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Comment author: Error 13 March 2016 02:04:09AM 1 point [-]

I'm astonished that hearing aids cost so much, given how thoroughly the personal-audio-hardware space has been colonized by cheap electronics. What's up with that?

Comment author: CAE_Jones 13 March 2016 05:40:06AM 0 points [-]

I've heard the phrase "disability markup" used to describe how almost everything ever targeted toward physical or sensory disabilities are absurdly expensive. That name implies more intentional malice than I expect is at work; I'd generally round off to "market forces"--it's difficult to take advantage of mass market capitalism when selling to a minority, but it is possible to take advantage of government assistance programs.

It seems like, though, based on my (very limited) understanding of hearing aids, a charitable version of "disability markup" might be closer to reality. After all, if it's treating a disability, especially one found in old people, either those who need it are going to be rich from a lifetime of savings, or poor and getting the government to pay for it anyway, right?

It isn't hearing aids so much as screen readers, but Chris Hofstader implies as much might be a component of business models for such companies in this article:

Will FS respond to this new found competition, possibly based in the fact that NVDA costs nothing and FS gets more than a thousand bucks for JAWS with a price cut? Probably not. I haven’t worked at FS for more than a decade but, back then, we discussed the possibility of a free or no cost screen reader coming onto the market and how we might respond. Our strategy then and likely now was that, if we felt competitive pressure from a low or no cost solution, we would raise the price of JAWS. As I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, there are technologies that one can only access using JAWS and the FS strategy was to make sure we kept our profits high by “eating the rich.” I don’t know if FS will respond this way ten and a half years later but, as NVDA RA adds a feature to NVDA that one needed to buy JAWS to get, , they may need to find a way to replace the dollars on their bottom line and may, in fact, respond by increasing the price of JAWS.

James_Miller's guess wouldn't apply so much to screen readers (but would apply to things like the Brain Port, which opened at a price of $10,000US), but I wouldn't be surprised if going through the FDA is a big part of the markup on hearing aids.

Comment author: Old_Gold 13 February 2016 01:55:00AM 1 point [-]

Five years ago, we weren't just coming down from a spree of witch-hunts in which online mobs destroy people's lives for being insufficiently politically correct.

And you're trying to be one of the witch-hunters?

Comment author: CAE_Jones 13 February 2016 05:54:15AM 2 points [-]

No, I'm afraid of the witch-hunters. (So far, polling indicates that this was not the right hypothesis for the commentary in general.) I avoided commenting until my previous comment because I was pretty sure I'd regret it--probably missing the point or getting drawn into the political deluge--and it seems this was the correct expectation.

Comment author: Dentin 12 February 2016 02:30:13AM 12 points [-]

OP Upvoted.

It's been stated elsewhere that a long standing member of the LW community was leaving because of this post. Well, to counterbalance that, I'm also strongly considering leaving LW, but it's not because of the OP. It's because of these comment threads.

In particular, the comments have shown me just how far the LW community has fallen. I'd really rather not be around people who both get offended so easily and are so willing to mindkill themselves should the slightest opportunity present itself. FYI, the OP isn't about you. It's not about your pet projects. It's not insulting everything you stand for. You're just not that important.

Five years ago, this post would likely have died a simple, unglorious death by being too vague or poorly written to be upvoted. Today it causes a political shitstorm as the community decides to interpret it in a way directly contrary to the stated goal of author. Five years ago, it would have been discussed rationally, the writer would have received tips and suggestions, and quite likely some good would have been drawn out of it. Today, it causes mass mindkilling because people feel that their identity is being attacked.

Those are the kinds of people I don't wish to be around.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 12 February 2016 04:29:32PM 1 point [-]

Five years ago

Five years ago, we weren't just coming down from a spree of witch-hunts in which online mobs destroy people's lives for being insufficiently politically correct. I suspect lots of "be on the look out for anything that looks sexist" conditioning still hasn't worn off. But I might be mind-projecting.

Actually, it seems worth a poll. did/did not take it as something close to rape apologia, are/are not worried about doxing or other such harassment campaigns?


Comment author: Lumifer 28 January 2016 03:54:46PM 1 point [-]

I am a bit confused. If we are living in a Quantum Immortality world, why don't we see any 1000-year-old people around?

Comment author: CAE_Jones 28 January 2016 04:33:37PM 0 points [-]

I understand QI as related to the Anthropic Principal. The point is that you will tend to find yourself observing things, which implies that there is an effectively immortal version of you somewhere in probability space. It doesn't require that any Quantum Immortals coexist in the same world.

