All of Servant's Comments + Replies

"His arguments only undermine the conception of free will as ultimate origination, but have nothing to say about (the more defensible) conception of free will as choosing on the basis of one's desires."

That is not "more defensible", that's inane. What's the point of "freely choosing" what you want to do based on your desires...if you are not in control of your desires? It's a pedantic technicality that ignores what laymen generally assume when they say "free will"...that they are in control of their own actions, as w... (read more)

A concept being "insane"* isn't mutually exclusive with it being more defensible than another (presumably even more "insane") concept. I never claimed there was a point to believing in such a doctrine (I'm not a libertarian in metaphysics); I was merely showing that the conclusions of the arguments in the video only contradict a subset of the theories of free will. I think people that argue for free will as choosing on the basis of one's desires would say that you do choose your desires (by choosing on the basis of your higher order desires). The man in the video claimed that he was arguing against a view held by philosophers, not laymen. My comment was a response to a specific video, not "the man on the street". Also, you and the man in the video have used the term "in control". What do you mean by "in control"? Are people choosing on the basis of their desires not "in control"? I don't see why they wouldn't be. I am far from an expert on the free will versus determinism debate (I haven't even read a single book on the subject), but my guess is that it would depend on which desires were changed. If the device changed the highest order desires of the agent, then I think libertarians (in the metaphysical sense) would agree that the free will of the agent has been compromised. On the other hand, if an agent used the device to make their lower order desires better conform to their higher order desires, then the act of using the device and the subsequent actions of the agent would be in accordance with free will. I'm merely adopting the standard language used by philosophers. *I assumed that "inane" was a typo and that you meant to type "insane", but even if the reverse is true my response still makes sense.

I don't see that as a net negative. There may be a lot of people who are "rational", and possibly those who are already "winning". Knowing how to communicate with them is indeed a net plus, since this gives you an exclusive network other people won't have (letting you "win" as well).

My main goal at the moment is to utilize "rationality" as a way to map how individuals comes to a decision/belief (what to do, what to say, what to believe, etc.). I am not assuming that these individuals ARE rational, but it's a useful (and quickie) tool for me to retrospectively "map out" the thought process of an individual. Like all tools though, they will be limitations.

Maybe this individual is saying, "I know I'm biased" as a sort of disclosure of where their views are coming from. If they did not say that they are biased, and it is later revealed that they are biased, then people would likely accuse said individual of misrepresenting his positions and claiming "objectivity" when he had no right to possess it. For example, had that person you quoted said, "IPhone was the best!" without me knowing that he had a bias in that belief, I might have sincerely believed him, and this could lead to ... (read more)

If it is true that officially, the karma limit is raised to 50, but effectively, the actual programming behind this "blog" allows for anyone to post at 20, then it suggests a real inconsistency between stated policy and actual policy.

Inconsistency is certainly not good if people want to actually follow policy. Either the official karma limit lowers to 20, or the real karma limit goes to 50. I lean towards the latter, because the existence of the Discussion section obsoletes the existence of the main LessWrong section, but the fact that this state... (read more)

I understand the example. Thanks. Helps me to understand why you object to it.

"But it is an empirical question. With math, plus with some reasonable assumptions, you can prove that you can unambiguously determine the correct mapping even from the outside. In a world where you can tell someone to think of a square, and then use functional magnetic resonance imaging and find a pattern of neurons lit up in a square on his visual cortex, it is difficult to agree with Quine that the word "square" has no meaning."

Of course the word "square" has meaning, but that meaning may be different from our meaning. In... (read more)

That's not the angle Quine was taking. He was saying words don't have meanings. There are behaviors, and streams of words correlated with behaviors, but nothing inside a head that is a "meaning". Quine was not talking about cases where one person would point to a square and say "square", and another person would point to a triangle and say "square". He was talking about cases where two people both point to an equilateral triangle and say "equilateral triangle", but one meant "triangle with all three sides the same" and the other meant "all three angles the same". That's not a great example, but it is a short example. Or where you ask them to raise their right hand, and they both raise their right hand, but one person unknowingly has the perception of raising his left hand, and "feels" left the way others feel right. Quine argues that these are not singular examples, but that all language is undermined by indeterminacy like this.

