All of Mercurial's Comments + Replies

To clarify, I actually think of it with two upside-down 'V' shapes. I imagine one off to my left in the world where X is true and observe the two possible outcomes based on what I believe is true in that world, and then I look off to my right to see the upside-down 'V' in the world where X is not true and consider the alternatives.

I should also add that I have to put all four representations in near-mode. I view this whole process as a way of getting my brain to emotionally get that yes, it's better to have true beliefs even if they describe a world I'd rather not be in.

(To clarify, in case this isn't obvious: I'm Valentine.)

I think you should just register the username "Valentine" and use it, now before you acquire more comment history under this name.

Continuing from here, I've found the self-modification stuff Critch talked about to be an absolutely amazing tool. I now find myself wanting to take every spare few minutes to work on my dissertation, which is quite novel. It felt just like tedium before. I've also found my applications of CBT to be fantastically more effective because (a) rewarding myself for noticing distorted thoughts makes it a lot easier to notice them later (especially with TDT supplementation) and (b) rewarding small improvements from a rational response had made the rational respon... (read more)

Thank you!

Do you happen to know anything about the claim that we're running out of the supplies we need to build solar panels needed to tap into all that wonderful sunlight?

Solar panel prices are on long term downward trend, but in the short term they were very far from smooth over the last few years, having very rapid increases and decreases as demand and production capacity mismatched both ways. This issue isn't specific to solar panels, all commodities from oil to metals to food to RAM chips had massive price swings over the last few years. There's no long term problem since we can make solar panels from just about anything [] - materials like silicon are available in essentially infinite quantities (manufacturing capacity is the issue, not raw materials), and for thin film you need small amounts of materials.

Being Specific. Holy crap! Once you start noticing this, it is everywhere. Still not super good at automatically being specific, but I'm quite good at noticing unspecific things now.

Such as...?

(Sorry, it just begged to be said, and no one else took the bait!)

(Surprised it took so long, actually.) Last weekend, I was arguing with family members about the merits of rationality and decision theory. My uncle kept saying things that were painfully vague and didn't give me any mental images of what he was saying. I kept telling him to be more specific. I don't actually remember what was said (probably because it was so vague). I do remember the things my dad said, because he was good at being specific. His objection to decision theory was that it wouldn't "[take] the road less travelled, and [thereby get] all the difference" (vivid example, quoted from poetry. +5 points, dad). Another example was Shackleton's antarctic expidition, where he quoted the newspaper ad asking for people to join. I was trying to explain that if it was in fact knowably a good idea to take the road less travelled, an expected utility calculation would capture that and make the right choice, and that decision theory was not a descriptive theory of how people would react to shackleton's ad. Then out came the vague philosophical objections that I don't remember. (probably somethign along the lines of outcome trees and numbers not being able to capture some mysterious essence) So ironically, the only things I can remember are the things that were not painfully vague. I remember saying be specific a lot tho. Sorry.

Can you pretty, pretty please tell me where this graph gets its information from? I've seen similar graphs that basically permute the cubes' labels. It would also be wonderful to unpack what they mean by "solar" since the raw amount of sunlight power hitting the Earth's surface is a very different amount than the energy we can actually harness as an engineering feat over the next, say, five years (due to materials needed to build solar panels, efficiency of solar panels, etc.).

And just to reiterate, I'm really not arguing here. I'm honestly confu... (read more)

The diagram comes from Wikipedia (tineye says this []) but it seems they recently started merging and reshuffling content in all energy-related articles, so I can no longer find it there. That's total energy available of course, not any 5 year projection. * Solar is probably easiest to estimate by high school physics. Here's Wikipedia's []. * Here are some wind power estimates []. This depends quite significantly on our technology (see this for possible next step beyond current technology []) * World energy consumption is here []

Possibly! We considered it before but decided against it for a number of reasons. One was that CBT is its own thing, and none of us are formally trained in its use or in teaching it. Another is the unfortunate context of it being therapy, which tends to turn a lot of people off.

