Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Open Thread, Feb. 20 - Feb 26, 2017

3 Post author: Elo 20 February 2017 04:51AM

If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post, then it goes here.

Notes for future OT posters:

1. Please add the 'open_thread' tag.

2. Check if there is an active Open Thread before posting a new one. (Immediately before; refresh the list-of-threads page before posting.)

3. Open Threads should start on Monday, and end on Sunday.

4. Unflag the two options "Notify me of new top level comments on this article" and "

Comments (310)

Comment author: tristanm 21 February 2017 12:54:59AM 12 points [-]

Hi LW, first time commenting on here, but I have been a reader / lurker of the site for quite some time. Anyway, I hope to bring a question to the community that has been on my mind recently.

I have noticed an odd transformation of my social circle, in particular, of the people whom I have basically known since I was young, and are about the same age as me. I'm wondering if this is something that most people have observed in other people as they moved into adulthood and out into the world.

I would say that ever since I was a teenager I considered myself a "rationalist". What that has meant exactly has of course been updated over the years, but I would say that my approach to knowledge hasn't fundamentally changed (like I didn't suddenly become a postmodernist or anything). As soon as I understood what science and empiricism were about, I knew that my life would revolve around it in some way. And, what made me very close to the people who would be my best friends throughout high school and college, is that they felt pretty much the same way I did. At least I very much believed they did. My happiest moments with them, when I was about 16 to 18, involved lengthy, deep, and enjoyable discussions about philosophy, science, politics, and current events. I was convinced we were all rationalists, that we were fairly agnostic about most things until we felt that we had come to well-argued conclusions about them, and were always willing to entertain new hypotheses or conjectures about any topic that we cared about.

Fast-forward about ten years, and it seems like most of those people have "grown out of" that, like it was some kind of phase most people go through when they're young. All important questions have been settled, the only things that seem to matter now are careers, relationships, and hobbies. That's the impression I get from my various social media interactions with them, anyway. There are no debates or discussions except angry political ones, which mostly just consist of scolding people, or snarky comments and jokes. Politically, most people I know have gone either hard-left or hard-right (mostly hard-left, since everyone I know grew up on the west coast). But what's striking to me is how hivemind-ish a lot of them have become. It's really impossible to have a good discussion with any of my old friends anymore. I realize that sounds a little complain-y, but what I emphasize is that this a particular observation about the people I grew up with, not the older people I've known like family members, and not the people in my current social circle.

Ok, sure, it's possible that I just picked bad friends back then. But I think this is a little bit unlikely, since the reason we were drawn together in the first place is our shared interests and similar way of thinking. But I feel like I have basically stuck to the same principles that I had even back then. I've tried to avoid becoming too deeply attached to any one subculture or "tribe" - and there have been many opportunities to do so. What makes me believe my observation might be a more common phenomenon is that it seems to be shared by the people I'm close to now. It appears to me that there is something that alters a person's psychology as they move into adulthood, and through college in particular. And that this alteration makes people less "rational" in a way. And whatever causes that is traumatic enough that it encourages people to cluster into groups of very like-minded individuals, where their beliefs and way of life feel extremely safe.

I'd also like to emphasize that I'm not saying that our views and beliefs have simply diverged. This has mostly to do with the way that people think, and the way that they communicate ideas.

I wonder if anyone else has had this observation, and if so, what the possible explanations might be. On the other hand, maybe I have gone through the same change in my psychology, but simply fail to notice it in myself.

Comment author: dogiv 21 February 2017 05:34:25PM 5 points [-]

I agree there's something to the exploration-exploitation view of people becoming more closed-minded. But don't be too quick to write it off as "people don't think carefully anymore", or simple tribalism. Some important questions really do get settled by all those late-night college debates, though often the answer is "I don't think it's possible to know this" or "It's not worth the years of effort it would take to understand at a more-than-amateur level."

People are recognizing their limitations and zeroing in on the areas where they can get the highest return on investment for their thoughts. That's a difficult thing to do when you're younger, because you don't have much to compare yourself to. If you've never met a physicist more knowledgeable than your 9th-grade science teacher, you might well think you can make big contributions to the theory of relativity in the space of a few weeks' discussion with your friends.

Similarly, when it comes to politics, the idea of considering every idea with an open mind can fall victim to the pressures of reality--some ideas are superficially appealing but actually harmful; some are nice in theory but are so far from what could reasonably be implemented that their return on investment is low. And because politics is so adversarial, many ideas that are promoted as novel and non-partisan are actually trying to sneak in a not-so-novel agenda through the back door.

