sketerpot

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Don't Be Afraid of Asking Personally Important Questions of Less Wrong

Ah. That web site throws out too many claims to investigate fully -- who has the time? -- but if you google around for a sampling of them you'll notice that they tend to crumble under scrutiny. The sections mentioning quantum mechanics are especially blatant: they're gibberish, total incoherent misuse of terminology.

EDIT: There's a sequence of articles called Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions which is relevant here. One that applies in particular is Fake Explanations, which could be summarized as "If you are equally good at explaining any outcome, you have zero knowledge." When people talk about "etheric worlds on different frequencies", or "energy vortices swirling faster than the speed of light on the earth plane", what does this predict? What, concretely, does it mean? If it can explain anything, then it predicts nothing.

Stupid Questions March 2015

If you were to try and search the space of all possible inputs for MD5, you'd quickly(ish) find an input that collided with the Obama Werewolf input, but it'd be garbage.

Really? Last I checked, the best known preimage attack against MD5 was too slow to be practical. Finding collisions is drastically easier, though I don't know any method for doing it with arbitrary plain-text English sentences.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 108

Not just modern sexual attitudes, but specifically the sexual attitudes you see in the Harry Potter fanfiction community. And I'm sure it was meant to be jarring. Magical Britain's culture is subtly but deeply different from that of the muggle country that shares its borders; it would be profoundly weird if there were no surprises, no culture shock.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 104

He's the Super Hufflepuff! He's taking all the electives, which is physically impossible without a Time Turner! He was mentioned right before Harry started making thorough off-screen preparations, and then conspicuously forgotten for the rest of the chapter! Dramatic logic dictates that he's got to show up at some point, probably in some way that involves time travel.

... Unless the whole thing was a throwaway joke about how useless Cedric was in Goblet of Fire, in which case yeah, I guess it was pretty funny.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 104

An alternate interpretation is that Voldemort was strengthening a few of the spells that Sprout cast, as well as the spell that Tonks used to win the battle, and this use of his own magic was what caused Harry's doom-sense to tingle. If that's the case, then there would be none of his magic on the troll.

The morality of disclosing salary requirements

Other useful dummy values are $1, $42, $1,000,000, $9999999999999.95, and "'; DROP TABLE salary; --". As someone who has written input validation code for web forms on a few occasions, I personally give you my blessing to subvert them.

Does the Utility Function Halt?

I'm not entirely sure what your argument is yet, but here's a simple example utility function that might be interesting as a baseline:

def utility(universe):
    return 42

This function halts for all inputs, and assigns each input a desirability value that can be compared with others. What sort of utility function are you imagining?

Rationality Quotes October 2014

It would definitely be a rationality quote if it went on to quote the part where Eric Flint decided to test his hypothesis by putting some of his books online, for free, and watching his sales numbers.

[moderator action] Eugine_Nier is now banned for mass downvote harassment

The Reddit guys really, really dislike doing schema updates at their scale. They were getting very slow, and their replication setup was not happy about being told to, say, index a new column while people are doing lots of reads and writes at the same time. So they eventually said "to hell with it; we'll just make a document database, with no schema, and handle consistency problems by not handling them. Man, do not even ask us about joins." This seems to have made them much happier than the 'better' database design they used to use, which is important when you're a too-small team dealing with terrifying scaling issues, and you know that a lot of people are watching you because they are the ones causing the scaling issues.

This design sure does make writing SQL queries a pain, though, and it's less than ideal for a site like Less Wrong, which doesn't do much changing the code.

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