All of soreff's Comments + Replies

How about "You're so cute when you're angry."?

"its not like he gets bonus points when he croaks for how much is in his bank account." is a valuable quote in its own right

Venerating a corpse does it no good, and vilifying it does it no harm.

(I suppose I should add a qualifier - I mean either a non-cryonically suspended legal corpse, or an information-theoretically-dead corpse. That covers the case if one were to extend "venerate" to include include maintaining-in-cryonic-suspension)

Would David Chambers have written "A P-zombie in Carcosa"?

Not necessarily: a straightforward steelmanning would re-define "anything in this world" as "anything in this world I can get by paying an appropriate price (not necessarily in money)".

Even with that restriction, the quote would still be false. In terms of things priced financially, there are lots of objects which cost more than many peoples' lifetime earnings (and good luck trying to raise those earnings by a large multiplier). In terms of things priced in terms of time or effort - there are limits on those too. If, for instance, a nonagenarian enrolled in a Ph.D. program which typically took a decade to complete - they might earn their degree, but the odds are against it.

If the only thing in favour of an idea is how wonderful the world would be if everyone followed it, it's a bad idea.

Almost entirely agreed. The one class of exceptions are cases where a single standard avoids some severe problem with a mix. "Elbonia will switch from driving on the left to driving on the right. The change will be made gradually."

In a bit more general case, you would like to standardise things with a huge network effect. Like TCP/IP, for example.

More importantly, I'm disputing that it makes sense to judge by the numbers today.

It certainly isn't a perfect measure - but it seems like a decent one. I'd suggest correcting for some measure of how common the technology is. If there was something that only 10% of people have, but those 10% are getting killed at the same fraction per year as automobile drivers, I'd think it is still notable, though it wouldn't precisely meet gwern's criteria. If there were a technology which much less than 10% of the population has, then I'd be skeptical that it was... (read more)

I haven't tracked down the specific evidence - but muons are comparatively easy: They live long enough to leave tracks in particle detectors with known magnetic fields. That gives you the charge-to-mass ratio. Given that charge looks quantized (Milliken oil drop experiment and umpteen repetitions), and there are other pieces of evidence from the particle tracks of muon decay (and the electrons from that decay again leave tracks, and the angles are visible even if the neutrinos aren't) - I'd be surprised if the muon mass wasn't pretty solid.

Assuming that both particle physicists and climatologists are doing things properly, that would only mean that the muon mass has much smaller error bars than the global warming (which it does), not that the former is more likely to be correct within its error bars. Then again, it's possible that climatologists are less likely to be doing things properly.

Though if we take "efficacy" to the include the social effects (say, persuading one's co-religionists to assist after a loss that prompted the prayer), the universality looks quite plausible... Perhaps in the environment of evolutionary adaptation, hunter-gatherer bands were small enough that all prayer was effectively public, and this always applied, while private prayer might be a recent maladaptive generalization?

It could just be that prayer doesn't hurt, and the combination of gratitude generally being useful and anthropomorphization being common results in people tending to pray.

Sorry, don't see a "body of research". I see a lot of handwaving, name-calling, and righteous indignation. Specific numbers? Diagnostic criteria by which "a significant fraction of wealthy businessmen" was declared to be sociopaths by their psychotherapists or psychiatrists?

Whenever one bends down to pick up a dropped penny, one has more than a 1/Googolplex chance of a slip-and-fall accident which would leave one suffering for 50 years.

But you also slightly improve your physical fitness which might reduce the probability of an accident further down the line by more than 1/10^10^100.
Well, this is a problem you have if your culture is so egalitarian that common people think they are entitled to their own opinions instead of quoting an authority: hopefully one that uses the scientific method properly.

Not to endorse the view, but criticism of specifically the middle class is not novel: (from a comment on Paul Fussell's Class):

Quoting Lord Melbourne, he notes: "The higher and lower classes, there's some good in them, but the middle classes are all affectation and conceit and pretense and concealment."

This is true. In fact, reflexive bourgeoisie-bashing is so ubiquitous in some circles that it has become a cliché. This is what led me to liken Moorcock’s comment to empty pseudo-intellectual Marxist rhetoric.

What happens twice probably happens more than twice: are there other notable expressions of this idea?


there's only one way to spell a word right, and lots of ways to spell it wrong.

Usually agreed, on both counts. But: color/colour (and other US/UK pairs...)

True enough. But then there are even more ways to spell it wrong, and the general principle still holds. (With a possible exception for cases where you abbreviate a word in such a way as to remove the bits whose spelling differs. But, e.g. "col" is seldom likely to be a good abbreviation for "colo[u]r", not least because "column" will be a distracting other meaning...)