However, the latter effect didn't seem to be relevant this last minicamp. That has caused me to update in favor of at least suggesting an overview of the process. And I think I'd be quite comfortable providing an overview. So we might bring it up - but I'd guess only in the July camp due to time considerations, if at all.

Okay, this has been driving me bonkers for years now. I keep encountering blatantly contradictory claims about what is "obviously" true about the territory. taw, you said:

Renewable energy available annually is many orders of magnitude greater than all fossil fuels we're using[...]

And you might well be right. But the people involved in transition towns insist quite the opposite: I've been explicitly told, for one example, that it would take the equivalent of building five Three Gorges Dams every year for the next 50 years to keep up with the e... (read more)

They are incorrect. Here's a helpful diagram of available energy [].

I can see where you think that. When I'm being akrasic, though, I'm still doing it for some reason. I'm motivated to do what I'm doing for some reason, not for no reason. For instance, someone who is akrasic about getting their bills paid isn't just insane; they have an aversion and get some slight relief from distracting themselves with non-bill activities. Understanding that in first-person near-mode (rather than just seeing them as a machine to be trouble-shot) seems to help a lot with empathy. In my experience!

Hello everyone! This is Valentine.

I spent my first day back from minicamp... sleeping! And spending time with my wonderful wife. I was optimizing for recovery there after getting a total of something like 12 hours of sleep over the weekend. Totally worth it for all those amazing conversations and connections, though!

But after that, starting this morning I used a number of Critch's techniques to help deal with some aversions and emotional distaste surrounding writing my dissertation. I've been using the trick Anna & Critch told me independently (I think... (read more)

Hi, I'm bit late to this discussion, but this sounds like something that I could try to implement. Do you know whether these techniques are written up somewhere (I know pomodoro, but I mean the notice/reward part)? What constitues a reward? Thank you!
Do you think an intro to CBT would be useful at a minicamp? It seems to me rationality applied to ones own thoughts about oneself (something that i am extremely irrational about)

I also have a strong aversion to posting my writing publicly, especially if it reveals anything personal about myself. So this post right here is a direct attempt to overcome that by just doing it.

Awesome job putting yourself forward this way!

I'm not sure if this is using any specific technique from the minicamp, or just making use of the crazy mental energy from the camp while I'm still feeling it.

This is flooding, from Critch's session on overcoming aversions. :-)

(This is Valentine, by the way. I'll see if I can get my handle here changed since "Mercurial" just isn't well-associated with me.)

We have a number of volunteers for this, and we're very grateful to those of you who have volunteered! But we could really use about twice that number of people. You can help us raise the sanity waterline this way - either by volunteering or by pointing another LWer toward this. But we need people soon since the first minicamp is in just a week. So please, help us make a more sane world by helping us develop tools that will keep our efforts honest. Thank you!

Don't ask for full names and allow other interviewing means than Skype, and you'll get more volunteers.

I definitely dance. I met my wife doing ballroom dancing. I picked up social dancing after breaking up with a long-term girlfriend because I knew I'd fare better if I were to make a bunch of friends and have a new hobby that wasn't moping or being lonely.

The minister's cat might play this role, although people do get kind of frustrated with it.

If you don't care whether the cooperation is doing useful work, then sure. Otherwise, criticism seems to be a necessary evil.
The cooperation has actually been happening; it's just that it was achieved by ostracizing the guy who asked if you were adhering to the principles expected of that kind.

Don't you have exercises designed to catch people rationalizing? If not, you ought to, if yes, did you catch them rationalizing?

Getting people to rationalize during a session is actually quite a challenge. What we have are exercises meant to illustrate situations that people might find themselves in where rationalization is likely. And after a dozen or so examples, this particular subgroup - about 25% of our tested population so far! - just flat-out does not relate to any of the examples.

However, one of them seemed to get "caught" by one examp... (read more)

Presumably you can do it for other cognitive biases, so what's so special about this one?

I tend to agree that anyone who denies the tendency to rationalize is either in denial or has a different definition for the word "rationalize". In fact I would argue that rationalization is the default for human beings, and that anything else requires either focused effort or serious mental re-programming (which is still probably only partially effective).

