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Comment author: Lumifer 02 September 2014 06:45:04PM 0 points [-]

Here's how to open a (insert online investing resource here) account.

What makes you sure an online investing (=trading) account is appropriate for a given person?

Here is what percentage of index funds vs bonds to buy at different ages and risk tolerances.

What makes you think a mix of (presumably) large-cap equity and bonds -- and nothing else -- in a certain proportion is an optimal mix looking forward?

Here are which things to buy.

Do tell. Which things to buy?

Comment author: Lumifer 02 September 2014 06:41:47PM 0 points [-]

Basically, the Fed as apart of the global central banking system keeps various currencies on hand for global trade purposes.

Does it, now? Actually keeps "currencies on hand"? Or maybe we're talking about FX swap lines?

Can you provide a like to e.g. a Fed balance sheet that shows "a few billion rubles"?

Comment author: Lumifer 02 September 2014 06:38:45PM 0 points [-]

Overscreening is recognized as a problem among epidemiologists.

Rationality does not specify values. I rather suspect that the cost-benefit analysis that epidemiologists look at is quite different from the cost-benefit analysis that individuals look at.

these screenings are either a problem in themselves, or that the information from the screenings can lead people to irrational behavior

LOL. Don't bother you pretty little head with too much information. No, you don't need to know that. No, you can't decided what you need to know and what you don't need to know. X-/

Comment author: MaximumLiberty 02 September 2014 06:14:35PM 0 points [-]

I think there is a fatalistic prayer to that effect: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_Prayer. It kind of depends on how you read it, though.

Max L.

Comment author: MaximumLiberty 02 September 2014 06:11:33PM 0 points [-]

I negotiate deals for a living. I've come up with various names for the thing that I think you are describing, specifically in the context of doing a deal. Currently, I call it "missing mediocrity." The reason I call it that is that I see business people cluster their analyses in two areas: great success and great failure. They focus on great success for fairly obvious reasons: (1) it is what the deal is intended to obtain, (2) you have to prepare operationally to deliver on the deal after you sign, and (3) their compensation is often tied to success.

They also focus on great failure, but for less transparent reasons. Often, they feel they have an obligation to assess risks for the organization. So they undertake it only as a burden, without creativity. And they aren't very good at it. And, in a case of motivated reasoning, they may want to dismiss the failure case as something that they don't need to plan for. So, you sometimes get statements like, "If that happens, we'll be retired by then." Or "If that happens, we'll be bankrupt anyway." Those statements could even be true, but they are inadequate in the sense that (a) they are missing the more likely cases and (b) they do not fulfill an officer's responsibility to his or her organization.

Both of those extreme outcomes are rare. Instead, what we see is a lot of mediocrity, especially in comparison to great success or great failure. One frequent outcome is that the deal is just a decent one. It neither makes nor breaks the company, but it contributes somewhat to the bottom line. If you do a lot of them, you will be successful. Another frequent outcome is a deal that was not good enough to do, but good enough to stick with once done. (For example, where marginal profits are positive, but will never be enough to cover the already incurred up-front fixed costs.) If you keep doing a lot of them, you will eventually run yourself out of business. And another possible outcome is one that is just a loser of a deal that the company ought to gracefully exit. It won't bankrupt you, but you lose a little money on every transaction and that won't change.

One way to combat the cognitive problem is to recognize your own relative incompetence at this particular type of analysis and bring in an expert. In the deal setting, they are mostly lawyers, but any executive with lots of experience could fill the same role. For example, after an acquisition, a CFO or a CFO's right hand will often analyze the acquired company's deals, to weed out the losers and stop doing new deals where fixed costs exceed the payback. Organizations often have controls in place to require review or oversight by staff functions and committees for this type of reason. (That is, not specific to the missing mediocrity problem, but to address the classes of failures where different types of expertise can prevent a bad decision.)

Max L.

Comment author: gjm 02 September 2014 05:45:11PM 0 points [-]

I would distinguish between

  • false,
  • meaningless, and
  • relying on a false assumption.

To me, "the king of France is bald" (when there is no KoF) and "the statement on the blackboard is false" (when there is nothing on the blackboard) are in the third category, which isn't quite the same as either "false" or "meaningless" but is distinctly nearer "false" than "meaningless".

I would say a statement is meaningless, or at least meaningless to me, in so far as I have (or I suspect anyone could have) no clear conception of how its truth value depends on the state of the world. In the case of, e.g., "the king of France is bald" it's pretty straightforward even though for some worlds -- e.g., those with no king of France -- its truth value might be undefined, and for others -- e.g., those where there is a king of France, and he has a little bit of hair left -- it might be unclear. Contrast, say, "the Absolute enters into, but is itself incapable of, evolution and progress" (an example used by A J Ayer) where it's hard to see how to do better than "it's true if the Absolute enters into, etc."; or "The Mungle pilgriffs far awoy / Religeorge too thee worled" (from John Lennon) where it seems unlikely that any proposition with truth values is intended at all.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 02 September 2014 05:31:34PM *  0 points [-]

“Be yourself and don’t hide who you are. Be up-front about what you want. If it puts your date off, then they wouldn’t have been good for you anyway, and you’ve dodged a bullet!”


having no filter is not a smart way to approach dating

These are not the same things. The first tells you to only employ the filters you would normally employ.

Comment author: Mark_Friedenbach 02 September 2014 04:30:24PM *  0 points [-]

What I mean is that you are injecting assumptions about how you came to be a conscious entity on Earth in whatever year your mother conceived you, as opposed to any other place or time in the history of the universe.

Maybe it's true that for every sentient being you assign equal probability and then it would look very odd indeed that you ended up in a early stage civilization in an old, empty universe.

Or, maybe coherent worlds count as a single state, therefore greater probability mass is given to later civilizations which exist in a good deal many more Everett branches.

Or more likely it is something completely different. The very idea that I was 'born into' a sentient being chosen at random stinks of Cartesian dualism when I really look at it. It seems very unlikely to me that the underlying mechanism of the universe is describable at that scale.

Comment author: ChristianKl 02 September 2014 04:21:30PM 1 point [-]

I think it depends a lot on what you mean with "being at the leading edge" of mobile app development.

