All of TheRev's Comments + Replies

How is that 'weaselly'? Say there is a criminal who confesses to a crime, and quite obviously did it, but the police failed to properly Mirandize them, or otherwise unlawfully elicited the confession. Legally, you should find them not guilty, even if they likely committed the crime. Not guilty does not equal innocent.

That's a separate matter entirely. (Actually, my understanding of the way it's supposed to work in such a case is that you're not supposed to ever hear about the confession as a juror, and so may not have enough evidence to rationally believe they're guilty with the required confidence, even if they in fact are; as opposed believing them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but just "finding" them not -- a form of jury nullification.) This discussion here is entirely about one's rational belief about guilt or innocence, not anyone's legal opinion on the admissibility of evidence into court. You said your probability estimate that Amanda Knox killed her roommate was 15%. That's the information of interest, and it makes you a firm innocentista. Legal issues are a red herring. They would be a red herring even if your belief was 75% -- but in that case, it would at least be a legitimate discussion point to say,"thus, although I believe she probably did it, I would have to acquit if I were on a jury, because I don't believe it beyond a reasonable doubt."

For what it's worth, the chimps have me convinced.

I love that link. It reminds me of a poster I once saw which gave instructions on how to make electric generators, fixed wing aircraft, penicillin, and the like for prospective time travelers.

I own that poster in t-shirt [] form. (The original is here [].)
Oh yeah, this one []. They are so similar that I can only conclude that they were either made by the same person, or someone is copying someone.

Great link. It reminds me of my freshman astronomy lab which actually had us students calculate for instance the diameter and mass of the Earth and sun, and through the semester moved up to the level of using parallax and blackbody spectra to calculate distance to various stars.

Pre-scientific societies have managed to build quite complex machinery. For instance the Antikythera mechanism, Roman textile mills, Egyptian irrigation systems, etc. Is it possible aliens could develop something as complex as a calculator without first attaining scientific literacy? If so electronics wouldn't necessarily prove scientific literacy to them.

Good luck figuring out how to make microchips without at least some scientific knowledge. Even if it could be done, the probability does not seem very high to me.

True, but would you agree that it is more likely that rational entities attain spaceflight capabilities? Also, rationality is likely to share some universals, whereas religion seems far less likely to.

I think most religions require some belief without (and possibly in spite of) evidence, or using words which are almost meaningless. It would be interesting though to see if aliens find different contortions on which to base religious beliefs. Like, a stable equilibrium of people pretending to see what their religion asserts and avoiding signalling otherwise Emperor's New Clothes style or something.

Funny story, but it raises a good point. Perhaps an expression of curiosity would be enough to convince them of our worthiness.

On the other hand, that doesn't seem to have convinced us about the chimpanzees.

I like how pragmatic you're being. I am new here, but one of the things that attracted me to this site was the fact that much of the material is simply above my head. That's hard to find in informal public online communities outside of academia, and I feel that the very challenge of trying to wrap my head difficult material is an absolute necessity for keeping my math and statistics skills sharp. However, different people have different bars that they want to reach, and I do agree that more accessible material is a great idea. As for me, I have a voice... (read more)

I know you can't see me because this is only a text comment, but I am right now really giving you a double thumbs up for this idea.

I certainly agree that it can seem that rationalists are lonelier, I'm just posing an alternate reason why. Though, perhaps your post deserves a more thoughtful reply than I gave.

Unfortunately, the question seems to be a difficult one to answer. First, we need to find a way to determine whether or not rationalists truly are more lonely. Loneliness seems like a tricky variable to quantify. Some ideas that spring to mind: You could measure the size of social circles using social network data or self-report surveys. Simply measure self-reported lonelines... (read more)

Perhaps you have conflated correlation and causation. It is possible that loners, or people who are less concerned with group conformity simply have more time and resources to devote to their rationality.

An alternative (albeit cynical) interpretation is that people who are already lonely have less to loose by believing things that send bad signals, that say very sociable people, since they have to cover up such beliefs less often as well as derive their sense of self wroth from things other than social interactions and their public image.
I don't believe I've conflated anything. It's posed as a question because I don't know the answer; I'm giving my view and some speculation based on a nagging feeling/set of thoughts. I'm looking for the views and experiences of others who may have observed/felt something similar.

One possible explanation of your dream is that we live in a world in which people's minds which are perfect for each other enter the dreamworld and find each other. We don't believe that because the world doesn't seem to work that way.

