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Comment author: Anders_H 22 April 2014 09:12:53PM 4 points [-]

Why should a myth about Zeus change anyone's belief by "orders of magnitude"?

Because the probability of there being a myth about Zeus, given that Zeus exists, is orders of magnitude higher than the probability of there being a myth about Zeus, given that he does not exist?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 24 April 2014 01:07:10PM 0 points [-]

Because the probability of there being a myth about Zeus, given that Zeus exists, is orders of magnitude higher than the probability of there being a myth about Zeus, given that he does not exist?

Given that the myths about Zeus attribute vast supernatural properties to him, and we now know better than to believe in any such stuff (we don't need Zeus to explain thunder and lightning), the myths are evidence against his existence. For the ancient Greeks, of course, it was not so, but the question is being posed here and now.

Also, myths are generally told more of imaginary entities than real ones, not less. Myths are all that imaginary creatures have going for them. How many myths are there about Pope Francis? I expect there are some unfounded stories going around among the devout, but nothing on the scale of Greek mythology. So no, P(myths about Zeus|Zeus is real) is not larger, but smaller than P(myths about Zeus|Zeus is imaginary).

On the other hand, it is larger than P(myths about Zeus|no such entity has even been imagined). The latter is indistinguishable from zero -- to have a myth about an entity implies that that entity has been imagined. So we can conclude from the existence of myths that Zeus has been imagined. I'm fine with that.

Comment author: lmm 23 April 2014 11:00:34PM 1 point [-]

Which side do you incline against?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 24 April 2014 12:18:49PM 0 points [-]

Which side do you incline against?

Against having such quotes.

Comment author: ChristianKl 22 April 2014 09:26:32PM *  1 point [-]

In other words, you made them up.

I'm decently calibrated on the credence game and have made plenty of prediction book predictions. The idea of Bayesianism that it's good to boil down your beliefs to probability numbers.

you did say (my emphasis)

If you think my argument is wrong provide your own numbers. P(Zeus exists | Myths exists) and P(Zeus exists | Myths don't exist)

There really no point discussing Zeus further if you aren't willing to put number on your own beliefs. Apart from that I linked to a discussion about Bayesianism and you might want to read that discussion if you want a deeper understanding of the claim.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 24 April 2014 12:17:27PM -1 points [-]

I'm decently calibrated on the credence game and have made plenty of prediction book predictions.

You cannot use the credence game to validate your estimation of probabilities of one-off situations down at the 10^-18 level. You will never see Zeus or any similar entity.

The idea of Bayesianism that it's good to boil down your beliefs to probability numbers.

I am familiar with the concept. The idea is also that it's no good pulling numbers out of thin air. Bayesian reasoning is about (1) doing certain calculations with probabilities and evidence -- by which I mean numerical calculations with numbers that are not made up -- and (2) where numerical calculation is not possible, using the ideas as a heuristic background and toolbox. Assigning 10^-bignum to Zeus existing confuses the two.

Look! My office walls are white! I must increase my estimated probability of crows being bright pink from 10^-18 to 10^-15! No, I don't think I shall.

Earlier you wrote:

The central reason to believe that Zeus doesn't exist are weak priors.

The central reason to believe that Zeus doesn't exist is the general arguments against the existence of gods and similar entities. We don't see them acting in the world. We know what thunder and lightning are and have no reason to attribute them to Zeus. Our disbelief arose after we already knew about the myths, so the thought experiment is ill-posed. "The fact that there are myths about Zeus is evidence that Zeus exists" is a pretty slogan but does not actually make any sense. Sense nowadays, that is. Of course the ancient Greeks were brought up on such tales and I assume believed in their pantheon as much as the believers of any other religion do in theirs. But the thought experiment is being posed today, addressed to people today, and you claim to have updated -- from what prior state? -- from 10^-18 to 10^-15.

