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Open Thread for February 3 - 10

Does anyone know if there is/are narrative fiction based around the AI Box Experiment? Short stories or anything else?

Good luck, Mr. Rationalist

Choose well is a nice salutation for instrumental rationality. But what about, "Know much and choose well" to cover epistemic and instrumental rationality?

Privileging the Question

"When did you stop beating your wife?"

This is basically framing effect, no?

Rationality Quotes April 2013

The quote struck me as a poetic way of affirming the general importance of metacognition - a reminder that we are at the center of everything we do, and therefore investing in self improvement is an investment with a multiplier effect. I admit though this may be adding my own meaning that doesn't exist in the quote's context.

I've always seen that whole speech as a pretty good example of reasoning from the wrong premises: Henry V makes the argument that God will decide the outcome of the battle and so if given the opportunity to have more Englishmen fighting along side them, he would choose to fight without them since then he gets more glory for winning a harder fight and if they lose then fewer will have died. Of course he doesn't take this to the logical conclusion and go out and fight alone, but I guess Shakespeare couldn't have pushed history quite that far.

Rewatching Branagh's version recently, I keyed in on a different aspect. In his speech, Henry describes in detail all the glory and status the survivors of the battle will enjoy for the rest of their lives, while (of course) totally downplaying the fact that few of them can expect to collect on that reward. He's making a cost/benefit calculation for them and leaning heavily on the scale in the process.

Contrast with similar inspiring military speeches:

William Wallace says, "Fight and you may die. Run and you may live...for awhile. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!" He's saying essentially the same thing as Henry, but framing it as a loss instead of a gain. Where Henry tells his soldiers what they'll gain from fighting, Wallace tells them what they'll lose if they don't. Perhaps it's telling that, unlike Henry, he doesn't get very specific. It might've been an opportunity for someone in the ranks to run a thought experiment, "What specific aspects of my life will be measurably different if we have 'freedom' versus if we don't have 'freedom'? What exactly AM I trading ALL the days for? And if I magically had that thing without the cost of potentially dying, what would my preferences be then?" Or to just notice their confusion and be able to recognize they were being loss averse and without the ability to define exactly what they were averse to losing.

Meanwhile, Maximus tells his troops, "What you do in life echoes in eternity." He's more honest and direct about the probability that you're going to die, but also reminds you that the cost/benefit analysis extends beyond your own life, the implication being that your 'honor' (reputation) affects your placement in the afterlife and (probably of more consequence) the well being of your family after your death. Life is an iterated game and sometimes you have to defect (or cooperate?) so that your children get to play at all.

And lastly, Patton says, "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his." He explicitly rejects the entire 'die for your country' framing and foists it wholly onto the enemy. It's his version of "The enemy's gate is down." He's not telling you you're not going to die, but at least he's not trying to convince you that your death is somehow a good or necessary thing.

When taken in this company, Henry actually comes across more like a villain. Of all of them, he's appealing to their desire to achieve rational interests in an irrational way without being at all upfront about their odds of actually getting what he's promising them.

Solved Problems Repository

Additionally, fitness roughly breaks into two broad categories - resistance and cardiovascular. Starting Strength covers resistance training, but the cardiovascular version of Starting Strength is Couch To 5K. It uses the same basic concept of progressive overload applied to running.

Rationality Quotes April 2013

All things be ready if our minds be so.

  • William Shakespeare, Henry V
Rationalist Lent

Having now concluded Rationalist Lent, I have determined that it is worth my time and I do genuinely prefer to keep watching the Daily Show.

At Lent's conclusion, I started rewatching and ended up watching all the episodes that I missed (the ones still available anyway) with a renewed appreciation. Coincidentally, I also just finished a comprehensive cleanup of all my harddrives, stretching back over ten years, and at the bottom of one of the oldest (pulled from my closet), I found an episode from 1999. I have no earthly idea why I downloaded/saved it in the first place, but I watched it and lo and behold, it wasn't that funny. The real culprit here, I think, was Nostalgia Bias.

One additional note: During RL, news broke that Stewart would be taking a hiatus from hosting and be replaced by John Oliver, starting this summer. That sort of wrecked my experiment, since I knew right away my preferences would be to continue watching in that case. Though you could still make the argument that 22 minutes, four days a week, over 3 months would be a significant savings. And even disregarding entirely, it was still a nice exercise in willpower; a demonstration to myself that I am in control of the choices I make and that I can counteract the habits and urges of my System 1.

Just One Sentence

"If you test theories by how precisely they predict experimental results, you will have many more opportunities to have sex and look cool."

Why Real Men Wear Pink

This was the case for me in my uniforms required school. The obvious and conspicuous item we could control was our tie, but thinking back on it now, kids signalled identity and status through shoes, belts, and other accessories (though I was effectively blind to such things at the time).

Seniors were also allowed to wear khaki pants, a conscious allowance on the administrators' part designed to reinforce the different classes.

Open thread, March 17-31, 2013

Today's SMBC

Has this idea been considered before? The idea that a self-improving capable AI would choose not to because it wouldn't be rational? And whether or not that calls into question the rationality of pursuing AI in the first place?

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