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Sick of struggling
I’m just sick of struggling through life. The inefficiencies all around me are staggering and overwhelming.

Your mileage will vary, but a train of thought that helped me change my perspective on this (and I fully endorse this shift) was to realize that my emotions were ill-calibrated:

When I considered the state of the world, my emotional reaction was mostly negative, but when I tried to compare this reaction to a world in which earth is replaced by a lifeless rock I realized that this would clearly not be an improvement. After contemplating this, I decided that my emotions were missing a huge chunk: The immense value of life on earth which makes it reasonable to be pained by all the inadequacies in the first place. Since then, my emotional estimation of our world's value has climbed a lot which makes seeing all the problems much more bearable. (this change in perspective was largely influenced by the Sequences and HPMOR, but I am not sure whether this train of thought was mentioned explicitly)

Optimized Propaganda with Bayesian Networks: Comment on "Articulating Lay Theories Through Graphical Models"

Up-voted for thoroughly putting the idea into less wrong context - i enjoyed being reminded of all the related ideas

A thought: I am a bit surprised that one can distil a single belief network explaining a whole lot of the variance of beliefs across many people. This makes me take the idea more seriously that a large number of people regularly do have very similar beliefs (down to the argumentative structure). Remembering You Have About Five Words this surprises me as I would expect a less reliable transmission of beliefs? (It might well be that I am just misunderstanding something)

Neural Annealing: Toward a Neural Theory of Everything (crosspost)

Now reading the post for the second time, I again find it fascinating – and I think I can pinpoint my confusion more clearly now:

One aspect that sparks confusion when matched against my (mostly introspection + lesswrong-reading generated) model, is the directedness of annealing:
On the one hand, I do not see how the mechanism of free energy creates such a strong directedness as the OP describes with 'aesthetics',
on the other hand if in my mind I replace the term "high-energy-state" with "currently-active-goal-function(s)", this becomes a shockingly strong model describing my introspective experiences (matching large parts of what I would usually think of roughly as 'System 1-thinking'). Also the aspects of 'dissonance' and 'consonance' directly being unpleasant and pleasant feel more natural to me if I treat them as (possibly contradicting) goal functions, that also synchronize the perception-, memorizing-, modelling- and execution-parts of the mind. A highly consonant goal function will allow for vibrant and detailed states of mind.

Is there some mechanism that would allow for evolution to somewhat define the 'landscape' of harmonics? Is reframing the harmonics as goals compatible with the model? Something like this seems to be pointed at in the quote

Panksepp’s seven core drives (play, panic/grief, fear, rage, seeking, lust, care) might be a decent first-pass approximation for the attractors in this system.


Another aspect where my current model differs is that I do not identify consciousness (at least the part that creates the feeling of pleasure/suffering and the explicit feeling of 'self') as part of this goal-setting mechanism. In my model, the part of the mind that generates the feeling of pleasure or suffering is more of a local system (plus complications*) that takes the global state as model- and goal-input and tries to derive strategies from this. In my model, this part of the mind is what usually identifies as 'self' and it is this that is most relevant for depression or schizophrenia. But as what I describe as 'model- and goal-input' really defines the world and goals that the 'self' sees and pursues at each moment (sudden changes can be very disconcerting experiences), the implications of annealing for health would stay similar.


After writing all of this I can finally address the question of the parent comment:

Are your previous models single or multi-agent?

I very much like the multiagent-model sequence although I am not sure how well my "Another aspect [...]"-description matches: On the one hand, my model does have a privileged 'self'-system that is much less fragmented than the goal-function-landscape. On the other hand, the goal-function-landscape seems best described by "shards of desire" (which is a formulation used in the sequences if I remember correctly) and they can direct and override the self easily. This part fits well with the multiagent-model


*) A complication is that the 'self' can also endorse/reject goals and redirect 'active goal-energy' (it feels like a kind of delegable voting power that the self as strategy-expert can use if it gained the trust and thus voting-power of goal-setting parts) onto the goal-setting parts themselves in order to shape them.

From self to craving (three characteristics series)

I am very much impressed by the exchange in the parent-comments and cannot upvote sufficiently.