There really no point discussing Zeus further if

There really no point discussing Zeus, period.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 23 April 2014 04:39:45PM *  7 points [-]

Tyler Cowen talks with Nick Beckstead about x-risk here. Basically he thinks that "people doing philosophical work to try to reduce existential risk are largely wasting their time" and that "a serious effort looks more like the parts of the US government that trained people to infiltrate the post-collapse Soviet Union and then locate and neutralize nuclear weapons."

My Straussian reading of Tyler Cowen is that a "serious" MIRI would be assembling and training a team of hacker-assassins to go after potential UFAIs instead of dinking around with decision theory.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 24 April 2014 08:42:54AM 1 point [-]

My Straussian reading of Tyler Cowen is that a "serious" MIRI would be assembling and training a team of hacker-assassins to go after potential UFAIs instead of dinking around with decision theory.

A "serious" MIRI would operate in absolute secrecy, and the "public" MIRI would never even hint at the existence of such an organisation, which would be thoroughly firewalled from it. Done right, MIRI should look exactly the same whether or not the secret one exists.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 21 April 2014 03:50:12AM 2 points [-]

He is arguing here against theories whereby sovereignty must consist of absolute power held by a single individual beyond any legitimate challenge, his subjects having no rights against him. For Rousseau, sovereignty is the coherent extrapolated volition of humanity -- or in Rousseau's words, "the exercise of the general will". Rousseau's sovereignty is still absolute and indivisible, but is not located in any individual.

Here is a decent debunking of the notion that modern society is based on a social contract. The basic argument is that if one attempts to explicitly right down the kind of contract these theories require, one winds up with a contract that no court would enforce between private parties.

More generally, Nick Szabo argues that the concept of sovereignty is itself totalitarian.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 22 April 2014 09:45:07PM 0 points [-]

Here is a decent debunking of the notion that modern society is based on a social contract.

I agree with that.

More generally, Nick Szabo argues that the concept of sovereignty is itself totalitarian.

It certainly is. Where does that leave FAI? A superintelligent FAI, as envisaged by those who think it a desirable goal, will be a totalitarian absolute ruler imposing the CEVoH and will, to borrow Rousseau's words, be "so strong as to render it impossible to suspend [its] operation." Rather like the Super Happies' plan for humanity. The only alternative to a superintelligent FAI is supposed to be a superintelligent UFAI.

Comment author: ChristianKl 22 April 2014 08:42:13PM 2 points [-]

In this case they come from me. Feel free to post your own numbers.

The point of choosing Zeus as an example is that it's a claim that probably not going to mindkill anyone. That makes it easier to talk about the principles than using an example where the updating actually matters.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 22 April 2014 09:04:06PM -2 points [-]

In this case they come from me.

In other words, you made them up. Fictional evidence.

Feel free to post your own numbers.

you did say (my emphasis)

Your belief should change by orders of magnitude.

Why should a myth about Zeus change anyone's belief by "orders of magnitude"?

Comment author: ChristianKl 22 April 2014 11:21:45AM 0 points [-]

It looks to me to be rather clear that what is being said ("myths are not evidence for Zeus") translates roughly to "myths are very weak evidence for Zeus, and so my beliefs are changed very little by them". Is there still a real misunderstanding here?

You are making a mistake in reasoning if you don't change your belief through that evidence. Your belief should change by orders of magnitude. A change from 10^{-18} to 10^{-15} is a strong change.

The central reason to believe that Zeus doesn't exist are weak priors.

Skeptics have ideas that someone has to prove something to them for them to believe it. In the Bayesian worldview you always have probabilities for your beliefs. Social obligations aren't part of it. "Good" evidence means that someone fulfilled a social obligation of providing a certain amount of proof. It doesn't refer to how strongly a Bayesian should update after being exposed to a piece of evidence.

There are very strong instincts for humans to either believe X is true or to believe X is false. It takes effort to think in terms of probabilities.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 22 April 2014 05:03:09PM 1 point [-]

You are making a mistake in reasoning if you don't change your belief through that evidence. Your belief should change by orders of magnitude. A change from 10^{-18} to 10^{-15} is a strong change.

Where do those numbers come from?

