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Comment author: Viliam 25 February 2016 09:16:55AM 0 points [-]

If we consider an actual territory (a) say, Paris, Dresden, Warsaw, and build up a map (b) in which the order of these cities would be represented as Dresden, Paris, Warsaw; to travel by such a map would be misguiding, wasteful of effort. In case of emergencies, it might be seriously harmful. We could say that such a map was 'not true', or that the map had a structure not similar to the territory (...). We should notice that:

A) A map may have a structure similar ot dissimilar to the structure of the territory.

B) Two similar structures have similar 'logical' characteristics. Thus, if in a correct map, Dresden is given as between Paris and Warsaw, a similar relation is found in the actual territory.

C) A map is not the territory.

D) An ideal map would contain the map of the map, the map of the map of the map, etc. endlessly. (...) We may call it self-reflexiveness.

Languages share with the map the above four characteristics.

A) Languages have structure, thus we may have languages of elementalistic structure such as 'space' and 'time', 'observer' and 'observed', 'body' and 'soul', 'senses' and 'mind', 'intellect' and 'emotions', 'thinking' and 'feeling', 'thought' and 'intuition', etc., which allow verbal division or separation. Or we may have languages of non-elementalistic structure such as 'space-time', the new quantum languages (...); also the mathematical languages of 'order', 'relation', 'structure', 'function', 'variable', 'invariant', 'difference', 'addition', 'division' (...).

B) If we use languages of a structure non-similar to the world and our nervous system, our verbal predictions are not verified empirically, we cannot be 'rational' or adjusted. We would have to copy the animals in their wasteful and painful 'trial and error' performances, as we have done through human history. In science we would be handicapped by semantic blockages, lack of creativeness, lack of understanding, lack of vision, disturbed by inconsistencies, paradoxes, etc.

C) Words are not the things they represent.

D) Language also has self-reflective characteristics. We use language to speak about language (...).

-- Alfred Korzybski: Science and Sanity

Comment author: Nomad 26 February 2016 06:49:50PM *  1 point [-]

I'm vaguely worried by the way 'elementalistic' structure and 'non-elementalistic' structure are separated in part A. It seems to have the connotation (I'm not sure if it was intended or not) that the elementalistic structures are better and the non-elementalistic structures are arbitrary. However, there's a reason why science - especially physics - have increasingly moved over towarda mathematical points of view and the sorts of language you've included under non-elementalistic. They really are better at describing the natural world: e.g. you lose out on key concepts if you insist on completely dividing 'space' and 'time' rather than appreciating the way they interact. This sort of feeds into part (B). He describes languages as being similar or non-similar to the world and our nervous system, but the truth is that once you move beyond the ancestral environment the world is very different to our nervous system. To choose in favour of the languages similar to the nervous system over those similar to the world is ultimately to choose in favour of our own biases.

Comment author: Nomad 15 November 2015 03:30:20PM 4 points [-]

John Green on human inability to instinctively appreciate large numbers and broad events:

My current number one goal in life is to someday be as excited about something as Cheez Doodles Guy is about Cheez Doodles. But its a weird facet of human brains that some thins cause that joyful excitement and others don't. Like today, the World Health Organisation announced that maternal death over the last twenty-five years has fallen 44% worldwide. This is amazing news (arguably even better news than discovering Cheez Doodles in Antarctica) and yet while I am encouraged by this news I am not Cheez-Doodles-Guy-excited about it, which is so weird; humans are so weird!

In response to Complex Novelty
Comment author: MarsColony_in10years 15 November 2015 12:02:21AM 0 points [-]

A world without complex novelty would be lacking. But so would a world without some simple pleasures. There are people who really do enjoy woodworking. I can't picture a utopia where no one ever whittles. And a few of them will fancy it enough to get really, really good at it, for pretty much the same reason that there are a handful of devoted enthusiasts. Even without Olympic competitions and marathons, I'd bet there would still be plenty of runners, who did so purely for it's own sake, rather than to get better or to compete, or for novelty. Given an infinite amount of time, everyone is likely to spend a great deal of time on such non-novel things. So, what's most disturbing about carving 162,329 table legs is that he altered his utility function to want to do it.

(As best I can grasp the Law, there are insights you can't understand at all without having a brain of sufficient size and sufficient design. Humans are not maximal in this sense, and I don't think there should be any maximum—but that's a rather deep topic, which I shall not explore further in this blog post. Note that Greg Egan seems to explicitly believe the reverse—that humans can understand anything understandable—which explains a lot.)