The world doesn't seem to work this way because there has been no reproducible empirical evidence that it works that way. This isn't a case of "The Earth looks flat from here, so it must be flat." You're postulating that there is another realm of existence out there that doesn't intersect with our reality in a... (read more)

JoshuaZ gave good answers in his post below []

scientia potentia est

Knowledge is power.

--This quote is attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, but we don't really know.

Honestly, I'm not that sure. I knew that there have been issues for law graduates to find jobs, but with the state of the economy the way it is, there are problems for graduates across the board, not just in law school. I'll be graduating this spring with degrees in political science and history. So, I can try and find a job now when the market for college graduates in general is similarly bad, and I'll likely end up working a low paying hourly office job, like customer support, or do some graduate work, like law school or a masters or phd program in on... (read more)

Though I won't be curing AIDS, designing cheaper solar panels, or searching for the Higgs Boson, seeing as I haven't chosen a career in the sciences, I am preparing for law school which should put me in a career that fairly well optimizes my income, while giving me a chance to use some of the rational argument skills on this site. Also, I live in Kansas, which, if I prove good enough at law, could provide me good opportunities to be on the front line against religious ignorance and bigotry here in the states. It would be a dream of mine to be in court ag... (read more)

How sure are you of said optimization? * [] * [] * [] * [] * [] * [] * [] EDIT: an 11% drop in applications in 2011: []

On New Year's Eve this year, I made a spontaneous resolution to go vegetarian. It wasn't exactly a well-thought out rational decision; I mainly just wanted to see what it was like and if I could do it. I never really liked the cruelty argument, probably because that would entail coming to face with the fact that I was responsible for quite a bit of that cruelty. Mainly, I was interested in health benefits, and figured a good way to test those would be to become my own guinea pig. Ten days into the new year, I've only eaten meat twice (I had sushi with ... (read more)

Hi TheRev. I became vegetarian at the age of 20. In my case, the conversion wasn't accompanied by any emotion, and was the result of rational reflection: I just concluded that eating meat caused much unnecessary suffering to other sentient beings. There is of course a selection bias, but most of the vegetarians I know (including many folks at 80,000 Hours, my current employer) have become vegetarians for similar reasons. Here's a relevant comment [] by Carl Shulman:
Okay, I realize I'm pretty late for a reply to this post, but anyway: Yes, I did try to make a rational decision about my diet. In my case that was a step to being a vegan, but I don't think that's very relevant in this context. I'm surprised no one else commented on this, but maybe that's due to other reasons than lack of people who decide on their diet using rational thinking. About 2 years ago, I heard of a book called "Eating animals" by Jonathan S. Foer and felt that this might be an okay source to get some insight in a subject I didn't know much about; the live of farm animals. The book provided a lot of insights and sources and the author seemed to try being as unbiased as possible, while giving a very close insight in how animals live under different farming conditions. I reacted very emotionally to the book. So I guess my decision wasn't completely rational, but I do think the arguments are watertight if you look at factory farming and your premises are the same as mine (as in, definition of suffering, whether suffering (of animals) should be diminished, ...). I did make a conscious effort to decide rationally. Actually the author was in favor of becoming a vegetarian (which I was already, for more vague reasons, when I read the book) but from the arguments alone I immediately thought going vegan was the best option. It was a significant hurdle to go from that thought to being a vegan in practice, with thoughts like "But I like [unvegan food option]!" "Me a vegan? I never associated with that label" "Won't I be a pain for other people to live around?". Anyway: Feeling the appropriate emotion about the facts doesn't make a decision less rational. I am a very empathic person and that made it easier for me to stay with the choice. Two other people I know switched to a vegan diet after I spoke to them, both involved with rational thinking. So that would make three.
If you're still eating pseudo-vegetarian diet and motivated by the cruelty argument, you should probably check out: [] and [] It seems eating eggs might be much worse than eating most kinds of meat (except fish).

A couple of years ago, I happened to take a very interesting grad-level anthropology course entitled simply "Masculinity" at the same time that I was having some perfectly normal doubts about my sexuality. Most of my time in the course was spent butting heads with the professor who felt that most of evolutionary psychology consisted of a way to roll us back to the dark ages on issues of sexual equality, but long story short, I came out the other end doubting whether not just gender (the cultural aspect), but sex (the biological aspect) was just ... (read more)

If it is in her will, then she is probably safe enough. I do understand your wanting to hide the fact from her friends. Being a member of one of the first few generations to be frozen, she is a pioneer in cryonics, and acceptance is always tough for pioneers. In this case however, the pioneers might just live to see a world where people are actually thankful for what they did.