Programming an Android app that works isn't that hard. On the other hand that doesn't mean that you understand everything there to know about Android app development.

I remember from my informatic A lectures at university which were in Haskell that at the end of a semester some of the students still didn't understand the concept of recursion.

Someone without a math background or computer science background is probably not going to use recursion for problems that are neatly solved with it when designing his app after learning Android programming with the standard tutorials. For a programmer that simply considers principles like recursion common sense it can be very hard to estimate how much time someone without a background needs to learn the concept.

You can program in Android without knowing exactly when a given object will be garbage collected. Multithreading can be complicated. Someone with years of experience in developing Android apps will likely outperform a nonprogrammer who spends a year learning Android but that doesn't mean that the second person can't find work as an Android developer.

Comment author: Gunnar_Zarncke 02 September 2014 03:52:36PM 0 points [-]

I have this pattern too.

For parents it is likely easier to switch to a task/chore which needs to be done anyway. That it comes as a welcome distraction doesn't matter too much - if it doesn't interrupt another task. In that case task switching costs can still slow you down too much.

Comment author: Lalartu 02 September 2014 03:34:55PM 0 points [-]

You are missing at least two options.

First, our knowledge of physics is far from complete, and there can be some reasons that make interstellar colonization just impossible.

Second, consider this: our building technology is vastly better than it was few thousands years ago, and our economic capabilities are much greater. Yet, noone among last century rulers was buried in tomb comparable to Egyptian pyramids. The common reply is that it takes only one expansionist civilization to take over the universe. But number of civilizations is finite, and colonization can be so unattractive that number of expansionists is zero.

Comment author: bageldaughter 02 September 2014 03:32:52PM 0 points [-]

Point taken, regarding the reasons for the low-emotional-validation style of discourse here. I wouldn't aim to change it, it just rules out engaging in it much for me, because of my own sensitivity/predisposition. Maybe those other communities are a better fit.

I think one intuition I have, though, is that part of the reason for the style of discourse here is that many of the people this kind of thing appeals to are not in the habit of assessing the emotions that come up naturally during discussion, for themselves or others. I say this because the degree to which I pay attention to that kind of thing has changed dramatically over the years, and I wouldn't be surprised to find those questions ("How am I feeling after reading this response? Do I need to take a break?", "How will this make the other person feel?") don't occur to lots of people. For a long time I operated under the assumption that reading someone's response to my post could not possibly put me in a difficult spot.

Onto the point about whether a ritual needs roles/tiers. I don't necessarily think it does either. For a thing like the retreat being proposed by Raemon, there will likely be a lot of self-selection going on and it may render the idea of more vs less outsiders moot. And you're right that an initiation ritual might be a high barrier to entry, which could be bad.

I do think, though, that having an initiation ritual, and a sense of more in vs out, can significantly enhance an individual's experience in a ritual. It can help turn a gathering into a memorable story with lasting power after the fact. And that is something any ritual should be shooting for.

The basic outline of the story goes like this:

  • First I was my regular self, and I came to the group, and I was not part of the group.
  • Then the group had me begin the rites of passage, and I was no longer my regular self, nor was I one of the group.
  • Then I completed the rites of passage, and I was recognized as part of the group, and my identity was updated for the better.

This seems like a Good Thing To Have to me. There are plenty of other Good Things too, and this particular one is not needed, but it would be good to have it.

Comment author: Gabriel 02 September 2014 03:22:28PM *  3 points [-]

You should recurse one level deeper and put a sign outside the store saying "Products marked <a drawing of a rectangle containing the words "This product can be heated at your request"> purchased in stores marked with <a drawing of a sign saying "Products marked with <a drawing of a rectangle containing the words "This product can be heated at your request"> can be heated at your request!"> can be heated at your request!"

Comment author: gwern 02 September 2014 03:09:22PM 0 points [-]

If people do not like me copying over my link compilations, downvote them and I'll get the message at some point. But I think they're generally interesting, high-quality, and relevant to LWers, so I put them here too for people who don't want to use Google+ (I can sympathize) or sign up for my newsletter.

Comment author: Gvaerg 02 September 2014 02:50:02PM 6 points [-]

A nearby store has this sign that kinda reminds me of What the Tortoise Said to Achilles:

Products marked with <a drawing of a rectangle containing the words "This product can be heated at your request"> can be heated at your request!

Definitely not making this up. Showed this today to my girlfriend who was speechless upon exiting the store.

Comment author: Michaelos 02 September 2014 02:36:21PM *  0 points [-]

“Be yourself and don’t hide who you are. Be up-front about what you want. If it puts your date off, then they wouldn’t have been good for you anyway, and you’ve dodged a bullet!”

There is something about this point in particular that I'm curious about. It seems like a change to this phrase turns things around.

“Be yourself and don’t hide who you are. Be up-front about what you can offer. If it puts your date off, then they wouldn’t have been good for you anyway, and you’ve dodged a bullet!”

As an example, if you consider your best traits to be that you're good at videogames and making homemade cookies and the person that you are attempting to date declines your offer because they hate videogames and homemade cookies ... it seems like you can make a different argument about why a bullet was dodged. In this case does the argument still fall under the same fallacy?

It seems like it might not because in that case you might really NOT care about the person who hates your interests. But it also seems to suggest 'Give your date an opportunity to make you not care about them.' as dating advice, which isn't something I've commonly heard.

Comment author: James_Miller 02 September 2014 02:26:10PM 0 points [-]

Yes it's a great show.

Comment author: Bobertron 02 September 2014 02:24:15PM 2 points [-]

There is this idea (I think it's a stoic one) that's supposed to show that no one ever has anything to worry. It goes like this:

Either you can do something about it, in which case you don't have to worry, you just do it. Or there is nothing you can do, then you can simply accept the inevitabel

It throws out the possiblility that you don't know whether you can do anything (and what precisely) or not. As I see it, worry is precisely the (sometimes maladaptive) attempt to answer that.

Every calse dichotomy is another example for this failure mode (if I understood you correctly).