While I am more interested in the latter, the former is likely the one more suited for the main goal of this "community blog".

It does explain a lot! Thanks! I knew it was good to be tentative in my judgement on the issue if this is a hoax or not. At least now there is a plausible reason why no other sources of this exist.

You're right, it isn't a good sampling technique. When I said "random individual" though, I wanted to state some sort of distance from the LessWrong Community. It is very possible that most people in that community know of appsumo and reddit, but since I'm outside of that community, I knew nothing about it. I suppose, in retrospect, I should have said "outsider" instead, and I also realize that the extent of an outsider's knowledge likely doesn't have any relevance here for this topic.

What exactly do you mean by mainstream? If you mean accepted by the general population, then I'm guessing not. In fact, as a random individual, I know nothing appsumo AND reddit (I didn't even know appsumo existed until you said they did so in this blog post), so if those things are not mainstream, then I highly doubt "death-is-bad" would become somehow become mainstream by associating with non-mainstream stuff.

I meant "random company wanting to make a deal that would appeal to the overall reddit demographic ended up selecting SENS as a charity that it thought would appeal to them." Reddit may not be "random person on the street", but it's more mainstream than, say, LW or your favorite transhumanist group. So it's interesting that a company trying to appeal to reddit overall decided that SENS would be the organization of choice to donate some of the profits to.
What do you mean by calling yourself "a random individual"? It is generally not a good sampling technique to survey people who step forward and volunteer information.
If "mainstreamness" means "popularity", which is a spectrum as opposed to being binary, then reddit is far more mainstream than, say, lesswrong, using Alexa traffic rankings as our metric.

Throwing up numbers would just be pointless guessing for the sake of pointless guessing, but because of the tight-knit nature of the blog in question (meaning that people here tend to share the same ideas and values concerning rationality), I'd say that the chances of regression for the LessWrong community would be significantly lower than the chances of regression for two random individuals.

If you do it systematically, picking odds and tracking them can help with your calilbration. Doing it in public helps because it puts a little bit of status on the line, which makes one care about getting it right.

And then, about three minutes later, we'd have to taboo said common keywords and then write a three sentence summary of said keyword and present it to each other in order to pick out common themes and keywords, and repeat this process over and over...and not being able to actually talk about what we were supposed to talk about.

Can't we just argue over what is being done in the name of rationality, rather than arguing over the word "rationality" itself?

Well, you won't have to worry about it unless the grandparent hits 5 karma points, that being the threshold I had privately decided on for doing a discussion post following up on the idea. But if it does come to that, care to state your personal odds for the occurrence of your predicted regress?

"More generally, I'd like to figure out how to pierce this sort of argument in a way that makes the person in question actually change his mind."

Since you did post that letter about your Father trying to argue to you in a manner to try and have you change your mind, this raises alarms bells for me.

If both you and your Father is trying to change each others' minds, then there is a possibility that the argument can degenerate: both sides would only treat the other people's arguments as something to swat away, as opposed to something to seriously co... (read more)

The reason may be less that the LW community believes voting is rational...but that the LW community already understands that voting IS irrational, and the LW community is just reacting negatively to having the same idea be brought up again.

I understand you provided some solutions to try and make voting 'rational', though, however, I do disagree with the idea that #3 and #4 would actually work. Voting only becomes rational when your vote does sways an issue, and not only is this chance incredibly small, but it would likely provoke an automatic recount, mea... (read more)

4 does work. In Australia they have a near-perfect voter turn out. It makes voting rational, in order to avoid the fine.

"Much recent research suggests that willpower—the capacity to exert self-control—is a limited resource that is depleted after exertion."

Instead of taking this research at face value, shouldn't we wait for new experiments to verify their findings? I am afraid of people just accepting this experiment, and ignoring the many OTHER experiments that said otherwise.

"If there are people who do experience a definite thing common to all enjoyable experiences, this might be one reason for the attraction, to some, of utilitarian theories -- even for taking some sort of utilitarianism to be obviously, trivially true."