But is it only a human behavior? I'd think anything with cached thoughts/results/computations would be similarly vulnerable.

4mako yass9y
That's true of most frequently referenced elements of human nature, if not all of them. Even Love. ~The Homo Sapiens Class has a trusted computing override that enables it to lock itself into a state of heightened agreeability towards a particular target unit. More to the point: it can signal this shift in modes in a way that is both recognizable to other units, and which the implementation makes very difficult for it to forge. The Love feature then provides HS units on either side of a reciprocated Love signalling a means of safely cooperating in extremely high-stakes PD scenarios without violating their superrationality circumvention architecture. Hmm.. On reflection, one would hope that most effective designs for time-constrained intelligent(decentralized, replication-obsessed) agents would not override superrationality("override": Is it reasonable to talk about it like a natural consequence of intelligence?), and that, then, the love override may not occur. Hard to say.

The pain from the needle during the injection lasts just a few seconds, but the muscle pain at the injection site is noticeable for hours. That said, I'd rate it as much lower than eric3 rated it. For me, this is one of those situations where having the explanation for a sensation in hand, and knowing that it is self-limiting and harmless, makes a large difference. I'd be quite concerned if I had a pain of identical magnitude but with no explanation for what caused it.

"soon" can vary quite a bit, depending on what is false. Following the link, I'm skeptical of "From the study of that single pebble you could see the laws of physics and all they imply." Specifically, I'm skeptical that one can deduce the parts of the laws of physics that matter under extreme conditions (general relativity, physics at Plank-scale energies) by examining the behavior of matter under benchtop conditions, at achievable levels of accuracy. The motivation for building instruments like the LHC in the first place is that they allow probing parts of physical laws which would otherwise produce exceeding small effects or exceedingly rare phenomena.

The tricky part is the "achievable levels of accuracy". It would be possible for, say Galileo to invent general relativity using the orbit of mercury, probably. But from a pebble, you would need VERY precise measurements, to an absurd level.

for potassium, would potassium-40 be considered the bad kind? :)

Will the CDC handle Ebola like FEMA handled Katrina?

Or that the interval between X and Y is spacelike, and neither is in the other's forward light cone... :)

Some day the light speed delay might become an issue in historical investigations, but not quite yet :) Even then in the statement "if you claim that X caused Y, the minimum you need to know is that X came before Y, not afterwards" the term "before" implies that one event is in the causal future of the other.

Agreed. I think what Lanier should have said that a perception of magic is a subset of things one doesn't understand, rather than claiming that they are equal. Bugs that I am currently hunting but haven't nailed down are things I don't understand, but they certainly don't seem magical.

At least you hope not.

Was the context one where Waterhouse was proving a conditional, "if axioms A, B, C, then theorem Z", or one where where he was trying to establish Z as a truth about the world, and therefore also had the burden of showing that axioms A, B, C were supported by experimental evidence?

Neither! The statement he is 'awfully sure of' is a probalistic conclusion he has derived from experimental evidence via Bayesian reasoning on the world's first programmable computer. Specifically, that statement is this: Part of the argument used to convince Comstock:

One of the parts of "liquid water is wet" is that a droplet of it will spread out on many common surfaces - salt, paper, cotton, etc. Yes, it is a bit tricky to unpack what is meant by"wet" - perhaps some other properties, like not withstanding shear are also folded in - but I don't think that it is just a tautology, with "wet" being defined as the set of properties that liquid water has.

Re the catch/count/mark/release/recapture/count puzzle - the degree to which that is feasible depends on how well one can do (reasonably) unbiased sampling. I'm skeptical that that will work well with the set of testable statements that one is automatically certain of.

Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded.

There is a very large amount of stuff that one is automatically certain of that is correct, though trivial, data like "liquid water is wet". I'm not sure how one would even practically quantify an analysis of what fraction of the statements one is certain of are or are not true. Even if one could efficiently test them, how would one list them (in the current state of science - tracing a full human neural network (and then converting its beliefs into a list of testable statements) is beyond our current capabilities).

I'm curious about this "liquid water is wet" statement. Obviously I agree, but for the sake of argument, could you taboo "is" and tell me the statement again? I'm trying to understand how your algorithm feels from the inside. If you're curious how to quantify fractions of statements, you might enjoy this puzzle I heard once. Suppose you're an ecological researcher and you need to know the number of fish in a large lake. How would you get a handle on that number?