I absolutely relate. I totally would have said that a week ago. Evidence has smashed my belief's face quite solidly in the nose, though.

One possible way to try to elicit an understanding f

... (read more)

This reminds me of a bit in The Righteous Mind, where Haidt discusses some of his experiments about moral reasoning. When he asked his university students questions like "is it right or wrong for a man to buy a (dead) chicken from a store and then have sex with it before eating it", the students had no problem providing a long list of various justifications pro or con, and generally ending up with an answer like “It’s perverted, but if it’s done in private, it’s his right”. In contrast, when Haidt went to a local McDonalds to ask working-class pe... (read more)

Evidence other than the repeated denials of the subjects in question and a non-systematic observation of them acting as largely rational people in most respects? (That's not meant to be rhetorical/mocking - I'm genuinely curious to know where the benefit of the doubt is coming from here) The problem here is that there is a kind of perfectly rational decision making that involves being aware of a detrimental consequence but coming to the conclusion that it's an acceptable cost. In fact that's what "rationalizing" pretends to be. With anything other than overt examples (heavy drug-addiction, beaten spouses staying in a marriage) the only person who can really make the call is the individual (or perhaps, as mentioned above, a close friend). If these people do consider themselves rational, then maybe they would respond to existing psychological and neurological research that emphasizes how prone the mind is to rationalizing (I don't know of any specific studies off the top of my head but both Michael Shermer's "The Believing Brain" and Douglas Kenrick's "Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life" touch on this subject). At some point, an intelligent, skeptical person has to admit that the likelihood that they are the exception to the rule is slim.
I'm like this for my trivial decisions but not for major ones. I virtually never rationalise eating choices, the choice is purely a conflict between deciding whether I'm going to do what I want vs what I ought. I do notice myself rationalising when making more long-term decisions and in arguments - if I'm unsure of a decision I'll sometimes make a list of pros and cons and catch myself trying to rig the outcome (which is an answer in itself, obviously). Or if I get into an argument I sometimes catch myself going into "arguments as soldiers" mode, which feels quite similar to rationalising. Anyway, my point for both is that for me at least, rationalisation only seems to pop up when the stakes are higher. If you gave me your earlier example about wanting to eat pizza and making excuses about calcium, I'd probably look at you as though you had 3 heads too.
Thanks for this example -- now I can imagine what "never rationalizing" could be like. I did not realize there is a third option besides "rationalizing" and "always acting rationally", and I couldn't believe in people acting always rationally (at least not without proper training; but then they would remember what it was like before training). But the possibility of "acting irrationally but not inventing excuses for it" seems much more plausible.

That could actually be quite helpful. No offense to Vladimir; we're just sincerely curious about this phenomenon, and if he's really a case of someone who doesn't relate to Tarski or rationalization, then it'd be helpful to have good evidence one way or the other about whether he rationalizes.

That's helpful. Thank you.

And yes, I agree, the term "rationalization" is a bit loaded. We already checked by tabooing the word in exploring with at least one case, so it's not just that these people freeze at the word "rationalization." But it's quite possible that there are multiple things going on here that only seem similar at first glance.

Good points.

I'm not trying to sneak in connotations, by the way. We're just talking about the fact that these people seem to be quite good at things like goal-factoring, VOI calculations, etc.

I didn't mean to say the sneaking was intentional. VOI calculations seem like they would correlate more with intelligence than rationality as such. I can't find any reference to goal-factoring; what do you mean by that?
What's goal-factoring? I tried Googling it but didn't find anything. VOI calculations seem like they would correlate more with intelligence and math knowledge than with rationality, so there again I wouldn't expect a strong connection.

I will say that it doesn't even seem to be possible for there to be people who don't rationalize. (Or enough that you're at all likely to find them.)

You'd think not. Yet even Eliezer seems to think that one of our case studies really, truly might not ever rationalize and possibly never has before. This seems to be a case of a beautiful, sane theory beaten to death by a small gang of brutal facts.