Comment author: Spandrel 02 September 2014 02:17:42PM 2 points [-]

"If you're not at the leading edge of some rapidly changing field, you can get to one. For example, anyone reasonably smart can probably get to an edge of programming (e.g. building mobile apps) in a year." - Paul Graham in http://www.paulgraham.com/startupideas.html

I'd love to hear some actual programmers' opinions about this claim.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 02 September 2014 01:51:48PM 0 points [-]

Abstruse Goose on human obsolescence:


Comment author: NancyLebovitz 02 September 2014 01:13:42PM 0 points [-]

What I meant was "give better explanations" rather than "give up on giving explanations", but it's entirely possible I was too harsh.

Comment author: jaime2000 02 September 2014 01:11:36PM 0 points [-]

Good Night seems specifically optimised to chill EY, was it your goal?

Oh, good heavens no! The thought that Mr. Yudkowsky would ever read the story did not even occur to me until long after it was finished.

I am a bit puzzled by one aspect of Good Night, but that may be because I don't understand the tech level that the characters are operating at.

At the level of magitek I envisioned the characters having, your solution should definitely be possible. The realistic answer is that the prompt gave us twelve hours of prep time and one hour of writing time; I did not think of your idea during the allotted time, and if I had I would have mercilessly cut it at the planning stage so that I could fit the whole story into one hour. Even disregarding the time limit, rnpu nethzragf V unq Pryrfgvn naq Gjvyvtug qvfphff jnf n fvatyr, ovt, eryngviryl fvzcyr pbaprcg; vzzbegnyf zhfg zbqvsl fb gung gurl pna rgreanyyl ybbc, be gurl zhfg tebj, be gurl zhfg qvr. Your idea is more complex, and it doesn't fit the theme. If you had handed me a beautifully written section which covered the whole issue in three paragraphs while I was writing, I would have had no choice but to murder it for the sake of the story as a whole.

Literary concerns aside, my Twilight disagree with the notion that lbh pna pubbfr juvpu vafgnaprf bs lbh lbh fhowrpgviryl rkcrevrapr onfrq ba jrgure lbh vqragvsl jvgu gurz be abg.

Comment author: polymathwannabe 02 September 2014 12:30:15PM 2 points [-]
Comment author: Manfred 02 September 2014 12:18:01PM 0 points [-]

The whole point of instrumental drives is that they don't have to be in the utility function.

Comment author: polymathwannabe 02 September 2014 12:17:05PM 0 points [-]

I'm always happy to proofread. PM me with the details.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 02 September 2014 11:54:53AM 4 points [-]

A mental habit I've been cultivating for several months with considerable success: "cardinality reduction".

I often find myself in a state where I'm keen to get things done, but there's no obvious next task to work on, and I don't have any specific desire to direct my attention. Bad things can happen in this state. I can start projects (initiate a git repo, open a book, start writing something, etc.), only to discover that I'm not in the mood for that particular type of task, before casting it aside, (perhaps developing an aversion to it in the process), and looking for another potentially abortive task. I can waste a lot of time casting around for the "right" thing to do, after which I feel like I've expended a lot of energy but have nothing to show for it.

Anyway, I've learned to recognise this state, and when it happens I tell myself "just reduce the cardinality of the total set of things that need to be done at some point", (i.e. "find something that needs doing, and do it"). This usually starts out as shallow maintenance tasks, chores, housework, etc., but with some frequency will turn into some complex dependent task lurking at the back of my to-do list. Something gets done, even if it's not what I might have imagined I'd end up doing, and I get my productivity afterglow rather than being frustrated at having wasted an evening not doing very much at all.

"Cardinality reduction" has become such a crystallised concept that I will sometimes schedule an hour of it, safe in the knowledge that afterwards, some progress will have been made on my assorted stuff.

Comment author: Stefan_Schubert 02 September 2014 11:01:05AM *  3 points [-]

Good post. Jon Elster (whose works I much recommend; he has one book precisely on Sour Grapes) studies proverbs in his Alchemies of the Mind: Rationality and the Emotions. He notes that there are many contrary proverbs (i.e. of the form “Every S is P” and “No S is P.”) such as "out of sight, out of mind" and "absence makes the heart grow fonder" and "opposites attract" and "like attracts like". Elster argues, if I remember correctly, that these denote different mechanisms. According to this analysis, there would be one mechanism that goes from absence via say more loneliness to more love, whereas there is another that goes from absence to greater possibilities of meeting someone else to less love. Which one is the strongest in any individual case depends on various other factors.

If you're interested in this, I'd recommend reading those parts of Elster's book. In any case, I think that there is a lot to your analysis. Many of these proverbs are essentially devices to stop thinking (there is a LW term for this, right?). Rather than trying to weigh pros and cons people make themselves and others stop thinking by dropping a proverb. Many of them rhyme as well, which increases their effect.

Comment author: MathiasZaman 02 September 2014 10:21:09AM 0 points [-]

I often get the sense, lurking on LW, that I am more emotionally sensitive than is the norm here, and as a result I feel like bit of an outsider.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind here. Discourse on Less Wrong is comparatively high quality and high barrier of entry. That and the topics that are usually discussed here leave little room for sensitive, emotional content. (Not that I think such content has no place here, but because of "reasons" it doesn't show up that often.) If you take a look at communities just outside of Less Wrong (in my case that's the tumblr rationalists and /r/HPMOR) you'll notice more emotions being acknowledged and shared with the group.

A good system of ritual should have the idea of social tiers/roles baked into it.

I'm not sure that's true. As Raemon says, you need someone facilitating the whole thing, but you don't necessarily need an "elite group", "regular group" and "outsider group" for a good ritual. The Winter Solstice Ritual Raemon made doesn't have that (if I'm getting the pdf right) and I consider that a successful ritual. Some rituals at my local scout group are also without social tiers or roles.

I don't necessarily think that Initiations Rituals or rituals with that social hierarchy are a bad idea. I just disagree that every group and ritual needs that. I think that (currently) the fact that it's easy to become a member of the "Aspiring Rationalists" is a good thing. Maybe in the future (when this subculture has grown a lot) and insider/outsider designation might be necessary.

