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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  • Do not quote yourself
  • Do not quote comments/posts on LW/OB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)

Sort By: Controversial
Comment author: Spectral_Dragon 04 March 2012 02:13:50AM 0 points [-]

"The only sovereign I can allow to rule me is reason. The first law of reason is this: what exists exists; what is is. From this irreducible, bedrock principle, all knowledge is built. This is the foundation from which life is embraced. Reason is a choice. Wishes and whims are not facts, nor are they a means to discovering them. Reason is our only way of grasping reality--it is our basic tool of survival. We are free to evade the effort of thinking, to reject reason, but we are not free to avoid the penalty of the abyss we refuse to see."

-- Terry Goodkind, Faith of the fallen. I know quite a few here dislike the author, but there's still a lot of good material, like this one, or the Wizard Rules.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 03 March 2012 12:57:48PM *  0 points [-]

"Do you believe in revolution
Do you believe that everything will change
Policemen to people
And rats to pretty women
Do you think they will remake
Barracks to bar-rooms
Yperit to Coca-Cola
And truncheons to guitars?

Oh-oh, my naive
It will never be like that
Oh-oh, my naive
Life is like it is

Do you think that ever
Inferiority complexes will change to smiles
Petržalka to Manhattan
And dirty factories to hotels
Do you think they will elevate
Your idols to gods
That you will never have to
Bathe your sorrow with alcohol?

Oh-oh, my naive...

Do you think that suddenly
Everyone will reconcile with everyone
That no one will write you off
If you will have holes in your jeans
Do you think that in everything
Everyone will help you
That you will never have to be
Afraid of a higher power?

Oh-oh, my naive..."

My translation of a Slovak punk-rock song in 1990s "Slobodná Európa: Nikdy to tak nebude". Is it an example of an outside view, or just trying to reverse stupidity?

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: michaelcurzi 02 March 2012 04:01:53AM *  1 point [-]

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

1 Corinthians 15:54-57

(I like this quote, as long as it's shamelessly presented without context of the last line: "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." )

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: shminux 03 March 2012 08:00:39AM 3 points [-]

Here's my advice: If you meet an economist, ask him to adjust your spine so you no longer get the common cold. Then ask him for some specific investment tips and do exactly what he recommends. Let me know which one works out best.

Scott Adams

Comment author: BillyOblivion 06 March 2012 08:50:15AM 1 point [-]

Do the same with a Chiropractor and let me know if you get different results.

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: 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: 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: [deleted] 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: 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?


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



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: wallowinmaya 02 March 2012 08:16:07PM 6 points [-]

Faith: not wanting to know what is true.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 03 March 2012 07:12:25AM 4 points [-]

I don't think that is a good description of what people mean by "faith".

For a better idea of the concept of faith start here.

Summary: Theory is to faith as our concept of physical necessitation is to that of social obligation.

Comment author: Elethiomel 25 May 2012 08:27:30AM 0 points [-]

Except that faith has little to nothing to do with social obligations. Faith is believing something without proof or even reason to believe it.

Unless you mean "faith" as in being "faithful" to your spouse, in which case, that's not even the same thing as what Nietzsche is talking about.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 26 May 2012 03:23:24AM *  1 point [-]

Unless you mean "faith" as in being "faithful" to your spouse, in which case, that's not even the same thing as what Nietzsche is talking about.

The problem is that Nietzsche was confused about what religious people mean by "faith", as a result his argument is essentially a straw-man.

Comment author: Elethiomel 26 May 2012 06:08:41AM 0 points [-]

What religious people mean by "faith" and what faith actually is do not have to be the same thing.

Also, Nietzsche was definitely not confused about what religious people mean by faith. You're just confused because that quote isn't a statement about what faith is, but rather, a statement about the psychology of the faithful.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 27 May 2012 03:53:59AM 1 point [-]

As for the psychology of faith, to use your example of being faithful to you spouse, you want your spouse not to cheat on you. Thus this is a game of prisoner's dilemma or at least stag hunt, faith amounts to the Timeless Decision Theory solution which requires the belief that your spouse won't cheat on you if you don't cheat on her. Because there is no direct causal relationship between these two events it sounds a lot like believing without proof, especially if one doesn't know enough game theory to understand accusal relationships.

