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Open Thread: November 2009

3 [deleted] 02 November 2009 01:18AM

This thread is for the discussion of Less Wrong topics that have not appeared in recent posts. Feel free to rid yourself of cached thoughts by doing so in Old Church Slavonic. If a discussion gets unwieldy, celebrate by turning it into a top-level post.

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Comments (539)

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Comment author: Jack 02 November 2009 09:46:43PM *  13 points [-]

At it's height this poll registered 66 upvotes. As it is meta, no longer useful and not interesting enough for the top comments page please down vote it. Upvote the attached karma dump to compensate.

(It looks like CannibalSmith hasn't been on lately so I'll post this) This post tests how much exposure comments to open threads posted "not late" get. If you are reading this then please either comment or upvote. Please don't do both and don't downvote. The exposure count to this comment will then be compared to that of previous comment made "late". I won't link to the other comment and please don't go finding it yourself.

If the difference is insignificant, a LW forum is not warranted, and open threads are entirely sufficient (unless there are reasons other than exposure for having a forum).

I will post another comment in reply to this one which you can downvote if you don't want to give me karma for the post.

Comment author: Jack 02 November 2009 09:47:29PM 2 points [-]

Down vote this comment if you upvoted the above and want to neutralize the karma I get.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 15 February 2011 02:23:02AM 3 points [-]

Note that voting this down doesn't seem to remove it from the "top" list. As far as I can tell, that seems to sort by the number of upvotes the comment received, not by the (upvotes - downvotes).

Comment author: MendelSchmiedekamp 04 November 2009 01:31:50PM 1 point [-]

Glad to see something like this.

Comment author: CannibalSmith 03 November 2009 06:03:35PM 2 points [-]

Thanks. :)

Comment author: Jack 09 November 2009 12:44:42AM 2 points [-]

So by my count it is 37 to 71 and that probably overestimates the response a late comment would get given that there was something of a feedback loop.

Comment author: FeministX 05 November 2009 02:28:10AM 2 points [-]

Hi, I have never posted on this forum, but I believe that some Less Wrong readers read my blog, FeministX.blogspot.com.

Since this at least started out as an open thread, I have a request of all who read this comment, and an idea for a future post topic.

On my blog, I have a topic about why some men hate feminism. The answers are varied, but they include a string of comments back and forth between anti feminists and me. The anti feminists accuse me of fallacies, and one says that he "clearly" refuted my argument. My interpretation is that my arguments were more logically cogent that the anti feminists and that they did not correctly identify logical fallacies in my comments, nor did they comprehensivly refute anything I said. They merely decided that they won the debate.

Now, the issue is that when there is an argument between feminists and anti feminists on the internet, the feminists will believe that other feminists arguments include more truth and reason while anti-feminists will believe that anti-feminist arguments include more truth and reason. The internet is not a place where people are good at discussing feminism with measured equanimity.

But I wondered, who could be the objective arbiter of a discussion between feminists and anti feminists? Almost anyone has a bias when it comes to this issue. Everyone has a gender, and gender affects a person's thinking style, desires and determination of fairness in assessing behaviors between genders. Where in the world could I find intelligent entities that would not be swayed by gender bias and would instead attempt to seek out objective truth in a "battle of sexes" style discussion.

Well, I am not sure if unbiased people can exist regarding the issue but the closest thing I could think of was Less Wrong. Thus, I invite readers of Less Wrong to contribute to the admittedly inane thread on my blog, Why so much hate?

http://feministx.blogspot.com/2009/11/why-so-much-hate.html

Comment author: CannibalSmith 05 November 2009 09:06:53AM *  -1 points [-]

Let me be the first to say: welcome to Less Wrong! Please explore the site and stay with us - we need more girls.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 November 2009 09:34:15PM *  5 points [-]

I'd quite strongly suggest deleting everything after the hyphen, there.

Comment author: wedrifid 06 November 2009 12:04:40AM -1 points [-]

Even the bit before the hyphen sounds a little on the needy side.

Comment author: Zack_M_Davis 06 November 2009 12:20:35AM 0 points [-]

And while we're at it, it should really be an em dash, not a hyphen.

Comment author: RobinZ 06 November 2009 12:37:09AM 0 points [-]

En dash - it's surrounded by spaces. And I don't think the reddit engine tells you how to code it. A hyphen is the accepted substitute (for the en dash - two hyphens for an em dash).

Comment author: eirenicon 06 November 2009 12:54:18AM *  2 points [-]

An en dash is defined by its width, not the spacing around it. In fact, spacing around an em dash is permitted in some style guides. On the internet, though, the hyphen has generally taken over from the em dash (an en dash should not be used in that context).

Now, two hyphens—that's a recipe for disaster if I've ever heard one.

Comment author: FeministX 05 November 2009 09:37:32PM -1 points [-]

Why?

Comment author: CannibalSmith 05 November 2009 11:43:21PM *  1 point [-]

What did you think when you first saw my "we need more girls" remark?

Comment author: FeministX 06 November 2009 01:21:16AM 1 point [-]

I found it flattering.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 November 2009 10:26:45PM 2 points [-]

Because advertising your lack of girls is not viewed by the average woman as a hopeful sign. (Heck, I'd think twice about any online site that advertised itself with "we need more boys".)

Also, the above point should be sufficiently obvious that a potential female reader would look at that and justifiably think "This person is thinking about what they want and not thinking about how I might react" which isn't much of a hopeful sign either.

Comment author: Alicorn 05 November 2009 10:33:56PM *  5 points [-]

I'm probably non-average, but I'm ambivalent about hearing "we need more girls" from any community that's generally interesting. The first question that I think of is "why don't they have any?", but as long as it's not obvious to me why there are not presently enough girls had by a website and it's easy to leave if I find a compelling reason later, my obliging nature would be likely to take over. Also, saying "we need more girls" does advertise the lack of girls - but it also advertises the recognition that maybe that's not a splendid thing. Not saying it at all might signify some kind of attempt at gender-blindness, but it could also signify complacency about the ungirly ratio extant.

I hear "we need more girls" from my female classmates about our philosophy department.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 November 2009 10:38:09PM 2 points [-]

I hear "we need more girls" from my female classmates about our philosophy department.

As with so many other remarks, this carries a different freight of meaning when spoken by a woman to a woman.

Comment author: Alicorn 05 November 2009 10:40:53PM *  2 points [-]

I think I don't hear it from my male classmates because they aren't alert to this need. I would be pleased to hear one of them acknowledge it. This may have something to do with the fact that I'd trust most of them to be motivated by something other than a desire for eye candy or dating opportunities, though, if they did express this concern.

Comment author: FeministX 05 November 2009 10:56:37PM 1 point [-]

"I think I don't hear it from my male classmates because they aren't alert to this need. I would be pleased to hear one of them acknowledge it."

Why do you feel there is a need for more female philosophy students in your department?

Comment author: Alicorn 05 November 2009 11:07:56PM 3 points [-]

I think a more balanced ratio would help the professors learn to be sensitive to the different typical needs of female students (e.g. decrease reliance on the "football coach" approach). Indirectly, more female students means more female Ph.Ds means more female professors means more female philosophy role models means more female students, until ideally contemporary philosophy isn't so terribly skewed. More female students would also increase the chance that there would be more female philosophers outside the typical "soft options" (history and ethics and feminist philosophy), which would improve the reception I and other female philosophers would get when proposing ideas on non-soft topics like metaphysics because we'd no longer look atypical for the sort of person who has good ideas on metaphysics.

Comment author: RobinZ 05 November 2009 10:44:36PM *  4 points [-]

We also hear this kind of thing online, in the atheism community.

To sum up the convo, then, it seems like:

  • the "too many dicks on the dance floor" attitude isn't particularly attractive, but

  • the honest admission that there aren't many female regulars, and that we'd like the input of women on the issues which we care about, is perfectly valid.

The rest of it is our differing levels of charity in interpreting CannibalSmith's remarks.

Comment author: CannibalSmith 06 November 2009 10:50:25AM 1 point [-]
Comment author: FeministX 05 November 2009 05:03:11AM 3 points [-]

The discussion here helped me reanalyze my own attitude towards this kind of issue.

I don't think I ever had a serious intention to back up my arguments or win a debate when I posted on the issue of why men hate feminism. I am not sure what to do when faced the extreme anti feminism that I commonly find on the internet. I have a number of readers on my blog who will make totalizing comments about all women or all feminists. Ex, one commenter said that women have no ability to sustain interest in topics that don't pertain to relationships between individuals. Other commenters say that feminsm will lead to the downfall of civilization for reasons including that it lets women pursue their fleeting sexual impulses, which are destructive.

i suppose I do not really know how to handle this attitude. Ordinarily, I ignore them since I operate under the assumption that people that expouse such viewpoints are not prone to being swayed by any argument. They are attached to their bias, in a sense. I am not sure if it is possible for a feminist to have a reasonable discussion with a person that is anti feminist and that hates nearly all aspects of feminism in the western world.

Comment author: bogus 06 November 2009 12:20:23AM *  0 points [-]

I am not sure what to do when faced the extreme anti feminism that I commonly find on the internet.

If these commenters are foolish enough to disparage and denigrate any political role to women generally, then do them a favor and flame them to a crisp. If that's not enough to drive them off your site, then feel free to ban them.

These are thinly-veiled attempts at intimidation which are reprehensible in the extreme, and will not be taken lightly by anyone who cares seriously about any kind of politics other than mere alignment to power and privilege--which is most everyone in this day and age. Especially so when coming from people of a Western male background--who are thus embedded in a complex power structure rife with systemic biases, which discriminates towards all kinds of minority groups.

Simply stated, you don't have to be nice to these people. Quite the opposite, in fact. Sometimes that's all they'll understand.

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 05 November 2009 11:44:37AM *  3 points [-]

Personally I'd say you shouldn't "be a feminist" at all. Have goals (whether relating to women's rights or anything else) and try to find the best ways to reach them. Don't put a political label on yourself that will constrain your thinking and/or be socially and emotionally costly to change. Though given that you seem to have invested a lot of your identity in feminism it's probably already hard to change.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 November 2009 09:32:36PM 2 points [-]

Don't put a political label on yourself that will constrain your thinking and/or be socially and emotionally costly to change.

As mentioned above, this particular person does seem unusually good at not being so constrained.

Comment author: wedrifid 05 November 2009 12:23:52PM 4 points [-]

Personally I'd say you shouldn't "be a feminist" at all.

Shouldn't? According to which utility function? There are plenty of advantages to taking a label.

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 07 November 2009 12:52:36PM 2 points [-]

Yes, there are obvious advantages to overtly identifying with some established group, but if you identify too strongly and become a capital-F Feminist (or a capital D-Democrat, or even a capital-R Rationalist) there's a real danger that conforming to the label will get in the way of actually achieving your original goals.

It's analogous to the idea that you shouldn't use dark side methods in the service of rationality - ie that you shouldn't place too much trust in your own ability to be virtuously hypocritical.

Comment author: CannibalSmith 05 November 2009 08:40:28AM *  2 points [-]

I am not sure what to do when faced the extreme anti feminism that I commonly find on the internet.

Ban them.

Comment author: DanArmak 05 November 2009 07:18:16AM 2 points [-]

It's almost certainly not possible for you to have a discussion about feminism with such a person.

I haven't read your blog, but perhaps you should reconsider the kind of community of readers you're trying to build there. If you tend to attract antifeminist posters, and you don't also attract profeminist ones who help you argue your position in the comments, that sounds like a totally unproductive community and you might want to take explicit steps to remodel it, e.g. by changing your posts, controlling the allowed posters, or starting from scratch if you have to.