Of course, we'd be far more likely to continue observing things in a world where immortality is already available than in one where it is not, but since we're not in that world, it doesn't seem too outlandish to give a little weight to the idea that the absence of Quantum Immortals is a precondition to being a Quantum Immortal. I have no idea how that makes sense, though. One could construct fantastic hypotheticals about eventually encountering an alien race intent on wiping out immortals, or some Highlander-esque shenanigans, but more likely is that immortality is just hard and not that many people can win the QI lottery in a single world. (Or even that we happen to be living at the time when immortality is attainable.)

Incidentally (or frustratingly), this gets us back into "it's all part of the divine plan" territory. Why do you go through problem X? Because if you didn't, you would eventually die forever.

I am now curious as to whether or not there are books that combine Quantum Immortality with religious eschitology[sic]. Just wait for the Quantum Messiah to invent a world-hopping ability to rescue everyone who has ever lived from their own personal eternity (which is probably a Quantum Hell by that point), and bring them to Quantum Heaven.

(I was not thinking Quantum Jesus would be an AI, but sure; why not? Now we have the Universal Reconciliation version of straw Singularitarianism.)

Comment author: CCC 26 January 2016 05:32:55AM 0 points [-]

His Wikipedia article is rather vague on how he made his wealth,

He is or has been a director of a lot of companies; you can find a substantial background on his directorships over here. Given the salaries that high-end directors tend to receive, it;s no wonder he's built up that sort of wealth.

So is being one of the worst presidents in US history something to be proud of?

I'll admit, my knowledge of US history is very poor, as I do not live there. All I really know about Obama is that he seems to be a substantial improvement on Bush; I have absolutely no basis for comparison with anyone further back than that.

But becoming US President is, I think, something to be proud of in and of itself. It can't be something that's easy to do.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 26 January 2016 07:50:21AM 0 points [-]

There was a recent thread in discussion trying to objectively evaluate Obama's presidency. The general conclusion seems to be, based on comparing policy outcomes and polling data with that of other presidents, that Obama is a fairly mediocre president, and unless some evidence surfaces that he was secretly the mastermind behind ISIS, in no way among the worst.

Comment author: polymathwannabe 10 January 2016 03:12:52PM 2 points [-]

I know much less Chinese than you do. Having said that:

The Chinese version of "be" lets you apply a noun predicate to your subject, but not an adjectival predicate: you can use it to say "I am a student" or "I am an American" but not "I am tired" or "I am tall;" that is, it doesn't state the attributes of a noun but an equivalence between two nouns. To say "I am tall," you just say "I tall." All of the other meanings of "be" (the ones relevant to this problem are those related to the essence/existence question) are expressed with various other words in Chinese.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 10 January 2016 04:48:24PM 1 point [-]

Ah, yeah, that's true. Adjectives exhibit verb-like behavior in several East Asian languages; that they also do this in Chinese kinda slipped my mind.

Comment author: polymathwannabe 10 January 2016 07:33:05AM *  2 points [-]

Sapir-Whorf-related question:

Although I've been an informal reader of philosophy for most of my life, only today did I connect some dots and notice that Chinese philosophers never occupied themselves with the question of Being, which has so obsessed Western philosophers. When I noticed this, my next thought was, "But of course; the Chinese language has no word for 'be.'" Wikipedia didn't provide any confirmation or disconfirmation of this hypothesis, but it does narrate how Muslim philosophers struggled when adapting Greek questions of Being into their own words.

Then I asked myself: Wait, did the Chinese never really address this subject? Let's see: Confucianism focused on practical philosophy, Taoism is rather poetry instead of proper ontology, and Buddhism did acknowledge questions about Being, but saw them as the wrong questions. I'm not sure about the pre-Confucian schools.

If it turns out to be the case that the main reason why Chinese philosophers never discussed Being is that Chinese has no word for "be," that would seem to me to be a very strong indication that Western philosophers have spent centuries asking the wrong questions, specifically by falling into the confusion mode of mistaking words for things, a confusion mode that I'm tempted to blame Aristotle for, but I need to reread some Aristotle before I can be sure of such an accusation.

Am I missing something here?

Comment author: CAE_Jones 10 January 2016 11:45:14AM 1 point [-]

I was under the impression that 是 was Chinese for "to be". The nuance isn't quite the same--you can say 是 in response to "are or aren't you American?", but that's more or less subject-omission--but it seems close enough?

