All of Osiris's Comments + Replies

There are as many ways to run a one-world government as there are countries on this Earth today, and possibly more. No single democracy is the same as all the others, and then you get the various dictatorships and plutocracies that hide behind the name... Even now, a global government is forming from international treaties, fear of nuclear death and terrorism, as well as from trade--it would seem the trend cannot be stopped just by saying one does not want a global government. So, what am I worried about? That the global government that evolves will make m... (read more)

Honesty in one's dealings is always important. As a member of ROTLCON staff (brony convention in Colorado), I am often asked difficult questions about helping people through our charity auction. Lying is not an option, if one expects to donate, or to accept donations. Kindness? Given how the show seems to show it off in Fluttershy, I would guess that kindness includes one's understanding and acceptance of other people. Saving a people by destroying something else means knowing exactly what you destroy, and seeing its value--perhaps, the destruction can be ... (read more)

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Not everyone who speaks about morality automatically sinks down into nonsense and intuition, into the depths of accusations and praise for particular persons, however strange the language they use. Sometimes, speaking about morality means speaking about rationality, surviving and thriving, etc. It may be a mistake to think that Asimov was entirely ignorant of the philosophies this website promotes, given his work in science and the quotes one finds from his interviews, letters, and stories.

I never said anything otherwise. My point was that Asimov was trying to make a distinction between "morality" and "doing what's right". The implication being that thinking in terms of the latter will produce better behavior than thinking in terms of the former. My point is that this is not at all the case.

"Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right." --Isaac Asimov

All too often, an intuition creates mistakes which rationality must remedy, when one is presented with a complex problem in life. No fault of the intuition, of course--it is merely the product of nature.

The problem with Asimov's advice, is that without context it seems to be telling people to ignore ethical injunctions, which is actually horrendous advice. A better piece of advise would be "If you find your morals get in the way of doing what's right, consider that evidence that you're probably mistaken about the rightness of the action in question."
Sometimes, rationality creates mistakes which intuition must modify. Rationality, too, is merely a product of nature. I don't know the context of the Asimov quote, but it is not clear that the two things he is contrasting match up, in either order, to rationality and intuition.

Would it benefit the children more than being raised by the parents? Then the answer would be "yes." Many people throughout history attempted to have their children raised by experts alone, so it is not without precedent, for all its strangeness. Nobles in particular entrusted their children to servants, tutors, and warriors, rather than seek to provide everything needed for a healthy (by their standards) childhood themselves. Caring about one's offspring may include realizing that one needs lots of help.

By the way, I did not intend to cut off an... (read more)

Thank you. I had no idea you posted that! Does cast some light on what was once unclear...

The issue is in HOW one does something as much as WHAT one does, it would seem--I am a personal care provider (and volunteer) as well as an organizer for conventions, so I do understand where you are going with this. I am both working to improve the world in some small way and to get money so I can later give people money when I am wealthy, and I did not even consider my own approach (personal as it is) until your comment made me realize how limited (and un-diverse) it is to exclude one method in favor of another.

Something I noticed when a friend told me about this (some terms have been altered):

Suppose there are a hundred ponds, with ten children each drowning, ALL THE TIME. Wearing a clean suit will earn you enough money to save more of them by hiring people using your large paycheck (I shall assume this suit is good enough to get you a decent job) to fish children out of ponds. In the mean time, you'd ALSO be living a comfortable life, which will further allow you to buy job-getting suits for saved children and divers, thereby increasing the number of people tha... (read more)

I wrote a blog post arguing against focusing on earning to give to the exclusion of pursuing a career with direct altruistic impact.

A question: How many people are so attached to being experts at parenting that they would rather see children jobless, unhappy, or dead than educated by experts in a particular field (whether biology or social studies)? Those are the people I worry about, when I imagine a system in which parents/government could decide all the time what their children learn and from what institution. For every parent or official that changes their religion just to get children into the best schools, willing to give up every alliance just to get the tribe's offspring a bett... (read more)

That's a very odd question because you're phrasing it as a hypothetical, thus forcing the logical answer to be "yes, being taught by an expert is better than having the child dead", but you're giving no real reason to believe the hypothetical is relevant to the real world. If experts could teleport to the moon, should we replace astronauts with them? If you seriously believe what that is implying, that argument wouldn't just apply to education. Why shouldn't we just take away all children at birth (or grow them in the wombs of paid volunteers and prohibit all other childbearing) to have them completely raised by experts, not just educated by them?

