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shev comments on Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012) - Less Wrong

19 Post author: ciphergoth 18 July 2012 05:24PM

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Comment author: shev 02 February 2013 05:52:18AM *  6 points [-]

Hi, I'm Alex.

Every once in a while I come to LessWrong because I want to read more interesting things and have more interesting discussions on the Internet. I've found it a lot easier to spend time on Reddit (having removed all the drivel) and dredging through Quora to find actually insightful content (seriously, do they have any sort of actual organization system for me to find reading material?) in the past. LessWrong's discussions have seemed slightly inaccessible, so maybe posting an introduction like I'm supposed to will set in motion my figuring out how this community works.

I'm interested in a lot of things here, but especially physics and mathematics. I would use the word "metaphysics" but it's been appropriated for a lot of things that aren't actually meta-physics like I mean. Maybe I want "meta-mathematics"? Anyway, I'm really keen on the theory behind physical laws and on attempts at reformulating math and physics into more lucid and intuitive systems. Some of my reading material (I won't say research, but ... maybe I should say research) recently has been on geometric algebra, re-axiomizing set theory, foundations and interpretations of quantum mechanics, reformulations of relativity, quantum field theory's interpretation, things like that. I have a permanent distaste for spinors and all the math we don't try to justify with intuition when teaching physics, so I've spent a lot of my last few years studying those.

I was really intrigued by the articles/blog posts? on what proofs actually mean and causality a few months ago; that's when I started reading the site. I've spent the better part of the last year sifting through all kinds of math ideas related to reinterpretations or 'fundamental' insights, so I hope hanging around here can expose me to some more.

Oh, and I've spent a good amount of time on the Internet refuting crackpots who think they solved physics, so I, um, promise I'm not one.

I'm a programmer by trade and have a good interest in revolutionary (or just convenient) software projects and disruptive ideas and really naive, idealist world-changing ideas, which is fun.

I have read some of the sequences and such but - I guess I'm a rationalist at heart already, maybe because I've studied lots of logic and such, but a lot of it of the basic stuff seemed pretty apparent to me. I was already up to speed on Bayes and quantum mechanics, for example, and never considered anything other than atheism. And I already optimize and try to look at life in terms of expected payoffs and other very rational things like that. But, it's possible I've missed a lot of the material here - I find navigating the site to be pretty unintuitive.

I'm based in Seattle and I hope to go to the meetups if they... ever happen again. I mostly just like talking to smart people; I find it makes my brain work better - as if there's some sort of 'conversation mode' which hypercharges my creativity.

Oh, and I have a blog: http://ajkjk.com/blog/. I'm slightly terrified of linking it; it's the first time I've shown it to anyone but friends. It only has 6 posts so far. I've written a lot more but deleted/hid them until they're cleaned up.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 February 2013 06:57:45AM 3 points [-]

I have read some of the sequences and such but - I guess I'm a rationalist at heart already, maybe because I've studied lots of logic and such, but a lot of it of the basic stuff seemed pretty apparent to me. I was already up to speed on Bayes and quantum mechanics, for example, and never considered anything other an atheism. And I already optimize and try to look at life in terms of expected payoffs and other very rational things like that. But, it's possible I've missed a lot of the material here - I find navigating the site to be pretty unintuitive.

Be very careful thinking you are done. I was in pretty much exactly the same position as you about a year ago. ("yep, I'm pretty rational. Lol @ god; I wonder what it's like to have delusional beliefs"). After a year and a half here, having read pretty much everything in the sequences and most of the other archives, running a meetup, etc, I now know that I suck at rationality. You will find that you are nowhere near the limits, or even the middle, of possible human rationality.

Further, I now know what it's like to have delusional beliefs that are so ingrained you don't even recognize them as beliefs, because I had some big ones. I probably have more. There not easy to spot from the inside.

On the subject of atheism... I used to be an atheist, too. The rabbit hole you've fallen into here is deep.

