All of mstevens's Comments + Replies

Is there a way to stop liking sugar?

I don't promise this will work, but I found my desire for sugar significantly reduced by trying to go cold turkey on refined sugar specifically.

It's a pain to do, because it's in an amazing variety of foods, but after a few weeks of cravings I found sugar desire decreased massively.

Open Thread April 8 - April 14 2014

I did further research after I posted the question and found this:

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/3000137/1/On-the-Wings-of-a-Phoenix

which is about Voldemort being good, and Harry being sort of neutral then converted to Voldemort's side.

But it's not the ideal of what I was looking for.

Open Thread April 8 - April 14 2014

Harry Potter question:

Is there any good "Harry is evil, Voldemort is the good guy" fanfic?

5BloodyShrimp7yThere's the obvious "Harry appears to be about to destroy the universe; Voldemort might be trying to stop him" one. But I don't know any real answers to your question.
Open thread, 18-24 March 2014

That works as a neutral "let's move on". I sort of want a feeling of conceding more (but not totally) though.

9Lumifer7yHow about "I understand the points you're making, let me think more about them"..?
Open thread, 18-24 March 2014

Any tips on bailing out of an argument if you want to very nearly concede the whole thing without quite saying your opponent is right?

eg if you realise the whole conversation was a terrible mistake and you're totally unequipped to have the conversation, but still think you're right.

Should you just admit they're right for simplicity even if you're not quite convinced?

1someonewrongonthenet7y"I'm not really convinced by your argument, but I need to learn more about this issue before I can speak coherently on it"
9Ben_LandauTaylor7y"Good point. I'll think about that when I have the chance."

I state the truth: "I tend to get too attached to my opinion in live debates and want to think about your arguments in peace."

The people that get offended by this tend to be not the kind of people I want to associate with anyway.

0ChristianKl7yI think our conversation raised a lot of interesting points, I think all the interesting stuff has been said. How about we switch topics?
Open thread, 18-24 March 2014

I'm seeing the same problem in Chrome.

Open thread, 18-24 March 2014

I did actually mean ethnic group, but now I see my typo I'm actually quite liking it this way as it's less likely to trigger real-world connotations.

Open thread, 18-24 March 2014

Is there a name for the situation where the same piece of evidence is seen as obviously supporting their side by both sides of an argument?

eg: New statistics are published showing ethic group X is committing crimes at 10 times the rate of ethic group Y.

To one side, this is obvious evidence that ethic group X are criminals.

To another side, this is obvious evidence the justice system is biased.

Both sides are totally opposed, yet see the same fact as proving they are right.

5Kaj_Sotala7yConfirmation bias [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias]. Also more specifically attitude polarization [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attitude_polarization]:
6David_Gerard7yWhy the Bombings Mean That We Must Support My Politics [http://www.adequacy.org/stories/2001.9.12.102423.271.html]

Both sides are totally opposed, yet see the same fact as proving they are right.

If redheads are 10 times more likely to be in jail for violent crimes, it is evidence for both "redheads are violent" and "judges hate redheads" - and both might be true!

And "redheads are violent" and "judges hate redheads" are not totally opposed, they only look that way in a context where they are taken as arguments in support of broader ideologies who, them, are totally opposed (or rather, compete with each other so oppose each oth... (read more)

5Dahlen7yApologies for the nitpick, but didn't you mean ethnic group?
5Plasmon7yYou know what they say: one man’s Modus Ponens is another man’s Modus Tollens [http://lesswrong.com/lw/9ki/shit_rationalists_say/]
Open thread, September 2-8, 2013

I used to like liferea, but I don't have an up to date opinion as I switched to non-desktop RSS reading options.

