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Rationality Quotes March 2012

4 Post author: Thomas 03 March 2012 08:04AM

Here's the new thread for posting quotes, with the usual rules:

  • Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be voted up/down separately.  (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments.  If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself
  • Do not quote comments/posts on LW/OB
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.

 

Comments (525)

Comment author: GLaDOS 30 March 2012 08:56:02AM *  4 points [-]

One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.

--George Orwell, here

Comment author: Hul-Gil 30 March 2012 06:01:36PM *  0 points [-]

Since I have just read that "the intelligentsia" is usually now used to refer to artists etc. and doesn't often include scientists, this isn't as bad as I first thought; but still, it seems pretty silly to me - trying to appear deep by turning our expectations on their head. A common trick, and sometimes it can be used to make a good point... but what's the point being made here? Ordinary people are more rational than those engaged in intellectual pursuits? I doubt that, though rationality is in short supply in either category; but in any case, we know the "ordinary man" is extremely foolish in his beliefs.

Folk wisdom and common sense are a favored refuge of those who like to mock those foolish, Godless int'lectual types, and that's what this reminds me of; you know, the entirely too-common trope of the supposedly intelligent scientist or other educated person being shown up by the homespun wisdom and plain sense of Joe Ordinary. (Not to accuse Orwell of being anti-intellectual in general - I just don't like this particular quote.)

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 31 March 2012 02:59:58AM 6 points [-]

but still, it seems pretty silly to me - trying to appear deep by turning our expectations on their head.

This quote isn't just about seeming deep, it refers to a frequently observed phenomenon. I think two main reasons for it are that intellectuals are better at rationalizing beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons (there is even a theory that some intellectuals signal their intelligence by rationalizing absurd beliefs) and the fact that they're frequently in ivory towers where day to day reality is less available.

Not to accuse Orwell of being anti-intellectual in general

Depends on which type of anti-intellectualism you're referring to.

Comment author: RobinZ 31 March 2012 03:12:37AM 4 points [-]

I remember Tetlock's Expert Political Judgment suggested a different mechanism for intelligence to be self-defeating: clever arguing. In a forecaster's field of expertise, they have more material with which to justify unreasonable positions and refute reasonable ones, and therefore they are more able to resist the force of reality.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 28 March 2012 03:07:47PM 4 points [-]

In truth we know that the wind is its blowing. Similarly the stream is the running of water. And so, too, I am what I am doing. I am not an agent but a hive of activity. If you were to lift off the lid, you would find something more like a compost heap than the kind of architectural structure that anatomists and psychologists like to imagine.

---Tim Ingold, “Clearing the Ground"

Comment author: Macaulay 27 March 2012 12:58:53AM *  0 points [-]

"Asking people to give up all forms of sacralized belonging and live in a world of purely "rational" beliefs might be like asking people to give the Earth and live in colonies orbiting the moon."

-- Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, quoted here

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 27 March 2012 06:19:22AM 3 points [-]

I'm still trying to decide whether going off to live in the metaphorical colonies orbiting the moon is to be considered a bad thing or a really awesome idea.

Comment author: wedrifid 27 March 2012 09:06:19AM 7 points [-]

I'm still trying to decide whether going off to live in the metaphorical colonies orbiting the moon is to be considered a bad thing or a really awesome idea.

It really depends how many catgirls I'm allowed to bring.

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 27 March 2012 06:29:35AM 4 points [-]

I mean, realistic orbiting colonies done using present-day space technology would be horrifying death traps, but metaphorical orbiting colonies are the future of humanity. I'm really confused here.

Comment author: Voltairina 26 March 2012 05:12:03AM 0 points [-]

"Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it" - Abraham Lincoln's words in his February 26, 1860, Cooper Union Address

Comment author: sketerpot 26 March 2012 05:26:07AM *  7 points [-]

If right makes might, is the might you see right? Since blight and spite can also make might, is it safe to sight might and think it right?

Now, an application for Bayes' Theorem that rhymes!! Sweet Jesus!

Comment author: Voltairina 26 March 2012 05:39:47AM *  6 points [-]

I love it! How about in response: Since blight and spite can make might, its just not polite by citing might to assume that there's right, the probabilities fight between spite, blight and right so might given blight and might given spite must be subtracted from causes for might if the order's not right!

Comment author: sketerpot 26 March 2012 06:07:09AM *  2 points [-]

You have no idea how hard I'm giggling right now. Or maybe you do, because I'm telling you about it. Well met, mathpoet!

(I hope that mathpoets become enough of a real thing to warrant an unhyphenated word.)

Comment author: Nisan 26 March 2012 07:16:08AM 0 points [-]
Comment author: shokwave 26 March 2012 01:22:27AM 0 points [-]

quintopia: i made jan 1 be Hypothesis Day. instead of making resolutions, you make hypotheses that you want resolved by the end of the year and write them down so you can evaluate them at the end of the year

Quintopia on #lesswrong.

Comment author: bramflakes 24 March 2012 02:35:34PM 0 points [-]

When understanding is forgotten, education remains.

Though I don't remember who said it.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 24 March 2012 12:12:54PM 8 points [-]

THE WAY WE BREAK THINGS DOWN AND DESCRIBE THEM ARE NOT NECESSARILY HELPFUL TO UNDERSTANDING HOW TO CONSTRUCT THEM.

HULK EXPLAINS WHY WE SHOULD STOP IT WITH THE HERO JOURNEY SHIT

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 24 March 2012 02:15:31AM 17 points [-]

"I don't know if we've sufficiently analyzed the situation if we're thinking storming Azkaban is a solution."

Comment author: wedrifid 25 March 2012 07:22:41AM *  5 points [-]

"I don't know if we've sufficiently analyzed the situation if we're thinking storming Azkaban is a solution."

Naturally not. Harry would only do something that reckless if it was to save a general of the Dark Lord on the whim of his mentor. ;)

I of course agree with thatguy, with substitution of 'the most viable immediate' in there somewhere. It is a solution to all sorts of things.

Comment author: AspiringKnitter 25 March 2012 03:56:59AM 6 points [-]

If Eliezer Yudkowsky, the author, is lauding this statement, I think we can rule this out as Harry's solution.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 March 2012 07:49:32AM 11 points [-]

As previously stated, Harry is not a perfect rationalist.

Comment author: Nominull 25 March 2012 08:27:54AM 12 points [-]

Neither is Eliezer Yudkowsky.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 March 2012 05:45:14PM 10 points [-]

My philosophy is that it's okay to be imperfect, but not so imperfect that other people notice.

Comment author: Alex_Altair 30 March 2012 01:39:38PM 3 points [-]

I propose that it's okay to be imperfect, but not so imperfect that reality notices.

Comment author: thomblake 30 March 2012 03:17:38PM 0 points [-]

Reality* notices everything.

