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Doubt, Science, and Magical Creatures - a Child's Perspective

... I did my fair share too, Santa vs. thin threads spun across the way between where the presents were supposed to emerge and the door... "stand back, I'm going to try Science" for the first time I remember.

Actually, it was a really nice experience not only about Science but also about how compartmentalization feels from the inside. I definitely remember thinking both that it's my parents and that it's some kind of mystical thingy, the only new thing that year was that these two aren't supposed to coexist in the same world. Not surprisingly, it's the very same feeling that I felt after being exposed to a semester of catholic middle school. Didn't have a name for it then though...

Halloween thread - rationalist's horrors.

Martial arts training camp. Average sleep time was around 4 hours per day, also, guard shifts round the day, so sometimes it ended up being 2. So towards the end of the week I was quite... sleepy. And this seems to have an interesting effect on visual pattern recognition.

One day, me and another guy were standing guard, around 4 in the morning, the sun was just about to come up. Making circles around the countryside weekend house we were staying in, I noticed that some people appeared with a truck and started to pick grapes from the nearby field. I promptly went and reported it to the other guy, so I was pretty sure of this observation, until I went back, and...

the truck and the people somehow turned into grapes and new people appeared to pick them.

Later that week I actually made up a rule saying "the guy standing in front of the house is, regardless of how much he seems to move around, a tree". Since I actually went there once and checked previously. Science over unreliable visual cortices...

Open Thread, October 20 - 26, 2013

k2pdfopt. It slices up pdfs so that you can read them without zooming on a much narrower screen, and since its output pdfs are essentially images, it eats everything up to (and including )very math-heavy papers, regardless of the number of columns they have. Also, it works with scanned stuff too.

(And even though the output is a bit bigger than the originals, I didn't encounter any problems with 600 page books... the result was about 50 megs tops.)

Education control?

Possibly relevant: Sudbury schools, with the curriculum of "do whatever you want, as long as you're in school, surrounded by interesting stuff". Also, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn. It really seems that we are doing quite bad by default...

As it turns out, for example, kids are quite good at learning stuff from each other (including things like reading... "I can't always get the big kids to read me stories, so I'd better go and learn this <> thing from them"...)

Now, find a way to prevent that from happening. Sorting kids by age and separating the groups? Perfect.

Open Thread, May 1-14, 2013

Your "running different code" approach is nice... especially paired up with the notion of "how the algorithm feels from the inside", seems to explain lots of things. You can read books about what that code does, but the best you can get is some low quality software emulation... meanwhile, if you're running it, you don't even pay attention to that stuff as this is what you are.

Open Thread, May 1-14, 2013

Aren't utility functions kind of... invariant to scaling and addition of a constant value?

That is, you can say that "I would like A more than B" but not "having A makes me happier than you would be having it". Neither "I'm neither happy or unhappy, so me not existing wouldn't change anything". It's just not defined.

Actually, the only place different people's utility functions can be added up is in a single person's mind, that is, "I value seeing X and Y both feeling well twice as much as just X being in such a state". So "destroying beings with less than average utility" would appeal to those who tend to average utilities instead of summing them. And, of course, it also depends on what they think of those utility functions.

(that is, do we count the utility function of the person before or after giving them antidepressants?)

Of course, the additional problem is that no one sums up utility functions the same way, but there seems to be just enough correllation between individual results that we can start debates over the "right way of summing utiliity functions".

Open Thread, May 1-14, 2013

You won. Aren't rationalists supposed to be doing that?

As far as you know, your probability estimate for "you will win the lottery" (in your mind) was wrong. It is another question how that updates the probability of "you would win the lottery if you played next week", but whatever made you buy that ticket (even though the "rational" estimates voted against it... "trying random things", whatever it was) should be applied more in the future.

Of course, the result is quite likely to be "learning lots of nonsense from a measurement error", but you should definitely should update having seen that, and a decision you use for updates causing that decision to be made more in the future is definitely a right one.

If I won the lottery, I would definitely spend $5 for another ticket. And eventually you might realize that it's just Omega having fun. (actually, isn't one-boxing the same question?)

Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013

... this is the thing I've been looking for! (I think I had some strange cached thought from who knows where that posts do not have comments feeds, so I didn't even check... thanks for the update!)

Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013

Didn't they do the same with set theory? You can derive a contradiction from the existence of "the set of sets that don't contain themselves"... therefore, build a system where you just can't do that.

(of course, coming from the axioms, it's more like "it wasn't ever allowed", like in Kindly's comment, but the "new and updated" axioms were invented specifically so that wouldn't happen.)

Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013

Is there a nice way of being notified about new comments on posts I found interesting / commented on / etc? I know there is a "comments" RSS feed, but it's hard to filter out interesting stuff from there.

... or a "number of green posts" indicator near the post titles when listing them? (I know it's a) takes someone to code it b) my gut feeling is that it would take a little more than usual resources, but maybe someone knows of an easier way of the same effect.)

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