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Kurzweil's predictions: good accuracy, poor self-calibration

Having been a TA at two universities in two different states, I can assure you that considering university students would increase the prevalence of small laptops & tablets, not decrease it. Although not literally true, it is perfectly true in the colloquial sense that everyone has them.

Restricting the sample to just the students I've taught (several hundred, probably less than a thousand), I'd view prediction 20 as mostly true in all but the most literal sense. (For instance, I find the difference between touch interfaces with fingers vs those with a stylus to be irrelevant to the spirit of overall truth of the prediction.)

Good transhumanist fiction?

I'll second Schismatrix and emphasize that it has a particular focus on whether it's better to extend human life by purely organic/biological means or to use mechanical/technological enhancements.

Could evolution have selected for moral realism?

"Turning a person into paperclips is wrong" is an ethical proposition that is Eliezer-true and Human-true and >Paperclipper-false, and Eliezer's "subjunctive objective" view is that we should just call that "true".

Despite the fact that we might have a bias toward the Human-[x] subset of moral claims, it's important to understand that such a theory does not itself favor one over the other.

It would be like a utilitarian taking into account only his family's moral weights in any calculations, so that a moral position might be Family-true but Strangers-false. It's perfectly coherent to restrict the theory to a subset of its domain (and speaking of domains, it's a bit vacuous to talk of paperclip morality, at least to the best of my knowledge of the extent of their feelings...), but that isn't really what the theory as a whole is about.

So if we as a species were considering assimilation, and the moral evaluation of this came up Human-false but Borg-true, the theory (in principle) is perfectly well equipped to decide which would ultimately be the greater good for all parties involved. It's not simply false just because it's Human-false. (I say this, but I'm unfamiliar with Eliezer's position. If he's biased toward Human-[x] statements, I'd have to disagree.)

Could evolution have selected for moral realism?

You seem to be overlooking the fact that facts involving contextual language are facts nonetheless.

The "fact" that Obama is president is only social truth. Obama is president because we decided he is. If no one >thought Obama was president, he wouldn't be president anymore.

There is a counterfactual sense in which this holds some weight. I'm not saying agree with your claim, but I would at least have to give it more consideration before I knew what to conclude.

But that simply isn't the case (& it's a fact that it isn't, of course). Obama's (present) presidency is not contested, and it is a fact that he is President of the United States.

You could try to argue against admitting facts involving any vagueness of language, but you would run into two problems: this is more an issue with language than an issue with facts; and you have already admitted facts about other things.

[Poll] Less Wrong and Mainstream Philosophy: How Different are We?

Unless you buy into Kant's synthetic a priori arguments, that's really all analytic means. Of course, in practice it's far more interesting & complicated, and it even leads to the kind of applications that have made secure internet commerce possible, not to mention the computers we use to do that.

At least, on some days I think that's what 'analytic' means. Maybe.

[Poll] Less Wrong and Mainstream Philosophy: How Different are We?

I like the idea of pulling some language from logic and saying we have "bound will," not "free will."

This may well be compatibilism as intended by its defenders, but that isn't the impression I've ever had from their papers.

I would [very] roughly describe bound will with the following two claims: My will is free from Susie's will. Neither Susie's will nor my will is free from physical causes.

Notice that such a term doesn't care whether the universe is strictly deterministic or merely stochastic.

[Poll] Less Wrong and Mainstream Philosophy: How Different are We?

I think I'm more comfortable with the negation of Platonism than with the positive claim of nominalism, but I suppose in this context we have 'nominalism' = '~Platonism'.

Whether what is usually meant by 'nominalism' is the same is as unclear to me as I am uncomfortable with the idea of making a positive claim about it.

[Poll] Less Wrong and Mainstream Philosophy: How Different are We?

This depends a great deal on both which branch of philosophy we're talking about & who is evaluating that particular branch's usefulness.

For example, I find developments in logics, philosophy of science, & general epistemology to be of great interest, and I perceive all three topics to be advancing (listed in order of priority as that goes) as the years go by. I'm sure others feel differently.

It would be hard to get past the fact that, especially between the different branches of philosophy, there is a great deal of "philosophy of language" that is or must be done just to get at what anyone's talking about. But that is, to some extent, true of any field with a technical language.

So I guess all four answers make sense in some sense.

[Poll] Less Wrong and Mainstream Philosophy: How Different are We?

I probably should have voted for "Other," but I voted for "Lean toward: yes" because I still outright agree in certain contexts.

Quine's Two Dogmas is certainly enough to make me doubt the usefulness of the analytic/synthetic distinction as regards ordinary language, but for formal languages, this is not the case. It's also not clear to me whether it's impossible to construct a language (for communication) clear enough to make sense of analytic/synthetic distinctions.

This is one of those wonderfully agnostic positions that philosophy often leaves me with.

Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012)

It helps that generally (ie unless you're at Princeton/Cambridge/etc) the faculty at a given school will have come from much stronger schools than the grad students there, and similarly for undergrads/grads. And by "helps" I mean that it helps maintain the effect while explaining it, not that it helps the students any.

As far as the range of a recursive function goes, isn't that the very definition of a recursive set?

I'm definitely enjoying Fixing Frege. This is the third Burgess book I've read (Computability & Logic and Philosophical Logic being the other two), and when it's just him doing the writing, he's definitely one of the clearest expositors of logic I've ever read.

Apparently, he also gets chalk all over his shirt when he lectures, but I've never seen this first-hand.

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