All of pragmatist's Comments + Replies

Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People

At least some of the arguments offered by Richard Rorty in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature are great. Understanding the arguments takes time because they are specific criticisms of a long tradition of philosophy. A neophyte might respond to his arguments by saying "Well, the position he's attacking sounds ridiculous anyway, so I don't see why I should care about his criticisms." To really appreciate and understand the argument, the reader needs to have sense of why prior philosophers were driven to these seemingly ridiculous positions in the ... (read more)

Stupid Questions September 2016

Perhaps explicitly thinking of them as systems of equations (or transformations on a vector) would be helpful.

As an example, suppose you are asked to multiply matrices A and B, where A is [1 2, 0 4, -1 2] (the commas represent the end of a row) and B is [2 1 0, 3 1 2]. Start out by taking the rightmost matrix (B in this case) and converting it into a series of equations, one for each row. So since the first row is 2 1 0, the relevant equation will be 2x + 1y + 0z. Assign each of these equations to some other variable. So we now have

X = 2x + y

Y = 3x + y + 2... (read more)

Open Thread May 2 - May 8, 2016

I think Bostrom's argument applies even if they aren't "highly accurate". If they are simulated at all, you can apply his argument.

I don't think that's true. The SSA will have different consequences if the simulated minds are expected to be very different from ours.

If we suppose that simulated minds will have very different observations, experiences and memories from our own, and we consider the hypothesis that the vast majority of minds in our universe will be simulated, then SSA simply disconfirms the hypothesis. If I should reason as if I ... (read more)

Open Thread May 2 - May 8, 2016

I am taking issue with the conclusion that we are living in a simulation even given premise (1) and (2) being true.

(1) and (2) are not premises. The conclusion of his argument is that either (1), (2) or (3) is very likely true. The argument is not supposed to show that we are living in a simulation.

He's saying that (3) doesn't hold if we are not in a simulation, so either (1) or (2) is true. He's not saying that if we're not in a simulation, we somehow are actually in a simulation given this logic.

Right. When I say "his conclusion is still true... (read more)

0woodchopper6yThe negation of (1) and (2) are premises if the conclusion is (3). So when I say they are "true" I mean that, for example, in the first case, that humans WILL reach an advanced level of technological development. Probably a bit confusing, my mistake. I think Bostrom's argument applies even if they aren't "highly accurate". If they are simulated at all, you can apply his argument. I think the core of his argument is that if simulated minds outnumber "real" minds, then it's likely we are all simulated. I'm not really sure how us being "accurately simulated" minds changes things. It does make it easier to reason outside of our little box - if we are highly accurate simulations then we can actually know a lot about the real universe, and in fact studying our little box is pretty much akin to studying the real universe. Let's assume I'm trying to make conclusions about the universe. I could be a brain in a vat, but there's not really anything to be gained in assuming that. Whether it's true or not, I may as well act as if the universe can be understood. Let's say I conclude, from my observations about the universe, that there are many more simulated minds than non-simulated minds. Does it then follow that I am probably a simulated mind? Bostrom says yes. I say no, because my reasoning about the universe that led me to the conclusion that there are more simulated minds than non-simulated ones is predicated on me not being a simulated mind. I would almost say it's impossible to reason your way into believing you're in a simulation. It's self-referential. I'm going to have to think about this harder, but try and criticise what I'm saying as you have been doing because it certainly helps flesh things out in my mind.
Open Thread May 2 - May 8, 2016

First, Bostrom is very explicit that the conclusion of his argument is not "We are probably living in a simulation". The conclusion of his argument is that at least one of the following three claims is very likely to be true -- (1) humans won't reach the post-human stage of technological development, (2) post-human civilizations will not run a significant number of simulations of their ancestral history, or (3) we are living in a simulation.

Second, Bostrom has addressed the objection you raise here (in his Simulation Argument FAQ, among other pla... (read more)

0woodchopper6yI am taking issue with the conclusion that we are living in a simulation even given premise (1) and (2) being true. So I am struggling to understand his reply to my argument. In some ways it simply looks like he's saying either we are in a simulation or we are not, which is obviously true. The claim that we are probably living in a simulation (given a couple of assumptions) relies on observations of the current universe, which either are not reliable if we are in a simulation, or obviously are wrong if we aren't in a simulation. If I conclude that there are more simulated minds than real minds in the universe, I simply do not think that implies that I am probably a simulated mind. He's saying that (3) doesn't hold if we are not in a simulation, so either (1) or (2) is true. He's not saying that if we're not in a simulation, we somehow are actually in a simulation given this logic.
Dissolving Deep Questions: A Decline in Contemporary Controversy

"Why is it that when our cognitive systems engage in visual and auditory information-processing, we have visual or auditory experience: the quality of deep blue, the sensation of middle C? How can we explain why there is something it is like to entertain a mental image, or to experience an emotion? It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all?"

