Well, I for one really liked this post a whole lot.

Gonna go out on a limb here and say I can't take this article too seriously. It is chalk full of false dichotomies:

The very premise of this article rests on the idea that human beings live solely by our need to balance between two sides of a spectrum.

"An author working on a book, or a freelancer working on a project, or an entrepreneur working on a business, does not spend their time in a perpetual state of flow, but rather experiences little moments of flow, while mostly vacillating between anxiety and boredom."

Why couldn't a freelancer experience moments outside this spectrum? Why does the author frame our life's experience as bound to this particularly solitary scale? What about the spectrum of awareness of self and surroundings? What about the spectrum of communicability with others, a social spectrum?

The author treats the subject, a human being, as alone, with mention of social interaction as being merely a product of our conformism, which too, rests on a premise based upon a false dichotomy:

"The widespread existential vacuum of the 20th century, the feeling of boredom, was brought on by both biological and cultural evolution: biological in that man is the only creature whose behaviour is not guided by instinct alone, and cultural in that during the 20th century many traditions that constrained behavior collapsed, organized religion being the major one. For most, the vacuum is filled by one of two strategies, both of which seek to avoid the sensation of existential terror: conformism (doing what everyone around them is doing), or totalitarianism (seeking someone out to tell them what to do). The clueless seek out both the totalitarianism imposed upon them by the sociopaths, and the conformism imposed upon them by the rest of the clueless class, as ways to relieve the pressure of the existential vacuum. "

The author sees two camps: the rulers and the ruled. The author has no conception of anything resembling cooperation. Like humans couldn't POSSIBLY be social creatures capable of communal efforts.

I'm not sure what else to say. While I support the message that one needs balance between boredom and anxiety, I can't help but find the article imposing a blind view on the subject.

Many Ribbonfarm posts shouldn't be read like LW posts; the point is not to evaluate a bunch of claims for their truth value, it's more to read some poetry and see what thoughts, feelings, felt senses etc. it causes in you.

If the probabilities that Wang’s model computes for each state were right, you could have used the resulting probability distribution of the outcomes in the electoral college to straightforwardly derive the probability that Clinton was going to win, which is just the probability that she gets at least 270 votes in the electoral college.

No. Even if Wang had reasonable probabilities of Clinton individually winning in each state, the aggregation procedure described in the post (I haven't checked if this is what Wang actually did) for using these probabilities to get a probability that Clinton will win the election assumes that winning each state is independent, which is a completely ridiculous assumption. Most sources of uncertainty about elections are correlated between states; for example, widely publicized news stories that make Clinton or Trump look bad a certain number of days before the election. The independence assumption horrendously exaggerates the probability of Clinton winning given that she has a slight edge.

Amusingly enough, a variation of this game occurs in a manga called Liar Game, where it's called Minority Rule. If you're curious, they start playing the game here, and you don't really need to read anything before that. It's an enjoyable read.

The skill to try to build is understanding what your nonverbal parts actually want

Isn't that the easy part? Just look at what it's doing: if I'm eating a bag of chips instead of working out than it means that my non-verbal part wants to eat a bag of chips. Or there's something else?

The things your nonverbal parts are doing are often bad strategies for achieving reasonable goals, and so there's an inference problem to solve in figuring out what the underlying reasonable goal is. A lot of the things your nonverbal parts do are pica in a metaphorical sense (pica in a literal sense is e.g. eating ice cubes because of an iron deficiency). Your desire to eat a bag of chips, for example, might reflect an underlying goal of getting more salt or fat in your diet, because in the ancestral environment those things were rarer, but if you already have too much salt and fat in your diet then that's not super helpful.

A more pica-like example: suppose you catch yourself watching a lot of TV. Depending on the content of the TV, this might reflect an underlying goal of having more social connection (say if you catch yourself watching a lot of How I Met Your Mother, where the main characters form a tightly-knit group of friends). TV's not social connection, but it sort of vaguely resembles it closely enough to be kind of satisfying but not really. I think this is more what "akrasia" looks like a lot of the time.

I don't know if it is possible, but could you explain Dirichlet's theorem on arithmetic progressions and Green–Tao theorem to someone with, uhm, good knowledge of *high-school* math, but not much beyond that?