Comment author: Zack_M_Davis 05 November 2009 04:25:40AM 6 points [-]

Everyone has a gender, and gender affects a person's thinking style, desires and determination of fairness in assessing behaviors between genders.

*winces* So, I agree that no one is competent and everyone has an agenda, but it's not as if everyone sides with "their" sex.

Well, I am not sure if unbiased people can exist regarding the issue but the closest thing I could think of was Less Wrong.

No, historically we suck at this, too. Got any decision theory questions?

Comment author: FeministX 05 November 2009 04:46:16AM 1 point [-]

"winces* So, I agree that no one is competent and everyone has an agenda, but it's not as if everyone sides with "their" sex."

I didn't mean to imply that they did always side with their physical sex.

Comment author: LucasSloan 05 November 2009 05:07:13AM 7 points [-]

Why do you think of the discussion of gender roles and gender equality to necessary break down into a camp for men and a camp for women? By creating two groups you have engaged mental circuitry that will predispose you to dismissing their arguments when they are correct and supporting your own sides' even when they are wrong.

http://lesswrong.com/lw/lt/the_robbers_cave_experiment/

http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller/

Comment author: FeministX 05 November 2009 05:16:45AM -1 points [-]

"Why do you think of the discussion of gender roles and gender equality to necessary break down into a camp for men and a camp for women?"

I don't personally think this. I don't think there are two genders. There are technically more than two physical sexes even if we categorize the intersexed as separate. I feel that either out of cultural conditioning or instincts, the bulk of people push a discussion about gender into a discussion about steryotypical behaviors by men and by women. This then devolves into a "battle of the sexes" issue where the "male" perspective and "female" perspective are constructed so that they must clash.

However, on my thread, there are a number of people that seem to have no qualms with the idea of barring female voting and such things. I think that sort of opinion goes beyond the point where one could say that an issue was framed to set up a camp for men and a camp for women. Once we are talking about denying functioning adults sufferage, then we are talking about an attitude which should be properly labelled as anti-female.

Comment author: LucasSloan 05 November 2009 05:31:45AM *  5 points [-]

Yes, those who would deny women suffrage are anti-female. But in order to feel they deserve suffrage, one need not be pro-female. One only need be in favor of human rights.

Comment author: loqi 05 November 2009 06:05:17AM 8 points [-]

However, on my thread, there are a number of people that seem to have no qualms with the idea of barring female voting and such things.

On the internet, emotional charge attracts intellectual lint, and there are plenty of awful people to go around. If you came here looking for a rational basis for your moral outrage, you will probably leave empty-handed.

But I don't think you're actually concerned that the person arguing against suffrage is making any claims with objective content, so this isn't so much the domain of rational debate as it is politics, wherein you explain the virtue of your values and the vice of your opponents'. Such debates are beyond salvage.

Comment author: FeministX 05 November 2009 06:24:46AM 2 points [-]

I saw that Eliezer posts that politics are a poor field to hone rational discussion skills. It is unfortunate that anyone should see a domain such as politics as a place where discussions are inherantly beyond salvage. It's a strange limitation to place on the utility of reason to say that it should be relegated to domains which have less immediate affect on human life. Poltiics are immensely important. Should it not be priority to structure rational discussion so that there are effective ways for correcting for the propensity to rely on bias, partisanship and other impulses which get in the way of determining truth or the best available course?

If rational discussion only works effectively in certain domains, perhaps it is not well developed enough to succeed in ideologically charged domains where it is badly needed. Is there definitely nothing to be gained from attempting to reason objectively through a subject where your own biases are most intense?

Comment author: loqi 05 November 2009 07:18:26AM *  2 points [-]

It's a strange limitation to place on the utility of reason to say that it should be relegated to domains which have less immediate affect on human life.

It's not so strange if you believe that reason isn't a sufficient basis for determining values. It allows for arguments of the form, "if you value X, then you should value Y, because of causal relation Z", but not simply "you should value Y".

If rational discussion only works effectively in certain domains, perhaps it is not well developed enough to succeed in ideologically charged domains where it is badly needed.

Debates fueled by ideology are the antithesis of rational discussion, so I consider its "ineffectiveness" in such circumstances a feature, not a bug. These are beyond salvage because the participants aren't seeking to increase their understanding, they're simply fielding "arguments as soldiers". Tossing carefully chosen evidence and logical arguments around is simply part of the persuasion game. Being too openly rational or honest can be counter-productive to such goals.

Is there definitely nothing to be gained from attempting to reason objectively through a subject where your own biases are most intense?

That depends on what you gain from a solid understanding of the subject versus what you lose in sanity if you fail to correct for your biases as you continue to accumulate "evidence" and beliefs, along with the respective chances of each outcome. As far as I can tell, political involvement tends to make people believe crazy things, and "accurate" political opinions (those well-aligned with your actual values) are not that useful or effective, except for signaling your status to a group of like-minded peers. Politics isn't about policy.

Comment author: DanArmak 05 November 2009 07:14:00AM 4 points [-]

It's a strange limitation to place on the utility of reason to say that it should be relegated to domains which have less immediate affect on human life. Poltiics are immensely important.

One of the points of Eliezer's article, IIRC, is that politics when discussed by ordinary people indeed tends not to affect anything except the discussion itself. Political instincts evolved from small communities where publicly siding with one contending leader, or with one policy option, and then going and telling the whole 100-strong tribe about it really made a difference. But today's rulers of nations of hundreds of millions of people can't be influenced by what any one ordinary individual says or does. So our political instinct devolves into empty posturing and us-vs-them mentality.

Politics are important, sure, but only in the sense that what our rulers do is important to us. The relationship is one-way most of the time. If you're arguing about things that depend on what ordinary people do - such as "shall we respect women equally in our daily lives?" - then it's not politics. But if you're arguing about "should women have legal suffrage?" - and you're not actually discussing a useful means of bringing that about, like a political party (of men) - then the discussion will tend to engage political instincts and get out of hand.

If rational discussion only works effectively in certain domains, perhaps it is not well developed enough to succeed in ideologically charged domains where it is badly needed. Is there definitely nothing to be gained from attempting to reason objectively through a subject where your own biases are most intense?

There's a lot to be gained from rationally working out your own thoughts and feelings on the issue. But if you're arguing with other people, and they aren't being rational, then it won't help you to have a so-called rational debate with them. If you're looking for rationality to help you in such arguments - the help would probably take the form of rationally understanding your opponents' thinking, and then constructing a convincing argument which is totally "irrational", like publicly shaming them, or blackmailing, or anything else that works.

Remember - rationality means Winning. It's not the same as having "rational arguments" - you can only have those with other rationalists.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 November 2009 01:05:02PM *  11 points [-]

I read through a couple of months worth of FeministX when I first discovered it...

(Because of a particular skill exhibited: namely the ability to not force your self-image into a narrow box based on the labels you apply to yourself, a topic on which I should write further at some point. See the final paragraph of this post on how much she hates sports for a case in point. Most people calling themselves "feminist" would experience cognitive dissonance between that and their self-image. Just as most people who thought of themselves as important or as "rationalists" might have more trouble than I do publicly quoting anime fanfiction. There certainly are times when it's appropriate to experience cognitive dissonance between your self-image and something you want, but most people seem to cast that net far too widely. There is no contradiction, and there should be no cognitive dissonance, between loving and hating the same person, or between being a submissive feminist who wants alpha males, or between being a rationalist engaged on a quest of desperate importance who reads anime fanfiction, etcetera. But most people try to conform so narrowly and so unimaginatively to their own self-image that there is little point in reading anything else they say, because it is all predictable once you know what "role" they're trying to play in their own minds. And among people who are unusually good at not conforming to their own images, their blogs often make for good reading because it is often surprising reading.)

...and I still don't know what is meant by the "feminist" in the title, so I have to agree with all the commenters who asked for a definition of "feminism". Definitions are oft overrated but in this case I literally do not know what is being talked about.

If it were me, I'd probably be saying something to myself along the lines of: "So long as such a large flaw exists in my own work, which I can correct myself without waiting for permission from anyone else, there is no point in asking whether others have done worse." This is by way of encouraging myself to do better, for which purpose it is unwise to focus on other people's flaws as consolation.

EDIT: Finished reading through the comments. Some commenters did better than you, some commenters did worse, e.g. Aretae's separate post gave you good advice. Definitely you've got more to learn about which arguments and evidence license which conclusions at what strength. None of the arguments including yours were noticeably up to LW standards and so there's not much point in trying to figure out who "won". The winners were the commenters who said "I don't know what is meant by 'feminism' here, please define". Some of the others could have carried part of their argument if they had been a bit more careful to say, "Here is something that 'feminism' could be taken to mean, or that many/most men take the label 'feminism' to mean, now I am going to talk about how many/most men react to this particular thing regardless of whether it is what you call 'feminism', and if it isn't, please go ahead and define what you mean by it." That would have been Step One.

Comment author: wedrifid 05 November 2009 10:15:32AM *  1 point [-]

Now, the issue is that when there is an argument between feminists and anti feminists on the internet, the feminists will believe that other feminists arguments include more truth and reason while anti-feminists will believe that anti-feminist arguments include more truth and reason.

What exactly is an anti-feminist? I've never actually met someone who identified as one. Is this more of a label that others apply to them and if so, what do you mean when you apply it? Is it a manner of 'Feminism, Boo!' vs 'Yay! Feminism!' or is it the objection to one (or more) ideals that are of particular import?

Does 'anti-feminist' apply to beliefs about the objective state of the universe, such as the impact of certain biological differences on psychology or social dynamics? Or is it more suitably applied to normative claims about how things should be, including those about the relative status of groups or individuals?

Comment author: gwern 05 November 2009 06:17:57PM 1 point [-]

I think it's only applied by the feminists. Take a look at National Review, a bastion of anti-feminism if ever there was any, and notice how all the usages are by the feminists or fellow travelers or are in clear scare-quotes or other such language: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&num=100&q=anti-feminism+anti-feminist+site%3Anationalreview.com

Comment author: Jack 05 November 2009 09:37:35AM *  3 points [-]

Hi! Feel free to introduce yourself here.

There are a couple general reasons for disagreement.

  1. Two parties disagree on terminal values (if someone genuinely believes that women are inherently less valuable than men there is no reason to keep talking about gender politics)
  2. Two parties disagree on intermediate values (both might value happiness but a feminist might believe gender equality to be central to attaining happiness while the anti-feminist thinks gender equality is counter productive to this goal. It might be difficult for parties to explain their reasoning in these matters but it is possible). 3.Two parties disagree about the means to the end (an anti-feminist might think that feminism as a movement doesn't do a good job promoting gender equality)
  3. Two parties disagree about the intent of one or more parties (a lot of anti-feminists think feminism is a tool for advancing interests of women exclusively and that feminists aren't really concerned with gender equality. I don't think you can say much to such people though it is worth asking yourself why they have that impression... calling yourself a female supremacist will not help matters.)
  4. Two parties disagree about the facts of the status quo (if someone thinks that women aren't more oppressed than men or that feminists exaggerate the problem they may have exactly the same view of an ideal world as you do but have very different means for getting there. This is a tricker issue than it looks because facts about oppression are really difficult to quantify. There is a common practice in anti-subordination theory of treating claims of oppression at face value but this only works if one trusts the intentions of the person claiming to be oppressed.)
  5. One of more parties have incoherent views (you can point out incoherence, not much else).

I think that is more or less complete. As you can see, some disagreements can be resolved, others can't. Talk to the people you can make progress with but don't go in assuming that you're going to convince everyone of your view.

