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Comment author: Vulture 20 December 2014 04:13:53PM 0 points [-]

In terms of Death Note, I've read the first several volumes and can vouch that it's a fun, "cerebral" mystery/thriller, especially if you like people being ludicrously competent at each other, having conversations with multiple levels of hidden meaning, etc. Can't say there's anything super rational about it, but the aesthetic is certainly there.

Comment author: Desrtopa 21 December 2014 09:33:34AM 0 points [-]

Actually I for one gave up Death Note in frustration very early on because I couldn't help focusing on how much of the real inferential work was being done by the authors feeding the correct answers to the characters. Like when L concludes that Kira must know the victim's real name to kill him... there were so many reasons that just didn't work. Kira's apparent modus operandi was to kill criminals, there was no particular reason to suppose he would respond to a challenge to kill anyone else, so the fact that he didn't was already weak evidence regarding whether he could at all, let alone what the restrictions might be. Whether Kira knew his real name or not was just one variable switched between him and Lind L. Taylor. L could just as easily have been immune because he eats too many sweets.

While smart, knowledgeable people can often extract a greater yield of inference from a limited amount of data than others, I find that far too many writers take this idea and run with it while forgetting that intelligence very often means recognizing how much you can't get out of a limited amount of data.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 20 December 2014 10:36:39AM 1 point [-]

I think it was more a case of people looking at the works with the hammer of rationality in their hand and seeing lots of nails for the characters to knock in. For example, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya sets up a problem (Unehuv vf Tbq naq perngrq gur jbeyq 3 lrnef ntb ohg qbrfa'g ernyvfr vg, naq vs fur rire qbrf gura fur zvtug haperngr vg whfg nf rnfvyl), but I found that setup fading into the background as the series of DVDs that I watched went on. By the fourth in the series (the murder mystery on the island isolated by storms), it was completely absent.

With Fate/Stay Night, one problem is that I was looking at ripped videos on Youtube, while the original material is a "visual novel" with branching paths, so it's possible (but unlikely) that the people who put up the videos missed all the rationality-relevant bits.

I've not tried Death Note, but I suspect I'd find the same dynamic as in Haruhi Suzumiya. A hard problem is set up (how does a detective track down someone who can remotely kill anyone in the world just by knowing their name?), which makes it possible to read it as a rationality story, but unless the characters are actually being conspicuously rational beyond the usual standards of fiction, that won't be enough.

I'm also not part of the anime/manga community: I watched these works without any context beyond the mentions on LessWrong and a general awareness of what anime and manga are.

It's weird how the girls all look like cosplay characters. :)

Comment author: Desrtopa 21 December 2014 09:22:44AM 0 points [-]

With Fate/Stay Night, one problem is that I was looking at ripped videos on Youtube, while the original material is a "visual novel" with branching paths, so it's possible (but unlikely) that the people who put up the videos missed all the rationality-relevant bits.

I haven't watched the anime, but I have read the visual novel, and the anime does not have a reputation for being a very faithful adaptation. The visual novel at least does share themes that often feature in Eliezer's work, but I wouldn't call them "rationality content" as such. More in the manner of Heroic Responsibility and related concepts.

Comment author: Azathoth123 06 December 2014 11:24:36PM 3 points [-]

When the most powerful weapon is the pointed stick…

Skill is an a large premium. Thus those who have the free time to practice can end up dominating.

Comment author: Desrtopa 07 December 2014 12:46:44AM 4 points [-]

Actually, one thing that I noticed while reading this book is that despite engaging in violence far more frequently than people in non-tribal cultures, the Yanomamo don't really seem to have a conception of martial arts or weapons skills, aside from skill with a bow. The takeaway I got was that in small tribal groups like the ones they live in, there isn't really the sort of labor differentiation necessary to support a warrior class. Rather, it seems that while all men are expected to be available for forays into violence, nobody seems to practice combat skills, except for archery which is also used for food acquisition. While many men were spoken of as being particularly dangerous, in all cases discussed in the book, it was because of their ferocity, physical strength, and quickness to resort to violence. In fact, some of the most common forms of violent confrontation within tribes are forms of "fighting" where the participants simply take turns hitting each other, without being allowed to attempt to defend or evade, in order to demonstrate who's physically tougher.