I voted you up for simply quoting The Screwtape Letters. I read it over the summer, and despite its assumptions of Christian theology, I don't think I've found a better work of fiction on the topic of human psychology.

amorality is a hallmark of effective revolutionaries

Says who? Sure there are amoral revolutionaries, but some acted in fairly moral ways, and many more at least sincerely believed they were acting in the common good. And even the amoral revolutionaries drape their selfish motives in the language of morality.

Best of luck to her. Though I am curious, are you hiding the fact of her preservation from the authorities or just from her other friends and family? If the authorities, what would/could they actually do? Would there be a stiff punishment for 'desecration of a corpse' or other such nonsense, or are you worried that someone might take her out of cryo? I have heard of a case where a cryo facility here in the US was shut down, but they didn't actually thaw anyone. Hopefully Russian authorities would be at least that sensible.

In fact I am more afraid about "moral pressure" from close friends. The existance of Criorus is well known to public by many TV shows. Of course one day authority could come and ask them - where is the documents? But in her will is said that she donate her brain for scintific study, this is legal.

When I read the percentage who had cheated on an exam, I started to call BS in my mind, knowing that if I, being among the smartest in my class back in high school, had cheated, surely the rest of the bell curve had too (After all, the only way of getting this data is unreliable self-report surveys.), but then I realized what a perfect example of this fallacy I was making.

Wouldn't a program (like a computation of the laws of physics) written within the confines of the universe be necessarily less complex than the universe itself, or am I missing the point of your post?

Are we allowing dreams into evidence now? As real as your father's experience may have been, it is still subjective, and thus really doesn't have any bearing on the rest of us. For instance, say I had a very exciting dream involving myself, Keira Knightley, and few clothes. A rational response would be to write it off as a very good dream. An irrational response would be to become convinced that Ms. Knightley was infatuated with me and start writing her creepy letters. Likewise, if your father simply wrote this off as a dream, perhaps one whose effects... (read more)

From my original post: One possible explanation of your dream is that we live in a world in which people's minds which are perfect for each other enter the dreamworld and find each other. We don't believe that because the world doesn't seem to work that way. But what if you saw on the news a special of Keira Knightley's crazy dream that she believed was about her true lover; what if she had gone to one of those people who draw faces based on descriptions and the picture drawn was eerily similar to yours? If the dream she explained was really similar to the one you had, would you possibly begin to question your beliefs then? At what point will you accept that your beliefs about there not being an afterlife as possibly worthy of review? Why aren't dreams allowed to be submitted as evidence? They are experiences we have; if we cannot explain them, we must change our beliefs. The reason we don't usually listen to dreams as explanations of our world is that we understand why they happen; they are perfectly explainable without any need for a supernatural explanation. But what if we found that dreams weren't explainable given what we know about our world? We would change our beliefs about the world. So don't just say that dreams aren't evidence. You can say that dreams are poor evidence for an afterlife, but if I postulate that we enter the afterlife in through dreams or some other similarly creative belief system that would explain the dreams, we would test my belief system to see if the predictions it makes correspond to reality better than other belief systems. Also, see Dreaded_Anomaly's comment:

I think most people would agree that a dice, regardless it its fair or not, does not have free will simply because its unpredictable.

You've obviously never played pen and paper RPGs.

I'm not saying the near-term economic woes won't hurt China or bust some of their economic bubble. I just think these are less likely to be profoundly crippling. The urban development issues you mention are part of what's leading to China's environmental troubles, and will have bigger impacts than just near term economic imbalance.

I didn't actually realize cryonics was such a hot topic on this site until after I had posted, so I became a little worried that I'd get beaten with the newbie stick for it.

I consider myself a transhumanist (in the sense that I find genetic alteration, computer augmentation, life extension, etc to be desirable goals, not in the sense that I drank the Kurzweil Kool-Aid and think that all this is inevitable or even probable in my lifetime), but I had never really considered cryonics as a major transhumanist approach. I'm certainly not opposed to cryonics on ... (read more)

I'd be more than happy to debate any and all pragmatic concerns you can think of in another thread. Feel free to start one in Discussion. I'm not signed up yet, focusing largely on the advocacy side of things. As a younger adult it seems like advocacy has a higher potential payoff both in research getting done before my turn comes and having freedom and necessary infrastructure to get preserved under ideal circumstances. Currently it's very difficult to arrange an ideal preservation. I'm not 100% libertarian, and try to see both sides. There is something to the argument that there should be a law requiring cryonics organizations to have good financial arrangements covering long term care. The state has a legitimate interest in preventing the thawing of patients, along similar (though not identical) lines to the interest it has in preventing graveyards from having to sell their land to developers. But that interest is not even remotely close to being an adequate excuse to prevent patients from achieving an ideal preservation. We're being handed a false dichotomy when forced to regulate cryonics as if it were a cemetery operation (or as a standardly defined medical one, if it comes to that).

