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Comment author: RichardKennaway 25 November 2015 01:49:07PM 2 points [-]

If the conscious mind was in reality a wish-granting machine, then how could I test this without going insane?

It is a wish-granting machine. The mechanism by which it grants your wishes is your own muscles.

Comment author: Clarity 25 November 2015 08:07:11AM -2 points [-]

What, other than an interest in the commercial success of the car lot business, normative social influence and scrupulosity (all tenuous), stops someone from taking a second ticket (by foot) from a gated car park then immediately paying that one off when leaving, rather than paying the original entry ticket?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 25 November 2015 11:06:38AM 2 points [-]

What, other than an interest in the commercial success of the car lot business, normative social influence and scrupulosity (all tenuous)

These are what holds society together. These are what society is -- including the bit about commercial success.

But have you tried? The entry barriers only issue a ticket when there's a car in front of them. That's how it works at the car parks I'm familiar with that use that system.

And, to continue the discussion of why your karma is so persistently low, this is something you might have thought of before posting. See also.

Comment author: Clarity 24 November 2015 04:09:49AM 7 points [-]

Why is my karma so low? Is there something I'm consistently doing wrong that I can do less wrong? I'm sorry.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 25 November 2015 11:05:03AM 3 points [-]

In addition to what everyone else has said, here's a useful article on how to ask smart questions. It's talking about asking technical questions on support forums, but the matter generalises, especially the advice to make your best effort to answer it yourself, before asking it publicly, and when you do, to provide the context and where you have got to already.

while it isn't necessary to already be technically competent to get attention from us, it is necessary to demonstrate the kind of attitude that leads to competence — alert, thoughtful, observant, willing to be an active partner in developing a solution.

Comment author: Vaniver 25 November 2015 04:24:36AM 1 point [-]

I picked 7 Habits because it's pretty clearly rationality in my eyes, but is distinctly not LW style Rationality. Perhaps I should have picked something worse to make my point more clear.

I suspect the point will be clearer if stated without examples? I think you're pointing towards something like "most self-help does not materially improve the lives of most self-help readers," which seems fairly ambiguous to me. Most self-help, if measured by titles, is probably terrible simply by Sturgeon's Law. But is most self-help, as measured by sales? I haven't looked at sales figures, but I imagine it's not that unlikely that half of all self-help books actually consumed are the ones that are genuinely helpful.

It also seems to me that the information content of useful self-help is about pointing to places where applying effort will improve outcomes. (Every one of the 7 Habits is effortful!) Part of scientific self-help is getting an accurate handle on how much improvement in outcomes comes from expenditure of effort for various techniques / determining narrowly specialized versions.

But if someone doesn't actually expend the effort, the knowledge of how they could have doesn't lead to any improvements in outcomes. Which is why the other arm of self-help is all about motivation / the emotional content.

It's not clear to me that LW-style rationality improves on the informational or emotional content of self-help for most of the populace. (I think it's better at the emotional content mostly for people in the LW-sphere.) Most of the content of LW-style rationality is philosophical, which is very indirectly related to self-help.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 25 November 2015 09:37:00AM 3 points [-]

Most self-help, if measured by titles, is probably terrible simply by Sturgeon's Law. But is most self-help, as measured by sales? I haven't looked at sales figures, but I imagine it's not that unlikely that half of all self-help books actually consumed are the ones that are genuinely helpful.

Another complication is that Sturgeon's Law applies as much to the readers. The dropout rate on free MOOCs is astronomical. (Gated link, may not be accessible to all.) "When the first Mooc came out, 100,000 people signed up but “not even half went to the first lecture, let alone completed all the lectures.” "Only 4-5 per cent of the people who sign up for a course at Coursera ,,, get to the end."

Picking up a self-help book is as easy as signing up for a MOOC. How many buyers read even the first chapter, let alone get to the end, and do all the work on the way?

Comment author: Gleb_Tsipursky 24 November 2015 04:32:44PM 2 points [-]

I wrote over 30000 words for myself when I was reading and summarizing it. I then shared my notes with friends who were aspiring rationalists but didn't have time to read the book. They were blown away by my notes, and strongly encouraged me to share them publicly with the LW community.

This is what I did with the LW Wiki article, taking the time to upload my notes, format them, and reformat them based on requests. To answer your point below, the article appears to me to right now be mostly bullet points and short paragraphs. I'm using Firefox, don't know about how it comes out on other browsers.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 24 November 2015 08:08:33PM 0 points [-]

I see more bullet points and short paragraphs now (in both Safari and Firefox), but after "Longer summary" it reverts to a wall-o-text per chapter.

Comment author: Vaniver 24 November 2015 02:44:36PM 1 point [-]

I thought there were several examples of theorems that had only been proved by computers, like the Four Color Theorem, but that they're sort of in their own universe because they rely on checking thousands of cases, and so not only could a person not really be sure that they verified the proof (because the odds of them making a mistake would be so high) they couldn't get much in the way of intuition or shared technique from the proof.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 24 November 2015 03:12:41PM 1 point [-]

I thought there were several examples of theorems that had only been proved by computers, like the Four Color Theorem

Yes, although as far as I know things like that, and the FCT in particular, have only been proved by custom software written for the problem.