"Some", "signs", "rather". These words all show signs of being rather belief in belief. I notice you don't say, "Some of th

... (read more)
I'm pretty sure I'm one of these unusual people. When I first read the litanies, I understood why they might be useful to some people (I have a lot of experience with religious fanatics), but I truly did not understand why they would be so important to Eliezer or other rationalists. I always figured they were meant to be a simple teaching tool, to help get across critical concepts and then to be discarded. Gradually I came to realize that a large percentage of the community use the various litanies on a regular basis. This still confuses me in some cases - for example, it would never even occur to me that evidence/data could simply be ignored or that any rationalization could ever trump it. I suspect this inability to simply ignore inconvenient data is the reason for my low rate of rationalization. I do actually catch myself beginning to rationalize from time to time, but there's always the undercurrent of "wishful thinking isn't real". No matter how hard I rationalize, I cannot make the evidence go away, so the rationalization process gives up quickly. I have been like this for most of my life, and have memories of the "wishful thinking isn't real" effect going all the way back to my early memories of childish daydreaming and complex storytelling.
Another direction for measuring rationality might be how well people maintain their usual level under stress-- this is something which would be harder to find out in conversation.
This is VERY interesting. I'm as baffled as you are, sorry to say. It seems like you've described rationalizations that prevent true (or 'maximally accurate') beliefs. Have you tried asking these case studies their rationales for decision-making? One theme of my rationalization factory is spitting out true but misleading reasons for doing things, rarely allowing me to reason out doing what I know - somehow - that I should. Said factory operates by preventing me from thinking certain thoughts. Perhaps this goes on in these people? I've performed one heck of an update thanks to your comment and realizing that I was generalizing from only a few examples.

Have you actually tested them for rationalizing? My own beliefs are that it's more likely to run into someone who rationalizes so much they are blind to their own rationalizing (and so can't recall any) than someone who is inhumanly honest.

(Tests in this case would include checking for hindsight bias, which is classic rationalizing, and having them do that test on YourMorals whose name I forget where you're given two summaries of studies for and against gun control and asked to criticize them - usually showing imbalance towards your favored side. But you're a LWer, I'm sure you can think of other tests.)

That's a good hypothesis. Unfortunately this doesn't come from asking people, "How do you know when you're rationalizing?" or any variant thereof. The original problem arose when we could not for the life of us convey to some individuals why the Litany of Tarski might be useful. We gave examples from our own lives and watched these individuals just blink and say, "Huh. Yeah, I guess I just don't relate to that at all."

Huh. This directly contradicts what I encountered. I'll have to explore this a bit. I knew the Greeks had a problem with decoupling their idea of number from their concepts of geometric construction, but I was told that certainly in formal logic and I thought in numerical reasoning as well, their lack of symbol system machinery handicapped them. The Muslims, on the other hand, wouldn't use pictures of the ideas to which they wanted to refer because of the ban on iconography, so they had to encode their concept of quantity differently, I thought that's wher... (read more)

If there were a world in which algebra had been learned only through reading essays, without subskill-by-subskill practice, it would not be surprising if the world’s best algebra practitioners could be outperformed by an ordinary student who worked diligently through the exercises in a standard textbook.

This actually happened. The ancient Greeks weren't very capable algebraists because they didn't develop a symbol system that they could systematically manipulate according to prescribed rules. Their description of formal logical inferences were insane to... (read more)

This description is very plausible, but entirely wrong. It was almost completely the opposite of what you're saying. The Muslim mathematicians used fewer symbols than the Greek tradition they inherited for almost the entire timeline of medieval Arabic/Islamic mathematics. The "first textbook" you're referring too, Al-Khwarizmi's Al-jabr wa'l muqabalah, the one ultimately responsible for the word "algebra", did not use any symbols at all, and wrote everything out in words.