-- David Chalmers

These questions may be a product of conceptual confusion, but they don't seem that way to me. Perhaps I am confused in the same way.

0dxu6yThose questions look prima facie impossible to answer, which in my experience strongly indicates that they are the result of conceptual confusion.
Does Evidence Have To Be Certain?

When you update, you're not simply imagining what you would believe in a world where E was true, you're changing your actual beliefs about this world. The point of updates is to change your behavior in response to evidence. I'm not going to change my behavior in this world simply because I'm imagining what I would believe in a hypothetical world where E is definitely true. I'm going to change my behavior because observation has led me to change the credence I attach to E being true in this world.

0Gyrodiot6yThere's a labeling problem here. E is an event. The extra information you're updating on, the evidence, the thing that you are certain of, is not "E is true". It's "E has probability p". You can't actually update until you know the probability of E. What the joint probability give you is by how much you have to update your credence in H, given E. Without P(E), you can't actually update. P(H|E) tells you "OK, if E is certain, my new probability for H is P(H|E)". P(H|~E) tells you "OK, if E is impossible, my new probability for H is P(H|~E)". In the case of P(E) = 0.5, I will update by taking the mean of both. Updating, proper updating, will only happen when you are certain of the probability of E (this is different form "being certain of E"), and the formulas will tell you by how much. Your joint probabilities are information themselves: they tell you how E relates to H. But you can't update on H until you know evidence about E.
Does Evidence Have To Be Certain?

Updating by Bayesian conditionalization does assume that you are treating E as if its probability is now 1. If you want an update rule that is consistent with maintaining uncertainty about E, one proposal is Jeffrey conditionalization. If P1 is your initial (pre-evidential) distribution, and P2 is the updated distribution, then Jeffrey conditionalization says:

P2(H) = P1(H | E) P2(E) + P1(H | ~E) P2(~E).

Obviously, this reduces to Bayesian conditionalization when P2(E) = 1.

0Ronny6yYeah, the problem i have with that though is that I'm left asking: why did I change my probability in that? Is it because i updated on something else? Was I certain of that something else? If not, then why did I change my probability of that something else, and on we go down the rabbit hole of an infinite regress.
Should we admit it when a person/group is "better" than another person/group?

Credit and accountability seem like good things to me, and so I want to live in a world where people/groups receive credit for good qualities, and are held accountable for bad qualities.

If this is your concern, then you should take into account what sorts of groups are appropriate loci for credit and accountability. This will, of course, depend on what you think is the point of credit/accountability.

If you believe, as I do, that the function of credit and accountability is to influence future behavior, then it seems that the appropriate loci of credit/a... (read more)

Religious and Rational?

It seems to me that your objection here is driven mainly by a general dislike of Gleb's contributions (and perhaps his presence on LW), rather than a sincere conviction about the importance of your point. I mean, this is a ridiculous nitpick, and the hostility of your call-out is completely disproportionate to the severity of Gleb's supposed infraction.

While Gleb's aside might be a "lie" by some technical definition, it certainly doesn't match the usual connotations of the term. I see virtually zero harm in the kind of "lie" you're focusing on here, so I'm not sure about the value of your piece of advice, other than signalling your aversion towards Gleb.

0Lumifer6yNo, I do not believe so. And I do not agree with this either.
0entirelyuseless6yI disagree that there is zero harm in statements like the one in question. "Small lies said for no good reason", when they are noticed, cause suspicion about a person's motives. And if a number of LWers are already suspicious of Gleb's motives in general, such behavior is bound to worsen their suspicions.
The mystery of Brahms

I absolutely agree that Kant's system as represented in the Groundwork is unworkable. But you could say the same about pretty much any pre-20th-century philosopher's major work. I think the fact that someone was even trying to think about ethics along essentially game-theoretic lines in the 18th century is pretty revolutionary and worthy of respect, even if he did get important things wrong. As far as I'm aware, no one else was even in the ballpark.

