All of smk's Comments + Replies

Has Sam Harris stated his opinion on the orthogonality thesis anywhere?

He's writing an AI book together with Eliezer, so I assume he's on board with it.

Polyamory indeed, sorry to be unclear.

Just musing on how LW has had a profound impact on my life. It was a strong influence in my deconversion from theism, it's helped me make significant medical decisions, and I'm in love with someone I met at a LessWrong meetup, as well as another person whose first interaction with me was a Bayes theorem joke.

Please relay the Bayes joke!
Based on your post, it is unclear to me whether you are in love with one person or two. Outside of LW, I would assume you were in love with one person, but here on LW, I assume polyamory is at play here.

Believing in Santa was not acceptable to my Christian fundamentalist parents. However, they also had the excuse of being immigrants, so they implied (and perhaps it's even true) that believing in Santa was not common in their culture: "The children in this country think that Santa is real. I don't know why their parents want them to believe in fairytales!" I was never told to hide the truth from other kids, and I don't recall if the subject ever came up in my interactions with other kids. We still had Christmas gifts, a tree, sang Christmas songs... (read more)

My preferred transhumanist "eutopia" is one where people generally do not die, and new people generally are not created, but if for some reason people do have to be created, they are created with adult-level competencies such as I described above.

I think that the vast majority of people who currently have parental desires would not get to satisfy those desires in my eutopia, because their desires can only be satisfied in a world with a class of temporarily less-competent people. Are you suggesting that "people whose parental desires can only... (read more)

Let me offer you some concepts for consideration. The concepts are: "responsibility" (as in "I'm responsible for the well-being and happiness of that human"), "bonding" (as in "The shared emotional experiences bonded us"), "caring" (as in "I care for that person, my happiness is a function of her happiness"), and, simply, "love" (as in "I love him").

Of course I chose that word because it's vague. I guess, if I have to narrow it down, it's a feeling that something is disrespectful.

I think people's reasons for having kids usually fall into one of the following categories:

  1. It's what normal people do, so I'll just go with the flow.
  2. I have an emotional desire for a parent-child relationship.
  3. I want someone to take care of me when I'm old.
  4. I want an extension of myself to provide me with a kind of proxy immortality.

It might be more obvious why I find 1, 3, and 4 to be disrespectful? So I'll... (read more)

Ah, I see now where you're coming from. Well, let me just say that you're describing what I'd call a very dysfunctional family. Not all families are dysfunctional.

Doing it to improve the world is maybe ok? Kind of still a bit icky though. But as this article suggests, it might not be such a good way of improving the world compared to other ways, and anyway I don't think it's a primary reason that most parents have. What non-icky reasons can you think of?

You're shifting the burden of proof, but whatever. How about:
Well, liking kids is one reason. In which meaning are you using the word "icky"?
Really? That's very interesting. So you literally cannot think up of any non-icky reason to have a child?

I probably would not join, but I would try to research it to figure out why people who join usually like it. Depending on what I learned, I could change my mind.

What I would prefer is to have the option of sending/receiving thoughts/emotions/memories when and with whom I choose, with consent of those involved. Other mental abilities would of course have to be implemented as well, to allow this kind of telepathy to be manageable.

Awhile back I posted a comment on the open thread about the feasibility of permanent weight-loss. (Basically: is it a realistic goal?) I didn't get a response, so I'm linking it here to try again. Please respond here instead of there. Note: most likely some of my links to studies in that comment are no longer valid, but at least the citations are there if you want to look those up.