Comment author: tristanm 21 February 2017 07:43:21PM 5 points [-]

That's an interesting thought. However, I tend to observe that most people do not take strictly agnostic positions on most things. In fact, it seems that people tend towards certainty rather than uncertainty. So I'm not sure that I'm seeing people tend to give up on questions they think are too difficult or that they don't have the expertise or time to really come to a conclusion on. From my perspective it seems that people really do fall into ideological camps where they believe a lot of matters have been completely settled and do not need further discussion.

An interesting sort-of reverse phenomenon that I've noticed, is that on matters where people really have more expertise, they actually tend to be a little more agnostic about and open to debate. So for example you might notice people having an in depth discussion on some aspect of software engineering, like a library or a framework, weighing the pros and cons of each and citing expert opinion - but on politics, which we understand even less about - you really don't see this at all.

Comment author: Viliam 21 February 2017 11:50:52AM *  5 points [-]

I can imagine a few possible things that could have contributed.

First, being more open-minded when young and getting more close-minded as older is the usual way, not just for humans, but also for many animals. Kittens are more playful than adult cats. And "philosophy" is a way of playing with words and ideas, so naturally young people would play with different ideas (the smart ones with different smart-sounding ideas; the stupid ones with different simplistic ideas), and gradually settle on the One True Way of looking at things, as they stop being able to consider new ideas, and choose one of the known ones which seems to work best for them.

It makes sense from the "exploration / exploitation" point of view: When you have a lot of time ahead of you, and your opinions matter relatively little because you are in a relatively safe environment, it is good to explore and get new data. When time becomes scarce and potential mistakes costly, stick with the best of what you already know. Also, there is a trade-off between exploration and productivity; the time you spend playing with new ideas is the time you don't spend earning money or working on your dreams; which is okay for a teenager with low value at job market. For an adult, job and/or children reduce the time and mental energy they can spend on thinking about things unrelated to immediate survival.

Second, people try to fit in their environment. I am sorry if this sounds too cynical, but the change of your friends probably reflects the change of the environment they are currently trying to fit in, where "scolding people, or snarky comments" are the standards of communication. (Trying to do anything else in such environment would probably gain you some snarky comments, and trying to reflect on the situation would get you scolded, plus some extra snarky comments. Not being sufficiently far-left of far-right would gain you low status as insufficiently "woke" or whatever is the right-wing equivalent.) Consider yourself lucky that you are not living in such environment.

Third, there is a possibility that a part of what you observe is simply you growing up. That not only the other people are changing, but also you start observing things that you didn't notice before. I may be generalizing too much from my own example, but it was the case for me that the people whom I considered smart when I was a teenager, suddenly seem pretty stupid now. (Of course, the scary alternative is that this is just me achieving the One True Way of looking at things, unable to tolerate other views anymore.) For example, I used to be impressed by people who had "their own opinion" on theory of relativity or quantum physics. Then I learned something about these topics; and then I realized that most of what these people talk is pure bullshit, probably learned from a random pseudoscientific YouTube video. They still use the same strategy, and extend it to other topics; I am just not impressed by it anymore. Now that I have more information than I had as a teenager, I can see more ways how people can be wrong.

Also, if you formerly interracted with your friends in person, and now it's mostly online, that too makes things worse.

Comment author: username2 21 February 2017 01:43:11AM *  4 points [-]

Yes, this is absolutely normal, common experience. People get "set in their ways" in some point in their lives and it becomes easier to move a mountain than to have them change their mind. This is exactly why one of the very first parts of the EY sequences is How To Actually Change Your Mind. It is the foundational skill of rationalism, and something which most people, even self-described rationalists, lack. Really, truly changing your mind goes against some sort of in-built human instinct, itself the amalgamation of various described heuristics and biases with names like 'the availability heuristic' and '(dis)confirmation bias.'

Comment author: satt 21 February 2017 11:02:17PM 3 points [-]

The (speculative) explanation my mind immediately goes to: a combination of the you-are-the-average-of-your-5-best-friends heuristic, and the dilution of a selected social group when its members move into new environments.

Universities and workplaces, with unusual exceptions, are probably not going to select as aggressively for high rationality (however you define "rational" & "rationality") as your in-school social selection did. So (I suspect) when the people in your circle started expanding their own social networks during university and then at work, the average rationality of their friends & acquaintances went down. And because (insofar as a person and their behaviour are malleable) a person's influenced by the people they hang out with, that probably made the people you know/knew less rational, or at least less likely to behave rationally.

