All of mwengler's Comments + Replies

The Google group that will give you access to event announcements and the calendar is here:!forum/san-diego-ratadj There's also a FB group:
0.999...=1: Another Rationality Litmus Test

I suppose you might be right for some people. For me, the fact that repeating infinite decimal expansions are rational is deeply deeply ingrained. Since your post is essentially how to square your feelings with what turns out to be mathematically true, you have a lot of room for disagreement as there is no contradiction in different people feeling different ways about the same facts.

For me the most fun thing about 0.9999.... is that 1/9 = .11111... and therefore 9x1/9 = 9x.111111..... and this last expression obviously = .99999...

You should also do a s... (read more)

Fixed the typo. Also changed the argument there entirely: I think that the easy reason to assume we're talking about real numbers instead of rationals is just that that's the default when doing math, not because 0.999... looks like a real number due to the decimal representation. Skips the problem entirely.
0.999...=1: Another Rationality Litmus Test

The OP states:

A very good question is "what kinds of objects are these, anyway?" Since we have an infinite decimal they can't be rational numbers.

This is just wrong. A rational number is a number that can be written as a fraction of two integers. Lots of infinite decimals are rational numbers. 1/3 = .3333333..., 1/9 = .1111111.... 1/7 = .142857142857142857... etc.

Ah, of course, my mistake. I was trying to hand-wave an argument that we should be looking at reals instead of rationals (which isn't inherently true once you already know that 0.999...=1, but seems like it should be before you've determined that). I foolishly didn't think twice about what I had written to see if it made sense. I still think it's true that "0.999..." compels you to look at the definition of real numbers, not rationals. Just need to figure out a plausible sounding justification for that.
The map of p-zombies

Clearly we can differentiate between different-location-same-time and different-location-different-time. Two things in different-location-same-time are different things. Two things different-location-different-time may be same thing or may be different thing depending on the path through time. Your mathematical style of abstraction in thinking about identity will only be useful at explaining the real world if it is matched to real world processes, and does not ignore important real world insights.

In fact my goal was to get rid of mathematical definitions of identity and move to instrumental definition. That is the definition of identity depends of the goal I am solving and identity itself is not a thing that actually exists but a supportive term. That is why we have problems this it. Basically, there is two types of question where we need notion of "identity": 1) What I will experience in the next moment? (first-eye view) 2) Is it the same person? (third-eye view)
The map of p-zombies

if we adopt idea that consciousness could be different without any physical difference between the copies, we adopt the idea of p-zombies and reject physicalism that is modern version of materialism. It almost the same as to say that immaterial soul exist. It is very strong statement.

Not relevant to the problem. If you create a copy of me, the copy is not identical, if for no other reason than it occupies a different location than I do. I agree that if it occupied the same location that I do, atom for atom and quark for quark, that could lead to the c... (read more)

If we adopt criteria of identity based of same location, next-moment-of-me will be not me, as I move, Earth move etc. It results in situation where I will die every millisecond. We could also imagine situation where Omega put my copy in my location, but instantly moves me to the next room.
The map of p-zombies

1) I do not understand why our experience of identical twins does not play into most discussions of my copy being "the same person as me." We know that twins do not share the same consciousness (unless Occam's razor is wrong and they are all lying.) We know from that that if we made a copy without destroying the original that the copy and the original would not share a consciousness. So why isn't at least the possibiliy (I would estimate overwhelming likelihood) that a copy is a different consciousness than the original, and that destroying th... (read more)

I am going soon to publish Identity map which will sum up my research of the identity problem. 1) If twins are really similar, there will be indexical question for them. Each of them will not know if he is twin 1 or twin 2. So in practical situations they should think that any event which affect one of twins has 50 per cent situation to happen with them. So consciousness will not jump from one twin to another. It is already shared in this example. 2) Philosophers are well aware of the problem and it is called "other minds problem" and "hard problem" of consciousness. the main problem here is that if we adopt idea that consciousness could be different without any physical difference between the copies, we adopt the idea of p-zombies and reject physicalism that is modern version of materialism. It almost the same as to say that immaterial soul exist. It is very strong statement.
Open Thread May 30 - June 5, 2016

My first thoughts reading your post are 1) You start WAY TOO LATE IN THE GAME. You are essentially talking about altruism as a conscious choice which means you are well into the higher mammals.

