having to analyze humans in terms of lower-level structures, anyway. Third, (explicitly, not tacitly) adopting the model of the universe as a computer program naturally leads to the separation of layers: you can run the Chemistry app on the Atomic Physics API, and you don't care what the implementation of the API is. That API is rather poorly designed and leaky, so we can infer quite a bit about its innards from the way it behaves. Maybe it was done by a summer student or something. There are some much nicer API inside. For example, whoever wrote up "electron.c" left very few loose ends: it has mass, charge and spin, but no size to probe and apparently no constituents. The only non-API hook into the other parts if the system is its weak isospin. Or maybe this was intentional, too. OK, it's time to stop anthropomorphizing. Anyway, I tend to agree that it seems quite likely that there is
The Level Above Mine

When whowhowho posted a list of a couple names of people who don't like reductionism, I said to myself "if reductionism is right, I want to believe reductionism is right. If reductionism is wrong, I want to believe reductionism is wrong" etc. I then went and googled those names, since those people are smart people, and found a paper published by the first name on the list. The main arguments of the paper were, "solid state physicists don't believe in reductionism", "consciousness is too complex to be caused by the interactions betw... (read more)

-1EHeller9yIt would be helpful, since you keep bringing up arguments that are in this paper if you provide a link to the paper in question. I feel like I have been misunderstood, and we are discussing this in other branches of the thread, but I can't help but feel like Laughlin has also been misunderstood but I can't judge if you don't provide a link.
1shminux9yLet's start with something rather uncontroversial. We would probably all agree that reducing top-down a complex system, like a brain or a star, we find its increasingly small constituents interacting with other constituents, all the way down to the lowest accessible level. It is also largely uncontroversial that if we were to carefully put together all the constituents exactly the way they were before will give us the original system, or something very close to it. Note the emphasis. However, this is not what EHeller and myself mean by emergence. This analysis/synthesis process is rather unpredictable and unstable in both directions. The same high-level behavior can be produced by wildly varying constituents, and this variation can happen at multiple levels. For example, ripples in a bowl of liquid can be produced by water, or by something else, or they might be a mirror image of an actual bowl, or they might be a video someone recorded, or a computer simulation, or a piece of fabric in the wind producing a similar effect, etc. You won't know until you start digging. Looking bottom-up, I'd call it "emergence convergence". If you look at the synthesis part, you will find that rather tiny variations in how you put things together result in enormous changes in the high-level behavior. A minor variation in the mass of one quark (which is probably determined by some hard-to-calculate term in some QFT equation) would result in a totally different universe. An evolution of the same initial conditions is likely to produce different result in the one world you care about (but let's not get sidetracked by MWI). Laplace-style determinism has never worked in practice on any scale, as far as I know. Well, maybe there are some exceptions, I'm not sure. Anyway, my point is that what emerges from putting lots of similar things together in various ways is quite unpredictable, though you often can analyze it in retrospect. While "emergence" is not a good explanation of anything,
The Level Above Mine

Water with bacteria and liquid helium have the same Hamiltonian, AND the same constituent particles. If I give you a box and say "in this box there are 10^30 protons, 10^30 neutrons and 10^30 electrons," you do not have enough information to tell me how the system behaves, but from a purely reductionist stand-point, you should.

I'll admit that I am not a PhD particle physicist, but what you describe as reductionism is not what I believe to be true. If we ignore quantum physics, and describe what's happening on an entirely classical level, then ... (read more)

2EHeller9ySo I think perhaps we are talking past each other. In particular, my definition of reductionism is that we can understand and model complex behavior by breaking a problem in to its constituent components and studying them in isolation. i.e. if you understand the micro-hamiltonian and the fundamental particles well, you understand everything. The idea of 'emergence' as physicists understand it (and as Laughlin was using it), is that there are aggregate behaviors that cannot be understood from looking at the individual constituents in isolation. A weaker version of reductionism would say that to make absolutely accurate predictions to some arbitrary scale we MUST know the microphysics. Renormalization arguments ruin this version of reductionism. In a sense this seems to be espousing this form of reductionism, which I strongly disagree with. There exist physical theories where knowing microphysics is irrelevant to arbitrarily accurate predictions. Perhaps it would be best to agree on definitions before we make points irrelevant to each other.
The Level Above Mine

Top-down causation maps macrophysical states to microphysical states

Can you name any examples of such a phenomenon?

