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Comment author: Houshalter 05 March 2015 06:11:01AM 2 points [-]

The story you are referring to is On the Origin of Circuits.

The plucky chip was utilizing only thirty-seven of its one hundred logic gates, and most of them were arranged in a curious collection of feedback loops. Five individual logic cells were functionally disconnected from the rest-- with no pathways that would allow them to influence the output-- yet when the researcher disabled any one of them the chip lost its ability to discriminate the tones. Furthermore, the final program did not work reliably when it was loaded onto other FPGAs of the same type.

This has been repeated many times in different domains where machines are used to design something. The output is usually really hard to understand, whether it be code, mathematical formulas, neural network weights, transistors, etc. Of course reverse engineering code in general is difficult, it may not be any specific problem with GAs.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 05 March 2015 10:02:02AM 0 points [-]

Furthermore, the final program did not work reliably when it was loaded onto other FPGAs of the same type.

This makes an interesting contrast with biological evolution. The "programs" it comes up with do run quite reliably when loaded onto other organisms of the same type. If fact, the parts of slightly different programs from different individuals can be jumbled together at random and it still works! Often, you can take a component from one organism and insert it into very distantly related one and it still works! On top of that, organisms are very clearly made of parts with specialised, understandable purposes, unlike what you typically see when you look inside a trained neural network.

How does this happen? Can this level of robustness and understandability be produced in artificially evolved systems?

Comment author: TimMartin 04 March 2015 04:09:13PM 0 points [-]

Currently it looks like this page has lots of broken images, which are actually formulas. Can this be fixed? It's kind of hard to understand now.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 04 March 2015 04:28:03PM 1 point [-]

It looks like a problem at codecogs.com, the service that LW uses to translate LaTeX to formula images. Probably temporary.

How much effort would it be to move to MathJax?

Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 04 March 2015 11:22:40AM 1 point [-]

OK, good point. Maybe I need to learn something from it, I was always more like must-do, study/job, then leisure, and every personal goal or task taking third priority. This may not be ideal. Lately it is changing, now that married with a child, now a suitable birthday present to my child feels even more important than some things the boss needs, and I am actually surprised by myself a bit there. I don't know what exactly, but I think is the birth of our child is pushing me out from the "do things other people give you grief if you don't, then leisure" mood into "hey there are some things I actually want to achieve" mood. Weird, kind of.

But every musician who wants to make a go of it comes to a point where they have to start saying to people

That is a bit optimistic. Maybe it is just my circumstances, but I see an over-supply of everything. I see quite good musicians still having to do it for free and making a living doing accounting during the day because the paying demand is low and the supply is high. This is why my impression is you really, really need to be a big "star" to do something you both enjoy and get paid for.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 04 March 2015 12:35:41PM 1 point [-]

I don't know what exactly, but I think is the birth of our child is pushing me out from the "do things other people give you grief if you don't, then leisure" mood into "hey there are some things I actually want to achieve" mood.

That's a far better place to be!

This is why my impression is you really, really need to be a big "star" to do something you both enjoy and get paid for.

There's a range of getting paid. In the market for fiction, so I've heard, only a small fraction earn enough to live on it. But any publisher who asks a fee to publish your book is a crook. The market for taiko here in the UK is small enough that there are only about three people in the country who can make it their primary job, and I'm certainly not one of them. But still, anyone who wants us to start their corporate party with a bang can pay corporate rates, and have done. Even the street busker is getting paid -- there wouldn't be any point otherwise.

Even when you aren't depending for survival on the money from what you enjoy doing, there is value beyond the money itself in getting payment to do it for others. Giving to strangers and getting nothing from it but the act of giving is draining in the long term. There has to be an exchange of value, even if one side is contributing "only" money.

Which is rambling away from the original topic, but I felt like saying it.

Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 04 March 2015 10:26:43AM 0 points [-]

I just want to say, it is confusing to me to see productivity as doing things you want to do and I wonder why a large chunk of the Internet, such as LifeHacker, focuses on it. If you want to do it, why would you procastinate? I procastinate because I generally don't do things I want to do, I do things formerly my teachers and now my employers want me to do. Procastination or taking breaks or all that is simply balancing must do / want to do.