Comment author: Elethiomel 28 May 2012 09:39:21AM -1 points [-]

You seem to be missing the point. "Faith" in terms of religious belief is not the same thing as being "faithful" to your spouse.

You're equivocating. Also, that's not a Prisoner's Dilemma. A Prisoner's Dilemma allows no precommittments(you don't expect to get arrested; neither does your partner), and no communication with your partner once the game starts. It's clear that neither of those requirements is true when considering fidelity to one's partner. Relationships are not Prisoner's Dilemma situations. It takes an extreme stretch of the situation, and a skewed placement of values for BOTH players for it to resemble one. If both players can gain more utility from being unfaithful, why not implement an open relationship? If the utility from being unfaithful is high enough(higher than the utility of the relationship itself), why continue the relationship?

Loyalty to one's partner differs in many many many ways from religious faith.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 28 May 2012 10:05:50AM *  -1 points [-]

You seem to be missing the point. "Faith" in terms of religious belief is not the same thing as being "faithful" to your spouse...You're equivocating.

No, this has been standard usage since at least as far back as the High Middle Ages.

Comment author: Elethiomel 31 May 2012 07:20:51AM 0 points [-]

That has to be the worst citation in support of an argument I've ever seen. "Standard usage"...is number 6 on a list of different models of faith in philosophical terms? Right. That's clearly what most people mean when they talk about faith.

Also, trusting someone else is the opposite of fidelity to that person, not the same thing.

Regardless, the definition Nietzsche is using is obviously not referring to a trust-based model.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 31 May 2012 09:55:00AM 1 point [-]

That has to be the worst citation in support of an argument I've ever seen.

Let me be the first to welcome you, since it appears this is your first day on the Internet.

"Standard usage"...is number 6 on a list of different models of faith in philosophical terms? Right. That's clearly what most people mean when they talk about faith.

I wasn't aware of the context in which your back-and-forth with Eugine_Nier was taking place, since I only started reading at this comment when it was in the recent comments feed. My bad. I assumed you thought he was using "faith" in an idiosyncratic way, rather than in a way that has been part of theology for almost a millennium. After reading a few comments up I can see that you were referring to a particular quote by Nietzsche (one in which he probably did not mean to refer to the concept of faith as trust).

Also, trusting someone else is the opposite of fidelity to that person, not the same thing.

Obviously, "trusting someone" is not the same as "fidelity to that person". I never claimed otherwise. On the other hand, opposite is way too strong a word for this. Moreover, Eugine_Nier's comment never made such an equivalence claim. He said that "faith amounts" to the "belief that your spouse won't cheat on you". This sounds very much like the concept of faith as trust (and not its opposite).

Regardless, the definition Nietzsche is using is obviously not referring to a trust-based model.

We are in full agreement on this point.

Comment author: wedrifid 28 May 2012 02:07:11PM *  -2 points [-]

No, this has been standard usage since at least as far back as the High Middle Ages.

It is a usage of the same original word that has clearly diverged such that to substitute the intended meaning across contexts is most decidedly equivocation. "Faith" as in a kind of belief is not the same meaning as "faithful" as in not fucking other people. This should be obvious. The origin of the (nearly euphemistic) usage of the term is beside the point.

Comment author: wedrifid 26 May 2012 02:32:49AM 1 point [-]

Except that faith has little to nothing to do with social obligations.

Except for, well, being one in most social circumstances and for certain beliefs.

Comment author: Elethiomel 26 May 2012 06:10:41AM -1 points [-]

Let me restate: social obligations are not at the core of what faith is. One could believe something without proof if she were alone in the universe. Faith certainly can be a social obligation, and depending upon what it is faith in, could easily necessitate social obligations, but the general idea of "believing in something without evidence" can be done by one person alone, and social obligations are by no means part of that definition.

Comment author: DSimon 04 March 2012 05:57:42AM *  2 points [-]

It's not what people intend "faith" to mean, but nevertheless it often ends up being its effective definition. (EDIT: To clarify, by "it" I am referring to Nietzsche's definition.)