(Barring you being a metabolic mutant. If you have tried counting calories and it didn't work for you, then please ignore this post; weight loss is a lot more complicated than how I am about to describe it here.) Permanent weight loss is possible and feasible; however it will probably require constant effort to maintain. For example, count your daily caloric intake on (my username is shokke, if you wish to use the social aspect of it too). Eat at a caloric deficit (TDEE minus ~500) until desired weight is attained, then continue counting calories and eat at maintenance (TDEE) indefinitely. If you stop counting calories you will very likely regain that weight. This requires you to count calories for the rest of your life, or at least until you no longer care about your weight. Or we develop a better method of weight control.
I think the substance is that there are plenty of people who change their weight permanently. On the other hand the evidence for particular interventions isn't that good.
None of those address permanent weight loss per se. They all address the more specific problem of permanent weight loss through dietary modification. A successful approach to weight loss would incorporate a change in diet and exercise habits along with an investigation of the 'root cause' of the excess weight i.e. the psychological factor that causes excessive eating (Depression? Stress? Pure habit? etc.) I also question your implicit premise that "If it ain't permanent it ain't worth doing". That sounds like a rationalization to me. For a woman who's 25 and looking to maximize her chance of reproductive success (finding a mate), 'just 5 years' of weight loss would be extraordinarily superior to no weight loss. Permanent weight loss would be only marginally better.

how can anyone deserve anything?

They can't. The whole idea of "deserving" is... icky. I try not to use it in figuring out my own morals, although I do sometimes use the word "deserve" in casual speech/thought. When I'm trying to be more conscientious and less casual, I don't use it.

And someone people aren't either one. Polyamory isn't the only kind of non-monogamy, and of course there are those who don't do sexual and/or romantic relationships at all.

I don't particularly care about biodiversity, except if it offers some benefit to people. I suppose it might offer opportunities for increasing knowledge/understanding of biology/chemistry. Why do other people care about it?

I don't think there's much we can do now to ensure successful colonization

Existential risk reduction charities?

1Peter Wildeford11y
I'm very unsure about the expected success of existential risk reduction charities.

Being a transhumanist, and being good at the kind of mental gymnastics that allowed him to do partial transfiguration, Harry might be able to change his Patronus into any form he likes if he tries hard enough. We know mental stuff can change Patronuses in canon: Tonks' Patronus changed due to her feelings for Lupin, though she didn't do it on purpose.

The episodic nature of this story is wearing on me a bit. I'm not talking about wanting to know what happens and having to wait for that knowledge to be doled out bit by bit. That's pretty much fine. It's the feeling that there's a grand overarching plot that's being distracted from by Plots of the Month. Even if the PotM do contribute to the overall plot--and they probably do--it feels like they do so in a rather meandering, patchwork way. Where's my beloved "use science to figure out the nature of magic, and use that to cure death for everyone" plotline? Will we finally get back to it now that Hermione's dead?

I feel the complete opposite. I want to read the serial story of "Ender Wiggin goes to Hogwarts" and his repeated elaborate schemes of awesomeness. I'm disappointed that it looks like this fic could end soon.

Yes, shows like that are very popular, and I'm getting really sick of it. I don't understand it, but I don't really think that it's false sophistication. Or courageous self-examination.

I was confused by the way he was using the term "non-determinism". Then I read this:

It's important to understand that computer scientists use the term "nondeterministic" differently from how it's typically used in other sciences. A nondeterministic TM is actually deterministic in the physics sense

-Theoretical Computer Science Stack Exchange

Assuming that person was correct, then it seems like Aaronson is responding to an argument that uses the physics sense of "non-determined", but replying with the CS sense--which I'm thin... (read more)

This was my feeling as well, that Aaronson was inappropriately using the technical definition of "nondeterministic" from CS in a context where that wasn't the intended meaning.

I'd really like it if someone could explain to me what Aaronson is saying here:

I've often heard the argument which says that not only is there no free will, but the very concept of free will is incoherent. Why? Because either our actions are determined by something, or else they're not determined by anything, in which case they're random. In neither case can we ascribe them to "free will."

For me, the glaring fallacy in the argument lies in the implication Not Determined ⇒ Random. If that was correct, then we couldn't have complexity classes lik

... (read more)
Aaronson is just trying to make the point that it's possible to make a formal distinction between nondeterminism and randomness. Mathematically, a nondeterministic function is a function that returns a set of values rather than a value, and a random function is a function that returns a probability distribution over values rather than a value. The fact that we can make such a formal distinction suggests that we ought to also be able to make an informal distinction.
Well, he's saying that. I don't know which part of this is the part you're having trouble with.