Virtually every sexually reproducing creature devotes resources to reproduction that could have been conserved for individual survival. As you move up in complexity, you have animals feeding their young and performing other services for them. As would be expected with all evolved cooperation, the energy and cost you expend raising your young produces a more surv... (read more)

Open Thread May 9 - May 15 2016

I may not understand the question's point, because as I read it the answer is a very obvious "Yes." We determined Newton's laws and Maxwell's equations from observations of our world. So the planets in orbit around the sun, the moon around the earth, and an apple falling to the ground all lead to gravitation. The attraction between wires carrying current in the same direction (magnetic), the functioning of transformers (change in magnetic field produces electric field) and radio and light all fit together to give Maxwell's equations.

So yes, ... (read more)

What can we learn from Microsoft's Tay, its inflammatory tweets, and its shutdown?

That Artificial Intelligence is going to do a lot of the same things that Natural Intelligence does.

Marketing rationalism

Taboo "faith", what do you mean specifically by that term?

Good idea. I mean that EVERYBODY, rationalist atheist and christian alike, starts with an axiom or assumption.

In the case of rationalist atheists (or at least come such as myself) the axioms started with are things like 1) truth is inferred with semi=quantifiable confidence from evidence supporting hypotheses, 2) explanations like "god did it" or "alpha did it" or "a benevolent force of the universe did it" are disallowed. I think some people are willin... (read more)

Marketing rationalism

This comment is in reply to some ideas in the comments below.

In my opinion, my rationality is as faith-based as is a religious person's religious belief.

Among my highest values is "being right" in the sense of being able to instrumentally effect or predict the world. I want to be able to communicate across long distances, to turn combustible fuel into safe transportation, to correctly predict what an interstellar probe will find and to be able to build an interstellar probe that will work. Looking at the world, I see much more success in en... (read more)

Taboo "faith", what do you mean specifically by that term?
Open thread, Jan. 25 - Jan. 31, 2016

I'm not sure which is correct. Not that familiar with utilitarianist nuts and bolts.

As with so many things, if there is more than one way to interpret something there is generally not too much to be gained by interpreting so that there is an error when there is a way to interpret it that makes sense. Clearly if a new charity sets up that takes twice the cost to provide the same benefit, and people switch donations from the cheaper charity to the more expensive one, utility produced has been decreased compared to the counterfactual where the new more ex... (read more)

Open thread, Jan. 25 - Jan. 31, 2016

I think that if a charity had negative utility, that would imply that burning a sum of money would be preferable to donating that money to that charity.

If there are two charities, one which feeds homeless population for $3/day and a 2nd which feeds same population same food for $6/day, AND people tend to give some amount of money to one charity or the other, but not both, then it seems pretty reasonable to describe the utility of the more expensive charity as negative. It is not that it would be better to burn my contribution, but rather that I am gett... (read more)

I've always thought of negative utility as "cost exceeds benefits"; but it seems to be getting used here as if "opportunity cost exceeds benefits", which is not the same thing. I'm not sure which is correct. Not that familiar with utilitarianist nuts and bolts.
Open thread, Jan. 18 - Jan. 24, 2016

'no pig' > 'happy pig + surprise axe' > 'sad pig + surprise axe'

Would this also mean

'no pig' > 'happy pig + surprise predator' > 'sad pig + surprise predator' I don't think nature is generally any better than (some kinds of) farming for prey animals. Should vegans be benefitting from lowering the birth rates among natural animals?

Or for that matter, does it also mean 'no human' > 'happy human + eventual death' > 'sad human + eventual death' Even in nature, all life is alive, and then it dies, almost always in a way it would not choose or enjoy. Does life just suck? Are we bad actors for having children?

The term to search for is 'wild animal suffering.' The term to search for is 'anti-natalism.'
People who worry that life sucks that much should make sure they correctly priced in the possibility that we can figure out how to arrange it so that life is super great in the future. (But everyone here realizes this).
Open thread, Jan. 18 - Jan. 24, 2016

Most vegetarians would think that activities that normally make animals suffer are bad in themselves.