Comment author: army1987 02 September 2014 10:11:34AM 0 points [-]

The Card paradox and blackboard paradox are interesting in that if we declare the Liar paradox to be meaningless, these paradoxes are meaningless or meaningful depending on the state of the world.

So what? “The King of France is bald” is meaningful when France has a king and meaningless the rest of the time. And “The statement on the blackboard in Carslaw Room 201 is false” is meaningless when said blackboard is blank.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 02 September 2014 09:50:24AM *  0 points [-]

A Procrustean bed.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 02 September 2014 09:48:54AM 0 points [-]

No. Consciousness is subjective as a thing. If you disregard a thing essential characteristic, it is you who are confusing yourself,

Comment author: Transfuturist 02 September 2014 09:03:44AM 0 points [-]

"Concept" here is being used to mean a contestable term, and "objective interpretation" is presumably an operational definition obtained from one of the many possible interpretations of the contestable term.

Comment author: Transfuturist 02 September 2014 08:58:25AM 0 points [-]

It argues against the conjecture that utility function is separate from optimization power? Do you mean that it argues against Omohundro's instrumental AI drives?

Comment author: casebash 02 September 2014 07:24:39AM *  0 points [-]

Sorry, I removed it after I saw Manfred's and Azathoth's replies (and before I saw your reply) because people were explaining why they disagreed with the post or where I made mistakes, so there didn't seem to be any need for it.

Comment author: shminux 02 September 2014 07:15:23AM 0 points [-]

That'll teach me to reply to "please explain your downvotes" (now edited out) comments.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 02 September 2014 06:15:37AM 1 point [-]

Some relevant works:

Comment author: RichardKennaway 02 September 2014 06:06:24AM 0 points [-]

The paradox is a refutation of the assertion that such a hygienist exists (assuming the implied fact that he only cleans the teeth of those who don't clean their own, or there's no paradox). Since the hygienist does not exist, there is no-one who cleans the hygienist's teeth.

If P is the asserted property of the hygienist, R the relation x R y = x cleans y's teeth, and Q x the property "x cleans a hygienist's teeth", the matter can be formalised as follows.

P is defined by: P x =def (∀y. x R y ⇔ ¬(y R y))

P x implies (by substituting x for y in the quantifier) x R x ⇔ ¬(x R x), which is equivalent to false. Therefore no x satisfies P x.

Q is defined by: Q x =def ∃y. P(y) ∧ x R y

Since P(y) is always false, no x satisfies Q x.

Comment author: Alicorn 02 September 2014 05:17:57AM 0 points [-]

No, it doesn't. The hygienist still does or does not clean their own teeth, regardless of the practicalities involved in the decisionmaking process. Why did you recast the Barber's Paradox?

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 02 September 2014 04:53:24AM 2 points [-]

Please read the rule that says "Please post only under one of the already created subthreads, and never directly under the parent media thread". This should have been under Meta, or in response to one of gwern's comments.

Comment author: satt 02 September 2014 04:07:46AM *  1 point [-]

Do you have any hard numbers about how many partners typical Southern Africans have?

For the nth time, I'm not talking about the number of partners as such, but the number of concurrent partners. And yes, I do have hard numbers on those, some of which you'd have seen had you flicked through the SA J. HIV Med. article I've already linked and quoted. See figures 2 & 3 if you're having trouble finding them; figure 2's blurrier than I'd like but you can find numbers from the same data set plotted more clearly in this Lancet article, which is reference 23 in that SA J. HIV Med. article.

As for polyamorous, there are a lot of them on LW. None have reported having to deal with AIDS in the community.

Unless there's reason to think polyamorous LWers are broadly representative of polyamorous people in the West generally, this doesn't mean much. And I see no reason to think there is any reason, because you haven't given any, and LWers in general are hilariously unrepresentative of the West in general. As a concrete example (albeit one based on self-reported data), our mean IQ is allegedly 138. (And yes, the mean remains unrepresentatively high among polyamorous respondents. Looking at the data myself, the mean IQ is 144 for survey takers claiming to have multiple current partners.)

Also, even if we assume polyamorous LWers are representative of all polyamorous Westerners, there's another matter of numbers. While many people on our survey said they prefer polyamorous relationships (Yvain's summary says 234), there are far fewer LWers who report actually having multiple partners and being heterosexual and living in the West and actually posting on LW. Taking Yvain's public-use data for the 2013 survey, I count 86 people who said they had multiple partners, 43 of whom report being heterosexual, of whom 39 are left when I subtract out those in Brazil, Greece & Slovenia. How these people used LW seems to be a missing variable in the public data, but Yvain's summary says 49% of survey replies were from lurkers. If the same rate applies to our sub-sub-sub-sample, that'd leave only 20 relevant LWers, at which point it'd be much less surprising that the relevant group hadn't reported any AIDS concerns.

Stepping back and looking at this conversation as a whole, I'm going to walk away from it, because it just isn't productive. You're not showing any sign of changing your beliefs in the face of contrary evidence & argument, you're leaving me to take up almost all of the argumentative burden, and by all appearances you're either unable or unwilling to reason about this properly.

  • When I pointed out you made a fallacious inference, you didn't acknowledge that — not even to dispute it, oddly.

  • You repeatedly conflate two ideas which, although presumably correlated, are nonetheless distinct, and you're not respecting that distinction even though it matters greatly to the theory you wish to refute.

  • You show no sign of having even glanced at the sources I've referenced. Nor do you seem to be reading my replies carefully.

  • You don't refer to specific sources for your own claims. I still have no idea where you "herd" "~15 years ago" that subtype C was going to "break into the western heterosexual population real soon now".

  • When I explicitly ask whether you have specific HIV prevalence numbers, you dodge the question by demanding numbers you could've found by reading my sources yourself.

  • At least one of your questions, as stated, assumed a false premise. When I pointed that out, you didn't acknowledge it (again, not even to disagree).

  • You mostly argue by posing would-be killer objections to the orthodox model, one at a time and without substantiation, and when one objection gets knocked flat you don't acknowledge that but just move on to your next. I match that pattern of arguing to conspiracy theorists and others engaging in motivated cognition to defend a bizarre hypothesis; at no time is a semi-coherent alternative theory laid out by the arguer, just a procession of loosely-linked anomalies presented as Devastating Critiques which turn out, on closer examination, to be irrelevancies, non-anomalies, or just really piss-weak evidence against the orthodox theory.

