Signalling & Simulacra Level 3

You have a concept of apples before learning the word (otherwise you wouldn't know which thing in our very-high-dimensional world to tie the word to; word-learning does not require nearly enough examples to narrow down the concept space without some pre-existing concept).

That doesn't seem right, intuitively. People (humans) have pre-existing capabilities ('instincts'), by the time they're learning words, and one of them is the ability to 'follow pointing', i.e. look at something someone else is pointing at. In practice, that can involve considerable iteration, e.g. 'no not that other round red (or green) thing; this one right here'.

The parts of our minds that learn words also seem to have access to an API for analyzing and then later recognizing specific visual patterns, e.g. shapes, colors, materials, and faces. The internals of that visual-system API are pretty sophisticated too.

Well, really I'm talking about the idealized theoretical Bayesian version of that thing. Point is, it should not require other agents in the picture, including your parents.

Learning language must require other agents, at least indirectly, tho – right? It only exists because some agents use (or used) it.

But I'm skeptical that an 'idealized theoretical Bayesian agent' could learn language on its own – there is no such thing as "an ideal philosophy student of perfect emptiness".

Signalling & Simulacra Level 3

This is the type of thinking that can't tell the difference between "a implies b" and "a, and also b" -- because people almost always endorse both "a" and "b" when they say "a implies b".

This is the type of thinking where disagreement tends to be regarded as a social attack, because disagreement is associated with social attack.

This is the type of thinking where we can't ever have a phrase meaning "honestly" or "literally" or "no really, I'm not bulshitting you on this one" because if such a phrase existed then it would immediately be co-opted by everyone else as a mere intensifier.

This "type of thinking" sure seems very accurate to me.

In particular, the third paragraph quoted above seems spectacularly accurate, e.g. the euphemism treadmill.

Alice: "I just don't understand why I don't see Cedrick any more."

Bob: "He's married now."

We infer from this that the marriage creates some kind of obstacle. Perhaps Cedrick is too busy to come over. Or Bob is implying that it would be inappropriate for Cedrick to frequently visit Alice, a single woman. None of this is literally said, but a cloud of conversational implicature surrounds the literal text. The signalling analysis can't distinguish this cloud from the literal meaning.

I'm not sure this is quite true. Just because every utterance produces a 'cloud of implicature' doesn't mean 'literal meaning' isn't also a component of the signal.

And, in practice, it doesn't seem like there is any general way to distinguish the cloud from the literal meaning. One problem being which literal meaning should be considered the literal meaning?

Like logical uncertainty, I see this as a challenge in the integration of logic and probability. In some sense, the signalling theory only allows for reasoning by association rather than structured logical reasoning, because the meaning of any particular thing is just its probabilistic associations.

I'm confused why this is a 'challenge' – or a surprising one anyways. It certainly seems (again!) astonishingly accurate to describe most people as "reasoning by association".

Where do these crisp ontologies come from, if (under the signalling theory of meaning) symbols only have probabilistic meanings?

Wouldn't they come from mostly (or 'almost perfectly') certain meanings? Practically, words seem to almost never correspond to a particularly crisp ontology (compare to, e.g. the elements or subject of a mathematical theory). I don't think there's any word that would – under all circumstances or in all situations – have a (unique) 'literal meaning'.

The explanation of how communication can (reliably) convey 'literal meanings' seems to boil down to 'with great effort, arbitrary depths of circumlocution, and (still) only ever approximately'.

Covid 11/12: The Winds of Winter

Please heavily weight your own time and effort in your considerations about how to publish the updates. I'm a little sad that you described it as having "slacked off". The dev-update you linked to looks like it must have taken a good while to create!

Covid 11/12: The Winds of Winter

That was my basic understanding as well. The claims in these kinds of press releases would be particularly scrutinized by, e.g. the SEC, FDA, etc..

I hadn't known until I met someone that did it, but many (basically all?) companies have investor relations personnel or consultants. I know that some of those IR people also specialize in pharmaceutical or biomedical companies. They would definitely be involved in writing these kinds of press releases too.

Covid 11/12: The Winds of Winter

I sympathize, but I think it's better if we allow this kind of thing, generally, under the conditions 'we' require now.

And, as other comments mention, you can discuss these things, even on LessWrong. And I think it should be fine to make a comment, e.g. on this post, linking to your own response to the 'forbidden' topics.

Covid 11/12: The Winds of Winter

I'd very much like to read about bugs, or other changes, even if they don't warrant a big announcement. Maybe the team could post on the site itself, with a special tag that can be followed separately (if you don't want to include them in the 'all posts' feed).

Thanks for your help keeping this site running!

Covid 11/12: The Winds of Winter

How strong as evidence are similar press releases tho? Pharmaceutical companies create lots of press releases.

Is corruption a valuable antidote to overregulation?

There's a reason this post is a question and not an essay. I point to something unclear that I don't understand well.

Sorry if it wasn't clear but I'm also trying to make sense of your question and understanding what you mean by 'corruption' was my most significant obstacle.

The standard working definition of corruption I use is that it's about trading things of different domains.

My problem with this is that it still seems too nebulous. I'm not sure how to answer the question without having a sharper distinction for what is and isn't 'corruption' so as to at least estimate its total costs and benefits.

You mentioned "white-hat lobbying" and that's exactly what I was thinking of when I asked whether you consider lobbying itself to be a form of corruption. From the evidence and info I've gleaned from the lobbyist I know, there's quite a bit of the 'mechanics' involved, e.g. in 'accessing' politicians, that seems at least a little corrupt.

And I've read a reasonable defense of corruption in general arguing that, in effect, corruption provided something liked liquidity to political markets and that made negotiation among coalitions generally easier to conduct (which is itself arguably good). I'm very sympathetic to that.

I'm sorry I haven't been able to provide a clear answer or even clear thinking about your question. I think it's an interesting question tho!

Is corruption a valuable antidote to overregulation?

Okay, that's along the lines of what I remembered from reading reviews of Caro's book – Moses's 'corruption' was, at least generally, atypical, e.g. not bribery or blatantly abusing his power. It was in a sense a much more subtle form of corruption, in large part because it wasn't obviously corruption at all.

My problem with this line of thinking is that indicts basically all political actors:

That was in Robert Moses early days when he didn't have a lot of people directly on his payrol but it's a nice example of him doing things that allow his projects to move fast that would never go through today. Later examples are more complex because it's the web of relationships he build that prevented opposition to any project he wanted to do.

You just described basically every politician. While it's certainly common to complain 'all politicians are corrupt', it's a kind of 'fallacy of grey' for eliding any degree or detail of how corrupt various acts are.

Would you consider Uber or Airbnb to have engaged in corruption?

I don't know. Both started by simply ignoring the law in many jurisdictions. Later they hired political insiders to lobby. From the outside it's hard to know whether or not those political insiders use means that we should call corrupt to get laws changed.

Right – that's what I was getting at because I thought your conception of 'corruption' was too vague and too expansive.

Is "simply ignoring the law" corrupt?

Is hiring lobbyists corrupt?

Is lobbying itself corrupt? (I'd imagine you'd agree it's not, apart from 'stereotypical lobbying', and maybe even not then.)

They don't seem to be powerful enough in a state like California to get the law reducing their ability to hire independent contractors from getting passed which suggests that they do have some inability to corrupt that legislative process.

Is the ability to influence a bill being passed, and exercising that ability, corruption? Is it only corrupt if you're a corporation or its agent?

I'm not sure what you mean by 'corrupt' in "corrupt that legislative process". It seems like any effect they caused on the bill passing or not would be corruption. That doesn't seem right.

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