All of NexH's Comments + Replies

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.

5DanArmak9yYou can't ever claim absolute certainty in anything. There's no 1.0 probability in predictions about the universe. But science can create claims of being "right" as strong and justified as any other known process. Saying "science doesn't claim to get things right" is false, unless you go on to say "nothing can (correctly) claim to get things right, it's epistemologically impossible".
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.

-1katydee9yI thought this book was really good up until the ending, which was beyond predictable-- yet I had the impression it was meant to be quite the surprise.
4Kawoomba9yGreat book, it's freely available here [], in plain html. Can you recommend similar novels?
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

5DanArmak9yYes, yes it does. Otherwise, what would be the point? There's an infinity of ways to get things wrong; you don't want to spend your life catalouging them.
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 n... (read more)

0Randy_M9yWell, I'm not going to feel qualified to discuss whether the word as is commonly used connotes justified secrecy & non-intrusion or simply the fact of the matter, but it would be useful to have words for both meanings (or else taboo it and spell out the justification for non-intrusion/investigation when debating whether someone's privacy is a suitable excuse).
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.

2Randy_M9yI agree that it isn't particularly private, except perhaps in the sense that you technically aren't effecting other people at the time of decision as there aren't those other people yet. But, also, private doesn't mean limited to a solitary individual, or else people wouldn't speak of sex being private. I guess I'd define private as an event that one can limit the involvement (including knowledge of) to those of their choosing. Perhaps possible with raising children but not the norm.
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.

7lukeprog9yI've come to agree. I removed Life Stories now.
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.
Rationality Quotes May 2012

I see. I think the quoted text is very representative of rational thinking, but since I personally don´t like spoilers/previews very much, I opted for caution and rot13ed it. My thinking was that an unseen quote can be seen later if so wished, but it is harder to forget something already read. But perhaps for most people the discordance of seeing a lone rot13ed text has a negative utility that is lower than that of reading a very minor spoiler/preview? If that is so, I will unrot13 it.

In any case, thank you for your input. For now, I will edit the parent so that it is clear that the severity of the spoiler is very low.

Most transferable skills?

Programming is a great example of a transferable skill. Beyond being fun, and highly useful for solving many mathematical problems (and this is a very broad category), it can be helpful for automatizing repetitive tasks in various areas.

For example, last week I had to convert the imperial units in a document to metric ones. Probably there are other resources for doing this, but with a basic (2.5 months of learning) knowledge of Python and less than an hour of coding I was able to automatize most of the work, saving myself time and probably avoiding errors and tedium.

Rationality Quotes May 2012

From Terry Pratchett´s Unseen Academicals (very minor/not significant spoilers):

‘You had to find the truth for yourself. That is how we all find the truth.’
‘And if the truth is terrible?’
‘I think you know the answer to that one, Nutt’ said the voice of Ladyship.
‘The answer is that, terrible or not, it is still the truth,’ said Nutt.
‘And then?’ said her voice, like a teacher encouraging a promising pupil.
‘And then the truth can be changed’ said Nutt.

5Desrtopa9yIf you feel the need to put the quote in rot13 to avoid spoilers, it's probably not worth posting at all (I don't think that this quote spoils anything significant about the plot in any case.)
SotW: Be Specific

I think there is an area where the information typically given is vague or confusing, and the ability to be specific can come in handy: for presenting personal information and preferences. The provider of the information is of course considerably familiar with the subject, so it often happens that ve doesn’t realizes that what ve actually says is unclear or easily misunderstood ( For example, saying that you are a mathematician evokes, in a surprisingly high number of people, images of large numbers and complex but mechanical calculations ) or overly gener... (read more)

Rationality Quotes March 2012

When it comes to rare probabilities, our mind is not designed to get things quite right. For the residents of a planet that may be exposed to events no one has yet experienced, that is not good news.

 --Daniel Kahneman, *Thinking, fast and slow*
Elevator pitches/responses for rationality / AI

"But you can't expect people to act rationally. We are emotional creatures."

This may be difficult to answer appropriately without knowing what the hypothetical speaker means with “emotions” (or "expect", for that matter). But the phrase seems to me like a potential cached one, so ve may not know it either.

A possible elevator response below:

Rationality is not Vulcan-like behavior; you don't have to renounce to your emotions in order to act rationally. Indeed, for most people, many emotions (like affection, wonder, or love) are very va... (read more)