Just because your enemies will not always be your friends does not mean it is useless to TRY to convert them to be one's friends. It is, as most things, a bet. One must know, beforehand, if it is WORTH it to try.

I would say it's a useful quote because it provides an alternative to the usual "smash them as soon as they oppose you" deal going on.

Nevertheless, the statement to which I replied remains evidence against rather than evidence for. You are of course welcome to support the sentiment despite the anecdote in question---such things aren't typically considered to be strong evidence either way.
It may also be better than the even more common "deal with them as you can, but don't expect they'll ever be on your side".

I'm not a very well educated person in this field, but if I may:

I see my various squishy feelings (desires and what-is-right intuitions are in this list) as loyal pets. Sometimes, they must be disciplined and treated with suspicion, but for the most part, they are there to please you in their own dumb way. They're no more enemies than one's preference for foods. In my care for them, I train and reward them, not try to destroy or ignore them. Without them, I have no need to DO better among other people, because I would not be human--that is, some things are... (read more)

I predict a big drop in price soon after vat meat becomes sufficiently popular due to money saved on dealing with useless organs and suffering, as well as a great big leap in profit for any farm that sells "natural cow meat." One is inherently efficient due to it simplfying farming. The other is pretty, however ugly it is for the animals. I do worry about the numbers New Harvest gives, but in the long run, there is hope for this regardless of what the price is initially--the potential for success in feeding humanity cheaply and well is just too great, in my opinion. Seems like I will be pushing "meat in a bucket" whenever possible, and I am not even that into making animals happy.

I was under the impression you wanted to improve things significantly. Hence why I mentioned that issue--and it IS an issue.


That could work! On the other hand, it may set up a situation where a person who is only guilty of being raised in the wrong place may never get a decent job. Wonder what can be done to prevent that as much as possible?

And this differs from the status quo, how?

Hopefully, the positive values are greater in number than the negative ones, if one is not certain which ones are which--and I see quite a few positive values in recent superhero movies.

“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.” --Lord Byron.

All too often those who are least rational in their best moments are the greatest supporters of using one's head, if only to avoid too early a demise. I wonder how many years Lord Byron gained from rational thought, and which of the risks he took did he take because he was good at betting...

“Reality provides us with facts so romantic that imagination itself could add nothing to them.” --Jules Verne.

The fellow had a brilliant grasp of how to make scientific discovery interesting, and I think people could learn a thing or two from reading his stuff, still.

It is not healthy to believe that every curtain hides an Evil Genius (I speak here as a person who lived in the USSR). Given the high failure rate of EVERY human work, I'd say that most secrets in the movie industry have to do with saving bad writing and poor execution with clever marketing and setting up other conflicts people could watch besides the pretty explosions. It's not about selling Imperialism and Decadance to a country that's been accused of both practically since its formation(sorry if you're American and noticed these accusations exist only n... (read more)

You don't need to believe in intent to spread negative values to analyse that spreading negative values is bad.

Very well said! I would say it's a better example than the one listed in the above post...

This is yet another reason why a God that answers prayers is far, far crueler than an indifferent Azathoth. Imagine the weight of guilt that must settle on a person if they prayed for the wrong thing and God answered!

On another note, that girl must not be very picky, if God has to destroy a whole city to keep her a virgin...(please don't blast me for this!)

I am reminded of Asimov's "positronic brain" and how he came up with it. Perhaps the new goal of research in artificial intelligence should be coming up with new magical terms and explaining as little as possible. It could earn enough money and public interest to create an artificial person...

The forms of intelligence I am familiar with (really only one kind, from a materials points of view) are not enough to discuss what is truly necessary for successful AI.

As a person who had to adjust to life in the United States after moving over from Russia... There are three English phrases that a foreigner must know to learn English quickly, so long as they are willing to LOOK stupid (an important art in a world so obsessed with being serious).

  1. "Where's the Bathroom?" Apart from its obvious uses, it is is essential to one's survival to know where one may hide to plot one's next move. Given the creative responses I sometimes received, I suspect it is also useful for learning profanity.
  2. "I don't understand
... (read more)

Why not test its ability to negotiate and trade, as well as to improvise in human behavior? If it can write you a poem for some money, then invest that money in the stock market, and later use the resulting fortune to benefit itself (an upgrade, perhaps?), then you're probably dealing with an intelligent being, no? Bonus points if it studies other methods of succeeding, and is willing to benefit other intelligent beings.