I'm going to have to distinguish here between guilt in the actual sense, and guilt in a legal sense. Do I think Amanda Knox did it? Somewhat likely. Do I think the prosecution proved that beyond a reasonable doubt? No.

I think my estimates of guilt for all three parties will be higher than most commenters, but here they are:

Probability that Knox participated in the murder: 15% Probability that Knox participated in or covered up the murder: 20% Probability that I would find Knox guilty of murder: 5%

Probability that Solecito participated in the murder 10%... (read more)

Although I'm invariably annoyed by this kind of (what seems to me like) weasly hedging ("just state your probability already!"), it might be a reasonable thing to say if your probability is somewhere between 50% and 99%. At 15%, however, I hardly see the point, and in fact it's downright misleading.

I think even these numbers are a little high, except for the fact that you didn't limit it by jurisdiction. Cryonics isn't hot right now, but longevity certainly is. I don't think there is enough attention on cryonics to justify legislation, but even if there were, the first steps of the legal battle would be court decisions rather than legislation.

Cryonics has recently attracted a small but dedicated opposition who've adopted the framing that cryonics is a scam which consumers need protection from. (I won't link to them, but you can find them in any google search for the word "cryonics".) The basic issue seems to be that it matches their perception of a Scientology-like cult. They've been growing more active, so I wouldn't put it past them to try to push something through this year. There was a bill [] specifically targeting cryonics proposed in 2004 in Arizona. Arguably the Ted Williams event was its cause, so as long as cryonics organizations are more careful to establish clear evidence of consent in celebrity cases, the likelihood of it being repeated in a given year should be relatively low. Oddly enough the publicity from the Ted Williams case triggered an investigation [,1607,7-154-10573_11472-74066--,00.html] in Michigan in which they determined that CI was an unlicensed cemetery. While not exactly a new law, it is certainly new legal restriction as the existing law for cemeteries prohibits preparing the body on site. That's not to say there aren't useful features of cemetery law -- e.g. there's a law for making sure that 15% of a cemetery's monies are kept in perpetual care fund. A law like this would make sense in the context of cryonics facilities if they were considered as a separate sort of entity from cemeteries that is permitted to do things necessary for patient care which have no relevance to a cemetery situation, such as preparing the patient on site.

The Chinese bubble is certainly going to collapse, but I doubt it will be a sudden enough collapse to happen within the year. People can talk all they want about undervalued currency or export dependency, my money is on demographic echo from the one child policy, and ecological and agricultural collapse from industrial pollution, both of which would be on the scale of a decade or more instead of a year. Though a smaller bursting of the bubble could happen due to general global economic downturn, the real kicker is still down the road a few years.

I think you're suffering from availability bias []. You can easily picture polluted countryside or a population crash, whereas "undervalued currency or export dependency" sound like a minor point of abstract economics. You may want to look at this [] article to get a feel for the extent to which Chinese urban policies are driven by a desire to project an image rather then any internal sensible policies. For example, people who aren't born residents aren't allowed to move into Shanghai or Beijing while a third of the newly constructed buildings remain empty.

I guess I should have said 95% confidence on each of them rather than all of them. I would take 10 to one odds on any of them individually, and probably even money on all of them, depending on how the predictions were formalized. (IE instead of "A b-list celebrity will die unexpectedly; CNN will declare this a national tragedy." "CNN will devote X hours of news time to the death of an actor who has not starred in a movie grossing over Y million in the last Z years, or a musician who has not made it onto the Billboard top 100 in at least Z years."

Out of curiosity, which ones would you think most likely to turn out wrong and lose the bet for me?

A major church figure will face allegations of child abuse.

Europeans will riot over reductions in social programs.

A vague new terrorist threat will lead to increased security procedures at American airports.

A conservative talk show host in America will openly endorse murder of atheists, homosexuals, or immigrants.

Video of a pop star engaged in sexual acts will be leaked to the public.

A b-list celebrity will die unexpectedly; CNN will declare this a national tragedy.

A natural disaster will strike a third world country, causing everyone to completely forget ... (read more)

These all sound somehow familiar... ;)
Actually this seems pretty overconfident. Would you take an even money bet on the conjunction of all of them?