Greek mathematicians started to use something like symbols (abbrev... (read more)

As a quick addendum: If you're interested in hearing about the Enneagram keys but weren't at the previous meetup, you'll get a lot more out of that discussion if you have some familiarity with the Enneagram beforehand. If you're totally new to it, I'd suggest reading this webpage. Just two caveats:

  • You can safely stop after you've read the section on "Levels of Development." I'm pretty sure the material on Directions of Integration and Disintegration is just pretty theory and doesn't quite tie into reality the way an empirical claim should. I al
... (read more)

I attended the first one in 2010. It was pretty neat. I mean, I met Eliezer there and found out about Less Wrong as a result! The people were really wonderful to get to talk to, and the spirit of connection was very, very strong for many of us there. Lots of new friends as a result, even if we're spread all over creation and stay connected only tangentially via Facebook.

With that said, I found the conference itself often kind of silly. We spent a lot of time doing self-descriptions to everyone and then doing a few dozen ice-breaker activities. But really, ... (read more)

I was there last year. Indeed it was pretty much a repeat, but the event apparently really grew in attendance, there were many new people. So you can safely go without being scared of not meeting anyone new :) Also, last time the event was right before the Suspended Animation conference, which was very interesting by itself. This time though there won't be one.

Glad you enjoyed! (And sorry for not responding sooner; I wish there were a setting that informed me when someone replies to a top-level post of mine!)

Don't take the tests too seriously. Supposedly the RHETI somewhere in the ballpark of 80% accurate (although I'm not sure how they determined that), but in my experience it's just not nearly as helpful as talking to someone who can actually use the toolset. Threes, Sixes, and Nines in particular seem to have a lot of trouble with tests: Threes keep wanting to be whatever the "best" type is, Sixes k... (read more)

-Reward myself with yummy snacks; was effective for a time, but did not last; not sure what the psychological effect there is.

I understand that this is called an extinction burst.

When I find myself thinking of something during meditation, I try to reestablish my focus and in the process I just drop the thought. I think that's correct during formal meditation, but dropping an unpleasant thought after noting it in daily life is wrong, as it leads to avoidance.

I agree, that's something to be careful of. I think it depends on what kind of formal meditation practice you're trying to do. Concentration meditation (such as zhiné from Tibetan dream yoga) encourages you to focus solely on the object in question and to let thoughts drop. A... (read more)

You can still help the rest of us, and maybe yourself too, if you describe your situation. You don't need to think about a way to solve it. Just tell us what the situation is and how you know it's akrasic. (Of course, omit details as needed to feel comfortable sharing it!)

Sometimes after a break of a few days or weeks I find it hard to start work on a new painting (art) project. I have found it effective to use contrary thinking, so I tell myself to do no more than one hour of work and then I MUST stop, and I do this, then again the next day, say, an hour and a half, and then I MUST stop, which I do. By about the third day I am engrossed in the project, and stopping work is hard to do, and by then I'm over the initial problem. Works nearly every time and I have been using this technique for some years.
The relevant aspects are so bad that I really don't want to think about it. I know it is akrasia because it's pretty obvious. Discussing details, apart from being unpleasant, also damages my perceived status. Sorry for being too vague. I only wanted to stress that akrasia can easily expand to the meta-level, once you know about it.

APPARENT SOLUTION: Willpower weightlifting

I'll explain my thinking, but with the understanding that the thinking generated a solution for reasons that might have nothing to do with the thinking that went into the solution-generation.

It occurred to me that since I am godshatter, I should expect that I have many, many different utility functions. I'm also aware of the apparent fact from embodied cognition that physical enactment is a kind of reinforcement. Since I think it makes sense to think of akrasia as what happens when one utility function generates a ... (read more)

INSTANCE: Checking "stuff" online

I have a number of things I like to check online: Google Reader, email, Less Wrong, my friends' blogs, etc. I find that if I don't make some kind of conscious effort to avoid the entropic slide, I'll default to checking them all impulsively in an irregular cycle. That is, I'll check email, then look at Google Reader, then Less Wrong, then check Google Plus, then Facebook, then think "Hey, I bet someone sent me an email by now" and then go check email again, etc. If I've slipped into this failure mode and... (read more)

APPARENT SOLUTION: Willpower weightlifting

I'll explain my thinking, but with the understanding that the thinking generated a solution for reasons that might have nothing to do with the thinking that went into the solution-generation.

