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Comment author: IlyaShpitser 17 November 2017 01:18:45AM *  3 points [-]

You should probably actually read Popper before putting words in his mouth.

According to Popper, not matter how much scientific evidence we have in favor of e.g. theory of relativity, all it needs is one experiment that will falsify it, and then all good scientists should stop believing in it.

You found this claim in a book of his? Or did you read some Wikipedia, or what?

For example, this is a quote from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Popper has always drawn a clear distinction between the logic of falsifiability and its applied methodology. The logic of his theory is utterly simple: if a single ferrous metal is unaffected by a magnetic field it cannot be the case that all ferrous metals are affected by magnetic fields. Logically speaking, a scientific law is conclusively falsifiable although it is not conclusively verifiable. Methodologically, however, the situation is much more complex: no observation is free from the possibility of error—consequently we may question whether our experimental result was what it appeared to be.

Thus, while advocating falsifiability as the criterion of demarcation for science, Popper explicitly allows for the fact that in practice a single conflicting or counter-instance is never sufficient methodologically to falsify a theory, and that scientific theories are often retained even though much of the available evidence conflicts with them, or is anomalous with respect to them.

You guys still do that whole "virtue of scholarship" thing, or what?

Comment author: Viliam 17 November 2017 10:31:11AM 0 points [-]

You guys still do that whole "virtue of scholarship" thing, or what?

Well, this specific guy has a job and a family, and studying "what Popper believed" is quite low on his list of priorities. If you want to provide a more educated answer to curi, go ahead.

Comment author: curi 14 November 2017 04:25:18AM 0 points [-]

if i were to provide an anti-induction article, what properties should it have?

apparently it should be different in some way than the ones already provided by Popper and DD, as individual book chapters.

one question is whether it should assume the reader has background knowledge of CR.

if so, it's easy, it'll be short ... and people here won't understand it.

if not, it'll be long and very hard to understand, and will repeat a lot of content from Popper's books.

what about a short logical argument about a key point, which doesn't explain the bigger picture? possible, but people hate those. they don't respond well to them. they don't just want their view destroyed without understanding any alternative. and anyway their own views are too vague to to criticize in a quick, logical way b/c whatever part you criticize, they can do without. there is no clear, essential, philosophical core they are attached to. if advocates of induction actually knew their own position, in exacting detail, inside and out, then you could quickly point out a logical flaw and they'd go "omg, that makes everything fall apart". but when you deal with people who aren't very clear on their own position, and who actually think all their beliefs are full of errors and you just have to muddle through and do your best ... then what kind of short argument will work?

Comment author: Viliam 16 November 2017 11:58:02PM *  2 points [-]

if i were to provide an anti-induction article, what properties should it have?

Regardless of the topic, I would say that the article should be easy to read, and relatively self-contained. For example, instead of "go read this book by Popper to understand how he defines X" you could define X using your own words, preferably giving an example (of course it's okay to also give a quote from Popper's book).

one question is whether it should assume the reader has background knowledge of CR.

I don't even know what the abbreviation is supposed to mean. Seriously.

Generally, I think that the greatest risk is people not even understanding what you are trying to say. If you include links to other pages, I guess most people will not click them. Aim to explain, not to convince, because a failure in explaining is automatically also a failure in convincing.

Maybe it would make sense for you to look at the articles that I believe (with my very unclear understanding of what you are trying to say) may be most relevant to your topic:
1) "Infinite Certainty" (and its mathy sequel "0 And 1 Are Not Probabilities"), and
2) "Scientific Evidence, Legal Evidence, Rational Evidence".

Because it seems to me that the thing about Popper and induction is approximately this...