People do find a definite thing common to all enjoyable experiences: they enjoy them.

Your comment raises a good point though: it would be very hard to measure one sort of enjoyment with another, especially between the "carnal pleasures" and the "intellectual pleasures", which both produce enjoyment...but how much? Without a way of measuring pleasure, you're left with subjective judgement, which may be of little use.

"Germany should completely lose all the baggage of Nazism and replace it with a completely democratic society that has no causal linkage whatsoever to its bloody past."

General Y is advocating for an absolute bastardization of history as much as General F. You cannot deny the past, because the past shaped your country and what your country did. There is a difference between interpreting the "real" meaning of Nazism, and actually erasing Nazism from history, as General Y wants.

General Y also want to place all blame on the the Nazi regime,... (read more)

I do understand how extreme it must sound to the average LW reader, but I do support some of the Red Army Faction's rhetoric and actions, particularly the Schleyer assassination. The post-war West German society's acquiescence and its desire to forget the past while abandoning all sense of historical responsibility needed a good shock. It's unfortunate that innocents were hurt, but I feel that the moral cleansing that the RAF declared as its goal was a just and necessary cause. The manipulative and sociopathic side of Baader and his group's backing by the East German regime are a somewhat different story.

You would likely have to, for the simple reason that if Cancer gets cured, more resources can be dedicated to dealing with other diseases, meaning even more lives will be saved in the process (on top of those lives saved due to the curing of Cancer).

The economy can be in shambles for a while, but it can recover in the future, unlike cancer patients..and you could always justifying it that if a banker like you could blow up the economy, it was already too weak in the first place: better to blow it up now when the damage can be limited rather than latter.

Tho... (read more)

A 'technocratic' Bureacratic Despotism, with the Philanthropist technically in charge.

Before you say otherwise, realize that the OP has asked: "What sort of government do you establish?", not "What sort of government WOULD you wish to establish?" Regardless of my personal views, the wealthy philanthropist has too much influence and control over the government (by being its sole source of funding) for it to be truly 'democratic'. I also have to make sure that the system survive and thrive, so I cannot rely on testing out new and exciting... (read more)

whpearson and blogospheroid seemed to misunderstood what I said, so I'll clarify my comments, since I wasn't being clear.

I don't think that people come up with new governments for the sole purpose of testing or implementing them. I think that people sometimes come up with new governments as a way to come up a simple answer* to the problems facing society, so they don't have to think any more about those problems, or waste resources trying to fix these problems conventionally.

*To them, at least. The point of coming up with a new government is to persuade themselves, not others.

Is the goal of coming up with a mechanism of government really for implementation purposes?

Because I'm worried that the main reason why people come up with strange and new government mechanics that are unlikely to ever be adopted is to claim the following:

"Look! Our people have developed the Viatngvogbvim, and this Viatngvogbvim will solve most of our problems (while creating new ones, but let ignore that for now). Viatngvogbvim will aid our society to prosperity. Too bad it will never be implemented or enacted, but that's okay, because now that we h... (read more)

whpearson and blogospheroid seemed to misunderstood what I said, so I'll clarify my comments, since I wasn't being clear. I don't think that people come up with new governments for the sole purpose of testing or implementing them. I think that people sometimes come up with new governments as a way to come up a simple answer* to the problems facing society, so they don't have to think any more about those problems, or waste resources trying to fix these problems conventionally. *To them, at least. The point of coming up with a new government is to persuade themselves, not others.
I'm all in favour of ignoring people who don't try and implement their idea at least on a small scale. You don't need to set up a country to do so though, you could use it for corporate governance instead of electing the board of directors. Or governing a charity. If your idea doesn't work on these scales, you need a very good reason for thinking it would work on the larger scale of a country.
The technology to make life easy to live on the sea is improving. Better material science means more stable and strong ships, allowing easier access to the sea and a more comfortable life when there. Seasteading will become a reality if the present day governments continue with their present trend of bloating up. When you setup a seastead, you just can't say "my way or the highway". you need to have a good structure which can be evangelised to the people you hope to attract. Theoritical alternatives to present day models of governance is definitely a direction where some thought should be put.

