I would disagree with this, from personal experience. I am intelligent enough that I could have figured out these things if I thought about it hard enough and long enough, but I had not focused my attention here until I read these articles. Eliezer did a great job of expressing things that I had not thought about yet, in ways that I can understand.
Of course, I'm not a random person on the Internet (literally random, that is), so that is worth taking into account when deciding whether the person you are talking to is likely to understand. Some posts are easier to understand than others, but overall I have been impressed with how accessible the Sequences are.
"He later speaks of evidence, but what he takes as evidence is religious visions not further described. Whatever this experience was, on his own account no process of rationality played any role in his conversion."
I am a theist in the process of (possibly) deconverting, and I wanted to chime in on this point. I obviously can't speak for John C. Wright, but his evidence sounds quite reasonable to me.
One thing I am doing in my search for truth is praying for recognizable, repeated evidence that God exists. I am testing the hypothesis that God exists and is willing to communicate with me, and I have not ruled out prayer as a means of such communication. I have also given a time frame for this test. The type of evidence John Wright describes, if it actually happens to me within the time frame and happens often enough, will be enough to convince me that God is real. If I do not have any such experiences, I will conclude that either God does not exist or he does not place a high value on my belief in him.
To me, this seems quite rational; those kinds of experiences are far more likely to happen if God exists than if he doesn't (although they are certainly not impossible if he doesn't exist), so they will be strong evidence in favor of God's existence if they actually happen. John Wright's conversion seems logical to me, given his account of what happened.
We do know that Lily gave Petunia a very strong potion to change her appearance, and it worked. It seems reasonable for Harry to assume that that potion would only work on Squibs, not Muggles.
Also, from chapter 7: " There were no questions about his father accompanying him to the magical side of King's Cross Station. Dad had trouble just looking at Harry's trunk directly. Magic ran in families, and Michael Verres-Evans couldn't even walk." The fact that Michael is singled out here suggests that Petunia doesn't have the same problems interacting with magic.
Thank you for posting this! I'm posting here for the first time, although I've spent a significant amount of time reading the Sequences already (I just finished Seeing with Fresh Eyes). The comments on determinism cleared up a few uncertainties about Newcomb's Problem for me.
When I have explained the problem to others, I have usually used the phrasing where Alpha is significantly better than average at predicting what you will choose, but not perfect. (This helps reduce incredulity on the part of the average listener.) I have also used the assumption that Alpha does this by examining your mental state, rather than by drawing causal arrows backward in time. One of my friends suggested precommitting to a strategy that one-boxes 51% of the time and two-boxes 49% of the time, chosen at the time you receive the boxes by some source that is agreed to be random such as rolling two d10's. His logic is that Alpha would probably read your mind accurately, and that if he did, he would decide based on your mental state to put the money in the box, since you are more likely to one-box than not.
This seemed like a very good strategy (assuming the logic and the model of the problem are correct, which is far from certain), and I wondered why this strategy wasn't at least being discussed more. It seems that most other people were assuming determinism while I was assuming libertarian free will.
What do all of you think of my friend's strategy?
Is the assumption of determinism a comment on the actual state of the universe, or simply a necessary assumption to make the problem interesting?