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Rationality Quotes September 2012

7 Post author: Jayson_Virissimo 03 September 2012 05:18AM

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  • Do not quote yourself
  • Do not quote comments/posts on LW/OB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 (1088)

Comment author: jsbennett86 18 February 2013 10:37:23AM *  0 points [-]

The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.

Linus Pauling

Edit: another one captured by an old thread!

Comment author: jsbennett86 18 February 2013 10:38:47AM 0 points [-]

From the alt-text in the above-linked comic:

Corollary: The most prolific people in the world suck 99% of the time.

Comment author: chaosmosis 30 September 2012 01:18:43AM *  5 points [-]

Cultural critics like to speculate on the cognitive changes induced by new forms of media, but they rarely invoke the insights of brain science and other empirical research in backing up those claims. All too often, this has the effect of reducing their arguments to mere superstition.

Steven Johnson, Everything Bad is Good For You

(His book argues that pop culture is increasing intelligence, not dumbing it down. He argues that plot complexity has increased and that keeping track of large storylines is now much more common place, and that these skills manifest themselves in increased social intelligence (and this in turn might manifest itself in overall intelligence, I'm not sure). Here, he's specifically discussing video games and the internet.)

I highly recommend the book, it's interesting in terms of cognitive science as well as cultural and social analysis. I thought it sounded only mildly interesting when I first picked it up, but now I'm thinking more along the lines that it's extremely interesting. At least give it a try, because it's difficult to describe what makes it so good.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 01 October 2012 04:52:04AM 1 point [-]

Does he look at the possibility that people are getting more intelligent for some other reason, and popular art is the result of creators serving a more intelligent audience rather than more complex art making people smarter?

Comment author: chaosmosis 01 October 2012 05:21:45AM *  0 points [-]

No. But your question seems odd. I didn't interpret the book as an attempt to start with the increase in intelligence and then to assume/explain why pop culture was the cause. Rather, I interpreted the book as an attempt to analyze pop culture, which then found that pop culture did things that seemed like they would have beneficial effects. His analysis of the things that pop culture does in our minds is what I found interesting, not so much the parts which talked about intelligence more generally.

Additionally, I'm not really sure what someone would do to identify pop culture as the cause of this increase as opposed to something else. I'm not sure what other factors could be responsible.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 01 October 2012 11:30:15AM 2 points [-]

I was reacting to the title of the book.

Comment author: chaosmosis 01 October 2012 05:17:42PM 1 point [-]

I don't believe the title implies that his primary concern is explaining an intelligence increase.

There are two ways of looking at the interaction between pop culture and intelligence. You can start by analyzing intelligence and noticing that it seems to increase, and then trying to figure out why, and then figuring out that pop culture caused it. Or, you can start by analyzing pop culture, and then noticing that it seems to do things that would have cognitive benefits, and then attaching this to the increase in intelligence as a factor that helps explain it. The book does the latter, not the former.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 01 October 2012 05:57:19PM 3 points [-]

I think any link between tv and intelligence is unproven, but at least the book does something to debunk the common idea that television is making people stupider.

Comment author: gwern 01 October 2012 01:06:24AM 3 points [-]

Really? I thought it was very short and not in depth at all; yeah, his handful of graphs of episodes was interesting from the data visualization viewpoint, but most of his arguments, such as they were, were qualititative and hand-wavey. (What, there are no simplistic shows these days?)

Comment author: chaosmosis 01 October 2012 03:02:59AM *  1 point [-]

It was rather broad and not very in depth, but it was largely conceptually oriented. He conceded that there were simplistic shows, but argued that the simplistic shows of today tend to be more complicated than the simplistic shows of yesterday. If you disagree...

Comment author: gwern 01 October 2012 03:09:12AM 3 points [-]

I don't know how I'd refute him - there are so many TV shows, both now and then! One can cherrypick pretty much anything one likes, although I don't personally watch TV anymore and couldn't do it.

(I'm reminded how people online sometimes say 'anime really sucked in time period X', because they're only familiar with anime released in the '00s and '10s, while if you look at an actual full 30+ strong roster of one of their example 'sucking' years like eg. 1991, you'll often see a whole litany of great or influential series like Nadia, City Hunter, Ranma 1/2, Dragon Ball Z, and Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory. Well, yeah, if you forget entirely about them, I suppose 1991 seems like a really sucky year compared to 2010 or whatever.)

Comment author: Nominull 02 October 2012 12:07:53AM 0 points [-]

Those anime you cite all sucked though, they were considered "great" or "influential" at the time because people didn't know any better. Anime technology has advanced vastly in the past twenty years.

Comment author: gwern 02 October 2012 12:51:37AM 1 point [-]

Anime technology has advanced, yes, but I don't know how you go from that to 'all my examples sucked'.

Comment author: Nominull 02 October 2012 02:34:35AM -2 points [-]

That was explanation or elaboration, not evidence. I was going to just leave "they sucked" as a bare assertion rather than get into an anime slapfight on LessWrong. If you link me to your anime blog I will be happy to take it up in the comments section there, though.

Comment author: gwern 02 October 2012 02:44:14AM 1 point [-]

Alas, I have no anime blog!

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 October 2012 01:03:39AM 1 point [-]

Out of curiosity, what in the 90s compares to Hikaru no Go or Madoka Magica?

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 02 October 2012 11:10:07AM 1 point [-]

Seconding Serial Experiments Lain and Evangelion. Also Cowboy Bebop was in the 90s.

Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Berserk, Excel Saga and Trigun are uneven, but have their moments.

I also have a soft spot for the trashy ultraviolent OVA stuff from the early 90s, like Doomed Megalopolis and AD Police Files, but I'm not sure if it's good in any objective sense.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 02 October 2012 09:19:41AM *  0 points [-]

Heh... In my myanimelist profile I've only listed three anime series as favourites, and Hikaru no Go and Madoka Magica are two of them.

The third one is "Revolutionary Girl Utena", from the 1990s. I think it's the sort of series that one either loves or hates -- but I loved it.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 October 2012 03:09:50AM 3 points [-]

Serial Experiments Lain.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 02 October 2012 09:04:21AM *  -1 points [-]

Serial Experiments Lain severely disappointed me. It's nicely creepy and atmospheric but....
(rot13) vg'f ernyyl n fgnaqneq "punatryvat" fgbel -- ohg vafgrnq bs snvevrf naq zntvpny jbeyqf naq punatryvat puvyqera, jr unir cebtenzf naq gur Vagrearg naq cebtenzf orpbzvat syrfu.

Gur fpvrapr-svpgvba ryrzragf srry whfg pbfzrgvp punatrf jura gur pber bs gur fgbel vf cher snvel-gnyr... N tevz snvel-gnyr gb or fher, ohg n snvel-gnyr abarguryrff.

Comment author: gwern 02 October 2012 01:07:27AM 1 point [-]

I don't consider Hikaru no Go to be anything more than a gimmick anime like Moyashimon, so I have no idea for it.

The most obvious counterpart to Madoka would be Evangelion (yeah I know Sailor Moon was airing in the '90s and was more popular and influential than Madoka will ever be, but I think Eva is a better comparison).

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 02 October 2012 11:42:01AM *  2 points [-]

Exactly. It doesn't look like I'm going to finish Hikaru no Go by the end of the year, but I finished Serial Experiments Lain (a 90s anime) in less than 3 days.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 02 October 2012 12:05:12AM 0 points [-]

I don't know how I'd refute him - there are so many TV shows, both now and then!

I'd start by looking at the shows with the highest ratings.

Comment author: chaosmosis 01 October 2012 05:23:30AM *  1 point [-]

You could analyze the way that people in the TV business think and talk about complexity, while assuming that they know what they're doing. He seemed to do a bit of this.