*and Chuck Norris

Comment author: wedrifid 30 March 2012 04:16:59PM 1 point [-]

Reality* notices everything.

*and Chuck Norris

No way! Chuck Norris <died 20 years ago/collided with a semi-trailer/stood on a claymore mine/accidentally swallowed a black hole> and didn't notice!

Comment author: Pavitra 28 March 2012 04:29:42AM 2 points [-]

This is a cool-sounding slogan that doesn't actually say anything beyond "Winning is good."

Comment author: David_Gerard 30 March 2012 10:55:14AM 2 points [-]

No, it says that practical degrees of excellence are just fine and you don't actually have to achieve philosophically perfect excellence to be sufficiently effective.

It's the difference between not being able to solve an NP-complete problem perfectly, and being able to come up with pretty darn close numerical approximations that do the practical job just fine. (I think evolution achieves a lot of the latter, for example.)

Comment author: Pavitra 31 March 2012 03:20:17PM 1 point [-]

I agree with your version, but "not getting caught" as a proxy for "good enough" is, at least to humans, not just wrong but actively misleading.

Comment author: Anubhav 25 March 2012 03:22:00AM 3 points [-]

enunciating an important general principle

This variant of when all you have is a hammer is seen often enough to merit a name.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 26 March 2012 03:18:16AM 7 points [-]

"When all you have is a powered-up Patronus, every problem looks like storming Azkaban is the answer"?

Comment author: Anubhav 26 March 2012 01:40:30PM *  7 points [-]

I meant something along the lines of "When your hammer is too darn impressive, everything begins to look like a nail."

Comment author: faul_sname 23 March 2012 10:44:11PM 3 points [-]

"The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are sometimes right."

-Winston Churchill

Comment author: yew 20 March 2012 07:40:05PM *  1 point [-]

God was a dream of good government.

-Morpheus, Deus Ex

Yes, I know, generalization from fictional evidence and the dangers thereof, etc. . . I think it a genuine insight, though. Just remember that humans are (almost) never motivated by just one thing.

Comment author: wedrifid 20 March 2012 09:54:42PM 1 point [-]

Explain for me?

Comment author: yew 20 March 2012 10:25:35PM *  2 points [-]

Certainly. The idea is that God was invented not just to explain the world (the standard answer to that question) but also as a sort of model of how a particular group of people wanted to be governed. One of the theses of the game is that governments constitute a system for (attempting to) compensate for the inability of people to rationally govern themselves, and that God is the ultimate realization of that attempt. A perfect government with a perfect understanding of human nature and access to everyone's opinions and desires (but without any actual humans involved). Over time, of course, views of what 'God' should be like shift with the ambient culture.

I agree, with the caveat that humans usually (and probably in this case) do things for multiple complicated reasons rather than just one. Also the caveat that Deus Ex is a video game.

Comment author: Nornagest 20 March 2012 11:05:16PM *  2 points [-]

Interesting theory, and perhaps one that's got legs, but there's some self-reinforcement going on in the religious sphere that keeps it from being unicausal -- if we've got a religion whose vision of God (or of a god of rulership like Odin or Jupiter, or of a divine hierarchy) is initially a simple reflection of how its members want to be governed, I'd nonetheless expect that to drift over time to variants which are more memorable or more flattering to adherents or more conducive to ingroup cohesion, not just to those which reflect changing mores of rulership. Then group identity effects will push those changes into adherents' models of proper rulership, and a nice little feedback loop takes shape.

This probably helps explain some of the more blatantly maladaptive aspects of religious law we know about, although I imagine costly signaling plays an important role too.

Comment author: Hul-Gil 30 March 2012 06:08:09PM 0 points [-]

This probably helps explain some of the more blatantly maladaptive aspects of religious law we know about

Can you expand on this a little? I'm interested to see what in particular you're thinking of.

Comment author: benit0 18 March 2012 03:09:23AM 3 points [-]

If a sufficient number of people who wanted to stop war really did gather together, they would first of all begin by making war upon those who disagreed with them. And it is still more certain that they would make war on people who also want to stop wars but in another way. -G.I. Gurdjieff

Comment author: wedrifid 18 March 2012 03:13:36AM 0 points [-]

If a sufficient number of people who wanted to stop war really did gather together, they would first of all begin by making war upon those who disagreed with them.

Great quote, but I think I would just go ahead and make trade embargoes on anyone who started a war... and anyone who didn't also embargo anyone who, etc.

Not saying it would work (getting enough people to agree just wouldn't happen) but not everyone who wants to stop war is stupid.

Comment author: benit0 18 March 2012 04:25:09AM -3 points [-]

I dont think the idea is that anyone who wants to stop war is stupid ... its that anyone who thinks war is necessary clearly does not see that the diversity of viewpoints exists and that others viewpoints are just as valid as theirs (as hard as it may be to understand) and deserves respect.

In most cases where unnecessary violence has occurred, the suppression of individual freedom and loss / harm of human life has always been justified in an effort to end the conflict of one viewpoint and it's antithesis.

The blind spot of the oppressor will always be that their "oppressing" of others is justified for the viewpoint of their subjective view of "greater" good and not the good of all people, as they all would objectively see it.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 19 March 2012 10:31:49AM 2 points [-]

I dont think the idea is that anyone who wants to stop war is stupid ... its that anyone who thinks war is necessary clearly does not see that the diversity of viewpoints exists and that others viewpoints are just as valid as theirs (as hard as it may be to understand) and deserves respect.

I do not think that is what Gurdjieff meant. The idea that all viewpoints are valid could hardly be more alien to his system. From my reading of Gurdjieff, I take him to be speaking here of the mechanical nature of the ordinary man, who imagines himself to be thinking and acting, an idea contradicted as soon as one observes him in his life.

Comment author: cousin_it 14 March 2012 12:01:03PM 7 points [-]

Running any enterprise the size of Google or Goldman Sachs requires trading off many competing factors. To make the tradeoff, someone has to keep all that information in their head at once. There's no other way to balance competing demands; if you keep only part of the information in your head, your decision will be biased towards the part that you've loaded into your brain. If you try to spread decision making across multiple people, the decisions will be biased towards the part that the person who screams the loudest can hold in his head (which is usually a smaller subset than optimal; it takes mental effort to scream loudly).

-- nostrademons on Hacker news

Comment author: Hul-Gil 30 March 2012 06:14:05PM *  2 points [-]

That's a good quote! +1.

Unfortunately, for every rational action, there appears to be an equal and opposite irrational one: did you see bhousel's response?