Comment author: Viliam 22 February 2017 01:12:30PM 4 points [-]

Something in your comment changed my... not exactly opinion, more like feeling... about comparing social life at school and at job.

Until now, I was thinking like this: At school you are thrown together with random kids from your neighborhood. But when you grow up, you choose your career, sometimes you even choose a different city or country, and then you are surrounded with people who made a similar choice. Therefore... not sure how to put this into words... your social environment at job is a result of more "optimization freedom" than your social environment at school.

But suddenly it seems completely the other way round: Sure, the job is filtering for people somehow, but maybe it doesn't filter exactly by the criteria you care about the most. For example, you may care about people being nice and rational, but you career choice only allowed you to filter by education and social class. So, more optimization, but not necessarily in the direction you care about. And then at the job you are stuck with the colleagues you get on your project. However, at school, you had the freedom to pick a few people among dozens, and hang out with them.

I guess what I am trying to say that if your criteria for people you want to associate with have a large component of education and social class, you will probably find the job better than school, socially; but if your criteria are about something else, you will probably find the job worse than school. (And university probably gives you the best of both worlds: a preselection of people, among whom you can further select.)

Comment author: 9eB1 23 February 2017 05:14:53PM 2 points [-]

That is true for people who you are going to become friends with, but difference in negative environments is much bigger. If your job has a toxic social environment, you are free to find a new one at any time. You also have many bona fide levers to adjust the environment, by for example complaining to your boss, suing the company, etc.

When your high school has a toxic social environment, you have limited ability to switch out of that environment. Complaints of other students have extremely high bars to be taken into account because it's mandatory for them to be there and it isn't in the administrator's best interests. If someone isn't doing something plainly illegal it's unlikely you will get much help.

Comment author: satt 22 February 2017 08:08:49PM 2 points [-]


The school → university transition might be the most interesting one WRT tristanm's question, because although it theoretically offers the best opportunity to select for rationality, in practice a lot of people can't or won't exploit the opportunity. I imagine even quite nerdy students, when deciding where to apply to university, didn't spend long asking themselves, "how can I make sure I wind up at a campus with lots of rationalists?" (I sure didn't!)

Comment author: Lumifer 23 February 2017 06:06:41PM 0 points [-]

I don't know about rationalists but one big advantage of going to what's called a "highly selective college" is that your peers there are mostly smart. The same principle works for schools, except that the results are not as pronounced because the schools effectively use the wealth of the parents as a proxy.

Comment author: Strangeattractor 26 February 2017 08:03:36AM 1 point [-]

I think the impression you have of the people may have been influenced by seeing them primarily through social media. Have you talked to them in person? It might be different. The format of social media makes having nuanced discussions difficult, and emphasizes the more tribal posts.

Another thing to consider is that their priorities may have changed more than their approach to life. They may be applying empiricism to how to advance in a career, or how to be a good parent. There is a limited amount of time in a day, and they may have enough time to do only a few things well. Also, sleep deprivation, common among new parents, can make thinking clearly more difficult. Once children get older, parents get a bit of their balance back.

Comment author: tristanm 27 February 2017 04:26:19AM 1 point [-]

Interestingly, out of my original friend group, I am the only one who has gotten married and had a child. If anything, I have been forced to become more rational in order to cope with the added anxieties, lack of sleep, and stress.

Comment author: MrMind 21 February 2017 09:14:43AM *  1 point [-]

I can offer a possible explanation (just one model though, you'll have to verify it for yourself).
Humans are by design far from rationality as we intend it: we evolved to function in a social environment of peers, and to make life and death decisions in the blink of an eye. The structure of our brain is such that we first make instinctive decisions, and then we justify them post-hoc. The aim of rationality where we try to first deliberate the truth from first principles and the conform our behaviour to those conlcusions, is totally alien to the way human beings usually work.
It is possible to change our mind by self-deliberation, but it is very difficult, with our own nature as an obstacle, and thus can be done only for a limited array of subjects and with enough resources at your disposal (such as a lot of time and a safe environment).
This might have been what happened to your friends: by concentrating on thriving in the social environment, they made more and more reliance on system 1 (the heuristic, quick-firing decision system) first, to the point of forgetting to exercise system 2 (slow and deliberate) first as you did when debating years ago.
The more interesting question I would say is this: why you never forgot?