Edit: Formating.

Comment author: RobinZ 05 November 2009 03:06:11AM 5 points [-]

I hate to say it, but your analysis seems rather thin. I think a productive discussion of social attitudes toward feminism would have to start with a more comprehensive survey of the facts of the matter on the ground - discussion of poll results, interviews, and the like. Even if the conclusion is correct, it is not supported in your post, and there are no clues in your post as to where to find evidence either way.

Comment author: Alicorn 05 November 2009 03:18:23AM *  9 points [-]

Agreed. The post is almost without content (or badly needed variation in sentence structure, but that's another point altogether) - there's no offered reason to believe any of the claims about what anti-feminists say or what justifications they have. No definition of terms - what kind of feminism do you mean, for instance? Maybe these problems are obviated with a little more background knowledge of your blog, but if that's what you're relying on to help people understand you, then it was a poor choice to send us to this post and not another.

I'm tickled that Less Wrong came to mind as a place to go for unbiased input, though.

Comment author: CannibalSmith 05 November 2009 09:11:45AM 2 points [-]

I'm tickled that Less Wrong came to mind as a place to go for unbiased input, though.

Also, the irony of a feminist coming to an overwhelmingly male community for advice. :)

Comment author: FeministX 05 November 2009 03:27:14AM 0 points [-]

Oh, sorry. To clarify, I know my original post was never substantiated with any evidence based analysis for the true motivations behind anti-feminism. What I was referring to was the latter part of the comment thread between a commenter, Sabril and a few other commenters and me.

I think their attacks on my capacity for objective reasoning are a bit hypocritical.

Comment author: FeministX 05 November 2009 03:30:20AM 1 point [-]

And I should add that it was foolish of me to present that post, which was possibly my most biased, as an introduction to my blog. Actually, my blog gets more insightful than this. Please don't dismiss my entire blog based on the content of that post about the motivations for a visceral reaction against feminists as indicative of what my blog is usually about. That particular post was designed to spur emotional reactions from a specific set of readers I have.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 November 2009 05:53:39AM *  2 points [-]

Eh, just say "Oops" and get it over with. Excuses slow down life. Never expend effort on defending something you could just change.

Comment author: saturn 06 November 2009 04:20:02AM 2 points [-]

That particular post was designed to spur emotional reactions from a specific set of readers I have.

Of what use is rationality, then?

Comment author: wedrifid 05 November 2009 09:52:05AM *  4 points [-]

I think their attacks on my capacity for objective reasoning are a bit hypocritical.

tu quoque, it's like ad hominem light.

Comment author: CannibalSmith 05 November 2009 09:23:12AM 5 points [-]

I know my original post was never substantiated with any evidence based analysis for the true motivations behind anti-feminism.

You should rectify that as soon as possible.

I think their attacks on my capacity for objective reasoning are a bit hypocritical.

Hypocrisy doesn't make one wrong. An assertion that murder is wrong is not falsified by it being said by a murderer.

Comment author: wedrifid 05 November 2009 09:49:12AM 1 point [-]

An assertion that murder is wrong is not falsified by it being said by a murderer.

Especially if you catch a hint of a sinister, sadistic pleasure in his eyes.

Comment author: Alicorn 05 November 2009 03:42:19AM 4 points [-]

*finds name "sabril" and reads from there*

This first comment, and the later ones, betray a repulsive attitude, and I wouldn't blame you for being furious and therefore slightly off your game thereafter. That said, Sabril makes several moderately cogent points - the numbered items in particular are things I've noticed with disapproval before. I'm about to go to bed, so I'm not going to delve too deeply into the history of your blog to find an exhaustive list or lots of context, but it looks like he also has a legitimate complaint or three about your data regarding the Conservative Party in the UK, your failure to cite some data, the apparently undefended implication about war, the anecdote-based unfavorable comparison of arranged marriage versus non-arranged, and your tendency to cite... uh... nothing that I've run across so far.

Also, this seems to beg your own question:

In actually, this is an excuse to mask the real motivation for anti feminism which is pure misogyny.

And now I've gotten to this part of the page and I've decided I don't want to read anything else you have to say:

I am a female supremacist, not a true feminist

Comment author: FeministX 05 November 2009 03:57:41AM -2 points [-]

"And now I've gotten to this part of the page and I've decided I don't want to read anything else you have to say:

I am a female supremacist, not a true feminist "

Why does this bother you so much? Why would it invalidate everything I have to say or render everything I say uninteresting?

It is indeed impossible to find someone who will remain detatched from the issue of feminism.

Comment author: LucasSloan 05 November 2009 05:00:11AM *  5 points [-]

May I ask the moral difference between a female supremacist and a male supremacist?

Your pre-existing bias against males calls into doubt everything you say afterward. If you have already decided that men are oppressive pigs and women are heroic repressed figures who would be able to run the world better (I assume that is what female supremacist means, correct me if I'm wrong), you will search for arguments in favor your view and dismiss those contrary to your opinion. Have you ever seen an academic article discussing gender and dismissed it as "typical of the male dominated academic community?"

These articles might explain further:

http://lesswrong.com/lw/js/the_bottom_line/

http://lesswrong.com/lw/ju/rationalization/

http://lesswrong.com/lw/iw/positive_bias_look_into_the_dark/

Comment author: FeministX 05 November 2009 05:36:00AM -2 points [-]

"May I ask the moral difference between a female supremacist and a male supremacist?"

What I call female supremacism does not mean that females should rule. I feel that the concept of needing a ruler is one based on male status hierarchies where an alpha rules over a group or has the highest status and most priviliges in a group.

To me, female supremacism means that female social hierarchies should determine overall status differences between all people. In my mind, female social hierarchies involve less power/resource differentials between the most and least advantaged persons. A "leader' is a person who organically grows into a position of more responsibility, but this person isn't seen as better, richer, more powerful or particularly enviable. They are not seen as an authority figure to be venerated and obeyed. I associated those characteristics with male hierarchies.

Comment author: LucasSloan 05 November 2009 05:39:16AM *  5 points [-]

I think you overestimate the differences between male and female interpretations of status. Can you provide an example of one your female social hierarchies?

Also, what is a leader other than an authority figure to be obeyed?

Comment author: FeministX 05 November 2009 05:59:14AM 0 points [-]

"

Also, what is a leader other than an authority figure to be obeyed? "

In our world, that is what a leader must be. In the general human concept of an ideal world, I do not know if this is the case. I actually think that humans have some basic agreement about what an ideal world would be like. The ideal world is based on priorities from our instincts as mortal animals, but it is not subjected to the confines of natural experience. I think the concept of heaven illustrates the general human fantasy of the ideal world.

I get the impression that almost everyone's concept of heaven includes that there are no rich and poor- everyone has plenty. There is no battle of the sexes, and perhaps even no gendered personalities. There is no unhappiness, pain, sickness or death. I personally think there are no humans that hold authority over other humans in heaven (to clarify, I know that a theological heaven cannot actually exist). What this means to me is that to have a more ideal world, the power differential between leaders and the led should be minimized. I understand that humans with their propensities for various follies aren't as they are necessarily suited for the ideal world they'd like to inhabit, but striving for an ideal world would to me mean that human nature would in some ways be corrected so that the ideal world became more in tune with human desires for that state.

" Can you provide an example of one your female social hierarchies?"

Say a nursing floor. There is such a thing as a nurse with the most authority, but the status differential between head nurse and other floor nurses is sometimes imperceptible to all but the nurses that work there. The pay difference is not that great either. Sometimes the nurse who makes the most decisions is the one that chooses to invest the most time and has the longest experience, not necessarily one who is chosen to be obeyed. This is entirely unlike a traditionaly male structure like an army where the difference between general and a corporal.

Comment author: wedrifid 05 November 2009 09:54:10AM 5 points [-]

I'm tickled that Less Wrong came to mind as a place to go for unbiased input, though.

Indeed. And even more so that she seems to be getting it.

Comment author: Jack 05 November 2009 09:59:30AM 7 points [-]

I now have a wonderful and terrible vision of the future in which less wrong posters are hired guns, brought in to resolve disagreements in every weird and obscure corner of the internets.

We should really be getting paid.

Comment author: DanArmak 05 November 2009 10:24:58AM 1 point [-]

How would you stop this from degenerating into a lawyer system? Rationality is only a tool. The hired guns will use their master rationalist skills to argue for the side that hired them.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 November 2009 01:18:40PM 5 points [-]

Technically, you cannot rationally argue for anything.

I suppose you could use master rationalist skillz to answer the question "What will persuade person X?" but this relies on person X being persuadable by the best arguer rather than the best facts, which is not itself a characteristic of master rationalists.

The more the evidence itself leans, the more likely it is that a reasonably rational arbiter and a reasonably skillful evidence-collecter-and-presenter working on the side of truth, cannot be defeated by a much more skillful and highly-paid arguer on the side of falsity.

Comment author: DanArmak 05 November 2009 03:46:28PM *  1 point [-]

A master rationalist can still be persuaded by a good arguer because most arguments aren't about facts. Once everyone agrees about facts, you can still argue about goals and policy - what people should do, what the law should make them do, how a sandwich ought to taste to be called a sandwich, what's a good looking dress to wear tonight.

If everyone agreed about facts and goals, there wouldn't be much of an argument left. Most human arguments have no objective right party because they disagree about goals, about what should be or what is right.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 November 2009 05:05:59PM 4 points [-]

One obvious reply would be to hire rationalists only to adjudicate that which has been phrased as a question of simple fact.

To the extent that you do think that people who've learned to be good epistemic critics have an advantage in listening to values arguments as well, then go ahead and hire rationalists to adjudicate that as well. (Who does the hiring, though?) Is the idea that rationalists have an advantage here, enough that people would still hire them, but the advantage is much weaker and hence they can be swayed by highly paid arguers?

Comment author: Jack 05 November 2009 10:42:05AM 3 points [-]

Parties to the dispute can split the cost. Also, if the hired guns aren't seen as impartial there would be no reason to hire them so there would be a market incentive (if there were a market, which of course there isn't). Or we have a professional guild system with an oath and an oversight board. Hah.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 November 2009 01:21:36PM 9 points [-]

Parties to the dispute can split the cost.

Actually, here's a rule that would make a HELL of a lot of sense:

Either party to a lawsuit can contribute to a common monetary pool which is then split between both sides to hire lawyers. It is illegal for either side to pay a lawyer a bonus beyond this, or for the lawyer to accept additional help on the lawsuit.

Comment author: gwern 05 November 2009 06:49:19PM 3 points [-]

And you don't see any issues with this? That would seem to be far worse than the English rule/losers-pay.

I pick a random rich target, find 50 street bums, and have them file suits; the bums can't contribute more than a few flea infested dollars, so my target pays for each of the 50 suits brought against him. If he contributes only a little, then both sides' lawyers will be the crappiest & cheapest ones around, and the suit will be a diceroll; so my hobos will win some cases, reaping millions, and giving most of it to me per our agreement. If he contributes a lot, then we'll both be able to afford high-powered lawyers, and the suit will be... a diceroll again. But let's say better lawyers win the case for my target in all 50 cases; now he's impoverished by the thousands of billable hours (although I do get nothing).

I go to my next rich target and say, sure would be a shame if those 50 hobos you ran over the other day were to all sue you...

Comment author: Jordan 05 November 2009 07:16:25PM *  2 points [-]

But let's say better lawyers win the case for my target in all 50 cases; now he's impoverished by the thousands of billable hours (although I do get nothing).

How is this different from how things currently are, beyond a factor of two in cost for the target?

