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Rationality Quotes November 2012

The word "right" (without the use of modifiers such as “exactly”) might sound too weak and easily satisfiable, but I think the idea is the following: Theories that may seem complete and robust today might be found to be incomplete or wrong in the future. You cannot claim certainty in them, although you can probably claim high confidence under certain conditions.

Rationality Quotes November 2012

Can you recommend similar novels?

Unfortunately, I can’t: this kind of (strangely refreshing) cynicism is, in my limited experience, unique to Peter Watts, and the use of interesting “starfish aliens” seems to be quite rare.

There are, however, other short stories (not novels) of Peter Watts that have a somewhat similar mood , such as Ambassador, but you probably are already aware of them.

Rationality Quotes November 2012

Quote from Peter Watts' Blindsight.

About the prospects of a fight against a superintelligence:

Still, I could tell that Bates' presence was a comfort, to the Human members of the crew at least. If you have to go up unarmed against an angry T-rex with a four-digit IQ, it can't hurt to have a trained combat specialist at your side.

At the very least, she might be able to fashion a pointy stick from the branch of some convenient tree.

Rationality Quotes November 2012

As we learn more and more about the solar system, the reality-check that our theories have to pass becomes more and more stringent. This is one reason why scientists have a habit of opening up old questions that everybody assumed were settled long ago, and deciding that they weren’t. It doesn’t mean the scientists are incompetent: it demonstrates their willingness to contemplate new evidence and re-examine old conclusion in its light. Science certainly does not claim to get things right, but it has a good record of ruling out ways to get things wrong.

-- The Science of Discworld, Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen

Equality and natalism

Your definition is near to what I think of when I hear “private”, save that I would add that the event must be consensual for all the people involved. That is: “an activity performed by a set of persons can be considered private only if the direct consequences of the activity are limited to those in the set, and the activity is consensual for all the involved”*.

I may be projecting my own moral intuitions, but I think this is the definition that is informally evoked when there is talk of non-intrusion into others’ private lives; in this case, a right for non-intrusion seems morally defensible. However, the problem in my view is that sometimes the meaning of “private” is extended to situations where the right of non-intrusion is no longer so clearly worthy of defense.

*Actually, I think I would prefer to include sentients into the definition, but I doubt that is a mainstream view at the moment.

Equality and natalism

(and the decision of whether to have kids is pretty darn private).

In which sense is it private? A person having X kids will have affected the lives of at least X other persons.

October 2012 Media Thread

The short story Closer by Greg Egan deals with the subject.

September 2012 Media Thread

V nyfb sbhaq n irel fgebat fvzvynevgl jvgu n znyvpvbhf naq gehgushy Obkrq NV jura ernqvat gur rkcynangvba bs Onfg. Gur nanybtl vf abg cresrpg, ohg vg jnf irel vagrerfgvat naq cnffviryl nevfvat.


The website left me a positive impression. From my cursory exploration, the only thing that stood out negatively was the existence of the subsection of Life Stories inside Media; I think this subsection will need to be handled with care.

What are you working on? June 2012
  • Finishing to program, in Python, an interactive fiction game, targeted at my D&D group. Doing this for fun, to please some friends with whom I have become geographically separated, and to improve my knowledge and programming practices in Python.
  • Aiming to take the JLPT N2 this year, I´m starting to focus my studies in order to identify and address what I still need to learn. Having the certificate would look nice on the CV, and passing the examination would surely be personally satisfying.
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