It occurred to me that since I am godshatter, I should expect that I have many, many different utility functions. I'm also aware of the apparent fact from embodied cognition that physical enactment is a kind of reinforcement. Since I think it makes sense to think of akrasia as what happens when one utility function generates a ... (read more)

INSTANCE: Applying for academic jobs

I'm in graduate school finishing a doctorate. Last fall (2010) I thought I was going to finish, so I started looking around for jobs. At the time my advisor wasn't sure whether I would graduate that academic year (by summer 2011), so he was hesitant to write a letter saying I'd have my Ph.D. by fall 2011. He decided in December that I wasn't going to finish that year. But in the course of negotiating with him and looking for jobs, I realized that the rhythm for the academic job search required me to put my materials toge... (read more)

Ditto. I'm in academia and had wondered idly about creating Khan-like videos for rationality training for my future graduate students. But then I forgot too!

Given that Anna and Eliezer are putting a Rationality curriculum together, it might be good to get their input on this.

I personally think this is a fantastic contribution. I don't know whether your techniques will work for anyone else, but this kind of specificity can give us some good directions to consider as we develop the "kicking" aspect of the Art.

I have to wonder if the ten thousand techniques for fighting akrasia and the general theory of motivation might be at too high a level of abstraction for where we are with understanding the phenomenon. It seems like understanding the science should let us create a consistent Akrasian Judo, but I'm under the impr... (read more)

The combination of mentioning Judo and asking for specific examples reminded me of a think I've noticed myself doing subconsciously. My introspection isn't clear enough to say if it works thou, or even if I'm really doing it as much as I think, but. Still here it is: Try to make your brain classify unproductive stuff as work, and productive stuff as play. Most important clues are if it's voluntary and if it's fun. So set up a schedule forcing yourself to do the kind of things usually procrastinate with in an optimised and work like way, then on your free time from that play around with things that also have productive side effects and you learn from. If you're doing it RIGHT you'll always be doing things that are both fun and productive. If you do it wrong you'll never have fun and do totally unproductive stuff half the time and productive stuff but inefficiently the rest. More concrete example: "Ok, I have to finish these LW articles I'm behind with THEN I'm allowed to take a break and do some programming.", then proceed to procrastinate the articles by doing writing exercises. source: all of the last few weeks. This is also why I haven't been commenting on stuff in the discussion section lately.
Ha! Thanks for appreciating. I've been really into the "kicking" idea since I read the craft and community sequence. I have some other posts in the works specifically targeting that, but I wasn't even thinking of this in those terms. Now that you say it tho, this does seem to be on that track. this is gold. I thought the same thing earlier today when I reread the procrastination eq stuff. It all suddenly made sense given this experience. I'm assuming your referring to the practicing the banhammer idea? I suppose I did. The idea was mostly to describe my interpretation of what happened, but the whole "kicking" idea has made me want to tie everything back to what rationality dojos should be teaching. It seems easy to get lost in the abstract if you don't focus on that. I'm glad you understood that the purpose of the post was as a specific datapoint.

That would be awesome, for sure! But I'd also prefer not to see this get frozen in planning just because there's a theoretical possibility of making it better. I'd still consider SIAI-biased advice to be vastly better than no advice at all.

All right, so it seems like we mostly agree now -- cool !


Rationality training: helping minds change since 2002. :-D

Ok, I get it now, but I would still argue that we should assume we're awake, until we have some evidence to the contrary; thus, the "hard problem of dreaming" is a non-issue.

You're coming at it from a philosophical angle, I think. I'm coming at it from a purely pragmatic one. Let's say you're dreaming right now. If you start with the assumption that you're awake and then look for evidence to the contrary, typically the... (read more)

That's funny, I was about to say the same thing, only about yourself instead of me. But I think I see where you're coming from: So, your primary goal (in this specific case) is not to gain any new insights about epistemology or consciousness or whatever, but to develop a useful skill: lucid dreaming. In this case, yes, your assumptions make perfect sense, since you must correct for an incredibly strong built-in bias that only surfaces while you're dreaming. That makes sense.