In general I wonder how can *anything* be proved about prime numbers (other than the fact that they are infinitely many), because they seem to appear quite randomly.

EDIT: I will accept if the inferential distance is simply too large. I am just hoping that maybe it isn't.

Presumably you mean explaining the proofs? Unfortunately the proof of Dirichlet's theorem is quite difficult starting from a high-school background, and I don't even know the proof of Green-Tao. I can try to say something about how one could go about proving nontrivial facts about prime numbers, though; for example, various special cases of Dirichlet's theorem are much easier to prove.

Let's consider the number x = ...999; in other words, now we have infinitely many 9s to the left of the decimal point.

My gut response (I can't reasonably claim to know math above basic algebra) is:

Infinite sequences of numbers to the right of the decimal point are in some circumstances an artifact of the base. In base 3, 1/3 is 0.1 and 1/10 is 0.00220022..., but 1/10 "isn't" an infinitely repeating decimal and 1/3 "is" -- in base 10, which is what we're used to. So, heuristically, we should expect that some infinitely repeating representations of numbers are equal to some representations that aren't infinitely repeating.

If 0.999... and 1 are different numbers, there's nothing between 0.999... and 1, which doesn't jive with my intuitive understanding of what numbers are.

The integers don't run on a computer processor. Positive integers can't wrap around to negative integers. Adding a positive integer to a positive integer will always give a positive integer.

0.999... is 0.9 + 0.09 + 0.009 etc, whereas ...999.0 is 9 + 90 + 900 etc. They must both be positive i̶n̶t̶e̶g̶e̶r̶s̶.

There is no finite number larger than ...999.0. A finite number must have a finite number of digits, so you can compute ...999.0 to that many digits and one more. So there's nothing 'between' ...999.0 and infinity.

Infinity is not the same thing as negative one.

All I have to do to accept that 0.999... is the same thing 1 is accept that some numbers can be represented in multiple ways. If I don't accept this, I have to reject the premise that two numbers with nothing 'between' them are equal -- that is, if 0.999... != 1, it's not the case that for any x and y where x != y, x is either greater than or less than y.

But if I accept that ...999.0 is equal to -1, I have to accept that adding together some positive numbers can give a negative number, and if I reject it, I just have to say that multiplying an infinite number by ten doesn't make sense. (This feels like it's wrong but I don't know why.)

They must both be positive integers.

I think you mean "they must both be positive" here, but 0.999... isn't guaranteed to be an integer a priori.

Aside from that, everything you've said is basically correct. *But*... well, there's something pretty interesting going on with infinite decimals to the left. For numbers that don't exist they sure do have a lot of interesting properties. This might be worth a top-level post.

I am saying you cannot write **...9990** - the decimal point, then an infinite number of 9s and then the last zero!

Okay, perhaps you can in some other axiomatic system. But not for the ordinary real numbers.

Sure. What is different about the situation with 0.999...? How do you know that that is a sensible name for a real number?

I don't think lots of math is a good direction to take the site. And I say this as a person with a mathematics degree.

I think mathematics is a bit too much of a fun distraction for us nerds from the hard problem of "refining the art of human rationality".

I'm sympathetic to this concern (it's why I don't like the QM sequence and think thinking about many-worlds is mostly a waste of time), but I also think math has the potential to be a useful toy environment in which to practice good epistemic habits (as suggested by shev's recent litmus test posts), especially around confusing paradoxes and the like. Many of the complications of reasoning about the real world, like disagreement about complicated empirical facts, are gone, but a few, like the difficulty of telling whether you've made an unjustified assumption, remain.

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Suppose there are 100 genes which figure into intelligence, the odds of getting any one being 50%.

The most common result would be for someone to get 50/100 of these genes and have average intelligence.

Some smaller number would get 51 or 49, and a smaller number still would get 52 or 48.

And so on, until at the extremes of the scale, such a small number of people get 0 or 100 of them that no one we've ever heard of or has ever been born has had all 100 of them.

As such, incredible superhuman intelligence would be manifest in a human who just got lucky enough to have all 100 genes. If some or all of these genes could be identified and manipulated in the genetic code, we'd have unprecedented geniuses.

I mean, yes, of course. You might be interested in reading about Stephen Hsu.