Comment author: Morendil 29 September 2012 04:50:20PM 8 points [-]

New ideas are sometimes found in the most granular details of a problem where few others bother to look. And they are sometimes found when you are doing your most abstract and philosophical thinking, considering why the world is the way that it is and whether there might be an alternative to the dominant paradigm. Rarely can they be found in the temperate latitudes between these two spaces, where we spend 99 percent of our lives.

-- Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise

Comment author: [deleted] 29 September 2012 10:03:14AM 3 points [-]

gravity does not need policemen to make things fall!

-- Iain McKay et al., An Anarchist FAQ, Sec. F.2.1

Comment author: [deleted] 29 September 2012 09:57:18AM *  10 points [-]

For a hundred years or so, mathematical statisticians have been in love with the fact that the probability distribution of the sum of a very large number of very small random deviations almost always converges to a normal distribution. ... This infatuation tended to focus interest away from the fact that, for real data, the normal distribution is often rather poorly realized, if it is realized at all. We are often taught, rather casually, that, on average, measurements will fall within ±σ of the true value 68% of the time, within ±2σ 95% of the time, and within ±3σ 99.7% of the time. Extending this, one would expect a measurement to be off by ±20σ only one time out of 2 × 10^88. We all know that “glitches” are much more likely than that!

-- W.H. Press et al., Numerical Recipes, Sec. 15.1

Comment author: ThirdOrderScientist 04 October 2012 06:23:30PM *  0 points [-]

I don't think it's fair to blame the mathematical statisticians. Any mathematical statistician worth his / her salt knows that the Central Limit Theorem applies to the sample mean of a collection of independent and identically distributed random variables, not to the random variables themselves. This, and the fact that the t-statistic converges in distribution to the normal distribution as the sample size increases, is the reason we apply any of this normal theory at all.

Press's comment applies more to those who use the statistics blindly, without understanding the underlying theory. Which, admittedly, can be blamed on those same mathematical statisticians who are teaching this very deep theory to undergraduates in an intro statistics class with a lot of (necessary at that level) hand-waving. If the statistics user doesn't understand that a random variable is a measurable function from its sample space to the real line, then he/she is unlikely to appreciate the finer points of the Central Limit Theorem. But that's because mathematical statistics is hard (i.e. requires non-trivial amounts of work to really grasp), not because the mathematical statisticians have done a disservice to science.

Comment author: Vaniver 28 September 2012 02:19:00AM 4 points [-]

I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.

-- G.K. Chesterton

Comment author: [deleted] 28 September 2012 07:54:42AM *  0 points [-]

But so does lukewarm water (which is also cheaper, and doesn't steam up the mirror in the bathroom).

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 27 September 2012 12:26:39AM 10 points [-]

As far as I know, Robespierre, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were indeed unusually incorruptible, and I do hate them for this trait.

Why? Because when your goal is mass murder, corruption saves lives. Corruption leads you to take the easy way out, to compromise, to go along to get along. Corruption isn't a poison that makes everything worse. It's a diluting agent like water. Corruption makes good policies less good, and evil policies less evil.

I've read thousands of pages about Hitler. I can't recall the slightest hint of "corruption" on his record. Like Robespierre, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, Hitler was a sincerely murderous fanatic. The same goes for many of history's leading villains - see Eric Hoffer's classic The True Believer. Sincerity is so overrated. If only these self-righteous monsters had been corrupt hypocrites, millions of their victims could have bargained and bribed their way out of hell.

-- Bryan Caplan

Comment author: MixedNuts 28 September 2012 09:17:49AM 3 points [-]

Hitler was at least a hypocrite - he got his Jewish friends to safety, and accepted same-sex relationships in himself and people he didn't want to kill yet. The kind of corruption Caplan is pointing at is a willingness to compromise with anyone who makes offers, not any kind of ignoring your principles. And Nazis were definitely against that - see the Duke in Jud Süß.

Comment author: Stuart_Armstrong 28 September 2012 10:01:43AM 4 points [-]

he got his Jewish friends to safety, and accepted same-sex relationships in himself and people he didn't want to kill yet


Please provide evidence for this bizarre claim?

Comment author: MixedNuts 28 September 2012 03:22:10PM 6 points [-]

Spared Jews:

  • Ernst Hess, his unit commander in WWI, protected until 1942 then sent to a labor (not extermination) camp
  • Eduard Bloch, his and his mother's doctor, allowed to emigrate out of Austria with more money than normally allowed
  • I've heard things about fellow artists (a commenter on Caplan's post mentions an art gallery owner) but I don't have a source.
  • There are claims about his cook, Marlene(?) Kunde, but he seems to have fired her when Himmler complained. Anyone has Musmanno's book or some other non-Stormfronty source?

Whether Hitler batted for both teams is hotly debated. There are suspected relationships (August Kubizek, Emil Maurice) but any evidence could as well have been faked to smear him.

Hitler clearly knew that Ernst Röhm and Edmund Heines were gay and didn't care until it was Long Knives time. I'm less sure he knew about Karl Ernst's sexuality.

Comment author: TimS 28 September 2012 02:13:12PM 5 points [-]

Wittgenstein paid a huge bribe to allow his family to leave Germany. Somewhere I read that this particular agreement was approve personally be Hitler (or someone very senior in the hierarchy).

That doesn't contradict the general point that Nazi Germany was generally willing to kill and steal from its victims (especially during the war) rather than accept bribes for escape.

Comment author: DanArmak 29 September 2012 07:26:24PM *  4 points [-]

Nazi Germany was generally willing to kill and steal from its victims (especially during the war) rather than accept bribes for escape.

This may have happened some of the time, but everything I read suggests it was the exception and not the rule.

The reason Jews did not emigrate out of Germany during the 30s was that Germany had a big foreign balance problem, and managed tight government control over allocation of foreign currency. Jews (and Germans) could not convert their Reichsmarks to any other currency, either in Germany or out of it, and so they were less willing to leave. And no other country was willing to take them in in large numbers (since they would be poor refugees). This continued during the war in the West European countries conquered by Germany. (Ref: Wages of Destruction, Adam Tooze)

Later, all Jewish property was expropriated and the Jews sent to camps, so there was no more room for bribes - the Jews had nothing to offer since the Nazis took what they wanted by force.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 28 September 2012 01:26:55PM 1 point [-]

The last bit is most famously true of Rohm, though of course there's a dozen different things going on there.

Comment author: shminux 27 September 2012 12:47:10AM 0 points [-]

If only these self-righteous monsters had been corrupt hypocrites, millions of their victims could have bargained and bribed their way out of hell.

That sums it up.

Comment author: Nornagest 28 September 2012 10:25:38AM *  3 points [-]

Bargains and bribes seem of questionable use when a power is willing and able to kill you and seize all your assets anyway. I suppose there's the odd Swiss bank account or successful smuggling case to deal with, or people willing to destroy their possessions rather than let them fall into the hands of a murderous authority, but I'd be surprised if any of these weren't fairly small minorities in the face of the total. We're certainly not talking millions.

Corruption at lower levels could have reduced the death toll of many famous genocides (in fact, I'd imagine it did), but at the level of Hitler or Pol Pot I can only see it helping if the bribes or bargains being offered are quite large and originate outside of the regions where the repression's taking place. Much like the present situation with North Korea, come to think of it.

Comment author: chaosmosis 24 September 2012 05:23:28PM -2 points [-]

Whatever its political, pedagogical, cultural content, the plan is always to get some meaning across, to keep the masses within reason; an imperative to produce meaning that takes the form of the constantly repeated imperative to moralise information to better inform, to better socialize, to raise the cultural level of the masses, etc. Nonsense: the masses scandalously resist this imperative of rational communication. They are giving meaning: they want spectacle.

