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Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 02 January 2015 03:08:46PM 10 points [-]

I have seen escalators sufficiently out-of-order that they were completely non-traversable.

Comment author: Desrtopa 12 January 2015 09:47:26PM 1 point [-]

My regular commute has been impeded by such a set of escalators (currently dismantled for repairs from fire damage) for weeks.

Comment author: shminux 08 January 2015 04:05:27PM 10 points [-]

Another thought about the sidekick status. I recall this comment by Eliezer, where he says, in part:

If you know yourself for an NPC and that you cannot start such a project yourself, you ought to throw money at anyone launching a new project whose probability of saving the world is not known to be this small.

I could be misreading it, but if you replace "money" with "effort", he basically describes the sideckick role as "NPC". Which rubbed me the wrong way even then. I certainly would not describe you or Brienne as NPCs, no way. I wonder if it's just an unfortunate choice of words.

Comment author: Desrtopa 12 January 2015 09:17:23PM 0 points [-]

I think that, in a video game sense (which is really the only context where the distinction of "player characters" makes real narrative sense,) "sidekick" type characters probably do tend to be NPCs. But I think this is a major weakness of using a video game framing for the concepts under discussion. Problems are rarely solved in real life the way they're solved in books, but they're pretty much never solved in real life the way they are in video games.

Comment author: alienist 07 January 2015 05:13:27AM 6 points [-]

So what about killing hermits?

Comment author: Desrtopa 09 January 2015 04:19:11PM *  0 points [-]

If they're a truly isolated hermit, that distinction would presumably no longer apply, but the world is pretty short on truly isolated hermits.

I think you probably could kill and replace an isolated hermit in a QALY-neutral way (you'd probably need a fairly unhappy person to keep it QALY neutral even,) whereas with social connections in the equation, if you were trying to kill and replace non-hermits in a QALY neutral way, you'd ultimately end up having to do it to everyone.

Comment author: alienist 06 January 2015 02:07:12AM 2 points [-]

How is this different from a QALY point of view?

Comment author: Desrtopa 07 January 2015 12:06:27AM 0 points [-]

At the very least because an already-born person will almost always leave survivors aggrieved and/or materially harmed by the act, while aborted fetuses often do not.

Comment author: Vulture 20 December 2014 04:13:53PM 1 point [-]

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 1 point [-]

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 2 points [-]

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 1 point [-]

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 25 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 10 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 22 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?

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