"Deterministic" typically means that an unbounded agent will achieve probabilities of 1.0.

Oh, well in that case quantum physics throws determinism out the window for sure. I still think there's something to be said for correctly assigning subjective probabilities to your anticipations such that 100% of the time you think something will happen with a 50% chance, it happens half the time, i.e. you are correctly calibrated.

An unb... (read more)

The Level Above Mine

Why didn't he mention superfluidity, or solid state physics, then? The two examples he listed were consciousness not being explainable from a reductionist standpoint, and DNA not containing enough information to come anywhere near being a complete instruction set for building a human (wrong).

Also, I'm pretty sure that the superfluid tendencies of liquid helium-4 come from the fact that it is composed of six particles (two proton, two neutron, two electron), each with half-integer spin. Because you can't make 6 halves add up to anything other than a whole n... (read more)

0EHeller9yI don't know why Laughlin wrote what he did, you didn't link to the paper. However, he comes from a world where solid state physics is obvious, and "everyone knows" various things (emergent properties of superfuid helium, for instance). Remember, his point of reference of a solid state physicist is quite different than the non-specialist so there is a huge inferential distance. Also remember that in physics "emergent" is a technical, defined concept. Your explanation of superfluid helium isn't coherent ,and I had a book length post type up, when a simpler argument presented itself. Water with bacteria and liquid helium have the same Hamiltonian, AND the same constituent particles. If I give you a box and say "in this box there are 10^30 protons, 10^30 neutrons and 10^30 electrons," you do not have enough information to tell me how the system behaves, but from a purely reductionist stand-point, you should. If this doesn't sway you, lets agree to disagree because I think spontaneous symmetry breaking should be enough to make my point, and its easier to explain. I don't think you understand what spontaneous symmetry breaking is, I have very little idea what you are talking about. Lets ignore quantum mechanics for the time being, because we can describe whats happening on an entirely classical level. Spontaneous symmetry breaking arises when the hamiltonian has a symmetry that the aggregate ground-state does not. Thats the whole definition, and BY DEFINITION it depends on details of the aggregate ground state and the organization of the particles. And finally you can rigorously prove via renormalization group methods that in many systems the high energy degrees of freedom can be averaged out entirely and have no effect on the form of low-energy theory. In these systems, to describe low energy structures in such theories (most theories) the details of the microphysics literally do not matter. Computational physicists use this to their advantage all the time- if the
Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012)

It sounds like you have some extremely strong Ugh Fields. It works like this:

A long, long time ago, you had an essay due on Monday and it was Friday. You had the thought, "Man, I gotta get that essay done", and it caused you a small amount of discomfort when you had the thought. That discomfort counted as negative feedback, as a punishment, to your brain, and so the neural circuitry which led to having the thought got a little weaker, and the next time you started to have the thought, your brain remembered the discomfort and flinched away from th... (read more)

-2sparkles9y
The Level Above Mine

2a There are also higher-level properties.. 2b irreducible to and unpredictable from the lower level properties and laws...

This all this means is that, in addition to the laws which govern low-level interactions, there are different laws which govern high-level interactions. But they are still laws of physics, they just sound like "when these certain particles are arranged in this particular manner, make them behave like this, instead of how the low-level properties say they should behave". Such laws are still fundamental laws, on the lowest l... (read more)

-3whowhowho9yMicrophysical laws map microphysical states to other microphysical states.Top-down causation maps macrophysical states to microphysical states. In the sense that they are irreducible, yes. In the sense that they are concerned only with microphyics, no. "Deterministic" typically means that an unbounded agent will achieve probabilities of 1.0 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laplace%27s_demon].
The Level Above Mine

No it isn't? I did not mean you would be able to make predictions which came true 100% of the time. I meant that your subjective anticipation of possible outcomes would be equal to the probability of those outcomes, maximizing both precision and accuracy.