Comment author: gwern 03 March 2012 07:53:42AM 5 points [-]

"A full tour through the modern critics of the competitive organization of society would be a truly exhausting trip. It would include the drama, the novel, the churches, the academies, the lesser intellectual establishments, the socialists and communists and Fabians and a swarm of other dissenters. One is reminded of Schumpeter’s remark that the Japanese earthquake of 1924 had a remarkable aspect: it was not blamed on capitalism. Suddenly one realizes how impoverished our society would be in its indignation, as well as in its food, without capitalism."

--George F. Stigler, "Economics or Ethics?"

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: 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: 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 0 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 2 points [-]

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: 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: 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: gwern 01 March 2012 05:55:59PM 4 points [-]

"In practice replacing digital computers with an alternative computing paradigm is a risky proposition. Alternative computing architectures, such as parallel digital computers have not tended to be commercially viable, because Moore's Law has consistently enabled conventional von Neumann architectures to render alternatives unnecessary. Besides Moore's Law, digital computing also benefits from mature tools and expertise for optimizing performance at all levels of the system: process technology, fundamental circuits, layout and algorithms. Many engineers are simultaneously working to improve every aspect of digital technology, while alternative technologies like analog computing do not have the same kind of industry juggernaut pushing them forward."

--Benjamin Vigoda, "Analog Logic: Continuous-Time Analog Circuits for Statistical Signal Processing" (2003 PhD thesis)

Comment author: Thomas 01 March 2012 08:36:37AM 6 points [-]

How extremely stupid [I] not to have thought of that.

Thomas Henry Huxley - about Darwin's theory of evolution

Comment author: [deleted] 01 March 2012 10:47:51AM 30 points [-]

Meh. That's just hindsight bias.

All truths are easy to understand when they are revealed; what's hard is to find them out.

Galileo Galilei (translated by me)

Comment author: Thomas 01 March 2012 12:04:50PM 0 points [-]

Generally, yes. But in this particular casa we can trust, that the later Darwin's bulldog really felt that way and that this was a justified statement. He obviously understood the matter well.

All those English animal breeders had a good insight. It was more or less a wild generalization for them. Non so wild for Huxley.

Comment author: wallowinmaya 02 March 2012 08:25:53PM 5 points [-]

All sciences are now under the obligation to prepare the ground for the future task of the philosopher, which is to solve the problem of value, to determine the true hierarchy of values.

Friedrich Nietzsche, foreseeing the CEV-problem? (Just kidding, of course)

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: GLaDOS 01 March 2012 07:07:58PM 12 points [-]

I have sometimes seen people try to list what a real intellectual should know. I think it might be more illuminating to list what he shouldn’t.

--Gregory Cochran, in a comment here

Comment author: [deleted] 01 March 2012 09:11:09PM 12 points [-]

Also good, from that comment's OP:

One of the main reasons that I shy away from modern liberalism is a strong commitment to interchangeability and identity across all individuals and populations as a matter of fact, rather than equality as a matter of legal commitment.

Razib Khan

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 03 March 2012 01:01:43PM 7 points [-]

This has 6 karma points, so I'm left curious about whether people have anything in mind about what real intellectuals shouldn't know.

Comment author: player_03 04 March 2012 12:46:17AM *  2 points [-]

I could be interpreting it entirely wrong, but I'd guess this is the list Cochran had in mind:

Comment author: cousin_it 07 March 2012 09:31:57AM *  1 point [-]

Real intellectuals shouldn't know things that science doesn't know.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 04 March 2012 06:49:33PM 1 point [-]

My immediate thought was a 'real intellectual' shouldn't fill their brain with random useless information, (e.g. spend their time reading tvtropes).

Comment author: [deleted] 07 March 2012 03:46:50PM *  2 points [-]

Real intellectuals shouldn't know the details of fictional worlds. They shouldn't know the private business of their neighbors. They shouldn't know more about sports than is necessary for casual conversation on the matter (though no less either). They shouldn't know how to lie, how to manipulate people, they shouldn't know much about how to make money, they shouldn't know much about concrete political affairs unless that is their business. They shouldn't know too much about food or the maintenance of their health.