Rationality is emotionless and mechanical. It's about making a reasonable decision based on whatever information is available to you. However, rational decisions do not involve morals, culture, or feelings. This is exactly what companies like Google and Goldman Sachs are being criticized for. [...] If I look down into my wallet and see no money there, and I'm hungry for lunch, and I decide to steal some money from a little old lady, that may be a perfectly rational decision to make. An outside observer may say I'm being evil, but they don't have a complete information picture about how hungry I am, or how long the line at the ATM is, or that everyone else is eating lunch so I have a duty to my shareholders to do the same.

Sigh.

Comment author: Nisan 13 March 2012 10:54:11PM 8 points [-]

Related to Schelling fences on slippery slopes:

If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination. Once begun upon this downward path, you never know where you are to stop. Many a man has dated his ruin from some murder or other that perhaps he thought little of at the time.

— Thomas De Quincey

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 14 March 2012 11:59:23PM 5 points [-]

I don't get this quote, it strikes me as wit with no substance.

Comment author: kdorian 24 March 2012 09:54:49PM 0 points [-]

I have always read it as intentionally ironic commentary on the 'slippery slope' more than anything else.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 24 March 2012 10:36:49PM 2 points [-]

I read it more specifically as a parody of moral slipperyslopism, in which slight moral infractions lead to the worst sort of behavior.

Arguably, we live in an era strongly shaped by revulsion at moral slipperyslopism.

Comment author: Nisan 15 March 2012 06:36:26PM 1 point [-]

Me too, honestly.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 15 March 2012 01:01:27AM 2 points [-]

Presumably the quote is from De Quincey's essay "On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts", and with that context & perspective in mind it has a tad more substance.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 12 March 2012 11:14:24AM 7 points [-]

Said by a pub manager I know to someone who came into his pub selling lucky white heather:

"I'm running a business turning over half a million pounds a year, and you're selling lucky heather door to door. Doesn't seem to work, does it?"

Comment author: Will_Newsome 11 March 2012 05:57:39PM 7 points [-]

To a Frenchman like M. Renan, intelligence does not mean a quickness of wit, a ready dexterity in handling ideas, or even a ready accessibility to ideas. It implies those, of course, but it does not mean them; and one should perhaps say in passing that it does not mean the pert and ignorant cleverness that current vulgar usage has associated with the word. Again it is our common day-to-day experience that gives us the best possible assistance in establishing the necessary differentiations. We have all seen men who were quick witted, accessible to ideas and handy with their management of them, whom we should yet hesitate to call intelligent; we are conscious that the term does not quite fit. The word sends us back to a phrase of Plato. The person of intelligence is the one who always tends to "see things as they are," the one who never permits his view of them to be directed by convention, by the hope of advantage, or by an irrational and arbitrary authoritarianism. He allows the current of his consciousness to flow in perfect freedom over any object that may be presented to it, uncontrolled by prejudice, prepossession or formula; and thus we may say that there are certain integrities at the root of intelligence which give it somewhat the aspect of a moral as well as an intellectual attribute.

Albert Jay Nock, The Theory of Education in the United States

Comment author: Stephanie_Cunnane 10 March 2012 10:32:20PM *  18 points [-]

Some environments are worse than irregular. Robin Hogarth described "wicked" environments, in which professionals are likely to learn the wrong lessons from experience. He borrows from Lewis Thomas the example of a physician in the early twentieth century who often had intuitions about patients who were about to develop typhoid. Unfortunately, he tested his hunch by palpating the patient's tongue, without washing his hands between patients. When patient after patient became ill, the physician developed a sense of clinical infallibility. His predictions were accurate--but not because he was exercising professional intuition!

--Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow

Comment author: Grognor 10 March 2012 12:21:46PM 2 points [-]

The origin of all science is in the desire to know causes; and the origin of all false science and imposture is in the desire to accept false causes rather than none; or, which is the same thing, in the unwillingness to acknowledge our own ignorance.

-William Hazlitt, attacking phrenology.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 10 March 2012 08:33:46PM -1 points [-]

This quote is itself an example of the phenomenon it describes since it stems from a desire to be able to separate true from false science without the hard and messy process of looking at the territory.

Also hindsight bias.

Comment author: RobinZ 10 March 2012 08:59:00PM 2 points [-]

I don't see that in the quote - it seems to be an attempted explanation for the existence of pseudoscience, not a heuristic for identifying such.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 11 March 2012 03:03:21AM 1 point [-]

The problem is that it's still false. A lot of false science was developed by people honestly trying to find true causes. I also suspect that a good deal of actual science was developed by people who accepted a cause without enough evidence out of a desire to have a cause for everything and got lucky.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 09 March 2012 01:30:29PM 0 points [-]

Politics is the art of the possible. Sometimes I’m tempted to say that political philosophy is the science of the impossible.

John Holbo

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 09 March 2012 01:28:58PM 2 points [-]

No man demands what he desires; each man demands what he fancies he can get.

Chesterton, found here

Comment author: CasioTheSane 09 March 2012 07:51:03AM *  10 points [-]

"Sir Isaac Newton, renowned inventor of the milled-edge coin and the catflap!"

"The what?" said Richard.

"The catflap! A device of the utmost cunning, perspicuity and invention. It is a door within a door, you see, a ..."

"Yes," said Richard, "there was also the small matter of gravity."

"Gravity," said Dirk with a slightly dismissed shrug, "yes, there was that as well, I suppose. Though that, of course, was merely a discovery. It was there to be discovered." ...

"You see?" he said dropping his cigarette butt, "They even keep it on at weekends. Someone was bound to notice sooner or later. But the catflap ... ah, there is a very different matter. Invention, pure creative invention. It is a door within a door, you see."

-Douglas Adams

Comment author: CasioTheSane 09 March 2012 07:50:27AM 5 points [-]

I'd take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.

-Douglas Adams

Comment author: CasioTheSane 09 March 2012 07:50:03AM *  4 points [-]

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.

-Douglas Adams

Comment author: CasioTheSane 09 March 2012 06:52:48AM -3 points [-]

Health in the modern era, health in the 21st century is a learned skill.

-Jeff Olson

Comment author: MinibearRex 08 March 2012 11:50:38PM 7 points [-]

On the mind projection fallacy:

Mankind are (sic) always predisposed to believe that any subjective feeling, not otherwise accounted for, is a revelation of some objective reality.

-John Stuart Mill

Comment author: Voltairina 10 March 2012 06:57:21PM 1 point [-]

Every subjective feeling IS at least one thing - a bunch of neurons firing. Whether stored representational content activated in that firing has any connection to events represented happening outside the brain is another question.

Comment author: Stephanie_Cunnane 08 March 2012 10:44:15PM 10 points [-]

Now let's talk about efficient market theory, a wonderful economic doctrine that had a long vogue in spite of the experience of Berkshire Hathaway. In fact, one of the economists who won--he shared a Nobel Prize--and as he looked at Berkshire Hathaway year after year, which people would throw in his face as saying maybe the market isn't quite as efficient as you think, he said, "Well, it's a two-sigma event." And then he said we were a three-sigma event. And then he said we were a four-sigma event. And he finally got up to six sigmas--better to add a sigma than change a theory, just because the evidence comes in differently. [Laughter] And, of course, when this share of a Nobel Prize went into money management himself, he sank like a stone.