True, but we are the ones creating the AI. I suspect a programmer that only has access to human thinking would leave their mark upon any such machine.

And, since we WANT something that can relate to us, we must test its capacity for human-like behavior.

An AI that can only relate to intelligent fungi from some far-off star would be absolutely useless to us, and would likely find us equally useless. No common ground would mean no need for contact or commerce. At the risk of sounding a lil' Ferengi, I want a machine intelligence I can do business with.

One benefit that I am aware of is in one's thinking. Gods and heroes are at times still targets to aim for. Fresh new ideas spring from the dust of the old. Superstition examined is, with the right teacher, superstition avoided. The teaching of many different points of view helps understand other people's values. Illustrating a difficult problem with a myth or two assisted me in mathematics and in examining how I view right and wrong (my current obsession with diversity could be blamed on the sheer variety of myths I absorbed).

The second benefit, and one may consistently find even in the absence of good teachers and a clear goal is that it simply provides a much-needed break in between lessons useful for work.

Create artistic programs with a "pet" in order to educate and amuse. A friend of mine once jokingly mentioned that the Microsoft Paperclip was his childhood friend. I wonder if a far more interesting character would become popular, and provide greater incentive to buy the art program and then to learn it...

The Vocaloid phenomenon sounds like an instance of this.
One of the alternatives to the paperclip was a cat. If the cat was the default, rather than that annoying paperclip, I think the Office Assistant wouldn't have been so reviled. ;)

I recommend teaching nonsense. A little bit of science fiction, mythology, and an introduction to the world's multifaceted culture (the Internet helps, but not nearly as much as people seem to imagine) may result in more creativity and attention to lessons children in poor countries would find boring. Yes, we want useful people, but a great part of that is creating a free, strong human being, not a clever machine or a rebel.

Lol why mythology?

What will you do now that you can't form a movement of rationalists? Take over world? Become a superhero? Invent the best recipe for cookies? MAINTAIN AND INCREASE DIVERSITY?

For example, I am going to post a recipe for a bacon trilobite and my experiences and thoughts about paperclipping among humans. Any interesting things you be thinkin' of postin'? ^^

What will I do? I don't really know. Luminosity skills seem like an important requisite for answering that question, but while the luminosity sequence was nice, I feel like it didn't go far enough. Maybe that would be something worth postin' about.

I share considerably more of my heritage with Asians than I do with Caucasians. However, I do not have the same coloration.

So, if one is racist-1, how would one treat me? Am I white, for appearing white? Am I Asian, for the overwhelming number of my ancestors' coloration? In other words, what makes race? My genetics, or my skin? If it is my skin, then it would appear race is nothing more than a bit of culture, with no real advantages or disadvantages attached save those given by appearance.

For the record, I consider myself of no race save human, and expect others to see me as a human being.

Racist-1 reporting in. Believing that ethnicity is correlated with desirable or undesirable traits does not in itself warrant any particular kind of behavior. So how would I treat you? Like a person. If I had more evidence about you (your appearance, time spent with you, your interests, your abilities, etc), that would become more refined. Taboo "race". Categories aren't really meaningful in edge cases. You are who you are, and there are many facts entangled with who you are. Does this have any actual meaning? How does it square with the virtue of narrowness (a lot more can be said about this particular semi-Asian LWer called Osiris than can be said about "a human")? How do you exclude race and stuff from what we are allowed to consider, without excluding things like your name and personality?

Exactly. As I said, the best we can hope for is to slowly eliminate religion as we know it today. Not to eliminate religion, period.

Getting rid of religion is a bit like getting rid of the economy or government. Yes, the whole business of ritual (and most other cultural stuff religion claims) can be changed, eliminating religion as we know it today, but simply declaring one day that "religion doesn't exist" will lead to other problems, which may actually be WORSE than some people holding a usually non-harmful belief, or belief-in-belief. Cults, of personality and otherwise, come up as a terrifying option...

Changing religion is a Long Game.

