Mario

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Post ridiculous munchkin ideas!

I can't believe that this is something people talk about. I've had a group of people in my head for years, complete with the mindscape the reddit FAQ talks about. I just thought I was a little bit crazy; it's nice to see that there's a name for it.

I can't imagine having to deal with just one though. I started with four, which seemed like a good idea when I was eleven, and I found that distracting enough. Having only one sounds like being locked in a small room with only one companion -- I'd rather be in solitary. I kept creating more regardless, and I finally ended up with sixteen (many of those only half-formed, to be fair), before I figured out how to get them to talk amongst themselves and leave me alone. Most are still there (a few seem to have disappeared), I just stay out of that room.

My advice would be to avoid doing this at all, but if you do, create at least two, and give them a nice room (or set of rooms) to stay in with a defined exit. You'll thank me later.

Optimal Employment

Sorry this is so late, but I honestly completely forgot about this after I wrote it, so I never came back to see what transpired.

Anyway, I'm aware of how the marginal propensity to consume affects tax incidence, but in this case, where payroll taxes apply to every employee at every business, the only choices involved are whether to work and whether to hire, and companies have far more leeway in that decision. You can avoid the fizzlesprot tax by consuming an untaxed equivalent or finding a different, fizzlesprotless sexual fetish. You can only avoid a payroll tax by being unemployed; in practice, I don't think there is such a thing as one's marginal job. By contrast, employers look at the tax as part of the cost of hiring an additional employee, and simply won't hire the marginal worker if his or her cost is above the expected benefit. I can't imagine a situation where any significant portion of a payroll tax (as opposed to the corporate income tax) falls on the employer, so I didn't bring it up.

Optimal Employment

I need to quibble with the "compulsory retirement savings" point. Realistically, any amount that the government forces the employer to contribute as a condition to hire you is money that would have otherwise been given to you as wages. There is no way to increase someone's value by fiat, so it's misleading to suggest that you somehow gain from the tax (apart from the social value of the retirement scheme). Also, the US SS withholding is 12.4% of income, as half of it is paid by the employer before the employee sees the funds but, as discussed, both halves are really paid by employees through lower wages (7.65% (x2) would include Medicare taxes, which I don't think you should include without including all of Australia's other taxes that contribute to their Medicare, like GST and tariffs).

You Be the Jury: Survey on a Current Event

I was unfamiliar with the case. After checking out both links for quite some time, but prior to reading the comments, I estimated:

  1. 80% (Knox)
  2. 60% (Sollecito)
  3. 95% (Guede)
  4. 90% (confidence in coincidence)

After reading the comments, I was a little surprised that the consensus seems to be decidedly against Knox's guilt. The simplest explanation is that I'm just not a very good rationalist, but I don't find that very satisfying. The four parts of the story that I felt were inconsistent with Knox being innocent were:

  1. Knox's initial account of the night. I tend to believe confessions; it's a weakness of mine. With the exception of the wrong black man being implicated, I think the major thrust of it was true. Complete innocence would mean that the entire account was made up, which seems hard to believe, even if under heavy police questioning.
  2. The bra was removed after Kercher's death. Would Guede have done that? I think that evidence is much more consistent with someone cleaning up after the fact.
  3. The body was covered. This is inconsistent with the actions of a rapist/murderer, but very much what you would expect of someone who had a close relationship with the deceased.
  4. Knox did not flush the toilet. She says that she noticed that the toilet contained a deposit, yet she walked away without flushing. Why?

I'm not sure what role Knox had in Kurcher's murder, but I feel very confident that she (and likely, but not necessarily, Sollecito) knew about the murder long before the police were called, and moved to cover it up. I can't see that as anything other than a sign of guilt, unless my understanding of the evidence itself is wrong (which is certainly possible). I can understand if some feel the need for the motive to make sense to find in favor of guilt, but according to Knox's initial account, she was stoned at the time -- which lowers my personal threshold for the expectation of rational action.

Open Thread: December 2009

I'm looking for a particular fallacy or bias that I can't find on any list.

Specifically, this is when people say "one more can't hurt;" like a person throwing an extra piece of garbage on an already littered sidewalk, a gambler who has lost nearly everything deciding to bet away the rest, a person in bad health continuing the behavior that caused the problem, etc. I can think of dozens of examples, but I can't find a name. I would expect it to be called the "Lost Cause Fallacy" or the "Fallacy of Futility" or something, but neither seems to be recognized anywhere. Does this have a standard name that I don't know, or is it so obvious that no one ever bothered to name it?

Absolute denial for atheists

I have a theory about alcohol consumption; I call people who like (or don't mind) the taste "tongue blind." My theory is that these people have such poor taste receptors that they need an overly strong stimulus to register anything other than bland. Under this theory, I would expect people that like alcohol to also like very spicy food, to put extra salt most things they eat, and to think that vanilla is a synonym for plain.

The First Koan: Drinking the Hot Iron Ball

Am I the only one that has always assumed that story was a joke epically misunderstood? If the monk had instead asked, "What is the nature of a dog's path to enlightenment?" I think Joshu would have answered "Rough."

The mind-killer

Not unnatural, obviously, but a contaminant to intelligence. Manure is a great fertilizer, but you wash it off before you use the vegetable.

The mind-killer

Oh, I don't know that. What would remain of you if you could download your mind into a computer? Who would you be if you were no longer affected by the level of serotonin or adrenaline you are producing, or if pheromones didn't affect you? Once you subtract the biological from the human, I imagine what remains to be pure person. There should be no difference between that person and one who was created intentionally or one that evolved in a different species, beyond their personal experiences (controlling for the effects of their physiology).

I don't have any disagreement with Eliezer's description of how our biology molded our growth, but I see no reason why we should hold on to that biology forever. I could be wrong, however. It may not be possible to be a person without certain biological-like reactions. I can certainly see how this would be the case for people in early learning stages of development, particularly if your goal is to mold that person into a friendly one. Even then, though, I think it would be beneficial to keep those parts to the bare minimum required to function.

The mind-killer

I'm just trying to figure out under what circumstances we could consider a completely artificial entity a continuation of our existence. As you pointed out, merely containing our knowledge isn't enough. Human knowledge is a constantly growing edifice, where each generation adds to and build upon the successes of the past. I wouldn't expect an AI to find value in everything we have produced, just as we don't. But if our species were wiped out, I would feel comfortable calling an AI which traveled the universe occasionally writing McCartney- or Lennon-inspired songs "us." That would be survival. (I could even deal with a Ringo Starr AI, in a pinch.)

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