All of Quaerendo's Comments + Replies

Does Thinking Hard Hurt Your Brain?

For me, contemplating Zen koans for too long can make my brain "hurt".

Does a dog have Buddha-nature or not? Show me your original face before your mother and father were born. If you meet the Buddha, kill him. Look at the flower and the flower also looks.

I find it interesting because, unlike coding a program or solving a math equation or playing chess, it doesn't seem like koans have a well-defined problem/goal structure or a clear set of rules and axioms. Some folks might even call them nonsensical. So I'm not sure to what extent the n... (read more)

2Elo4yThey have a well defined structure, they are less exciting once you know it. []
Is Rhetoric Worth Learning?

For what it's worth, I have three years' experience with university-level competitive debating, specifically with the debate format known as British Parliamentary (which is the style used by the World Universities Debating Championship or WUDC). Since many people are unfamiliar with it, I'll briefly explain the rules: one BP debate comprises four teams of two members each. All four teams are ranked against each other, but two of them must argue for the affirmative ("government") side of the issue and the other two for the negative ... (read more)

3Chris_Leong4yI've debated as well and I'll add the following disadvantages: * Sometimes debates enter what is roughly called "debater-world" where the arguments are ones that tend to get accepted within the debating community, but wouldn't actually get accepted in real-life * Persuasion in the real world is much more about understanding your opponents psychology than trying to argue them into believing you I think there's a few concepts in debating that people here might find useful: * Claim-Truth-Importance-Comparativity: First make a claim, then explain why it is true, then explain why it is important, lastly explain why it is more important than what your opponent is saying. It's very easy to leave steps out if you haven't had a lot of experience in debating * Painting a picture of two world: In particular, for comparativity in policy debates, you want to paint a picture of the world where your opponent's policy is accepted and a picture of the world where your policy is accepted to make it as clear as possible why your world is better * Structure: This is one area that I was never good at, but generally you want to start off strong with something your opponent has not addressed at all, outline your speech so that people know what's coming (generally with three main arguments), then finish strong by reiterating what you proved
On Defense Mechanisms
In that case in what sense does he dislike his professor. From your example, him disliking his professor seems at be a free-floating XML tag.

I suppose it can be explained by the liking/wanting vs. approving distinction (you can have a feeling that you disapprove of) or Alicorn's idea of repudiating one's negative characteristics. And then the cognitive dissonance created by you giving an apple to someone you dislike may be resolved by shifting your attitude of the person in a positive direction -- so in this sense, Undoing is a strategy to reduce... (read more)

On Defense Mechanisms

Vernor doesn't give the professor an apple because he dislikes the professor per se, but because he feels guilty about his dislike for the professor, which he tries to "fix" by giving a gift -- this works exactly because giving a gift usually indicates liking someone (putting aside other motives, such as ingratiation).

A different example of the "Undoing" defense mechanism would be an abusive alcoholic father who buys his kids lots of Christmas presents (see the sources here and here).

In psychoanalytic theory, these various phenome... (read more)

Rationality: Abridged

Thanks for pointing it out. I've fixed it and updated the link.

Rationality: Abridged

Thanks, I'm glad you found it useful!

The reason I didn't link to LW 2.0 is because it's still officially in beta, and I assumed that the URL ( eventually change back to (but perhaps I'm mistaken about this; I'm not entirely sure what the plan is). Besides, the old LW site links to LW 2.0 on the frontpage.

The Principled Intelligence Hypothesis

I'm wildly speculating here, but perhaps enforcing norms is a costly signal to others that you are a trustworthy person, meaning that in the long-term you gain more resources than others who don't behave similarly.

1Chris_Leong4yYeah, but only if they also understand the norms you are enforcing.
What are the Best Hammers in the Rationalist Community?

I cannot say much about CFAR techniques, but I'd nominate the following as candidates for LW "hammers":

... (read more)
Rationality: Abridged

Thanks a lot for doing this!

2AABoyles4yMy pleasure!
Rationality: Abridged

Thanks for the feedback.

Here's the quote from the original article:

I said, "So if I make an Artificial Intelligence that, without being deliberately preprogrammed with any sort of script, starts talking about an emotional life that sounds like ours, that means your religion is wrong."
He said, "Well, um, I guess we may have to agree to disagree on this."
I said: "No, we can't, actually. There's a theorem of rationality called Aumann's Agreement Theorem which shows that no two rationalists can agree to disagree. If
... (read more)
5query4yYeah; it's not open/shut. I guess I'd say in the current phrasing, the "but Aumann’s Agreement Theorem shows that if two people disagree, at least one is doing something wrong." is suggesting implications but not actually saying anything interesting -- at least one of them is doing something wrong by this standard whether or not they agree. I think adding some more context to make people less suspicious they're getting Eulered ( would be good. I think this flaw is basically in the original article as well, though, so it's also a struggle between accurately representing the source and adding editorial correction. Nitpicks aside, want to say again that this is really great; thank you!
Rationality: Abridged

Thanks for the kind words :) I agree with what you're saying about the 'wall-of-text-iness', especially on the web version; so I'm going to add some white space.