  • Speaking of bizarre hypotheses, the idea that a virus can be transmitted by anal sex but not at all by penis-in-vagina sex is quite an odd one, and you act as if utterly unaware of this. You argue like the idea's almost self-evidently true and everybody else is being inexplicably thick in disregarding it, even though it's an a priori unlikely hypothesis. (And even though you can't have applied much effort to understand why the relevant experts disregard it, because you raise objections they've tackled years ago in Googleable papers.)

The most parsimonious explanation of these facts is that, at least on this topic, you can't or won't think straight. Whichever is the case, you're wasting my time, so I'm done here.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 02 September 2014 03:58:56AM 0 points [-]

Downvoted with extreme prejudice for not explaining what the specific problem with the post is.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 02 September 2014 03:57:56AM 0 points [-]

Is there good enough categorization of paradoxes that you can say "this statement is false" is a certain kind of paradox?

Comment author: casebash 02 September 2014 03:16:12AM *  1 point [-]

Why do you say that? And what knowledge would one need to have to be at the necessary level?

Comment author: aberglas 02 September 2014 03:08:48AM *  3 points [-]

Reviewers wanted for New Book -- When Computers Can Really Think.

The book aims at a general audience, and does not simply assume that an AGI can be built. It differs from others by considering how natural selection would ultimately shape a AGI's motivations. It argues against the Orthogonality Principal, suggesting instead that there is ultimately only one super goal, namely the need to exist. It also contains a semi-technical overview of artificial intelligent technologies for the non-expert/student.

An overview can be found at


Please let me know if you would be interested in reviewing a late draft. Any feedback would be most welcome. Anthony@berglas.org

Comment author: shminux 02 September 2014 03:06:24AM 0 points [-]

This post gives me the standard impression of "a little learning is a dangerous thing". You learned enough to feel that you can contribute, not realizing that you are nowhere near the necessary level.

Comment author: casebash 02 September 2014 02:58:53AM 0 points [-]

Oh and I've updated it to use the statement, "This statement is true or false".

Comment author: advancedatheist 02 September 2014 02:49:02AM -1 points [-]

I know how to resolve the Oral Hygienist's Paradox: In a certain village, a dental hygienist cleans the teeth of everyone who doesn't clean his own teeth. Who cleans the oral hygienist's teeth?

The "paradox" vanishes if the dental hygienist doesn't have any teeth.

Comment author: Manfred 02 September 2014 02:43:32AM 2 points [-]

Next we consider, "This statement is true". Setting the truth value to false would lead to a contradiction

Nope. If it is false, then "this statement is true" is false, no flip-flopping. Also note that this is an example that remains undefined under Prior's proposal.

Different assignments of true and false being possible is closely related to model theory, which you might want to look into. (See also some of So8res' posts)

Multiple truth assignments is also symptom of unprovability, which brings us into the realm of the incompleteness theorem. Work in this area demonstrates why type theory is not sufficient to prevent self-reference. Definitely worth learning more about the incompleteness theorem.

Comment author: casebash 02 September 2014 02:39:34AM *  0 points [-]

That's a good point, but I don't think that it invalidates the whole approach. Non-classical logic is normally formulated within classical logic. I believe that other formulations of set theory are usually analysed from within standard set theory (can someone else confirm?).

Comment author: polymathwannabe 02 September 2014 02:36:04AM 1 point [-]
Comment author: buural 02 September 2014 02:34:53AM 0 points [-]
  • I too agree that Quirrel is H&C with the highest probability. However, I would not assign zero probability to Sirius Black either, hence I wrote he was a candidate, not the candidate for H&C.

  • I think it has already been implied in the text several times that the Philosopher's Stone is in fact still in Hogwarts. Granted, it may not be behind those particular traps on the third floor.

But Master Flamel has said - that even he can no longer keep safe the Stone - that he believes Voldemort has means of finding it wherever it is hidden - and that he does not consent for it to be guarded anywhere but Hogwarts. Minerva, I am sorry, but it must be done - must!

  • The above quote makes me think of what is so special about Hogwarts that it alone can protect the Stone. It is not likely to be merely presence of Dumbledore (or he could easily be carrying it with him everywhere he goes). Something unique about Hogwarts allows it to safeguard the Stone even from Voldemort who supposedly can always divine its whereabouts. My working hypothesis is again that Hogwarts is a jumble of multiple versions of itself from different timelines/realities. If this hypothesis is true, then the Chamber of Secrets is hidden in time, so a version of it with a live snake may still exist.

  • Somewhat related to my other post, I am not exactly sure how prophecies are supposed to work. Yes, I know that they are supposed to "relieve pressure" built in the time continuum but to me they sound like information traveling more than 6 hours into the past. Sounds like the centaur accurately prophesied events 10+ years into the future! The only reason why Dumbledore would take active role in trying to bring the prophecy to fruition by manipulating Lily is if he himself was the sender of the message or somehow knows that failing to act in this particular way will result in a worse outcome than the 'end of the world'. In short, I'd say this particular Chekhov gun still has plenty of unused ammo.

Comment author: Azathoth123 02 September 2014 02:29:42AM 0 points [-]

The system has a binary notion of truth which satisfies the law of excluded model because it was constructed in this manner. Mathematical truth does not exist in its own right, in only exists within a system of logic. Geometry, arithmetic and set theory can all be modelled within the same set-theoretic logic which has the same rules related to truth. But this doesn't mean that truth is a set-theoretic concept - set-theory is only one possible way of modelling these systems which then lets us combine objects from these different domains into the one proposition. Set-theory simply shows us being within the true or false class has similar effects across multiple systems. This explains why we believe that mathematical truth exists - leaving us with no reason to suppose that this kind of "truth" has an inherent meaning. These aren't models of the truth, "truth" is really just a set of useful models with similar properties.

The problem with that approach is that you still need a meta-language and a notion of "meta-truth" to talk about these models, and then you're right back where you started.

