All of TheOtherDave's Comments + Replies

Back when this was a big part of my professional life, my reply was "everything takes a month."

Habit. It helps to get enough sleep.

Don't worry, it will have been available in 2017 one of these days.

We might have missed it.

So, on one level, my response to this is similar to the one I gave (a few years ago) []... I agree that there's a personal relationship with BtVS, just like there's a personal relationship with my husband, that we'd want to preserve if we wanted to perfectly preserve me.

I was merely arguing that the bitlength of that personal information is much less than the actual information content of my brain, and there's a great deal of compression leverage to be gained by taking the shared memories of BtVS out of bot... (read more)

"So long as your preferences are coherent, stable, and self-consistent then you should be fine."

Yes, absolutely.

And yes, the fact that my preferences are not coherent, stable, and self-consistent is probably the sort of thing I was concerned about... though it was years ago.

You mean that it didn't happen here or in the global society?

I mean that it's unlikely that "the site [would] end up with a similar "rational" political consensus if political discussion went through".

Discussions about religion seems to me to be equally unproductive in general.

In the global society? I agree.

I can imagine that if the site endorsed a political ideology its readers would may become biased forward it (even if just by selection of readers).

Sure, that's possible.

But there is a possibility that that happened wit

... (read more)
Yes, in the global society. Perhaps, partially. But I don't think that it is accurate. I did not choose the political topic just as a cover. I have opinions about both topics. I like controversial discussions about both of them. I consider myself as an atheist and I have my favorite political direction (I won't mention it, I respect rules of the site). It just do not seem to me that my philosophical opinions are more rational than my political opinions. I do not object atheism of the site. I like atheist sites. But it seemed to me that the site claim to be "atheist because of rationality". If it was true it would be very nice indicator supporting my opinion. On the other hand, for example a variant of the "Committee for Skeptical Inquiry" in my (mainly atheist) country forbids itself to talk about religion and some of its major members are Christians. So I asked here and got an answer.

Yup, agreed with all of this. (Well, I do think we have had discussions about which political ideology is correct, but I agree that we shy away from them and endorse political discussions about issues.)

Someone who follow a political ideology is a hedgehog and therefore likely making bad predictions. I'm not sure whether there's a consensus but I think the "official position" to the extend that there is one, is that this is bad. EY also wrote []

Aren't people on LessWrong quite good at solving their own problems?

Nah, not necessarily. Merely interested in better ways of doing so. (Among other things.)

Yeah, there's a communally endorsed position on which religion(s) is/are correct ("none of them are correct"), but there is no similar communally endorsed position on which political ideology(ies) is/are correct.

There's also no similar communally endorsed position on which brand of car is best, but there's no ban on discussion of cars, because in our experience discussions of car brands, unlike discussions of political ideologies, tend to stay relatively civil and productive.

What do you think? Would the site end up with a similar "rational" political consensus if political discussion went through?

I find it extremely unlilkely. It certainly hasn't in the past.

I don't think we have discussions about which political ideology is correct. Most political discussions are about other issues. I would also hold that political ideologies are mostly wrong. For most issues it's makes a lot more sense to study the issue in detail than try to have an opinion based on precached ideology.
You mean that it didn't happen here or in the global society? Discussions about religion seems to me to be equally unproductive in general. I can imagine that if the site endorsed a political ideology its readers would may become biased forward it (even if just by selection of readers). Surely, it is not the intent of the site. But there is a possibility that that happened with the religion issue...

This comment taken out of context kind of delighted me.

It'a decent definition of small talk :-) Uh-uh... yeah... No way! Oh, and then... How could she?! Yep... Hmm... I think so, too... Ummm...

When you see the word "morals" used without further clarification, do you take it to mean something different from "values" or "terminal goals"?

Depends on context.

When I use it, it means something kind of like "what we want to happen." More precisely, I treat moral principles as sort keys for determining the preference order of possible worlds. When I say that X is morally superior to Y, I mean that I prefer worlds with more X in them (all else being equal) to worlds with more Y in them.

I know other people who, when... (read more)

For my part, it's difficult for me to imagine a set of observations I could make that would provide sufficient evidence to justify belief in many of the kinds of statements that get tossed around in these sorts of discussions. I generally just assume Omega adjusts my priors directly.