There are other ways of engaging in micronational secessionism. The best method prehaps is to unilaterally declare independence under the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, but do so in such a matter as to not attract the attention of the federal government (for example, keep on paying taxes, follow the laws). Then begin operating as if you are an independent government. Examples would include the Republic of Molossia and the Empire of Atlantium. You will lose status though.

The main problem is thinking you could generalize from one s... (read more)

I can't agree with this idea. The point of government IS to come up with solutions to potential problems (other governments, crime, paying for "public goods", expanding the freedom of the individual pledging loyalty to the government, protection from the "state of nature"), through a variety of tools, including coercion. The government exist not in and of itself, but exist to produce certain "outcomes" which will favor or harm specific interests.

If we can't talk about what a future government is actually going to do, then what's the point of changing to it?

You don't know the rules of the simulation, you only know enough to be able to make desicions within it. I think that should limit the 'informedness' of the voters in question.

And I am merely testing to see if direct democracy all. If it doesn't work well here, then it does act as evidence against working in a less "homogenous" society. (I think. Maybe a less "homogenous" society might have a better functioning direct democracy, with new ideas, but I still think one test is better than none.)

But.. if you limit the ability to be informed, isn't this just a group version of trying to guess the teacher's password? Anyway, I'm interested in participating out of curiosity to see how this experiment will be run.

By war, I mean actual war that can result in the destruction of the direct democracy. Your victory in the actual war is dependent on Quality of Life, Economic Strength, and Army Strength.

I think it would be more accurate for voting blocs to propose given policies (representing referendums and initivates). It will also save me the effort for coming up with the actual policy questions myself; the voting blocs will do it for me.

"Yeah, I know I am sliding into Mind Killer territory here. Sorry."

Is the Mind Killer policy really policy? If it was, your posts would have been downvoted instantly. Instead, you've made a total of 24 karma through 3 posts by "sliding" into this Mind Killer territory.

If there is no enforcement (negative Karma) for a policy, and if anybody can hop in Mind Killer territory without suffering any penalty, then this policy doesn't exist.

A valid complaint. But notice that the third post, where I was deep in politics, received the least karma. The first got points (I think) primarily by noting that judging a politician's character is at least as difficult as judging a policy position, and the second got points mostly by noting that arguing the semantics of "WMD" was really going off the rails.

"The last link says that US found 500 degraded chemical artillery shells from the 1980s which were too corroded to be used but might still have some toxicity. They don't sound like something that could actually be used to cause mass destruction."

So just because it doesn't seem to cause mass destruction according to you, it therefore ISN'T a WMD?

WMDs has nothing to do with mass destruction. According to the US government and international law, WMD (mosly) means: "nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons." That's it. This weapon is class... (read more)

Before I reply, let's just look at the phrase "WMDs has nothing to do with mass destruction" and think for a while. Maybe we should taboo the phrase "WMD".

Was it supposed to be bad for Saddam to have certain objects merely because they were regulated under the Chemical Weapons Convention, or because of their actual potential for harm?

The justification for the war was that Iraq could give dangerous things to terrorists. Or possibly fire them into Israel. It was the actual potential for harm that was the problem.

Rusty shells with traces ... (read more)

Which really has absolutely nothing to do with my original implicit complaint, which was that my national leaders misled me.

They didn't say "We need to invade Iraq because the Iraqis have not properly decommissioned tactical chemical weapons left over from the War with Iran. It is our duty to the environmental safety of the Iraqi public to go in there and make sure that those corroding artillery shells are safely destroyed."

In a 'direct democracy' system where the general population vote directly to change and implement policies, then discussing about the behavior of these individual voters would be sensible.

But in a 'representative democracy', like the United States, the people don't vote directly for policies. They vote for representatives in Congress to 'represent' their interests. It is these representatives that actually vote to change and implement policies. The chance of these represenatives casting the deciding vote is 1/535 (1/100 in Senate, 1/435 in the HoR), and th... (read more)