-Charlie Munger

Comment author: Daniel_Burfoot 11 March 2012 06:41:31PM 8 points [-]

I'm surprised by how consistently misinterpreted the EMH is, even by people with the widest possible perspective on markets and economics. The EMH practically requires that some people make money by trading, because that's the mechanism which causes the market to become efficient. The EMH should really be understood to mean that as more and more money is leached out of the market by speculators, prices become better and better approximations to real net present values.

Comment author: roystgnr 24 March 2012 10:49:20PM 4 points [-]

I've always thought of the Efficient Market Hypothesis as the anti-Tinkerbell: if everybody all starts clapping and believing in it, it dies.

See, for example, every bubble ever. "We don't need to worry about buying that thing for more than it seems to be worth, because prices are going up so we can always resell it for even more than that later!"

Comment author: David_Gerard 30 March 2012 11:01:38AM 2 points [-]

That's pretty much the thesis of Markets are Anti-Inductive by EY.

Comment author: wedrifid 25 March 2012 07:49:50AM 4 points [-]

See, for example, every bubble ever. "We don't need to worry about buying that thing for more than it seems to be worth, because prices are going up so we can always resell it for even more than that later!"

If they actually believed the market they were trading in was efficient they wouldn't believe that prices would continue to go up. They would expect them to follow the value of capital invested at that level of risk. Further - as applicable to any bubble that doesn't represent overinvestment in the entire stockmarket over all industries - they wouldn't jump on a given stock or group of stocks more than any other. They would buy random stocks from the market, probably distributed as widely as possible.

No, belief in an efficient market can only be used as a scapegoat here, not as a credible cause.

Comment author: Xece 08 March 2012 12:22:36AM *  3 points [-]

Knowing is always better than not knowing

--Gregory House, M.D. - S02E11 "Need to Know"

Comment author: Grognor 08 March 2012 06:09:14AM 0 points [-]

Thought it was a duplicate of this superior quote, but it wasn't.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 07 March 2012 11:08:18PM *  16 points [-]

-So what do you think happens after we die?
-The acids and lifeforms living inside your body eat their way out, while local detritivores eat their way in. Why?
-No, no, no, what happens to you?
-Oh, you guys mean the soul.
-Exactly.
-Is that in the body?
-Yes!
-The acids and lifeforms eat their way out, while local detritivores eat their way in.

--SMBC Theater - Death

Comment author: MinibearRex 07 March 2012 10:07:38PM -1 points [-]

There’s no such thing as the unknown– only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.

-Captain Kirk

Comment author: wedrifid 09 March 2012 06:48:18AM 4 points [-]

There’s no such thing as the unknown– only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.

Nonsense. I just threw Schrodinger's cat outside the future light cone. In your Everett branch is the cat alive or dead?

-Captain Kirk

Ok, sure, having a physics where faster than light and even (direct) time travel are possible makes things easier.

Comment author: nshepperd 10 March 2012 07:42:25AM -1 points [-]

I just threw Schrodinger's cat outside the future light cone. In your Everett branch is the cat alive or dead?

Both?

Comment author: wedrifid 10 March 2012 09:32:33AM 1 point [-]

Both?

No.

Comment author: nshepperd 11 March 2012 03:18:55AM *  0 points [-]

Well, in this case the universal wavefunction does factorise into a product of two functions 𝛙(light cone)𝛙(cat), where 𝛙(cat) has an "alive" branch and "dead" branch, but 𝛙(light cone) does not. I'd rather identify with 𝛙(light cone) than 𝛙(light cone × cat) [i.e. 𝛙(universe)], but whatever.

The point you were trying to make is correct anyway, either way.

Comment author: MinibearRex 10 March 2012 06:29:59AM -3 points [-]

I just threw Schrodinger's cat outside the future light cone. In your Everett branch is the cat alive or dead?

It seems to me that asking about the state of something in "your" Everett branch while it's outside your light cone is rather meaningless. The question doesn't really make sense. Someone with a detailed knowledge of physics in this situation can predict what an observer anywhere will observe.

But in general, your point is correct. We do have a very hard time trying to learn about events outside our light cone, etc. But the message in the quote is simply the idea that an uncertain map != an uncertain territory.

Comment author: wedrifid 10 March 2012 09:41:41AM 2 points [-]

The question doesn't really make sense. Someone with a detailed knowledge of physics in this situation can predict what an observer anywhere will observe.

No they can't. They most certainly can't predict what the observer that is right next to the damn box with the cat in it will observe when it opens the box. In fact, they can't even predict what all observers anywhere in my future light cone will observe (just those observations that could ever be sent back to me).

Comment author: Incorrect 10 March 2012 06:35:28AM 2 points [-]

It seems to me that asking about the state of something in "your" Everett branch while it's outside your light cone is rather meaningless. The question doesn't really make sense. Someone with a detailed knowledge of physics in this situation can predict what an observer anywhere will observe.

So, if it was someone you care about instead of a cat, would you prefer that this happened or that they disappeared entirely?

Comment author: MagnetoHydroDynamics 10 March 2012 09:01:17AM -1 points [-]

It is still not meaningful from a physical standpoint. If you were to throw something I valued outside my future lightcone, then I would take the same as you destroying said thing.

And may I remind you that Schrödingers cat was proposed as a thought experimental counter argument to the copenhagen inteprentation, so asking if it is alive or dead before I have had particle interaction with it is equally meaningless, because it has yet to decohere.

Comment author: wedrifid 10 March 2012 09:48:05AM 5 points [-]

It is still not meaningful from a physical standpoint.

Yes it is. Physics doesn't revolve around you. The fact that you can't influence or observe something is a limitation in you, not in physics. Stuff keeps existing when you can't see it.

If you were to throw something I valued outside my future lightcone, then I would take the same as you destroying said thing.

I don't believe you. I would bet that if actually given the choice between someone you loved being sent outside your future lightcone then destroyed or just sent outside the future lightcone and given delicious cookies then you would prefer them to be given the far-away cookies than the far away destruction.

Comment author: MagnetoHydroDynamics 10 March 2012 11:27:33AM -3 points [-]

Yes, of course I believe in the implied invisible. But from a personal standpoint It does not matter because the repercussions are the same either way, unless you can use your magical "throw stuff outside my future lightcone" powers to bring them back. Outside f-lightcone = I can never interact with it.

And if I have to be really nitpicky, current macroscopic physcis does revolve around the observer, but certain things can be agreed upon; such as the hamiltonian, timelike, spacelike and lightlike distances, etc. Saying physics does not revolve aroud me implies that there is a common reference point, which there isn't.

