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An Agent is a Worldline in Tegmark V

From the perspective taken in this post, "location" means observer-moment: the entire submanifold of "simultaneous" locations in your sense is represented by a single point in the space I mean.

(To be sure, both your space and mine are "Tegmark V" spaces; "Tegmark V" here is not a specific mathematical object, but an interpretation-type.)

A subsequent post may provide helpful context.

Open thread, June. 19 - June. 25, 2017

It seems hard to envision a society wherein belonging and esteem could be satisfied via physical cognition

Not hard to envision at all; only hard, perhaps, to implement. It shouldn't take all that much imagination to summon the thought of a society in which people were better rewarded with status (and all its trappings) for things like solving mathematical problems, or composing complexly-structured music, as opposed to all the various generalized forms of pure politics that determine the lion's share of status in the world we know, than they actually are in the world we know.

In fact, we can look around and find historical examples of societies where that was the case. In my Otium comment I pointed to one: Imperial Germany (pre-WWI). That was a place where a figure like Max Reger could achieve high status in general culture -- without even needing to be a Nietzschean superman to do so. All he had to do was follow the rules of society, which happened to permit someone with those kinds of compositional aspirations to become a celebrity.

My radical belief is that the fact that this is the same culture that also produced leading figures in every other field of creative intellection (and a place where shops in university towns sold pictures of professors in postcard form), and indeed is credited by Tyler Cowen with "deliver[ing] the goods in terms of innovation", is not a coincidence.

This is an extreme example -- in fact the best I know of, at least at the level of entire nations -- but the phenomenon is a matter of degree.

Well, for a start, there are certainly "fine things in life" that are best understood in social terms; for a handy example that fits squarely in the realm of art, consider so-called "literary" fiction.

Yes. Narrative fiction is the least physically-oriented of the arts. Its existence is most of the reason for the qualifier "at least certain forms [of art]" in my comment on Sarah's blog.

Note that it is also the only art-form that is widely appreciated at anything like a sophisticated level by the "rationalist community" as a whole. This is a problem. (Basically, it reflects an implicit belief that only STEM is about physical cognition; since all art is assumed to be almost wholly social, LWers opt for the "least pretentious" variant, i.e. the most socioculturally "accessible" form to them, namely fiction, specifically fanfiction.)

It's not the absence of "social cognition" in its entirety

I never said it was. What made you think otherwise?

Above, I specifically said that arts synthesized physical and social cognition, and implied that that was important to their value.

The problem I'm talking about is the absence of physical cognition, not the presence of social cognition.

Open thread, June. 19 - June. 25, 2017

Like others, you seem to be interpreting my comments as if they were stating conclusions intended to be only one or two inferential steps away (from your current epistemic state). This is not at all necessarily the case!

In particular, when I state a proposition X, I expect readers not only to ask themselves whether they already think X is true (i.e. conditioned on all their knowledge before my statement), but also to ask themselves why I might believe X. To engage, in other words, in at least a cursory search for inferential chains leading to X -- resulting in either the discovery of an inferential chain that they themselves agree with (in which case communication has been approximately successful), or a hypothesis about what my error is (which can then be discussed, and confirmed or disconfirmed).

This mental motion seems to be missing from your (and, even more severely, others') reactions to my comments. It's as if I were expected to be modeling your epistemic state, without any corresponding expectation that you be modeling mine. Yet, insofar as I've stated a specific belief, you have some specific information about mine, whereas I have only background information about yours. This will of course change once you reply -- I will get more specific information about yours -- but the dialogue will be more efficient if your reply attempts to integrate and respond to the information you have about my epistemic state, rather than merely providing information about yours (as is the case when your reply takes the form "you have made one or more assumptions that I don't share", as here, for example).

Now, to get back to the object level:

Vassar (the author of the essay) puts a division between the two "lowest" levels, which he calls "physical" (meaning that they are concerned with our physical needs and wants) and the next two, which he calls "social" (meaning that they are concerned with our interactions with others). The topmost level ("self-actualization") I think Vassar classifies as "social", which I think mostly indicates that his terminology isn't great.

You have overlooked a distinction that, while not explicitly stated in the essay itself, is nevertheless crucial to understanding the point Vassar is making: the distinction between people's needs, themselves, and the programs that they use to satisfy them. The pathology that Vassar is complaining about is the fact that as one ascends the hierarchy of needs, the programs that people tend to use for satisfying them become less physical and more social in nature: society in effect reserves its highest rewards for those most practiced in social, rather than physical, cognition. The essay implies that he regards this as being, in at least some sense, contingent: in principle, society could be set up so that physical cognition played a greater role in the satisfaction of higher Maslow-needs (belonging, esteem, self-actualization).

This is the background for my assertions about art -- which I made first not here, but on Sarah Constantin's blog Otium, in a comment thread that, again, I linked in my original comment here (and is thus assumed to be fully loaded into the context of this discussion):

[T]here’s a widespread misunderstanding to the effect that the “finer things in life” (art etc., particularly as contrasted with STEM) fall exclusively into the realm of social cognition; and this is just so, so, so, false. I feel like a whole array of cultural pathologies can be traced to this misunderstanding...

This could even have existential implications of a sort...the problem is — and this is what Michael was talking about in his essay — that society doesn’t reward physical cognition with Maslow-advancement. As a result, by the time people get up to Level 5, their focus has basically shifted to social cognition, and they “enjoy the finer things in life” in predominantly if not exclusively that way. As a result, they are cognitively unequipped to do the very things that people on Level 5 are supposed to be doing (“figuring out where the monkey tribe should go next”, i.e. solving x-risk etc.), or at least unpracticed...