A far more constructive use of one's ... (read more)

Uncomfortable truth warning: Atheists have to concede that religions is widespread because people are in some sense wired up for it. Getting rid of religion, therefore, does not get rid of religious thinking, feeling and behaviour. This can be seen in the prevalence of quaisi-religious rituals, such as going to concerts to worship "rock gods", regarding charismatic politicians as "saviours of the nation", and various other phenomena hiding in plain sight. A further step, and one that is rarely taken, is realising that atheists and ratiinalists aren't immune. People who identify as atheists don't want to concede that they might still have some baggage of religious behaviour because that means they no longer firmly in the Tribe of Good People..but that is itself a religious pattern.

Welcome, fellow new person! You've got some wonderful music. Any particular things that interest you in the "confusing question" genre?

Thanks! As for "confusing questions", some thing I've had long-term interests in are: ethics, consciousness, and trying to wrap my mind around some of the less intuitive concepts in math/physics. Apart from that, it varies quite a bit. Recently, I've become rather interested in personality modeling. The Big-5 model has great empirically tested descriptive power, but is rather lacking in explanatory power (i.e. it can't, afaik, answer questions like "what's going on in person X's mind that causes them to behave in manner Y?" or "how could person X be made more ethical/rational/happy/whatever without fundamentally changing their personality?"). At the same time, the Myers-Briggs model (and, more importantly, the underlying Jungian cognitive function theory) has the potential to more effectively answer such questions, but also has rather limited/sketchy empirical support. So I've been thinking mainly of how M-B might be tweaked so that the theory matches reality better.

Thanks for commenting!

The easy answer is everything. All things that are and can coexist. This is, of course, because I want humanity to survive and thrive as much and as well as possible.

You could say it is an attempt at being a bit more like the dreaded paperclip maximizer, which is a fierce beast indeed, and worth learning from(any reference to kung fu movies is intentional).

Ah! I think I see what you mean. This is a matter of how much one wins, not whether one wins.

As for usefulness. What do you mean?

It's a bit more complicated than that. You have to pay to run the experiment. If you make your decision based on the expected winnings, and pay more than the minimum winnings, then if you get the worst outcome, it's a net loss. Knowledge tends to be instrumentally valuable. Regardless of your goals, knowledge will be helpful to accomplish them. However, not all knowledge is equally helpful. For example, knowing how to make a cold fusion generator will be useful for making paperclips or running experiments or whatever it is you find intrinsically valuable. Knowing that you can't make a cold fusion generator will only be useful for preventing you from wasting time and money trying to make a cold fusion generator.

The problem with lottery tickets is that in buying one, you accept that the chances of winning are slim to none. The expected payoff of any activity which tests if knowledge is true, is true knowledge. I always win that gamble, so long as I play the game (as stated previously in numbers 1 through 4). And it is about fun--what's more fun than educating people, helping people, finding new stuff, or validating someone's claims? Seems like the essence of science to me... Skepticism is useful only when you know something the one making the claim doesn't know, ... (read more)

You get true knowledge either way, but you might only get useful knowledge one way. If you're running the experiment because you want useful knowledge, then it's a gamble. Also, you're not necessarily getting the same amount of knowledge either way. For example, if you're 99% sure before the experiment, you only get 0.014 bits of knowledge if you were right, but you get 6.6 bits if you were wrong. There's a factor of 458 difference.
You have to weigh these considerations against other potentially more useful activities. Like you have to calculate the expected payoff when choosing whether to buy a lottery ticket or to do something else with your money. Ghost-chasing is probably among the worst uses of your time, effort and money, and unless you are doing it for fun (due to the childhood obsession with Scooby Doo, for example) your arguments 1,2,3 and 4 are just rationalizations.

Investment in psychology research won't stop, I think, so if there are any issues with how it is being done, it would be best to resolve them, no? A minimal investment will have to be made, just to avoid people wasting more money in the future.

Hello there, everyone! I am Osiris, and I came here at the request of a friend of mine. I am familiar with Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and spent some time reading through the articles here. Everythin' here is so interesting! I studied to become a Russian Orthodox Priest in the early nineties, and moved to the USA from the Russian Federation at the beginning of the W. Bush Administration. The change of scenery inspired me, and within the first year, I had become an atheist and learned everything I could about biology, physics, and modern ph... (read more)

Diversity of what, exactly?
Hi Osiris, and welcome! If you're looking for awesome things that a poet can offer Less Wrong, there are people looking to create meaningful rationalist holidays with a sense of ritual to them.