Comment author: casebash 02 September 2014 02:28:35AM *  2 points [-]

I just wanted to make one thing absolutely clear - when I talk about "truth as a construct" I don't mean it in the pseduo-philosophical manner ("but you aren't objective") that it is used in post-modern philosophy.

Thanks to those who explained why they disagreed with this article!

Comment author: tetronian2 02 September 2014 02:23:00AM 2 points [-]

Has anyone else seen the television show Brain Games? It is essentially intro-to-cognitive-biases aimed at the level of the average TV watcher; I was pleasantly surprised by how well it explains some basic biases with simple examples (though I have only seen an assortment of episodes from the 3rd and 4th season). However, most of the material given is not very actionable and is designed more for entertainment rather than self-improvement. Nevertheless, those interested in raising the sanity waterline and/or sparking interest in LW subjects among more average folk than we are might want to take a look at it.

Comment author: solipsist 02 September 2014 01:50:49AM 2 points [-]

True, but if marketing is your aim you are probably better off familiarizing yourself with standard best practices than with cutting-edge research.

Comment author: Misovlogos 02 September 2014 01:11:30AM 0 points [-]

What is an 'objective interpretation' of a concept?

Comment author: Alicorn 02 September 2014 01:05:04AM *  1 point [-]

I'm going to go ahead and recommend the entire Vorkosigan saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold. I advise reading in chronological timeline order (except for the prequel "Falling Free" which only loosely bears on the rest of the series's events and characters - so start with Shards of Honor). Before I read these books I had heard HPMoR glossed as "Miles Vorkosigan attends Hogwarts", and while this does neither character perfect justice, it was a lot truer than I anticipated.

Comment author: gwern 02 September 2014 12:57:07AM 1 point [-]
Comment author: _alexander 02 September 2014 12:32:26AM *  0 points [-]

After posting a comment at Marginal Revolution I admit this thread is great by comparison...

Comment author: MrCogmor 02 September 2014 12:30:52AM 0 points [-]

That was my point. Philosophy uses subjective words in order to confuse meanings. Once you translate it into one of it's objective interpretations it becomes simple. A good example is the concept of free will.

Comment author: advancedatheist 02 September 2014 12:28:13AM 0 points [-]

How do you get the formatting for numbered paragraphs to work?

Comment author: advancedatheist 02 September 2014 12:21:14AM *  0 points [-]

Cryonics publicity, and my responses, part 2 of 2.

  1. Eldritch horrors, or at least dickish Future People, will do mean things to cryonauts upon their revival. (Sounds familiar, for some reason.)

  2. We shouldn't do cryonics because of what happens in dumb popular culture like Idiocracy, Futurama, Star Trek, etc.

  3. You won’t know anyone upon revival in Future World.


  1. The cryonics idea, because in involves an unusual way of talking about “death” (the neurological off-state), pushes people’s terror management buttons. According the Terror Management Theory in psychology, when we learn about our mortality as children, the knowledge causes a kind of chronic traumatic stress disorder which we spend the rest of our lives managing, in a kludgy way, by constructing and maintaining anxiety buffers which deny death: things like self-esteem, beliefs in human exceptionalism, tribal identity, afterlife fantasies and so forth. And we all know that people think badly under the influence of strong emotions, in this case reminders of death which Terror Management theorists call mortality salience. (When denial of death can actually keep people from dying, we call it “effective health care.”) Cryonics offers a strategy for managing our risk instead of our terror, but most people don’t immediately see that without some amount of explanation, often spoon-fed to the slower learners (and even then they may not catch on); so they construct frankly absurd scenarios about all the bad things that they fear might happen to them, assuming revival.

Many of these faux objections sound like expressions of social anxiety to me (I know about social anxiety from my own experiences) – these Advanced Beings in the Future will do horrible things to me, so I would rather die than meet them! I have to wonder if we have social science instruments to correlate people’s reactions to the cryonics idea with measurable anxiety levels and see if we can find less anxious demographics which cryonics organizations could try marketing to.

  1. Unserious people invoke pop culture crap like Futurama, a cartoon series which seemed funny to me for about four or five episodes before I lost interest in it. I don’t even bother engaging such individuals.

The episode in Star Trek: The Next Generation, titled “The Neutral Zone,” brings up an addressable point, however. In this episode, Dr. Crusher revives a cryopreserved financier who gives a performance which makes me wonder if the screenwriters knew a real cryonicist with money and used him as a model. The character’s personality seemed to have a lot of verisimilitude to me, in other words. This character tries to find what had happened to the investments he had set aside in trusts on Earth, only to discover that his wealth has mysteriously disappeared without explanation.

Now, this could happen given some major economic, social or political disruption, I suppose. But in the real world, trusts have lasted for generations without anyone stealing them empty. H.G. Wells even wrote the first story connecting suspended animation and exponentially compounding wealth in trusts early in the 20th Century, both as a short story and as a novel, under the names “When the Sleeper Wakes” and The Sleeper Awakes, respectively. People have left wealth in trusts which have lasted for a century or more where trustees have preserved their assets and faithfully carried out the trustors’ wishes, subject to interpretation in case a trustor leaves ambiguous instructions. And we can point to well known examples of trusts established in the late 17th Century by Benjamin Franklin, and in the 19th Century by Stephen Girard, James Smithson and Alfred Nobel. You could probably include charitable trusts set up early in the 20th Century by John Rockefeller, Henry Ford and Andrew Mellon as additional examples of successful asset preservation across the decades.

In other words, in the real world, trustees generally don’t loot and make trusts disappear just because the trustors died decades ago and they think no one cares any more. So the people who bring up this scenario for the assets cryonicists have set aside in speculative revival trusts, like in the Star Trek episode, simply show their ignorance of trusts’ historical track record.

  1. What happens to people now when they discover that they don’t know anyone? This sounds like another kind of objection to cryonics based on social anxiety. Have they lost their ability to make new friends? I haven’t maintained friendships with anyone I knew in the first 30 years of my life. I’ve also lost several of my relatives already, including all of my grandparents; my 87 year old father could die any day now.

How many people have I at least met who have gone into cryo? Probably more than a dozen, and I got to know David Zubkoff well because we worked together for a year in the late 1990’s.