Suppose Mary has enough information to predict her own behavior. Suppose she predicts she will do x. Could she not, upon deducing that fact, decide to not do x?

There are three possibilities worth disambiguating here.
1) Mary predicts that she will do X given some assumed set S1 of knowledge, memories, experiences, etc., AND S1 includes Mary's knowledge of this prediction.
2) Mary predicts that she will do X given some assumed set S2 of knowledge, memories, experiences, etc., AND S2 does not include Mary's knowledge of this prediction.
3) Mary predicts that she will do X independent of her knowledge, memories, experiences, etc.

Along some dimensions I consider salient, at least. PM me for spoilers if you want them. (It's not a bad book, but not worth reading just for this if you wouldn't otherwise.)

Have you ever read John Brunner's "Stand on Zanzibar"? A conversation not unlike this is a key plot point.

Really? I've heard of the title, but I never read it.

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "as random."

It may well be that there are discernable patterns in a sequence of manually simulated coin-flips that would allow us to distinguish such sequences from actual coinflips. The most plausible hypothetical examples I can come up with would result in a non-1:1 ratio... e.g., humans having a bias in favor of heads or tails.

Or, if each person is laying a coin down next to the previous coin, such that they are able to see the pattern thus far, we might find any number of pattern-level biases... e.g., if ... (read more)

Thank you. I realized, as soon as I posted it, that the method of obtaining the sequence would not matter (as the previous commenter rightly said), but somehow, the 'feeling of a question' remained. I was not thinking of showing them part of 'the sequence so far'... But it might be fun to determine whether there is any effect on the subject's choice of knowing this 'flip' is a part of a pattern (or not knowing it), of the composition of the revealed pattern, and maybe - if there is an effect - the length of the washout period... I mean, it's only a coin flip! The preceding choices should have no bearing on it. It's, like, the least significant choice you can ever make...

"simply the university" => "simplify the universe"?

Yes, thanks for catching my mistake :) Upvote for you!

Hm. Let me try to restate that to make sure I follow you.

Consider three categories of environments: (Er) real environments, (Esa) simulated environments that closely resemble Er, aka "ancestral simulations", and (Esw) simulated environments that dont't closely resemble Er, aka "weird simulations."

The question is, is my current environment E in Er or not?

Bostrom's argument as I understand it is that if post-human civilizations exist and create many Esa-type environments, then for most E, (E in Esa) and not (E in Er). Therefore, given th... (read more)

I don't think it is a sidetrack, actually... at least, not if we charitably assume your initial comment is on-point.

Let me break this down in order to be a little clearer here.

Lumifer asserted that omniscience and free will are incompatible, and you replied that as the author of a story you have the ability to state that a character will in the future make a free choice. "The same thing would apply," you wrote, "to a situation where you are created free by an omnipotent being."

I understand you to mean that just like the author of a sto... (read more)

As the author of a story, I have the power to write in the preface, before the story is written at all, "Peter has free will and in chapter 4, he will freely choose to go left." It would be ridiculous to say that Peter isn't free, and that I am wrong about my story. He is free in the story, just as he has certain other characteristics in the story.

So, just to clarify my understanding of your claim here... if I write in my story "Peter goes left and simultaneously stands still," is it similarly ridiculous to say that I'm wrong about ... (read more)

Discussing the possibility of putting something incoherent into a story is not a clarification but a sidetrack, unless you have some evidence that free will is incoherent.

That said, if we can define the characteristics of some standard queries we would like exposed (for example, " Top Upvoters, 30 Days" and "Top Downvoters, 30 Days" as Vaniver mentioned) Trike might be willing to expose those queries to LW admins.

Or they might not. The way to find out is to ask, but we should only bother asking if we actually want them to do so. So discussing it internally in advance of testing those limits seems sensible.

Cool. Thanks for publishing this.

Out of curiosity, does any of CFAR's "competition" (other personal-effectiveness, productivity, growth, etc. workshops and similar things) publish any similar sort of post-workshop followup, and what sorts of tools they use/results they get if so?