Simplicio: "Can science be 100% sure about something?"
Popper: "Nope, that would mean that scientists would never change their minds. But they sometimes do, and that is an accepted part of science. Therefore, scientists are never 100% sure of their theories."
Simplicio: "Well, if they can't prove anything with 100% certainty, why don't we just ignore them completely? It's just another opinion, right?"
Popper: "Uhm... wait a minute... scientists cannot prove anything, but they can... uhm... disprove things! Yeah, that's what they do; they make many theories, they disprove most of them, and the one that keeps surviving is the official winner, for the moment. So it's not like the scientists proved e.g. the theory of relativity, but rather that they disproved all known competing theories, and failed to disprove the theory of relativity (yet)."

To which I would give the following objection:

1) How exactly could it be impossible to prove "X", and yet possible to disprove "not X"? If scientists are able to falsify e.g. the hypothesis that "two plus two does not equal four", isn't it the same as proving the hypothesis that "two plus two equals four"?

I imagine that the typical situation Popper had in mind included a few explicit hypotheses, e.g. A, B, C, and then a remaining option "something else that we did not consider". So he is essentially saying that scientists can experimentally disprove e.g. B and C, but that's not the same as proving A. Instead, they proved "either A, or something else that we did not consider, but definitely neither B nor C". Shortly: B and C were falsified, but A wasn't proven. And as long as there remains an unspecified category "things we did not consider", there is always a chance that A is merely an approximate solution, and the real solution is still unknown.

But it doesn't always have to be like this. Especially in math. But also in real life. Consider this:

According to Popper, not matter how much scientific evidence we have in favor of e.g. theory of relativity, all it needs is one experiment that will falsify it, and then all good scientists should stop believing in it. And recently, theory of relativity was indeed falsified by an experiment. Does it mean we should stop teaching the theory of relativity, because now it was properly falsified?

With the benefit of hindsight, now we know there was a mistake in the experiment. But... that's exactly my point. The concepts of "proving" and "falsifying" are actually much closer than Popper probably imagined. You may have a hypothesis "H", and an experiment "E", but if you say that you falsified "H", it means you have a hypothesis "F" = "the experiment E is correct and falsifies the theory H". To falsify H by E is to prove F; therefore if F cannot be scientifically proven, then H cannot be scientifically falsified. Proof and falsification are not two fundamentally different processes; they are actually two sides of the same coin. To claim that the experiment E falsifies the hypothesis H, is to claim that you have a proof that "the experiment E falsifies the hypothesis H"... and the usual interpretation of Popper is that there are no proofs in science.

The answer generally accepted on LessWrong, I guess, is that what really happens in science is that people believe theories with greater and greater probability. Never 100%. But sometimes with a very high probability instead, and for most practical purposes such high probability works almost like certainty. Popper may insist that science is unable to actually prove that moon is not made of cheese, but the fact is that most scientists will behave as if they already had such proof; they are not going to keep an open mind about it.

.

Short version: Popper was right about inability to prove things with 100% certainty, but then he (or maybe just people who quote him) made a mistake of imagining that disproving things is a process fundamentally different from proving things, so you can at least disprove things with 100% certainty. My answer is that you can't even disprove things with probability 100%, but that's okay, because the "100%" part was just a red herring anyway; what actually happens in science is that things are believed with greater probability.

Comment author: curi 13 November 2017 01:35:17AM 0 points [-]

you missed the intended point about representatives. the point is that anyone takes any responsibility for the ideas they believe are true. the point is e.g. that anyone be available to answer questions about some idea. if the idea has no representatives in the sense of people who think it's good and answer questions about it, then that's problematic. then it's hard to learn and there's no one to improve or advocate it.

If you find that Sequences say "A" and truth is actually "B", what you can do is write an article on LW explaining why "B" is true.

And then people don't like me, b/c i'm a heretic who denies induction, so they ignore it. when there is no mechanism for correcting errors, what you end up with is bias: people decide to pay attention, or not, according to social status, bias, etc.

No matter how much I am told "X", no matter how much I in theory agree with "X", if I pay enough attention, I find myself going against "X" all the time.

For all X? E.g. "don't murder"? This part isn't clear.

Do you mean some hypothetical ideal of reason, or how smart but imperfect people actually do it?