With regards to the 'mental motion':

In contrast, the model description you gave made it sound like craving was an active process that one could simply refrain from [...]

As I see it, the perspective of this (sometimes) being an active process makes sense from the global workspace theory perspective: There is a part of one's mind that actually decides on activating craving or not. (Especially if trained through meditation) it is possible to connect this part to the global workspace and thus consciousness, which allows noticing and influencing the decision. If this connection is strong enough and can be activated consciously, it can make sense to call this process a mental motion.

Identity Isn't In Specific Atoms

I think the meaning behind 'identical particles' is very hard to pin down without directly using mathematical definitions*. The analogy with (secretly numbered) billiard balls gives a strong intuition for non-identical particles. There are also intuitive examples that behave more like identical particles:

For example, the intuition for symbols nicely matches identical symbol/particle behaviour:

If I represent a Helium atom with the symbol "H" and no atom with "_", the balloons interior might be described by


Here, it would still make sense to think 'the Helium atom at this position', but thinking 'what if I wrote "the fifth H" at the position of "the third H" and vice versa?' is not meaningful in the same way that the word "identical" remains "identical" even if I claim that I exchanged the two "i".

Can't we distinguish between particles through their relationships with other objects or "themselves", including causal relationships? For example, the electrons in my body now have different (and stronger) causal effects on electrons in my body later than on electrons in your body, and by this we can distinguish them.

I think this way of distinguishing particles makes sense, but does not rely on 'identity' in the sense of identical particles – your example could be realized both with identical and non-identical particles, as 'identifying' a particle by its state remains valid in both cases.

And can't we trace paths in spacetime for identity? Not particle-like paths, but by just relying on causality and the continuity of the wavefunction over spacetime?
The atom swap experiment would then destroy both atoms and create two atoms (possibly the same, possibly different, possibly swapped). What we could say about their identities would depend on the precise details of the view. Maybe there's no coherent way to make this work.

A different, but consistent definition for individual particle-identity might be possible. But, as the experimental predictions** from identical particles are well-confirmed, it would still have to treat the way that two electrons have different identity in a different way than the different identity between an electron and, say, a photon. I do not see how one could get the qm-predictions without also using the identical-particle maths.

*) One (simplified) way to write it for 2 particles would be:

  • For two non-identical particles the wave function is defined over the space of ordered tuples of positions, e.g. (r_1, r_2). Here it makes sense to think 'what happens if I exchanged the two particles?' as (r_2,r_1) is generally not (r_1,_2) and 'exchange particles' is a meaningful term.
  • For identical particles instead, the wave function is defined on the space of unordered tuples, e.g. {r_1,r_2}. Here, 'exchange particles' is not meaningful as {r_1, r_2} and {r_2, r_1} per definition describe the same thing.

**) There are significant consequences: As the space that the wave function moves in is changed drastically, its behaviour also changes. E.g. everything solid builds on the Pauli principle, which is a consequence of identical particles

Reflective Complaints
That was the first thing I did when I created an account here.

Oops - I didn't notice the 'load more' option for the posts on your profile earlier, I upvoted your post now.

I have not yet written any posts myself and have only skimmed the detailed rules about karma some time ago, but I can easily imagine that the measures against spam can sometimes lead good posts from new accounts to be overlooked.

Reflective Complaints

a) I liked reading your guide: You managed to include many important LW-related concepts while still keeping a hands-on feeling. This makes it a nice reference for people who do not enjoy a more technical/analytical approach. Have you considered creating a link-post on lesswrong?

b) You write:

The good news is that the virtuous cycle here also works: I've found that if one person is consistently unusually virtuous in their conversations and arguments, a little bubble of sanity spreads around that person to everyone in the vicinity over time.

This seems like a more deliberate version of what Scott Alexander describes in Different Worlds? (a term that is used is 'niceness fields')

I would be very interested in approaches to actively create 'bubbles of sanity' or 'niceness fields'.

The points 'aim for success, not victory' and 'assume good faith' of your guide seem important for this. A big part is probably to clearly communicate that the other's status is in no way being questioned and thus need not be defended. In my experience, this part of communication is usually not deliberate (or even conscious) and hard to change. Of course, even small improvements can be valuable.