Agreed. If nothing else, in a bargaining process, keeping the maximum/minimum price that one would accept private during the negotiation doesn't fit into either category.

But if both parties were forbidden from keeping their reservation price secret the problem would be less bad, so it does kind-of fit into the spirit of the second category, though not its letter.

The empirical evidence that is in the link from Gunnar_Zarncke's post is:

And throughout the book's description of these events, there was one constant:

All of the white people who joined Indian tribes loved it and refused to go back to white civilization. All the Indians who joined white civilization hated it and did everything they could to go back to their previous tribal lives.

This is not just from introspection.

Can one use the backwards-E existence symbol as one of the letters?

8Eliezer Yudkowsky10y
It seems intuitively obvious to me that since the risk event is an absence of existence, we should call them \forall-risks.

If we want ease-of-use, the fact that you typed out "backwards-E existence symbol" instead of "∃" isn't encouraging...

And what is the probability that one of them is a Prior?

Maximally uninformative.

Concern about sociopaths applies to both business and government:

One paper examining a sizable sample of business folk found that percentage of sociopaths in the corporate world is 3.5 times higher than in the general population. Another study of 346 white-collar workers found that the percentage of corporate sociopaths increased as you go up the corporate ladder. That’s consistent with the reasons why politicians tend to be sociopaths: corporate leaders have lots of power over others

... (read more)

Interesting question. I'm a programmer who works in EDA software, including using transistor-level simulations, and I use surprisingly little math. Knowing the idea of a derivative (and how noisy numerical approximations to them can be!) is important - but it is really rare for me to actually compute one. It is reasonably common to run into a piece of code that reverses the transformation done by another pieces of code, but that is about it. The core algorithms of the simulators involves sophisticated math - but that is stable and encapsulated, so it i... (read more)

I see computer science as a branch of applied math which is important enough to be treated as a top-level 'science' of its own. Another way of putting it is that algorithms and programming are the 'engineering' counterpart to the 'science' of (the rest of) CS and math. Programming very often involves math that is unrelated to the problem domain. For instance, using static typing relies on results from type theory. Cryptography (which includes hash functions, which are ubiquitous in software) is math. Functional languages in particular often embody complex mathematical structures that serve as design paradigms. Many data structures and algorithms rely on mathematical proofs. Etc. That is also a fact that ought to be taught in school :-)

I don't know, but it sounds similar to "It's smarter to be lucky than it's lucky to be smart."

suggest that those with the power to wield nuclear weapons have in fact been more morally responsible than we give them credit.

Perhaps. Alternatively, when faced with a similarly-armed opponent, even our habitually bloody rulers can be detered by the prospect of being personally burned to death with nuclear fire.

I've always wondered why, on discovering nuclear weapons, the leaders of America didn't continually pour a huge budget into it - stockpile a sufficient number of them and then destroy all their potential peers. I can't think of any explanation bar the morality in their culture. They could certainly have secured sufficient material for the task.
More like our supposedly bloody soldiers, at least in some of the more alarming close calls. I was about to say your point stands, but actually, wouldn't at least some of them have been in bunkers? I'll have to check that, now...

And with 542 survivals, assuming Poisson statistics, the one-sigma bounds are around +-4% of that. I'll believe Spock most significant figure, but not the other three. :-)

To summarize the important bits of the "Do steel-Vulcans provide excessive significant digits?" discussion: Suppose that the one-sigma range tells us that where the quote has 3745, some reasonable error analysis says 3745 plus or minus 173. Then the steel-Vulcan would still say 3745 and not, e.g., 3700 or 4000, for the following reasons: 1. 3745 is still the midpoint of the range of reasonable values, and thus the closest single value to "the truth". 2. Taking meta-uncertainty into account, you still should assign some probability to how likely you are to survive, which is going to be some probably-not-round number like 1 in 3745. This sort of accuracy is probably not very helpful to humans: I don't have a cognitive algorithm that lets me distinguish between 1 in 3745 odds and 1 in 3812 odds, so saying "about 1 in 4000" provides all the information I'll actually use. Presumably a species that can come up with this kind of answer in the first place feels differently about this; in fact, there's probably some strong cultural taboo against rounding.

Maxwell's equations fit in roughly 40 characters.

If you use the right notation, even fewer than that.
But the context necessary to interpret what all of the symbols mean and match them to real-world phenomena doesn't. That takes up something like a textbook in electrical engineering.

In particular if the success of something you opposed seemed inevitable, you'd still oppose it.