The tradition of reason deals with both. It offers some guiding principles and ideals, as well as practical guidance, rules of thumb, tips, etc. People have knowledge of both of these.

Really? What is your opinion on the existence of atoms, or theory of relativity? I mean, the Einstein guy is just some unimportant rando; so did you develop the whole theory on your own?

I am familiar with some science and able to make some judgements about scientific arguments myself. Especially using resources like asking questions of physicists I know and using books/internet. I don't helplessly take people's words for things; i seek out explanations at the level of detail i'm interested in and make a judgement. And science is an interest of mine.

I have no criticism of the atomic theory, no objection to it. I know some stuff about it and I agree. I don't know of any contrary position that's any good. I'm convinced by the reasoning, not the prestige of the reasoners.

I didn't personally do all the experiments. Why should I? I don't accept an experiment merely b/c the person who did it had a PhD, but I don't automatically reject it either. I make a judgement about the experiment (or idea) instead of about the person's credentials.

I paid attention to physics, initially, because I found the arguments in the book The Fabric of Reality high quality and interesting. The book looked interesting to me so I read the opening paragraphs online and I thought they were good so I got the book. I didn't look for the book with the most prestigious author. I don't see what these historical detail matter, but you asked about them. Physics is important (we live in the physical world; we're made of atoms; we move; etc) and worthy of interest (though others are welcome to pursue other matters).

tl;dr: I won't take Einstein's word for it, but I can be impressed by his reasoning.

yet I find mistakes in the very first paragraph of the very first article

let's not jump to conclusions before discussing the matter. we disagree, or there is a misunderstanding.

Comment author: Viliam 13 November 2017 11:28:02PM 0 points [-]

And then people don't like me, b/c i'm a heretic who denies induction, so they ignore it.

Have you tried posting here an article about why induction is wrong? Preferably starting with an explanation of what you mean by "induction", just to make sure we are all debating the same thing.

Of course there is a chance that people will ignore the article, but I would be curious to learn e.g. why evolution gave so many organisms the ability of reinforcement learning, if the fundamental premise of reinforcement learning -- that things in future are likely to be similar to things in the past -- is wrong.

This part isn't clear.

(Yeah, that's me writing at midnight, after my daughter finally decides to go sleep. Sorry for that.)

What I mean was that for me personally, the greatest obstacle in "following reason" is not the reasoning part, but rather the following part. (Using the LW lingo, the greatest problem is not epistemic rationality, but instrumental rationality.) I feel quite confident that I am generally good at reasoning, or at least better than most of the population. What I have problem is to actually follow my own advice. Therefore, instead of developing smarter and smarter arguments, I rather wish to become better at implementing the things I already know.

And I suspect this is the reason why CFAR focuses on things like "trigger-action planning" et cetera, instead of e.g. publishing articles analysing the writings of Popper. The former simply seems to provide much more value than the latter.

Sometimes the lessons seem quite easy -- the map is not the territory; make sure you communicate meaning, not just words; be open to changing your mind in either direction; etc -- yet even after years of trying you are still sometimes doing it wrong. People enjoy "insight porn", but what they need is practicing the boring parts until they become automatic.

I don't accept an experiment merely b/c the person who did it had a PhD, but I don't automatically reject it either.

But do you privilege the hypothesis, if you heard it from a person with PhD?

Oh, I guess this may be another thing that I rarely find outside of LW: reasoning in degrees of gray, instead of black and white. I am not asking whether you take each Einstein's word as sacred. I am asking whether you increase the probability of something, if you learn that Einstein said so.

Comment author: Viliam 13 November 2017 12:03:41AM *  0 points [-]

In my understanding, there’s no one who speaks for LW, as its representative, and is responsible for addressing questions and criticisms. LW, as a school of thought, has no agents, no representatives – or at least none who are open to discussion.

