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Comment author: Kevin 28 December 2017 10:28:24AM 0 points [-]

The idea that Bayes Camp could have been the most awesome thing at Burning Man is funny to me, looking back on this.

In response to comment by rkyeun on Magical Categories
Comment author: g_pepper 26 December 2017 11:08:26PM *  0 points [-]

I would be very surprised to find that a universe whose particles are arranged to maximize objective good would also contain unpaired sadists and masochists.

The problem is that neither you nor BrianPansky has proposed a viable objective standard for goodness. BrianPansky said that good is that which satisfies desires, but proposed no objective method for mediating conflicting desires. And here you said “Do remember that your thoughts and preference on ethics are themselves an arrangement of particles to be solved” but proposed no way for resolving conflicts between different people’s ethical preferences. Even if satisfying desires were an otherwise reasonable standard for goodness, it is not an objective standard, since different people may have different desires. Similarly, different people may have different ethical preferences, so an individual’s ethical preference would not be an objective standard either, even if it were otherwise a reasonable standard.

You seem to be asking a question of the form, "But if we take all the evil out of the universe, what about evil?"

No, I am not asking that. I am pointing out that neither your standard nor BrianPansky’s standard is objective. Therefore neither can be used to determine what would constitute an objectively maximally good universe nor could either be used to take all evil out of the universe, nor even to objectively identify evil.

In response to How to Be Happy
Comment author: ArthurRainbow 26 December 2017 02:01:35PM 0 points [-]

The link "http://www.bradp.com/brads-fashion-bible is broken. While it seems to be a self help link, it's not fashion related at all. It seems to be just pick up artist trick

Comment author: rkyeun 26 December 2017 10:28:03AM *  0 points [-]

I would be very surprised to find that a universe whose particles are arranged to maximize objective good would also contain unpaired sadists and masochists. You seem to be asking a question of the form, "But if we take all the evil out of the universe, what about evil?" And the answer is "Good riddance." Pun intentional.

Comment author: rkyeun 26 December 2017 09:56:46AM 0 points [-]

Composition fallacy. Try again.

Comment author: ArthurRainbow 26 December 2017 04:58:21AM 0 points [-]

For your information, Myrtle Young https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EY3Lw_-bj5U is now a broken link. (sad. Sounds funny)

Apart from that, thanks. Interesting article. At least because I had no idea so much research where done on those subjects.

Comment author: British_Potato 22 December 2017 03:48:48PM *  0 points [-]

I am a bit confused here.

I responded—note that this was completely spontaneous—"What on Earth do you mean? You can't avoid assigning a probability to the mathematician making one statement or another. You're just assuming the probability is 1, and that's unjustified."

Is it? We have observed the mathematician making the statement. Assuming observation matches reality, and the statement is true, the probability of the mathematician having made the statement should be 1 or close to it because it has already happened. In every world, as long as the mathematician already makes this statement, the statement being something other is not possible. This eliminates the possibility of it being girl-girl and through orthodox statistics brings us to 1/3 yada yada. I've even run a small program to test it out, and it is very close to 1/3.

If the mathematician has one boy and one girl, then my prior probability for her saying 'at least one of them is a boy' is 1/2 and my prior probability for her saying 'at least one of them is a girl' is 1/2. There's no reason to believe, a priori, that the mathematician will only mention a girl if there is no possible alternative.

I have been pondering about this statement for hours on end. Assume I accept that the prior probabilities still need to be substantially considered despite the evidence, I am still confused about how there is a prior probability of 1/2 each for the mathematician saying that "at least one of them is a girl" and "at least one of them is a boy" (if she has a boy and a girl). Does this not assume that she can only make two statements about her state and no other? Aren't there many other ways she could have stated this such as "I have a boy and a girl" or simply "I have two girls" and "I have two boys"? Despite our prior probabilities for statements, the last two statements make the probability of both being boys 0 or 1. This is of course assuming the mathematician does not lie.

Finally, I'd like to understand how adding the possibility of the mathematician stating at least one girl increases the possibility of both being boys, rather than decrease it.


The reason the probability increases is that since the mathematician chooses this statement despite having two options, it is now more likely there are two boys. I see. I got the intuition but I'd like this in mathematical notation. This still does not seem to fix the problem of already having many statements to choose from, making the assumption that the prior probability of her choosing to say at least one boy 1/2 dubious.

But I seem to now understand the reasoning behind it in the event that if the prior for making the statement is 1/2, the answer is indeed 1/2. Though this now seems to bring to forth how far back one needs to go to reach optimal probability and how there may be so many little subtle observations in real life which substantially impact the probability of events. Very exciting!