But my experience with Chinese includes only two years of Mandarin classes and a few podcasts; I haven't studied the linguistics in so much detail, and that studying ended 5 years ago, so if you're basing this on something I don't know, I'd be glad for the correction.

Comment author: TezlaKoil 07 January 2016 02:36:42PM *  0 points [-]

I bet if you phrase the question as "your brain is destroyed and recreated 5 minutes later", most people outside LW answer no. I guess this might be another instance of brain functions inactive vs lack of ability to have experiences.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 07 January 2016 07:27:45PM 1 point [-]

What do "destroy" and "recreate" mean?

I interpret them as meaning something like "disassemble" and "reassemble in the same configuration as before, with the same component parts"

That's not how I interpret the descriptions of the destructive teleportation, uploading, and forking scenarios.

The only arguments I can presently think of that really make me doubt my response to the "do you survive destructive uploading/teleportation/copying?" questions are more on the lines of the Ship of Theseus. My computer remains my computer if I turn it off and on again. "My files" can refer to specific instances, versions, copies, whatever, whether they're on "my computer" or copied to an external device. If my computer falls apart and is put back together again, it's still my computer. If my computer is taken apart, and an identical computer with my files on its hard drive is built (with different parts), it's a different computer. If my computer slowly has all its parts replaced, one at a time, I don't really know what I'd think; I want to say it's no longer the same computer at some point, but I don't know which point. Maybe when the hard drive is replaced, but that's a bad example because replacing individual chunks of atoms in the hard drive is a weird concept. Actually, I'd probably think of the new chunks as "the new chunks", and more or less treat it as portions of two separate disks acting as one. (And if files are modified, deleted, copied, etc, then they are modified, deleted, copied, etc, and this does not make it stop being "my computer".)

So what does that mean for the brain? The brain changes a lot; does its component parts get replaced all that often? A huge portion of the cells in the body get replaced at varying rates; do they play into this at all? How would my conclusions change if the brain replaces its cells frequently and I was just that bad at understanding neurology? I'm not really sure about the answers to these. It's possible that the answers could change my mind. It's possible that I would just stay in the same boat and remain existentially horrified forever or something.

But flipping the switch from on to off to on is more or less irrelevant. I feel like we are using the same words to describe completely different phenomena, then debating as though everyone is using the words in the same way. (Compare "Congress" to "the 75th congress" to "the 76th congress". The first is defined by an enduring pattern with interchangeable components, such that it describes the both of the other two; the second refers to a specific configuration of components and behaviors; the third is as specific as the second, but it's entirely possible that only a few members from the 75th congress were replaced for the 76th. If someone was particularly attached to the 75th congress, and by the 80th congress, the last member from the 75th was replaced, what would we take from such a person's reaction? Keeping in mind that people tend to write dramatic articles whenever an enduring group loses or replaces all of its original members, or all of the members present for particularly charished events, etc. What if a band breaks up, then most of its members form a new band?)

Comment author: Ozyrus 23 December 2015 04:04:20PM *  5 points [-]

Well, this is a stupid questions thread after all, so I might as well ask one that seems really stupid.

How can a person who promotes rationality have excess weight? Been bugging me for a while. Isn't it kinda the first thing you would want to apply your rationality to? If you have things to do that get you more utility, you can always pay diet specialist and just stick to the diet, because it seems to me that additional years to life will bring you more utility than any other activity you could spend that money on.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 23 December 2015 04:55:39PM 2 points [-]

I honestly have no idea if I have excess bodyfat (not weight; at last check I was well under 140Lbs, which makes me lighter than some decidedly not overweight people I know, some of whom are shorter than me), but if I did and wanted to get rid of it... I have quite a few obstacles, the biggest being financial and Akrasia-from-Hell. Mostly that last one, because lack of akrasia = more problem-solving power = better chances of escaping the wellfare cliff. (I only half apply Akrasia to diet and exercise; it's rather that my options are limited. Though reducing akrasia might increase my ability to convince my hindbrain that cooking implements other than the microwave aren't that scary.)

So, personally, all my problem-solving ability really needs to go into overcoming Hellkrasia. If there are any circular problems involved, well, crap.