Why everything might have taken so long

Seeing this list made me think: If these factors contributed to past humans taking so long to invent things, perhaps we could try to influence them in our current era in order to accelerate progress.

Some of them are already changing, for example population growth or the trend in decreasing absolute poverty. However, there seems to be an opportunity to direct more deliberate effort into making headway in the following areas:

  • Concepts: different human languages are known to have words that are hard to translate into other languages; studies have found that pe
... (read more)
2ChristianKl4yI don't think that nerd culture automatically leads to more openness for innovation. It leads to openness for certain innovations but less openess for innovations made by people who aren't seen as nerds. This goes especially for innovations that aren't supported by academic research. One way to increase the value of many inventions would be Prediction-based Medicine [] if there would be a market in prediction based medicine it would make many inventions profitable that currently aren't.
Mapping Another's Universe

This technique of "place yourself in the other's shoes and visualize their 'universe' from inside" might be useful not only for avoiding cases of the typical mind fallacy or false consensus effect (whereby you assume your epistemic and behavioral patterns are "normal"), but also the correspondence bias (whereby you attribute others' actions to their innate character traits and your own to your particular situation). What these cases have in common is that they are often self-serving: you get to fit in socially, plus ... (read more)

0DragonGod4yWe can only do this empathic inference because of the underlying neurological architecture we share. It is not always possible for arbitrary people to empathically infer the behaviour of another arbitrary person. This is why not everyone can pass the Turing test. For people that fit in to different neurological profiles (e.g. apathetic people and uber empathic people, the inferential distance may be too much). Not everyone can put themselves in a sociopath's shoes for example.
The Five Hindrances to Doing the Thing

I agree with magfrump on using citations, and I'm also interested in seeing how different anti-akrasia frameworks relate to each other. For example, the Motivation-Opportunity-Ability model comes to mind, which seems strictly simpler than the "five hindrances" presented here. But I guess there is the question of how specific vs. how general we want to be: too fine-grained and the model becomes impractical to use; too coarse-grained and it loses effectiveness due to being vague.

2moridinamael4yI think the different anti-akrasia (or, as I might prefer, pro-getting things done) frameworks are hierarchical in some cases. The Motivation-Opportunity-Ability model would be closer to the top of the hierarchy. Opportunity and Ability are requirements that can't be ignored, but they also aren't usually what people are talking about with akrasia. You don't blame "akrasia" when you can't do something because you forgot your tools at home, you blame poor planning. When you find yourself in the right situation with the right tools and full ability to solve the problem and yet you still find that you aren't working on it, you know that your problem is Motivation. Something like the Five Hindrances model as well as any method based on looking at the Motivation Equation are addressing Motivation specifically. Also, the Motivation Equation is abstract and lacks built-in solutions, while something like the Five Hindrances approach is specific and actionable. You can look at the Motivation Equation and realize that the problem is that your Delay term is too big. Okay, so? You should be able to work on things that don't require instant gratification. But you could look at the Five Hindrances model and view this as an Aversion to wasting time and also a straightforward instance of Laziness/Lethargy. Apply the appropriate antidotes to those hindrances. Suddenly you find that you did the task despite that daunting Delay term.
Value Arbitrage

Yes, by "learning things in a certain order" I include the case of learning Esperanto before learning Spanish (as opposed to doing it the other way around, which would presumably be less efficient for a native English speaker who wants to learn Spanish).

Value Arbitrage

I agree with the first part of your comment, but I'm not sure about the Esperanto example.
Arbitrage refers to exploiting a difference in price of the same good (usually fungible, e.g. currencies, shares or commodities) in two markets to make a financial profit.

OP seems to be talking about transfer of learning, and you seem to be talking about learning things in a certain order so that the total investment is lower. Both of these are good things, but I'm not sure either fits the meaning of the word arbitrage.

4jacobjacob4yVoted -1 for the same reason. This is a confusing usage of the word arbitrage. The way the word arbitrarge is actually used in economics and finance is as an _exploitable inefficiency_. Two things of the same value are selling at different values. There has to be a market, and competition, involved. This explains why arbitrage is rare: it is essentially a money pump, and we should expect money pumps to be drained quickly. This relates to the notion of _informational_ efficiency: the extent to which prices reflect information about the value of the underlying good or asset. The Esperanto example rather relates to _productive_ efficiency: the extent to which the available resources are used to generate as much value as they can. Here's a world where the Esperanto example is actually an arbitrage opportunity: there's a Spanish learning contest with a cash prize. All participants focus solely on learning Spanish. Anyone who uses the Esperanto-technique will outperform them, and win a prize sum larger than their opportunity cost of practicing. Then, in theory, you could keep sending proteges to the competition and win the price, charging a slice of the prize money for selling your secret learning technique. Until, of course, other people discovered this was happening, and the arbitrage disappeared as all contest participants started learning Spanish by learning Esperanto first.
3philh4y> you seem to be talking about learning things in a certain order so that the total investment is lower I think he's actually saying that by learning Esperanto first, you learn *Spanish* quicker. Not just the total investment is lower, but the investment required to learn Spanish is lower.