Also, I think we are straying from meaningful discussion.

Comment author: soreff 07 March 2012 11:54:29PM 2 points [-]

"Temporarily" can be quite a long time... So when can we expect to probe plank-energy physics solidly enough to really test how quantum gravity works? :)

Comment author: taelor 07 March 2012 09:00:12AM *  13 points [-]

But even as light is opposed by darkness, science and reason have their enemies. Superstition and belief in magic are as old as man himself; for the intransigence of facts and our limitations in controlling them can be powerfully hard to take. Add to this the reflection that we are in an age when it is popular to distrust whatever is seen as the established view or the Establishment, and it is no wonder that anti-rational attitudes and doctrines are mustering so much support. Still, we can understand what encourages the anti-rationalist turn without losing our zeal for opposing it. A current Continuing Education catalogue offers a course description, under the heading "Philosophy", that typifies the dark view at its darkest: "Children of science that we are, we have based our cultural patterns on logic, on the cognitive, on the verifiable. But more and more there has crept into current research and study the haunting suggestion that there are other kinds of knowledge unfathomable by our cognition, other ways of knowing beyond the limits of our logic, which are deserving of our serious attention." Now "knowledge unfathomable by our cognition" is simply incoherent, as attention to the words makes clear. Moreover, all that creeps is not gold. One wonders how many students enrolled.

-- W. V. O. Quine

Comment author: David_Gerard 30 March 2012 11:03:13AM *  0 points [-]

Did anyone ever track down the catalogue in question?

(Did the university in question later offer degrees in alternative medicine?)

Comment author: JoachimSchipper 07 March 2012 11:52:04AM 1 point [-]

(1978). I expected this to be older.

Comment author: Voltairina 06 March 2012 07:46:43PM *  5 points [-]

“It's the stupid questions that have some of the most surprising and interesting answers. Most people never think to ask the stupid questions.”

― Cory Doctorow, For The Win

I interpret this to mean that often times questions are overlooked because the possibility of them being true seems absurd. Similar to the Sherlock Holmes saying, “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Comment author: wedrifid 09 March 2012 06:50:51AM 4 points [-]

I interpret this to mean that often times questions are overlooked because the possibility of them being true seems absurd.

I interpret it to mean that Cory Doctorow doesn't fully consider the implications of hindsight bias when it comes to predicting the merits of asking questions from a given class.

Usually asking stupid questions really is just stupid.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 10 March 2012 12:51:15AM -1 points [-]

Usually asking stupid questions really is just stupid.

But the expected return on asking a stupid question is still positive.

Comment author: Desrtopa 10 March 2012 04:32:43PM 1 point [-]

Asking stupid questions costs status.

Comment author: wedrifid 10 March 2012 08:03:43PM 1 point [-]

Asking stupid questions costs status.

From a slightly different perspective we could say that asking 'silly' questions (even good silly questions) costs status while asking stupid questions can potentially gain status in those cases where the people who hear you ask are themselves stupid (or otherwise incentivised to appreciate a given stupid gesture).

Comment author: thomblake 10 March 2012 05:50:09PM -1 points [-]

And this sort of thing is why some of us think all this 'status' talk is harmful.

Comment author: Desrtopa 10 March 2012 05:57:28PM 7 points [-]

It doesn't go away if you stop talking about it.

Personally, I think Robin Hanson tends to treat status as a hammer that turns all issues into nails; it's certainly possible to overuse a perspective for analyzing social interaction. But that doesn't mean that there aren't cases where you can only get a meaningful picture of social actions by taking it into consideration.

Comment author: thomblake 11 March 2012 04:52:38AM 1 point [-]

It doesn't go away if you stop talking about it.

No, but worrying about status can keep you from getting answers to your 'stupid' questions.

This is partly why nerds have largely internalized the "there are no stupid questions" rule. See Obvious Answers to Simple Questions by isaacs of npm fame.

Comment author: Ezekiel 10 March 2012 07:29:29PM 3 points [-]

Nowadays, I can ask a question of the entire WEIRD world without losing any status. There are still some that just aren't worth wasting my time on. For example: Is the moon actually a moose?

Comment author: wedrifid 10 March 2012 02:09:39AM 1 point [-]

But the expected return on asking a stupid question is still positive.

No, not with even the slightest semblance of opportunity cost being taken into account.

Comment author: MagnetoHydroDynamics 10 March 2012 08:52:36AM 1 point [-]

I'd say there are probably cases where people have gotten hurt by not asking "stupid" questions.

Also, I think we need to dissolve what exactly a stupid question is?

Comment author: wedrifid 10 March 2012 09:53:06AM 0 points [-]

I'd say there are probably cases where people have gotten hurt by not asking "stupid" questions.

Almost certainly. I am also fairly confident that there is someone who has been hurt because he did look before crossing the road.

Comment author: MagnetoHydroDynamics 10 March 2012 11:21:49AM 2 points [-]

But does the negative utility from the situations "find out, get hurt from it" outweight "don't find out, get hurt from it?"

Isn't the heuristic More Knowledge => Better Decisions quite powerful?

Comment author: wedrifid 10 March 2012 07:58:37PM 0 points [-]

Get to the stupid questions after all the sensible questions have been exhausted if, for some reason, the expected utility of the next least stupid question is still positive.

Comment author: MagnetoHydroDynamics 11 March 2012 11:08:13PM 0 points [-]

I think we need to find out what we mean by stupid and sensible questions.

Of course one should in any given situation perform the experiments (ask questions) that gives highes expected information (largest number of bits) yield, I.E. ask if it is a vertebrae before you ask if it is a dog. What I think we disagree upon is the nature of a stupid question.

And now, it seems I cannot come up with a good definition of a stupid question as anything I previously would refer to as a "stupid question" can be equally reduced to humility.

Comment author: Voltairina 09 March 2012 07:01:12AM *  1 point [-]

Hrm. Okay, I see your point, I think. I think there's some benefit in devoting a small portion of your efforts to pursuing outlying hypotheses. Probably proportional to the chance of them being true, I guess, depending on how divisible the resources are. If by "stupid", Doctorow means "basic", he might be talking about overlooked issues everyone assumed had already been addressed. But I guess probabilistically that's the same thing - its unlikely after a certain amount of effort that basic issues haven't been addressed, so its an outlying hypothesis, and should again get approximately as much attention as its likelihood of being true, depending on resources and how neatly they can be divided up. And maybe let the unlikely things bubble up in importance if the previously-thought-more-likely things shrink due to apparently conflicting evidence... A glaring example to me seems the abrahamic god's nonexplanatory abilities going unquestioned for as long as they did. Like, treating god as a box to throw unexplained things in and then hiding god behind "mysteriousness" begs the question of why there's a god clouded in mysteriousness hanging around.