Do I feel alienated because of all the people I can no longer communicate with? No, because I have made new friends, even in the past couple of years. And no one would characterize me as outgoing or extroverted, by any means. If people have the capacity to make new friends throughout life, then why wouldn’t that continue to operate in the future?

If anything, you might even find it easier to make friends in Future World if the people of that time have enhanced empathy and social skills so that they can pick up on your tells more readily and adjust their responses to you to make you comfortable with them.

If you’ve run across similar ill-considered objections to cryonics, how have you addressed them?

Comment author: advancedatheist 02 September 2014 12:20:22AM 0 points [-]

Cryonics publicity, and my responses, part 1 of 2:

For $200,000, This Lab Will Swap Your Body's Blood for Antifreeze


And just a few days later:

Bitcoin’s Earliest Adopter Is Cryonically Freezing His Body to See the Future


As usually happens when these sorts of stories go online and people can post comments on them, I notice certain recurrent themes:

  1. Only rich people can afford cryonics.

  2. Signing up for cryonics signals selfishness.

  3. Something spooky happens when the human brain enters the off-state that resists technological interventions and attempts at reversibility.

  4. Cryonics organizations engage in deliberate fraud.

These cover the main points, and they show how badly the idea of cryonics still fails to communicate 50 years after Robert Ettinger published his first book about it, The Prospect of Immortality, in 1964. The people who currently have a say in the cryonics movement (I don’t have that kind of authority – yet – though I have attrition working in my favor) just don’t seem concerned about this, either, which I find worrisome.

I would like to offer my responses to these “objections.”

  1. A few wealthy people have signed up for cryonics. I have met one of them, namely, Mr. Don Laughlin, who founded his own casino and resort business in Laughlin, Nevada. In fact, Mr. Laughlin will host the End Death Cryonics Convention this November: http://venturist.info/end-death---cryonics-convention-november-2014.html

But in general cryonics attracts a mostly middle-class, mostly male demographic which uses life insurance as the funding mechanism, and this practice makes cryonics affordable. (For some reason this fact doesn’t register when it shows up in plain sight in cryonics news stories.)

And we can see that few wealthy men have signed up because:

a. The things that only wealthy people can afford tend to become status symbols and ways of showing conspicuous consumption; this hasn’t happened to cryonics, at least not yet, despite the envy-based misconceptions about it.

b. Cryonics hasn’t attracted adventuresses. Young, attractive single women with a certain kind of personality can identify congregations of wealthy men, like the ones who own sports franchises, their rich buddies and their well-paid athletes, and they will try to insinuate themselves to see if they can exploit these situations for financial gain. This hasn’t happened to the cryonics community so far; if anything, cryonics acts like “female Kryptonite.”

  1. The “selfishness” claim about cryonics apparently involves the fact that we cryonicists want something very badly which doesn’t exist in our century, so we have to take a metaphorical ambulance ride to the future, at considerable expense (usually paid for with life insurance), to try to reach it. If the people living in, say, the 24th Century, have solved the problems of radical life extension and the revival of cryonauts in a healthy state, and if they have socially normalized this as the current state of health care, they won’t go around complaining about each other’s “selfishness” for taking advantage of these techniques. I doubt they would disparage the revivable cryonauts who have arrived in the cryo-ambulance to their time, either. If anything, they will probably value cryonics, or a successor technology which accomplishes something similar, because they might have to resort to it themselves in case the practitioners of 24th Century medicine can’t treat their diseases and disabilities, and they want to get second opinions from the health care providers in, say, the 27th Century, based on the gamble that they have become capable enough to handle the untreatable medical issues of the 24th Century. You could view cryonicists as early adopters, not only of future standards of health care, but also of the different kind of moral philosophy that this health care will support.

  2. Even many allegedly secular people assume that something spooky happens when the human brain enters the neurological off-state we call “death”; this outcome shows inexorable Fate at work, or something. But this belief only reflects the fact that the so-called “modern” secular philosophies like revived Epicureanism, secular humanism, skepticism, ideological atheism and so forth arose during earlier stages of scientific knowledge. (The literature published by American Atheists still carries Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s credo that “Atheism,” as she capitalized it, derives from “Greek materialism.” Talk about living in the past.) The adherents of these secular philosophies need to catch up to the 21st Century by reading up on the advances in neuroscience promoted by the Brain Preservation Foundation. Fortunately two prominent figures in skeptic circles, Michael Shermer and Susan Blackmore, have associated with the Brain Preservation Foundation as advisers, so these two secular intellectuals at least show a willingness to think like 21st Century people by examining the evidence for ways to turn death from a permanent off-state into a temporary and reversible off-state through applied neuroscience.

  3. Fraud? I’d like to know who has gotten rich off of cryonics. Name that individual.

End of part 1 of 2.

Comment author: Misovlogos 01 September 2014 11:35:57PM 0 points [-]

I would like to make two soft replies: (i) the premise of fixed zero-sum charitable giving, regardless of levels of advertisement and active fundraising, is implausible on obvious grounds; (ii) socially redundant market capture is a function of unregulated competition, and holds insofar as that does - while donor preference for otherwise is a nice idea, and individually realisable, the whole movement of consumer ethics, including in domains where it has far more support, has never amounted to much.

Comment author: Misovlogos 01 September 2014 11:08:21PM *  1 point [-]

As above, the exact point you're intending - or indeed the question to which you initially allude to - is not intelligible to the reader. More importantly, what assertions you do make are terribly crude: no one thinks that capitalism is reducible to the Enlightenment; contrary your your allusion, Chomsky is a moral naturalist tracing his normativity to the higher liberalism of the Enlightenment, and epistemologically is basically a positivist; contemporary rejection of the correspondence theory of truth is not local to post-modernism, but spans Frankfurt School Critical Theory, post-analytic Anglophone philosophy, most of the philosophy of science, contextualist historiography, and much much else. There is a tendency to conflate particularly obscure (usually French) continental thinkers with all thought which isn't positivist and/or treats language as problematic, which you here appear culpable of.

Comment author: Benito 01 September 2014 10:46:38PM *  1 point [-]

Maybe Gwern should have a site where they put their links on or something...