Real intellectuals should be able to play an instrument, but not very well. They shouldn't know too much about crimes, mental disorders, disasters, diseases, or wars. They should know the broad strokes of history, but not the details unless that is their primary business.

Real intellectuals should enjoy music, but never study it, unless that is their primary business. Most essentially, real intellectuals shouldn't know what they don't have the time or inclination to know well.

Comment author: gRR 01 March 2012 04:21:08PM 6 points [-]

The winner is the one who makes the next-to-last mistake.

Ksawery Tartakower

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: 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 6 points [-]

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

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: 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: [deleted] 01 March 2012 04:00:15PM 8 points [-]

Outrage indicates how outraged individuals want the world to be; evidence tells everyone how the world is.

Tauriq Moosa

Comment author: bungula 01 March 2012 01:30:50PM 13 points [-]

It's the Face of Boe. I'm absolutely certain about this, absolutely positive. Of course I'll probably turn out to be incorrect

Sam Hughes, talking about the first season finale of Doctor Who, differentiating between the subjective feeling of certainty and the actual probability estimate.

Comment author: [deleted] 01 March 2012 08:02:07PM 9 points [-]

On our kind not cooperating:

When somebody is doing the right thing, you dont mess with them.

Michelle Obama

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: 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 0 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: 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 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: 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: [deleted] 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: 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: 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 *  9 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: komponisto 02 March 2012 02:17:24AM *  5 points [-]

By studying the masters, not their pupils.

-- Niels Henrik Abel, on how he developed his mathematical ability.

Comment author: philh 01 March 2012 10:32:08PM *  10 points [-]

The Princess Bride:

Man in Black: Inhale this, but do not touch.
Vizzini: [sniffs] I smell nothing.
Man in Black: What you do not smell is called iocane powder. It is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among the more deadlier poisons known to man.
[He puts the goblets behind his back and puts the poison into one of the goblets, then sets them down in front of him]
Man in Black: All right. Where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right... and who is dead.
[Vizzini stalls, then eventually chooses the glass in front of the man in black. They both drink, and Vizzini dies.]
Buttercup: And to think, all that time it was your cup that was poisoned.
Man in Black: They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.

Comment author: Cthulhoo 01 March 2012 10:18:27AM 20 points [-]

When I disagree with a rational man, I let reality be our final arbiter; if I am right, he will learn; if I am wrong, I will; one of us will win, but both will profit.

Ayn Rand

Comment author: florian 01 March 2012 12:11:53PM 32 points [-]

Making the (flawed) assumption that in a disagreement, they cannot both be wrong.

Comment author: peter_hurford 01 March 2012 05:22:16PM 16 points [-]

Also, they could be wrong about whether they actually disagree.

Comment author: arundelo 01 March 2012 08:03:29PM 11 points [-]

When reading, you win if you learn, not if you convince yourself that you know something the author does not know.

-- Reg Braithwaite (raganwald)

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: 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: Alejandro1 02 March 2012 01:36:55AM 18 points [-]

The reason you can't rigidly separate positive from normative economics is that you can't rigidly separate claims of fact from claims of value in general. Human language is too laden with thick concepts that mix the two. The claim that someone is a "slut" or a "bitch", for example, melds together factual claims about a woman's behavior with a lot of deeply embedded normative concepts about what constitutes appropriate behavior for a woman. The claim that financial markets are "efficient" is both an effort to describe their operation and a way of valorizing them. The idea of a "recession" or "full employment" or "potential output" all embed certain ideas about what would constitute a normal arrangement of human economic activity (...) You could try to rigorously purge your descriptions of the economy of anything that vaguely smells of a thick moral concept, but you'd find yourself operating with an impoverished vocubulary unable to describe human affairs in any kind of reasonable way.

--Matt Yglesias

Comment author: Nominull 02 March 2012 09:53:45AM 13 points [-]

I found that very poignant, but I'm not sure I agree with his final claim. I think he's committing the usual mistake of claiming impossible what seems hard.