On #4, I'm fine with my morality existing for it's own sake. I don't need a justification for the things from which I derive justification.

In the absence of other evidence, could you not use some sort of complexity measure to estimate that, if our universe is being simulated, the simulating universe is more likely to have simpler laws than more complex ones? (And maybe even that having no simulating universe--meaning our universe is not a simulation--is even simpler, and therefore more likely?) But I have no idea what the actual difference in probabilities would be, if you could.

You're right, cake would have been more appropriate. :) (Except I love pie way more.)

Well, people usually enjoy yummy food even if they have no, uh... co-eating attraction? to the person they're eating it with. Something like "co-eating attraction" could exist, maybe there are people out there who have that, where they experience an arousal of their gustatory desires in response to another person, but I don't think that's typical. (I hope it's clear that what I'm talking about is different from the quite common phenomenon of food being more enjoyable when other factors, such as the company, ambiance, etc. are also enjoyable.)

Sexu... (read more)

My sexual weirdtopia is that the majority of people self-modify (using some sort of technology) to eliminate their sexual attractions and romantic attractions. They still feel other kinds of love and affection, and they still desire closeness with others. They might choose to enjoy pleasures* as intense as sex together with someone they love, but it's more like people eating delicious pie together; it's not driven by attraction. Sexual and romantic love only remain to a minority of people who chose not to follow the trend.

(*Intense pleasures delivered via a little light wire-heading, perhaps, but not to the level that would cause you to ignore the rest of life.)

Surely you mean cake? (For those who don't get it, the above post pattern-matches with certain asexual/aromantic relationship preferences.)

It seems to me that you need to do more than just prefer immortality for all. Harry's happy thought is not just that he wants people to stop dying, but that he has a great deal of hope--confidence, even--that it will happen, one day.

Sometimes players like to feel they've stymied the DM, for instance by using a loophole to bypass a whole series of obstacles and jump straight to the win. As DM I would sometimes set up situations like that, hoping that they would think of the loophole, and then acting all chagrined when they did. :) But of course the win came with complications of its own, which led to the main plot I was actually trying to get to. (Or if they don't win, I'd have another way to get them there.) Anyway, the point is that it can be fun for the players to feel like they hav... (read more)

For me it was that I suspected I was the robot. Never told anyone though.
0someonewrongonthenet12y be honest I half-believed those too...not that everyone was a robot, but that everyone was a philosophical zombie. It wasn't until high school that I figured out that for all intents and purposes, I'm a philosophical zombie too. But in my opinion, those really ARE normal childhood beliefs that are not the result of any neuropathology... beliefs that many philosophers still entertain in the form of solipsism.
Do those turn into these when they grow up?
I ocassionally entertained ideas like that in the back of my mind. Truman Show, Teachers are aliens, Parents somehow know everything/ everything about me and are just fucking with me in the way that Zeus would to test character, except over a much longer Santa Clause/ Jesus esque period of time, the mothman is watching me, there are invisible monsters/ demons all around me and I need to be very sneaky not to be seen. I'm not sure I believed them, exactly. Maybe I did. Maybe I didn't. I still do the same stuff sometimes, with equally wierd things. Whenever I start half way believing in god or track of thought in my bain giving arbitrary commands is the voice of God, I just start doing experiments against the rest of reality til the shadow of belief goes away, since they never line up with testable reality. I've never had actual hallucinations, though, as far as I know.

In the "Probability" section, you say:

Suppose you start out 85% confident that the one remaining enemy soldier is not a sniper. That leaves only 15% credence to the hypothesis that he is a sniper.

But in the next section, "The Problem of Priors", you say:

In the example above where you're a soldier in combat, I gave you your starting probabilities: 85% confidence that the enemy soldier was a sniper, and 15% confidence he was not.

Seems like you swapped the numbers.

Potential scenarios:

1: Alfred and Bob really do support the same agenda, but Alfred thinks Bob's tone makes him unpersuasive.