ETA: I do think a lot of philosophers scoff (correctly) at Kant's object-level moral views, not only because ... (read more)

Deliberate Grad School

Isn't that motte/bailey

Not sure it's motte-and-bailey. I do think there are several serious pathologies in large swathes of contemporary philosophy. And I say this not as a dilettante, but a professional philosopher. There are areas of philosophy where these pathological tendencies are being successfully held at bay, and I do think there are promising signs that those areas are growing in influence. But much of mainstream philosophy, especially mainstream metaphysics and epistemology, does suffer from continued adherence to what I consider archaic and u... (read more)

4[anonymous]6yWould you mind explaining your perspective? I'm always interested to hear more angles on this, since with my current sample-size being roughly three (Dennett, Railton, Churchland), I tend to think I have an incomplete picture.
0IlyaShpitser6yEveryone on LW should consider Francis Bacon their patron saint, imo :).
0PhilGoetz6yThat seems to be entirely analytic philosophy. My problem is that analytical philosophy is culturally irrelevant. Anthropologists, sociologists, art theorists, and artists talk about continental philosophy, Saussurian (!) linguistics, and psychoanalytic theory. The only things they use from analytic philosophy are arguments like Godel's incompleteness theorem, Wittgenstein's later stuff, or Quine's ontological relativism, that they interpret as saying that analytic philosophy doesn't work.
Deliberate Grad School

I think Luke will agree with you on what you say here, though. I remember commenting on one of his posts that was critical of philosophy, saying that his arguments didn't really apply to the area of philosophy I'm involved in (technical philosophy of science). Luke's response was essentially, "I agree. I'm not talking about philosophy of science." I think he'd probably say the same about philosophical work on decision theory and causal inference.

0TheAncientGeek6yHe could have saved himself some trouble by writing "Philosophy: a Partly Diseased Disciplien" or "Philosophy: a Bit of a Curate's Egg".
4IlyaShpitser6yIsn't that motte/bailey: "philosophy, a diseased discipline" is not a very discriminating title. The best line of his post is this: And this is definitely ok! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- But again, I am not super interested in arguing with people about whether philosophy is worthwhile. I have better things to do. I was only pointing out in response to the OP that I have been harping on LW's silly anti-academic sentiment for ages, that's all.
The mystery of Brahms

I don't know of many analytic philosophers who scoff at his ethics, although there are certainly many who disagree with it. There are also many analytic philosophers who consider his ethics to be a significant advance in moral reasoning. As an example, Derek Parfit, in his recent book, constructs an ethical system that tries to reconcile the attractions of both consequentialism and Kantian deontological ethics.

Kant's discussion of the categorical imperative, especially the first formulation of the imperative (act according to the maxim that you would will ... (read more)

2Creutzer6yIn my experience, many people hold that when trying to derive the KI in the groundwork, he just managed to confuse himself, and that the examples of its application as motivated reasoning of a rigid Prussian scholar with an empathy deficit. The crucial failure is not that it is nonsensical to think about such abstract equilibria - it is very much not, as TDT shows. But in TDT terms, Kant's mistake was this: He thought he could compel you to pretend that everybody else in the world was running TDT. But there is nothing that compels you to assume that, and so you can't pull a substantial binding ethics out of thin air (or pure rationality), as Kant absurdly believed he could.
The mystery of Brahms

Kant is talking about good and evil, delight, happiness, character, honor, etc., etc, while Russell is talking about looking at triangles. Which one are people going to want to read?

Except Kant also talked quite a bit about triangles and Russell also talked quite a bit about good and evil. And Kant discussed perceptual epistemology a whole lot more than Russell did. The Critique of Pure Reason, Kant's most significant work, is about epistemology, not ethics.

Also, while much of twentieth-century continental philosophy does build on Kant (although a lot o... (read more)

2Creutzer6yIndeed. Kant is a poor example for offensive continental philosophy because while he was a very bad writer, but you can reconstruct sensible ideas he was trying to express, at least when it's not about ethics. The really offensive philosophy is the one where the obscurity of the writing is not accidental in this way, but essential, and where the whole thing falls apart once you try to remove it. Analytical philosophers also do not routinely scoff at Kant except for 1) his lack of skill as a writer and 2) his ethics.
Subjective vs. normative offensiveness

Relativists have no non-subjective notion of "normativity", thus the subjective/normative distinction makes no sense to them.

This is not true of all relativists. There are relativists who believe in entirely objective agent-relative moral facts. In other words, they would say something like, "It is an objective moral truth that X is wrong for members of community Y". The normative force of "X is wrong" would apply even to members of community Y who don't believe that X is wrong (hence the objectivity), but it wouldn't apply to people outside community Y (hence the relativism).

0casebash6yExactly what I going to say. Thanks. Maybe a word other than normative would satisfy those relativists who don't believe in any kind of normative morality, but still believe that morality within a society is the closest thing we can have. Although, this appears to be more a terminology issue than anything else.
Stupid Questions September 2015

Yeah, but what does Genghis Khan's dad say? He is, remarkably, suspected of being a direct ancestor of even more living Asians than Genghis!