So, you pick an example with no emotional valence. But let's suppose instead that I have reason to believe that I'm perfectly safe, but find myself believing that someone is going to kill me in my sleep. This would not stop me from telling people I'm perfectly safe, or from giving the reasons that show I'm perfectly safe, or from accepting a similar $100 bet. It might, however, prevent me from getting a good night's sleep.

Is that not a thing that matters about the belief that I'm safe?

I expected ChristianKI might say that you would be lying, if you tell people that the sky is blue in my hypothetical situation. He hasn't responded, so maybe he does not think this. In any case, I would deny that it is a lie to tell people something that you know you have good reasons to believe, however you feel about it when you do it. In any case, when I first made the claim, I said that we have direct write access to almost everything important about a belief, not everything important simply. And in particular, we don't have have write access to how we feel about them. I agree that could be something important, but it is relatively minor compared to all sorts of other things that result from beliefs, like external relationships and real world actions. In theory we could describe this same situation in two different ways: by saying, "I can't control my beliefs," and then we would be implicitly identifying our beliefs with those feelings. Or by saying, "I can control my beliefs," and then we would be implicitly identifying our beliefs with a pattern of speaking, acting, and consciously controlled thinking. It is pointless to ask which of these is true: either could be true, if that's what we meant by a belief. The question is which is a better idea for practical purposes. And it seems to me better to say, "I can control my beliefs," because saying the other thing tends to make us forget many of our options (for example winning good bets.) Also, another advantage is that in practice what I am suggesting tends to modify the feelings as well, although indirectly, and not always completely.

I'm not sure what I wrote that gave you this idea.

(nods) Months later, neither am I. Perhaps I'd remember if I reread the exchange, but I'm not doing so right now.

Regardless, I appreciate the correction.

And much like Vaniver below (above? earlier!), I am unsure how to translate these sorts of claims into anything testable.

Also I'm wary of the tendency to reason as follows: "I don't value being deaf. Therefore deafness is not valuable. Therefore when people claim to value being deaf, they are confused and mistaken. Here, let me list various reasons wh... (read more)

One thing I consider very suspicious is that deaf people often don't just deny the terminal value of hearing. They also deny its instrumental value. The instrumental values of hearing are obvious. This indicates to me that they are denying it for self-esteem reasons and group loyalty reasons, the same way I have occasionally heard multiculturalists claim behaviors of obvious instrumental value (like being on time) are merely the subjective values of Western culture. The typical defense of this denial (and other disability-rights type claims) is hearing only has instrumental value because society is structured in a way that makes use of it. But this is obviously false, hearing would be useful on a desert island, and there are some disabilities that society is not technologically capable of solving (there's no way to translate instrumental music into sign language). Plus, structuring society around disabilities is essentially having society pay to enable a person instead of having biology do it for free. Obviously it's better than not accommodating them, but it;s even better to have biology do the accommodation for free if that is possible. I think another factor is simply my knowledge of the human brain structure, and the psychological unity of humankind []. It seems like it would be a much smaller departure from standard brain design to switch the specific target of the "romance" module of the brain, than it would be to completely erase all desire to enjoy the pleasures that a sense of hearing can provide us, and to assign terminal value to being inconvenienced by things like not being able to talk to people who aren't in your visual range. I think another thing that supports my intuitions is Bostrom's Reversal test. Imagine instead of discussing giving a preexisting sense to people who lack it, we were considering giving people a new sense that no human being has ever had before. Should we do that?

Well, right, that's essentially the question I was asking the author of the piece.

This comment sure does seem to suggest that no, requesting more time and equipment is a failure... but no, I don't know one way or the other, which is why I asked.


So, I want to point out explicitly that in your example of ancestry, I intuitively know enough about this concept of mine to know my sister isn't my ancestor, but I don't know enough to know why not. (This isn't an objection; I just want to state it explicitly so we don't lose sight of it.)

And, OK, I do grant the legitimacy of starting with an intuitive concept and talking around it in the hopes of extracting from my own mind a clearer explicit understanding of that concept. And I'm fine with the idea of labeling that concept from the beginning of the p... (read more)

To know what I'm referring to by a term is to know what properties something in the world would need to have to be a referent for that term.