0Emily8yThanks! Will try it.
Open thread, August 19-25, 2013

It's a little bit intuition and might turn out to be daft, but

a) I've read just enough about game theory in the past to know what the prisoner's dilemma is

b) I was reading an argument/discussion on another blog about the men chatting up women, who may or may not be interested, scenario, and various discussions on irc with MixedNuts have given me the feeling that male/female interactions (which are obviously an area of central interest to feminism) are a similar class of thing and possibly game theory will help me understand said feminism and/or opposition to it.

5JQuinton8yI also had the same intuition about male/female dynamics and the prisoner's dilemma. It also seems like a lot of men's behavior towards women is a result of a scarcity mentality. Surely there are some economic models that explain how people behave -- especially their bad behavior -- when they feel some product is scarce, and if these models were applied to male/female dynamics it might predict some behavior. But since feminism is such a mind-killing topic, I wouldn't feel too comfortable expressing alternative explanations (especially among non-rationalists) since people tend to feel that if you disagree with the explanation then you disagree with the normative goals.

A word of warning: you will probably draw all sorts of wacky conclusions about human interaction when first dabbling with game theory. There is huge potential for hatching beliefs that you may later regret expressing, especially on politically-charged subjects.

Open thread, August 19-25, 2013

My possibly crazy theory is that game theory would be a good way to understand feminism.

2sixes_and_sevens8yOK, I'm interested. Can you explain a little more?
Open thread, August 19-25, 2013

I hate trying to learn things from videos, but the books look interesting.

4sixes_and_sevens8y(If you want a specific link, here is Yvain's introduction to game theory sequence [http://lesswrong.com/lw/dbe/introduction_to_game_theory_sequence_guide/]. There are some problems and inaccuracies with it which are generally discussed in comments, but as a quick overview aimed at a LW audience it should serve pretty well.)
2sixes_and_sevens8yWhat are your motives for learning about it? If it's to gain a bare-bones understanding sufficient for following discussion in Less Wrong, existing Less Wrong articles would probably equip you well enough.
Open thread, August 19-25, 2013

I want to know more (ie anything) about game theory. What should I read?

5Manfred8yI actually found The Selfish Gene a pretty good book for developing game theory intuitions. I'd put it as #2 on my list after "the first 2/3 of The Strategy of Conflict".
4[anonymous]8yIf you're looking for something shorter than a full text, I can recommend this [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/game-theory/] entry at the Standord Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

If you have the time, I heartily recommend Ben Polak's Introduction to Game Theory lectures. They are highly watchable and give a very solid introduction to the topic.

In terms of books, The Strategy of Conflict is the classic popular work, and it's good, but it's very much a product of its time. I imagine there are more accessible books out there. Yvain recommends The Art of Strategy, which I haven't read.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96

Vague stylistic thought - I don't have anything specific to base this on, but this chapter feels like something EY has been saving up, and is now throwing in as he's decided it's time to start the ending.

3Kindly8yThe same can definitely be said of the troll chapter.
Open Thread, July 1-15, 2013

I think there's a related rhetorical trick that's something like redefining the applause lights, or brand extension.

Greens believe the sky is green. I want them to believe the entire world is green. I will use their commitment to sky greeness and just persuade them it means something slightly different.

Clouds are kind of like the sky so should really be considered green if you're being fair about things. And rain is in the sky, who are you to say it's not green? Rain falls on the ground, which is therefore also part of the sky.

After a while, you can persuade people that, since the sky is green, obviously rocks are green.

This explanation isn't great but more practical examples are somewhat mindkilling.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 20, chapter 90

"So you also don't think it's worth the trouble of holding me responsible..."

This could be interesting depending how she reacts later. I'm mostly expecting despair, but with a small chance of a heroic Minerva.

I'd be pretty shocked if we don't see a heroic Minerva, given how she reacted to Harry's rant and the fact that this incident provided the name for the chapter.

2Ritalin8yIt's never too late for character growth. Let's just hope she doesn't do something stupid... I mean stupider than usual.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 19, chapter 88-89

Unlikely theory:

It's all a fake. Harry set the whole thing up with Dumbledore, then obliviated himself. The real Hermione has been spirited away somewhere she won't be in any danger. Harry relied on his own likely reaction to ensure things would occur more or less as planned.