Perhaps I'm missing something, but it seems to me that any mind capable of designing a turning-complete computer can, in principle, understand any class of problem. I say "class of problem", because I doubt we can even wrap our brains around a 10x10x10x10 Rubik's Cube. But we are aware of simpler puzzles of that class. (And honestly, I'm just using an operational definition of "classes of problem", and haven't fleshed out the notion.) There will always be harder logic puzzles, riddles, and games. But I'm not sure there exist entirely new classes of problems, waiting to be discovered. So we may well start running out of novelty of that type after a couple million years, or even just a couple thousand years.

Comment author: Nomad 15 November 2015 10:10:12AM 1 point [-]

There are people who really do enjoy woodworking. I can't picture a utopia where no one ever whittles.

That really expresses something I've been mulling over to myself for a while: that failed utopias in fiction, or at least a large class of such, only appear to work because they lack certain types of people. The Culture, ironically, has no transhumanists, people who look at the Minds and say, "I want to be one of those." Certain agrarian return-to-nature fantasies lack people like me, who couldn't psychologically survive outside of a city and who derive literally no pleasure from so-called 'beautiful dioramas'. And of course, any utopia I would try to write probably would fall into the same trap, most likely because I wouldn't include people who want to whittle.

Comment author: Nomad 20 October 2015 08:47:42AM 4 points [-]

So I guess the real lesson is "figuring out which ideas are true is hard."

The alt-text of this xkcd comic.

Comment author: [deleted] 17 October 2015 05:02:12PM *  1 point [-]

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”


In response to comment by [deleted] on Rationality Quotes Thread October 2015
Comment author: Nomad 18 October 2015 09:49:19AM 4 points [-]

To me, that sounds suspiciously like "The obligation of subjects to the sovereign is understood to last as long and no longer than the power by which he is able to compel that obligation." It's gilded up so it sounds better, but that's how it was in practice.

Comment author: WalterL 06 October 2015 03:15:14PM 5 points [-]

"All men are greater than dead men." -R Scott Bakker

Comment author: Nomad 06 October 2015 04:37:03PM 4 points [-]

That quote reminds me of this, so much.

Comment author: Nomad 09 June 2015 01:20:54PM *  0 points [-]

And just to be clear, the narrative being put forth above -- that everyone claiming to be poor is secretly rich -- is once more not something that anyone actually believes. Offer anyone saying it the chance to live in the public housing projects or trailer parks where these secretly rich welfare queens dwell and all you'll see is a cloud of dust and a tiny silhouette sprinting off into the horizon. But you don't need the majority to actually believe it, only to "believe" it.

Cracked pointing out the danger of belief in belief.

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 10 January 2015 06:26:44PM 4 points [-]

I do not see how this suggestion could be positively refuted. It enjoys a status well known in academic circles and doubtless elsewhere,—that of the Remotely Conceivable Alternative, contrary to the obvious implication of the facts, incapable of proof or disproof.

-- Denys L. Page (1908-1978), History and the Homeric Iliad (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), p. 57

Comment author: Nomad 10 January 2015 07:05:28PM 1 point [-]

Any context? (e.g. what the suggestion is)

Comment author: Jiro 13 December 2014 12:23:17AM 1 point [-]

Do you have a summary? I don't want to bother reading that.

Comment author: Nomad 14 December 2014 02:15:33AM 1 point [-]

Summary: The superheroes of Worm regularly fight against existential threats called Endbringers, and have to work together with villains (some of whom are neo-nazis) to do it. They've been able to set up rules to ensure the villains can co-operate (no arrests, no using villains as bait, everyone gets medical attention afterwards), without which the Endbringers would win. However, the linked chapter explains that they've failed to extend this to post-fight celebrations, since the public won't accept any form of moral equivalence. Since the public will protest if villains are honoured for their sacrifices, and the villains riot if heroes are honoured but villains are not, no-one gets honoured.

Comment author: moridinamael 09 September 2014 08:46:40PM 32 points [-]

I have found that the more I use my simulation of HPMOR!Quirrell for advice, the harder it is to shut him up. As with any mental discipline, thinking in particular modes wears thought-grooves into your brain's hardware, and before you know it you've performed an irreversible self-modification. Consequently, I would definitely recommend that anybody attempting to supplant their own personality (for lack of a better phrasing) with a model of some idealized reasoner try to make sure that the idealized reasoner shares your values as thoroughly as possible.

Comment author: Nomad 09 September 2014 10:55:18PM 62 points [-]

I've now got this horrifying idea that this has been Quirrell's plan all along: to escape from HPMOR to the real world by tempting you to simulate him until he takes over your mind.

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