I'd very much like to see your work for the question! This is my first comment, I apologize for its length and any folly involved which is purely my own.


Comment author: NancyLebovitz 20 December 2017 03:35:23PM 1 point [-]

So, some years later, and I'm surprised I was upset. I consider this to be progress.

Comment author: DragonGod 18 December 2017 05:46:24AM 0 points [-]

I think this is the reason why a distinction between subjective and objective probability is needed.

In response to New Improved Lottery
Comment author: Guanyin 17 December 2017 06:58:55PM 0 points [-]

Or you could just fantasize about finding a billion dollars on the ground. After all, it could happen, so there's an epsilon chance of it happening without doing anything.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 17 December 2017 04:28:54PM *  1 point [-]

Yep, nice list. One I didn't see: Defining a word in a way that is less useful (that conveys less information) and rejecting a definition that is more useful (that conveys more information). Always choose the definition that conveys more information; eliminate words that convey zero information. It's common for people to define words that convey zero information. But if everything has the Buddha nature, nothing empirical can be said about what it means and it conveys no information.

Along similar lines, always define words so that no other word conveys too much mutual information about them. For instance, many people have argued with me that I should use the word "totalitarian" to mean "the fascist nations of the 20th century". Well, we already have a word for that, which is "fascist", so to define "totalitarian" as a synonym makes it a useless word.

The word "fascist" raises the question of when to use extensional vs. intensional definitions. It's conventionally defined extensionally, to mean the Axis powers in World War 2. This is not a useful definition, as we already have a label for that. Worse, people define it extensionally but pretend they've defined it intensionally. They call people today "fascist", conveying connotations in a way that can't be easily disputed, because there is no intensional definition to evaluate the claim.

Sometimes you want to switch back and forth between extensional and intensional definitions. In art history, we have a term for each period or "movement", like "neo-classical" and "Romantic". The exemplars of the category are defined both intensionally and extensionally, as those artworks having certain properties and produced in certain geographic locations during a certain time period. It is appropriate to use the intensional definition alone if describing a contemporary work of art (you can call it "Romantic" if it looks Romantic), but inappropriate to use examples that fit the intension but not the extension as exemplars, or to deduce things about the category from them. This keeps the categories stable.

A little ways back I talked about defining the phrase "Buddha nature". Phrases also have definitions--words are not atoms of meaning. Analyzing a phrase as if our theories of grammar worked, ignoring knowledge about idioms, is an error rationalists sometimes commit.

Pretending words don't have connotations is another error rationalists commit regularly--often in sneaky ways, deliberately using the connotations, while pretending they're being objective. Marxist literary criticism, for instance, loads a lot into the word "bourgeois".

Another category missing here is gostoks and doshes. This is when a word's connotations and tribal affiliation-signalling displace its semantic content entirely, and no one notices it has no meaning. Extremely common in Marxism and in "theory"; "capitalism" and "bourgeois" being the most-common examples. "Bourgeoisie" originally meant people like Rockefeller and the Borges, but as soon as artists began using the word, they used it to mean "people who don't like my scribbles," and now it has no meaning at all, but demonic connotations. "Capitalism" has no meaning that can single out post-feudal societies in the way Marxists pretend it does; any definition of it that I've seen includes things that Marxists don't want it to, like the Soviet Union, absolute monarchies, or even hunter-gatherer tribes. It should be called simply "free markets", which is what they really object to and much more accurate at identifying the economic systems that they oppose, but they don't want to admit that the essence of their ideology is opposition to freedom.

Avoid words with connotations that you haven't justified. Don't say "cheap" if you mean "inexpensive" or "shoddy". Especially avoid words which have a synonym with the opposite connotation: "frugal" and "miserly". Be aware of your etymological payloads: "awesome" and "awful" (full of awe), "incredible" (not credible), "wonderful" (thought-provoking).

Another category is when 2 subcultures have different sets of definitions for the same words, and don't realize it. For instance, in the humanities, "rational" literally means ratio-based reasoning, which rejects the use of real numbers, continuous equations, empirical measurements, or continuous changes over time. This is the basis of the Romantic/Modernist hatred of "science" (by which they mean Aristotelian rationality), and of many post-modern arguments that rationality doesn't work. Many people in the humanities are genuinely unaware that science is different than it was 2400 years ago, and most were 100% ignorant of science until perhaps the mid-20th century. A "classical education" excludes all empiricism.