We can keep Hermione alive yay! But it doesn't work dramatically.

Other unlikely theory:

Harry will calm down tomorrow and realise his vow was a mistake.

I kind of like this as what a saner person might do, but again it seems very unlikely within the confines of Harry and the story.

0fractalman8ydumbledore tried this level of deception once, and then decided not to attempt it again. although...if he hasn't gone into his office yet, he MIGHT be willing to consider it.
1A1138yI think the obvious solution is basically this, with a Time-Turning involved. The troll could be real, or not (probably is). The hardest part about changing the past is faking the evidence [http://comparativelysuperlative.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/how-to-use-a-time-machine/] including memories, but with a False-Memory Charm that becomes trivial. Memory charm Harry and possibly Dumbledore as well, depending on whether he objects "but I remember feeling a student die." They won't do it this way because it's too finger snap-ish and not dramatic enough, but if it's not at least addressed then I will allege a holding of the Idiot Ball. Harry will need the help of Dumbledore or Quirrel to unlock the time-turner and cast the memory charms. Quirrel wouldn't help but I'd be interested to see his excuse; Dumbledore should be possible to convince but might not be. McGonagall or someone might be capable of it but wouldn't obliviate Albus without him asking for it. Unless this is what was foreshadowed with the question about her first loyalty?
Curriculum suggestions for someone looking to teach themselves contemporary philosophy

Yeah, it's mostly history, but I think even for modern philosophy it's worthwhile for background and inspiration.

Curriculum suggestions for someone looking to teach themselves contemporary philosophy

For general philosophical background I'd recommend Sophie's World. It's mostly history-of-philosophy, but I think it works well as a fairly light way into the field.

5diegocaleiro8yNotice though that Sophie's World only goes into philosophy up to Freud. The philosophy that Starts with Russell and ends with Drescher doesn't get any say on it. It is a very fun book about very bad philosophy. But so is "A History of Western Philosophy" by Russell himself.
Open thread, May 17-31 2013

I'm looking for more on the should-universe you occasionally see referenced around lesswrong.

So far all I can see is some vague references from EY (eg http://lesswrong.com/lw/2nz/less_wrong_open_thread_september_2010/2k50 )

Anyone got anything?

0beoShaffer8yI don't think they are quite the same, but the Just World Hypotheses [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_hypothesis] seems related.
Open thread, May 17-31 2013

I stopped reading because I couldn't take the pain anymore, so I don't know.

Open thread, May 17-31 2013

Worse, there's a transition on the direction of dreadful writing.

1wedrifid8yI'm kind of hoping there is a transition in the direction of Richard being dead. Nobody that naive in his position should live.
Open Thread, May 1-14, 2013

I personally don't get on with Anki but there are many many positive reports.

[Link] More Right launched

I thought there was enough overlapping interest to be worth linking the launch. and I expect occasional posts may be interesting.

LW Women Entries- Creepiness

I look forward to your further posts.

my limited research on these topics has been very negative.

Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013

The writing, I agree, is pretty bad, and she has an odd obsession with trains and motors. I can just about understand the "motor" part because it allows some not very good "motor of the world" metaphors.

The appealing part is the depiction of the evil characters as endlessly dependant on the hero characters, and their view of them as an inexhaustible source of resources for whatever they want, and the rejection of this.

3Viliam_Bur8yThe obsession with trains is probably because in era when Ayn Rand lived, people working with trains were an intellectual elite. They (1) worked with technology, and often (2) travelled across the world and shared ideas with similar people. If you worked at a railroad, sometimes you got free rides anywhere as an employment benefit. It was an era before internet, where the best way to share ideas with bright people was to meet them personally. In other words, if she lived today, she would probably write about hackers, or technological entrepreneurs. John Galt would be the inventor of internet, or nanotechnology, or artificial intelligence. (And he would use modafinil instead of nicotine.)
Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013

I like my Heinlein, but I don't see the connection.

Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013

But this doesn't seem particularly different from the ambiguity in all language. The linked site seems to suggest there's some particular lack of meaning in isolated words.

Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013

You said " Dividing by zero doesn't produce a contradiction"

Several of these links include examples of contradictions. There is no authority required.

For example:

A Contradiction. Suppose we define 1/0 = q

for some real number . Multiplying on both sides of the equation gives 1 = 0 * q = 0

which is a contradiction (to 1 and 0 being different numbers).

0OrphanWilde8yEr, 1/0 * 0 != 1. The law of cancellation requires that all values being cancelled have an inverse. The inverse of 0 doesn't exist in the set of real numbers (although it does exist in the hyperreals). This doesn't mean you can't multiply a number by the inverse of 0, but the product doesn't exist in real numbers, either. (Hyperreal numbers don't cancel out the way real numbers do, however; they can leave behind a hyperreal component [ETA: Or at least that's my understanding from the way my instructor explained why removable discontinuities couldn't actually be removed - open to proof otherwise].)
Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013

Sadly no-one has reported back.

Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013

I read the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand where she sets out her philosophical views.

I found them worryingly convincing. Since they're also unpleasant and widely rejected, I semi-jokingly semi-seriously want people to talk me out of them.

Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013

I initially thought she was being sarcastic. However on seeing this discussion I find the "specific subset of feelings" theory more plausible. She's rejecting the "feelings" James has.

Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013

Quoting from the linked blog:

"Assume that a stranger shouted at you "Broccoli!" Would you have any idea what he meant? You would not. If instead he shouted "I like broccoli" or "I hate broccoli" you would know immediately what he meant. But the word by itself, unless used as an answer to a question (e.g., "What vegetable would you like?"), conveys no meaning"

I don't think that's true? Surely the meaning is an attempt to bring that particular kind of cabbage to my attention, for as yet unexplained reasons.

1Desrtopa8yThat's a possible interpretation, but I wouldn't say "surely." Some other possibilities. The person picked the word apropos of nothing because they think it would be funny to mess with a stranger's head. It's some kind of in-joke or code word, and they're doing it for the amusement of someone else who's present (or just themselves if they're the sort of person who makes jokes nobody else in the room is going to get.) The person is confused or deranged.
Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013

My reaction to Rand is pretty emotional, rather than "I see why her logic is correct!", which I think justifies the motivated cognition aspect a little bit.

Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013

Not that I've seen. It'd be cool though. I think maybe you can see traces in people like Peter Watts, but if you take HPMOR as the defining example, I can't think of anything.

0NancyLebovitz8yLee Child (the Jack Reacher series) presents a good bit of clear thinking.
Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013

I've been reading Atlas Shrugged and seem to have caught a case of Randianism. Can anyone recommend treatment?

0Douglas_Knight8yI think that most people find that it wears off after a couple of months.
2CarlShulman8yThe (libertarian, but not Randian) philosopher Michael Huemer has an essay entitled "Why I'm not an objectivist." It's not perfect, but at least the discussion [http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/rand.htm#5] of Rand's claim that respect for the libertarian rights of others follows from total egoism is good.
2FiftyTwo8yGenuine question: What do you find appealing about it? I've always found the writing impenetrable and the philosophy unappealing.
-2Yuyuko8yWe find that death grants a great deal of perspective!

Michael Huemer explains why he isn't an Objectivist here and this blog is almost nothing but critiques of Rand's doctrines. Also, keep in mind that you are essentially asking for help engaging in motivated cognition. I'm not saying you shouldn't in this case, but don't forget that is what you are doing.

With that said, I enjoyed Atlas Shrugged. The idea that you shouldn't be ashamed for doing something awesome was (for me, at the time I read it) incredibly refreshing.