There's also a distinction between using a computer to find a proof, and using it to formalise a proof found by other means.

Comment author: Curiouskid 23 November 2015 04:54:33PM 6 points [-]

So, it seems like lots of people advise buying index funds, but how do I figure out which specific ones I should choose?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 24 November 2015 12:02:28PM 3 points [-]

I have a secondary question to that. These things seem to all operate online only, without bricks and mortar. How do I assure myself that a website that I have never seen before is trustworthy enough to invest, say, 6-figure sums of money in? Are there official ratings or registers, for probity rather than performance?

Comment author: passive_fist 23 November 2015 10:14:00PM 2 points [-]

Present day mathematics is a human construct, where computers are used more and more but do not play a creative role.

It always seemed very strange to me how, despite the obvious similarities and overlaps between mathematics and computer science, the use of computers for mathematics has largely been a fringe movement and mathematicians mostly still do mathematics the way it was done in the 19th century. This even though precision and accuracy is highly valued in mathematics and decades of experience in computer science has shown us just how prone humans are to making mistakes in programs, proofs, etc. and just how stubbornly these mistakes can evade the eyes of proof-checkers.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 24 November 2015 11:53:09AM 2 points [-]

Substantial work has been done on this. The two major systems I know of are Automath (defunct but historically important) and Mizar (still alive). Looking at those articles just now also turns up Metamath. Also of historical interest is QED, which never really got started, but is apparently still inspiring enough that a 20-year anniversary workshop was held last year.

Creating a medium for formally verified proofs is a frequently occurring idea, but no-one has yet brought such a project to completion. These systems are still used only to demonstrate that it can be done, but they are not used to write up new theorems.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 23 November 2015 03:19:12PM *  0 points [-]

You seem to be tacit assuming that only a quantiative, predictive theory is a theory at all, but as far as general usage goes, the horse has bolted, because we have critical theory, cultural theory and other such handwavey things.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 23 November 2015 09:33:40PM *  1 point [-]

Many things are called theories, but they are not all the same sort of thing. I know little of critical theory or cultural theory, but I have a very slight acquaintance with music theory, so let me say what sort of thing that appears to be to me, and ask if these other "theories", including systems theory, are a similar sort of thing.

Musical theory is not the same sort of thing as the theory of Newtonian mechanics. It is more like (pre-neo-Darwinian) biological taxonomy (although different in important ways I'll come to). That is, it is an activity of classifying things into a framework, a structure of concepts. It makes no predictions, other than that these regularities will continue to be observed. Just as in taxonomy: when you come across a creature that you identify as a heron, you can be sure of a lot of things that you will subsequently observe if you follow it around. But there is no biology here: the classification is based purely on the appearance (perhaps including the results of microscopy) and behaviour of the organism, with no deeper knowledge to tell you how the variety of creatures came to be, or the biochemical processes by which they function. And just as in the history of taxonomy various classification schemes have been proposed, so in music theory there are alternatives to the standard stuff found in elementary textbooks (e.g. Schenkerian theory, Riemannian theory). There are even flamewars over them in internet forums.

Music theory and taxonomy are more like maps of contingent landscapes than a theory predicting things beyond the observed phenomena.

Biological taxonomy differs from music theory in two important ways. Firstly, the organisms exist independently of the taxonomical activity. In contrast, practitioners of music -- composers and performers -- are influenced by the theories. They create music within the frameworks that were derived from the music before them, or deliberately react against them and invent new theories to compose new sorts of music in, such as serialism.

Secondly, the development of biology has put empirical foundations underneath the taxonomical activity. (Here is a history of that process.)

[ETA: Sometimes to the effect of exposing some of the concepts as purely conventional. We know what physically underlies the concept of a species, and also know how fuzzy it can get. For other parts it has demonstrated that, e.g. there is no such thing as a genus, or a family, or a kingdom, any more than one can empirically distinguish twigs, branches and boughs: all the levels above species are just conventions convenient to have.]

No such empirical foundation exists for music. Composers are free to flout anyone's theory of what they are doing, and are ultimately bound only by the limits of the human ear.

So, I can read "cultural theory" and "critical theory" as being the same sort of activity as music theory. But that is at the expense of reading them as making true statements about something outside of themselves. They are descriptive maps, or rather, a multitude of competing and conflicting maps of the same territory. In fact, the activity of cultural theory might even be considered to be more like musical performance than musical theory. One does not go to a lecture in the area of cultural theory, critical studies, semiotics, and the like to learn true things, but to experience an intellectually entertaining assemblage of ideas floating as independently of the real world as an interpretation of a Rorschach blot.

What do you think? And where does this leave systems theory? If systems theory were like to musical performance I would have little use for it, but I think its practitioners intend a more solid connection to the real world than that. Perhaps it is like taxonomy? Or something else?

Comment author: Gleb_Tsipursky 23 November 2015 06:47:49AM 3 points [-]

Will do it when I have the time, or someone who is interested can do so in the meantime.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 23 November 2015 09:14:46AM -1 points [-]

You had time to write over 30 thousand words, and no time to fix the formatting so that it can be read?

someone who is interested can do so in the meantime.

I predict that this will not happen.

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