-3whowhowho9yYes it is. "A property of a system is said to be emergent if it is in some sense more than the "sum" of the properties of the system's parts. An emergent property is said to be dependent on some more basic properties (and their relationships and configuration), so that it can have no separate existence. However, a degree of independence is also asserted of emergent properties, so that they are not identical to, or reducible to, or predictable from, or deducible from their bases. The different ways in which the independence requirement can be satisfied lead to various sub-varieties of emergence." -- WP Still deterinism, not reductionism. In a universe where *1aTthere are lower-level-properties .. *1b operating according to a set of deterministic laws. *2a There are also higher-level properties.. *2b irreducible to and unpredictable from the lower level properties and laws... *2c which follow their own deterministic laws. You would be able to predict the future with complete accuracy, given both sets of laws and two sets of starting conditions. Yet the universe being described is explicitly non-reductionistic.
The Level Above Mine

I disagree with your entire premise. I think we should pin down this concept of "levels of perspective" with some good jargon at some point, but regardless...

You can look at a computer from the level of perspective of "there are windows on the screen and I can move the mouse around. I can manipulate files on the hard drive with the mouse and the keyboard, and those changes will be reflected inside information boxes in the windows." This is the perspective most people see a computer from, but it is not a complete description of a compute... (read more)

-1CCC9yYou are right; my example was a bad one, and it does not support the point that I thought it supported. The mere fact that something takes unreasonably long to calculate does not mean that it is not an informative endeavour. (I may have been working from a bad definition of reductionism). Um. I suspect that this may have been poorly phrased. If I have a lump of carbon, quite a bit of water, and a number of other elements, and I just throw them together in a pile, they're unlikely to do much - there may be a bit of fizzing, some parts might dissolve in the water, but that's about it. Yet if I reorganise the same matter into a human, I have an organisation of matter that is able to enter into a debate about reductionism; which I don't think can be predicted by looking at the individual chemical elements alone. But that behaviour might still be predictable from looking at the matter, organised in that way, at its most basic level of perspective (given sufficient computing resources). Hence, I suspect that it is not a counter-example.
-3whowhowho9yThat's a fusion of reductionism and determinism. Reductionism ins't necessarily false in an indeterministic universe. What is more pertinent is being able to predict higher level properties and laws from lower level properties and laws. (synchronously, in the latter case).
The Futility of Emergence

An excellent example of a published paper against reductionism, using "emergence" in exactly this way such that it is indiscernible from "magic", is here:

http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/3866/1/Tilburg_submission_fin.pdf

The Level Above Mine

I did not say that non-reductionism is absurd. I said that "recognizing the absurdity of all other proposed hypotheses is another way of coming about the correct beliefs".

Nonetheless, I do think that non-reductionism is absurd. I cannot imagine a universe which is not reductionistic.

Can you explain to me how it might work?

Edit: I googled "Robert Laughlin Reductionism" and actually found a longish paper he wrote about reductionism and his beliefs. I have some criticisms:

Who are to enact that the laws governing the behavior of particles

... (read more)
-1whowhowho9yI did not say that non-reductionism is absurd. I said that "recognizing the absurdity of all other proposed hypotheses is another way of coming about the correct beliefs". Nonetheless, I do think that non-reductionism is absurd. I cannot imagine a universe which is not reductionistic. One formulation of reductionism is that natural laws can be ordered in a hierarchy, with the higher-level laws being predictable from, or reducible to, the lower ones. So emergentism, in the cognate sense, not working would be that stack of laws failing to collapse down to the lowest level. There's two claims there: one contentious, one not. That there are multiply-realisable, substrate-independent higher-level laws is not contentious. For instance, wave equations have the same form for water waves, sound waves and so on. The contentious claim is that this is ipso facto top-down causation. Substrate-independent laws are still reducible to substrates, because they are predictable from the behaviour of their substrates. I don't see how that refutes the above at all. For one thing, Laughlin and Ellis do have detailed examples of emergent laws (in their rather weak sense of "emergent"). For another, they are not calling on emergence itself as doing any explaining. "Emergence isn't explanatory" doesn't refute "emergence is true". For a third, I don't see any absurdity here. I see a one-word-must-have-one-meaning assumption that is clouding the issue. But where a problem is so fuzzilly defined that it is hard even to identify the "sides", then one can't say that one side is "absurd". Neither are supposed to make predictions. Each can be considered a methodology for finding laws, and it is the laws that do the predicting. Each can also be seen as a meta-level summary fo the laws so far found. EY can't do that for MWI either. Maybe it isn't all about prediction. That's robustly true. Genetic code has to be interpreted by a cellular environment. There are no self-decoding codes. Reudct
-5EHeller9y
1CCC9yIt's a bit of an aside to your main point, but there are good arguments to support the assertion that DNA is only a partial recipe for an organism, such as a human. The remaining information is present in the environment of the mothers' womb in other forms - for example, where there's an ambiguity in the DNA with regards to the folding of a certain protein, other proteins present in the womb may correct any incorrectly folded samples. To look at your main point; if I were to present an argument against reductionism, I would point to the personal computer. This is a device constructed in order to run software; that is, to follow a list of instructions that manipulate binary data. Once you have a list of all the instructions that the computer can follow, and what these instructions do, a thorough electrical analysis of the computer's circuitry isn't going to provide much new information; and it will be a lot more complicated, and harder to understand. There's a conceptual point, there, at the level of individual software instructions, where further reductionism doesn't help to understand the phenomenon, and does make the analysis more complicated, and harder to work with. A thorough electrical analysis is, of course, useful if one wishes to confirm that the stated behaviour of the basic software commands is both correctly stated, and free of unexpected side-effects. However, an attempt to describe (say) the rendering of a JPEG image in terms of which transistors are activated at which point is likely a futile exercise.
The Level Above Mine

The sense in which they did not come about their beliefs based on starting with sane priors which did not presuppose reductionism, and then update on evidence until they independently discovered reductionism.

I disagree with the grandparent, however: I believe that (most) non-math-geniuses advocating for reductionism are more akin to Einstein believing in General Relativity before any novel predictions had been verified: recognizing the absurdity of all other proposed hypotheses is another way of coming about the correct beliefs.

-2whowhowho9yThe "absurdity" of non-reductionism seems to have evaded Robert Laughlin, Jaorn Lanier and a bunch of other smart people.
Three Worlds Collide (0/8)

If I had to guess, I'd say it's a genetic heuristic thing. Assuming that since HPMOR is a fanfic, and since most of the possible arguments for why a particular fanfic is good are wrong, arguments for why HPMOR is good must be wrong.

He also said it wasn't good enough to publish, but when asked why, said there were legal issues with publishing fanfiction, which isn't evidence either way for its 'goodness'. This makes me think he has no arguments addressing the actual goodness of the writing.

8TitaniumDragon9yJust because someone has trouble articulating the issues inherent in something does not necessarily mean they are unable to recognize that said issues exist. I think the argument, however, is moot - HPMOR is on the internet, and therefore already has been "published" in a sense. HPMOR has several issues, however: 1) The writing has a very odd quality to it. After reading the comments on this site for a while, as well as the dialogue in this story, it is obvious that there is some sort of shared language amongst this group of rationalists that is employed by the author of HPMOR - or that many people here simply imitate his writing style. This strange quality to it leads it to feel somewhat strange and stilted. 2) The work meanders too much. It is not written concisely, and a paragraph is often used when a sentence would do. 3) The work is inaccessible to a general audience. There is a certain sort of person who enjoys works like that. I suspect that the internet is thusly an ideal medium for reaching them. 4) The work is a work of fanfiction, and thus is unpublishable. 5) The work is a work of fanfiction, and as such, creates certain expectations regarding the characters and the setting which can be disconcerting. Indeed, the sheer amount of work that went into HPMOR kind of saddens me, like a great deal of fanfiction that I read. It is not that there cannot be good fanfiction, but that fanfiction has certain constraints on it (including inability to publish) which hurt it. I would have loved to have seen something like HPMOR which was a wholly original rather than a derived work, and it strikes me that many who write fanfiction are rather limiting themselves by not allowing themselves to go beyond such.
Three Worlds Collide (0/8)

Really? What makes HPMoR not good enough to be publishable?