As some have already said, this is considered a feature, not a bug. We do not care (or try not to care) about "what is the LW way?". Instead we (try to) focus on "how is it, really?". To quote Eliezer, who is closest to being the representative of LW:

Perhaps your conception of rationality is that it is rational to believe the words of the Great Teacher, and the Great Teacher says, “The sky is green,” and you look up at the sky and see blue. If you think: “It may look like the sky is blue, but rationality is to believe the words of the Great Teacher,” you lose a chance to discover your mistake.

So, it feels like you would like to have a phone number of the Great Teacher, to ask him about the color of the sky. While this site is -- if I may continue the metaphor -- trying to teach you how to actually look at the sky, and explaining how the human eye perceives colors.

Suppose I wrote some criticisms of the sequences, or some Bayesian book. Who will answer me? Who will fix the mistakes I point out, or canonically address my criticisms with counter-arguments? No one.

If you find that Sequences say "A" and truth is actually "B", what you can do is write an article on LW explaining why "B" is true. (Pointing out that Sequences say "A" is optional; I think it would be better done afterwards, so that people can debate "B" independently. But do as you wish.)

It may happen is that different people will give different opinions. But then you can let them argue against each other.

So how is progress to be made?

Here I may be just talking about myself, but I seek progress at a completely different place. I don't care that much about playing with words, which many intelligent people, including you, seem to be so fond of. I see humans, including myself, as deeply imperfect beings. No matter how much I am told "X", no matter how much I in theory agree with "X", if I pay enough attention, I find myself going against "X" all the time. Thus, instead of having yet another debate about virtues of "X", I would rather spend my attention trying to practice "X". Because as long as there is a huge gap between what I profess and what I actually do, it does not matter much whether I profess correct ideas. Actually, talking about rationality, it may be even worse. The ideas I profess can be not only right or wrong, but possibly also irrelevant, or confused, or utterly meaningless.

You linked a website. Let me just look at the first article: "Why is Reason Important?". You talk about something called "Reason". Do you mean some hypothetical ideal of reason, or how smart but imperfect people actually do it? Oh wait, let me ask even more important question: Are you even aware that there is a distinction between these two? Because the article does not reflect that.

Still reading the first paragraph: "Reason also rejects the idea that authorities can or should tell us what the truth is. Instead, we should judge ideas ourselves, and based on the content of the idea not the person who said it. Even if I am the person who said an idea, and I have a PhD, that doesn't count for anything"... Really? What is your opinion on the existence of atoms, or theory of relativity? I mean, the Einstein guy is just some unimportant rando; so did you develop the whole theory on your own? Did you do all the relevant experiments to confirm that atoms do indeed exist? Wait, I have a more important question: Even if you have personally verified the theory of relativity, why did you even decide that verifying this theory is worth your time? I mean, (1) there are millions of possible theories, and you certainly cannot verify all of them, and (2) the fact that Einstein and a few others believe in some specific theory "X" means absolutely nothing before you verified it for yourself, right? So, why did you even choose to pay attention to the theory of relativity, if Einstein's words mean nothing, and there were million other potential theories competing for your attention?

...this was just an example of what I meant by "playing with words". You wrote a whole website of arguments that I guess seem convincing to you, and yet I find mistakes in the very first paragraph of the very first article. If you can imagine that this is how I feel about almost each paragraph of each article on your website, you can understand why I am unimpressed, and why I don't want to go this way.

Which challenges are addressed? All of them.

Okay, I am curious: did someone already tell you something similar to what I just did? If yes, could you please give me a pointer to how it was addressed?

Comment author: Elo 18 October 2017 08:37:26PM 2 points [-]

open thread, welcome thread, media thread, stupid questions thread.

Comment author: Viliam 19 October 2017 04:35:42PM *  2 points [-]

Generally, it would be nice to have a specific support for regular threads. For example, if exactly one (the most recent) of each kind would be displayed on the front page; so you would have a section "regular threads" with links to the most recent open thread, media thread, stupid questions thread, etc.