Comment author: Nominull 07 March 2012 03:43:24PM 22 points [-]

When you've eliminated the impossible, if whatever's left is sufficiently improbable, you probable haven't considered a wide enough space of candidate possibilities.

Comment author: Voltairina 07 March 2012 07:21:19PM 3 points [-]

Seems fair. The Holmes saying seems a bit funny to me now that I think about it, because the probability of an unlikely event changes to become more likely when you've shown that reality appears constrained from the alternatives. I mean, I guess that's what he's trying to convey in his own way. But, by the definition of probability, the likelihood of the improbable event increases as constraints appear preventing the other possibilities. You're going from P(A) to P(A|B) to P(A|(B&C)) to.. etc. You shouldn't be simultaneously aware that an event is improbable and seeing that no other alternative is true at the same time, unless you're being informed of the probability, given the constraints, by someone else, which means that yes, they appear to be considering more candidate possibilities (or their estimate was incorrect. Or something I haven't thought of...).

Comment author: AspiringKnitter 09 March 2012 07:00:35AM 2 points [-]

Maybe he meant how a priori improbable it is?

Comment author: Voltairina 09 March 2012 07:05:56AM 0 points [-]

That sounds right.

Comment author: Grognor 06 March 2012 02:39:37PM 6 points [-]

So when somebody else asks for your help, in the form of charity or taxes, or because they need you to help them move a refrigerator, you can cite all sorts of reasons for not helping ("I think you're lying about needing help" or "I don't care" or "I'm too tied up with my own problems"), but the one thing you can't say is, "Why should you need help? I've never gotten help!" Not unless you're either shamefully oblivious, or a lying asshole.

-David Wong

Comment author: Grognor 08 March 2012 06:05:58AM *  0 points [-]

Why did this quote get down-voted by at least two people? I thought it was much, much better than the other quote I posted this month, which is currently sitting pretty at 32 karma despite not adding anything we didn't already know from the Human's Guide to Words sequence.

Comment author: wedrifid 09 March 2012 06:54:31AM 0 points [-]

I upvoted it. The main point is sound as a point of plain logic. However I suspect it isn't quite clear enough and so prone to pattern matching to various political ideologies.

Comment author: saturn 08 March 2012 08:05:37PM 3 points [-]

Although not directly contradictory, the idea expressed in the quote is somewhat at odds with libertarianism, which is popular on LW.

Comment author: MagnetoHydroDynamics 10 March 2012 08:57:32AM 1 point [-]

libertarianism, which is popular on LW.

Is this true? I mean, isn't that universally recognized as a mind killer?, just like most other political philosophies?

Are there any demographical studies of LW's composition in personspace?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 10 March 2012 03:12:51PM 2 points [-]

Well, it's true and it's false.
It's popular "on" LW in the sense that many of the people here identify as libertarians.
It's not popular "on" LW, in the sense that discussions of libertarianism are mostly unwelcome.
And, yes, the same is true of many other political philosophies.

Comment author: satt 10 March 2012 01:46:26PM 3 points [-]

Is this true? [...] Are there any demographical studies of LW's composition in personspace?

The closest things we have to those are probably the mid-2009 and late 2011 surveys. People could fill in their age, gender, race, profession, a few other things, and...politics!

The politics question had some default categories people could choose: libertarian, liberal, socialist, conservative & Communist. In 2009, 45% ticked the libertarian box, and in 2011, 32% (among the people who gave easy-to-categorize answers). Although those obviously aren't majorities, libertarianism is relatively popular here.

I mean, isn't that universally recognized as a mind killer?, just like most other political philosophies?

Political philosophies are like philosophies in general, I think. However mind-killy they are, a person can't really avoid having one; if they believe they don't have one, they usually have one they just don't know about.

Comment author: Vaniver 07 March 2012 02:16:59AM 0 points [-]

Can one say "I've never gotten that form of help?" And does "I think that help will hurt you in the long run" fall under "I think you're lying about needing help"?

Comment author: Bugmaster 07 March 2012 02:24:56AM 2 points [-]

And does "I think that help will hurt you in the long run" fall under "I think you're lying about needing help" ?

At best, it would fall under "you are mistaken about needing help".

Comment author: NexH 06 March 2012 02:19:52PM *  17 points [-]

When it comes to rare probabilities, our mind is not designed to get things quite right. For the residents of a planet that may be exposed to events no one has yet experienced, that is not good news.

 --Daniel Kahneman, *Thinking, fast and slow*
Comment author: shokwave 06 March 2012 01:19:53PM 0 points [-]

[it's] Strange that tradition should not show more interest in the past.

-- the character Sherkaner Underhill, from A Fire Upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge.

If people believe traditions are valuable, they should anticipate that searching the past for more traditions is valuable. But we don't see that; we see most past traditions (paradoxically!) rejected with "things are different now".

Comment author: roystgnr 06 March 2012 04:09:38PM 5 points [-]

If people believe traditions are valuable, they should anticipate that searching the past for more traditions is valuable.

This implication is true, but the premise typically is not. The conservative defense of tradition-for-tradition's-sake isn't really a defense of all traditions, it's a defense of long-term-stable, surviving traditions. Don't think, "It's old; revere it." Think, "It's working; don't break it." For traditions which weren't working well enough to be culturally preserved with no searching necessary, this heuristic doesn't apply. To the contrary, if it turned out that there was no correlation between how long a tradition survives and how worthwhile it is, then there would be no point in giving a priori respect to any traditions.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 06 March 2012 01:31:34PM *  6 points [-]

Hmm...my subjective impression is that people that talk a lot about tradition actually are more interested in history than people who don't.

Comment author: simplyeric 06 March 2012 03:21:26PM -1 points [-]

My subjective impression is that people who talk a lot about tradition are more interested in "the past" than they are interested in "history". e.g. the history of our nation does not bear out the traditional idea that everyone is equal. Or for that matter, the tradition of social mobility in our country, or the tradition of a wedding veil, or the tradition of Christmas caroling v. wassailing, etc.

Comment author: Konkvistador 06 March 2012 12:19:59PM *  10 points [-]

The reality is actually scarier than that if there was a big conspiracy run by an Inner Party of evil but brilliant know-it-alls, like O’Brien in “1984″ or Mustapha Mond in “Brave New World.” The reality is that nobody in charge knows much about what is going on.

--Steve Sailer, here

Comment author: NihilCredo 08 March 2012 09:14:34AM 1 point [-]

Mustapha Mond evil?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 08 March 2012 04:03:53PM 3 points [-]

Of course. He keeps the brave new world running. I don't think there are many takers here for the idea that Brave New World depicts a society we should desire and work for.