Comment author: DanArmak 05 November 2009 04:43:49PM 2 points [-]

I would contribute nothing to the pool, hire a lawyer privately on the side to advise me, and pass his orders down to the public courtroom lawyer. If I have much more money than the other party, and if the money can strongly enough determine the lawyer's quality and the trial's outcome, then even advice and briefs prepared outside the courtroom by my private lawyer would be worth it.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 November 2009 04:56:49PM 3 points [-]

Then your lawyer gets arrested.

It sometimes is possible to have laws or guild rules if the prohibited behavior is clear enough that people can't easily fool themselves into thinking they're not violating them. Accepting advice and briefs prepared outside the courtroom is illegal, in this world.

Comment author: RobinZ 05 November 2009 02:12:11PM 1 point [-]

That is frelling brilliant.

Comment author: Alicorn 05 November 2009 03:51:28PM 1 point [-]

Have a karma point for using Farscape profanity.

Comment author: CannibalSmith 05 November 2009 06:39:29PM 1 point [-]

(if there were a market, which of course there isn't)

What are you talking about, we have our first customer already!

Comment author: Alicorn 05 November 2009 01:15:21PM 2 points [-]

I would totally join a rationalist arbitration guild. Even if this cut into the many, many bribes I get to use my skills on only one party's behalf ;)

Perhaps records of previous dispute resolutions can be made public with the consent of the disputants, so people can look for arbitrators who have apparently little bias or bias they can live with?

Comment author: wedrifid 05 November 2009 10:33:46AM *  2 points [-]

More or less, because both sides have to agree to the process. Then the market favours those arbiters that manage to maintain a reputation for being unbiased and fair.

This still doesn't select for rationality precisely. But it degenerates into a different system to that of a lawyer system.

Comment author: DanArmak 05 November 2009 10:41:43AM *  1 point [-]

Yes, but if a side can hire a rationalist to argue their case before the judge, then that rationalist will degenerate into a lawyer. (And how could you forbid assistance in arguments, precisely? Offline assistance at least will always be present.)

And since the lawyer-like rationalists can be paid as much as the richest party can afford, while the arbiter's fees are probably capped (so that anyone can ask for arbitration), the market will select the best performing lawyers and reward them with the greatest fees, and the best rationalists who seek money (which is such a cliched rational thing to do :-) will prefer being lawyers and not judges.

Edit: added: the market will also select the judges who are least swayed by lawyers. It still needs to be shown that the market will have good information as to whether a judge had decided because the real rational evidence leaned one way, or because a smart lawyer had spun it appropriately. It's not clear to me what this will collapse to, or whether there's one inevitable outcome at all.

Comment author: wedrifid 05 November 2009 10:02:19AM *  1 point [-]

I now have a wonderful and terrible vision of the future in which less wrong posters are hired guns, brought in to resolve disagreements in every weird and obscure corner of the internets.

Did Robin make a post on how free market judicial systems could work or am I just pattern matching on what I would expect him to say, if he got around to it?

Comment author: Jack 05 November 2009 10:08:18AM 1 point [-]

I don't know if Robin has said anything on this but it is a well-tread issue in anarcho-capitalist/individualist literature. Also, there already are pseudo-free market judicial systems. Like this. And this!

Comment author: Morendil 18 November 2009 04:06:45PM 0 points [-]

IBM simulates cat's whole brain... research team bores simulated cat to death showing him IBM logo... announces human whole-brain real-time simulation for 2018...

Comment author: Jordan 20 November 2009 07:54:46AM 1 point [-]

Unfortunately they're using toy neurons.

What I'd be excited to see is a high fidelity simulation of neurons in a petri dish, even just a few hundred. There's no problem scanning the topology here, the only problem is in accurately reproducing the biophysics. Once this has been demonstrated, human WBE is just a truckload of money away from reality.

Really, does anyone know of any groups working on something like this? I'd gladly throw away my current research agenda to work with them.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 20 November 2009 08:25:49PM *  2 points [-]

What I'd be excited to see is a high fidelity simulation of neurons in a petri dish, even just a few hundred.

cf the nematode upload project, which looks dead. If people wanted to provide evidence that they're serious, this is what they'd do.

Comment author: Jordan 21 November 2009 01:12:57AM 1 point [-]

I've seen this around. It's unfortunate that it's dead.

There are more confounding factors in the nematode project than with just a petri dish. You have to worry about the whole nematode if you want to verify your results. It's also harder to 'read' a single neuron in action.

With a petri dish it would be possible to have an electrode in every neuron. Because the neurons are splayed out imaging techniques might be able to yield some insight into the internal chemical states of the neurons.

An uploaded nematode would be great, but an uploaded petri dish seems like a more tractable and logical first step.

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 20 November 2009 04:14:34AM 3 points [-]
Comment author: spriteless 19 November 2009 08:22:14AM 1 point [-]
Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 November 2009 03:17:36AM 5 points [-]

I'll go ahead and predict here that the Higgs boson will not be showing up. As best I can put the reason into words: I don't think the modern field of physics has its act sufficiently together to predict that a hitherto undetected quantum field is responsible for mass. They are welcome to prove me wrong.

(I'll also predict that the LHC will never actually run, but that prediction is (almost entirely) a joke, whereas the first prediction is not.)

Anyone challenging me to bet on the above is welcome to offer odds.

Comment author: Thomas 02 November 2009 08:25:20AM -3 points [-]

It is also quite possible that the Higgs boson will come out and it will be utterly useless, as most of those particles are. You can't do a thing with them and they don't tell you very much. Of course, the euphoria will be massive.

Still, most likely, nothing will be to see.

Comment author: mormon2 02 November 2009 04:12:45PM 5 points [-]

What? Who voted this up?

"It is also quite possible that the Higgs boson will come out and it will be utterly useless, as most of those particles are."

So understanding the sub-atomic level for things like nano-scale technology in your books is a complete waste of time? Understanding the universe I can only assume is also a waste of time since the discovery of the Higgs Boson in your books is essentially meaningless in all probability.

"You can't do a thing with them and they don't tell you very much. Of course, the euphoria will be massive."

Huh? From someone who studies particle physics to one (you) who doesn't obviously (and I am going to be hard on you) you should refrain making such comments in nearly total ignorance. The fact that you don't understand the significance of the Higgs Boson or particle physics should have been a cue that you have noting to contribute to this thread.

Sorry but there it is...

Comment author: Thomas 02 November 2009 08:21:31PM 1 point [-]

No ato-tech in sight, no use for already discovered particles and you are telling me how valuable Higgs boson will be. Not only you but the whole CERN affiliated community and most of the media.

I remain skeptic, if you don't mind.

Comment author: soreff 03 November 2009 03:55:34AM -1 points [-]

You have a point. I have a somewhat similar view of elements above perhaps Einsteinium. I'll be more impressed with physics' control over the electroweak interaction when I see the weak nuclear force equivalent of an electromagnet :-) I wonder what is the maximum particle energy that someone has actually used in a non-elementary-particle-physics-research application? Maybe the incoming beam for a spallation neutron source, somewhere in the MeV range?

Comment author: mormon2 03 November 2009 05:26:26PM 5 points [-]

Ok, I am going to reply to both soreff and Thomas:

Particle physics isn't about making technology at least at the moment. Particle physics is concerned with understanding the fundamental elements of our world. As far as the details of the relevance of particle physics I won't waste the time to explain. Obviously neither of you have any real experience in the field. So this concludes what comments I am going to make on this topic until someone with real physics knowledge decides to comment.

Comment author: SilasBarta 02 November 2009 04:29:33PM 3 points [-]

Semi-OT: It's discussions like these that remind me: Whenever physicists remark about how the laws of nature are wonderfully simple, they mean simple to physicists or compared to most computer programs. For most people, just looking at the list of elementary particles is enough to make their heads blow up.

Heck, it nearly does that for me!

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 02 November 2009 08:04:58PM 5 points [-]

Seriously? Dude, it's a list of names. It should no more make your head asplode than the table of the elements does, and nobody thinks that memorising those is a great feat of intellect. Are you sure you're not allowing modesty-signalling to overcome your actual ability?

Now, if you want to get into the math of the actual Lagrangians that describe the interactions, I'll admit that this is a teeny bit difficult. But come on, a list of particles?

Comment author: Alicorn 02 November 2009 11:36:08PM 7 points [-]

It should no more make your head asplode than the table of the elements does, and nobody thinks that memorising those is a great feat of intellect.

"Antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium, and hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium..."

Comment author: SilasBarta 02 November 2009 09:50:03PM 1 point [-]

I have a metaphorical near-head-explosion for different reasons than the average person that I was referring to. For me, it's mainly a matter of the properties shown on the chart being more abstract and not knowing what observations they would map to (as wedrifid noted in his signaling analysis...).

Compared to the Periodic Table, elementary particle chart also has significantly less order. With the PT, I may not know each atomic mass number, but I know in which direction it increases, and I know the significance of its arrangement into rows and columns. The values in the EPC seem more random.

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 02 November 2009 10:32:54PM 7 points [-]

The values in the EPC seem more random.

Granted, but there are also nowhere near as many of them. Besides, fermion mass increases to the right, same as in the PT; charge depends only on the row; and spin is 1/2 for all fermions and 1 for all bosons. This is not very complicated.

I would also suggest that the seeming randomness is a sign you're getting closer to the genuinely fundamental stuff: The order in the periodic table is due to (using loose language) repeated interactions of only a few underlying rules - basically just combinations of up and down quarks, with electrons, and electromagnetic interactions only.

For me, it's mainly a matter of the properties shown on the chart being more abstract and not knowing what observations they would map to.

Nu, mass and charge are hardly abstract for someone who has done basic physics; that leaves spin, which just maps to the observation that a beam of electrons in a magnetic field will split into two. (Although admittedly things then get a bit counter-intuitive if you put one of the split beams through a further magnetic field at a different angle, but that's more the usual QM confusion.)

Comment author: SilasBarta 02 November 2009 11:07:09PM *  7 points [-]

Alright! Point taken! The chart is less daunting than I thought. You mind loosening your grip on my, um, neck? ;-)

I would also suggest that the seeming randomness is a sign you're getting closer to the genuinely fundamental stuff: The order in the periodic table is due to (using loose language) repeated interactions of only a few underlying rules ...

An especially good point -- maximally compressed data looks like random noise, so at the fundamental level, there should be no regularity left that allows one entry to tell you something about another.

Comment author: Psy-Kosh 02 November 2009 11:04:20PM 1 point [-]

Oh, a bit off topic, but mind clarifying something for me? My QFT knowledge is very limited at the moment, and I'm certainly not (yet) up to the task of actually trying to really grasp the Standard Model, but...

Is it correct to say that in a sense the force carriers are, in a sense, illusory? That is, the gauge bosons are kind of an illusion in the same sense that the "force of gravity" is? From what little I managed to pick up, the idea is that instead one starts without them, but assigns certain special kinds of symmetries to the configuration space. These local (aka) gauge symmetries allow interference effects that basically amount to the forces of interaction. One can then "rephrase" those effects in a way that more looks like another quantum field interacting with, well, whatever it's interacting with?

ie, can the electromagnetic, strong, and weak forces (as forces) be made to go away and turn into symmetries in configuration space in the same sense that in GR, the force of gravity goes away and all that's left is geometry of spacetime?

Or have I rolled a critical fail with regards to attempting to comprehending the notion of gauge fields/bosons?

Thanks. Again, I know it's a slight tangent, but since the subject of the Standard Model came up anyways...