Baudrillard, In the Shadow of Silent Majorities

Comment author: chaosmosis 27 September 2012 04:04:05PM *  -1 points [-]

I was curious why the Baudrillard comment was downvoted when it expresses the same idea as the Nietzsche comment, it just uses a different style and approaches the problem from a different direction. Ideas, anyone?

Comment author: bogus 27 September 2012 11:38:28PM *  2 points [-]

Well, I'm not even sure whether Boudrillard's quote is grammatically well-formed, so there's that. Then again, postmodernist texts tend to be imbued with near-poetical and mystical qualities. Much like Zen koans, they're more about exemplifying a particular mind-posture and way of thinking than they are about straightforward argumentation. I think it's unfair to expect LessWrongers to be familiar with such texts.

Comment author: chaosmosis 28 September 2012 02:57:16AM *  -1 points [-]

Oh. So this quote is difficult to read, then? More difficult than the Nietzsche one? I guess inferential gaps must be coming into play here. I'm having a difficult time trying to not-understand it, trying to emphasize with your viewpoint. I'm having a difficult time believing that you couldn't understand the quote, honestly.

I feel like you're generalizing too much about post modernism. I like lots of it, and don't think that it's mystical oriented. I would say rather that it packs a lot of information into a small amount of words through the clever use of words and through recurring concepts and subtle variations on those concepts.

Post modernism can be difficult to understand, but I don't think it is in this case, and I think that it's complexity is justified. Scientists use obscure terminology, but for a good purpose, generally. Some scientists use obscure terminology to hide the flaws in their ideas. I view post modern criticisms in almost exactly the same way - their complexity can be for both good and bad.

Also, Baudrillard is French. It might not be his fault if there's problems with the translated text.

Comment author: MixedNuts 28 September 2012 09:35:49AM 2 points [-]

Nope, I'm a native French speaker and my reaction to Baudrillard is "WTF?" and building a Markov Baudrillard quote generator to see if I can tell the difference.

Jargon is good. Vaguely defined jargon isn't bad - sometimes all you can do is say "sweet refers to the taste of sugar, if you don't know what that is I can't help you".

But structure shouldn't be completely unclear. Baudrillard has a lot of "X is Y" statements and very few "therefore"s. I can't tell what is a conclusion, what is an argument, what is a definition, or even whether there are anything but conclusions.

I've found some Baudrillard texts that clearly mean things, but they're not very good.

Comment author: chaosmosis 28 September 2012 01:04:47PM *  0 points [-]

Can you specify more about what parts of the quote are confusing?

Comment author: MixedNuts 28 September 2012 09:38:20PM 7 points [-]

This one isn't that bad. (For utter, words-don't-work-that-way confusion, see Debord. Or good ol' Hegel.)

Whatever its political, pedagogical, cultural content, the plan is always to get some meaning across,

That bit is straightforward.

to keep the masses within reason;

"The masses" has a standard denotation but various connotations. Freddy Nietzsche talks about enthusiastic young people, which is more specific.

What's "to keep within reason"? What this evokes is talking someone down, preventing outbursts. Applied to the masses, does he mean control - propaganda, opiate of the masses? The context suggests the opposite: to present a logical argument and try to convince audiences with it as the core of communication, more important than ethos and pathos and Cheetos.

an imperative to produce meaning that takes the form of the constantly repeated imperative to moralise information to better inform, to better socialize, to raise the cultural level of the masses, etc.


an imperative to produce meaning that takes the form of the constantly repeated imperative

Okay, "imperative" seems to mean what social justice types can "enforcement by shaming". If you don't talk like a Vulcan, whoever is producing those great media reform plans (pretentious elites?) will shame you.

to moralise information

Okay, so media becomes morally loaded: information good, fluff bad. Much like food is morally loaded: vegetables good, fat bad.

to better inform, to better socialize, to raise the cultural level of the masses, etc.

Examples! Hallelujah, hosanna in excelsis! So the media reformers want to make people better. If you say a thing and hearing it doesn't make listeners better, you're selling junk food.

Nonsense: the masses scandalously resist this imperative of rational communication.

That seems pretty clear too: logical arguments aren't what convinces people. Nietzsche says that too, but in a more specific context: recruiting for a cause.

They are giving meaning:

I assume this means: "the masses decide what they want to take from what they hear, and it's not logical argument, it's"

they want spectacle.

I'll grant that "spectacle" is a totally precise and useful term of art that people clearly define whenever I'm out of earshot. But if he's saying what Fred says, he doesn't need the jargon; it's not a rare concept.

Freddypants is saying "If you want a young, energetic, status-seeking enthusiast to be enthusiastic about your cause, don't bother calmly explaining why your cause is good. Instead, make it look awesome and promise exciting heroics.". (Which he what he does in Zarathustra, and it worked on me but I already agreed.) Baudrillard appears to be saying "If you want to convince people, calm explanations won't work.".

Comment author: chaosmosis 28 September 2012 10:18:14PM *  1 point [-]

Okay, thank you.

I agree that Hegel is ridiculously opaque, too.

Comment author: bogus 28 September 2012 03:11:55AM *  3 points [-]

I'm using "mystical" in a rather specialized sense, actually. What I mean is that postmodernist texts seem to eschew straightforward arguments - instead they use rhetorical and poetical patterns in a functional way, to inspire a specific mental stance in the reader. This mental stance might be quite simply described as "emptying the teacup", i.e. questioning and letting go of the "cached thoughts" which comprise one's current understanding of reality and culture. This mental stance happens to be remarkably useful in textual criticism and social science, where one often has to come to terms with (and perhaps reconstruct, at least partially) cultures which are far apart from one's own, so that a "filled cup" would be a significant hindrance.

Oh, and yes, I had quite a bit of trouble with trying to understand the Beaudrillard quote, although I did grok the gist of it, and I also got the similarity wrt. the Nietzsche one. But I'd say that grammar is clearer in Nietzsche's quote, and even his rhetoric seems more direct and to the point here.

Comment author: chaosmosis 28 September 2012 03:34:38AM 0 points [-]

Okay, gotcha. Thanks.

Comment author: [deleted] 27 September 2012 04:34:15PM 1 point [-]

Priming? Beaudrillard is associated with humanities, pomo and academic philosophy; Nietzche is associated with atheism, contrarianism and the idea of the ubermensch. The comment doesn't seem to be very strongly downvoted; possibly you're just dealing with detractors here (I daresay LW has more fans of the latter than of the former).

Comment author: chaosmosis 27 September 2012 04:45:25PM 0 points [-]

This was roughly my thought as well. I thought there might also have been more substantive differences though and I was curious what those might be. The only thing I could see is that Baudrillard's quote had a tone that's more critical of the masses and the way they do politics, and that Baudrillard's quote could be misread as an injunction to stop trying to make people rational (which it's not).

Comment author: chaosmosis 24 September 2012 05:23:01PM 2 points [-]

When one considers how ready are the forces of young men for discharge, one does not wonder at seeing them decide so uncritically and with so little selection for this or that cause: that which attracts them is the sight of eagerness for a cause, as it were the sight of the burning match not the cause itself. The more ingenious seducers on that account operate by holding out the prospect of an explosion to such persons, and do not urge their cause by means of reasons; these powder-barrels are not won over by means of reasons!

Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 24 September 2012 02:35:06PM *  3 points [-]

“You define yourself by what offends you. You define yourself by what outrages you.”