5Lumifer6yHe says not to eat food offered by Tatars.
Robert Aumann on Judaism

Mordecai Kaplan would be unhappy to hear that commitment to ritual and tradition requires belief

I think the issue is not whether commitment to ritual -- as in, a commitment to go through the motions -- requires belief, it's whether experiencing ritual as beautiful requires belief. I think it's plausible that immersing oneself in the context of the ritual, including the requisite belief set, makes it far more meaningful and awe-inspiring. Merely aesthetic appreciation of ritual may not inspire the same depth of feeling as you would experience if every mo... (read more)

0entirelyuseless6yYes, participating in a ritual without believing in it tends to make it feel less beautiful.
[LINK] The Bayesian Second Law of Thermodynamics

Boltzmann's original combinatorial argument already presumed a discretization of phase space, derived from a discretization of single-molecule phase space, so we don't need to incorporate quantum considerations to "fix" it. The combinatorics relies on dividing single-particle state space into tiny discrete boxes, then looking at the number of different ways in which particles could be distributed among those boxes, and observing that there are more ways for the particles to be spread out evenly among the boxes than for them to be clustered. Witho... (read more)

Fragile Universe Hypothesis and the Continual Anthropic Principle - How crazy am I?

How is this:

What we may think are fundamental laws of our universe, are merely descriptions of the nature of possible futures consistent with our continued existence.

compatible with this:

Everett Many Worlds is either correct or at least on the right track

Is quantum mechanics an exception to the claim that our conception of the fundamental laws is based on an observation selection effect? Why would it be one?

0PeterCoin6yQuantum mechanics is definitely not immune, that's where we should see the manifestation of the bias I'm proposing. When I refer to Everett many words I'm referring specifically to the property of it where an observer "branches" into multiple successor observers (which I extend to include branches where there are no successor observers). But which laws would be affected and which would not, I'm not at all certain. It could be some, or all (or, of course, none, if I'm wrong). My proposal is to use this sort of reasoning to develop "deeper" fundamental laws.
[LINK] The Bayesian Second Law of Thermodynamics

I think you're ignoring the difference between the Boltzmann and Gibbs entropy, both here and in your original comment. This is going to be long, so I apologize in advance.

Gibbs entropy is a property of ensembles, so it doesn't change when there is a spontaneous fluctuation towards order of the type you describe. As long as the gross constraints on the system remain the same, the ensemble remains the same, so the Gibbs entropy doesn't change. And it is the Gibbs entropy that is most straightforwardly associated with the Shannon entropy. If you interpret th... (read more)

4passive_fist6yThis is going to be a somewhat technical reply, but here goes anyway. You cannot calculate the Shannon entropy of a continuous distribution so this doesn't make sense. However I see what you're getting at here - if we assume that all parts of the phase space have equal probability of being visited, then the 'size' of the phase space can be taken as proportional to the 'number' of microstates (this is studied under ergodic theory). But to make this argument work for actual physical systems where we want to calculate real quantities from theoretical considerations, the phase space must be 'discretized' in some way. A very simple way of doing this is the Sackur-Tetrode formulation which discretizes a continuous space based on the Heisenberg uncertainty principle ('discretize' is the best word I can come up with here -- what I mean is not listing the microstates but instead giving the volume of the phase space in terms of some definite elementary volume). But there's a catch here. To be able to use the HUP, you have to formulate the phase space in terms of complementary parameters. For instance, momentum+position, or time+energy. My previous point illustrates why this naive view is not physical - you can't discretize any kind of system. With some systems - like a box full of particles that can have arbitrary position and momentum - you get infinite (non-physical) values for entropy. It's easy to see why you can now get a fluctuation in entropy - infinity 'minus' some number is still infinity! I tried re-wording this argument several times but I'm still not satisfied with my attempt at explaining it. Nevertheless, this is how it is. Looking at entropy based on models of collective properties of particles may be interesting theoretically but it may not always be a physically realistic way of calculating the entropy of the system. If you go through something like the Sackur-Tetrode way, though, you see that Boltzmann entropy is the same thing as Shannon entropy.
Rationality Quotes Thread June 2015

Yeah, I think the initial exclusivity of Facebook really helped. I went to a school near Harvard at the time Facebook launched, and we were all vaguely aware of the site when it first launched as a Harvard-only site. It then expanded to include our school and a few others -- maybe ten or so, all quite prestigious -- and there was widespread adoption almost instantaneously on our campus. I think the sense of being invited to join an exclusive club had a lot to do with that. I don't know if Zuckerberg intended it, but playing on the elitism of college studen... (read more)

Open Thread, Jul. 27 - Aug 02, 2015

From a decision-theory perspective, I should essentially just ignore the possibility that I'm in the first 100 rooms - right?