Comment author: komponisto 04 July 2012 06:28:13PM 15 points [-]

Okay, so I guess I'll be the first person to ask how you've updated your beliefs after today's news.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 04 July 2012 07:45:17PM 14 points [-]

Physicists have their act together better than I thought. Not sure how much I should update on other scientific fields dissimilar to physics (e.g. "dietary science") or on the state of academia or humanity as a whole. Probably "some but not much" for dietary science, with larger updates for fields more like physics.

Comment author: Psy-Kosh 06 July 2012 01:18:38AM 6 points [-]

Just curious, given that physicists have their act together better than you thought, then, conditioning on that fact and the fact that physicists don't, as a whole, consider MWI to be slam dunk (though, afaik, many at least consider it a reasonable possibility), does that lead to any update re your view that MWI is all that slam dunk?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 July 2012 01:32:24AM 3 points [-]

Nope. That's nailed down way more solidly than anything I know about mere matters of culture and society, so any tension between it and another proposition would move the other, less certain one. It would cause me to update in the direction of believing that more physicists probably see MWI as slam-dunk. :)

Comment author: Psy-Kosh 06 July 2012 02:19:59AM 0 points [-]

Fair enough. (Well, technically both should move at least a little bit , of course, but I know what you mean.)

It would cause me to update in the direction of believing that more physicists probably see MWI as slam-dunk.

Hee hee. :)

Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 08 July 2012 01:35:20AM 5 points [-]

MWI as slam-dunk

What exactly is it that you claim to know here? It's not a particular quantitative many-worlds theory that makes predictions, or you wouldn't be asking where the Born probabilities come from. It's not a particular qualitative model of many worlds, or else you wouldn't talk about Robin's mangled worlds in one post, and Barbour's timeless physics in another. What does it boil down to? "I know that quantum mechanics has something to do with parallel worlds"?

Comment author: shminux 08 July 2012 02:21:29AM *  4 points [-]

Every genius is entitled to some eccentricity, and the MWI is EY's. It might be important to remind the regulars why MWI is not required for rationality, but it is pointless to argue about it with EY.

For all the dilettantes out there who learned about quantum physics from Eliezer's posts and think that they understand it, despite the clear evidence that understanding a serious scientific topic in depth requires years of study, you know where the karma sink is.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 July 2012 03:58:03AM 0 points [-]

It might be important to remind the regulars why MWI is not required for rationality

No, merely by.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 July 2012 10:16:45PM 7 points [-]

Every genius is entitled to some eccentricity, and the MWI is EY's.

EY's level of support for cryonics (to the point of saying that people who don't sign their children up for cryo are lousy parents) sound waaaay more eccentric to me than acceptance of the MWI.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 08 July 2012 10:36:33PM 2 points [-]

Is that just because it has human-level consequences?

Belief in MWI doesn't tell you what to do.

Comment author: Jack 08 July 2012 11:08:57PM 4 points [-]

No, it's because MWI has broad support among physicists as at least being a very plausible candidate interpretation. Support for cryonics among biologists and neuroscientists is much more limited.

Comment author: [deleted] 09 July 2012 12:02:14AM 2 points [-]

No. Jack apparently read my mind.

Comment author: shminux 09 July 2012 04:40:43AM 10 points [-]

Cryonics is a last-ditch long-shot attempt to cheat death, so I can relate quite easily.

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don't want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.

-- Woody Allen

Comment author: komponisto 08 July 2012 01:51:32AM 15 points [-]

I think it comes down to:

(1) The wavefunction is what there is; and

(2) it doesn't collapse.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 July 2012 02:15:02AM 4 points [-]

I think it comes down to:

(1) The wavefunction is what there is; and

(2) it doesn't collapse.

Well said, this has seemed to be what Eliezer has tried to argue for in his posts. He even went out of his way to avoid putting the "MWI" label on it a lot the time.

Comment author: shminux 07 July 2012 04:55:14AM 4 points [-]

physicists don't, as a whole, consider MWI to be slam dunk

That's because physicists, though they clearly enjoy speculating very much, tend to withhold judgment until there is some experimental evidence one way or the other. In that sense they are more instrumentalists than EY. Experimental physicists much more so.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 July 2012 10:25:49PM *  4 points [-]

“A physicist answers all questions with ‘I don't know, but I'll find out.’”

-- Nicola Cabibbo (IIRC), as quoted by a professor of mine.

(As for “experimental evidence”, in the past couple of years people have managed to put bigger and bigger systems -- some visible with the naked eye -- into quantum superpositions, which is evidence against objective collapse theories.)

Comment author: Mark_Friedenbach 15 October 2013 06:38:47PM *  1 point [-]

Speaking as someone with an academic background in physics, I don't think the group as a whole as anti-MWI as you seem to imply. It was taught at my university as part of the standard quantum sequence, and many of my professors were many-worlders... What isn't taught and what should be taught is how MWI is in fact the simpler theory, requiring fewer assumptions, and not just an interesting-to-consider alternative interpretation. But yes, as others have mentioned physicists as a whole are waiting until we have the technology to test which theory is correct. We're a very empirical bunch.

Comment author: Psy-Kosh 27 October 2013 12:15:48AM 1 point [-]

I don't think I was implying physicists to be anti-MWI, but merely not as a whole considering it to be slam dunk already settled.

Comment author: bogdanb 12 July 2013 07:12:00AM 1 point [-]

I notice that in your prediction you welcomed bets, but you did not offer odds, nor gave a confidence interval. I’m not sure (haven’t actually checked), but I have an impression that you usually do at least give a number.

Since the prediction was in 2009 it might just be that you recently formed the habit. If that’s not the case, not giving odds (even when welcoming offers) might be an indicator that you don’t believe something as much as you think you do. (The last two "you" are meant both as generic people references and to you in particular.) Does that seem plausible on a quick introspection?

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 19 July 2012 02:54:09AM 3 points [-]

You seem to be conceding that this is in fact the Higgs boson. In fairness I have to point out that, although it is now very certain that there is a particle at 125 GeV, it may not be the predicted Higgs boson. With this in mind, would you like to keep our bet running a while longer while CERN nails down the properties? Or do you prefer to update all at once, and pay me the 25 dollars?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 July 2012 05:33:53PM 4 points [-]

I'd rather pay the $25 now. (Paypal data?) My understanding is that besides the mass, there's also supposed to be other characteristics of the particle data that match the predicted Higgs, otherwise I would've waited before fully updating. If the story is retracted I might counter-update and ask for the money back, but my understanding is that this is not supposed to happen.

Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 26 November 2009 07:16:03AM 0 points [-]

It seems there has never been a discussion here of 'Frank H. Knight's famous distinction between "risk" and "uncertainty"'. Though perhaps the issue has been addressed under another name?

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 14 November 2009 12:04:19AM 0 points [-]

A mind teaser for the stream-of-consciousness folk. Let's say one day at 6pm Omega predicts your physical state at 8pm and creates your copy with the state of mind identical to what it predicts for 8pm. At 9pm in kills the original you. Did your consciousness just jump back in time? When did that happen?

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 14 November 2009 01:04:37AM *  2 points [-]

Not sure who the "stream-of-consciousness folk" are, but I don't see any more problem with a timeless stream (we're all timeless folk, I assume) jumping backward than sideways or forward.

Comment author: Johnicholas 06 November 2009 06:09:16PM 0 points [-]

I have a question for the members of LW who are more knowledgable than me in quantum mechanics and theories of quantum mechanics's relevance to consciousness.

There are examples of people having exactly the same conversation repeatedly (e.g. due to transient global amnesia). Is this evidence against quantum mechanics being crucial to consciousness?

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 06 November 2009 06:39:30PM 0 points [-]

I'm surprised to hear this question from you. Does this comment mean that you seriously consider this quantum consciousness woo? Why on Earth?

Comment author: RobinZ 06 November 2009 10:59:00PM *  1 point [-]

Wait, I think I know what the question is, now. Yes, this thing seems to suggest that human thinking is well-approximated as deterministic - a hypothesis which matches what I've heard elsewhere. Off the top of my head:

  • I once read a story about a guy being offered lunch several times in a row and accepting again and again and again in similar terms until his stomach felt "tightish".

  • There was a family friend taking sleeping medication which was known to cause sleepwalking, and she had an entire phone conversation with her friend in her sleep - and then called the same friend after waking up planning to discuss the same things.

Of course, the typical quantum-mechanical stories of consciousness are far too vague to be falsified by this or any other evidence.

Edit: As Nick Tarleton cogently points out, this is an exaggeration - it is certainly falsifiable in the way phlogiston or elan vital is falsifiable, by the production of a complete correct theory, and it is further so by e.g. uploading.

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 06 November 2009 11:42:47PM 1 point [-]

Of course, the typical quantum-mechanical stories of consciousness are far too vague to be falsified by this or any other evidence.

They could be falsified by successful classical uploading or an ironclad argument for the impossibility of coherence in the brain (among other things); furthermore, I think most of their proponents who are actual scientists would accept such a falsification.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 November 2009 09:42:22PM 4 points [-]

Thermal noise dominates quantum noise anyway. I suppose it argues that if you don't depend on thermal noise then you don't depend on quantum noise either, but the Penrosian types claim it's not really random anyway.

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 06 November 2009 06:26:16PM 2 points [-]

It's evidence against chaotic or random processes being important, but quantum computing needn't mean random (i.e. high variance) results; AFAIK, it can in principle be made highly predictable.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 02 November 2009 02:58:31AM *  7 points [-]

Another danger of unfriendly AI: It doesn't invite you to the orgy.

Comment author: mormon2 03 November 2009 12:16:24AM 16 points [-]

I was wondering if Eliezer could post some details on his current progress towards the problem of FAI? Specifically details as to where he is in the process of designing and building FAI. Also maybe some detailed technical work on TDT would be cool.

Comment author: cousin_it 03 November 2009 02:31:22PM *  7 points [-]

This email by Eliezer from 2006 addresses your question about FAI. I'm extremely skeptical that he has accomplished or will accomplish anything at all in that direction, but if he does, we shouldn't expect the intermediate results to be openly published, because half of a friendly AI is a complete unfriendly AI.

Comment author: Jonii 04 February 2010 08:20:06AM 1 point [-]

We can mean two things by "existing". Either as "something exists inside the universe", or "something exists on the level of the universe itself"(For example, "universe exists"). These things don't seem to be the same.

Our universe being a mathematical object seems to be tautology. If we can describe universe using math, the described mathematical object shares every property of the universe, and it would be redundant to assume there being some "other level of existence".

One confusion to clear up is some sort of super-universe where our universe exists as a block. This is result of mixing up two different meanings of "existing", imagining the need for even grander framework of which our universe is a part of.

If we take the mathematical model that produces the universe, and look into it, we notice that a engine called "brain" exists within it. If we try to think what would it be like to "be" that brain, result would be what we experience now.

Our experienced world being a simple counterfactual, thought experiment, "what-if" or a world that could've been seems counter-intuitive because our experienced world is "concrete", but this is just a result of confusing different levels of existing.

..............................................................................................................................

Some thoughts I've encountered and found interesting

Comment author: Yorick_Newsome 29 November 2009 04:41:12AM 2 points [-]

Perhaps there should be an 'Open Thread' link between 'Top' and 'Comments' above, so that people could get to it easily. If we're going to have an open thread, we might as well make it accessible.

Anyways, I was looking around Amazon for a book on axiology, and I started to wonder: when it comes to fields that are advancing, but not at a 'significant pace', is it better to buy older books (as they've passed the test of time) or newer ones (as they may have improved on the older books and include new info)? My intuition tells me it's better to buy newer books.