Presumably the moral win in reducing or eliminating the suffering of farmed meat would have more to do with non-vegetarians than vegetarians. But really, is the point here to do something better than is already done, or is to impress vegetarians?

Open thread, Jan. 18 - Jan. 24, 2016

Would it be ethical to grow meat in a vat without a brain associated with it? Personally, I think pretty clearly yes.

So breeding suffering out of animals would seem to be between growing meat in a vat and what we have now. So it would seem to be a step in the right direction.

We, and animals, almost certainly have suffering because it had survival value for us and animals in the environment in which we evolved. Being farmed for meat is not that environment. I don't think removing suffering from our farmed animals has a downside. Of course, removing it from wild animals would probably not be a good thing, but would probably correct itself relatively quickly in the failure of non-suffering animals to survive.

Most vegetarians would think that activities that normally make animals suffer are bad in themselves. They may have originally have used suffering as a reason to figure out that those activities are bad,m but they're bad in themselves. You can't just take away the bad consequences and make them good. Also, utilitarianism has a problem with blissful ignorance. Most vegetarians would probably think that animals that are engineered to be unable to suffer have a blissful ignorance problem; they are being harmed and just don't realize it.
I wonder about more intermediate stages. Animals suffering less is one obviously. Animals with less nervous systems would be another (though probably not practical). More ideas?
Open thread, Jan. 18 - Jan. 24, 2016

Never heard of Circling until your post. Looked it up, initially find nothing going on in San Diego (California US). I wonder if it is more of a European thing?

If you know how I can find something local to San Diego CA US, please let me know.

Open thread, Jan. 18 - Jan. 24, 2016

I do think rationality is a niche. I had a conversation with a not-particularly-bright administrative assistant at work where she expressed the teachings of Jehovah's Witness as straightforward truth. She talked some of the chaos of her life (drugs, depression) before joining them. As I expressed the abstract case for, essentially, being careful about what one believes, it seemed clear enough to me that she had little or nothing to gain by being "right" (or rather adopting my opinion which is more likely to be true in a Bayesian sense) and she... (read more)

Open thread, Jan. 18 - Jan. 24, 2016

Does "value the welfare of others" necessarily mean "consciously value the welfare of others"? Is it wrong to say "I know how to interpret human sounds into language and meaning" just because I can do it? Or do I have to demonstrate I know how because I can deconstruct the process to the point that I can write an algorithm (or computer code) to do it?

The idea that we cannot value the welfare of computers seems ludicrously naive and misinterpretative. If I can value the welfare of a stranger, then clearly the thing for which... (read more)

I actually read the paper. ((iii) and (iv) apply to the general case of "people behave as if they are playing with humans", but not to the specific case of "people behave as if they are playing with humans, because of empathy with the computer").
I am always up for being ludicrous :-P So, what is the welfare of a computer? Does it involve a well-regulated power supply? Good ventilation in a case? Is overclocking an example of inhumane treatment? Or maybe you want to talk about software and the awful assault on its dignity by an invasive debugger...
Open thread, Dec. 21 - Dec. 27, 2015

Yes, there is class of investment strategies which go by the name of "liquidity constrained". If there is a small... market inefficiency out of which you can extract, say, $100,000/year but no more, none of the big investment firms would bother -- it's not worth their time. But for an individual it often is.

Can you please say more about these and how to find them?

