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Comment author: JenniferRM 09 January 2015 06:49:51AM *  2 points [-]

I liked the post, partly the mouse/cat/dog sentence but especially this:

He took a two-page argument about things he knew little about, spread it across 200 pages, and filled the gaps with tangential statements of impressive rigor and thoroughness on things he was expert in.

Penrose did roughly the same thing in The Emperor's New Mind. I mentioned this on OB a while back:

If you read his book he gives a fantastic pop science explanation of all kinds of subjects around computing, coding, and quantum mechanics and so on, up to the inclusion of a crowning moment of awesome when he gives an actual universal turing machine, bit for bit, that is his own design as far as I remember.

After hundreds of pages of this he gives about two pages of hand waving argument nominally related to Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem that completely drops the ball and is just gibberish when it comes to proving that human consciousness is uncomputable. He argues that since mathematicians can all agree about Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem, they must be doing something more than merely mechanically formal and thus their consciousness must be something outside the powers of a turing machine. The pages and page of quantum backstory is ignored -- I think its just there in an "argument by putting impressively difficult material next to your actual claims".

Comment author: JenniferRM 03 January 2015 09:08:15AM *  14 points [-]

This seems likely to be controversial but I want to put forward "sales". Every so often I wonder if I should spend several months in a job like selling cars, where things are presumably really stark, but so far I've generally ended up doing something more kosher and traditionally "geeky" like data science.

However, before I knew a marketable programming language I had a two separate "terrible college jobs" that polished a lot of stuff pretty fast: (1) signature gathering for ballot measures and (2) door to door campaigning for an environmental group.

Signature gathering was way way better than door-to-door, both financially and educationally. Part of that is probably simply because there were hundreds of opportunities per hour at peak periods, but part of that might have been that I was hired by a guy who traveled around doing it full time, and so he had spent longer slower cycles leveling up on training people to train people to gather signatures :-P

Comment author: JenniferRM 03 January 2015 08:30:49AM *  2 points [-]

Ilya is awesome. He keeps breaking benchmarks in a way that causes me to predict that he will keep breaking more benchmarks in the future...

Winning competitions in image recognition is pretty similar to Go (same basic neural net architecture), but he's also been cooking up stuff in natural language understanding and translation with "deep" LSTMs.

Comment author: nydwracu 11 December 2014 03:57:14AM 6 points [-]

A useful word here is "supererogation", but this still implies that there's a baseline level of duty, which itself implies that it's possible even in principle to calculate a baseline level of duty.

There may be cultural reasons for the absence of the concept: some Catholics have said that Protestantism did away with supererogation entirely. My impression is that that's a one-line summary of something much more complex (though possibly with potential toward the realization of the one-line summary), but I don't know much about it.

Comment author: JenniferRM 12 December 2014 06:27:54AM *  7 points [-]

Supererogation was part of the moral framework that justified indulgences. The idea was that the saints and the church did lots of stuff that was above and beyond the necessary amounts of good (and God presumably has infinitely deep pockets if you're allowed to tap Him for extra), and so they had "credit left over" that could be exchanged for money from rich sinners.

The protestants generally seem to have considered indulgences to be part of a repugnant market and in some cases made explicit that the related concept of supererogation itself was a problem.

In Mary at the Foot of the Cross 8: Coredemtion as Key to a Correct Understanding of Redemption on page 389 there is a quick summary of a Lutheran position, for example:

The greatest Lutheran reason for a rejection of the notion of works of supererogation is the insistence that even the justified, moved by the Holy Spirit, cannot obey all the rigors of divine law so as to merit eternal life. If the justified cannot obey these rigors, much less can he exceed them so as to offer his supererogatory merits to others in expiation for their sins.

The setting of the "zero point" might in some sense be arbitrary... a matter of mere framing. You could frame it as people already all being great, but with the option to be better. You could frame it as having some natural zero around the point of not actively hurting people and any minor charity counting as a bonus. In theory you could frame it as everyone being terrible monsters with a minor ability to make up a tiny part of their inevitable moral debt. If it is really "just framing" then presumably we could fall back to sociological/psychological empiricism, and see which framing leads to the best outcomes for individuals and society.

On the other hand, the location of the zero level can be absolutely critical if we're trying to integrate over a function from now to infinity and maximize the area under the curve. SisterY's essay on suicide and "truncated utility functions" relies on "being dead" having precisely zero value for an individual, and some ways of being alive having a negative value... in these cases the model suggests that suicide and/or risk taking can make a weird kind of selfish sense.

If you loop back around to the indulgence angle, one reading might be that if someone sins then they are no longer perfectly right with their local community. In theory, they could submit to a little extra hazing to prove that they care about the community despite transgressing its norms. In this case, the natural zero point might be "the point at which they are on the edge of being ostracized". If you push on that, the next place to look for justifications would focus on how ostracism and unpersoning works, and perhaps how it should work to optimize for whatever goals the community nominally or actually exists to achieve.