I'd call the reality-joint-cleaving line the one between adrenaline-trigger training and adrenaline control training.

That is an excellent point. My father and I still sometimes get into debates that pivot on this. He says that in a real fight your fight-or-flight system will kick in, so you might as well train tense and stupid since that's what you'll be when you need the skills. But I've found that it's possible to make the sphere of things that don't trigger the fight-or-flight system large enough to encompass most altercations I encounter; it's de... (read more)

Luke, I don't feel I know you well enough to help you with your quest to locate any lingering wrongness in you. From what I've seen of your writing and what I've heard from people who have met you, you're doing a really amazing job of walking the rationalist talk. The fact that you even ask the community here this question is quite a testament to your taking this stuff seriously and actually using it. I think I should be asking you this question!

But your asking this makes me think of something. If you, or Eliezer, or someone else of that calibre of rat... (read more)

If this could be arranged in the future, we'd want to involve top-level non-SIAI rationalists like Julia Galef [] to avoid results dictated by the SIAI memeplex rather than by rationality skills. (By "top-level" I don't mean "popular" but "seriously skilled in rationality".)

[Judo] can be used in many situations where you wouldn't use other martial arts at all.

I'd be really interested in hearing what those circumstances are. I usually make the same claim about Aikido (e.g., you probably don't want to crush Uncle Mortimer's trachea just because he happened to grab a knife in his drunken stupor).

I'd call the reality-joint-cleaving line the one between adrenaline-trigger training and adrenaline control training. Most training in traditional arts like Kuntao Silat and modern ones like the now-deprecated USMC LINE system involves using fear and stress as a trigger to start a sequence of techniques that end with disabling or killing the attacker. Most training in traditional arts like Tai Chi and (more) modern ones like Aikido involve retaining the ability to think clearly and act in situations where adrenaline would normally crowd out "system 2" thinking. Any art can be trained in either way. A champion boxer would probably be calm enough to use a quick, powerful jab and knock the knife out of Uncle Mortimer's hand in a safe direction. A Marine with PTSD might use the judo-like moves from the LINE system to throw him, break several bones, and stomp on his head before realizing what he was doing. A less discrete way to look at it adapts the No Free Lunch theorem: A fighting algorithm built for a specific environment like a ring with one opponent and a limited set of moves, or a field of combat with no legal repercussions and unskilled opponents, can do well in their specific setting. A more general fighting algorithm will perform more evenly across a large variety of environments, but will not beat a specialized algorithm in its own setting unless it's had a lot more training.

How did you come to LessWrong?

Through cryonics, oddly enough. I went to a "Teens & Twenties" cryonics meetup in January 2009 and met Eliezer there. He kept bringing up the rationality stuff and kept trying to encourage everyone to look at Less Wrong. I could well be the only cryonicist from that meetup who looked up Less Wrong afterwards as far as I know.

Do you think that we (the community) are doing enough to bring in new users to LessWrong? If not, what do you think could be done to increase awareness of LessWrong amongst potential

... (read more)

You know, something clicked last night as I was falling asleep, and I realized why you're right and where my confusion has been. But thanks for giving me something specific to work from! :-D

I think my argument can be summarized like so:

  • All data comes through P.
  • Therefore, all data about P comes through P.
  • All theories about P must be verified through data about P.
  • This means P is required to explain P.
  • Therefore, it doesn't seem like there can be an explanation about P.

That last step is nuts. Here's an analogy:

  • All (visual) data is seen.
  • Therefore,
... (read more)
All right, so it seems like we mostly agree now -- cool ! Ok, I get it now, but I would still argue that we should assume we're awake, until we have some evidence to the contrary; thus, the "hard problem of dreaming" is a non-issue. It looks like you might agree with me, somewhat: In this situation, we assume that we're awake a priori, and we are then deliberately trying to induce dreaming (which should be lucid, a well). So, we need a test that tells us whether we've succeeded or not. Thus, we need to develop some evidence-collecting techniques that work even when we're asleep. This seems perfectly reasonable to me, but the setup is not analogous to your previous one -- since we start out with the a priori assumption that we're currently in the awake state; that we could transition to the dream state when we choose; and that there exists some evidence that will tell us which state we're in. By contrast, the "hard problem of dreaming" scenario assumes that we don't know which state we're in, and that there's no way to collect any relevant evidence at all.

