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Rationality Quotes September 2014

There's no reason to think that there's a teapot-shaped asteroid resembling Russell's teapot either.

And I'm pretty sure we haven't looked for one, either. Yet it would be ludicrous to treat it as if it had a substantial probability of existing.

The Octopus, the Dolphin and Us: a Great Filter tale

The Wikipedia article listing number of neurons in the cerebral cortex shows humans as significantly higher than whales, even though raw brain size may look better for whales. Wikipedia also describes an encephalization quotient which takes account of the fact that the brain is used for bodily functions, and on which whales don't score as highly as they may seem to from brain size.

Roles are Martial Arts for Agency

Doing everything it takes to achieve some result, rather than just following the rules, creates perverse incentives for other people to slack off because they know that you will do whatever it takes.

It may still be a good idea when the consequences of not getting the result are so bad that even the negative effect of the perverse incentive isn't as bad, but that usually happens only with superheroes and Harry Potter-like characters.

Also, Batman is not so much defined by taking action, but by plot armor.

Rationality Quotes July 2014

I think there's a difference between "does no harm, because it had a substantial chance of doing harm, but someone got lucky", and "does no harm, and the chance of harm wasn't ever substantial to begin with".

Is it a good idea to use Soylent once/twice a day?

Replacing food with Soylent is weird. Perhaps in your social circle it's a plausible thing to do, but I'm pretty certain that most people would think it's a bizarre thing to do regardless of what certain geek social circles might think.

In fact, that's my impression of lots of LW-style ideas, such as cryonics and SI-style AI research.

Rationality always works when it is done perfectly. But it's incredibly easy to miss something and come to a weird conclusion by pure rationality. And being partly rational can be pretty bad when irrationality has evolved checks and balances and your rationality bypasses them but is not good enough to replace them. So I'm automatically very skeptical towards anything which is perfectly sensible--here--which people outside this circle of atypical minds would find ludicrous.

Not to mention the name. Yes, I know that in the book it was not made of people, but giving it a name that has negative connotations in the outside world suggests that the idea is insufficiently vetted by the outside world.

Is it a good idea to use Soylent once/twice a day?

Is "approved as a food" like those fake star naming companies which claim that that the star names are in the library of Congress?

The FDA approving it as a food doesn't mean the FDA approves of it being consumed in a specific way. I'm pretty sure ketchup is approved as a food too, but that doesn't mean you can drink a bottle of it for lunch each day and stay healthy.

Rationality Quotes September 2014

If I remember right Taleb makes somewhere the point that the word believe derives from a word that means trust.

I often see this argument from religions themselves or similar sources, not from those opposed to religion. Not this specific argument, but this type of argument--the idea of using the etymology of a word to prove something about the concept represented by the word. As we know or should know, a word's etymology may not necessarily have much of a connection to what it means or how it is used today. ("malaria" means "bad air" because of the belief that it was caused by that. "terrific" means something that terrifies.)

Also consider that by conservation of expected evidence if the etymology of the word is evidence for your point, if that etymology were to turn out to be false, that would be evidence against your point. Would you consider it to be evidence against your point if somehow that etymology were to be shown false?

You Only Live Twice

I'd expect the answer to be similar to an analogous situation involving birth. If everyone had more children than they could afford to raise, society would collapse. We like to think that since the children are not responsible for their situation, we as a society would choose to support them, but this only is possible because the number of people who have children and demand that society support them is limited. At some point the drain on resources would make it impossible to support them as a society, and we would have to let them starve, and/or not permit immigrants from countries with high birth rates.

The same would go for resurrection. If you resurrect someone, you are responsible for supporting them for a maximum of 18 years and a minimum that depends on how long they are dead (so you're not on the hook for 18 years if you resurrect someone who died last week). If you resurrect more people than you can afford to support, this is treated like having more children than you can afford to support; the resurrected will have to live in poverty or starve. There will be a safety net to help some of them but it will be imperfect and it may not be possible to help them all. And of course you don't allow immigration from countries who like resurrecting lots of people and sending them across the border to take advantage of our social services.

If it is significantly easier to resurrect than to have children, we may need to have penalties that we wouldn't tolerate in the case of children, such as arresting people if they resurrect more than X others and do not support them, something we currently do only for child support cases.

Rationality Quotes September 2014

I meant that nobody accuses people awed by airplanes of being arrogant; I didn't mean that nobody is awed by airplanes.

(BTW, I wouldn't be surprised if Edison did say something similar; he was notorious for self-promotion.)

Rationality Quotes September 2014

Airplanes may not work on fusion or weigh millions of tons, but still, substituting a few words in I could say similar things about airplanes. Or electrical grids. Or smallpox vaccination. But nobody does.

Hypothesis: he has an emotional reaction to the way nuclear weapons are used--he thinks that is arrogant--and he's letting those emotions bleed into his reaction to nuclear weapons themselves.

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