Comment author: tristanm 21 February 2017 07:12:25PM 2 points [-]

That's a good question. I think what separates me from a lot of the people I surrounded myself with is that I tend to have always relied far more on system 2 than on system 1. The exact reason for this I'm not sure about, except that I've always felt that my system 1 has always lagged behind or has been deficient in some way relative to most of my peers. I've always felt very uncomfortable in social situations, high stress or fast decision-making environments, or when the demands to react quickly are quite high. I've always been a lot more comfortable in environments that allow me to think and work on a problem as long as I need to before I feel ready to commit to something. For that reason, I've come to rely on system 2 - like reasoning for a lot of tasks that would normally be done by system 1.

I think many people, once they transition to the environment in which navigating complex social structures becomes necessary, learn to rely mostly on system 1. This probably happens around the early adulthood phase, through college and into early career, when networking becomes very important. For various reasons, I found I didn't need to network very hard or build up a lot of social capital to find a career and a comfortable livelihood. I realize that this probably makes me very lucky - I am basically able to hold this outside-view position that allows me, in a way, to be a little more protected from certain biases that could have potentially been learned from trying to thrive in highly social environments.

Comment author: ingive 26 February 2017 10:17:51AM *  0 points [-]

I've had the overall impression that the older you become the stronger you hold your beliefs, a metaphor can be the hardening of neural networks. I am making a relation right now between that and the part of the personality known as 'openness' which according to Roland R. Griffiths decrease as people become older.

“Normally, if anything, openness tends to decrease as people get older,” says study leader Roland R. Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.


Which is discussed here: http://lesswrong.com/lw/7wh/rationality_drugs/4xmw to http://lesswrong.com/lw/82g/on_the_openness_personality_trait_rationality/

So drop acid with your friends, or rather have an underground psychedelic therapy group with blindfolds, music and emotional support. You gotta do your research though on how to facilitate these kinds of experiences. This is only for educational purposes and in theory.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 21 February 2017 10:01:34AM *  8 points [-]

FYI, I just banned an account "kings11me" who didn't participate in the forum, but was sending the following private message to multiple users:

God bless you and thanks, how are you? Happy to meet you. I got your contact via this site, I seriously have interest to invest on a profitable business in your country, the money I want to invest was acquired from my church member, and then I was his financial adviser. The amount to invest is ($14.5 million US dollars) presently, but I’m the present Catholic Church leader in my parish, if you will like to assist me as a partner, you must have the fear of God? kindly indicate your interest, and all other details relating to the funds will be revealed to you as we progress on. Confidentiality contact my direct e-mail address (REDACTED@yahoo com or REDACTED@gmail com) also indicate your direct telephone number, when replying this mail, God will guide us and with good health Amen, God bless you and your family, Rev, Chris Madurai Okon.

(In other words, I am an evil villain who has just deprived MIRI of a possible $14.500.000 donation from a secret rationality benefactor masquerading as an ordinary spammer. Business as usual. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!)

Comment author: skeptical_lurker 20 February 2017 10:08:35PM 8 points [-]

I think about politics far too much. Its depressing, both in terms of outcomes and in terms of how bad the average political argument is. It makes me paranoid and alienated if people I know join facebook groups that advocate political violence/murder/killing all the kulaks, although to be fair its possible that those people have only read one or two posts and missed the violent ones. But most of all its fundamentally pretty pointless because I have no desire to get involved in politics and I'm sure that wrt any advantages in terms of helping me to better understand human nature, I've already picked all the low hanging fruit.

So anyway, I'm starting by committing to ignore all politics for a week (unless something really earth-shattering happens). I'll post again in a week to say whether I stuck to it, and if I didn't, please downvote me to oblivion.

Oh, and replying to replies to this post are excepted from this rule.

Comment deleted 22 February 2017 06:16:42AM [-]
Comment author: skeptical_lurker 22 February 2017 12:58:33PM 3 points [-]

No, but I'm not under the illusion that I can currently make any significant contribution to changing politics - its certainly not my area of comparative advantage, but I could at least leave the country if things did start to get that bad. There would be fairly obvious warning signs that would not require a close watch on current events.

Comment author: username2 21 February 2017 01:27:31AM *  2 points [-]

although to be fair its possible that those people have only read one or two posts and missed the violent ones

Or they agree with some aspects of a group but not others. Surely you don't agree with every opinion voiced on LessWrong, do you? Not even all of the generally accepted orthodoxy either, I'm sure. If you claimed you did, I'm sure I could come up with some post by EY (picked for representing LW views, no other reason) that you would be insulted to think others ascribed to you. Worth thinking about.

Even in cases that appear to be clear cut fear or violence mongering it may be that they joined the group to have its messages in their news feed for awareness, because they refuse to flinch from the problem. How others choose to engage in social circles should be treated like browsing data from a library -- confidential, respected, and interpreted charitably. We wouldn't want to be making thought crime a real thing by adding social repercussions to how they choose to engage in the world around them.