Well, what do you mean by "essentially ignore"? If you're asking if I should assign substantial credence to the possibility, then yeah, I'd agree. If you're asking whether I should assign literally zero credence to the possibility, so that there are no possible odds -- no matter how ridiculously skewed -- I would accept to bet that I am in one of those rooms... well, now I'm no longer sure. I don't exactly know how to go... (read more)

0redding6yWhat I mean by "essentially ignore" is that if you are (for instance) offered the following bet you would probably accept: "If you are in the first 100 rooms, I kill you. Otherwise, I give you a penny." I see your point regarding the fact that updating using Bayes' theorem implies your prior wasn't 0 to begin with. I guess my question is now whether there are any extended versions of probability theory. For instance, Kolmogorov probability reverts to Aristotelian logic for the extremes P=1 and P=0. Is there a system of though that revers to probability theory for finite worlds but is able to handle infinite worlds without privileging certain (small) numbers? I will admit that I'm not even sure saying that guessing "not a multiple of 10" follows the art of winning, as you can't sample from an infinite set of rooms either in traditional probability/statistics without some kind of sampling function that biases certain numbers. At best we can say that whatever finite integer N you choose as N goes to infinity the best strategy is to pick "multiple of 10". By induction we can prove that guessing "not a multiple of 10" is true for any finite number of rooms but alas infinity remains beyond this.
Open Thread, Jul. 27 - Aug 02, 2015

When I say the probability distribution doesn't exist, I'm not talking about the possibility of the world you described. I'm talking about the coherence of the belief state you described. When you say "The probability of you being in the first 100 rooms is 0", it's a claim about a belief state, not about the mind-independent world. The world just has a bunch of rooms with people in them. A probability distribution isn't an additional piece of ontological furniture.

If you buy the Cox/Jaynes argument that your beliefs must adhere to the probabilit... (read more)

0redding6yFrom a decision-theory perspective, I should essentially just ignore the possibility that I'm in the first 100 rooms - right? Similarly, if I'm born in a universe with infinite such rooms and someone tells me to guess whether my room is a multiple of 10 or not. If I guess correctly, I get a dollar; otherwise I lose a dollar. Theoretically there are as many multiples of 10 as not (both being equinumerous to the integers), but if we define rationality as the "art of winning", then shouldn't I guess "not in a multiple of 10"? I admit that my intuition may be broken here - maybe it just truly doesn't matter which you guess - after all its not like we can sample a bunch of people born into this world without some sampling function. However, doesn't the question still remain: what would a rational being do?
Open Thread, Jul. 27 - Aug 02, 2015

There is no such thing as a uniform probability distribution over a countably infinite event space (see Toggle's comment). The distribution you're assuming in your example doesn't exist.

Maybe a better example for your purposes would be picking a random real number between 0 and 1 (this does correspond to a possible distribution, assuming the axiom of choice is true). The probability of the number being rational is 0, the probability of it being greater than 2 is also 0, yet the latter seems "more impossible" than the former.

Of course, this assume... (read more)

4Sarunas6yGiven uncountable sample space [], P(A)=0 does not necessarily imply that A is impossible. A is impossible iff the intersection of A and sample space is empty. Intuitively speaking, one could say that P(A)=0 means that A resembles "a miracle" in a sense that if we perform n independent experiments, we still cannot increase the probability that A will happen at least once even if we increase n. Whereas if P(B)>0, then by increasing number of independent experiments n we can make probability of B happening at least once approach 1.
0redding6yI (now) understand the problem with using a uniform probability distribution over a countably infinite event space. However, I'm kind of confused when you say that the example doesn't exist. Surely, its not logically impossible for such an infinite universe to exist. Do you mean that probability theory isn't expressive enough to describe it?
Philosophy professors fail on basic philosophy problems

Do you think that this is what utilitarianism is, or ought to be?

Utilitarianism does offer the possibility of a precise, algorithmic approach to morality, but we don't have anything close to that as of now. People disagree about what "utility" is, how it should be measured, and how it should be aggregated. And of course, even if they did agree, actually performing the calculation in most realistic cases would require powers of prediction and computation well beyond our abilities.