Salman Rushdie, explaining identity politics

Comment author: chaosmosis 24 September 2012 05:20:16PM 1 point [-]

I think "identity politics" is a term of art which covers things other than that which aren't bad, like minority struggles.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 24 September 2012 07:09:57PM 1 point [-]

You've got a point, and it's one that gets into hard issues. It can be quite hard for some people to decide whether they're being unfairly mistreated and to act on it, and the people for whom the decision is easy aren't necessarily sensible. Emotions are not a reliable tool for telling whether acting on a feeling of being unfairly mistreated makes sense.

How do you tell to what extent is a particular instance of people feeling outraged them just getting worked up for the fun of it over something they should endure, and to what extent are they building up enough allies and emotional energy to deal with a problem which (by utilitarian standards?) needs to be dealt with?

Comment author: chaosmosis 24 September 2012 10:24:59PM *  1 point [-]

I don't know how to tell legitimate movements from illegitimate ones, but the term of art "identity politics" refers to both. ID politics is a specific kind of political advocacy, and there are both good ID politics arguments and bad ones. You'd probably just have to investigate the claims they're making on a case by case basis.

But, I wasn't trying to interrogate whether defining yourself by outrage can be good in some instances, I was trying to point out that the term "ID politics" refers to things outside of defining yourself in relation to outrage. Maybe I just misinterpreted what you were saying, but I thought your comment unintentionally hinted that you were unaware the phrase is a specific term of art. There are many types of identity politics that aren't about outrage or opposition.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 24 September 2012 11:45:16PM 3 points [-]

You're quite right, I didn't know about it as a term of art.

I suppose I've mostly heard about the outrage variety of identity politics-- it tends to be more conspicuous.

Comment author: lukeprog 22 September 2012 01:28:25PM 16 points [-]

The problem with any ideology is that it gives the answer before you look at the evidence.

Bill Clinton

Comment author: katydee 22 September 2012 12:13:11AM 6 points [-]

A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself.

Marcus Aurelius

Comment author: simplicio 22 September 2012 12:40:27AM 3 points [-]

Meh, there are worse things to be than a mean man.

Comment author: MinibearRex 24 September 2012 01:12:42AM 3 points [-]

There are considerably more worse things to be than a noble one.

Comment author: simplicio 21 September 2012 10:50:15PM 6 points [-]

But since miracles were produced according to the capacity of the common people who were completely ignorant of the principles of natural things, plainly the ancients took for a miracle whatever they were unable to explain in the manner the common people normally explained natural things, namely by seeking to recall something similar which can be imagined without amazement. For the common people suppose they have satisfactorily explained something as soon as it no longer astounds them.

(Baruch Spinoza)

Comment author: OnTheOtherHandle 19 September 2012 05:24:59AM 11 points [-]

Let us together seek, if you wish, the laws of society, the manner in which these laws are reached, the process by which we shall succeed in discovering them; but, for God's sake, after having demolished all the a priori dogmatisms, do not let us in our turn dream of indoctrinating the people...let us not - simply because we are at the head of a movement - make ourselves into the new leaders of intolerance, let us not pose as the apostles of a new religion, even if it be the religion of logic, the religion of reason.

Pierre Proudhon, to Karl Marx

Comment author: shminux 19 September 2012 04:52:15AM 3 points [-]

More from Scott Adams:

It turns out that the historical data is more like a Rorschach test. One economist can look at the data and see a bunny rabbit while another sees a giraffe. You and I haven't studied the raw data ourselves, and we probably aren't qualified anyway, so we are forced to make our decisions based on the credibility of economists. And seriously, who has less credibility than economists? Chiropractors and astrologists come close.

Comment author: shminux 17 September 2012 10:32:40PM 4 points [-]

I cannot tell if this is rationality or anti-rationality:

Q: What is Microsoft's plan if Windows 8 doesn't take off?

A: You know, Windows 8 is going to do great.

Q: No doubt at all?

A: I'm not paid to have doubts. (Laughs.) I don't have any. It's a fantastic product. ...

Steve Ballmer

Comment author: Desrtopa 17 September 2012 10:36:04PM 14 points [-]

I'd saying telling an interviewer you have sufficient confidence in your product to not need a backup plan is rational, actually not having one isn't.

Comment author: shminux 17 September 2012 11:02:53PM *  6 points [-]

See, if instead of "I'm not paid to have doubts." he said "I am paid to address all doubts before a product is released", that would have made more sense.

Comment author: gwern 17 September 2012 10:52:49PM 7 points [-]

I'm reminded of a quote in Lords of Finance (which I finished yesterday) which went something like 'Only a fool asks a central banker about the currency and expects an honest answer'. Since confidence is what keeps banks and currencies going...

Comment author: chaosmosis 17 September 2012 10:48:43PM *  3 points [-]

I'm not paid to have doubts. (Laughs.) I don't have any.

This comes across as inauthentic and slightly scared to me. At best, he's not great at PR. At worst, he doesn't have any back up plan. So that would support calling it irrationality.

telling an interviewer you have sufficient confidence in your product to not need a backup plan is rational

Well. I was thinking about it, and it seems like not having a backup plan is the kind of thing that would send bad signals to investors and whatnot. It's not clear to me that he's better off doing this than explaining how Microsoft is a fantastically professional company that's innovating and reaching into new frontiers, etc.

actually not having one isn't

I don't know specifically what alternate products would potentially be good ideas for them though. I agree that backup plans are good in general but I don't know if they're good for Microsoft specifically, based on the resources they have. Windows is kind of their thing, I don't know if they could execute on anything else.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2012 05:43:03PM 14 points [-]

I've always thought of the SkiFree monster as a metaphor for the inevitability of death.

"SkiFree, huh? You know, you can press 'F' to go faster than the monster and escape."

-- xkcd 667

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 17 September 2012 05:25:47AM 6 points [-]

For nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident (literally, known through itself) or known by experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture.

-William of Ockham

Comment author: wedrifid 17 September 2012 06:11:51AM 2 points [-]

This is an interesting quote for historical reasons but it is not a rationality quote.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 17 September 2012 10:18:42AM 3 points [-]

It makes a very important reply to anyone who claims that e.g. you should stick with Occam's original Razor and not try to rephrase it in terms of Solomonoff Induction because SI is more complicated.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 17 September 2012 10:57:05AM 1 point [-]

Humans and their silly ideas of what's complicated or not.

What I find ironic is that SI can be converted into a similarly terse commandment. "Shorter computable theories have more weight when calculating the probability of the next observation, using all computable theories which perfectly describe previous observations" -- Wikipedia.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 17 September 2012 07:39:00AM 3 points [-]

I read this as a reminder not to add anything to that map that won't help you navigate the territory. How is this not a rationality quote? Are you rejecting it merely because of the third disjunct?

Comment author: wedrifid 17 September 2012 08:18:38AM *  2 points [-]

I read this as a reminder not to add anything to that map that won't help you navigate the territory.

The quote doesn't say that, this is (only) a fact about your reading.

How is this not a rationality quote? Are you rejecting it merely because of the third disjunct?

I'm not especially impressed with the first two either, nor the claim to be exhaustive (thus excluding other valid evidence). It basically has very little going for it. It is bad epistemic advice. It is one of many quotes which require abandoning most of the content and imagining other content that would actually be valid. I reject it as I reject all such examples.

Comment author: Alicorn 16 September 2012 10:31:22PM 7 points [-]

Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow if tomorrow might improve the odds.

— Robert A. Heinlein

Comment author: Legolan 17 September 2012 12:38:11AM 4 points [-]

I think that quote is much too broad with the modifier "might." If you should procrastinate based on a possibility of improved odds, I doubt you would ever do anything. At least a reasonable degree of probability should be required.