Liquidity is a characteristic of a financial asset which, without going into technicalities, is an indicator of how quickly and how cheaply can one buy or sell large amounts of this particular asset in the open market. Some assets -- like the common stock of Apple or US Treasury bills -- are very liquid. There is a continuous market, very large volumes are changing hands daily, and orders to buy and sell are filled rapidly, with low transaction costs and without pushing the market. Some assets -- like specific bonds or, say, tracts of land in Maine -- are not liquid. Buying or selling them will take time and will be expensive in terms of transaction costs. If you want to buy (or sell) a lot of these, you will likely push the market (if you're buying you'll push the price up, if you're selling you'll push the price down), sometimes considerably so. The problem with investment strategies which rely on buying and selling illiquid assets is that they do not scale. You might be able to achieve high returns on small amounts of capital, but you cannot put more capital into this trade because the trade will then break. Hedge funds and such are not interested in investment strategies which do not scale because it's too few dollars for too much hassle. What this means is that trade opportunities in small, obscure, illiquid niches of financial markets are not exploited by the big fish and so could remain "open" for a long time. Remember that the self-adjusting feature of the market is not magic, it only works if somebody does commit capital to "fixing" the market inefficiency. If no one does, the inefficiency does not go away on its own. This implies that if you search the (preferably obscure) little nooks and crannies of markets, your chances of finding a free lunch are much higher than in popular, liquid markets that everyone likes to play in. Two warnings, though. First, what appears to be free cheese might turn out to be located in a mousetrap. Examine the circumstan
Open thread, Dec. 21 - Dec. 27, 2015

Your insight is pretty consistent with a lot of philosophers, including my own personal favorite Daniel Dennett. Even if there is a pseudorandom number generator (or a quantum random number generator which might not be pseudo), that our "choices" would be random in this way does not really feel like what people want free will to mean. My reading of Dennett is that our "choices" arise from the law-like operation of our minds, which may be perfectly predictable (if there is no randomness only pseudorandmness of classical thermal noise) ... (read more)

Estimate the Cost of Immortality

Mais non, money is not "just" trade or "just" one way of getting something. Off the top of my head, money has multiple roles which include being:

  • medium of exchange (that's trade)

  • store of value

Which is time shifted trade. I.e. I trade a perishable good now (like my labor or a bottle of milk) for some money, I store it for a while, and then I buy something with it. I can't imagine that this is anything more than a description of what we mean when we say "store of value"

  • way of measuring and comparing the value of diffe
... (read more)
Estimate the Cost of Immortality

So far not mentioned in replies to this is that there are many examples of productive organizations that do not organize around money. Two leap to mind:

  • Military. Rarely do the various units and platoons trade with the other components of the military for their supplies, nor do they bid on missions. To the extent trade occurs it is usually barter and usually outside official accepted ways of doing things.

  • Business units. Large businesses may use separate calculations of returns to determine some very macro choices between business units.

But th... (read more)

Estimate the Cost of Immortality

But trade is just one way of getting something from others.

Yes nice summary of the original point of the entire thread. Money (which is trade, n'est-ce pas?) is just one way of getting something.

And the argument has been can we get more of something by abandoning money. And you and I have pretty much been saying "almost certainly not, what proposal do you have that hasn't already been discredited?"

Mais non, money is not "just" trade or "just" one way of getting something. Off the top of my head, money has multiple roles which include being: * medium of exchange (that's trade) * store of value * way of measuring and comparing the value of different goods In particular, the last role is vital for the informational function of money.
Estimate the Cost of Immortality

My vote for most valuable insight applying as much to natural fitness as to economic behavior it is this:

The most important part of the environment is the humans and what they are doing. If I and my merry band of 100 or 1000 or even 1000000 or even 1000000000 tribe members are contemplating how we should supply ourselves with food, shelter, weapons, entertainment, & c., we should first, foremost, and with great care look to use what is already developed, invented, and produced by the rest of the world. You were concerned about warlords having troubl... (read more)

My point is that in the "whole world adopts anarchy" scenario the warlords wouldn't be able to use trucks. Heck, without the NGOs' money they probably wouldn't be able to use trucks.
Indeed, you don't have to do everything yourself. But trade is just one way of getting something from others. Another way is simply taking it, with force. In biology ("natural fitness"), as Greg Cochrane puts it [], the usual way is "Let George do it, and then eat George."
Estimate the Cost of Immortality

Interesting hypothesis. But it doesn't align with facts, bummer.

Note that the Somali warlords don't extract or refine gas themselves, they barter for it from better organized nations. Heck, according to the article the vehicles were paid for by misguided foreign NGOs.
Estimate the Cost of Immortality

Ants have an economy which is massively simpler than that of monetized humans. It is also massively less adaptable than is a human economy. Their interactions are hardcoded into their DNA, optimized for an environment that has persisted for many 10s of thousands of years without a lot of change because that's as fast as their DNA and natural selection can adapt.