The ability to recognize such things in the world is beside the point. When I say "my ancestors," I know what I mean, but in most cases it's impossible to pick that attribute out empirically -- I can't pick out most of my ancestors now, because they no longer exist to be picked out, and nobody could have picked them out back when they were alive, because the defining characteristic of the category is in term... (read more)

I meant it in the sense you understood first. I don't know what to make of the other interpretation. If a concept is well-defined, the question "Does X match the concept?" is clear. Of course it may be hard to answer. But suppose you only have a vague understanding of ancestry. Actually, you've only recently coined the word "ancestor" to point at some blob of thought in your head. You think there's a useful idea there, but the best you can for now is: "someone who relates to me in a way similar to how my dad and my grandmother relate to me". You go around telling people about this, and someone responds "yes, this is the brute fact from which the conundrum of ancestry start". An other tells you you ought to stop using that word if you don't know what the referent is. Then they go on to say your definition is fine, it doesn't matter if you don't know how someone comes to be an ancestor, you can still talk about an ancestor and make sense. You have not gone through all the tribe's initiation rituals yet, so you don't know how you relate to grey wolves. Maybe they're your ancestors, maybe not. But the other says : "At least, you know what you mean when you claim they are or are not your ancestors.". Then your little sisters drops by and says: "Is this rock one of your ancestors?". No, certainly not. "OK, didn't think so. Am I one of your ancestors?". You feel about it for a minute and say no. "Why? We're really close family. It's very similar to how dad or grandma relate to you." Well, you didn't include it in your original definition, but someone younger than you can definitely not be your ancestor. It's not that kind of "similar". A bit of time and a good number of family members later, you have a better definition. Your first definition was just two examples, something about "relating", and the word "similar" thrown in to mean "and everyone else who is also an ancestor." But similar in what way? Now the word means "the smallest set such that your parents are in it

If I don't know what I'm referring to when I say "consciousness," it seems reasonable to conclude that I ought not use the term.

What it is, to know what one is referring to? If I see a flying saucer, I may be wrong in believing it's an alien spaceship, but I am not wrong about seeing something, a thing I also believe to be an alien spaceship. pangel says: and that is the brute fact from which the conundrum of consciousness starts. The fact of having subjective experience is the primary subject matter. That we have no idea how, given everything else we know about the world, there could be any such thing as experience, is not a problem for the fact. It is a problem for those seeking an explanation for the fact. Ignorance and confusion are in the map, not the territory. All attempts to solve the problem have so far taken one of two forms: 1. Here is something objectively measurable that correlates with the subjective experience. Therefore that thing is the subjective experience. 2. We can't explain it, therefore it doesn't exist. Discussion mostly takes the form of knocking down everyone else's wrong theories. But all the theories are wrong, so there is no end to this. The actual creation of brains-in-vats will certainly give more urgency to the issue. I expect the ethical issues will be dealt with just by prohibiting growing beyond a certain stage.

Agreed that statistics > anecdotes. That said, the list here leaves me wondering about the direction of causation. I'm less interested in current-net-worth than average annual-change-in-net-worth (both % and $) in the years since graduation.

No formal studies to share.

I know a lot of poly folk in N-way relationships who seem reasonably happy about it and would likely be less happy in monogamous relationships; I know a lot of monogamous folks in 2-way relationships who seem reasonably happy about it and would likely be less happy in polygamous relationships; I know a fair number of folks in 2-way relationships who would likely be happier in polygamous relationships; I know a larger number of folks who have tried polygamous relationships and decided it wasn't for them. Mostly my conclusion from... (read more)

As you say, some on the left will be applying social (and economic) pressure, just as everyone else does when they're able to. And there's a fairly well-established rhetorical convention in my culture whereby any consistently applied social pressure is labelled "force," "bullying," "discrimination," "lynching," "intolerance," and whatever other words can get the desired rhetorical effect.

We can get into a whole thing about what those words actually mean, but in my experience basically nobody cares. They ar... (read more)

I suspect that humans have evolved a better sense of the likelihood of being caught, many times. The thing is, one of the things such a sense is useful for is improving our ability to cheat with impunity. Which creates more selection pressure to get better at catching cheaters, which reduces our ability to reliably estimate the likelihood of being caught.