Comment author: skeptical_lurker 21 February 2017 01:54:16AM 3 points [-]

All good points, in the general case - I myself frequently read about things I disagree with. However...

Even in cases that appear to be clear cut fear or violence mongering it may be that they joined the group to have its messages in their news feed for awareness, because they refuse to flinch from the problem.

That is more of a LW thing. Most normal people don't act like this, and the person I was thinking of certainly doesn't. Politics is about waving the flag for your tribe, and trying to actually understand the other tribe's point of view is like waving the enemy flag - treason! To show that they are loyal, many people seem to be adopting the maximally uncharitably point of view, or at least they are in the last few years.

Of course, its also possible that that is why some people are advocating violence - they wouldn't really want violence, and they certainly wouldn't personally assault someone, but they advocate violence because it shows more tribal loyalty then just advocating peaceful protest.

Comment deleted 22 February 2017 11:56:52AM [-]
Comment deleted 22 February 2017 10:46:37PM [-]
Comment deleted 23 February 2017 12:06:53PM [-]
Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 27 February 2017 08:12:04PM 0 points [-]

Better answer: they would need to demonstrate experiencing subjective time, such as by flavor-oscillating.

Which they do.

Which is why we think they have mass.

Comment deleted 28 February 2017 12:26:56PM [-]
Comment deleted 02 March 2017 07:10:49PM *  [-]
Comment deleted 02 March 2017 07:37:41PM [-]
Comment deleted 01 March 2017 10:51:57PM [-]
Comment deleted 01 March 2017 11:34:47PM [-]
Comment deleted 02 March 2017 07:11:30PM [-]
Comment deleted 02 March 2017 07:20:09PM [-]
Comment deleted 28 February 2017 12:54:56AM [-]
Comment author: Good_Burning_Plastic 28 February 2017 03:00:52AM 1 point [-]

Think about it this way, take a theory where the neutrino's mass is ε for arbitrary small ε and take the limit as ε approaches 0.

Then all other things being equal the length the neutrino needs to travel in order to oscillate to a different flavor approaches infinity.

(More accurately, oscillation lengths are inversely proportional to the differences between squared masses of neutrino mass eigenstates. So you can't set a lower bound to the mass of the lightest eigenstate, but you can set a lower bound to the masses of the two other eigenstates. (Each of the three neutrino flavors is a different superposition of the three neutrino mass eigenstates.)

Comment deleted 28 February 2017 07:39:29AM *  [-]
Comment author: Good_Burning_Plastic 28 February 2017 09:26:03AM 0 points [-]

I assume you mean differences between masses, not squared masses,

No I don't

as a little dimensional analysis show suggest.

It's the difference between squared masses divided by the energy.

Comment author: Elo 23 February 2017 07:45:56PM 0 points [-]

I think this is a failure of question. We should be asking for concrete evidence of the event. For example if we smash neutrinos into our sensors they register as having a mass by interacting with other mass holding particles

Comment author: ChristianKl 23 February 2017 07:52:56AM 1 point [-]

That's simple, engage in pathological lying.

How do you distinguish lying that's pathological from lying that isn't?

Comment author: ChristianKl 22 February 2017 11:11:03PM 1 point [-]

To be fair to the people arguing against this, I suspect they're using a somewhat non-standard definition of "motivated by".

You can tell a story about how the old generals of the Iraqi army were out of work and wanted to regain political power and used the banner of Islam as tool. Not because they are honest believers but because it was the best move to gain political power.

That story uses the standard definition of "motivated by" but I don't think it's a full representation of what happened.

Comment deleted 23 February 2017 03:43:32AM [-]
Comment author: ChristianKl 23 February 2017 07:50:55AM 1 point [-]

Not necessarily. Sunni's might believe that siding with other Sunni's is a good idea because they expect to get treated better than Shia. Signaling the tribal loyalty might be more central than anything substantive about Islam.

Comment author: gjm 22 February 2017 03:46:58PM 1 point [-]

This is a useful general prescription against irrationality: if a belief is supported by reason and evidence then you should be able to say what evidence would make you revise it. But it's worth noting that sometimes a belief may be reasonable but really hard to imagine remotely plausible evidence that would change your mind about it. What would Donald Trump have to do that would make you think he's a progressive internationalist who favours open borders and free trade? What would ISIS have to do to convince you that they are primarily an organization dedicated to fostering peace and cooperation among people of different religions?