Cells also, nonmonetized, have a hardcoded "economy." Human adaptability exists outside this cellular economy. This is why humans who live in cold environments, for example, buy clot... (read more)

This year's biggest scientific achievements

I don't invent time travel for another 60 years. But I will get back to you in 2075.

Couldn't we get a precommitment from you to bring it back to 12/16/2015 once you have it?

Estimate the Cost of Immortality

Even if the goal could be reached in 20 years, it would take much more than 20 years to empirically test that the goal had been accomplished. In the prosaic world I come from we say brain-dead stuff like "if it isn't tested it doesn't work" and feel like we understand something important when we do so.

Estimate the Cost of Immortality

I would estimate approximately


Is it permissible to write III^^^III ?

At which point the weight of all this gold would probably be sufficient to start a gravitational collapse leading to a black hole. And since the man and the moon would meet inside the black hole, PROBLEM SOLVED!
Estimate the Cost of Immortality

Oh. I had assumed that "not planning for catering" fell in the "odd cases" category, but maybe I overestimate humans.

Its not that you overestimate humans but that you massively underestimate that amount of thought, work, and organization that results in a store of fresh healthy abundant food available for your nutrition. That complex chain involving thousands and millions of people, some producing the oil to lubricate the gears of the tractor or the delivery truck, some paving the roads, some setting standards for fuel composition a... (read more)

To a a close approximation, the new system looks just like the old system, just without the paychecks. Assuming that workers know their value (big assumption), then the question becomes "to create the most Xyriking, should I do my job or change to a job producing Xyrikes?" Caviar producers should change jobs; grain producers should not; salt producers should determine what exactly is meant by "temporarily" before making a decision. Taking the hypothetical as it is given, I think it is fair to assume that no one will quit their job simply because it is unpleasant or because someone else could do it -- those don't really count as working together (or "pooling resources ... without worrying"). Human resources include skills like planning, logistics, common sense, and health and safety. Of course, it is possible that good planning skills are so limited that they must be devoted primarily to producing Xyrikes, and not keeping people healthy.
Estimate the Cost of Immortality

Another version of the starvation objection to this hypothetical is this:

Such a system would rather quickly result in large groups of people inventing ownership and protecting it by force, by threat of violence. Maybe not the first time the half-ripe tomato you don't own but which you planted is eaten by someone else before you eat it you will not sign on to this alternative. But if you manage to stay alive long enough, you will soon be trading your labor for food and be incredibly grateful that the same system which is LETTING you trade your labor for f... (read more)

Estimate the Cost of Immortality

Lumifer is a bit heavy-handed with his name-calling, but I think his objection is basically the right one.

The market is an information processing machine that solves problems too complex to be solved by any other means we have yet tried. Our entire experience with non-money economies is a stupefying lack of efficiency. But the OP asks about getting rid of ownership, not money, and that hasn't been tried.

So I have a refrigerator with some food in it and I'm set for the next day or two eating-wise. If I don't own the food in the refrigerator, by any r... (read more)

Open thread, Dec. 14 - Dec. 20, 2015

When doing the calculations be sure to QA your LYs. Spending an extra week lying doped up and in pain in a hospital bed may not be worth all that much. Also with medical research, you often wind up with a patented drug which then costs $1e5 per patient treated at least for the first decade or two of its use at least as used in the USA and other non-single payer countries. Or it requires $1e5 of medical professional intervention per patient to implement. My priors are that the low-hanging fruit is not in turning 90 year olds into 91 year olds, and won't be for many decades.

Stupid Questions, December 2015

That is a little like suggesting that a sound recorder is just electronics and shouting at any electronics should elicit a response. Bringing it back to the neurons,

  • loud enough sound on any neuron will probably excite it
  • However the sensitivity of neurons connected in the ear to sound is thousands or millions or billions (not bothering to calculate it) higher than the sensitivity of a random neuron in the brain to sound
  • A random neuron responding to sound won't feel like sound. If a pain neuron is activated by sound, it will appear as pain, if a hot n
... (read more)
timeless quantum immortality

If, hypothetically, I tried to catch a terminal-velocity bowling ball with my face, your theory says I would experience the bowling ball doing nonfatal damage and then stopping just before killing me, and my theory says I would experience changing my mind and getting out of the way of the bowling ball.