1RomeoStevens8yThink carefully through egoism. hint: Vs rtbvfg tbnyf naq orunivbef qba'g ybbx snveyl vaqvfgvathvfunoyr sebz gur tbnyf naq orunivbef bs nygehvfgf lbh'ir cebonoyl sbetbggra n grez fbzrjurer va lbhe hgvyvgl shapgvba.
0[anonymous]8yWhat do you believe, and why do you believe it? Alternatively: What do you value, and why do you value it?
2VCavallo8yCan you explain what you mean by this? I ask because I don't know what this means and would like to. Others here clearly seem to get what you're getting at. Some Google searching was mostly fruitless and since we're here in this direct communication forum I'd be interested in hearing it directly. Thanks!

My own deconversion was prompted by realizing that Rand sucked at psychology. Most of her ideas about how humans should think and behave fail repeatedly and embarrassingly as you try to apply it to your life and the lives of those around you. In this way, the disease gradually cures itself, and you eventually feel like a fool.

It might also help to find a more powerful thing to call yourself, such as Empiricist. Seize onto the impulse that it is not virtuous to adhere to any dogma for its own sake. If part of Objectivism makes sense, and seems to work, great. Otherwise, hold nothing holy.

3OrphanWilde8yLaughs I'm an Objectivist by my own accord, but I may be able to help if you find this undesirable. The shortest - her derivations from her axioms have a lot of implicit and unmentioned axioms thrown in ad-hoc. One problematic case is her defense of property - she implicitly assumes no other mechanism of proper existence for humans is possible. (And her "proper existence" is really slippery.) This isn't necessarily a rejection - as mentioned, I am an Objectivist - but it is something you need to be aware of and watch out for in her writings. If a conclusion doesn't seem to be quite right or doesn't square with your own conception of ethics, try to figure out what implicit axioms are being slipped in. Reading Ayn Rand may be the best cure for Randianism, if Objectivism isn't a natural philosophy for you, which by your apparent distress it isn't. (Honestly, though, I'd stay the hell away from most of the critics, who do an absolutely horrible job of attacking the philosophy. They might be able to cure you of Randianism, but largely through misinformation and unsupported emotional appeals, which may just result in an even worse recurrence later.)
8Vaniver8yAre you looking to treat symptoms? If so, which ones?
3TimS8yHeinlein? I found Stranger in a Strange Land [http://www.amazon.com/Stranger-Strange-Land-Robert-Heinlein/dp/0441790348] to be an interesting counterpoint to Atlas Shrugged. Both feature characters with super-human focus / capability (Rearden and Valentine Micheal Smith). And they have totally different effects on societies superficially similar to each other (and to our own). There's more to say about Rand in particular, but we should probably move to the media thread for that specifically (Or decline to discuss for Politics is the Mindkiller [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller/] reasons). Suffice it to say that uncertainty about how to treat the elite productive elements in society predates the 1950s and 1960s.
Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013

I am hoping for someone to write Anita Blake, Rational Vampire Hunter.

Or the rationalist True Blood (it already has "True" in the title!)

5NancyLebovitz8yIs anyone working on rationalist stand-alone fiction? Actually, what I meant was "Is anyone in this community working on rationalist stand-alone fiction?".
Post Request Thread

I appreciate the political, unproductive timesink problem. I'm being optimistic - one day we shall triumph and have a productive post!

Post Request Thread

I think this might be a useful strategy as part of the discussion. I'd like to cover an idea of what people actually mean, though.

Post Request Thread

I've said this before, but:

I would like a LW take on feminism, including topics like what feminists are actually doing, whether you should be one, and why.

I've seen attempts to expose LW to feminism before, but it normally seems to consist of taking existing feminist content and reposting it here - I'm thinking of a more "local" version.

I have a few objections against the way PUA and feminism are present at LW, but I think that could be fixed by presenting them in a different way.