Comment author: gwern 01 March 2012 05:58:13PM 18 points [-]

"Hope always feels like it's made up of a set of reasons: when it's just sufficient sleep and a few auspicious hormones."

--Alain de Botton

Comment author: [deleted] 01 March 2012 04:04:23PM 6 points [-]

Sometimes the only thing left is to know that it’s okay to be uncomfortable.

Wendy Braitman

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: Stabilizer 04 March 2012 05:50:49AM 21 points [-]

Society changes when we change what we're embarrassed about.

In just fifty years, we've made it shameful to be publicly racist.

In just ten years, someone who professes to not know how to use the internet is seen as a fool.

The question, then, is how long before we will be ashamed at being uninformed, at spouting pseudoscience, at believing thin propaganda? How long before it's unacceptable to take something at face value? How long before you can do your job without understanding the state of the art?

Does access to information change the expectation that if you can know, you will know?

We can argue that this will never happen, that it's human nature to be easily led in the wrong direction and to be willfully ignorant. The thing is, there are lots of things that used to be human nature, but due to culture and technology, no longer are.

-Seth Godin

Comment author: simplyeric 06 March 2012 06:05:52PM 1 point [-]

A. I'm not entirely sure that things that used to be human nature no longer are. We deal with them, surpress them, sublimate, etc. Anger responses, fear, lust, possesiveness, nesting. The animal instincts of the human animal. How those manifest does indeed change, but not the "nature" of them.

B. We live (in the USA) in a long-term culture of anti-intellectualism. Obviously this doesn't mean it can't change... Sometimes it seems like it will (remember the days before nerd-chic?), but in a nominally democratic society, there will always be a minority of people who are relatively "intellectual" by definition, we should recognize that you don't have to overcome anti-intellectualism, you just have to raise the bar. While still anti-intellectual, in many ways even the intentionally uninformed know more than the average person did back in the day. (just like there will always be a minority of people who will be "relatively tall", even as the average height has tended to increased over the generations)

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



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 4 points [-]

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

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 1 point [-]

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: 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: 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 *  -1 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: NancyLebovitz 03 March 2012 01:05:31PM 9 points [-]

It is more important to know what is true today, than to have been right yesterday

Found here.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 02 March 2012 09:55:32AM *  18 points [-]

If you want to know how decent people can support evil, find a mirror.

Mencius Moldbug, A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations (part 2) (yay reflection!)

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: 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 0 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: [deleted] 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: [deleted] 03 March 2012 03:25:48PM *  22 points [-]


Comment author: XFrequentist 02 March 2012 09:01:52PM 11 points [-]

May the best of your todays, be the worst of your tomorrows

  • Jay-Z, Forever Young

[Taking the lyrics literally, the whole thing is a pretty sweet transhumanist anthem.]

Comment author: HonoreDB 01 March 2012 04:58:22PM 23 points [-]

"Are you trying to tell me that there are sixteen million practicing wizards on Earth?" "Sixteen million four hundred and--" Dairine paused to consider the condition the world was in. "Well it's not anywhere near enough! Make them all wizards."

--Diane Duane, High Wizardry

Comment author: gwern 01 March 2012 05:58:00PM 25 points [-]

"It's easy to think of yourself as being quite a nice person so long as you live on your own and are the only witness to yourself."

--Alain de Botton

Comment author: EllisD 02 March 2012 02:24:29PM *  13 points [-]

Whether a mathematical proposition is true or not is indeed independent of physics. But the proof of such a proposition is a matter of physics only. There is no such thing as abstractly proving something, just as there is no such thing as abstractly knowing something. Mathematical truth is absolutely necessary and transcendent, but all knowledge is generated by physical processes, and its scope and limitations are conditioned by the laws of nature.

-David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity.

Comment author: James_Miller 01 March 2012 03:22:58PM 14 points [-]

Had no idea so much strategy was possible in Rock, Paper, Scissors? The rules of the game itself may be simple, but the human mind is not.