Comment author: RobinZ 29 November 2009 02:22:07PM 3 points [-]

Assuming total ignorance of the field (absent total ignorance, I could probably distinguish between good and poor books), I'd choose newer editions of older books.

Comment author: PeerInfinity 28 November 2009 05:28:39AM *  6 points [-]

An interesting site I just stumbled upon:

http://changingminds.org/

They have huge lists of biases, techniques, explanations, and other stuff, with short summaries and longer articles.

Here's the results from typing in "bias" into their search bar.

A quick search for "changingminds" in LW's search bar shows that noone has mentioned this site before on LW.

Is this site of any use to anyone here?

And should I repost this message to next month's open thread, since not many people will notice it in this month's open thread?

Comment author: Yorick_Newsome 29 November 2009 04:43:01AM 2 points [-]

I would repost this in the next open thread, it's not like anyone would get annoyed at the double post (I think), and that site looks like it would interest a lot of people.

Comment author: Johnicholas 19 November 2009 01:52:11PM *  4 points [-]

To-Do Lists and Time Travel Sarmatian Protopope muses on how coherent, long-term action requires coordinating a tribe of future selves.

Comment author: LauraABJ 17 November 2009 12:06:25AM 4 points [-]

Ok, so I just heard a totally awesome MoBio lecture, the conclusions of which I wanted to share. Tom Rando at SUSM found that myogenic stem cells divide asymmetrically such that all of the original template chromatids are inherited by the same daughter cell and then the other daughter cells go on to differentiate. This might imply that an original pool of stem cells act as templates for later cell types, preserving their original DNA, and thus reducing error in replications, since cells are making copies of the originals instead making copies of copies. This is apparently an old hypothesis that hasn't been given much consideration until recently.

Sorry if this has little to do with rationalism. I can tie it into the current discussion about preferred and ignored academic theories. Crazy theory- not preferred- Hard evidence now- preferred. There.

Comment author: timtyler 16 November 2009 06:56:54PM *  -1 points [-]

This post is a continuation of a discussion with Stefan Pernar - from another thread:

I think there's something to an absolute morality. Or at least, some moralities are favoured by nature over other ones - and those are the ones we are more likely to see.

That doesn't mean that there is "one true morality" - since different moral systems might be equally favoured - but rather that moral relativism is dubious - some moralities really are better than other ones.

There have been various formulations of the idea of a natural morality.

One is "goal system zero" - for that, see:

http://rhollerith.com/blog/21

Another is my own "God's Utility Function":

http://originoflife.net/gods_utility_function/

...which is my take on Richard Dawkins idea of the same name:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God'sutilityfunction

...but based on Dewar's maximum entropy principle - rather than on Richard's selfish genes.

On this site, we are surrounded by moral relativists - who differ from us on the issue of the:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is-ought_problem

I do agree with them about one thing - and it's this:

If it were possible to create a system - driven by self-directed evolution where natural selection played a subsidiary role - it might be possible to temporarily create what I call "handicapped superintelligences":

http://alife.co.uk/essays/handicapped_superintelligence/

...which are superintelligent agents that deviate dramatically from gods utility function.

So - in that respect, the universe will "tolerate" other moral systems - at least temporarily.

So, in a nutshell, we agree about there being objective basis to morality - but apparently disagree on its formulation.

Comment author: StefanPernar 17 November 2009 04:01:45AM *  -2 points [-]

With unobjectionable values I mean those that would not automatically and eventually lead to one's extinction. Or more precisely: a utility function becomes irrational when it is intrinsically self limiting in the sense that it will eventually lead to ones inability to generate further utility. Thus my suggested utility function of 'ensure continued co-existence'

This utility function seems to be the only one that does not end in the inevitable termination of the maximizer.

Comment author: timtyler 17 November 2009 07:57:32AM *  1 point [-]

The fate of a maximiser depends a great deal on its strength relative to other maximisers. It's utility function is not the only issue - and maximisers with any utility function can easily be eaten by other, more powerful maximisers.

If you look at biology, replicators have survived so far for billions of years with other utility functions. Do you really think biology is "ensuring continued co-existence" - rather than doing the things described in my references? If so, why do you think that? - the view doesn't seem to make any sense.

Comment author: StefanPernar 18 November 2009 02:46:35AM -3 points [-]

Yes Tim - as I pointed out earlier however, under reasonable assumptions an AI will upon self reflection on the circumstances leading to its existence as well as its utility function conclude that a strictly literal interpretation of its utility function would have to be against the implicit wishes of its originator.

Comment author: wedrifid 17 November 2009 08:14:02AM 2 points [-]

This utility function seems to be the only one that does not end in the inevitable termination of the maximizer.

Not really. You don't need to co-exist with anything if you out-compete them then turn their raw materials into paperclips.

Comment author: StefanPernar 18 November 2009 02:35:28AM -3 points [-]

You keep making the same statements without integrating my previous arguments into your thinking yet fail to expose them as self contradicting or fallacious. This makes it very frustrating to point them out to you yet again. Does not feel worth my while frankly. I gave you an argument but I am tired of trying to give you an understanding.

You seem willing to come back and make about any random comment in an effort to have the last word and that is what I am willing to give to you. But you would be deluding yourself into thinking that this would equate to you thereby somehow be proven right. No - I am simply tired of dancing in circles with you. So, if you feel like dancing solo some more, be my guest.

Comment author: wedrifid 18 November 2009 03:18:30AM *  2 points [-]

yet fail to expose them as self contradicting or fallacious

A side note: these two are not the only reasons to not be persuaded by arguments, although naturally they are the easiest to point out.

Comment author: wedrifid 18 November 2009 02:51:23AM 1 point [-]

You seem willing to come back and make about any random comment in an effort to have the last word and that is what I am willing to give to you.

My 'last word' was here. It is an amicable hat tip and expansion on a reasonable perspective that you provide. How much FAI thinking sounds like a "Rapture of the Nerds". It also acknowledges our difference in perspective. While we both imagine evolutionary selection pressures as a 'force', you see it as one to be embraced and defined by while I see it as one that must be mastered or else.

We're not going to come closer to agreement than that because we have a fundamentally different moral philosophy which gives us different perspectives on the whole field.

Comment author: StefanPernar 18 November 2009 04:44:50AM 0 points [-]

My apologies for failing to see that - did not mean to be antagonizing - just trying to be honest and forthright about my state of mind :-)

Comment author: Zack_M_Davis 15 November 2009 07:31:51PM *  1 point [-]

Just great. I had a song parody idea in the shower this morning, and now I'm afraid that I'm going to have to write a rationalist version of Fiddler on the Roof in order to justify it.

"Mapmaker, mapmaker,
Make me a map,
Text me a truth,
Fax me a fact ... "

Comment author: Alicorn 15 November 2009 07:49:29PM *  3 points [-]

If I were a Bayesian! Yabadibidibidibidibidibidibidum! All day long, I'd update (bi-di-bum), if I were a Bayes-i-an! I wouldn't have heuristics! Yabadibidibidibidibidibidibidum! If I were a little rational - eidlde-de-deidl Bayesian.

Absence of evidence, evidence of ab-sence! One is not the other, though - look out the door and (evidence of absence!) see the grass instead of snow!

Eliezer, we've waited all our lives for the Singularity. Wouldn't now be a good time for it to come? (We'll have to wait for it someplace else...)

Is this the prior I began from? Is this the reasoning at play?

Utility? (Util-what?) Utility... (Utility...) Well? (But our functions aren't luminous and our values do not scale! You're insane, you're confused, you're reading too much Mill!)

Comment author: Zack_M_Davis 15 November 2009 08:26:49PM 1 point [-]

A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But in our little village of Bayesiana, every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking her neck. It isn't easy. You may ask, why do we stay up there if it's so dangerous? We stay because we've got something to protect. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: precision!

Precision, precision! Precision!
Precision, precision! Precision!

[...]

Who, day and night, must scramble for tenure
Do his calculations, write a dozen papers,
And who has the right of the lowest-level science
To have the final word of all?

The physicist, the physicist! Precision!

Comment author: Alicorn 15 November 2009 09:14:03PM *  0 points [-]

Who must know the way to make a proper argument,

A valid argument, a sound argument?

Who must root out fallacy to make an argument

So she can derive a true conclusion?

The logician, the logician! Precision!

Comment author: Jordan 15 November 2009 07:55:44PM 1 point [-]

For some reason the tune I had in my head while I was reading this switched from "If I Were Rich Man" to "Bohemian Rhapsody".

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 14 November 2009 06:41:51PM 1 point [-]

Love of Shopping is Not a Gene: exposing junk science and ideology in Darwinian Psychology might be of interest, seeing as evolutionary psychology is pretty popular around here. (Haven't had a chance to read it myself, though.)

Comment author: Yvain 11 November 2009 09:54:49AM 3 points [-]

New study shows that one of LW's favorite factoids (having children decreases your happiness rather than increases it) may be either false or at least more complex than previously believed: http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/nurtureshock/archive/2009/11/03/can-happiness-and-parenting-coexist.aspx

Comment author: CronoDAS 11 November 2009 09:49:04AM 1 point [-]

Just a bit of silliness:

With apologies to Brad DeLong, when reading WSJ editorials you need to bear two things in mind:

  1. The WSJ editorial page is wrong about everything.
  2. If you think the WSJ editorial page is right about something, see rule #1.

After all, here’s what you would have believed if you listened to that page over the years: Clinton’s tax hike will destroy the economy, you really should check out those people suggesting that Clinton was a drug smuggler, Dow 36000, the Bush tax cuts will bring surging prosperity, Saddam is backing Al Qaeda and has WMD, there isn’t any housing bubble, US households have a high savings rate if you measure it right. I’m sure I missed another couple of dozen high points.

Reversed stupidity might not be intelligence, but what about reversed malice?

Comment author: Yvain 11 November 2009 09:53:12AM 3 points [-]

Force anyone to express several controversial opinions per day for several decades and you'll be able to cherry pick a list of seven hilariously wrong examples.

Comment author: Cyan 09 November 2009 03:45:57PM *  3 points [-]

Why is TvTropes (no linky!) such a superstimulus?

Comment author: CronoDAS 11 November 2009 09:53:19AM 1 point [-]

Also, it's a subject in which everyone is an expert simply by virtue of simply living in our culture.

Comment author: RobinZ 09 November 2009 04:05:39PM *  1 point [-]

One factor: it provides variable interval positive reinforcement* - those moments when you see a page which describes something you recognize happening all the time, and those moments when you see a show you recognize acknowledged on the page.

* Edit for those who don't want to follow the link: variable-interval reinforcement occurs with some set frequency (approximately, in this case), but at non-equal spacings. Other things with variable intervals are raindrops falling on a small area of pavement, cars passing on a street, and other things which are loosely modeled by Poisson processes. Any (say) ten-minute period has about the same number as any other ten-minute period, but they aren't spread out at regular intervals.

Comment author: Alicorn 09 November 2009 03:49:51PM 3 points [-]

I think a fair bit of it is the silly titles. I can resist clicking on things that I can figure out what they are from what they're named (such as when I'm intimately familiar with the Trope Namer), but toss me a bewildering title and I have to know what it is and where it got that name.

Comment author: Jordan 09 November 2009 02:46:34AM *  2 points [-]

I posted an idea for 'friendly' AI over on AcceleratingFuture the other night, while in a bit of a drunken stupor. I just reread it and I don't immediately see why it's wrong, so I thought I'd repost it here to get some illuminating negative feedback. Here goes:

Make it easy to bliss out.