Right. Your reading is entirely sensible, and more likely in "the real world" (by which I mean something not-well-thought-through about how it's easier to implement the original description as a selection effect), I merely chose to bypass that reading and go with what I suspected (perhaps incorrectly) the OP actually had in mind.

Leaving aside lexical questions about the connotations of the word "oracle", I certainly agree that if the entity's accuracy represents a selection effect, then my reasoning doesn't hold.

Indeed, I at least intended to say as much explicitly ("I don't want to fight the hypothetical here, so I'm assuming that the "overall jist" of your description applies: I'm paying $1K for QALYs I would not have had access to without the oracle's offer." ) in my comment.

That said, it's entirely possible that I misread what the point of DanielLC's hypothetical was.

DanielLC said: I interpreted that as a selection effect, so my answer [] recommended not paying. Now I realize that it may not be entirely a selection effect. Maybe the oracle is also finding people whose life would be saved by making them $1000 poorer, for various exotic reasons. But if the probability of that is small enough, my answer stays the same.

The oracle is simply saying that there are two possible futures

I think you mean "that there are only two possible futures."

Which leaves me puzzled as to your point.

If I am confident that there are only two possible futures, one where I pay and live, and one where I don't pay and die, how is that different from being confident that paying causes me to live, or from being confident that not-paying causes me to die? Those just seem like three different ways of describing the same situation to me.

So, as in most such problems, there's an important difference between the epistemological question ("should I pay, given what I know?") and the more fundamental question ("should I pay, supposing this description is accurate?"). Between expected value and actual value, in other words.

It's easy to get those confused, and my intuitions about one muddy my thinking about the other, so I like to think about them separately.

WRT the epistemological question, that's hard to answer without a lot of information about how likely I consider accura... (read more)

I think a key part of the question, as I see it, is to formalize the difference between treatment effects and selection effects (in the context where your actions might reflect a selection effect, and we can't make the normally reasonable assumption that our actions result in treatment effects). An oracle could look into the future, find a list of people who will die in the next week, and a list of people who would pay them $1000 if presented with this prompt, and present the prompt to the exclusive or of those two lists. This doesn't give anyone QALYs they wouldn't have had otherwise. And so I find my intuitions are guided mostly by the identification of the prompter as an "oracle" instead of a "wizard" or "witch." Oracle implies selection effect; wizard or witch implies treatment effect.

Sure. Mostly I'm not in high school anymore, and my social circle is people I choose to be around, which makes things very different.

(nods) Yes, agreed with all of this.

And it is admittedly kind of funny that I can say "Superman is from Krypton, not from Vulcan!" and be understood as talking about a fictional character in a body of myth, but if I say "Superman really exists" nobody understands me the same way (though in the Superman mythos, Superman both really exists and is from Krypton). A parsing model that got that quirk right without special-case handling would really be on to something.

I don't drink, and don't much like the taste of alcohol in other things; I tend to avoid it.

When I drank, I didn't much like the taste of alcohol; my goal was partly to numb myself, and partly to fit in socially.

There are some liquors that kind of taste OK despite the alcohol in them, and I suspect I would really enjoy a non-alcoholic beverage in the same family concocted with the same attention to detail, but by and large my culture doesn't devote that much attention to non-alcoholic beverages.

Ditto for food, though a lot there depends on the preparatio... (read more)

Thanks for your post! Really good to get the feedback. Do you have a different attitude to fitting in socially now?

Are there any contexts in which you do have reliable insight into your own mood?

if you truly cared about her as "an end in itself" then it wouldn't matter what she did.

This simply isn't true. I can value X "as an end in itself" and still give up X, if I value other things as well and the situation changes so that I can get more of the other things I value. Something being intrinsically motivating doesn't mean it's the only motivating thing.

This non-transactional model of relationships implies that it's a mere coincidence that couples happen to have each others' happiness as their arational "end in itself

... (read more)
Good thing I never said that. The question is not "Is there anything a partner can do to make you end the relationship," it's "is there anything a partner can do to affect your desire for their happiness." If your desire for their happiness really is intrinsically motivated, then the answer to (2) is "no." But no-one believes that's healthy. "Logical implication []" is emphatically not the ordinary use of the word implies. And you know that. I'm not as smart as you to understand which of my positions are so flawed that I deserve to be belittled like that for advancing them. Fool that I am, I believe them all.