The reason I used the phrase "artificially created", th... (read more)

Philosophy professors fail on basic philosophy problems

Realize what's occurring here, though. It's not that individual philosophers are being asked the question both ways and are answering differently in each case. That would be an egregious error that one would hope philosophical training would allay. What's actually happening is that when philosophers are presented with the "save" formulation (but not the "die" formulation) they react differently than when they are presented with the "die" formulation (but not the "save" formulation). This is an error, but also an extr... (read more)

0shminux6yThanks, that makes sense. Do you think that this is what utilitarianism is, or ought to be? So, do you think that, absent a formal algorithm, when presented with a "save" formulation, a (properly trained) philosopher should immediately detect the framing effect, recast the problem in the "die" formulation (or some alternative framing-free formulation), all before even attempting to solve the problem, to avoid anchoring and other biases? If so, has this approach been advocated by a moral philosopher you know of?
Philosophy professors fail on basic philosophy problems

This assumption comes from expecting an expert to know the basics of their field.

I wouldn't characterize the failure in this case as reflecting a lack of knowledge. What you have here is evidence that philosophers are just as prone to bias as non-philosophers at a similar educational level, even when the tests for bias involve examples they're familiar with. In what sense is this a failure to "know the basics of their field"?

A trained physicist's intuition is rather different from "human intuition" on physics problems, so that's un

... (read more)
On the Galactic Zoo hypothesis

I thought the defining feature of being a p-zombie was acting as if they had consciousness while not "actually" having it

It's more than just a matter of behavior. P-zombies are supposed to be physically indistinguishable from human beings in every respect while still lacking consciousness.

Open Thread, Apr. 27 - May 3, 2015

I teach about 8000 miles away from upstate New York, I'm afraid.

Open Thread, Apr. 27 - May 3, 2015

It really depends on what topic you're interested in. Papers tend to be pretty focused on one question, so if you're looking for an overview of a subject, books are the way to go. If you're interested in learning more about some specific problem, I'd be happy to recommend accessible papers if I can think of any.

Open Thread, Apr. 27 - May 3, 2015

"Excessive" was probably a poorly chosen word. I meant that the books I listed are the ones that provide the deepest insight into the theories (out of all the books I have seen) within the constraints specified by iarwain (presuming nothing more than high school mathematics). Some of the books teach some slightly more advanced math along the way, because yeah, it's hard to really comprehend much of GR without at least a basic conception of differential geometry, or understand QM without some idea of linear algebra, but none of the books inundates you with math like The Road to Reality does.

Open Thread, Apr. 27 - May 3, 2015

I'm assuming you already have some absolutely basic knowledge of the major physical theories, at the level of Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos (which was recommended in another comment). The books I'll recommend take you deeper into the theories (emphasizing philosophical implications) without excessive mathematics. If you don't have knowledge at this level, read Greene's book first. Some of the books I'm suggesting aren't entirely up to date, but none of them are obsolete. I'm not aware of any more recent books that cover the same material with the... (read more)

1Ixiel7yI was questioning whether to keep reading lesswrong; thanks to the questioner and the answerer for reminding me why I should. Books are cheap so I'm buying them all, even if not for all immediate reads. Don't suppose you teach near upstate New York?
0iarwain17yThanks! What are the recent papers that you suggest?
3RichardKennaway7yHow much mathematics is excessive for this? Physics is made of mathematics.
Open Thread, Apr. 27 - May 3, 2015

That's correct, but it is difficult enough to effectively not be self-contained, I think. Being able to apprehend the concepts at the pace and brevity at which Penrose introduces them would require significant prior training in thinking mathematically, or a quite unusually agile mind.

What are "the really good ideas" that Peter Thiel says are too dangerous to mention?

What exactly is that 70% supposed to quantify? Is the claim that, if I wake up tomorrow and no longer find my girlfriend physically attractive, I'll only be 30% as in love with her as I am now? Or is the claim that in 70% of heterosexual romantic relationships, if the male no longer finds the female attractive, he will no longer be in love with her?

Also, why do you consider this a "really good idea"?

2Liron7yThe former, except for the average male instead of you personally. The type of this idea is "belief about the world", and it's good because it pays high rent in anticipated experience [] , like answering "yes" to your first question.
Why I Reject the Correspondence Theory of Truth

Judgements of existence are model-relative. I believe electrons exist because I have an excellent (highly useful) model that involves ontological commitment to electrons. Same for other minds. Same for my own mind, for that matter.

I don't first determine what exists and only then build models of those things. My models tell me what exists.