It seems like we need three letters

I guess so!

I also want to emphasize that P is your own personal experience, not any abstract "subject's". It's the one that you can access directly.

Er... By "your", do you mean to refer to me, personally? I'll assume that's what you meant unless you specify otherwise. Henceforth I am the subject! :-D

I would agree with your statement if you removed the word "completely".

But that's the crux! I know I'm conscious in a way that is so devastatingly self-evident that "evidence&... (read more)

Yep, that's right. I'm just electrons in a circuit as far as you're concerned ! :-) Sure, that makes sense, but I'm not trying to abolish P altogether. All I'm trying to do is establish that P and Q are the same thing (most likely), and thus the "Hard Problem of Consciousness" is a non-issue. Thus, I can agree with the last sentence in the quote above, but that probably isn't worth much as far as our discussion is concerned. I'm not sure how these two sentences are connected. Obviously, a perfect brain scan shouldn't indicate that you're mentally rehearsing Mozart when you are not, in fact, mentally rehearsing Mozart. But such a brain scan will work on anyone, not just you, so I'm not sure what you're driving at. When I used the word "behavior", I actually had a much narrower definition in mind -- i.e., "something that we and our instruments can observe". So, brain scans would fit into this category, but also things like, "the subject answers 'blue' when we ask him what color this 450nm light is". I deliberately split up "what the test subject would say" from "what he will actually think and experience". But it seems like you agree with both points, maybe: Pretty much. What I meant was that, since our theory of Q explains everything, we gain nothing (intellectually speaking) by postulating hat P and Q are different. Doing so would be similar to saying, "sure, the theory of gravity fully explains why the Earth doesn't fall into the Sun, but there must also be invisible gnomes constantly pushing the Earth away to prevent that from happening". Sure, the gnomes could exist, but there are lots of things that could exist... If you agree with the first part, what are your reasons for disagreeing with the second ? To me, this sounds like saying, "sure, we can explain electricity with the same theory we use to explain magnetism, but that doesn't mean that we can just equate electricity and magnetism". Maybe we disagree because of this: Well, yeah, Occam's Razor isn't

Drat. Well, do keep me posted, and I'll keep an eye out for similar info.

This is utter gold. Thank you for posting this!

Not understanding people's behavior is your confusion, not theirs

I agree soooooooo much on this point.

I teach math courses for college students who want to become elementary teachers. The course I'm currently teaching is arithmetic - not that they can't do arithmetic, but there are a lot of things that often confuse kids that teachers just don't understand are confusing unless they've been told about them. For instance, there's a difference between partitive division ("Johnny has 10 apples and want... (read more)

Glad you liked the post. I agree, I should've emphasized that finding a proxy is supplementary to self-understanding, not an alternative. Very much agree. This issue is especially prominent in societies that idealize individualism. Looking back, I think I should've edited out the caveat, not because I disagree with my past self, but because it may inhibit some readers from questioning their self-proclaimed differences.

Two questions: does my concept of "metaphor blindness" seem reasonable?

Possibly. But since we're on the topic of empathy, I'd like to emphasize that definitely among the most treasured practices I've found is finding a way to understand why what the other person is doing is sensible to them. Even if I can't see the reason, it's there. So, it's really critical to remove every hint of a judgmental tone even from one's own mind when trying to understand another person. (You can turn it back on later, but while in the process of empathizing it... (read more)

I just noticed this:

Like the last survey, if you take it and post that you took it here, I will upvote you, and I hope other people will upvote you too.

I suppose that means you'd like to know that I took it about two weeks ago. Sorry for not mentioning that earlier!

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