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Ron_Fern comments on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2010-2011) - Less Wrong

42 Post author: orthonormal 12 August 2010 01:08AM

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Comment author: Ron_Fern 26 November 2011 03:30:39AM 6 points [-]

Hello I am a philosophy student in north Jersey. I'm 20 years old, and am very familiar with LW and the sequences. I've been reading LW now for about a year, and it has completely changed my life. I am very grateful to Eliezer and all of you for letting me have my Bayesian enlightenment at 20. When I first read the twelve virtues my life changed forever. I am definitely one of those that considers the sequences to be one of the most important works i have read, at least as far as having a personal influence.

I want to work on the hard questions of philosophy, grue and induction, cognition and consciousness, nominalism v.s. realism, Bayesian epistemology, philosophy of probability and mathematics in general, and even meta-physics, though I would like to positivize the field a bit. What I want to do as a philosopher is find problems/paradoxes/questions which fascinate me, and use rationality to solve them. "Solve" being the key word there. I think LW has done a lot to pursue many those goals, which seem strictly like philosophical goals. It seems to me, that LW should go full force and treat itself as a philosophical movement, conveniently primarily concerned with systematically becoming less wrong. Yes, there are mathematicians, and AI designers, and physicists, and psychologists among us, but that is how it should be in any modern philosophical movement.

I have given myself some primer time to become familiar with your terminology, content, and techniques. I now want to use these techniques to solve problems on paper and share the solutions with you. I am doing this because I expect that this will let me know how I am doing so far, and where I need to improve.

Lastly, I would like to ask, how does less wrong see itself? I mean what is the general LW opinion of what LW is? Is it a blog? An open source research institute? A philosophical movement? A non-philosophical movement? A self-help movement? I am curious.

Comment author: wedrifid 26 November 2011 06:41:22AM 2 points [-]

Lastly, I would like to ask, how does less wrong see itself?

A kinda nifty blog.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2011 03:43:58AM *  2 points [-]

Welcome!

I want to work on the hard questions of philosophy, grue and induction, cognition and consciousness, nominalism v.s. realism, Bayesian epistemology, philosophy of probability and mathematics in general, and even meta-physics, though I would like to positivize the field a bit.

That's a huge amount of philosophy to look at. Might I suggest narrowing your interests down a bit, at least at first? It's very easy to read a little bit of everything, but much harder to contribute something non-trivial to every field.

Lastly, I would like to ask, how does less wrong see itself? I mean what is the general LW opinion of what LW is? Is it a blog? An open source research institute? A philosophical movement? A non-philosophical movement? A self-help movement? I am curious.

It seems to be a little bit of all of those things. Some people here are rabidly anti-philosophy, and so if LW overtly called itself a philosophical movement, those people would probably end up evaporating off. On the other hand, some people would very much like to see the self-help aspects of LW become secondary to the more philosophical or technical aspects. Like everything else, it's a bit hard to pin down to a distinct category.

Comment author: Ron_Fern 26 November 2011 04:36:28AM *  1 point [-]

Being anti-philosophy is something philosophy needs. Not in a boring, the field is dead Rorty sense. In a, these are scientific questions with definite right and wrong answers, kind of way.

I don't think anyone is ever really anti-philosophy; perhaps my imagination is so daft that I can't imagine someone with different tastes. I think philosophy has really frustrated a lot of truth seekers because it was being done poorly. Even in analytic philosophy, only ever so rarely does a tool from analytic philosophy come about that could not be compared to using a stick to break apart and probe matter.

Lesswrong needs to solve philosophical problems to do its job, whether to build AI, or systematically cause rationality. It needs to solve scientific problems too, but lesswrong's practice seems to consist primarily in long winded, immersive, and concentrated discussion, using previously established technical terminology and calculi, with the aim of settling the truth value of some claim. The method of argument is the method of philosophy. This mixed with the philosophical nature of much of the content here on LW, are enough for me to think of LW as a philosophical movement. But a philosophical movement separated from the long western tradition stretching back to plato.

I like to think of LW as a philosophical movement, analogously to that famous internet meme about that statistician which goes something like this:

Derp was late to his probability class, and quickly jotted down the HW for that week's class. He worked on it for quite a while. When he got there next week, he told his professor that he found the HW harder than usual. Derp's professor informed him that what he had jotted down was not the HW, it was three unsolved conjectures. Derp then presented those proofs with the help of his professor as his dissertation.

LW solves some seemingly unsolvable philosophical dilemmas in a similar fashion; and if the average LW user is somehow helped in solving open and VERY DIFFICULT philosophical problems in the manner of insanely competent philosophers, by not thinking of him/herself as a philosopher, or by just treating philosophical problems as trivial HW, then who gives a damn? "Philosophy" is a pretty lame word anyway, "Lesswrongianism" however, that's a badass word. If you guys want us to be called "LWers" instead of "philosophers" I don't care, as long as we still solve the open philosophical problems of the previous and new century.

Comment author: steven0461 26 November 2011 05:02:50AM 2 points [-]

"Lesswrongianism" however, that's a badass word.

It would be badderass in a dead language. "Minorifalsianism" or something.

Comment author: Ron_Fern 26 November 2011 05:08:50AM 0 points [-]

"Minorfalsology" is totally the best word for it.

Comment author: Ron_Fern 26 November 2011 06:29:45AM 0 points [-]

Narrowing my interests is probably not an option. The fact that I can practically work on anything and still be a philosopher is one of the things that appeals to me about the field, but maybe that has something to do with why it so rarely done competently :/ My only other option is to work my butt off, but I know that to be a generalist and contribute takes lots of work. I do specialize in what I like to call algorithmic philosophy, and philosophy of mathematics, but that is only because I think they are of great import to my other fields of interest.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2011 08:19:37AM 0 points [-]

When I was your age (and how much I rue the saying of this) I also felt this way. I hope it works out better for you than it did for me.

Comment author: komponisto 26 November 2011 03:52:00AM 3 points [-]

An open source research institute?

I would like to see it become this. And not just for AI ethics/decision theory either. I'd like to see an entire "LW science" movement, where we tackle things like quantum gravity.

Yes, I know it's a dream. For now.

</frank honesty>

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2011 03:55:10AM 1 point [-]

That would be fun.