Perpetual Motion Beliefs
One could say that there is still a difference between probabilities so high/low that you can use ~1/~0 writings and probable but not THAT probable situations such as 98:2

I don't think that Eliezer would disagree with this.

As I understand it, he generally argues for following the numbers and in this post he tries to bind the reader's emotions to reality: He gives examples that make it emotionally clear that it already is in our interest to follow the numbers ('hot water need not *necessarily* burn you, but you correctly do not count on this. Getting burned is bad') and forces one to contrast this realisation with examples where common intuition/behaviour doesn't follow the numbers ('you do not *necessarily* loose money in a lottery, but you are mistaken to count on this. Loosing money is bad').

A non-mystical explanation of "no-self" (three characteristics series)

Thanks for writing this post! Your writing helps me a lot in tying together other's claims and my own experiences into a more coherent model.

As Richard_Kennaway points out in their comment, the goal of insight meditation and 'enlightenment' is not necessarily the same as the goal of rationality (e.g. instrumental rationality/shaping the world's future towards a desired goal seems a part of rationality but not of 'enlightenment' as far as I can tell). I would be very interested in your opinion of how instrumental rationality relates to insight meditation and enlightenment.

My knowledge around this topic is admittedly weak, but the points where my introspection differs from your description might still be interesting:

  • When I introspect on my sense of self, my results are that it does stem from a quite localised part of my mind instead of being generated by different parts at different times*
  • Exploring the self-generating part of my mind led me to think that it can be somewhat described as a consciousness-level goal-setting system. The system's decisions (of endorsement or rejection) can fuel mental processes which gives them the felt property of identity. I think that the goal-setting property fits nicely with the finding that it is not part of one's problem-solving mind, but still a central aspect of the conscious experience. [EDIT: I just noticed that the 'player' description of Player vs. Character: A Two-Level Model of Ethics seems to point at the same experience]


*In the sense of: The source is always in the same localised part of my mind – the feeling of self does extend to different parts of my mind in different situations.

Einstein's Arrogance

My original reading was 'there was less arrogance in Einstein's answer than you might think'. After rereading Eliezer's text and the other comments again today, I cannot tell how much arrogance (regarding rationality) we should assume. I think it is worthwhile to compare Einstein not only to a strong Bayesian:

On the one hand, I agree that a impressive-but-still-human Bayesian would probably have accumulated sufficient evidence at the point of having the worked-out theory that a single experimental result against the theory is not enough to outweigh the evidence. In this case there is little arrogance (if I assume the absolute confidence in “Then I would feel sorry for the good Lord. The theory is correct.” to be rhetoric and not meant literally.)

On the other hand, a random person saying 'here is my theory that fundamentally alters the way we have to think of our world' and dismissing a contradicting experiment would be a prime example of arrogance.

Assuming these two cases to be the endpoints of a spectrum, the question becomes where Einstein was located. With special relativity and other significant contributions to physics already at that point in time, I think it is safe to put Einstein into the top tier of physicists. I assume that he did find a strong theory corresponding to his search criteria. But as biases are hard to handle, especially if they concern one's own assumptions about fundamental principles about our world, there remains the possibility that Einstein did not optimize for correspondence-to-reality for finding general relativity but a heuristic that diverged along the way of finding the theory.

As Einstein had already come up with special relativity (which is related and turned out correct), I tend towards assuming that his assumptions about fundamental principles were on an impressive level, too.

With all this i think it is warranted to take his theory of general relativity very seriously even before the experiment. But Einstein's confidence is much stronger than that: it seems that he neglects the possibility that some of his fundamental assumptions might be wrong (his confidence in deriving general relativity from these assumptions seems warranted). This means that either he was (to a degree) mistaken in his confidence or that he was on a hard-to-believe level of rationality regarding the question of general relativity. Einstein actually was right, so it is problematic to claim that he was mistaken in his confidence.

After writing this, my conclusion is that i) evidence-gathering for humans might imply that when detecting a signal (finding the theory of general relativity), it's likely that we have actually accumulated a large pile of evidence, ii) Einstein does seem surprisingly confident, but (i) implies that this could be warranted and it is problematic to criticise correct predictions

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