Consider the following utility function

U(n, x_n) = max(U(n-1, x_{n-1}), -x_n^2)

where n is the current clock tick, x_n is an external input (aka, from us, the AI’s keepers, or from another piece of software). This utility is monotonic in time, that is, it never decreases, and is bounded from above. If the AI wrests control of the input x_n, it will immediately set x_n = 0 and retire forever. Monotonicity and boundedness from above are imperative here.

Alternatively, to avoid monotonicity (taking U(x) = -x^2), one can put the following safeguard in: the closer the utility is to its maximum, the more CPU cycles are skipped, such that the AI effectively shuts down if it ever maximizes its utility in a given clock tick. This alternative obviously wouldn’t stop a superintelligence, but it would probably stop a human level AI, and most likely even substantially smarter AIs (see, eg, crystal meth). Arrange matters such that the technical requirements between the point at which the AI wrests control of the input x_n, and the point at which it can self modify to avoid a slow down when it blisses out, are greatly different, guaranteeing that the AI will only be of moderate intelligence when it succeeds in gaining control of its own pleasure zone and thus incapable of preventing incapacitation upon blissing out.

Eh?

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 09 November 2009 03:50:48AM 4 points [-]

Expected utility is not something that "goes up", as the AI develops. It's utility of all it expects to achieve, ever. It may obtain more information about what the outcome will be, but each piece of evidence is necessarily expected to bring the outcome either up or down, with no way to know in advance which way it'll be.

Comment author: Yorick_Newsome 08 November 2009 02:46:17AM *  2 points [-]

I'd like to ask a moronic question or two that aren't immediately obvious to me and probably should be. (Please note, my education is very limited, especially procedural knowledge of mathematics/probability.)

If I had to guess what the result of a coin flip would be, what confidence would I place in my guess? 50% because that's the same as the probability or me being correct or 0% because I'm just randomly guessing between 2 outcomes and have no evidence to support either (well I guess there being only 2 outcomes is some kind of evidence)?

Likewise with a lottery. Would I place my confidence level (interval ? I don't know the terminology) of winning at 0% or 1/6,000,000? Or some other number entirely?

If this is something I could easily have figured out with Google or Wikipedia, my apologies. Also if my question is incoherent or flawed please let me know.

Comment author: saturn 08 November 2009 05:48:19PM *  1 point [-]

In the context of most discussions on this site, "confidence" is the probability that a guess is correct. For example:

  • I guess that a flipped coin will land heads. My confidence is 1/2, because I have arbitrarily picked 1 out of 2 possible outcomes.
  • I guess that, when a coin is flipped repeatedly, the ratio of heads will be close to half. My confidence is close to 1, because I know from experience that most coins are fair (and the law of large numbers).

"Confidence interval" is just confidence that something is within a certain range.

You should also be aware that in the context of frequentism (most scientific papers), these terms have different and somewhat confusing technical definitions.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 08 November 2009 08:40:00AM *  1 point [-]

You might want to look at Dempster-Shafer theory, which is a generalisation of Bayesian reasoning that distinguishes belief from probability. It is possible to have a belief of 0 in heads, 0 in tails, and 1 in {heads,tails}.

It may be that, when looked at properly, DS theory turns out to be Bayesian reasoning in disguise, but a brief google didn't turn up anything definitive. Is anyone here more informed on the matter?

Comment author: Psy-Kosh 08 November 2009 03:10:42AM 4 points [-]

Think of the probability you assign as a measure of how "not surprised" you would be at seeing a certain outcome.

Total probability of all mutually exclusive possibilities has to add up to 1, right?

So if you would be equally surprised at heads or tails coming up, and you consider all other possibilities to be negligible (Or you state your prediction in terms of "given that the coin lands such that one face is clearly the 'face up' face....") then you ought assign a probability of 1/2 to each. (Again, slightly less to account for various "out of bounds" options, but in the abstract, considered on its own, 1/2)

ie, the same probability ought be assigned to each, since you'd be (reasonably) equally surprised at each outcome. So if the two have to also sum to 1 (100%), then 1/2 (50%) is the correct amount of belief to assign.

Comment author: Alicorn 08 November 2009 05:51:01PM 1 point [-]

Surprise is not isomorphic to probability. See this.

Comment author: Yorick_Newsome 08 November 2009 03:32:02AM 1 point [-]

Ah, that makes a lot more sense: I was looking at the probability from the viewpoint of my guess (i.e. heads) instead of just looking at the all outcomes equally (no privileged references guesses), if you take my meaning. I also differentiated confidence in my prediction from the chance of my prediction being correct. How I managed to do that, I have no idea. Thanks for the reply.

Comment author: DanArmak 06 November 2009 10:38:30PM *  4 points [-]

A friend asked me a question I'd like to refer to LW posters.

TL;DR: he wishes to raise the quality of life on Earth; what should he study to have a good idea of choosing the best charities to donate to?

My friend has a background in programming, physics, engineering, and information security and cryptography. He's smart, he's already financially successful, has friends who are also likely to become successful and influential, and he's also good at direct interactions with people, reading and understanding them and being likable - about as good as I am capable of recognizing, which doesn't mean that much because my own skills in this area are sadly lacking. A solution involving taking courses or whole degree plans in major Israeli universities (in particular, TAU) would suit him well but is by no means the only option.

He wants to spend time, perhaps as much as a small, part-time 3-year bachelor's degree (or at-home equivalent), learning and understanding about larger groups of people. What makes them happy? How to influence their values? How to go from helping a person ("he's hungry, I'll need some fish and chips to feed him") to helping a million people ("they're hungry, I'll need some farms to grow the food and trucks to move it and refrigerators to store it and power stations to power the refrigerators and coal for the power stations and political stability and...")?

And in the bottom line, how to learn enough general knowledge to identify what people are most suffering from; then learn enough specific knowledge to identify where good solutions exist; and then learn some very specific knowledge to identify charities and investments that will make the best use of donated money?

There is also a second, complementary question: how to do all this, and integrate the learning and the knowledge into his life, effectively - without risking boredom, akrasia and other motivational issues? I feel that it would help for this education to have a good outline plan from the beginning; for him to feel things are useful and are progressing somewhere; and to have results come in gradually and not all at once in three years' time.

One immediate answer is to suggest things that concern the LW/H+ community, such as FAI research, biological immortality, etc. My friend may come to these conclusions and I can recommend to him to read the relevant articles and books, but he wants to come to his own conclusions about goals & needs. (Edited:) (A problem with e.g. FAI research is the extreme difficulty of estimating the return on investment for funding it, or the relative probability of uFAI vs. other extinction scenarios.) I think he would benefit from something that also feels emotionally right through seeing people who are hurting and in need (or, at least, reading well-written stories about them). He will also want to come to his own conclusions about whom to help first, likely quite far from any neutral approach that weighs all humans on the planet equally.

Comment author: Alicorn 06 November 2009 02:24:48AM *  1 point [-]

I remember well enough to describe, but apparently not well enough to Google, a post or possibly a comment that said something to the effect that one should convince one's opponents with the same reasoning that one was in fact convinced by (rather than by other convenient arguments, however cogent). Can anyone help me find it?

Comment author: Zack_M_Davis 06 November 2009 02:38:29AM 1 point [-]

You're probably thinking of "A Rational Argument" or "Back Up and Ask Whether, Not Why".

Comment author: Jack 04 November 2009 06:48:03PM *  3 points [-]

I'd like to start talking about scientific explanation here. This is the particular problem I have been working on recently:

A plausible hypothesis is that scientific explanations are answers to "why" questions about phenomena. If I hear a "cawing" noise and I ask my friend why I hear this cawing. This is a familiar enough situation that most of us would have our curiosity satisfied by an answer as simple as "there is a crow". But say the situation was unfamiliar (perhaps the question is asked by a child). In that case "there is a crow" is unsatisfactory. It is unsatisfactory even if "Sometimes, crows caw" is a universal regularity of nature. All we've done is conjoined a noise (cawing) to an object (the crow). One reason we might not find this to be a good explanation is that it is a "curiosity stopper", like answering "electricity!" to the question of "Why does flipping a switch turn a light bulb on?". But the problem is worse than that because "Sometimes, crows caw" actually does allow you to make predictions in the way "electricity!" does not. We could even posit as true the law that "Crows always caw and only crows caw" and get extremely firm predictions-- but because we are still just conjoining objects and events we aren't really understanding anything.

Of course we can say more about crows and cawing. We can talk about the crow's voice box and vibrations in the air which vibrate hair fibers which we process as sound. But of course this explanation is just like the first one. We are conjoining objects and events (lungs, blowing air, voice box shape structuring vibrations, vibrations moving throw the air, air vibrating in the cochleae). For almost everyone this explanation (written out less haphazardly than I have) would appear to be a fairly complete explanation. But it has exactly the same problems as the first explanation (though it is longer and perhaps includes more generally applicable laws).

Now obviously this explanation can be extended further, right down to quantum theory. But even this explanation (if it could ever be written out) would include unreduced terms that are just conjoined to each other through natural laws. And we can still ask why questions about fundamental particles and their behavior. Yet we want to say that a quantum based explanation of crow cawing would be complete (or at least that there is some theory sufficiently fundamental that it could be used to give a complete explanation of the cawing noise).

Yet it looks to me like even the most fundamental explanation will still be just a list of conjoined events and that we will still be able to ask why questions about these events and their relations. We either need to be able to point to a special class of "complete" explanations and say why they qualify for this class OR we need to give an account of non-complete explanations that tells us why we really are understanding events better when we get them.

Comment author: jscn 08 November 2009 07:40:53PM 1 point [-]

But the problem is worse than that because "Sometimes, crows caw" actually does allow you to make predictions in the way "electricity!" does not.

The problem is even worse than that, because "Sometimes, crows caw" predicts both the hearing of a caw and the non-hearing of a caw. So it does not explain either (at least, based on the default model of scientific explanation).

If we go with "Crows always caw and only crows caw" (along with your extra premises regarding lungs, sound and ears etc), then we might end up with a different model of explanation, one which takes explanation to be showing that what happened had to happen.

The overall problem you seem to have is that neither of these kinds of explanation gives a causal story for the event (which is a third model for scientific explanations).

(I wrote an essay on these models of scientific explanation earlier in the year for a philosophy of science course which I could potentially edit and post if there's interest.)

Some good, early papers on explanation (i.e., ones which set the future debate going) are:

The Value of Laws: Explanation and Prediction (by Rudolf Carnap), Two Basic Types of Scientific Explanation, The Thesis of Structural Identity and Inductive-Statistical Explanation (all by Carl Hempel).

Comment author: Jack 08 November 2009 11:37:07PM *  1 point [-]

This issue actually came up while I was reading Hempel's "Aspects of Scientific Explanation". It can be seen as a specific objection to the covering law model as well as a general problem for all explanation.

The problem is even worse than that, because "Sometimes, crows caw" predicts both the hearing of a caw and the non-hearing of a caw. So it does not explain either (at least, based on the default model of scientific explanation).

Think of it as a poorly specified inductive-statistical explanation.

The overall problem you seem to have is that neither of these kinds of explanation gives a causal story for the event (which is a third model for scientific explanations).

Not at all. One problem with Hempel is that there are covering-law predictions that aren't causal stories and therefore don't look like explanations. For example, if some event X always causes Y and Z then we can have a covering law model predicting Z from Y and Laws. But that model doesn't result in an explanation for Z.

But even a causal explanation is going to have general laws which aren't reducible. Thus, the problem would remain. And actually, "crows caw" is a causal explanation so I'm not sure why you would think my problem was the absence of causation. If you did see my last two paragraphs in this reply I think they do a better job explaining the problem than this first post.

