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Brain Efficiency: Much More than You Wanted to Know

If this post piqued your interest, I’d highly recommend Principles of Neural Design as an overview of our current knowledge of the brain. It starts from a bottom level of energy conservation and information theoretical limits, and builds on that to explain the low-level structures of the brain. I can’t claim to follow all the chemistry, but it did hammer home that the brain as far as we can tell is near maximally efficient at its jobs.

Rules of variety

I think this is attitude is incredibly common among a lot of sports and hobbies outside the mainstream. In the US at least, the significant popularity of basketball, football, etc. over rec-league-only sports such as ultimate frisbee, quidditch, etc. means that the mainstream sports are a much stronger sieve to filter out genuine talent and skill. Perhaps consider that part of the reason you learn to play the digiridoo is that its way easier to become one of the comparatively best digiridoo players in your community than violinist. Consider also that this is why mastery of a mainstream skill is such a strongly sexy trait - because it’s a signal that‘s difficult to fake, unlike mastery of less competitive skills.

Now there is definitely much more value in finding interests which you genuinely enjoy and have a comparative advantage than ones that are merely different. But I think that what a lot of people are thinking on some level “is this something I could be good at?” Where “good” can only really be determined by looking at the skill cap of others around them.

The trick to beating this anxiety of course is realizing that the only thing about your choices that matter is your own opinion of them, not others‘ perception of your choices.

Multidimensional signaling

I think a good tie in here is the idea that we all have various forms of capital: social capital (your relationships / tribe), personal capital (your skills), and financial capital (your money / property). The reason to frame these as capital is to prime the notion that these are all fungible goods that can be exchanged for one another, and that all lie on the same axis of giving the owner more options and greater leverage. On one level this is just describing the halo effect, but I think you could also use it as the explanation. If capital in one area can be turned into capital in other areas, then dressing well is an accurate signal of overall ability to assert oneself. (I think “power” is too loaded of a term, but probably the best to describe the single axis these all lie on.”)

Here’s my take on a good Venn diagram layout that doesn’t try to convey extra information, and avoids the problems you and the parent mentioned: Make the rectangles full height, and give them rounded corners so it’s clear that these are subsets of a larger space and not just vertical bars (it’s unclear with square corners that there are 2 overlapping sets and not 3 adjacent). Only caveats are that this is not instantly recognizable like your standard Venn diagram, and is only really usable for 2 subsets.

The Anthropic Principle: Five Short Examples

6: When will it end?

Brook: You know what, I think it’s far more likely that you’re messing with me than you actually shot me. But I’ll concede that it is possible that you did actually shoot me, and the only reason I’m standing here talking to you is because I am forced to take an Everett branch that allows me to be standing here talking to you.

Avery: Well actually, in most of them you end up bleeding out on the floor while you tell me this.

B: And then I die.

A: From my perspective, yeah, most likely. From yours, there will be some branches where a team of paramedics happens to drive by and save you, and if you are to be conscious at all in the future it will be in those branches.

B: Ok, but in most of those I die and simply stop experiencing reality.

A: Maybe. Or maybe you’re guaranteed to take the conscious path, since there must be some future state which has your present as its past.

B: Are you saying that I can’t die? That’s ludicrous!

A: I’m saying that your conscious experience might not ever end, since there’s always a branch where it won’t. And the ones where it does won’t be around to talk about it.

B: So if I make a bomb that is set to blow me up if I don’t win tomorrow’s Powerball jackpot, the next day I’m guaranteed to have the subjective experience of walking away with several hundred million?

A: Well most likely you end up horribly maimed, disfigured, and concussed, unable to do anything until someone takes pity on you, uploads you into a computer, and you live for eternity in some experience we can’t imagine. That‘s where your subjective Everett branch is going to end up regardless , but it’ll be nice to skip the maiming portion.

B: This all seems pretty shakey.

A: Yeah I’m not very confident in that line of reasoning myself. Certainly not better than the 1:292,201,338 powerball odds.

B: You didn’t shoot me, did you?

A: No way! Do you know infinitesimally small the wavelength of a bullet is?

Quantum immortality is a natural extension of the anthropic principle, but I’m far less confident about using it to say anything about future states rather than using it to reason about your current one.