I have my own pet theories about how to find "natural zeros" in value systems, but this comment is already rather long :-P

I think my favorite insight from the concept of supererogation is the idea that carbon offsets are in some sense "environmental indulgences", which I find hilarious :-)

Comment author: Yvain 21 November 2014 08:02:34AM 19 points [-]

I agree with Toggle that this might not have been the best place for this question.

The Circle of Life goes like this. Somebody associates Less Wrong with neoreactionaries, even though there are like ten of them here total. They start discussing neoreaction here, or asking their questions for neoreactionaries here. The discussion is high profile and leads more people to associate Less Wrong with neoreactionaries. That causes more people to discuss it and ask questions here, which causes more people to associate us, and it ends with everybody certain that we're full of neoreactionaries, and that ends with bad people who want to hurt us putting "LESS WRONG IS A RACIST NEOREACTIONARY WEBSITE" in big bold letters over everything.

If you really want to discuss neoreaction, I'd suggest you do it in an Slate Star Codex open thread, since apparently I'm way too tarnished by association with them to ever escape. Or you can go to a Xenosystems open thread and get it straight from the horse's mouth.

Comment author: JenniferRM 23 November 2014 09:33:14PM *  0 points [-]

I believe that the parent and grandparent should be the first two comments someone reads when visiting this article on the "Best" setting.

Here is the current open thread on Slate Star Codex if you want to vote with your feet to move NRx comments over there. I link so that Yvain doesn't have to :-)

Please do not upvote my comment here or comment in response if you agree. Instead, please vote on other comments to express agreement, so as to bring about the suggested outcome.

Comment author: eli_sennesh 22 November 2014 04:51:43PM *  -1 points [-]

It doesn't seem a valid response to me, since it doesn't explain why neoreactionaries actually think, why they think it, and how they justify realism about their own views (that is, why they think neoreaction is true for all rational humans and not just plausible to a small clique). It mostly just attacks "progressives".

Comment author: JenniferRM 23 November 2014 09:15:22PM *  5 points [-]

I have upvoted for asking good questions :-)

If it helps, I think maybe you are thinking of "neo-reactionaries" and "progressives" as being a local modern phenomena, perhaps even just happening in the comments of this article.

If you post a PDF in the thread with your own idiosyncratic ideals, that serves for you to describe what you mean and stand for and think is good, and functions as the "ground" of a debate that you're willing to defend.

On the other hand, nydrwacu is coming at this from the perspective of a deeply-read aspiring expert in the practicalities of political semiotics. I think, for example, that his reference to a capitalized "World Spirit" is a reference to Hegel's concept of a Weltgeist which was widely known in the past, and explicitly used as a concept under which to organize actual historically existing political factions. If you were "against the Weltgeist" it had a simultaneously factional and practical meaning that was necessarily related both to meta-ethical doctrines and to propaganda processes that bound factions into social machines with many real world consequences that can themselves be judged.

When you said "neoreaction has a severe problem talking to ethical naturalists in general" (presuming pointing with the word "neoreaction" to speakers in this thread as "neoreaction") nydrwacu responded by pointing to actual "neoreactionaries" (not "I'm not a neoreactionary but I read them sometimes" but full fledged ones) who are not LWers and not in this thread (like Roissy and the Hestia Society) who appear to have some grounding in "naturalistic ethics". However their naturalistic ethics are grounded in things other than something with historical continuity with the faction that used the Weltgeist in their rallying cries...

(Or at least that's what they claim... For myself, I think neoreactionaries are in some sense just "super-ultra-progressives" if their own theories are applied to them in ways they might object to.)

A deeper issue here might be that neo-reactionaires have explicit theories about political categorization processes themselves (how they work, when they disgree, how to use them, etc), and one of their categorization techniques is socio-political cladistics.

Thus, if you use a Weltgeist-like justification, and are clearly influenced by previous Weltgeist-using political thinkers, neoreactionaries will sometimes lump you cladistically as all being part of the same unfurling memetic-political process that they can read about in history books and try to do bayesian updates thereby.

This is itself a somewhat controversial orientation. It is politically essentializing and can cause people to feel insulted when the descriptive process is applied to them with results they don't like based on history and people they don't even know about... if they didn't put the word "Weltgeist" in their personal statement of beliefs how can they be held responsible for the actions and consequences of people who did?!

However, despite the shortcomings of cladistic analysis, you can see that operating at this level of abstraction might be appealing to a certain kind of smarty-pants. Also, it has at least the virtue of creating a pre-stated data-based solution to some games of reference class tennis that might otherwise happen in political debates.

Comment author: DavidLS 21 October 2014 08:18:35AM *  1 point [-]

Okay, sorry I've been away from the thread for a while. I spent the last half day hacking together a rough version of the data collection webapp. This seemed reasonable because I haven't heard any disagreement on that part of the project, and I hope that having some working code will excite us :)

The models are quite good and well tested at this point, but the interface is still a proof of concept. I'll have some more time tomorrow evening, which will hopefully be enough time to finish off the question rendering and SMS sending. I think with those two features added, we will have a reasonable v1.