I'm not sure how representative the Yanomamo are of small tribal societies as a whole, but it may be that serious differentiation of martial skill didn't come until later forms of societal organization.

Comment author: Kinsei 06 December 2014 01:18:27PM 20 points [-]

"It’s much better to live in a place like Switzerland where the problems are complex and the solutions are unclear, rather than North Korea where the problems are simple and the solutions are straightforward."

Scott Sumner, A time for nuance

Comment author: Desrtopa 06 December 2014 03:40:57PM 9 points [-]

The problems in North Korea are not so simple with straightforward solutions, when we look at them from the perspective of the actors involved.

For the average citizen in North Korea, there are no clear avenues to political influence that don't increase rather than decrease personal risk. For the people in North Korea who do have significant political influence, from a self-serving perspective, there are no "problems" with how North Korea is run.

North Korea's problems might be simple to solve from the perspective of an altruistic Supreme Leader, but they're hard as coordination problems. Some of our societal problems in the developed world are also simple from the perspective of an altruistic Supreme Leader, but hard as coordination problems. Some of the more salient differences are that those problems didn't occur due to the actions of non altruistic or incompetent Supreme Leaders in the first place, and aren't causing mass subsistence level poverty.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 November 2014 05:30:43PM 2 points [-]

driving the risks ... to the general background risk level

IAWYC, but in general the right thing to do is to reduce the risk until the marginal cost of reducing it more exceeds the disutility of what one is risking: for example, if I can spend one cent to reduce the probability I'll die tomorrow by 1e-7 (e.g. by not being as much of a jackass while driving) I should do so, even though the general background risk level (according to actuarial tables for my gender, age and province) is more than an order of magnitude larger.

In response to comment by [deleted] on Rationality Quotes November 2014
Comment author: Desrtopa 12 November 2014 04:44:37AM 1 point [-]

IAWYC, but in general the right thing to do is to reduce the risk until the marginal cost of reducing it more exceeds the disutility of what one is risking:

Not necessarily. The reduction may have positive value in absolute terms, but carry the opportunity cost of preventing you from devoting those resources to more valuable risk reductions.

Comment author: Desrtopa 12 November 2014 02:26:19AM 20 points [-]

Completed. I'm concerned that the "mixed" options for religious background are concealing meaningful demographic information. For instance, my parents are of Christian and Jewish parentage, so I chose the "mixed" option because I do not consider my cultural heritage to be predominantly Jewish or Christian. A person with Hindu and Muslim parents would have the same answer, but a very different cultural background. Perhaps in future it might be better to use a "check all that apply" format?

Comment author: DanielLC 18 October 2014 01:06:33AM 4 points [-]

Race is correlated with poverty, so that's expected. Is there a strong correlation beyond that?

Comment author: Desrtopa 20 October 2014 02:50:31PM 0 points [-]

There seems to be, although the studies that I've found with a quick search discuss this in terms of poverty having strong predictive value even after controlling for race (which is probably a less politically charged claim.) However, there are a lot of confounders that are not easy to adjust out of such an analysis.

Comment author: Unknowns 16 October 2014 04:32:12AM *  0 points [-]

Jesus is said to have said, "Will the Son of Man find faith left on the earth when he returns?" In context this looks like a rhetorical question, with the answer being "no", at least more or less, even if he did not mean that no one at all would believe. So I don't see how your second thing is right, since someone seems to have predicted that scenario. It's true that that is likely to happen if Christianity is false; but apparently it is also likely to happen if it is true.

Regarding the first, Mark 6:4-6 says, "Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household." And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief. " So it seems that just as faith works miracles, unbelief impedes them, even when there are a few believers around. So even if the population is greater, miracles will not necessarily increase, because of the greater population of unbelievers.