A lot of things follow from it. Such as, in must-do, i.e. a job, there is little point to measure your productivity. If the boss is happy, you are productive enough. If not, you are told. As for distractions, procastination, that is easy too: as much as you can get away with without noticeable disapproval.

(Maybe on sites like LW or LessWrong there are people high on the Maslow pyramid, actually doing work they want to, I don't know. I am kind of pessimistic about it: they are paying you because it sucks, if it did not suck someone would do it for free. When my dad wanted some guy to play music in his bar, he did not pay him: so many people enjoy playing music before an audience that there are people who do it for free and happy about the chance. Of course rock stars get paid, but that is the point, only the elite gets paid if it is something fun.)

Comment author: RichardKennaway 04 March 2015 11:14:31AM *  1 point [-]

If you want to do it, why would you procastinate?

For enjoyable things that can be done on the spur of the moment, like having a beer, why indeed? For everything else, though, for most people it is more complicated. Necessary but irksome tasks like cleaning one's house. Projects that promise both a reward and a long unrewarding slog to get there. Any way of life where you are your own boss and there's no-one else to tell you to work.

they are paying you because it sucks, if it did not suck someone would do it for free. When my dad wanted some guy to play music in his bar, he did not pay him: so many people enjoy playing music before an audience that there are people who do it for free and happy about the chance.

Fun doesn't pay the bills. Beginning musicians have to take some non-paying gigs because they haven't made a name for themselves. But every musician who wants to make a go of it comes to a point where they have to start saying to people, no, I will not perform for expenses and "exposure", I am worth money to you and money to me, this is the figure I need to see before getting out of bed. I play with a taiko group, and while we're just a little amateur group, nothing in the larger scheme of things, we have reached that point. It's great fun to play, and we might be willing to do very occasional favours for people we know, but anyone else who wants us to play for them has to pay a realistic rate.

The same goes for a lot of professions. No, Mr Publisher, I will not pay you to publish my book. No, Ms Gallery Owner, I will not hire space in your gallery for my art. No, Mr Businessman, I will not design a logo for you as a favour. Yes, Mr Plumber Next Door, I'd be happy to rebuild your car engine, if you'll install a new bathroom for me.

Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 03 March 2015 04:21:01PM *  1 point [-]

I am bit confused now. Do you expect people to literally mean what they are saying, all the time? Obviously it is somethign you would not have said openly in former times, however, you could tacitly know it and act in this knowledge. Similarly, said statements are essential to the public image such churches project, but do you need to take it any more seriously than the corporate "mission statement" pages where everybody knows they are just PR and in practice their sole mission is to make money?

Reading LW sometimes I get the impression that being very interested in truth comes with the bias that maybe other people too are very interested in truth and really mean what they are saying. But of course it is not so. Most of what ever said publicly is PR and signalling. Related: a friend of mine has a theory that if you ever get the point you are elected Pope it is almost certain you are an atheist by then.

Here is an example. I am reading Edmund Burke's 1792 "Sketch of a Negro Code" which is an argument for the gradual abolition of slavery by first educating slaves and making them more fit for free life. It has actually sensible sounding ideas like letting everybody have a little hobby farm helps teaching self-sufficency values, that schooling is useful, that as long as people are not very educated perhaps controlling alcohol is good, and so on. And it also includes religious services and preaching as part of that education. Burke does not give half a damn what sect a church belongs to, which alone suggests he may have been at least partially agnostic: people who really think theism is literally true usually care about its "flavor". Burke basically considers churches something similar to schools. You got schools to learn facts and to churches to learn values, seems to be the idea there. And this is 1792. Already, a politician, who was considered kinda conservative and his nickname was "The Jesuit" did not give a damn about whether the "facts" the churches teach about Jesus are true or not. He was interested in the moral values and moral habits they teach.

So why are we still interested in the whole religion-as-truth-or-untruth? Because some almost illiterate people in the Bible Belt really seem to believe it? Just ignore them and focus on their politics, that is what matters for you. Because some very educated and smart people in the Vatican use it as a PR message? Ignore the message just like you would ignore Nike's corporate mission statement bullshit. Focus on what matters: churches as agents, institutions playing a role in society.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 03 March 2015 05:28:49PM 0 points [-]

Obviously it is somethign you would not have said openly in former times, however, you could tacitly know it and act in this knowledge. Similarly, said statements are essential to the public image such churches project, but do you need to take it any more seriously than the corporate "mission statement" pages where everybody knows they are just PR and in practice their sole mission is to make money?