I basically feel that if we, as a society, understood better that art (at least certain forms, most notably music) was just as much about physical cognition as social (and basically as much about physical as STEM is), that would at least reflect (and could even cause) a stronger presence of physical cognition along the gradient of social advancement.

So: from this it should be evident that not only do I think that certain arts are heavily physical-cognition-loaded, but, furthermore, the very failure to understand this is, in my view, itself a manifestation of the pathology that Vassar's essay was (in large part) about.

(Just as an aside: in case there is any doubt about my interpretation of Vassar, here is an e-mail I wrote to him in March 2013:

Dear Michael,

I'm wondering if you think the following is a fair paraphrase of your Edge essay from January:

To effectively create value requires skill in analytical/"near-mode" thinking. Unfortunately, society does not do a good job of Maslow-rewarding people for developing such skill, with the result that too few people at the higher Maslow-levels are analytically skilled, and too few analytically skilled people are at the higher Maslow-levels.

This seems like precisely the problem that the rationalist community exists in order to address. [...]

To which he replied, in full:

That's the main point of the essay.

)

Thus, I think it was somewhat logically rude of you to ask, in a tone of incredulity,

But now you want to say that artistic endeavour belongs in the category of "physical cognition"? Really?

and to follow that by an un-self-conscious affirmation of the conventional assumption that I had, very knowingly, denied.

"Really?" Yes, really. Not only am I aware that conventional wisdom assumes the contrary, but I specifically cited the conventionality of that assumption as an example of the Maslow-pathology described by Vassar. Yes, I know people think that

what distinguishes music from finger exercises is vague fuzzy socially-mediated things like "beauty" and "taste" which seem to me much more like "weirdness, gravitas and sexiness" than like "solidity and shape"

-- this (I claim) is a problem!

Now, it's understandable that you might be curious about why I believe what I believe in this realm. And, to a large extent, I'm perfectly happy to discuss it. (After all, on my beliefs, it's in my interest to do so!) But the inferential chains may be long, and my communication style is a high-context one. Even if I have made a mistake in my reasoning, it is not likely to be identified efficiently by means of a discussion that takes it as plausible that I might have arrived at my conclusions randomly.

Open thread, June. 19 - June. 25, 2017

With no more context than your earlier comment where (so far as I know) you first used the term [...] I am just saying that it seems unreasonable to complain of someone "rounding off concepts" when you have made no apparent effort to clarify what you do mean

In my original comment, I linked to the essay that was the source of the concepts of "physical" and "social cognition" as I used them in that comment. Without the context of that essay, there is no reason to expect my remarks in this discussion to be intelligible.

Open thread, June. 19 - June. 25, 2017

The expected return from a reader doing something like that is way too low, even in a community like this one. Most new ideas are wrong, and if your idea is wrong then people trying to traverse the same inferential path will get nowhere

I disagree with these statements. (Even in the case of "most new ideas are wrong", I would ADBOC.)

You're basically just stating the view that "false positives are a bigger problem than false negatives", which I already disagreed with explicitly (as applied to this context) in my previous comment.

why shouldn't you write an good explanation

Because what constitutes a "good explanation" is strongly reader-dependent, and I don't have good enough models of most readers to know in advance what will satisfy them. It's worth it to try being very foundational sometimes, but not all the time. It's also worth it for readers to sometimes practice the skill of traversing inferential paths more nimbly.

if your position is that we should more vigorously encourage an interest in artistic pursuits

I wouldn't presume to take such a detailed position on how you should relate to your child. (Though I can think of someone you might want to talk to, about not only this but the whole subject of "what to do" with children who are, or who are at "risk" of being, "gifted" -- the best way to get into contact with that person would probably be through Jonah Sinick.)

My concern here is only to explain (insofar as is possible within the number of words I'm willing to expend) something about what the value of traditional artistic pursuits is, and, in particular, the ways in which it's similar to the value of less traditional artistic pursuits like programming. I think you (like many, no doubt, in the LW audience) have bad priors about this due to insufficient exposure in early life (perhaps for socioeconomic reasons -- as you said above, "My parents didn't have the time or money to deliberately cultivate these kinds of interests in me when I was a child). I myself also had relatively little deliberate exposure (for the same reasons), but, exceptionally, was drawn in the relevant direction by an unusually strong intrinsic attraction (such that, had I come from an upper-class background, I would very likely have been involved at a much higher level much earlier). As a result, I think I am in the position of perceiving something about this that most LW readers are probably missing (insofar as they seem to want to reduce interest in these pursuits, implicitly and even explicitly, as we've seen here, to some kind of mere class signal -- indeed, a form of conspicuous consumption).

Open thread, June. 19 - June. 25, 2017

From the fourth paragraph:

These programs seem to have been disfavored by history's great scientific innovators, who tend to make statements like "I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble..." or "What do you care what other people think", which sound like endorsements of physical over social cognition. 



Open thread, June. 19 - June. 25, 2017

As I said above,

populism seems anticorrelated with both good aesthetics and good science

Thus, by "a society that tied status more closely to such skills", I do not mean the typical conditions leading to, and resulting from, a peasant revolt.

Open thread, June. 19 - June. 25, 2017

Do you think you use the term physical cognition in the way it's used in the literature?

"The literature" that is relevant here consists of Michael Vassar's 2013 Edge essay.

Open thread, June. 19 - June. 25, 2017

I don't understand what "physical cognition" in this context points to

See here. (This was linked in the original comment...)

Open thread, June. 19 - June. 25, 2017

I do mean ballet and piano, and also the kind of "the kind of hacking background that Wei Dai has".

I did not expect this to be completely outside of your hypothesis space, in the way it appears to be. This is worth reflecting on.

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