So from the perspective of a you that I can talk to after the near miss with the bowling ball, your description makes sense. But it also makes sense to me. We are both in the universe where you changed your mind before the bowling ball hit you and you go... (read more)

I don't know if anyone else is conscious, but if they are, and they die in my branch of reality, then in my theory they experience a branch of reality in which they continue living. I agree it's pretty similar. I have to accept the consciousness-causes-collapse interpretation, and it's a short hop from that to full-on theism.
Stupid Questions, December 2015

I'm not certain that I understand your argument, so I may have responded incorrectly. Let me know if you need any clarification.

On re-reading, I actually misunderstood your original point and my argument has nothing to do with your original point.

I would still want to point out a few things that may make what is going on clearer.

First, Brownian motion amplitude rises as temperature rises. So while the Brownian motion of temperatures typically found in the ear, or in the air near the ear, is small enough that the ear can't detect it, as you say, if ... (read more)

Stupid Questions, December 2015

Another thing to keep in mind is that at equilibrium, you have thermal excitation everywhere. You might as well ask why you don't hear or see or smell the thermal excitation in your own brain.

I think you are suggesting something like: if I was detecting thermal vibration by the vibration of a membrane due to thermally induced air pressure I wouldn't because the temperature is the same in the air on both sides of the membrane and therefore the thermal air pressure on each side of the membrane is the same and so fails to move the membrane. If this is wha... (read more)

I don't make that suggestion at all. I'm pointing out that sound receptors are just neurons, and if the thermal vibrations in your ear can excite some set of neurons than the thermal vibrations impinging on the dendrites of any neuron in your body - including inside your brain - should also elicit a response.
Stupid Questions, December 2015

Photons with over 1 Million electron volts of energy can create a positron-electron pair, but only when near another massive particle (like the nucleus of an atom). The other massive particle is moved in the interaction but is otherwise not-necessarily changed. This process has been demonstrated experimentally. The mean free path of the energetic photon near an atomic nucleus is something down on the atomic scale, the experiment I read about used a piece of gold foil and generated lots of positron-electron... (read more)

timeless quantum immortality

I think your argument is wrong.

If in my young age I am present in zillions of different universes, am I not conscious in each one of these? Am I not just as much a conscious being in the universes in which I die tomorrow, as I am in the universes in which I will die next week, as I am in the universes where I will live for 3000 years?

So what life path are you most likely to observe? You are most likely to "observe" ALL of them. If you were to pick one at random, what is the lifespan of the one you are most likely to pick? You would need t... (read more)

This does not work as a response. Sure, you will observe all of them. But at no moment in any of those lives, will you be dead, and you will be sick and dying at relatively few moments in those lives. So you will rarely observe the situation where you are about to die.
Stupid Questions, December 2015

As far as I remember, you need to hit the resonant frequency of a particular hair to trigger a "sound" response, so frequencies higher than 20KHz might excite them, but if you're not getting resonance, nothing triggers.

No this is wrong. Each hair is excited by the amount of its particular resonant frequeny in the sound hitting it. If a violin note is heard, that note only has a few discrete frequencies in it and so a few hairs are very excited about it and the brain (of the trained violinist with perfect pitch anyway) goes "oh, A 440.&q... (read more)

Stupid Questions, December 2015

As to molecule collisions, I'm not sure vibrations at sufficiently high frequency can be called "acoustic" at all.

Your reasoning here carries useful information. For example, when you are dealing with vibrations whose frequency is so high that the wavelength of the vibration is less than the average spacing between molecules in a gas, or in a solid lattice, then a lot of what you calculate about the detection and interactions with lower frequency vibrations no longer applies.

However, the same limitations apply to electromagnetic radiation. ... (read more)

So what kind of energies are we talking about here, and what distances?
Stupid Questions, December 2015

The reasoning behind blackbody electromagnetic radiation applies equally well to thermal vibrations in solids and gases. Meaning the spectral limits derived from a quantum consideration of the quantization of electromagnetic radiation (into photons) applies equally well to the quantum considerations of vibrational radiation (into phonons).