Comment author: Ezekiel 06 March 2012 02:48:06PM 4 points [-]

For all that it's fun to signal our horror at the ignorance/irrationality/stupidity of those in charge, I still think real-world 2012 Britain, USA, Canada and Australia are all better than Oceania circa 1984. For one thing, people are not very often written out of existence.

Comment author: Konkvistador 06 March 2012 02:57:00PM 6 points [-]

For one thing, people are not very often written out of existence.

Or ... are they?

Comment author: Aryn 07 March 2012 11:12:58PM 1 point [-]

The quote states that the current establishment has no idea what's going on. How would they be competent enough in this state to band together, write people out of existence, then keep it a secret indefinitely?

Comment author: Konkvistador 08 March 2012 07:50:49AM *  2 points [-]

The response was a joke.

Comment author: RobinZ 06 March 2012 06:35:59PM 4 points [-]

At a certain point, conspiracy theories become indistinguishable from skeptical hypotheses.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 06 March 2012 12:15:36PM 15 points [-]

Carefully observe those good qualities wherein our enemies excel us

Plutarch, found here

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 06 March 2012 09:55:47AM 18 points [-]

Past me is always so terrible, even when I literally just finished being him.

Comment author: arundelo 23 April 2012 12:40:48AM 0 points [-]
Comment author: CuSithBell 22 April 2012 07:24:07PM *  2 points [-]

I'm also fond of:

The only guy more irritating and stupid than future me is past me.

Karkat's just full of these gems of almost-wisdom.

Comment author: David_Gerard 30 March 2012 11:12:50AM *  0 points [-]

Me: "The BOFH stories are just stories and certainly not role models. Ha! Ha! Baseball bat, please."
Boss: "The DNS stuff is driving me batty, but I'm not sure who needs taking into a small room and battering."
Me: "Your past self."
Boss: "Yeah, he was a right twat."

(I was thinking of Karkat, too.)

Comment author: Stabilizer 06 March 2012 04:51:18AM *  11 points [-]

We have not succeeded in answering all our problems.
The answers we have found only serve
to raise a whole set of new questions.
In some ways we feel we are as confused as ever,
but we believe we are confused on a higher level
and about more important things.

-Posted outside the mathematics reading room, Tromsø University
From the homepage of Kim C. Border

Comment author: Ezekiel 05 March 2012 11:08:16PM -1 points [-]

Science knows it doesn't know everything; otherwise, it'd stop.

--Dara O'Briain

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 06 March 2012 12:50:19AM 0 points [-]
Comment author: Ezekiel 05 March 2012 10:13:09PM *  10 points [-]

Because throughout history, every mystery ever solved has turned out to be... Not Magic

-- Tim Minchin, Storm

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 06 March 2012 02:47:55AM *  8 points [-]

That could just mean we're no good at solving mysteries that involve magic.

Also, I think there is a selection effect in so far as there are solved mysteries where the solution was magic; however, you'd probably argue that they were not solved correctly using no other evidence than that the solutions involved magic.

Comment author: Ezekiel 06 March 2012 01:01:50PM 11 points [-]

It depends what you mean by magic. Nowadays we communicate by bouncing invisible light off the sky, which would sure as hell qualify as "magic" to someone six hundred years ago.

The issue is that "magic", in the sense that I take Minchin to be using it, isn't a solution at all. No matter what the explanation is, once you've actually got it, it's not "magic" any more; it's "electrons" or "distortion of spacetime" or "computers" or whatever, the distinction being that we have equations for all of those things.

Take the witch trials, for example - to the best of my extremely limited knowledge, most witch trials involved very poorly-defined ideas about what a witch was capable of or what the signs of a witch were. If they had known how the accused were supposed to be screwing with reality, they wouldn't have called them "witches", but "scientists" or "politicians" or "guys with swords".

Admittedly all of those can have the same blank curiosity-stopping power as "magic" to some people, but "magic" almost always does. Which is why, once you've solved the mystery, it turns out to be Not Magic.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 12 March 2012 01:25:10AM 2 points [-]

Take the witch trials, for example - to the best of my extremely limited knowledge, most witch trials involved very poorly-defined ideas about what a witch was capable of or what the signs of a witch were.

Consider something like this and notice that our modern "explanations" aren't much better.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 12 March 2012 01:48:54AM 3 points [-]

And because of those damned atheists we can't even start a witch hunt to figure out who's responsible!

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 12 March 2012 03:03:17AM *  1 point [-]

Sure we can.

We just need to rephrase "witch" in scientific terms.

(Also sorry about the political link, but with a topic like this that's inevitable).

UPDATE: This post goes into more details.

Comment author: Eneasz 08 March 2012 08:04:23PM 0 points [-]

I think Tim Minchin was using "magic" the same way most people use "magic" - meaning ontologically basic mental things

Comment author: Ezekiel 09 March 2012 12:27:21AM 1 point [-]

To be fair, I've never asked him. But he included homoeopathy, which its practitioners claim isn't mental.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 09 March 2012 03:41:37AM 2 points [-]

So he was using magic in the sense of "disagrees with current scientific theory", in that case the initial quote is circular.

Comment author: AspiringKnitter 09 March 2012 06:56:06AM 3 points [-]

And wrong. E.g., the perihelion precession of Mercury turned out to be caused by all matter being able to warp space and time by its very existence. We like to call that Not Magic, but it's magic in the sense of disagreeing with established scientific theory, and in the sense of being something that, if explained to someone who believed in Newtonian physics, would sound like magic.

Comment author: Desrtopa 24 March 2012 03:58:51AM 3 points [-]

I wouldn't say it would sound like magic. It would sound weird and inexplicable, but magic doesn't just sound inexplicable, it sounds like reality working in a mentalist, top-down sort of way. It sounds like associative thinking, believing that words or thoughts can act on reality directly, or things behaving in agentlike ways without any apparent mechanism for agency.

Relativity doesn't sound magical; in fact, I'd even say that it sounds antimagical because it runs so counter to our basic intuitions. Quantum entanglement does sound somewhat magical, but it's still well evidenced

Comment author: AspiringKnitter 24 March 2012 05:21:18AM 2 points [-]

Interesting. I hadn't thought about that. Now that I think about it, you're right; most fictional magic does act on things that are fundamental concepts in people's minds, rather than on things that are actually fundamental.

That said, I still say it all sounds like magic. I couldn't tell you exactly what algorithm my brain uses to come up with "sounds like magic", though.

Comment author: Desrtopa 24 March 2012 05:43:27AM 0 points [-]

Now that I think about it, you're right; most fictional magic does act on things that are fundamental concepts in people's minds, rather than on things that are actually fundamental.

I didn't just have fictional magic in mind; concepts like sympathetic magic are widespread, maybe even universal in human culture. Humans seem to have strong innate intuitions about the working of magic.