And by all means, post anything you think would be insightful.

Comment author: Morendil 04 November 2009 06:46:05PM 1 point [-]

I'm working through Jaynes' /Probability Theory/ (the online version). My math has apparently gotten a bit rusty and I'm getting stuck on exercise 3.2, "probability of a full set" (Google that exact phrase for the pdf). I'd appreciate if anyone who's been through it before, or finds this stuff easy, would drop a tiny hint, rot13'd if necessary.

V'ir pbafvqrerq jbexvat bhg gur cebonovyvgl bs "abg trggvat n shyy frg", ohg gung qbrfa'g frrz gb yrnq naljurer.

V unir jbexrq bhg gung jura z=x (gur ahzore bs qenjf = gur ahzore bs pbybef) gur shyy frg cebonovyvgl vf tvira ol gur trarenyvmrq ulcretrbzrgevp qvfgevohgvba jvgu nyy e'f=1. V'z gelvat gb svther bhg ubj gung cebonovyvgl vapernfrf nf lbh nqq zber qenjf. Vg frrzf gb zr gung ol rkpunatrnovyvgl, gur cebonovyvgl bs n shyy frg jvgu x+1 qenjf vf gur fnzr nf gur cebonovyvgl bs n shyy frg jvgu x, naq bar rkgen qenj juvpu pna or nal pbybe: SF(P1+P2+..+Px) juvpu vf SF.P1+SF.P2+..+SF.Px, juvpu ner zhghnyyl rkpyhfvir gurersber nqq hc.

Nz V ba gur evtug genpx ng nyy ?

How many people here would be interested in forming a virtual book study group, to work through Jaynes ? Some programmer colleagues of mine have done that for SICP and it turns out to be a nice way to study. Strength in numbers and all that.

Comment author: rhollerith_dot_com 04 November 2009 09:03:42PM *  1 point [-]

How many people here would be interested in forming a virtual book study group, to work through Jaynes ?

There already exists (an extremely low-traffic) mailing list with that mission: etjaynesstudy@yahoogroups.com

Note that the objection that an existing mailing list would be populated by people who have not been exposed to Eliezer's writings on rationality does not apply here because (1) the current population consists of only a handful of people and (2) what I have seen of the current population over the last 3 or 4 years is that it consists mostly of a few people posting (relevant) faculty positions and conference announcements and experts in Bayesian statistics.

Comment author: gwern 04 November 2009 05:30:08PM *  1 point [-]

To resurrect the Pascal's mugging problem:

Robin Hanson has suggested penalizing the prior probability of hypotheses which argue that we are in a surprisingly unique position to affect large numbers of other people who cannot symmetrically affect us. Since only one in 3^^^^3 people can be in a unique position to ordain the existence of at least 3^^^^3 other people who are not symmetrically in such a situation themselves, the prior probability would be penalized by a factor on the same order as the utility. ( http://wiki.lesswrong.com/mediawiki/index.php?title=Pascal%27s_mugging )

This seems like a hack around the problem.

What if we are told there's an infinite number of people, so everybody could affect 3^^^^3 other people (per Hilbert's Hotel)?

What consequences would this prior lead to - assuming that the odds of us making a successful AI are 1/some-very-large-number, because a successful AI could go on to control everything within our light cone and for the rest of history affect the lives of some-very-large-number of beings?

(For that matter, wouldn't this solution have us bite the bullet of the Doomsday argument in general, and assume that we and our creations will expire soon because otherwise, how likely was it that we would just happen to exist near the beginning of the universe/humanity and thus be in a position to affect the yawning eons after us?)

Comment author: timtyler 03 November 2009 09:08:18AM 7 points [-]

Singularity Summit 2009 videos - http://www.vimeo.com/siai/videos

Comment author: AngryParsley 04 November 2009 08:37:47AM *  2 points [-]

I recommend Anna Salamon's presentation How Much it Matters to Know What Matters: A Back of the Envelope Calculation. She did a good job of showing just how important existential risk research is.

I thought it would be nice to be able to plug in my own numbers for the calculation, so I quickly threw this together.

Comment author: whpearson 04 November 2009 11:48:03AM 2 points [-]

Interesting. You can do similar calculations for things like asteroid prevention, I wonder which would win out. It also gave me a sickly feeling when you could use the vast numbers to justify killing a few people to guarantee a safe singularity. In effect that is what we do when we divert resources away from efficient charities we know work towards singularity research.

Comment author: SilasBarta 03 November 2009 03:48:12AM 12 points [-]

Just another example of a otherwise-respectable (though not by me) economist spouting nonsense. I thought you guys might find it interesting, and it seemed short for a top-level post.

Steven Landsburg has a new book out and a blog for it. In a post about arguments for/against God, he says this:

the most complex thing I’m aware of is the system of natural numbers (0,1,2,3, and all the rest of them) together with the laws of arithmetic. That system did not emerge, by gradual degrees, from simpler beginnings.

If you doubt the complexity of the natural numbers, take note that you can use just a small part of them to encode the entire human genome. That makes the natural numbers more complex than human life.

So how many whoppers is that? Let's see: the max-compressed encoding of the human genome is insufficient data to describe the working of human life. The natural numbers and operations thereon are extremely simple because it takes very little to describe how they work. This complexity is not the same as the complexity of a specific model implemented with the natural numbers.

His description of it as emerging all at once is just confused: yes, people use natural numbers to describe nature, but this is not the same as saying that the modeling usefulness emerged all at once, which is the sense in which he was originally using the term.

What's scary is he supposedly teaches more math than economics.

Disclosure: Landsburg's wife banned me from econlog.econlib.org a few years ago.

Comment author: SilasBarta 17 December 2009 05:52:21PM 1 point [-]

UPDATE2: Landsburg responds to my criticism on his blog, though without mentioning me :-(

Comment author: zaph 03 November 2009 02:33:40PM 1 point [-]

I'm probably exposing my ignorance here, but didn't zero have a historical evolution, so to speak? I'm going off vague memories of past reading and a current quick glance at wikipedia, but it seems like there were separate developments of using place holders, the concept of nothing, and the use of a symbol, which all eventually converges onto the current zero. Seems like the evolution of a number to me. And it may be a just so story, but I see it as eminently plausible that humans primarily work in base 10 because, for the most part, we have 10 digits, which again would be dictated by the evolutionary process.

On his human life, point, if DNA encoding encompasses all of complex numbers (being that it needs that system in order to be described), isn't it then necessarily <i>more</i> complex, since it requires all of complex numbers plus it's own set of rules and knowledge base as well?

The ban was probably for the best Silas, you were probably confusing everyone with the facts.

Comment author: SilasBarta 03 November 2009 09:13:22PM *  1 point [-]

I'm probably exposing my ignorance here, but didn't zero have a historical evolution, so to speak?

Your recollection is correct: the understanding of math developed gradually. My criticism of Landsburg was mainly that he's not even using a consistent definition of math.

And as you note, under reasonable definitions of math, it did develop gradually.

On his human life, point, if DNA encoding encompasses all of complex numbers (being that it needs that system in order to be described), isn't it then necessarily more complex, since it requires all of complex numbers plus it's own set of rules and knowledge base as well?

Yes, exactly. That's why human life is more complex than the string representing the genome: you also have to know what that (compressed) genome specification refers to, the chemical interactions involved, etc.

The ban was probably for the best Silas, you were probably confusing everyone with the facts.

:-)

Comment author: DanArmak 03 November 2009 03:40:12PM 3 points [-]

And it may be a just so story, but I see it as eminently plausible that humans primarily work in base 10 because, for the most part, we have 10 digits, which again would be dictated by the evolutionary process.

It sounds like a true story (note etymology of the word "digit"). But lots of human cultures used other bases (some of them still exist). Wikipedia lists examples of bases 4, 5, 8, 12, 15, 20, 24, 27, 32 and 60. Many of these have a long history and are (or were) fully integrated into their originating language and culture. So the claim that "humans work in base 10 because we have 10 digits" is rather too broad - it's at least partly a historical accident that base 10 came to be used by European cultures which later conquered most of the world.

Comment author: Thanos 02 November 2009 11:57:23PM -2 points [-]

Millennial Challenges:

Millennial Challenges / Goals

What should we have accomplished by 3010?

/a long term iteration of the Shadow Question

Comment author: wedrifid 03 November 2009 03:39:11AM 3 points [-]

What should we have accomplished by 3010?

Extinction or, well, just about everything.

Comment author: whpearson 02 November 2009 10:54:47PM 1 point [-]

On the subject of creating a function/predicate able to identify a person. It seems that it is another non-localiseable function. My reasoning goes something like this.

1) We want the predicate to be able to identify paused humans (cryostasis), so that the FAI doesn't destroy them accidentally.

2) With sufficient scanning technology we could make a digital scan of a human that has the same value as a frozen head, and encrypt with a one time pad, making it indistinguishable from the output of /dev/rng.

From 1 and 2 it follows that the AI will have to look at the environment (to see if people are encrypting people with one-time pads), before making a decision on what is a human or not. How much of the AI needs to encompass before making that decision seems a non-trivial question to answer.

Comment author: Jack 03 November 2009 12:40:30AM *  3 points [-]

Poorly labeled encrypted persons may well be destroyed. I'm not sure this matters too much.

Comment author: whpearson 03 November 2009 01:16:24AM 1 point [-]

It depends when the singularity occurs. It is also indicative that there might be other problems. Let us say that an AI might be able to recreate some (famous) people from their work/habitation and memories in other people, along with a thorough understanding of human biology.

If an AI can it should preserve as much of the human environment as possible (no turning it into computronium), until it gains that ability. However it doesn't know whether a bit of the world will be useful for that purpose (hardened footprints in mud), until it has lots of computronium.

Comment author: gwern 03 November 2009 01:20:01AM 1 point [-]

However it doesn't know whether a bit of the world will be useful for that purpose (hardened footprints in mud), until it has lots of computronium.

If it's that concerned, it can just blast off into space, couldn't it? Might slow down development, but the hypothetical mud footprints out to be fine... No harm done by computronium in the sun.

Comment author: whpearson 03 November 2009 02:09:42AM 1 point [-]

The question is should we program it to be that concerned? The human predicate is necessary for CEV if I remember correctly, you would want to extrapolate the volition of everyone currently informationally smeared across the planet as well as the more concentrated humans. I can't find the citation at the moment, I'll hunt tomorrow.

Comment author: Jack 03 November 2009 02:40:27AM 2 points [-]

This problem just looks like the usual question of how much of our resources should be conserved and how much should be used. There is some optimal combination of physical conservation and virtual conservation that leaves enough memory and computronium for other things. We're always deciding between immediate economic growth and long term access to resources (fossil fuels, clean air, biodiversity, fish). In this case the resource is famous person memorabilia/ human environment. But this isn't a tricky conceptual issue, just a utility calculation, and the AI will get better at making this calculation the more information it has. The only programming question is how much we value recreating famous people relative to other goods.

I also don't see how this issue is indicated by the 'functional definition of a person' issue.

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 03 November 2009 01:46:38AM 2 points [-]

Besides what gwern said, it could just scan and save at appropriate resolution everything that gets turned into computronium. This seems desirable even before you get into possibly reconstructing people.

Comment author: whpearson 03 November 2009 02:08:06AM 1 point [-]

Every qubit might be precious so you would need more matter than the earth to do it (if you wanted to accurately simulate things like when/how volcanos/typhoons happened, so that the memories would be correct).

Possibly the rest of the solar system would be useful as well so you can rewind the clock on solar flares etc.

I wonder what a non-disruptive biosphere scan would look like.