A fake can only exist if there is a reality for it to be a fake of. Gold exists and is valued, and so there is also fake gold. But mithril is a fictional metal, so there is no fake mithril, only pretend mithril. "God" only works as persuasion when people generally believe in God. "Let's pretend" may work for some groups of neopaganists, but I can't see society running on it.

Burke repudiated atheism and its close companion deism, which were well underway by 1792. He was not attached to Christianity in particular, but only because he believed some other religions to also have possession of divinely revealed truth. (I'm cribbing all this from here, btw.) Is his consistency in expressing these views to be taken as evidence that he believed the opposite?

And what Jiro said about typical mind fallacy.

Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 03 March 2015 03:21:58PM 0 points [-]

Suppose you want your tribe to obey a set of rules. So you tell them the rules were made by an old man called God.

I am slightly annoyed by examples of theism always based on its most primitive form. Aquinas or Maimonides were leaps and bound more sophisticated than Bronze Age theism. Theism is a form of expression, like music, and Gregorian is not exactly like tribesmen beating drums.

Another relatedly annoying thing is that when people totally seriously debate about whether it is true or not or figure it is a big deal to realize it is not true. It is a form of expression, a genre. It's job is not being somewhere on the truth or untruth spectrum. Compare it to music. You can express the sentiments of war with military marches or Turisas, put people in that mood, or you can express the sentiments of peace by elevating kinds of classical music. The same way, you can tell people that god hath told you to smite the heathen, or that every man is a brother in christ. It is roughly the same way of arousing certain emotions. It does not have any business with being true or not.

I used music as an example, because then I can say with Max Weber that atheist is not the most perfect term of what I am, I don't find that a meaningful or useful term, because that suggests a truth/untruth approach, but like Weber I am "amusical to religion".

Comment author: RichardKennaway 03 March 2015 03:56:59PM 2 points [-]

[telling people about god] is roughly the same way of arousing certain emotions. It does not have any business with being true or not.

That statement would have you executed for heresy in some former times. It is essential to most sects of the Christian faith (the Church of England being the major exception) that God really, truly, does exist, that Jesus walked the earth, was crucified, and resurrected, and so on.

Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 03 March 2015 01:52:15PM *  3 points [-]

is unable to find any justification that sounds like "ethics"

I think that is the issue. "Sounds like ethics" when you go back to Kant, comes from Christian universalism. Aristotle etc. were less universal.

has anyone made a substantial argument against Singerian ethics?

Is Singer even serious? He made the argument that if I find eating humans wrong, I should find eating animals also wrong because they are not very different. I mean, how isn't it OBVIOUS that would not be an argument against eating animals but an argument for eating humans? Because unethical behavior is the default and ethical is the special case. Take away speciality and it is back to the jungle. To me it is so obvious I hardly even think it needs much discussion... ethics is that thing you do in the special rare cases when you don't do what you want to do, but what you feel you ought to. Non-special ethics is not ethics, unless you are a saint.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 03 March 2015 03:55:23PM -1 points [-]

Is Singer even serious?

I see no reason to doubt that he means exactly what he says.

I mean, how isn't it OBVIOUS that would not be an argument against eating animals but an argument for eating humans?

Modus ponens, or modus tollens? White and gold, or blue and black?

Because unethical behavior is the default and ethical is the special case. Take away speciality and it is back to the jungle.

On the whole, we observe that people naturally care for their children, including those who still live in jungles. There is an obvious evolutionary argument that this is not because this has been drummed into them by ethical preaching without which their natural inclination would be to eat them.

To me it is so obvious I hardly even think it needs much discussion...

To be a little Chestertonian, the obvious needs discussion precisely because it is obvious. Also a theme of Socrates. Some things are justifiably obvious: one can clearly see the reasons for a thing being true. For others, "obvious" just means "I'm not even aware I believe this." As Eliezer put it:

The way a belief feels from inside, is that you seem to be looking straight at reality. When it actually seems that you're looking at a belief, as such, you are really experiencing a belief about belief.

Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 03 March 2015 03:13:05PM 2 points [-]

one tries to build ethics from scratch,

Wait, I didn't even noticed it. That is interesting! So if something to qualify as a philosophy or theory you need to try to build from scratch? I know people who would consider it hubris. Who would say that it is more like, you can amend and customize and improve on things that were handed to you by tradition, but you can never succeed at building from scratch.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 03 March 2015 03:38:46PM -1 points [-]

So if something to qualify as a philosophy or theory you need to try to build from scratch?

That's what philosophers do. Hence such things as Rawls' "veil of ignorance", whereby he founds ethics on the question "how would you wish society to be organised, if you did not know which role you would have in it?"

Who would say that it is more like, you can amend and customize and improve on things that were handed to you by tradition, but you can never succeed at building from scratch.

And there are also intellectuals (they tend to be theologians, historians, literary figures, and the like, rather than professional philosophers), who say exactly that. That has the problem of which tradition to follow, especially when the history of all ages is available to us. Shall we reintroduce slavery? Support FGM? Execute atheists? Or shall the moral injunction be "my own tradition, right or wrong", "jede das seine"?

Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 03 March 2015 11:02:42AM 4 points [-]

I have not yet read the sequences in full, let met ask, is there maybe an answer to what is bothering me about ethics: why is basically all ethics in the last 300 years or so universalistic? I.e. prescribing to treat everybody without exception according to the same principles? I don't understand it because I think altruism is based on reciprocity. If my cousin is starving and a complete stranger is halfway accross the world is starving even more, and I have money for food, most ethics would figure out I should help the stranger. But from my angle, I am obviously getting less reciprocity, less personal utility out of that than out of helping my cousin. I am not even considering the chance of a direct payback, simply the utility of having people I like and associate with not suffer is a utility to me, obviously. Basically you see altruism as an investment, you get a lot back from investing into people close to you, and then with the distance the return on investment is less and less to you, although never completely zero because making humankind as such better off is always better for you. This explains things like that kind of economic nationalism that if free trade makes Chinese workers better off with 100 units and American or European workers worse off with 50, a lot of people still don't want it, this is actually rational, 100 units to people far away make you better off with 1 unit, 50 units lost to basically your neighbors makes you worse off with 5.

And this is why I don't understand why most ethics are universalistic?

Of course one could argue this is not ethics when you talk about what is the best investment for yourself. After all with that sort of logic you would get the most return if you never give anything to anyone else, so why even help your cousin?

Anyway, was this sort of reciprocal and thus non-universalistic ethics ever discussed here?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 03 March 2015 01:01:09PM 2 points [-]

And this is why I don't understand why most ethics are universalistic?

I think one reason is that as soon as one tries to build ethics from scratch, one is unable to find any justification that sounds like "ethics" for favouring those close to oneself over those more distant. Lacking such a magic pattern of words, they conclude that universalism must be axiomatically true.

In Peter Singer's view, to fail to save the life of a remote child is exactly as culpable as to starve your own children. His argument consists of presenting the image of a remote child and a near one and challenging the reader to justify treating them unequally. It's not a subject I particularly keep up on; has anyone made a substantial argument against Singerian ethics?

Anyway, was this sort of reciprocal and thus non-universalistic ethics ever discussed here?

It is often observed here that favouring those close to oneself over those more distant is universally practised. It has not been much argued for though. Here are a couple of arguments.

  1. It is universally practiced and universally approved of, to favour family and friends. It is, for the most part, also approved of to help more distant people in need; but there are very few who demand that people should place them on an equal footing. Therefore, if there is such a thing as Human!ethics or CEV, it must include that.

  2. As we have learned from economics, society in general works better when people look after their own business first and limit their inclination to meddle in other people's. This applies in the moral area as well as the economic.

Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 03 March 2015 10:33:07AM 0 points [-]

I just don't know what to delete...

Comment author: RichardKennaway 03 March 2015 11:44:11AM 2 points [-]

I just don't know what to delete...

All of it. Then start over at the other end. Write the thrust of the article in one plain sentence. I don't know what it is at the moment. Write it in bullet points. Write it in exactly 100 words. Never write a sentence when one word will do; never write one word when none will do. Think only about what truth you are trying to present, and why the reader should agree.

Also, while I don't want to speculate about your life, it does read like an autobiographical ramble driven by unhappy memories. My personal reaction to it is just, "I don't care about these people."

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