50 Shades of Gray was a twilight fanfiction, and apparently it was good enough to be publishable.

What does it actually mean for a piece of fiction to be 'good'? HPMoR can be an author tract at times, but it also has one of the most intricate plots I've ever read, specifically designed so that thinking about it with knowledge of bayesian cognition and rationality allows the reader to discover more things about the story. There aren't many stories like this.

What about the actual quality of the writin... (read more)

7Eliezer Yudkowsky9yHonestly, I don't really understand what the grandparent could be thinking. I may be said to know something about literature at this point, and the literary level of HPMOR is far, far above 3WC. Maybe grandparent only read the first 10 chapters or something, I was still somewhat catching my stride then (not to mention writing chapters with much less editing and effort invested). There was some interest from professional SF writers in 3WC (e.g. Peter Watts) but nowhere near the level of buzz at SF conventions that's been reported to me for HPMOR.
0wedrifid9yAll else being equal this is evidence that it is not publishable.
4drethelin9y50 shades of gray WAS a twilight fanfiction. After it got adapted, it didn't have twilight in it. I don't think you could adapt HPMoR for non copyright infringing publication without ruining it.
8Desrtopa9yKeep in mind that 50 Shades of Gray was "good" enough to be popular among roughly the same target audience that were already fans of Twilight. That said, I'm also very curious about why Siduri thinks that HPMoR isn't good enough to be publishable. It's certainly not without its flaws, and I think a professional editor would improve rather than detract from it, but I've found it to be a more fun read than any published book I've read since before it even started being written. A book doesn't need to be flawless to be publishable, it just needs to be able to find an audience willing to buy it. Unlike 50 Shades of Gray, it's almost certainly utterly unpublishable though, because removing it from the context of the Harry Potter setting would destroy the basis of the plot.
5fubarobfusco9yI've not read it, but I'm given to understand that it has more fucking in it than HPMOR.
Are Your Enemies Innately Evil?

A variance in the population that large, from "preserve oneself" to "do not preserve oneself", is ridiculously unlikely to remain in human beings after the past 3 billion years of evolution.

-3wizzwizz42yWell… if it caused the families to survive better, then maybe.
Evolutionary Psychology

I have information from the future!

EY says it best in The Sheer Folly of Callow Youth, but essentially EY once thought, "If there is truly such a thing as moral value, then a superintelligence will likely discover what the correct moral values are. If there is no such thing as moral value, then the current reality is no more valuable than the reality where I make an AI that kills everyone. Therefore, I should strive to make an AI regardless of ethical problems."

Then in the early 2000s he had an epiphany. The mechanics of his objection had to do w... (read more)

AI box: AI has one shot at avoiding destruction - what might it say?

This certainly wouldn't work on me. The easiest way to test the veracity of the proof would be AI DESTROYED. Whether or not I would want to kill the AI... I'd have to test that proof.

0handoflixue9yMy gambit, explained in further detail: http://lesswrong.com/lw/gfe/ai_box_ai_has_one_shot_at_avoiding_destruction/8cc5 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gfe/ai_box_ai_has_one_shot_at_avoiding_destruction/8cc5]
AI box: AI has one shot at avoiding destruction - what might it say?

You wouldn't be wiping out humanity; there would be trillions of humans left.

Who cares if they run on neurons or transistors?

1handoflixue9yMe!
Meetup : Durham NC HPMoR Discussion, chapters 4-7

Just chapters 4-7?