"Thermal" photons are indistinguishable individually from photons from other sources. The thing that makes a thing thermal is the distribution and prevalence of photons in time and frequency, those from a th... (read more)

Stupid Questions, December 2015

A hair cell that was triggered by Brownian motion would be useless. All inner hair cells are tuned to certain vibrations in the endolymph that are greater than those caused by Brownian motion.

Brownian motion is motion of air that, considered as vibrations, has a broad range of frequencies in it. Which means that an ear exposed to air experiencing a sufficiently high level of brownian motion will have many or all of its inner hair cells excited. If your statement was correct, humans would not be able to hear white noise, whereas obviously (to any hearing person who has ever been exposed to white noise) we can.

White noise requires that we hear a number of frequencies, but also requires that the frequencies are of sufficient amplitude to move the ear drum. But that is just the TLDR. I am trying to keep this simple, but it is not simple, so here is the next level of complexity. The issue is not only frequency, but also amplitude and duration. Since Brownian motion is not sufficient to significantly affect the ear drums (in any real life situation), instead of worrying about the air, you need to be worrying about the liquid in the inner ear. This liquid is in a precisely shaped reservoir (the cochlea) that will amplify certain sound waves at certain points (it is more complicated than this, but this is a generally accurate simplification); hair cells at each point respond (fire) in response to the amplified waves. Brownian motion cannot and will not set up a standing wave at any frequency for a time period or with an intensity that you would be able to perceive. It may be helpful to picture the difference in intensity produced by a particle of water versus a wave; one you will not feel (it cannot push you or the hair cell with enough force to be detected), but the other certainly can. We are talking a difference of multiple orders of magnitude. I'm not certain that I understand your argument, so I may have responded incorrectly. Let me know if you need any clarification. Edit: removed a redundant sentence.
Stupid Questions, December 2015

I think many of LW values are manufactured. I think you detect which are most manufactured by looking at the ones not widely held by other humans. Values like "you should get your head frozen when you die" are probably at the most manufactured end as they are nearly unique to LW and fellow travelers. Values like polyamory are pretty manufactured by do show up in a larger minority of non-LW types than head freezing. Values like a world with 3**3 created AIs in it that are a little happy is better than a world with 1 billion humans in it who ar... (read more)

Stupid Questions, December 2015

You can't hear temperatures because if the temperatures of air were high enough to make enough noise for you to hear, you would be incinerated. goes over this. There is a lot of error in that thread, but the parts that are right show up a few times and calculate the white noise sound level of room temperature air at about -20 dB SPL. SPL of 0 dB is the approximate threshold of human hearing. dB is a logarithmic scale such that every 10 dB increase is a 10X... (read more)

Making My Peace with Belief

Happiness is the indicator for whether or not a thing works for people.

I don't think so.

Prevalence is the primary indicator of whether or not a thing works for people. Does a civilization which promotes patriotism in the local population make the people happier by doing this? I doubt it. But they probably do make their civilization more robust, more fit in a survival sense by doing so.

What works for persons, if you prefer. Patriotism helps civilization; does it help a person?
Omega's Idiot Brother, Epsilon

I would one box. Clearly spending $1000 for an expected $8000 return is generally speaking a Good Thing (tm). Over the course of my life if I always take the higher expectation value choice when offered these choices, then by the central limit theorem I will be almost certainly better off than if I generally take the lower return Sure Thing. So except for extremely odd corner cases where the sure thing is a life saver, the rational policy is to not be seduced by lower return sure things. And $1000 is not a life saver for me and actually at no point in ... (read more)

Rationality Quotes Thread November 2015


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Rationality Quotes Thread November 2015

This is my first time seeing this quote and it is a good one. Took me a minute to realize what he was saying. And I've been hanging out on this site for years.

I can't stop you from saying or thinking I should have noticed the quote before, if that's the way your mind works. But in reality I am not unique and I am not an idiot and if I find something particularly useful here there is likely a significant minority of the rest of the readers who find it useful. Which is sort of consistent with the quote.

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