Oppose in the sense of "actively work to stop it" or oppose in the sense of, "if asked about it, note that one dislikes it"? I dislike the increase of surveillance over the decades but look: Sensors get cheaper year by year. Computation gets cheaper year by year. I'm not happy to see more surveillance, but I see it as so close to inevitable, due to the dropping costs of the enabling technologies, that actively opposing it is a waste of t... (read more)

Whether that is good advice or not depends on the evidence already in hand, and the difficulty of the experiment. Will ice survive heating to a million kelvin at standard pressure?

Is that descriptive or normative?

Purely descriptive. On a broadly subjectivist metaethics, it also has normative implications.

Not for all aspects of reality. Some require very extreme conditions (like large, complex physics experiments like the LHC) to hit.

One of the things that other people do is to build standard parts. If one has an unlimited budget, one can ignore them, and build everything in a project from optimized custom parts. This is rare.

And stay there? Or visit it as part of, for instance, a random walk?

And stay there, except for occasional digressions. In other words, assuming I understand the claim: as time approaches infinity, so the probability of a randomly selected country being democratic approaches 1.

I'm going to be unfair here - there is a limit to how much specificity one can expect in a brief quote but: In what sense is the difficulty "mathematical in essence", and just how ignorant of how much mathematics are the physiologists in question? Consider a problem where the exact solution of the model equations turns out to be an elliptic integral - but where the practically relevant range is adequately represented by a piecewise linear approximation, or by a handful of terms in a power series. Would ignorance of the elliptic integral be a fatal flaw here?

Speaking as someone who is neither the OP nor Norbert Wiener, I think even the task of posing an adequate mathematical model should not be taken for granted. Thousands of physiologists looked at Drosophila segments and tiger stripes before Turing, thousands of ecologists looked at niche differentiation before Tilman, thousands of geneticists looked at the geological spread of genes before Fisher and Kolmogorov, etc. In all these cases, the solution doesn't require math beyond an undergraduate level.

Also, concern over an exact solution is somewhat misplaced... (read more)

Mostly agreed. If I were to stand on a soapbox and say "light with a wavelength of 523.4371 nm is visible to the human eye", it would fall into the category of an unsubstantiated claim by a single person. But it is implied by the general knowledge that the human visual range is from roughly 400 nm to roughly 700 nm, and that has been confirmed by anyone who has looked at a spectrum with even crude wavelength calibration.

"Temporarily" can be quite a long time... So when can we expect to probe plank-energy physics solidly enough to really test how quantum gravity works? :)

and isn't there, or wasn't there, some Islamic sect where people try to find God by spinning around?


Only as a hypothetical possibility. (From such evidence as I've seen I don't think either really exists. And I have seen a fair number of Wiccan ceremonies - which seem like reasonably decent theater, but that's all.) One could construe some biblical passages as predicting some sort of duel - and if one believed those passages, and that interpretation, then the question of whether one side was overstating its chances would be relevant.

The difference would be that if worship of Jehovah gets you eternal life in heaven, and worship of Astarte gets you eternal torture and damnation, then you should worship Jehovah and not Astarte. Also, if Astarte knows this, but pretends otherwise, then Astarte's a liar.

Or perhaps neither Jehovah nor Astarte knows now who will dominate in the end, and any promises either makes to any followers are, ahem, over-confident? :-) There was a line I read somewhere about how all generals tell their troops that their side will be victorious...

So you're assuming both sides are in a duel, and that the winner will send xyr worshipers to heaven and the loser's worshipers to hell? Because I was not.

Would a constructor of asynchronous process-level parallel structures be a daemon wrangler?

I apologize. I should have been clearer. I mean that if a group of weapons developers, such as, for instance, the Manhattan Project, discovers certain critical technical data necessary to their weapons, such as, for instance, the critical mass of Pu-239, they will often prefer that these truths not spread to other groups. For as long as they are able to keep this knowledge secret, it is indeed a set of truths that makes this set of weapons designers distinct from other groups.

Oh, I see now. Thanks for clarifying. But if other developers are incorrect, then you'd want to be correct; and if other developers are correct, you'd still want to be correct. Put game-theoretically, accuracy strictly dominates inaccuracy. By contrast, isnt' distinctiveness only good when it doesn't compromise accuracy?

I think a group could make itself very distinct by believing certain truths and doing certain rationally justified things.

Most groups of weapon developers probably hope to keep their knowledge distinct from that of other groups for as long as they can...

What? I don't get this. Also, why should weapons developers care whether their products are distinctive? Having better weapons helps, and being better is being distinctive, but so is being worse.
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