Clearly it's not actually unreasonable to think that Donald Trump isn't keen on open borders and free trade, or that ISIS aren't particularly into peace and cooperation. But the question you should be able to answer to justify a claim that you believe those things rationally is, I suggest, not so much "what evidence would change your mind?" but "what different evidence would have led to a different conclusion?". If Donald Trump had campaigned on promises to lower tariffs and offer amnesties to illegal immigrants, or if ISIS gave out pamphlets about peace and love and charity instead of blowing things up, I'd have different opinions about them. (Though I'd probably still mistrust both.)

So if someone can't tell you what Donald Trump could do to convince them he's a pathological liar, rather than writing them off you might instead ask them "well, then what could he have done differently that would have led you to think of him that way?".

(Where you think they're not only wrong but obviously wrong, you might reasonably take the view that anyone who thinks the evidence is so one-sided that it would take an impossible amount of future evidence to change their mind is ipso facto probably nuts. So you might write them off after all, if you think no remotely reasonable person could think the evidence overwhelmingly favours Trump not being a pathological liar.)

Comment author: chaosmage 23 February 2017 10:36:31AM 0 points [-]

you might reasonably take the view that anyone who thinks the evidence is so one-sided that it would take an impossible amount of future evidence to change their mind is ipso facto probably nuts. So you might write them off after all

I agree that would be the sensible response, but I'm curious for ways to engage with people who see the world radically differently.

An ability to build particularly long bridges of consensus across particularly wide chasms of preconceptions could do the world a lot of good, if it is a learnable and teachable skill.

Comment author: ChristianKl 22 February 2017 04:27:56PM 0 points [-]

Donald Trump could hold make increase the amount of green cards that the US hands out to skilled workers. Nixon went to China and if Trump acts in a way that actually furthers immigration and that reduces the total tariff burdens I'm open to accepting him as a progressive internationalist.

Comment author: HungryHippo 23 February 2017 02:04:15PM *  0 points [-]

When I listend to his AMA, I noticed this line as well. It's a really clever "tool for thinking" that deserves to be noticed.

There's an interview with Dawkins somewhere where he mentions an anecdote about Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein is supposed to have said "Why did people ever believe that the sun revolves around the earth?", and his interlocutor supposedly answered: "Well, obviously it's because it looks like the sun is revolving around the earth." Then Wittgenstein whips out the counterfactual: "Well, what would it have looked like if it looked like the earth revolves around the sun?".

And the answer is obviously: exactly the same, lol!

Comment author: fubarobfusco 23 February 2017 04:35:58PM 1 point [-]

So what was the wrong idea "geocentrism" about, then?

Some tribal lore tells us that it had to do with the centrality of humanity in God's plan; or the qualitative difference between earthly and celestial things: the sun, moon, and stars belong to the heavens; the earth is below them; and hell is under the earth.

But maybe it's more to do with a wrong idea of "revolving" instead. The ancients had no concept of freefall. When they imagined an object revolving around another, they may have imagined a sling-stone being swung in a sling. "If the earth were swinging around the sun, surely we would fall off!" The earth has discernible features such as oceans, trees, and people which might "fall off" under motion, but the sun doesn't, being a seemingly featureless body of light: so the evidence of ordinary terrestrial experience favors the stability of the earth and the motion of the sun.

Even after heliocentric cosmology, it took more than a century to come up with the unification of celestial and terrestrial gravity: that the same rules govern the motion of the planets and moons that also govern cannonballs.

Comment author: [deleted] 22 February 2017 07:49:51PM *  2 points [-]

Imagine that a completely trustworthy person who knows all your beliefs has acquired information that will "radically alter your worldview." No further details of the information are given. How much would you pay for it?


Comment author: Dagon 22 February 2017 11:41:11PM 3 points [-]

Unpack "trustworthy" - does this mean the person isn't going to tell falsehoods, but may not actually understand how truth works? Or is this more like Omega - has special access to data?

Comment author: [deleted] 23 February 2017 12:04:55PM *  1 point [-]

The person doesn't tell lies and you trust his/her intelligence and access to information.

Comment author: Dagon 23 February 2017 02:36:05PM *  0 points [-]

But otherwise, the person has non-exceptional access to and discernment of truth? So it's likely that anything truly unusual he believes is wrong. I don't think Bayes will let me update all that far from "whatever he says is filtered through an engine not optimized for truth." Anything that he thinks will "radically alter my worldview" is likely an illusion or something I already have some evidence for.

This changes in cases where I think the person DOES have better-than-average access to truth.

Also, the fact that he's offering to sell me information that will change my worldview very much works against my likelihood to believe what he says.