Natalie Wolchover

Comment author: Alejandro1 01 March 2012 06:23:41PM 15 points [-]

The demons told me that there is a hell for the sentimental and the pedantic. They are abandoned in an endless palace, more empty than full, and windowless. The condemned walk about as if searching for something, and, as we might expect, they soon begin to say that the greatest torment consists in not participating in the vision of God, that moral suffering is worse than physical suffering, and so on. Then the demons hurl them into the sea of fire, from where no one will ever take them out.

Adolfo Bioy Casares (my translation)

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.
-Is that in the body?
-The acids and lifeforms eat their way out, while local detritivores eat their way in.

--SMBC Theater - Death

Comment author: Stabilizer 01 March 2012 09:29:18AM 17 points [-]

To be a good diagnostician, a physician needs to acquire a large set of labels for diseases, each of which binds an idea of the illness and its symptoms, possible antecedents and causes, possible developments and consequences, and possible interventions to cure or mitigate the illness. Learning medicine consists in part of learning the language of medicine. A deeper understanding of judgments and choices also requires a richer vocabulary than is available in everyday language. The availability of a diagnostic label for [the] bias... makes it easier to anticipate, recognize and understand.

-Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

Comment author: [deleted] 01 March 2012 09:09:23PM 35 points [-]

False opinions are like false money, struck first of all by guilty men and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they are doing

--Joseph de Maistre, Les soirées de Saint-Pétersbourg, Ch. I

Comment author: Thomas 02 March 2012 02:15:44PM 4 points [-]

Some guilt also falls onto those who are not eager enough to verify those opinions or the money they circulate.

The man on the top (at the beginning) is NOT guilty for everything.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 02 March 2012 05:38:16PM 15 points [-]

To my way of thinking, it's quite possible for me to be fully responsible for a chain of events (for example, if they would not have occurred if not for my action, and I was aware of the likelihood of them occurring given my action, and no external forces constrained my choice so as to preclude acting differently) and for other people upstream and downstream of me to also be fully responsible for that chain of events. This is no more contradictory than my belief that object A is to the left of object B from one perspective and simultaneously to the right of object A from another. Responsibility is not some mysterious fluid out there in the world that gets portioned out to individuals, it's an attribute that we assign to entities in a mental and/or social model.

You seem to be claiming that models wherein total responsibility for an event is conserved across the entire known causal chain are superior to mental models where it isn't, but I don't quite see why i ought to believe that.

Comment author: Multiheaded 06 August 2012 11:19:37AM *  -1 points [-]

I'm very surprised as to why is this so upvoted, other than the fact that some of the LW crowd really loves 19th century right-wing writers. The statement is patently untrue.

Even in regard to hard-line reactionaries themselves and their political circumstances; did de Maistre think that Voltaire or Rousseau or even Robespierre ever consciously produced "false opinions" to befuddle the masses?

No way; even later conservatives, like Burke and Chesterton, have admitted that if the French Revolution went wrong somewhere (and Chesterton thought it was off to a good start), it must have been a mistake, not a crime.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 06 August 2012 01:20:08PM 3 points [-]

I'm very surprised as to why is this so upvoted, other than the fact that some of the LW crowd really loves 19th century right-wing writers.

I don't think it's a very good quote but I'd guess that the majority of readers didn't know/notice/remember he was a 19th century right-wing writer. As such few people would associate this quote with opposition to the French Revolution, or even politics -- people would first think of such things as religions.

And I'd put money on Mohammed, Joseph Smith and Apostle Paul to have been deliberate conmen. (I'm leaving out Jesus, because I'd put odds on him being just delusional)

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 06 August 2012 11:52:00AM *  3 points [-]

I know ~nothing about the historical events which you allude to, but I upvoted the quote because experience tells me it's very true in real life. E.g. a journalist writes a news article that contains lies about its subject matter, and the link to the article gets widely shared by honest people who presume that it's telling the truth. Or a dishonest scientist makes up his data, and then gets cited by honest scientists.