Not to mention that the natural inclination of most people toward procrastination means that they should be distrustful of feelings that delaying will be beneficial; it's entirely likely that they are misjudging how likely the improvement really is.

That's not, of course, to say that we should always do everything as soon as possible, but I think that to the extent that we read the plain meaning from this quote, it's significantly over-broad and not particularly helpful.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2012 12:50:52AM 2 points [-]

There's also natural inclinations towards haste and impatience. (They probably mostly crop up around different things / in different people than procrastinatory urges, but the quote is not specific about what it is you could put off.)

Comment author: RobinZ 17 September 2012 01:21:20AM 2 points [-]

I'm reminded of the saying, "A weed is just a plant in the wrong place." Different people require different improvements to their strategies.

Comment author: Legolan 17 September 2012 01:20:31AM 2 points [-]

That's certainly a fair point.

I suppose it's primarily important to know what your own inclinations are (and how they differ in different areas) and then try to adjust accordingly.

Comment author: MixedNuts 16 September 2012 10:59:38PM 2 points [-]

Do it today, and fix/retry tomorrow on failure?

Comment author: Alicorn 16 September 2012 11:37:04PM 1 point [-]

Perhaps it's a one-time thing.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 16 September 2012 06:10:49PM 12 points [-]

When a precise, narrowly focused technical idea becomes metaphor and sprawls globally, its credibility must be earned afresh locally by means of specific evidence demonstrating the relevance and explanatory power of the idea in its new application.

Edward Tufte, "Beautiful Evidence"

Comment author: simplicio 17 September 2012 02:46:46AM *  3 points [-]
  • Evolution
  • Relativity
  • Foundational assumptions of standard economics

...what else?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 20 September 2012 11:08:00AM 4 points [-]
  • Bayes' theorem
  • Status
  • Computation
  • Utility
  • Optimisation
Comment author: benelliott 18 September 2012 07:13:33PM 2 points [-]

Quantum physics

Comment author: lukeprog 16 September 2012 08:48:32AM -1 points [-]

What you understand, you can command, and that is power enough to walk on the Moon.

Harry Potter, in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky

Comment author: DanArmak 29 September 2012 07:33:54PM *  3 points [-]

What you understand, you can command, and that is power enough to walk on the Moon.

I understand people. Imperius! People, I command you to build me a moon rocket!

-- Draco

Comment author: faul_sname 01 October 2012 01:31:20AM 1 point [-]

...That might actually work, as long as he understands which people to Imperius.

Comment author: David_Gerard 16 September 2012 09:08:01AM 4 points [-]

That arguably counts as LW/OB.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2012 10:13:52AM *  1 point [-]

That arguably counts as LW/OB.

It is arguably a lot more affiliated to LW than OB is. (We successfully got OB removed from the no-quote list at some stage. Unfortunately someone reverted it.)

Comment author: lukeprog 16 September 2012 09:21:43AM 4 points [-]

If HPMoR isn't allowed, that should be specified in the rules.

Comment author: David_Gerard 17 September 2012 12:12:20PM -1 points [-]

I mean that it's a nice quote, but I suspect that's the reason for the downvotes.

Comment author: wedrifid 17 September 2012 04:12:23PM *  3 points [-]

I'm not overly impressed with the quote either. Sometimes you can understand things and still not command them. Sometimes you just lose and all understanding you can get will just tell you to go do something else that you can control.

Comment deleted 16 September 2012 08:41:06AM *  [-]
Comment author: MixedNuts 16 September 2012 09:14:20AM 2 points [-]

That would be much more convincing coming from literally anyone other than Kanazawa. It takes very little charity to interpret his critics as saying, not "Your theories are inherently racist" but "Your theories are only some of many compatible with your findings; you are privileging them because you are biased in favor of hypotheses that postulate certain races naturally do worse than others".

I don't know what to learn from the quote. It's literally true, but it's also clearly unhelpful, since Kanazawa writes this while following non-truth-seeking algorithms. Maybe the moral is "If someone calls you a mean name, address the content of the criticism and not whether the mean name applies", or maybe "Don't be a giant flaming hypocrite".

Comment author: [deleted] 16 September 2012 09:48:45AM *  1 point [-]

That would be much more convincing coming from literally anyone other than Kanazawa.

He isn't a great scientist in my mind since he seems to often just lazily reverse stupidity, but it was a good quote.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 September 2012 05:58:02PM *  11 points [-]
The Perfect Way is only difficult
for those who pick and choose;
Do not like, do not dislike;
all will then be clear.
Make a hairbreadth difference,
and Heaven and Earth are set apart;
if you want the truth to stand clear before you,
never be for or against.
The struggle between "for" and "against"
is the mind's worst disease.

-- Jianzhi Sengcan

Edit: Since I'm not Will Newsome (yet!) I will clarify. There are several useful points in this but I think the key one is the virtue of keeping one's identity small. Speaking it out loud is a sort of primer, meditation or prayer before approaching difficult or emotional subjects has for me proven a useful ritual for avoiding motivated cognition.

Comment author: Emile 16 September 2012 07:29:58PM *  3 points [-]

For the curious, it's the opening of 信心铭 (Xinxin Ming), whose authorship is disputed (probably not the zen patriarch Jiangzhi Sengcan). In Chinese, that part goes:


(The Wikipedia article lists a few alternate translations of the first verses, with different meanings)

Comment author: TimS 16 September 2012 02:31:30AM 0 points [-]

Do I understand you to be saying that you avoid "the struggle between 'for' and 'against'" to an unusual degree compared to the average person? Compared to the average LWer?

Comment author: [deleted] 16 September 2012 06:30:53AM *  6 points [-]

No. I'm claiming this helps me avoid it more than I otherwise could. Much for the same reason I try as hard as I can to maintain an apolitical identity. From my personal experience (mere anecdotal evidence) both improve my thinking.

Comment author: TimS 16 September 2012 04:04:26PM 1 point [-]

Respectfully, your success at being apolitical is poor.

Further, I disagree with the quote to extent that it implies that taking strong positions is never appropriate. So I'm not sure that your goal of being "apolitical" is a good goal.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 September 2012 05:49:46PM *  4 points [-]

Since we've already had exchanges on how I use "being apolitical", could you please clarify your feedback. Are you saying I display motivated cognition when it comes to politically charged subjects or behave tribally in discussions? Or are you just saying I adopt stances that are associated with certain political clusters on the site?

Also like I said it is something I struggle with.

Comment author: TimS 16 September 2012 08:37:13PM *  3 points [-]

My impression that you are unusually NOT-mindkilled compared to the average person with political positions/terminal values as far from the "mainstream" as your positions are.

You seem extremely sensitive to the facts and the nuances of opposing positions.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 September 2012 10:19:45PM *  4 points [-]

Now I feel embarrassed by such flattery. But if you think this an accurate description then perhaps me trying evicting "the struggle between 'for' and 'against'" from my brain might have something to do with it?

Respectfully, your success at being apolitical is poor.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by this then. Let's taboo apolitical. To rephrase my original statement: "I try as hard as I can to maintain an identity, a self-conception that doesn't include political tribal affiliations."

Comment author: TimS 16 September 2012 10:49:23PM 3 points [-]

You certainly seem to have succeeded in maintaining a self-identity that does not include a partisan political affiliation. I don't know whether you consider yourself Moldbuggian (a political identity) or simply think Moldbug's ideas are very interesting. (someday, we should hash out better what interests you in Moldbug).

My point when I've challenged your self-label "apolitical" is that you've sometime used the label to suggest that you don't have preferences about how society should be changed to better reflect how you think it should be organized. At the very least, there's been some ambiguity in your usage.