Another problem is meaning drift. When you use writings from different centuries, you need to be aware of how the meanings of words and phrases have changed over time. For instance, the official academic line nowadays is that alchemy and astrology are legitimate sciences; this is justified in part by using the word "science" as if it meant the same as the Latin "scientia".

A problem in translation is decollapsing definitions. Medieval Latin conflated some important concepts because their neo-Platonist metaphysics said that all good things sort of went together. So for instance they had a single word, "pulchrum", which meant "beautiful", "sexy", "appropriate to its purpose", "good", and "noble". Translators will translate that into English based on the context, but that's not conveying the original mindset. This comes up most frequently when ancient writers made puns, like Plato's puns in the Crito, or "Jesus'" (Greek) puns in the opening chapters of John, which are destroyed in translation, leaving the reader with a false impression of the speaker's intent.

I disagree that saying "X is Y by definition" Is usually wrong, but I should probably leave my comment on that post instead of here.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 17 December 2017 04:17:28PM *  0 points [-]

[moved to top level of replies]

Comment author: PhilGoetz 17 December 2017 04:02:04PM 0 points [-]

But you're arguing against Eliezer, as "God" and "miracle" were (and still are) commonly-used words, and so Eliezer is saying those are good, short words for them.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 17 December 2017 02:10:13AM 0 points [-]

Great post! There is also the non-discrete aspect of compression: information loss. English has, according to some dictionaries, over a million words. It's unlikely we store most of our information in English. Probably there is some sort of dimension reduction, like PCA. There is in any case probably lossy compression. This means people with different histories will use different frequency tables for their compression, and will throw out different information when encoding a verbal statement. I think you would almost certainly find that if you measure word use frequency for different people, then cluster the word use distributions, some clusters would correspond to ideologies. The interesting question is which comes first, the ideology, or the word usage frequency (caused by different life experiences).

Comment author: malo 15 December 2017 08:17:26PM 2 points [-]

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Comment author: entirelyuseless 15 December 2017 02:04:35PM 0 points [-]

Right. Utilitarianism is false, but Eliezer was still right about torture and dust specks.

Comment author: Dacyn 15 December 2017 01:49:28AM 0 points [-]

I'm not a utilitarian. The argument that 50 years of torture is preferable to 3^^^3 people suffering dust specks only presumes that preferences are transitive, and that there exists a sequence of gradations between torture and dust specks with the properties that (A) N people suffering one level of the spectrum is always preferable to N*(a googol) people suffering the next level, and (B) the spectrum has at most a googol levels. I think it's pretty hard to consistently deny these assumptions, and I'm not aware of any serious argument put forth to deny them.

It's true that a deontologist might refrain from torturing someone even if he believes it would result in the better outcome. I was assuming a scenario where either way you are not torturing someone, just refraining from preventing them from being tortured by someone else.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 14 December 2017 01:02:43AM 1 point [-]

Makes sense, I'm betting many members of the wider rationalist community have seen their assets increase because of the significant rise of Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies this year.

Comment author: g_pepper 12 December 2017 02:39:34PM 0 points [-]

On the other hand, maybe you should force them to endure the guilt, because maybe then they will be motivated to research why the agent who made the decision chose TORTURE, and so the end result will be some people learning some decision theory / critical thinking...

The argument that 50 years of torture of one person is preferable to 3^^^3 people suffering dust specs presumes utilitarianism. A non-utilitarian will not necessarily prefer torture to dust specs even if his/her critical thinking skills are up to par.

Comment author: Dacyn 10 December 2017 10:26:13PM 0 points [-]

The only people who would consent to the dust speck are people who would choose SPECKS over TORTURE in the first place. Are you really saying that you "do not value the comfort of" Eliezer, Robin, and others?

However, your argument raises another interesting point, which is that the existence of people who would prefer that SPECKS was chosen over TORTURE, even if their preference is irrational, might change the outcome of the computation because it means that a choice of TORTURE amounts to violating their preferences. If TORTURE violates ~3^^^3 people's preferences, then perhaps it is after all a harm comparable to SPECKS. This would certainly be true if everyone finds out about whether SPECKS or TORTURE was chosen, in which case TORTURE makes it harder for a lot of people to sleep at night.

On the other hand, maybe you should force them to endure the guilt, because maybe then they will be motivated to research why the agent who made the decision chose TORTURE, and so the end result will be some people learning some decision theory / critical thinking...

Also, if SPECKS vs TORTURE decisions come up a lot in this hypothetical universe, then realistically people will only feel guilty over the first one.

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