9Rob Bensinger7yMy comment was in response to: You made the point that there is no pure, unmediated access to mind-independent reality; and you think this is an important insight that calls for some sort of reform to naive views of truth. That may be true relative to very naive views, of the sort that correspondence theorists also reject; in which case correspondence theory and the-view-that-we-lack-unmediated-access-to-mind-independent-reality can both win. But who are the flesh-and-blood correspondence theorists who think that their theory gives us a practical way to directly compare Ultimate Reality to our models, as opposed to just giving us a pragmatically useful desideratum? Who are the correspondence theorists who deny "I don't first determine what exists and only then build models of those things. My models tell me what exists."? Skepticism about the existence of Ultimate Model-Independent Reality is analogous to skepticism about the existence of Other Minds; and thinking that 'truth' is a dubious concept if it relates Ultimate Model-Independent Reality to a model, is analogous to thinking that relationships between my mind and Other Minds are dubious. ... Which makes sense, since minds are just a special case of Ultimate Model-Independent Reality, albeit at a much higher level of complexity than a quark. Anger and models-of-anger are two different things; if they weren't, then there would likewise be no distinction between models-of-anger and models-of-models-of-anger. Truth is just a resemblance relationship between (assertion-like) mental maps and stuff. This includes maps of maps in my head, maps of maps outside my head, maps of non-maps outside my head, and maps of non-maps inside my head. It works like other resemblance relationships, like 'being the same color as' or 'occurring on the same continent as'. Some concepts are hard or impossible to verify (e.g., 'existing exactly 100,000 years apart in time'), but there's no deep philosophical puzzle about the meaning
Request for Steelman: Non-correspondence concepts of truth

I reject the correspondence theory of truth (at least what philosopher's call the "correspondence theory", which I think has certain important differences from the view Eliezer subscribes to).

I started out writing a description of my views in a comment, but it ended up being way too long, so I made it a separate post. Here it is.

How Islamic terrorists reduced terrorism in the US

I use Firefox, and the graphs aren't blurry at all.

What are the thoughts of Less Wrong on property dualism?

The prevailing point of view among non-religious scientists (as well as here) is that mental processes (the mind) are reducible to the physical processes in the brain. This part is rather uncontroversial, even Searle agrees with it. Out of the alternatives described on Wikipedia Emergent Materialism is probably the closest to the mainstream thought here:

Emergent materialism explicitly denies that mental properties are reducible to physical processes, so I don't think it's closest to mainstream thought here. Emergence is often used in philosophy as an al... (read more)

0shminux7yI trust your expertise in the matter, at least as far as classifying various approaches to philosophy of mind. As I said I was going by the two-line description on Wikipedia. I was hesitant to use the term functionalism because it relies on ill-defined "functional roles".
The buildup to Jaynes?

Recipes without real justification.

This sounds more like a pedagogical issue than an inherent problem with classical statistics. I agree that Bayesianism is philosophically "cleaner", but classical statistics isn't just a hodge-podge of unjustified tools. If you're interested in a sophisticated justification of classical methods, this is a good place to start. I'm pretty sure you'll be unconvinced, but it should at least give you some idea of where frequentists are coming from.

The buildup to Jaynes?

To get a more introductory -- but still quite thorough, and more modern -- Bayesian perspective, I recommend John Kruschke's Doing Bayesian Data Analysis. Ignore the silly cover. The book is engagingly written and informative. As a side benefit, it will also teach you R, a very useful language for statistical computing. Definitely worth learning if you are at all interested in data analysis.

Also, you should learn some classical statistics before getting into Bayesian statistics. Jaynes won't really help with that. Kruschke will help a little, but not much.... (read more)

2buybuydandavis7yI'm of two minds about that. I did classical first, and found it painful. It was just wrong. Recipes without real justification. Jaynes was such a relief after that. He just made sense, step after step. So I would have wished to have started with Jaynes. But maybe it's good to learn the horrible way first, so that you really appreciate the right way? Nah, that seems rather demented. Learn the right way first. Learn Jaynes. He covers the basic classical statistical methods anyway, and in a better fashion than classical statistics classes do. He just makes more sense.
2Pablo7yFor an introductory course on statistics (which uses the OpenIntro Statistics textbook), I strongly recommend Coursera's Data Analysis and Statistical Inference []. Before I found this course, I tried Coursera's Statistics One [] and Udacity's Intro to Statistics [], neither of which I recommend.
1g_pepper7yI agree with the Kruschke recommendation. I bought a copy of Doing Bayesian Data Analysis a couple of weeks ago and am working my way through it now. It is quite good. You'll need an understanding of undergraduate-level calculus and some background in basic probability to understand it, I think.
Open thread, Dec. 22 - Dec. 28, 2014

I suspect this describes the wife's cryopreservation:

I doubt it. The subject of that document was 46 when she died. Chay's wife was 52, according to news reports.

I suspect the O Administration won't make a big deal out of it because Chay's case involves a relatively small amount of money as financial malfeasance goes, and it lacks a racial angle to exploit.