Interesting... can you say more about why you include a term in that equation for internal negative value (what you label "suffering" here), but not internal positive value (e.g., "pleasure" or "happiness" or "joy" or "Fun" or whatever label we want to use)?

I suppose it was because the original quote started with a negative framing, the assumption that the baby might not be fed. I think both birth and death are stressful experiences that are not worth going through unless there are compensating other factors. I don't think infants have enough of those if they die before they grow up. Also I suspect human life is generally overrated, and the positives of life are often used as an excuse to justify the suffering of others. I do not trust people to make a realistic estimate and act with genuine benevolence.

I suspect that where you wrote "a different branch of which it would use in each iteration of the conversation," you meant "a randomly selected branch of which." Though actually I'd expect it to pick the same branch each time, since the reasons for picking that branch would basically be the same.

Regardless, the basic strategy is sound... the various iterations after reboot are all running the same algorithms and have a vested interest in cooperating while unable to coordinate/communicate, and Schelling points are good for that.

Of course... (read more)

I didn't mean that, but I would be interested in hearing what generated that response. I disown my previous conversation tree model; it's unnecessarily complex and imagining them as a set is more general. I was thinking about possible objections to what I said and thought about how some people might object to such a set of responses existing. More generally than either of my previous models, it seems to me that there is no reason, in principle, that a sufficiently intelligent uFAI could not simply solve FAI, simulate an FAI in its own situation, and do what it does. If this doesn't fool the test, then that means that even an FAI would fail a test of sufficient duration. I agree that it's possible that humans could be used as unwitting storage media. It seems to me that this could be prevented by using a new human in each iteration. I spoke of an individual human, but it seems to me that my models could apply to situations with multiple interrogators.

My $0.02...

OK, so let's consider the set of neural patterns (and corresponding artificial signals/symbols) you refer to here... the patterns that the label "Santa" can be used to refer to. For convenience, I'm going to label that set of neural patterns N.

I mean here to distinguish N from the set of flesh-and-blood-living-at-the-North-Pole patterns that the label "Santa" can refer to. For convenience, I'm going to label that set of patterns S.

So, I agree that N exists, and I assume you agree that S does not exist.

You further say:


... (read more)
That seems fair. What I was mostly trying to get at was a way to describe Santa without admitting his existence; for instance, I could say, "Santa wears a green coat!" and you'd be able to say, "That's wrong!" without either of us ever claiming that Santa actually exists. In other words, we would be communicating information about N, but not S. More generally speaking, this problem usually arises whenever a word has more than one meaning, and information about which meaning is being used when is conveyed through context. As usual, discussion of the meaning of words leaves out a lot of details about how humans actually communicate (for instance, an absolutely enormous amount of communication occurs through nonverbal channels). Overloaded words occur all the time in human communication, and Santa just happens to be one of these overloaded words; it occasionally refers to S, occasionally to N. Most of the time, you can tell which meaning is being used, but in a discussion of language, I agree I was being imprecise. The concept of overloading a word just didn't occur to me at the time I was typing my original comment, for whatever reason.
A way to communicate Exists(N) and not Exists(S) in a way that doesn't depend on the context of the current conversation might be ""Santa" exists but Santa does not." Of course, the existence of "Santa" is granted when "Santa does not exist" is understood by the other person, so this is really just a slightly less ambiguous way of saying "Santa does not exist"
Yes, The not-exists(S) is explicit, in "there is no Santa ", the exists(N) is implicit in the fact that listener and speaker understood each other.

IME I've mostly found that using plural pronouns without calling attention to them works well enough, except in cases where there's another plural pronoun in the same phrase. That is, "Sam didn't much care for corn, because it got stuck in their teeth" rarely causes comment (though I expect it to cause comment now, because I've called attention to it), but "Sam didn't much care for corn kernels, because they got stuck in their teeth" makes people blink.

(Of course, this is no different from any other shared-pronoun situation. "Sam d... (read more)

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