We will still need to create

  • The main project page & study creation interfaces
  • Questions for use in our initial experiments
  • Participant location and screening criteria
  • Data analysis routines
  • Legal contracts
  • Paper describing what we did -- erdos numbers don't grow on trees :p

Repo is: https://github.com/GeneralBiotics/GLaDyS (I'll move it away from the GB github once we finalize a project name).

Update: Question rendering now works, demo app can be viewed at http://gladys-example.herokuapp.com/

Comment author: JenniferRM 28 October 2014 05:31:33AM 1 point [-]

Cool work! I think it might make sense to create a new top level post to point to the progress and solicit more feedback. Comments down here aren't going to get enough eyeballs, and now that you're getting into the prototyping stage more eyeballs (and associated feedback) would be useful I think.

One thing I wonder, maybe you could have a dummy study set up to test the efficacy of something incredibly simple, like whether "apple eating increases prescience" as a control group for experiments. Some people get the apple condition. Some people get the no apple condition. Every evening participants get a question "Did you eat an apple today?" and "How did your secret coin toss come out, heads or tails?" To be in the study people have to go through a screening process and agree that if randomly assigned to do so, they will buy some apples and eat at least one apple a day, every day for a week.

That way LWers could sign up for it and interact with the software, and workflows like user signup and data collection and whatnot could be experienced and iterated to get feedback on the little practical things before the Serious Science begins in earnest :-)

Comment author: James_Miller 28 October 2014 03:20:26AM 13 points [-]

Large tech companies would capture the oversight agency and use it to hinder their potential competitors.

Comment author: JenniferRM 28 October 2014 05:11:17AM 12 points [-]

You say that like it's a bad thing :-P

Comment author: JenniferRM 19 October 2014 03:31:30AM *  6 points [-]

To work well, I think it needs a good name. In terms of long term social dynamics, creating a meta-brand that helps smaller brands seems essential. Like when people initially see the "tested by X" logo they won't know what it means.

Assuming the web app works as intended, and assuming any significant fraction the population just stop believing any of the classes of claims that might be tested this way and lack the logo, then the process should gain more and more credibility over the course of months and years. The transition from an unknown logo to a trusted logo will be tricky for the larger institutional hack to work, and the name itself might be key to the logic of acceptance at the beginning.

I ground through various options at the command line with $ whois $OPTION | grep "[A-Z].COM"... trying to find things that get the right idea and aren't already registered.

  • DoesItWork .com (taken)
  • justtestit .com (taken)
  • efficacy .com (taken)
  • forrealz .com (taken)
  • proveitforreal .com (available!)
  • simplytested .com (taken)
  • quickproofs .com (taken)
  • openproducttesting .com (available!)
  • opensourcetesting .com (taken)
  • tested .com (taken)
  • testedclaim .com (available!)
  • thirdpartytested .com (available!)
  • 3rdpartytested .com (available!)

Namespace is huge and finding a good name seems key. The names I looked for my be too boring or too long or too easy to misspell? Please comment in response to this comment, one name suggestion per comment, and then find the 3 best suggestions from other people (assuming that there are lots to choose from) and vote them up :-)

Edited to add: I'm seeing lots of votes and no suggestions. Also, ProveItForReal seems to be winning but I think that works better in a {{citation needed}} context (ie you say {{prove it for real}} to dubious claims) but it works less well for logos on products. Imagine a logo that is worked into product's packaging that says: "TestedClaim: X gives benefit Y in Z% of users"... that seems good in that context, but {{this needs to be a tested claim}} is awkward. Surely something better is possible than either of these?

Comment author: JenniferRM 20 October 2014 05:32:04AM 4 points [-]


Acronym: SPOT, sounds kind of neat with "SPOT test" or "SPOT tested".

It also works as a potential prod like citation needed... {{ simple proof of truth needed }}

One thing that slightly bothers me is that it relies on an older and less precise sense of the word "proof" that comes more from english common law than from mathematics, and the mathematical sense of the word "proof" is dear to my heart.

Comment author: JenniferRM 20 October 2014 01:46:56AM *  4 points [-]

One issue that seems more likely to be problematic when the web application is being created and launched than later on, is whether the questions are well designed. There's a whole area of expertise that goes into creating scales that are reliable, valid, and discriminative. One possibility is to construct them from scratch from first principles, and then make them publicly available, but another possibility is to find the best of what exists already that is open sourced.

For general biotics and meal squares it seems like some measure of "not having a happy tummy" is a relevant thing to measure. If soylent gets in on the process they might have a similar interest?

A little bit of googling turned up the Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale. It has 15 items (which might be too many?) and it is interview based (so hard to fit into an automated system). The really nice thing was that I could find a PDF and it all looked pretty basic.

A 2006 paper by van Zanten tipped me off to the existence of:

The Glasgow Dyspepsia Severity Scale

The Leeds Dyspepsia Questionnaire (public domain, with a Mandarin version!)

The Severity of Dyspepsia Assessment

The Nepean Dyspepsia Index

I'm feeling like in this situation, I can safely say "I love standards, there are so many to choose from"! One of the things that turned up in my searches that seems like a really useful "meta find" is the Proqolid Clinital Outcomes Assessment database but it requires membership to use the internal search function and I need to pause to grab some dinner.

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