Comment author: polymathwannabe 19 April 2014 06:34:14AM 1 point [-]

That page leaves it clear:

"All fanfiction involves borrowing the original author’s characters, situations, and world. It is ridiculous to turn around and complain if your own ideas get borrowed in turn. Anyone is welcome to steal anything from any fanfiction I write."

Comment author: RichardKennaway 19 April 2014 08:54:19AM 2 points [-]

I think that only speaks to writing fanfiction of Eliezer's fanfiction, not rights over the text itself. By default, the copyright is solely Eliezer's unless and until he says otherwise.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 19 April 2014 04:20:39AM 2 points [-]

MAN is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they. How did this change come about? I do not know. What can make it legitimate? That question I think I can answer.

Could you taboo what Rousseau means by "master" and "slave" in that quote. As is, to me it sounds like deep wisdom attempting to use said words in some metaphorical way that's not at all well-defined. Also I don't see what this has to do with the subject.

The idea is that in the end state people would be motivated to work as a way of self actualization and don't need financial incentives to do work.

The problem is that the work that's self-actualizing is not necessarily the same as the work that's needed to keep society running. In other words, attempting to run society like this you'd wind up with a bunch of (mediocre) artists starving and suffering from dysentery because not enough people derive self-actualization from farming or maintaining the sewer system. Historically, many attempts by intellectuals to create planned communities fell into this problem.

Star Trek has characters who work without getting payed to do so.

Fictional evidence.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 19 April 2014 08:47:06AM 0 points [-]

MAN is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they. How did this change come about? I do not know. What can make it legitimate? That question I think I can answer.

Could you taboo what Rousseau means by "master" and "slave" in that quote.

The full text is readily available online. A "master" is someone with the power to tell others what to do and be obeyed; yet these masters themselves obey something above themselves (laws written and unwritten). Rousseau's answer (SPOILER WARNING!!) is the title of his work. (To which the standard counter-argument is "show me my signature on this supposed contract".)

A few more Rousseau quotes:

The social order is a sacred right which is the basis of all other rights.

...

All power comes from God, I admit; but so does all sickness: does that mean that we are forbidden to call in the doctor?

...

To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity and even its duties. For him who renounces everything no indemnity is possible. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man's nature; to remove all liberty from his will is to remove all morality from his acts.

He is arguing here against theories whereby sovereignty must consist of absolute power held by a single individual beyond any legitimate challenge, his subjects having no rights against him. For Rousseau, sovereignty is the coherent extrapolated volition of humanity -- or in Rousseau's words, "the exercise of the general will". Rousseau's sovereignty is still absolute and indivisible, but is not located in any individual.

One can cherry-pick Rousseau to multiple ends. Here's something for HBDers:

Liberty, not being a fruit of all climates, is not within the reach of all peoples.

Libertarians may find something to agree with in this:

It is wrong therefore to wish to make political institutions so strong as to render it impossible to suspend their operation.

But to know what Rousseau thought, it is better to read his work.

Comment author: somnicule 19 April 2014 04:57:08AM 1 point [-]

Hmm. It's an interesting point.

I'm not entirely clear on the purpose of the rule. It makes sense to not just increase the redundancy of anything people have said in other threads that have already got a lot of attention, but I'm sure there's plenty of interesting stuff buried deep in comment threads that haven't got much light and might be worth sharing. Conversely, there will be some quotes here from outside LW/OB that a high proportion of readers have seen already.

So it's definitely something that made sense when the LW/OB community was smaller and there wasn't much good stuff that people weren't seeing anyway, but perhaps it's time to relax the rule a little bit, replace it with the substance.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 19 April 2014 08:10:58AM 3 points [-]

I believe the purpose was to bring material to LW from outside rather than quoting each other (and especially, quoting Eliezer), to avoid an echo chamber effect. There was once an experimental LW Quotes Thread, but the experiment has not been repeated.

I don't have a strong view about whether LW regulars posting on other LW regulars' blogs should be excluded from the quotes threads, but I incline against the practice. It was a good quote though.

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