Comment author: Multiheaded 06 August 2012 12:34:58PM *  1 point [-]

Oh. In that case, well, it's true about local "opinions" but false about views on global things. Like the so-called free market (which is mostly not free) or the so-called democracy (which is mostly not ruled by the People): I believe that most nominally educated people today have a pretty reasonable assessment of their value: they kinda work, and even bring some standard of living, but do so very ineffectively. So the only "false opinions" on this scale are just ritual statements semi-consciously produced out of fear of empowering the enemies of the present structure. I might make a great and benevolent dictator, but I can't trust my heir; so I'd rather endorse "democracy" steered by experts. Both the "democracy" and the "free market" are part of what we are, therefore we must defend them vigilantly.

Fortunately, we're leaving such close-mindedness behind. Unfortunately, we might have the illusion of not needing any other abstract concepts to use for our social identity. Humans always do! If we don't believe in Democracy, then we must believe in the Catholic Church, or Fascism, or Moldbuggery, or Communism, or Direct Theocracy (like in Banks' Culture). But believe we will.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 06 August 2012 05:11:21PM -1 points [-]

Unfortunately, we might have the illusion of not needing any other abstract concepts to use for our social identity. Humans always do! If we don't believe in Democracy, then we must believe in the Catholic Church, or Fascism, or Moldbuggery, or Communism, or Direct Theocracy (like in Banks' Culture). But believe we will.

This sounds somewhat like the assertion, usually made by religious critics of science, that "everyone believes in something; your faith is in Science" (or Darwin, or the like). Would you care to distinguish these assertions?

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: [deleted] 01 March 2012 04:56:33PM 22 points [-]

“Anne!” Anne was seated on the springboard; she turned her head. Jubal called out, “That new house on the far hilltop — can you see what color they’ve painted it?”

Anne looked in the direction in which Jubal was pointing and answered, “It’s white on this side.”

Robert Heinlein, Stranger In A Strange Land

Comment author: peter_hurford 01 March 2012 05:19:45PM *  31 points [-]

The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.

-- Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Comment author: DanielLC 01 March 2012 07:09:07PM 5 points [-]

For me, I am driven by two main philosophies

I think he'd do better if he just made up his mind. I'd go with the second one.

Comment author: pedanterrific 01 March 2012 07:41:37PM 27 points [-]

watch out folks, we got a badass over here

Comment author: Grognor 03 March 2012 08:57:49AM 37 points [-]

“Stupider” for a time might not have been a real word, but it certainly points where it’s supposed to. The other day my sister used the word “deoffensify”. It’s not a real word, but that didn’t make it any less effective. Communication doesn’t care about the “realness” of language, nor does it often care about the exact dictionary definitions. Words change through every possible variable, even time. One of the great challenges of communication has always been making sure words mean the same thing to you and your audience.

-Michael "Kayin" O'Reilly

Comment author: Bugmaster 03 March 2012 09:54:54AM 15 points [-]

Or, as the Language Log puts it:

The first thing to say is that the only possible way to settle a question of grammar or style is to look at relevant evidence. I suppose there really are people who believe the rules of grammar come down from some authority on high, an authority that has no connection with the people who speak and write English; but those people have got to be deranged.

Comment author: Nominull 03 March 2012 09:58:49AM 5 points [-]

Swap out "grammar" and "style" for "morality" and "ethics"?

Comment author: Ezekiel 06 March 2012 02:58:57PM 0 points [-]

Disagree strongly. What the heck is "evidence" for morality? Unless "emulate X" is one of your values, your ethical system needn't aspire to approximate anything.

Comment author: [deleted] 03 March 2012 11:03:54AM *  6 points [-]

the Language Log

It's Language Log, without the, goddammit!

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 06 March 2012 03:50:43PM 7 points [-]

Without the what? That isn't grammatical.

Comment author: RobertLumley 06 March 2012 05:59:21PM 1 point [-]

Upvoted under the presumption that you're being ironic.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 March 2012 01:15:46AM -2 points [-]

Why, do you say “Less Wrong”, or “the Less Wrong”?

Comment author: wnoise 11 March 2012 06:21:46AM 2 points [-]

Without the fnord, of course.

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: 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: [deleted] 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: [deleted] 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: cousin_it 14 March 2012 12:01:03PM 8 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.


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: 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