There's nothing wrong with having opinions and advocating for particular social changes. But sometimes you act like you aren't doing that, which I think is empirically false.

Comment author: simplicio 16 September 2012 04:40:55PM 3 points [-]

I disagree with the quote too. On the other hand, the idea of keeping one's identity small is not the same as being apolitical. It means you have opinions on political issues, but you keep them out of your self-definition so that (a) changing those opinions is relatively painless, (b) their correlations with other opinions don't influence you as much.

(Caricatured example of the latter: "I think public health care is a good idea. That's a liberal position, so I must be a liberal. What do I think about building more nuclear plants, you ask? It appears liberals are against nuclear power, so since I am a liberal I guess I am also against nuclear power.")

Comment author: TimS 16 September 2012 08:45:11PM 1 point [-]

I agree with everything you just said - keeping one's identity small does not imply that one cannot be extremely active trying to create some kind of social/political change.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 September 2012 04:37:23PM *  1 point [-]

I understand how a position can be correct or incorrect. I don't understand how a position can be strong or weak.

Comment author: TimS 16 September 2012 08:40:42PM 1 point [-]

As I was using the term, "strong" is a measure of how far one's political positions/terminal values are from the "mainstream."

I'm very aware that distance from mainstream is not particularly good evidence of the correctness of one's political positions/terminal values.

Comment author: Vaniver 16 September 2012 05:10:06PM 5 points [-]

In a world of uncertainty, numbers between 0 and 1 find quite a bit of use.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 September 2012 05:26:08PM 2 points [-]

I understand what it means to believe that an outcome will occur with probability p. I don't know what it means to believe this very strongly.

Comment author: PhilosophyTutor 26 September 2012 02:22:46PM 0 points [-]

A possible interpretation is that the "strength" of a belief reflects the importance one attaches to acting upon that belief. Two people might both believe with 99% confidence that a new nuclear power plant is a bad idea, yet one of the two might go to a protest about the power plant and the other might not, and you might try to express what is going on there by saying that one holds that belief strongly and the other weakly.

You could of course also try to express it in terms of the two people's confidence in related propositions like "protests are effective" or "I am the sort of person who goes to protests". In that case strength would be referring to the existence or nonexistence of related beliefs which together are likely to be action-driving.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 27 September 2012 12:21:58AM 0 points [-]

They might also differ in just how bad an idea they think it is.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2012 05:52:40PM *  8 points [-]

I understand what it means to believe that an outcome will occur with probability p. I don't know what it means to believe this very strongly.

It means that many kinds of observation that you could make will tend to cause you to update that probability less.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 September 2012 06:28:53PM 2 points [-]

E.T. Jaynes' Probability Theory goes into some detail about that in the chapter about what he calls the A_p distribution.

Comment author: Vaniver 16 September 2012 06:08:10PM 5 points [-]

Concretely: Beta(1,2) and Beta(400,800) have the same mean.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 September 2012 06:41:45PM *  2 points [-]

I don't understand K to be arguing in favor of high-entropy priors, or T to be arguing in favor of low-entropy priors. My guess is that TimS would call a position a "strong position" if it was accompanied by some kind of political activism.

Comment author: Vaniver 16 September 2012 02:48:11AM 3 points [-]

Do I understand you to be saying that you avoid "the struggle between 'for' and 'against'" to an unusual degree compared to the average person? Compared to the average LWer?

The claim looks narrower: repeating the poem makes Konkvistador more likely to avoid the struggle.

Comment author: TimS 16 September 2012 04:31:03AM -1 points [-]

I like his contributions, but Konkvistador is not avoiding the struggle, when compared to the average LWer.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 September 2012 06:30:17AM *  5 points [-]

Sick people for some reason use up more medicine and may end up talking a lot about various kind of treatments.

Comment author: J_Taylor 15 September 2012 06:24:11PM *  1 point [-]

Case in point:

I cannot - yet I must. How do you calculate that? At what point on the graph do "must" and "cannot" meet? Yet I must - but I cannot!

-- Ro-Man

Comment author: MixedNuts 15 September 2012 06:13:14PM 0 points [-]

I don't get it. Is this saying "Don't be prejudiced or push for any overarching principle; take each situation as new and unknown, and then you'll find easily the appropriate response to this situation", or is this the same old stoicist "Don't struggle trying to find food, choose to be indifferent to starvation" platitude?

Comment author: [deleted] 15 September 2012 06:32:52PM *  0 points [-]

Edited in a clarification. Though it will not help you since I have shown you the path you can not find it yourself. Sorry couldn't resist teasing or am I? :P

Comment author: DanArmak 15 September 2012 06:04:12PM 0 points [-]

Struggle not "against" paperclips; it is the mind's worst disease.

-- 21st c. AI Clippy

Comment author: lukeprog 15 September 2012 07:56:22AM 6 points [-]

You don’t have to know all the answers, you just need to know where to find them.

Albert Einstein (maybe)

Cf. this and this.

Comment author: allandong 14 September 2012 07:30:46PM 3 points [-]

Warning: Your milage may vary.

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." -George Bernard Shaw

Comment author: RobinZ 15 September 2012 03:25:12AM 2 points [-]

Sadly, duplicate.

Comment author: pragmatist 14 September 2012 02:34:36PM *  4 points [-]

If I say of myself that it is only from my own case that I know what the word "pain" means -- must I not say the same of other people too? And how can I generalize the one case so irresponsibly?

Now someone tells me that he knows what pain is only from his own case! Suppose everyone had a box with something in it: we call it a "beetle". No one can look into anyone else's box, and everyone says he knows what a beetle is only by looking at his beetle. -- Here it would be quite possible for everyone to have something different in his box. One might even imagine such a thing constantly changing. -- But suppose the word "beetle" had a use in these people's language? -- If so it would not be used as the name of a thing. The thing in the box has no place in the language-game at all; not even as a something: for the box might even be empty. -- No, one can 'divide through' by the thing in the box; it cancels out, whatever it is.

That is to say: if we construe the grammar of the expression of sensation on the model of 'object and designation' the object drops out of consideration as irrelevant.

-- Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

Comment author: [deleted] 14 September 2012 10:48:16AM 8 points [-]

the fact that ordinary people can band together and produce new knowledge within a few months is anything but a trifle

-- Dienekes Pontikos, Citizen Genetics

Comment author: RomanDavis 14 September 2012 07:54:13AM 6 points [-]

Users always have an idea that what they want is easy, even if they can't really articulate exactly what they do want. Even if they can give you requirements, chances are those will conflict – often in subtle ways – with requirements of others. A lot of the time, we wouldn't even think of these problems as "requirements" – they're just things that everyone expects to work in "the obvious way". The trouble is that humanity has come up with all kinds of entirely different "obvious ways" of doing things. Mankind's model of the universe is a surprisingly complicated one.

Jon Skeet

Comment author: taelor 14 September 2012 07:16:44AM *  18 points [-]

Oh, right, Senjōgahara. I've got a great story to tell you. It's about that man who tried to rape you way back when. He was hit by a car and died in a place with no connection to you, in an event with no connection to you. Without any drama at all. [...] That's the lesson for you here: You shouldn't expect your life to be like the theater.

-- Kaiki Deishū, Episode 7 of Nisemonogatari.

Comment author: shminux 13 September 2012 10:50:21PM *  3 points [-]

I'll risk a bit of US politics, just because I like the quote:

While some observers might find his lack of philosophical consistency a problem, I see it as a plus. He's a pragmatist. If he were running for the job of Satan he would say he's in favor of evil, at least until he got the job and installed central air conditioning in Hell. To put it more bluntly, it's not his fault that so many citizens are idiots and he has to lie to them just to become a useful public servant.