My problem with PUA is that its discussion does not happen at a separate article, but rather as huge threads within articles about something else. So I am annoyed with the discussion being off-topic, long, repeating the same points over dozen different articles, never reaching any conclusion, threatening to happen again and again forever. Also, even the basic terms are never defined, so people just talk past each... (read more)

6falenas1088yIf this happens, any discussion should immediately taboo feminism. It's an extremely loaded term that means different things to different people, and I think it would lead to a lot of arguing over definitions.

I realise this is not quite the point of this thread, but it is relevant:

I would like not to have any more posts on PUA or feminism. They are political, unproductive timesinks. The mutual disarmament we had after the flamewar of Summer 2009, where neither side posted, was excellent.

Open thread, March 17-31, 2013

I've got lessdaft.com about to expire. Does anyone want it for anything?

-1shminux8yI doubt that a less daft person would want it.
LW Women: LW Online

One user who's part of the female dataset has already reported cutting out the smileys deliberately. As I say, I don't put much faith in the results.

I did consider scraping lesswrong.com for data, but a) I wasn't sure of the etiquette b) I don't have a list of female users (maybe I can get them from the survey?) c) it's a lot more coding.

LW Women: LW Online

The number of female users is so small I just hardcoded known female nicks.

As I say, I don't think the results are particularly meaningful.

LW Women: LW Online

Okay, after threatening, I had a go at hacking up a smiley gender detector for lesswrong irc.

Looking at the counts of smileys-per-message by nick, no obvious pattern.

Looking at averages:

male avg 0.015764359871 female avg 0.0194180023583

The dataset I'm using is so male dominated I don't think the results can be particularly meaningful.

2Eugine_Nier8yHow are you determining gender of users?
3daenerys8yAlso, the fact that LW itself isn't smiley friendly. An interesting project would be to gather data from the real life facebook pages of both males and females on LW and see if a discrepancy shows up there. People would have to volunteer their facebooks for you to look at which might cause a bit of a selection effect. (The less trusting/interpersonal types might be less likely to both volunteer their fb, and to use smileys) The reason I say this, is because I severely limit my smiley usage on LW.
LW Women: LW Online

we must create a smiley based gender detector! for science!

Open Thread, January 16-31, 2013

So something I've mused about before..

I think it'd be good to train yourself as an accurate reporter somehow - for example the ability to accurately summarise an article, or report on something someone said.

This is an area where I feel personally slightly weak, in that I often tend to exaggerate and use hyperbole when it's not appropriate.

I have visions of some sort of game - one person picks an article, and the other has to write an accurate summary of it, without distortion. Maybe a third person then grades the two versions? I'm not sure how to inject the fun part.

It seems likely this is already some sort of recognised writing technique, perhaps studied by journalists.

Open Thread, January 16-31, 2013

I also wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Open Thread, January 1-15, 2013

You're right, the tvtropes article on Objectivism is actually really good. I knew they had a lot of good non-trope content.

3NancyLebovitz8yI wonder whether not being a formally respectable source is actually good for tvtropes.
5drethelin8yWow that's amazingly good. It reminds me of how baffled i was about the degree that everyone hated Ayn Rand after reading atlas shrugged as a teenager, and I now realize the reason is that everyone thought she was arguing against things she wasn't arguing against.
Open Thread, January 1-15, 2013

Random idea inspired by the politics thread: Could we make a list of high quality expressions of various positions?

People who wished to better understand other views could then refer to this list for well expressed sources.

It seems like there might be some argument about who "really" understood a given point of view best, but we could resolve debates by having eg pastafarianism-mstevens for the article on pastafarianism I like best, and pastafarianism-openthreadguy for the one openthreadguy prefers.

4OrphanWilde8yTVTropes has an -amazing- political and philosophical library. They have the single-best description of Objectivism I've ever seen, in particular.
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