Comment author: Ezekiel 09 March 2012 04:21:11AM 4 points [-]

It's possible, but when I first heard it I honestly thought he meant "fundamentally mysterious stuff".

Comment author: scav 05 March 2012 02:02:46PM 6 points [-]

Most of world history is a clash of mental illnesses.

-- Evan V Symon, Cracked.com http://www.cracked.com/article_19669_the-5-saddest-attempts-to-take-over-country.html

Not completely serious, but think of it in relation to the sanity waterline...

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 05 March 2012 01:26:22PM *  8 points [-]

My father was a psychologist and a lifelong student of human behavior, and when I brought him my report card he often used to say: “This tells me something about you, something about your teacher, and something about myself.

Lynne Murray

Comment author: gwern 06 March 2012 04:28:54PM 0 points [-]

Reminds me of a Bateson quote.

Comment author: antigonus 05 March 2012 07:33:53AM 2 points [-]

I tell you that as long as I can conceive something better than myself I cannot be easy unless I am striving to bring it into existence or clearing the way for it.

-- G.B. Shaw, "Man and Superman"

Shaw evinces a really weird, teleological view of evolution in that play, but in doing so expresses some remarkable and remarkably early (1903) transhumanist sentiments.

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 05 March 2012 08:09:44AM 8 points [-]

I love that quote, but if it carries a rationality lesson, I fail to see it. Seems more like an appeal to the tastes of the audience here.

Comment author: DSimon 05 March 2012 10:27:39AM 1 point [-]

I have to disagree; the lesson in the quote is "Win as hard as you can", which is very important if not very complicated.

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 05 March 2012 11:10:48AM 2 points [-]

I don't see the connection. If bringing a superior being to myself into existence is maximum win for me, that's not obvious. Not everyone, like Shaw's Don Juan, values the Superman.

Comment author: DSimon 05 March 2012 11:17:09PM 1 point [-]

Okay, I think I see what's going on. I originally interpreted "something better than myself" from the quote to include self-improvement. In context though, that's clearly not what it's implying.

Comment author: antigonus 05 March 2012 09:48:42AM 4 points [-]

Yeah, you're correct. Wasn't thinking very hard.

Comment author: Voltairina 04 March 2012 10:51:52PM *  6 points [-]

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

Winston Churchill

Comment author: Ezekiel 06 March 2012 02:50:30PM 2 points [-]

Incidentally, you need a double-newline to break the quote bar.

Comment author: Voltairina 06 March 2012 06:16:01PM *  0 points [-]

Thank you, I've rewritten it now.

Comment author: Voltairina 04 March 2012 10:35:25PM *  0 points [-]

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ” “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master -- that’s all.”

-Charles Dodgeson(Lewis Carrol), Through the Looking Glass

Comment author: TimS 04 March 2012 10:51:35PM 3 points [-]

Isn't Humpty Dumpty wrong, if the goal is intelligible conversation?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 04 March 2012 11:29:06PM 5 points [-]

Absolutely. But if the goal is to establish dominance, as Humpty Dumpty (appears to) suggest, its technique often works.

Comment author: Voltairina 06 March 2012 07:24:35PM 0 points [-]

At first when I posted it I think I was thinking of it as kind of endorsing a pragmatic approach to language usage. I mean, it hurts communication to change the meanings of words without telling anyone, but occasionally it might be useful to update meanings when old ones are no longer useful. It used to be that a "computer" was a professional employed to do calculations, then it became a device to do calculations with, now its a device to do all sorts of things with.

Comment author: Voltairina 06 March 2012 07:27:03PM 1 point [-]

But I feel like that's kind of a dodge - you're absolutely right when you say changing the meanings arbitrarily (or possibly to achieve a weird sense of anthropomorphic dominance over it) harms communication, and should be avoided, unless the value of updating the sense of the word outweighs this.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 06 March 2012 11:35:50PM 1 point [-]

It's also a useful way to establish a nonweird sense of dominance over my conversational partner.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 04 March 2012 12:10:37PM 12 points [-]

The world is paved with good intentions; the road to Hell has bad epistemology mixed in.

Steven Kaas

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 07 March 2012 05:00:51AM 5 points [-]

I think the original is instrumentally more useful. On hearing "the road to hell is paved with good intentions", one of my reactions is "I have good intentions, I'd better make sure I'm not on the road to hell". On hearing your version my first reaction is "whew, this doesn't apply to me, only to those people with bad epistemology".

Comment author: David_Gerard 30 March 2012 11:17:06AM 3 points [-]

I suspect that's a standard reaction to hearing of any cognitive bias.

“Hah, this article nails those assholes perfectly!”
-- some asshole

Comment author: Will_Newsome 07 March 2012 08:38:36AM 5 points [-]

On hearing your version my first reaction is "whew, this doesn't apply to me, only to those people with bad epistemology".

Interesting, my immediate reaction is "oh, I guess I need to seriously work on my epistemology rather than work on having better intentions as such".

Comment author: Ezekiel 06 March 2012 02:52:19PM 0 points [-]

Or different values to the damner's, which may or may not count as "bad intentions" depending on your semantic preferences.

Comment author: Woodbun 04 March 2012 12:02:38PM *  19 points [-]

"One of the great commandments of science is, 'Mistrust arguments from authority'. (Scientists, being primates, and thus given to dominance hierarchies, of course do not always follow this commandment.)"

-Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World

Comment author: djcb 04 March 2012 09:56:58AM 8 points [-]

There is a spookier possibility. Suppose it is easy to send messages to the past, but that forward causality also holds (i.e. past events determine the future). In one way of reasoning about it, a message sent to the past will "alter" the entire history following its receipt, including the event that sent it, and thus the message itself. Thus altered, the message will change the past in a different way, and so on, until some "equilibrium" is reached--the simplest being the situation where no message at all is sent. Time travel may thus act to erase itself (an idea Larry Niven fans will recognize as "Niven's Law").

-- Hans Moravec Time Travel and Computing

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 07 March 2012 05:02:08AM 0 points [-]

Not quiet, since you need time travel to establish the final timeline.

Comment author: Ezekiel 06 March 2012 02:53:00PM 1 point [-]

Extremely cool in an armchair-physicist sort of way, but what's the rationality?

Comment author: djcb 06 March 2012 07:39:42PM 0 points [-]

Fair point -- I actually wasn't 100% convinced myself it fits here... Reason for posting it anyway was that (a) it somehow reminded me of the omega/2-boxes problem (i.e., the paradoxal way how present and past seem to influence each other), (b) Hans Moravec work touches on so many of the AI/transhumanist themes common in LW and (c) I found it such a clever observation that I thought people here would appreciate.

Not sure if that's enough reason, but that's how it went.

Comment author: gwern 06 March 2012 04:17:27PM 0 points [-]

I guess 'it all adds up to normality', but that's a stretch.