Scott Adams on one of the two presidential candidates being skilled at the art of winning (with some liberal use of dark arts).

Comment author: chaosmosis 13 September 2012 04:07:35PM *  4 points [-]

All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher.

Ambrose Bierce

Comment author: katydee 13 September 2012 05:07:40AM *  15 points [-]

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.

Ernest Hemingway

Comment author: wedrifid 13 September 2012 08:37:48AM 7 points [-]

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.

Excellent. A shortcut to nobility. One day of being as despicable as I can practically manage and I'm all set.

Comment author: WingedViper 19 September 2012 04:54:11PM *  3 points [-]

It does not state which (!) former self, so I would expect some sort of median or mean or summary of your former self and not just the last day. So I'm sorry but there is no shortcut ;-)

Comment author: komponisto 13 September 2012 11:48:33AM 0 points [-]

Indeed: if you were to be ignoble one day and normal the next, then your nobility would have gone up significantly.

Comment author: mfb 12 September 2012 07:35:22PM *  5 points [-]

All the world's major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.

Tenzin Gyatso, 14. Dalai Lama

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 12 September 2012 07:52:24PM 5 points [-]

That's intriguing, but it also sounds like a case of non-apples.

Comment author: mfb 15 September 2012 02:09:41PM 4 points [-]

Well, it is a necessary step to find other fruits.

Comment author: katydee 12 September 2012 12:11:49AM 3 points [-]

A scientist, like a warrior, must cherish no view. A 'view' is the outcome of intellectual processes, whereas creativity, like swordsmanship, requires not neutrality, or indifference, but to be of no mind whatsoever.

Buckaroo Banzai

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 September 2012 12:52:23AM 5 points [-]





Comment author: [deleted] 12 September 2012 01:56:09PM 2 points [-]


Comment author: katydee 12 September 2012 01:33:57AM *  1 point [-]

I'll take the new -5 karma hit to point out that this comment shouldn't be downvoted. It is an interesting critique of the post it replies to.

Comment author: TimS 12 September 2012 02:33:33PM 2 points [-]


Comment author: [deleted] 12 September 2012 01:56:46PM 2 points [-]

Probably it would be even more interesting if I could understand it.

Comment author: katydee 12 September 2012 02:20:50PM 15 points [-]

Eliezer posted a comment that's essentially devoid of content. This satirizes the original quote's claim that one should be of "no mind whatsoever" by illustrating that mindlessness isn't particularly useful-- a truly mindless individual (like that portrayed in the comment) would have no useful contributions to make.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 02 October 2012 05:53:33AM 1 point [-]

"No mind" is ordinary mind.

Comment author: [deleted] 12 September 2012 04:10:14PM *  3 points [-]

That went completely over my head. (I guessed he was alluding to some concept whose name began with “dur”, but I couldn't think of any relevant one.)

Comment author: bbleeker 18 September 2012 01:39:10PM 0 points [-]

I interpreted 'mind' as 'opinion', so I didn't get it either.

Comment author: gwern 12 September 2012 01:38:11AM *  5 points [-]

How is it a critique? The quote is an adequate expression of Eliezer's own third virtue of rationality, and I daresay if anyone had responded as uncharitably as that to his "Twelve Virtues", he would have considered 'dur' to be an adequate summary of that person's intellect.

Comment author: thomblake 12 September 2012 01:36:25PM 2 points [-]

How is it uncharitable? Eliezer is emptying his mind as recommended by Doctor Banzai. Not sure how it's a "critique" though.

Comment author: RomanDavis 14 September 2012 07:55:32AM *  1 point [-]
Comment author: Vaniver 12 September 2012 01:44:20AM *  6 points [-]

The critique is of the phrase "but to be of no mind whatsoever."

The uncharitable interpretation is that something without a mind is a rock; the charitable interpretation is to take "mind" as "opinion."

I ended up downvoting the criticism because it doesn't apply to the substance of the quote, but to its word choice, and is itself not as clear as it could be.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 12 September 2012 03:22:21PM 0 points [-]

the charitable interpretation is to take "mind" as "opinion."

My interpretation was that it was advising system 1 rather than system 2 reasoning, thus no mind being no explicit thoughts.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 September 2012 01:43:50PM 16 points [-]

The criticism is that a martial artist or scientist is actually trying to attain a highly specific brain-state in which neurons have particular patterns in them; a feeling of emptiness, even if part of this brain state, is itself a neural pattern and certainly does not correspond to the absence of a mind.

The zeroth virtue or void - insofar as we believe in it - corresponds to particular mode of thinking; it's certainly not an absence of mind. Emptiness, no-mind, the Void of Musashi, all these things are modes of thinking, not the absence of any sort of reified spiritual substance. See also the fallacy of the ideal ghost of perfect emptiness in philosophy.

Comment author: robertskmiles 18 September 2012 06:09:02PM 1 point [-]

Cf. Mushin

Comment author: Vaniver 12 September 2012 02:48:11PM 9 points [-]

And this critique I upvoted, because it is both clear and a valuable point. I still think you're using an uncharitable definition of the word "mind," but as assuming charity could lead to illusions of transparency it's valuable to have high standards for quotes.

Comment author: [deleted] 12 September 2012 01:52:42PM *  1 point [-]

See also the fallacy of the ideal ghost of perfect emptiness in philosophy.

You've mentioned this before, and I don't really know where it comes from. Do you have any specific philosopher or text in mind, or is this just a habit your perceive in philosophical argument? If so, in whose argument? Professional or historical or amateur philosophers?

Aside from some early-modern empiricists, and maybe Stoicism, I can't think of anything.

Comment author: Fyrius 12 September 2012 01:27:28PM 7 points [-]

I'm amazed how you guys manage to get all that from "dur". My communication skills must be worse than I thought.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 13 September 2012 03:23:09AM 0 points [-]

Context helps.

Comment author: katydee 12 September 2012 05:04:15AM 4 points [-]

I agree that the response was not particularly charitable, but it's nevertheless generally a type of post that I would like to see more of on LessWrong-- I think that style of reply can be desirable and funny. See also this comment.

Comment author: aqace 11 September 2012 08:52:01PM 0 points [-]

Memories can be vile, repulsive little brutes. Like children, I suppose. haha.

But can we live without them? Memories are what our reason is based upon, if we can't face them, we deny reason itself! Although, why not? We aren't contractually tied down to rationality!

There is no sanity clause!

-The Joker, A Killing Joke

Comment author: MixedNuts 11 September 2012 09:11:53PM 0 points [-]

Obsoleted by sticky notes.

Comment author: mrglwrf 11 September 2012 07:00:03PM 18 points [-]

You know those people who say "you can use numbers to show anything" and "numbers lie" and "I don't trust numbers, don't give me numbers, God, anything but numbers"? These are the very same people who use numbers in the wrong way.


Comment author: juliawise 11 September 2012 06:42:31PM *  8 points [-]

This is my home, the country where my heart is;

Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.

But other hearts in other lands are beating,

With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,

And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.

But other lands have sunlight too and clover,

And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.

-Lloyd Stone

Comment author: V_V 11 September 2012 07:27:14PM 5 points [-]

And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.

obviously he never visited the British Isles :D

Comment author: Alicorn 11 September 2012 07:18:38PM 3 points [-]

Duplicate, please delete the other.

Comment author: RobinZ 11 September 2012 06:30:18PM 8 points [-]

Intelligence about baseball had become equated in the public mind with the ability to recite arcane baseball stats. What [Bill] James's wider audience had failed to understand was that the statistics were beside the point. The point was understanding; the point was to make life on earth just a bit more intelligible; and that point, somehow, had been lost. "I wonder," James wrote, "if we haven't become so numbed by all these numbers that we are no longer capable of truly assimilating any knowledge which might result from them."