The Seattle guys are pretty cool, from those I've met. Go hang out with them.

Comment author: Kawoomba 02 February 2013 07:32:11AM 5 points [-]

On the subject of atheism... I used to be an atheist, too. The rabbit hole you've fallen into here is deep.

Don't be mysterious, Morpheus, please elaborate.

Comment author: shev 02 February 2013 07:21:03AM *  1 point [-]

Okay, sure. Rather I mean: I feel like I'm passed the introductory material. Like I'm coming in as a sophomore, say. But - I could be totally wrong! We'll see.

I've definitely got counter-rational behaviors ingrained; I'm constantly fighting my brain.

And, if we're pedantic about things pretty similar to atheism, I might not be an atheist. I'm not up to speed on all the terms. What do you call:

I don't 'believe' anything, I have degrees of thinking information might be accurate but I talk as though I believe the best model I have; physics provides a model of the universe which I accept to a high degree and I think it's very likely accurate as an abstraction (the finer points are up for debate); I make and accept no claims about things that can't be covered by that model such as extra-universal entities or the reason we exist at all; I consider the elegance of a model as working to its merit as well as its accuracy so invoking supernatural or arbitrary forces where there's an alternative makes an explanation very implausible to me; I see no reason to invoke anything other than physics anywhere between the "big bang" step and my perception of the present so my currently preferred explanation excludes anything supernatural in any form.

I was calling that atheism.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 February 2013 04:21:43PM 0 points [-]

I was calling that atheism.

In that sense, then, I'm an atheist.

My test was whether my gods-related beliefs would get me flamed on r/atheism. I don't think my beliefs would pass the ideological turing test for atheism.

I used to think the god hypothesis was not just wrong, but incoherent. How could there be a being above and outside physics? How could god break the laws of physics? Of course now I take the simulation argument much more seriously, and even superintelligences within the universe can probably do pretty neat things.

I still think non-reductionism is incoherent; "a level above ours" makes sense, "supernatural" does not.

This isn't really a major update, though. I'm just not going to refer to myself as an atheist any more, because my beliefs permit a lot more.

Comment author: shminux 02 February 2013 08:47:37AM 0 points [-]

Seems like agnosticism to me, or atheism in a broader sense. The narrow atheism is a belief in zero gods.

Comment author: shminux 02 February 2013 06:11:05AM 3 points [-]

From your blog:

Recently it occurred to me that a large part of being addicted to Reddit isn't actually the content but the fact that the links turn purple when you click on them. And my brain is slightly obsessed with turning all the blue purple, all the time.

This is amazing, yet seems so obvious in retrospect. So many of us have turned into blue-minimizing robots without realizing it. Hopefully breaking the reward feedback loop with your extension would force people to try to examine their true reasons for clicking.

Comment author: shev 02 February 2013 07:26:15AM *  1 point [-]

I was pretty pleased with myself for discovering that. It - sorta works. I still find myself going to Reddit, but so far it's still "feeling" less addictive (which is really hard to quantify or describe). Now I'm finding myself just clicking to websites more looking for something, rather than specifically clicking links. I've been sleeping badly lately, though, and I find that my brain is a lot more vulnerable to my Internet addiction when I haven't slept well - so it's not a good comparison to my norm.

Incidentally, if anyone wanted me to I could certainly make the extension work on other browsers. It's the simplest thing ever, it just injects 7 clauses of CSS into Reddit pages. I thought about making it mess with other websites I used (hackernews, mostly) but I decided they weren't as much of a problem and it was better to keep it single-purpose for now.

Comment author: itaibn0 21 February 2013 01:15:25PM *  1 point [-]

re-axiomizing set theory

Now I'm tempted to spread a meme. Have you heard Martin-Loef type theory? In my opinion, it's a much better foundation of mathematics than ZFC.

Comment author: Nisan 21 February 2013 04:04:36PM 0 points [-]

Welcome. There are some e-reader format and pdf versions of the Sequences that may be easier to navigate.