As for better documentation, Thomas Aquinas at least asserts that the reason faith should work miracles is that a person who has faith "merits" in a certain way to prove that faith to himself and others. This means that equal faith should earn equal proofs. But an equal miracle will be more capable of proving things, not equally capable, when you have better documentation; so as documentation improves, the faith you need to work the same miracle will increase, and so the frequency of miracles of a given type will decrease. This also explains why most miracles are not directly visible in a moment; because a miracle like this has too much of a capacity to prove something, in comparison to people's level of faith.

As I said, such explanations may be unappealing, especially since apparently the consequences are exactly the same whether Christianity is true or false. However, I did not invent those explanations, but they were already presented long ago by the Bible and by Christians (such as Thomas Aquinas).

Comment author: Desrtopa 16 October 2014 08:25:48PM 1 point [-]

Jesus is said to have said, "Will the Son of Man find faith left on the earth when he returns?" In context this looks like a rhetorical question, with the answer being "no", at least more or less, even if he did not mean that no one at all would believe. So I don't see how your second thing is right, since someone seems to have predicted that scenario. It's true that that is likely to happen if Christianity is false; but apparently it is also likely to happen if it is true.

First, I don't think it's at all clear from the context that the answer is intended to be "no." Second, Jesus also indicated that some people who knew him in person would still be alive as of the time he returned to earth, so this might be better interpreted as skepticism that his followers can maintain their standards of devotion rather than doubt in the persistence of a long term tradition.

As for better documentation, Thomas Aquinas at least asserts that the reason faith should work miracles is that a person who has faith "merits" in a certain way to prove that faith to himself and others. This means that equal faith should earn equal proofs. But an equal miracle will be more capable of proving things, not equally capable, when you have better documentation; so as documentation improves, the faith you need to work the same miracle will increase, and so the frequency of miracles of a given type will decrease. This also explains why most miracles are not directly visible in a moment; because a miracle like this has too much of a capacity to prove something, in comparison to people's level of faith.

On the other hand, Jesus himself seems to suggest a simpler model in Luke 11, according to which God answers prayers simply to satisfy those who ask, because he is good.

If unbelief inhibits miracles, then one should be able to create miracles by separating out enclaves of the faithful (and indeed, more religious communities certainly tend to segregate themselves from less religious ones.) But if you go too far down the road of expecting no miracles to occur, then this also means that you can't update your confidence upwards based on reports of miracles either.

In response to comment by Aiyen on Questions on Theism
Comment author: Unknowns 16 October 2014 05:32:24PM 1 point [-]

Mormons tend to be more committed, so that could explain the higher rate of answers, assuming it is real.

Comment author: Desrtopa 16 October 2014 08:05:49PM 1 point [-]

I don't think this requires an assumption that it's real at all; a higher level of commitment could very easily lead people to be more lax in their standards for whether a prayer has been "answered," if we're looking at it in psychological rather than supernatural terms.

Comment author: Unknowns 15 October 2014 08:03:02PM 0 points [-]

Of course you can speculate on reasons why people would have been likely to make up stories like that, but Christians could also speculate that since the Bible says miracles are worked by faith ("your faith has healed you" etc), one would expect that in places where there is more faith, there will be more miracles. But those times had more faith, so one would expect that they would have more miracles. So theoretically that could be an alternate explanation for why those times had more dramatic miracle claims, however unappealing that explanation might be to you.

Comment author: Desrtopa 16 October 2014 01:38:33AM 0 points [-]

This is certainly an argument one could take. However, while the average levels of faith then were certainly much higher, the population now is also much higher, so even if our per-capita rate of dramatic miracles is lower, we have a much larger pool to draw on, and much better documentation.

Also, if we're comparing hypothetical worlds where Christianity is true or false, I think a scenario where the populace becomes dramatically less faithful over time, to the point that the absolute population with sufficient faith to perform miracles goes down while the total population more than dectuples, is significantly less likely to occur in the world where Christianity is true.

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