But I'm assuming you've encountered or know of lots of fat rationalists who can totally afford professionals and zany weight loss experiments. At this point I have to say that no one has convinced me to give any of the popular models for what makes fat people fat any especially large share of the probability. Of course I would start with diet and exercise, and would ask any aspiring rationalist who tries this method and fails to publish their data (which incidentally requires counting calories, which "incidentally" outperforms the honor system). Having said that, though, no one's convinced me that "eat less, exercise more" is the end-all solution for everyone (and I would therefore prefer that the data from the previous hypotheticals include some information regarding the sources of the calories, rather than simply the count).

(I'm pretty sure I remember someone in the Rationalist Community having done this at least once.)

Comment author: LessWrong 19 November 2015 12:45:45PM *  2 points [-]

Cost-benefit analysis

I think Patri's whole post was pretty much this.

Conflicting with law

If you feel free speech is threatened, then you have bigger problems to worry about.

Inconvenience of disagreement

Only weak-willed people are afraid of disagreement. In a self-respecting community, you can say "you're wrong, here's 11 reasons why: [1] [2] [3]".

Dark knowledge

Unless you're running the simulation, I doubt you'd be the only one to know that. I'd actually advise you to tell about it so it will be properly dealt with.

Signaling: Seriously, would you discuss your affiliation to LW in a job interview?!

Terrible example, it has no relevance to a job interview.

Or tell your friends that you are afraid we live in a simulation? (If you don’t see my point, your rationality is totally off base, see the next point).

That's what friends are for.

LW user “Timtyler” commented before: “I also found myself wondering why people remained puzzled about the high observed levels of disagreement. It seems obvious to me that people are poor approximations of truth-seeking agents—and instead promote their own interests. If you understand that, then the existence of many real-world disagreements is explained: people disagree in order to manipulate the opinions and actions of others for their own benefit.”


WEIRD-M-LW: It is a known problem that articles on LW are going to be written by authors that are in the overwhelming majority western,[1] educated,[2] industrialized,[3] rich,[4] democratic,[5] and male.[6]

  1. So? (what of being western is of importance?)
  2. No fools in my garden. (Well-kept gardens die by pacifism)
  3. Sorry folks, internet only. No "The LessWrong Times" available. (By no fault of our own)
  4. By third-world comparisons, yes. Otherwise, I doubt it. Provide an example. (Or pledge 50% of your richness to GiveWell)
  5. I've never seen a discussion about this, so no comment. (Mind linking to one?)
  6. Men are far more interested in stuff like this. This is no category and in fact I doubt women won't be included should they want to. (If women are 'turned off' by the discussion here, and therefore choose not to participate, then they both don't have to, and the inverse would be true for me and probably a significant amount of men too)

The LW surveys show distinctly that there are most likely many further attributes in which the population on LW differs from the rest of the world.

Well, that's pretty much a given. That's not a bad thing, and if it's a good thing is debateable.

LW user “Jpet” argued in a comment very nicely: “But assuming that the other party is in fact totally rational is just silly. We know we're talking to other flawed human beings, and either or both of us might just be totally off base, even if we're hanging around on a rationality discussion board.”

In case the user is inactive: I have no idea what he meant. Not everyone is rational or being 100% effective or whatever. The last sentence feels like a LW-complete sanity test, and a very scary one by it's implications of the userbase being completely off-base with reality.

LW could certainly use more diversity.

I'm sure people would oppose more people like me. Leaving me aside, "diversity" seems like an ideal that I'm not sure what it actually implies. Let's add women, and people of colour, and some monkeys and jackdaws. That's just my silly recommendations though. What do you imply by "diversity" that LW is lacking, and why is it important to be included?

Personal anecdote: I was dumbfounded by the current discussion around LW T-shirts sporting slogans such as "Growing Mentally Stronger" which seemed to me intuitively highly counterproductive.

Me too. I think they're silly.

(Crocker's warning)

You mean trigger warning.

Genes, minds, hormones & personal history: (Even) rational agents are highly influenced by those factors.

Correct, but you still need to infinitely recurse.


Agreed. I'd put other stuff on the list, but it would derail this post well past oblivion.

Other beliefs/goals

Then what is the point of the previously mentioned diversity? To me it looks like a contradiction and admittance that it's not a very utility-generating ideal.

Vanity: Considering the amount of self-help threads, nerdiness, and alike on LW, it may be suspected that some refrain from posting due to self-respect.

Yeah, the high school jock cliche won't like it. Can't disagree with you about the cheerleaders, though.

E.g. I do not want to signal myself that I belong to this tribe.

You've already made a point I agreed with on rationality T-shirts being silly, there's no reason to implement a mildly different form of it that accomplishes the same thing.