Comment author: spxtr 01 September 2014 10:05:52PM 1 point [-]

"The second interesting thing about angels, Mr. Lipwig, is that you only ever get one."

Comment author: paper-machine 01 September 2014 09:59:39PM 0 points [-]

I vaguely object to calling it deathist.

The SYBIL system deciding things such as what career people would be best suited for seems to damage some people so much that they become catatonic, for no apparent reason except to make sure we know it's bad

I don't recall something like this happening. Most of the time -- as far as I remember -- it's other people reacting to psycho-pass information that causes psychological damage. E.g., one character is extensively bullied because of their psycho-pass, one or two characters' psycho-pass degrades the more they obsesses over it, etc.

One minor villain is a standard "wanting to be immortal makes you evil" type of character

I'd say he was more "evil and coincidentally also wanting to be immortal." The only character that really disagrees with living forever is Kougami, whose expected future quality of life is relatively low.

Comment author: spxtr 01 September 2014 09:37:53PM *  1 point [-]
Comment author: V_V 01 September 2014 09:37:23PM 0 points [-]

Ironically yes. Fortunately for women, the Bayesian update is going to be small.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 01 September 2014 09:10:09PM 2 points [-]

I've been thinking of posing a question about "Anti-rationalism on Campus".

Did he ever get around to that question?

Comment author: RowanE 01 September 2014 09:00:52PM *  0 points [-]

Issues I had with Psycho-Pass:

  • The SYBIL system deciding things such as what career people would be best suited for seems to damage some people so much that they become catatonic, for no apparent reason except to make sure we know it's bad, like Yvain described in the post about dystopias on his old blog. And that's before we find out gur flfgrz vf cbjrerq ol gur oenvaf bs frevny xvyyref.

  • One minor villain is a standard "wanting to be immortal makes you evil" type of character, who notably in a tv interview that shows the public face he hides his evil side with uses a pro-transhumanism argument I've heard from actual transhumanist speakers. Probably the "transhumanists are secretly evil" implication was accidental, but I didn't like it.

  • The main affect I had from watching the show, was that a villain was the viewpoint character during their death scene, I emphasized with them as they were made to feel helpless and then killed, and I then felt annoyed about that feeling.

For those who are tolerant of deathist and dystopian memes, and don't share my personal weirdness, I second the recommendation.

Comment author: Emile 01 September 2014 08:59:48PM 2 points [-]

You haven't really answered ChristianKI's question, he just wanted names of people who explicitly "view Marxism as an unfortunate result of the Enlightenment the same as capitalism." rather than a link to a long article from someone claiming that some people did something kinda like that maybe.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 01 September 2014 08:46:16PM *  0 points [-]

That'd be a smart move to secure some MIRI funding...

Besides just being freaking awesome. Imagine that floating around the backyard barbecue. Pew. Pew. Pew.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 01 September 2014 08:22:53PM 3 points [-]

You could point the reader to an existing text explaining the basic ideas, and present your original work as a reaction to, or commentary on, it,

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 01 September 2014 08:11:37PM 0 points [-]

Consciousness is subjective, so that approach misses the mark.

Comment author: Jan_Rzymkowski 01 September 2014 08:09:42PM 0 points [-]

I'd say the only requirement is spending some time living on Earth.

Thanks, I'd get to sketching drafts. But it'll take some time.

Comment author: paper-machine 01 September 2014 08:07:43PM *  1 point [-]

Finished Psycho-Pass (first season on Netflix). Briefly, it's the spiritual successor to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, directed by Gen Urobuchi (Fate/Zero, Black Lagoon) and animated by Production I.G (GITS, Attack on Titan). Same format as GITS:SAC -- female/male detective team in a somewhat dystopian future investigating a horrific criminal mastermind. The technology level is set slightly lower than GITS -- cyborg bodies are possible but expensive, and it's not possible to emulate a human brain yet.

The titular psycho-pass (which is a pun in Japanese for psychopath) is a metric (associated to a color scale, from white to black) measuring a person's criminal capacity. In this future Japan, everyone's psycho-pass is monitored extremely carefully. People whose psycho-pass becomes "clouded" by stress or mental illness eventually become latent criminals and are contained in isolation until either their psycho-pass clears or they die. Crime still happens, and the criminal justice system uses a combination of inspectors and enforcers to neutralize criminals. Enforcers are latent criminals that have chosen to work in the police force under the close watch of their inspectors. Their weapon of choice is the Dominator, a hand-held electronic pulse weapon that ranges from non-lethal stun gun to complete obliteration in proportion to the threat's criminal coefficient (0-99 = locked; 100-299 = stun; 300+ = lethal).

The first season follows the main duo, Inspector Akane and her enforcer Kougami, as they hunt down a mysterious criminal mastermind who connects latent criminals with the technical expertise they need to commit their crimes, in lieu of committing crimes himself. Akane is a newbie, so we get the standard newbie introduction to the Sibyl system of inspectors and enforcers, and the danger an inspector faces in maintaining their mental health while investigating horrendous crimes. The pattern of tension between a high-ranking newbie with an experienced subordinate occurs multiple times. Naturally, since this is a dystopia, not everything is as it appears.

The animation is high quality, and is especially brutal at times. Both my partner and I cringed several times at some of the fight scenes because they were painful to watch. There are a few filler episodes, but most of the episodes were worth watching, and they are relatively good at avoiding most of the standard Ghost in the Shell tropes (one exception: early on they do a remake of the classic GITS:SAC episode "Chat! Chat! Chat!"). I gave it 8/10, that is, essentially as good (IMO) as the first season of either GITS:SAC or Fate/Zero.

Comment author: MattG 01 September 2014 08:00:25PM -2 points [-]

Can we just switch this to the "gwern posts awesome links thread", I feel like it would have much the same effect :).

Comment author: Princess_Stargirl 01 September 2014 07:56:59PM *  0 points [-]

Cal Newpport's work seems relevant. His most important book is "So good they can't ignore you."

Here is a very good at google talk that basically covers the gist of the book in 40 minutes:


And here is a Less Wrong Thread reviewing the book:


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