Michael Lewis, Moneyball, ch. 4 ("Field of Ignorance")

Comment author: Athrelon 11 September 2012 03:50:48PM *  7 points [-]

The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention of men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic...Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of the mere "understanding". Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritansm; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.

CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Comment author: JQuinton 11 September 2012 02:01:34PM 20 points [-]

"If your plan is for one year plant rice. If your plan is for 10 years plant trees. If your plan is for 100 years educate children" - Confucius

Comment author: Sarokrae 18 September 2012 05:49:06AM 7 points [-]

...If your plan is for eternity, invent FAI?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 18 September 2012 01:53:02PM 2 points [-]

Depends how you interpret the proverb. If you told me the Earth would last a hundred years, it would increase the immediate priority of CFAR and decrease that of SIAI. It's a moot point since the Earth won't last a hundred years.

Comment author: [deleted] 18 September 2012 01:57:50PM 5 points [-]

Sorry, Earth won't last a hundred years?

Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 18 September 2012 11:04:28PM 3 points [-]

The idea seems to be that even if there is a friendly singularity, Earth will be turned into computronium or otherwise transformed.

Comment author: [deleted] 18 September 2012 05:32:25PM 0 points [-]

I guess he means “only last a hundred years”, not “last at least a hundred years”.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 18 September 2012 05:42:46PM 0 points [-]

Just to make sure I understand: you interpret EY to be saying that the Earth will last more than a hundred years, not saying that the Earth will fail to last more than a hundred years. Yes?

If so, can you clarify how you arrive at that interpretation?

Comment author: [deleted] 18 September 2012 05:50:15PM *  0 points [-]

“If you told me the Earth would only last a hundred years (i.e. won't last longer than that) .... It's a moot point since the Earth won't only last a hundred year (i.e. it will last longer).” At least that's what I got on the first reading.

I think I could kind-of make sense “it would increase the immediate priority of CFAR and decrease that of SIAI” under either hypothesis about what he means, though one interpretation would need to be more strained than the other.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 18 September 2012 05:58:35PM *  4 points [-]

The idea is that if Earth lasts at least a hundred years, (if that's a given), then the possibility of a uFAI in that timespan severely decreases -- so SIAI (which seeks to prevent a uFAI by building a FAI) is less of an immediate priority and it becomes a higher priority to develop CFAR that will increase the public's rationality for the future generations, so that the future generations don't launch a uFAI.

Comment author: [deleted] 18 September 2012 06:10:11PM *  0 points [-]

(The other interpretation would be “If the Earth is going to only last a hundred years, then there's not much point in trying to make a FAI since in the long-term we're screwed anyway, and raising the sanity waterline will make us enjoy more what time there is left.)

EDIT: Also, if your interpretation is correct, by saying that the Earth won't last 100 years he's either admitting defeat (i.e. saying that an uFAI will be built) or saying that even a FAI would destroy the Earth within 100 years (which sounds unlikely to me -- even if the CEV of humanity would eventually want to do that, I guess it would take more than 100 years to terraform another place for us to live and for us all to move there).

Comment author: Decius 26 September 2012 05:48:45PM 0 points [-]

So, we can construct an argument that CFAR would rise in relative importance over SIAIif we see strong evidence the world as we know it will end within 100 years, and an argument with the same conclusion if we see strong evidence that the world as we know it will last for at least 100 years.

There is something wrong.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 September 2012 03:14:24PM 3 points [-]

I was just using "Earth" as a synonym for "the world as we know it".

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 18 September 2012 07:32:58PM 1 point [-]

Also, if your interpretation is correct, by saying that the Earth won't last 100 years he's either admitting defeat (i.e. saying that an uFAI will be built

EY does seem in a darker mood than usual lately, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him implying pessimism about our chances out loud, even if it doesn't go so far as "admitting defeat". I do hope it's just a mood, rather than that he has rationally updated his estimation of our chances of survival to be even lower than they already were. :-)

Comment author: TheOtherDave 18 September 2012 03:21:48PM 4 points [-]

I am surprised that this claim surprises you. A big part of SI's claimed value proposition is the idea that humanity is on the cusp of developing technologies that will kill us all if not implemented in specific ways that non-SI folk don't take seriously enough.

Comment author: [deleted] 18 September 2012 11:01:14PM 1 point [-]

Of course you're right. I guess I haven't noticed the topic come up here for a while, and haven't seen the apocalypse predicted so straightforwardly (and quantitatively) before so am surprised in spite of myself.

Although, in context, it sounds like EY is saying that the apocalypse is so inevitable that there's no need to make plans for the alternative. Is that really the consensus at EY's institute?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 19 September 2012 01:15:13AM 1 point [-]

I have no idea what the consensus at SI is.

Comment author: MugaSofer 18 September 2012 02:01:51PM 5 points [-]

Nanotech and/or UFAI.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 10:09:31AM 9 points [-]

If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.

-- Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

Comment author: Sophronius 11 September 2012 11:53:23AM 0 points [-]

Not all that rational. Note that he requires scientific proof before he is willing to change his beliefs. The standards should be much lower than that.

Comment author: ChristianKl 11 September 2012 08:48:09PM 2 points [-]

No, the claim is that a scientific proof is sufficient from him to feel the need to change his beliefs. It isn't that it's necessary.

Comment author: Sophronius 11 September 2012 11:58:19PM 4 points [-]

Technically true, but nice though that is, saying that scientific proof would force you to change your beliefs still isn't a very impressive show of rationality. It would be better if he had said "Whenever science and Buddhism conflict, Buddhism should change".

I know, it is good to hear it from a religious figure, but if it were any other subject the same claim would leave you indifferent. "If it were scientifically proven that aliens don't exist I will have to change my belief in them." Sound impressive? No? Then the Dalai Lama shouldn't get any more praise just because it's about religion.

Comment author: MaoShan 16 September 2012 01:51:39AM 1 point [-]

Has anyone taken the time to present to the Dalai Lama a list of things about Buddhism that science proves (or can convincingly demonstrate to be) wrong?

Comment author: ChristianKl 12 September 2012 08:17:47AM 2 points [-]

When would you say that science and X is in conflict when there isn't scientific proof that X is wrong?

Science is a method. In itself it's about doing experiments. It's not about the ideology of the scientist that might conflict with X even if there's no proof that X is wrong.

Comment author: Sophronius 29 September 2012 10:27:36AM *  0 points [-]

Science and X are in conflict when on the whole there is more scientific evidence that X is wrong than there is evidence that it is right. Saying "I'll change my belief if science proves me wrong" SOUNDS reasonable, but it is the kind of thing homeopaths say to pretend to be scientific while resting secure in the knowledge that they will never have to actually change their mind, because they can always say that it hasn't been "proven" yet.

Comment author: kilobug 12 September 2012 10:35:49AM 0 points [-]

There is no "scientific proof" that there are no aliens. There is no "scientific proof" that the earth is 4.7 billions of years old. Not in the sense that there is a "proof" of Bayes' theorem. And that's where all the problem is. You can't limit yourself with changing your believes when they are "proven" wrong. You should change your belief when they are at odd with evidence and Occam's Razor.

The Dalaï Lama believes in reincarnation (or at least he officially says so, I don't know what are his true believes and what is political position, but let's assume he's honest). There is no "scientific proof" that reincarnation is not possible, so he can't bolster how much he is open to science. But yet, if you understand science, the evidence that there is no such thing as reincarnation is overwhelming.