This may sound outlandish but then again, have a look at the Facebook groups of LW and other rationalists where people ask frequently how they can be more interesting, or how “they can train how to pause for two seconds before they speak to increase their charisma." Again, if this sounds perfectly fine to you, that may be bad news.

No, it's only bad news to you. People who recognize weak aspects of them and try to self-improve should be applauded. You are, as far as I am concerned, dragging humanity down. Now tell me where you keep those un-traceable rifles. (The examples are admittedly silly but they're mere examples)

(A note of importance to me is what they consider 'interesting', and why. Are they trying to appeal to a different group?)

Barriers to entry

Agreed, but on the other hand, those talking about that are probably fify books or so ahead of you. I don't participate in the AI department and don't plan to. On the other hand, there's plenty of topics where LW could theoretically help, but they appear less commonly and there's less people who can help with them.

There's also the issue of specialization: the more specialized a topic, the more you need to know about it. Highly specialized topics shouldn't be confused with a high entry barrier.

Nothing new under the sun

Too many places suffer from this to one degree or another, but unless the community bands together (LW wiki?) and makes those 'already posted' stuff easy to access so it won't be reposted.

Maybe a bunch of AI researchers can make something that goes through text and tells the user "this might have been already posted". And hopefully it won't destroy the world while it's at it, too.


Once again, infinite recursion.

Protection of the group: Opinions though being important may not be discussed to protect the group or its image to outsiders.

Such as? You don't need to publicy discuss EVERYTHING, either.

See “is LW a *” and ** **."

  1. Unless a community has no merit, you can take the good stuff with you and leave the rest.
  2. I heard that's bad for you and you shouldn't mention it. That correlates with the first one, amusingly enough.

This argument can also be brought forward much more subtle: an agent may, for example, hold the opinion that rationality concepts are information hazards by nature if they reduce the happiness of the otherwise blissfully unaware.

Live your life as you see fit.

However, said agent must first research happiness thoroughly before making such a statement. There's also individual reactions, but that's getting too precise for my calculations.


That happens to everything, eventually. Overlaps with my aforementioned specialization.

This is a community-only thing, though. People can develop and have different experiences and the next best thing to do is what we can take from LW and how we can apply it in our life.

Russell’s antinomy: Is the contribution that states its futility ever expressed? Random example article title: “Writing articles on LW is useless because only nerds will read them."

Best thing I can say is: maybe people like it? Maybe they want to write something. Why not let them? So what if only nerds read it.

There's an insulting, "what-if" that assumes it's not only correct but also unquestionable and any deviation from it should be punished with a smack on your head in that title.


If we've become redundant on the topic of rationality, then it's time to stop milking the cow and start using it in our life. This is the real rationality test; the real freakin' deal.

Everything below that list is excellent and I don't regret taking a reading break for this just because of that.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 19 November 2015 01:58:20PM *  6 points [-]

By third-world comparisons, yes. Otherwise, I doubt it. Provide an example. (Or pledge 50% of your richness to GiveWell)

Unless the third world includes the United States outside of the Bay Area and New England (which, judging by the term "fly-over country", it probably does in lots of minds), then yes, LWers talking about attending CFAR's $3000 workshops and traveling all over the place and how they're already working for a big software giant and talked their bosses into giving them a raise are signs of being toward the higher end of the American Middle Class, if not higher. Just having so many programmers and the occasional psychiatrist is enough to put LW into the "rich even by first world standards" category.

This has come up before. Some LWer who is not rich points out that LWers are on average pretty dang rich, and most everyone goes "surely not! Just abandon everything you have and move to Silicon Valley with the money you don't have and surely you'll get a programming job, and realize how not-rich we are!" *

I am not trying to signal tribal affiliation when I say that LW unintentionally taught me to appreciate the whole "check your privilege" concept.

Having said all that, there are a few people who aren't financially successful STEM lords around here. It's just that they are decidedly not the majority of dominant voices.

* The first and last phrases might be a bit uncharitable, but the reaction is generally disbelief, in spite of the fact that LWers do seem to have thousands of dollars whenever they need them. Just a couple days ago, someone on Facebook was trying to get someone to go with him on a trip to Indiana, so they could split the gas money, but he realized he really needed to spend that money elsewhere. I've had reasonably middle-class people on Facebook trying to come up with someplace to stay, asking for donations for emergencies, saying how they wish they could justify spending money on things far cheaper than a new computer... and all of them are financially and socially way better off than me.

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