Comment author: [deleted] 23 February 2017 04:36:57PM *  1 point [-]

You are fighting the hypothetical.

A person has true information that will "radically alter your worldview". Assume you believe him/her. How much would you pay for the information?

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 27 February 2017 08:15:13PM 0 points [-]

Seems more like trying to clarify the hypothetical. There's a genuine dependency here.

Comment author: Dagon 24 February 2017 03:15:01AM 0 points [-]

You are fighting the hypothetical.

Yeah, I tend to do that. However, this is the first that you've asserted that it's true information, which is an important clarification. I'm willing to pay a significant amount for true information that will let me make a large update (which is how I interpret "radically alter worldview").

Comment author: ChristianKl 23 February 2017 07:48:14AM 0 points [-]

I read it as a person who generally has a good track record and who build a reputation with being right when he makes these kind of claims.

Maybe someone who already has done this intervention a few times and who uses the principles of http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/oe0/predictionbased_medicine_pbm/ and can tell you that with 90% credence you will afterwards say that he radically changed your mind.

Comment author: drethelin 24 February 2017 09:25:44PM 2 points [-]

If all the parts of this hold true, then person knows me well enough to know how important it would be to me and to the world to change my worldview. If they're not already telling me without payment, I can conclude that it wouldn't have much practical impact and be something like "The Earth is a Simulation but we don't know anything about how it works beyond physics or who made it, but the proof is convincing." Given that, I would probably pay a small amount of curiosity but not more.

Comment author: ChristianKl 27 February 2017 09:00:26AM 0 points [-]

Sharing the information might have a cost for the other person that lead to it not being shared without payment.

There's also the element that you take information a lot more seriously when you paid money for it.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 24 February 2017 05:37:12AM 0 points [-]

If I know that what they are saying is true, I will already radically alter my worldview, by dividing up my probability estimate among the alternate possibilities that I think are most likely to be true.

Comment author: MrMind 21 February 2017 08:26:07AM 1 point [-]

It's very funny that I got spam from this site soliciting me in investing money for a church, and the prerequisite is "you must have the fear of God". Please ban the user kings11me.

Comment author: Elo 23 February 2017 06:32:01AM 0 points [-]

Already done, thanks to those who reported it..

Comment author: tukabel 20 February 2017 12:31:51PM 1 point [-]

So Bill Gates wants to tax robots... well, how about SOFTWARE? May fit easily into certain definitions of ROBOT. Especially if we realize it is the software what makes robot (in that line of argumentation) a "job stealing evil" (100% retroactive tax on evil profits from selling software would probably shut Billy's mouth).

Now how about AI? Going to "steal" virtually ALL JOBS... friendly or not.

And let's go one step further: who is the culprit? The devil who had an IDEA!

The one who invented the robot, its application in the production, programmer who wrote the software, designed neural nets, etc.

So, let's tax ideas and thinking as such... all orwellian/huxleyian fantasies fade short in the Brave New Singularity.

Comment author: AspiringRationalist 20 February 2017 10:41:43PM 11 points [-]

Can we please bring back downvoting?

Comment author: username2 20 February 2017 01:41:30PM 1 point [-]

I'd say that you are not supposed to tax people, you are supposed to tax flows of money, e.g. income, profit, sales, etc.

Comment author: Thomas 20 February 2017 08:46:00AM 1 point [-]

A math problem


This one is a real one, but somewhat transformed and potentially solvable.

Comment author: ingive 24 February 2017 04:01:33AM 0 points [-]

There is a lot of wishing with what I wish for the world, so then I understand that the best option for me is to figure out the best course action over my lifetime, as that's what I have access to (indirectly via bandwidth to a keyboard-computer-internet-etc-you) but at the same time disconnecting from this belief. Because wishing isn't the best option, neither is the best course of action. Realizing that it's useful practically sometimes to attach to thinking, but not for the majority of the time. (p.s I made an excuse for my attachment to my thinking lol)

The best course of action is being in a state of flow constantly, which means inhibiting subvocalization and past-future thinking. Because the left hemisphere gets in the way of the action I am taking. For example, if I do a round of dual n-back, if I start actively thinking, my score drops. However, if I enter into a state of flow or focusing and thus inhibit the default mode network, it seems much better.

Now, I think that rationality suits as the best action, while at the same time not being attached to rationality and embrace the right hemisphere. Of course, from inside-out the brain knowing of right hemispheres will teach you nothing. But it acts as a guide to get you to spend time being in a state of flow to get 'nowhere' as naturally, you will become better at it.