I'm not as opposed to political discussion on this site as many are, but I do think the original point of EY's "Politics is the Mindkiller" post is worth keeping in mind. Inserting this ... (read more)

I'm not as opposed to political discussion on this site as many are, but I do think the original point of EY's "Politics is the Mindkiller" post is worth keeping in mind. Inserting this kind of mind-killing aside in an otherwise non-political comment is needlessly inflammatory and distracting. I don't want to see this sort of thing on LW.

Having seen many of his recent posts I believe he's doing it on purpose.

PSA: Eugine_Nier evading ban?

Fair enough. Just wanted to let you know that although my comment might have sounded judgmental it genuinely wasn't intended that way. From my perspective, all three reasons for inaction I listed are perfectly legitimate and not deserving of criticism. I'm still not sure whether any concrete action is necessary, although at this point I am virtually certain that it is a Eugine sock puppet.

I should have asked for help sooner. I should have updated sooner that the help will be necessary.

At this moment, I already have a few volunteers, and... uhm, I guess I will publicly ask for help again if the situation is not solved until 1.1.2015.

PSA: Eugine_Nier evading ban?

I already contacted Viliam_Bur with this suspicion a few months ago, and I doubt I'm the first. I'm assuming Viliam either doesn't feel he has sufficient evidence to act, doesn't feel that any action is warranted, or is too busy to follow up on this at the moment.

Yvain's comment below is a new piece of (fairly conclusive) evidence. Maybe that will impact the situation if Viliam felt he had insufficient evidence previously, so it might be worth drawing his attention to this thread.

One of the problems with moderation is that cooperation with LW admins is very slow. As in: extremely slow. Which means: even more slow than you imagine after reading this. Certainly much slower than I imagined when volunteering for this role.

Using my own moderator powers, all I have is a "Ban user" button which can ban a user. (And a corresponding "Unban user" button.) That is the whole moderator user interface as far as I know. If I am wrong, please educate me.

So, my options as this moment are: (a) ban Azathoth123 because I feel suffi... (read more)

Neo-reactionaries, why are you neo-reactionary?

In the unlikely event that the net positive votes (at that time) given to Azathoth123 reflect the actual attitudes of the lesswrong community the 'public' should be made aware so they can choose whether to continue to associate with the site.

Yes, but wouldn't this be more effective if you first confirmed/disconfirmed your hypothesis about the votes through a mod? In the absence of that information, how is a member of the public to know how to act? My objection was more about the speculative nature of the comment rather than the fact that you're "sp... (read more)

Neo-reactionaries, why are you neo-reactionary?

I don't see what argument you can possible make for why say transsexuality shouldn't be considered a psychiatric disorder but being an "other kin" should.

How about the fact that everything we know about ontogeny suggests that gender of a child of human parents should be more fluid than its species, since the determination and development of gender-typical physiology in utero is complex and multivocal? There are ontogenetic factors (insufficient uptake of testosterone, for instance) that might lead to a child with male-typical sexual organs but... (read more)

0Azathoth1237yWhy would this effect the neurological and only the neurological features? On the other hand the example of other-kin shows that it's possible for a human brain to identify as something it isn't.
Neo-reactionaries, why are you neo-reactionary?

I assign a very high probability (>90%) to Azathoth123 being Eugine_Nier. Given the latter's history, I wouldn't be surprised if Azathoth were involved in voting shenanigans. But I think it would be better if you take this to a mod (Viliam_Bur, I believe) for confirmation/action, rather than speculating in public.

ETA: Just realized that this comment is doing exactly what it was advising against. Slightly embarrassed that I didn't notice while I was writing it.

-1wedrifid7yI consider social policy proposal harmful and reject it as applied to myself or others. You may of course continue to refrain from speaking out against this kind of behaviour if you wish. In the unlikely event that the net positive votes (at that time) given to Azathoth123 reflect the actual attitudes of the lesswrong community the 'public' should be made aware so they can choose whether to continue to associate with the site. At least one prominent user has recently disaffiliated himself (and deleted his account) for a far less harmful social political concern. On the other hand other people who embrace alternate lifestyles may be relieved to see that Azathoth's prejudiced rabble rousing is unambiguously rejected here.
Open thread, Nov. 10 - Nov. 16, 2014

Jaynes was aware of MWI. Jaynes and Everett corresponded with one another, and Jaynes read a short version of Everett's Ph.D. dissertation (in which MWI was first proposed and defended) and wrote a letter commenting on it. You can read the letter here. He seems to have been very impressed by the theory, describing it as "the logical completion of quantum mechanics, in exactly the same sense that relativity was the logical completion of classical theory". Not entirely sure what he meant by that.

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