I kind of would assume anybody who would go to a meetup for HPMoR has read up to current...

0curiousepic9yThis was a spinoff of a sci-fi short story club, so we do have a few people who are not current.
Meetup : Research Triangle Area Less Wrong

Expected attendance? What social media are we using?

Will be my first meetup.

0curiousepic9yProbably at least 6 other than yourself - join the Google group here: http://groups.google.com/group/RTLW [http://groups.google.com/group/RTLW]
Interested in learning Linux? Need hosting? Free shells!

i use the ` key, which I have yet to find a use for in any situation ever. since 90% of the time, the next key you're going to press is a number key, this works really well.

0lsparrish9yGood point. Actually it is useful in bash scripting when you want to include the output of a command in the arguments of another. However you can get it to work when you press the key twice by using send-prefix like so: set-option -g prefix ` bind-key ` send-prefix The only disadvantage is that now you can't copy and paste without losing your backticks, and possibly triggering an action you didn't intend. I haven't yet run into a situation where this was relevant though.
Interested in learning Linux? Need hosting? Free shells!

Quite a few people who emailed me told me they were specifically interested in learning linux; that they had installed ubuntu on a laptop but never touched the terminal, or that they had never touched linux and had to be showed how to login, etc. Because this is lesswrong, those people for the most part have actually done some stuff on their own instead of just never logging in again, but I feel like I could be doing more.

The value in learning the inner workings of an operating system should be self-evident, no matter how you scorn it. It is a human-design... (read more)

Interested in learning Linux? Need hosting? Free shells!

Does anybody have any specific ideas as to:

  • How to get people who have signed up for the purposes of learning to actually sit down in a talk session with me and learn?
  • What should be taught first? My current plan is, getting people to understand how configuration files in linux are like preferences in windows, and getting them to set up a .bashrc file with aliases and a custom PS1 prompt, to get used to the idea of a) rc files b) editing things with a text editor
  • Is vimtutor any good? I learned vim before vimtutor was available, and I went through the exercises a little bit and they seemed good, but how is retention?
0shminux9yI'm guessing that most of those who signed up and plan on using their account already know the ropes well enough to not need tutoring. What is your goal here? Getting people to learn this 1970's cutting-edge technology? Personally, I forget the details after only a few months of disuse, and have to look it up again if necessary. As for editing, I use vi when there is absolutely no other choice (cat, pico, nano, k100... no emacs, please). The only vi commands that I find essential enough to remember are /, I, Esc, q! and w. Any real editing can be done on a box with some form of GUI (almost always available, given that your shell is remote) and then pasted into the vi window.
Interested in learning Linux? Need hosting? Free shells!

You are not an active member of the Lesswrong community. You joined solely for this shell account. Go work on your English, read the sequences, and come back.

If you can answer this question, I'll reconsider:

A bat and a ball, together, cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

Interested in learning Linux? Need hosting? Free shells!

the two lines i posted are the bare minimum needed to set a vhost. Things like 404 pages, per-vhost access and error logs, servername aliases (*.foo.com to www.foo.com), etc. are all possible.

Afaik, this is the standard method of going about doing this.

Interested in learning Linux? Need hosting? Free shells!

Apache virtual hosts. For instance:

'johnwittle.com' is registered and has its A record pointed at the server, so when you type johnwittle.com into your browser, it goes to 98.158.26.222 (the ip of the server).

Now, apache, the webserver, has the following in its configuration files:

<VirtualHost *:80>                              #look for connections coming in on port 80
ServerName dbaupp.johnwittle.com  #if the requested URL is this url...
DocumentRoot /home/dbaupp/www #...use this directory as root
</VirtualHost>

Then you just set up a virtualhost block for every domain/subdomain you want.

0[anonymous]9yand fcgi 404 handler or whatever would be set up similarly?
Interested in learning Linux? Need hosting? Free shells!

I already run a tor relay node on the server; luckily most things of this nature require root access, which will not be given.

I will update the OP with relevant information.

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