What do I wish for rationalists and myself? I wish that we naturally tip the balance to the flow state but decide our actions with rationality. How this is expected to work is as following, every human being on this planet should go towards persistent non-symbolic experiences. While at the same time building applications, for example, everyone's phone for example which will act as a reminder and memory tool. The connection between the phone and the brain can simply be a wireless earpiece wore at all times. Maybe with some weak-AI system as well. Doesn't have to be an AGI. So we already use and have this technology.

I'm infinitely certain that this is our purpose on planet earth.

Comment author: gjm 24 February 2017 03:52:00PM 4 points [-]

In case anyone's wondering what we lost by turning off downvotes: We lost the ability to downvote this sort of stuff into oblivion.

(Still a net-positive tradeoff, I think, but certainly far from cost-free.)

Comment author: ingive 25 February 2017 08:07:52AM *  0 points [-]

You seem to imply that my comment is a cost but not to which extent. I acknowledge that I am not a writer which is able to facilitate this to you in the LW-lingo and better English. But, it also matters to a cost to what and benefit to who? I'm not writing with my brain wired from the perspective of the community of lesswrong. But, frankly, I have seen it very strongly in its users like you. It might seem like I am confronting you but then I offer you the opportunity to see it in another way.

The way which is bigger than all of us and epistemic/instrumental rationality combined.

I'm not sure what's the problem anyway if you can say what is. I wish you would argue against me so I can better explain my point. :)

Peace and stillness my man. I appreciate y'all.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 27 February 2017 08:44:01PM 0 points [-]

Your first sentence, for example, has a lot of parts, and uses terms in unusual ways, and there are multiple possible interpretations of several parts. The end effect is that we don't know what you're saying.

I suspect that what you're saying could make sense if presented more clearly, and it would not seem deep or mysterious. This would be a feature, not a bug.

Comment author: ingive 28 February 2017 12:51:44AM *  0 points [-]

My wishing for the world is intellectual masturbation, so my practical actions in this consensus reality matter the most (instrumental rationality). But if thinking stops (epistemic rationality by persistent non-symbolic experiences) I do not care in a sense, I go insane in relation to the consensus reality but sane to the non-symbolic way of being.

So the way to solve this is to have a good system to remember me of my chores, goals, and choices which we would call rationality in the consensus reality. Otherwise, I might simply no longer be efficient from what I learn of the consensus reality. My memory might even be impaired.

Some think that the way for us to return to these states is by AGI and simply overcoming the limits of the human brain, but humans have done it for thousands of years, possibly with more ease.

See this article, Ben Goertzel is doing the interview: http://hplusmagazine.com/2012/08/08/engineering-enlightenment-part-one/

So what I think that I want is a persistent non-symbolic state, symbols make no sense, it's a bit Orwellian. But empirical feeling, indiscriminate love and so on makes a lot of sense. Of course, everything will function as it used to be ('I'-thought have never existed in the first place), but it will still be different. But from the place I am, I need (and I think humanity) need some system in which the computer keeps a track of what my goals and so on were before the persistent non-symbolic state.

This beautifully falls into a nice merging with machines, I think, let that which is unconscious, and always will be (machines), be our thinking, for we are non-symbolic I think. :)

Comment author: Strangeattractor 28 February 2017 08:47:56AM 0 points [-]

You say "intellectual masturbation" like it's a bad thing. :)

Comment author: Lumifer 23 February 2017 04:59:21PM 0 points [-]
Comment author: gjm 23 February 2017 07:47:04PM 1 point [-]

Until the evidence is stronger, I might suggest "that allegedly makes it easier" or "that hopefully makes it easier" or something of the kind.

Comment author: Lumifer 24 February 2017 04:22:57PM 0 points [-]

I just reposted the HN title, it's not my conclusion. I think HN discovered it's mostly a profanity filter, anyway :-/

Comment author: MaryCh 23 February 2017 09:22:35AM *  0 points [-]

According to chronicles1, the Volkhov river in the town of Novgorod sometimes flowed back. It happened in 1063 (5 days), 1415 (not stated for how long, but 'Volkhov and many other rivers' are said to have done that), 1461 (3 days), 1468 ('The whole summer the river Volkhov upwards flowed for four days', not sure how to read this at all), and 1525 (9 days, 'not by wind, neither by storm, but by the order of its creator the God').

1compiled in Е. П. Борисенков, В. М. Пасецкий. Тысячелетняя летопись необычайных явлений природы. 1988. (A thousand-year-long chronicle of astonishing natural phenomena).