  1. Alfred pretends to support Bob's agenda, but is just a concern troll.

  2. Alfred is open about disagreeing with Bob's agenda, and directs his criticisms at Bob's tone rather than engaging with Bob's actual argument.

I interpret the opening sentence of that page as referring to scenarios 2 and 3, in that order:

sometimes by Concern trolls and sometimes as a Derailment

Here's some more stuff from that page which seems to describe s... (read more)

I'm a male who has commented on feminist thought which I agreed with, but found so hostile as to be antipersuasive - the attitude demonstrated seriously made me reconsider whether or not I even agreed with them - and was promptly called a concern troll, among other invectives. (I will add that that particular post rapidly turned into a shitstorm which resulted in several readers, including myself, ceasing to read the blog in question. I've seen commenters on unrelated blogs link to it as an example of why the author shouldn't be taken seriously.) "Derailment" and "concern trolling" are rationalizations; they're an author seeking a mechanism by which to justify ignoring criticism.
Fair enough. I think the way I was thinking about it was this: the tone argument as such is the claim that some argument would be more effective if it were presented with a different tone. I think you're right that the tone argument is typically given either disingenuously or as a distraction from the real issues. But those are motivations or tactics or something for making a tone argument. I suppose there is a preliminary question of whether a tone argument can ever be made sincerely. Assuming that a tone argument can be made sincerely, I think we get the original question. Does it matter whether that question is about typical tone arguments? Should we use a different term instead of "tone argument"?

HonoreDB created a way to embed polls here instead of using karma.


The scenario being imagined supposes that you and I both support the same agenda

That's not the scenario in which I have most often seen people objecting to tone arguments.

I could be making a mistake, but I'm working off of the first incognito google hit from "tone argument," which is this. As I understand it, a tone argument is a suggestion that someone change tone in order to improve his or her chances of persuading. And the common objection is that such tone arguments are disingenuous. They are "concern trolling" or offering fake support in order to hurt the cause. So ... are we really disagreeing here or are we talking past each other?

I would guess so, yes. Not wildly unusual, but kinda, yeah. My perception might be skewed because I'm unusual in the other direction. You seem like one of those extra un-picky people, while I am extra picky.

It's pretty cool that you are a friendship slut platonically promiscuous less likely than average to reject someone approaching you for affection. Advertising this might reduce your status, but you'll probably get more hugs overall. I say, go ahead and publicly spell out your unusual openness (by telling people your rules, etc).


Maybe they meant that it doesn't continue getting less and less good. I dunno.

I was going to reply to you about the feasibility of weight loss in general (you haven't said you're interested in weight loss, but that's what people usually do Atkins for), but my comment really wasn't answering your question, so I posted in the open thread instead. Here it is if you're interested.

I tried to tell my husband about murder-Gandhi but I was laughing too hard.

Liron's post about the Atkins Diet got me thinking. I'd often heard that the vast majority of people who try to lose weight end up regaining most of it after 5 years, making permanent weight loss an extremely unlikely thing to succeed at. I checked out a few papers on the subject, but I'm not good at reading studies, so it would be great to get some help if any of you are interested. Here are the links (to pdfs) with a few notes. Anyone want to tell me if these papers really show what they say they do? Or at any rate, what do you think about the feasibilit... (read more)

I don't think the OP said they wanted to be top priority for all their partners.

I suppose that's why pnrjulius put "utility function" in quotes.

do you think anyone would complain about actual people smelling gender-inappropriately?

I've never heard anyone complain about someone else's scent being gender-nonconforming, but I have noticed a few men being careful that their own scented products conform. Not that often, though. Actually it's more common in my experience for people to worry that someone else (like, someone they're buying a gift for) won't want to wear other-gender-associated scents. For example, my mother-in-law gave us some floral-scented fabric softener while implying that my husband might not like it used on his clothes (in fact he likes it).

When I'm choosing a scent or scented object, my only worry is that my cat may not like it.

My guess is it means that the room looks like the white wall color is an intentional and well-chosen part of a cohesive design.

That's super cool!
Have you ever been to one of these? (Others of course feel free to answer.) I find them intriguing and think I would like to go to one sometime.

I guess your post isn't really suited for this context because it's basically just telling us what your preferences are. Oh, well, I find it interesting to see what people's preferences are. And it gives me an excuse to tell you mine. I would prefer a world in which existing people did not die and new people were not created. If for some strange reason new people simply had to be created, they definitely would not be created as utterly dependent creatures who gradually develop personhood. Imagining a world with few children gives you a feeling of wrongness? Well, thinking about childhood gives me a feeling of wrongness. I really hope we get rid of childhood someday.

Are most people here transhumanists? If you are, do you have some specific transhumanist wishes? What about transhumanist possibilities that you want to avoid?

Probably. If I don't want to die and would upgrade myself beyond my current physical limitations that makes me transhumanist, right? Volcano lair with catgirls. (I'll use my spare time from there to work out where I want to go next. Right now I mostly want the 'not dying' part with the ongoing potential for improvement.)

So Draco will have to build political power without the benefit of growing up in Slytherin. I wonder if Lucius will try to influence other families to pull their kids out of Hogwarts too?

For a time. He's young, though, and Lucius probably plans to do something about Harry (and perhaps Hermione) in the near future. Once they're out of the way, no reason that Draco couldn't come back.
Well, almost certainly Crabbe and Goyle are pulling out too.

Seems kind of like rehashing old ground covered by Spider Robinson, to me.

In Ch 45, Harry thinks:

I comprehend your nature, you symbolize Death, through some law of magic you are a shadow that Death casts into the world.

If this is true, it's possible that as long as death exists (for wizards, anyway), it will continue to cast its shadows, and so the dementors can never be all destroyed. Maybe they'll just respawn or something. In fact, maybe when Harry destroyed that one in Ch 45, a dementor respawned back at Azkaban without anyone noticing. Do the guards keep a count of dementors?

Dementors don't act like death incarnate, though. Death isn't reactive to human expectations and sensibilities. Death doesn't go out of its way to try to destroy people. Death is just a force of nature (or, rather, the point at which a force of nature terminates). Dementors act like a superstitious anthropomorphization of death. We also know that there is a dark ritual that summons Death, which Quirrel knows but is afraid to perform. We know, too, that spells modify reality based on the caster's understanding of the natural world, rather than using the most simple and nature-compliant approach. I have a very strong suspicion that the first dementors were created by the ritual that Quirrel spoke of. They are a fearful, human-imagined depiction of death, created by the spells of primitive wizards who didn't understand death's impersonal and causal nature. What I wonder, though, is whether casting that ritual is the ONLY way to create new dementors, or if they are also capable of reproducing on their own once summoned. According to the books, dementors can reproduce via a mysterious process that bathes the countryside in fog, but Yudkowsky's dementors are already quite different from Rowling's. It may be that their numbers remain constant unless someone uses that dark ritual to create more of them or a spell like Harry's ubertronus to destroy some.
Given how Dumbledore worries about how to explain losing one to the ministry, and that they’re considered “weapons of war”, I’d say someone keeps count.
The dementors serve at least three purposes in Azkaban: they drain the magic from prisoners to render them helpless, they notify the guards when prisoners escape, and they chase down and incapacitate escaped prisoners and intruders. If Harry destroys 90% of the dementors, there probably won't be enough left for the first or third purposes. That would make Azkaban much less secure, and the perception of Azkaban's security would go down if there are hardly any dementors since the dementors are what make it infallible. Even just demonstrating that Dementors CAN be destroyed would probably force them to completely remake Azkaban to not depend on the dementors.

That's an interesting possibility, but I favour the interpretation that this is the source of dementors:

Even so, the most terrible ritual known to me demands only a rope which has hanged a man and a sword which has slain a woman; and that for a ritual which promised to summon Death itself - though what is truly meant by that I do not know and do not care to discover, since it was also said that the counterspell to dismiss Death had been lost.

It fits very nicely. Dementors (Death) were unkillable (undismissable) because the "true" patronus charm (counterspell) had been lost.

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