To avoid abuse, only the moderators could create a new type of regular thread. There could also be a way to propose new regular threads, for example by having "proposed regular thread" as yet another type of a regular thread (i.e. all proposed threads would compete for one spot on the home page). In other words, only a new "Open Thread" could replace the previous "Open Thread" (because "Open Thread" is an officially supported thing), but e.g. an experimental "Rational Toothpaste Thread" would replace the yesterday's "Rational Jokes Thread" (because both are unsupported).

Comment author: gjm 19 October 2017 03:36:55PM 2 points [-]

I think you may be taking me to have meant "You're a weirdo, because obviously The People Of Less Wrong want something different from what you want", but what I actually meant was "I bet you're not alone, and if I'm right then as more people with preferences like yours join LW2 it will become somewhat more informal and chatty, so rather than just deciding LW2 isn't for you you should use it and try to nudge it in directions that suit your preferences better, and see what happens".

(Overcoming Bias was "publish thoughts, get some comments". So was Less Wrong, to begin with. I think the only reason LW now leans as heavily toward chat as it does is that not much is being written and published here. My guess is that if LW2 succeeds in its goals then it will not be as chatty as present-LW, and that will be a good thing since it will be because there's lots of interesting stuff there that isn't chat.)

Comment author: Viliam 19 October 2017 04:26:20PM 0 points [-]

I think the only reason LW now leans as heavily toward chat as it does is that not much is being written and published here.

Sounds reasonable to me. It's like sometimes there are more good articles and sometimes there are fewer good articles (depending on how motivated or busy or burned out the few good authors are), but the amount of comments is more or less constant, or slowly increasing over time. So when e.g. Eliezer suddenly stops producing tons of text, instead of the whole website slowing down evenly, it just becomes more chatroom-y, because people are still used to spending certain amount of time and posting certain amount of comments per week.

Maybe it would be better to have a separate chat area, so that when great articles temporarily stop coming, people won't react by converting their open-thread-level comments into articles.

In response to Feedback on LW 2.0
Comment author: PECOS-9 10 October 2017 07:12:29PM 1 point [-]

The "Daily" page seems to be the one that is most useful to regular users (it's the one I bookmarked), but it's relatively hidden. I think it should be linked directly on the top navbar or somewhere else on the front page instead of hidden inside the hamburger menu in the navbar.

In response to comment by PECOS-9 on Feedback on LW 2.0
Comment author: Viliam 14 October 2017 10:43:53PM *  0 points [-]

Very useful indeed. Bookmarked. Thanks!

In response to comment by turchin on Feedback on LW 2.0
Comment author: gjm 03 October 2017 02:56:24PM 0 points [-]

It may be worth noting that "6 downvotes" need not mean that 6 people downvoted you. LW2 has "weighted voting" which means that the number of points your upvotes/downvotes change the victim's karma by depends on your own karma level. So maybe you were downvoted twice by weight-3 users, or three times by weight-2 users; in any case, losing 6 points probably corresponds to <6 downvotes.

In response to comment by gjm on Feedback on LW 2.0
Comment author: Viliam 08 October 2017 10:09:19PM *  0 points [-]

I don't disagree with weighted votes per se, but saying "6 downvotes" really is misleading, if there were actually less than 6 votes.

I wonder whether it would be helpful to display the karma in analog form, for example as a line, where longer line would mean more total votes (not in linear proportion, but in a way where infinite number of votes asymptotically corresponds to the full width of the used part of page), and the line has a green part and gray part whose length ratio represents the upvotes/downvotes ratio. And of course tooltip for number, but the idea is that people would get the right idea without seeing the numbers.

Comment author: Habryka 02 October 2017 08:15:12PM 4 points [-]

Strongly agree with 1. I have a plan for a separate thing at the top of the frontpage for logged-in users that takes up much less space and is actually useful for multiple visits. Here is a screenshot of my current UI mockup for the frontpage:

https://imgur.com/a/GXjTY

The emphasis continue to be on historical instead of recent content, with the frontpage emphasizing reading for logged-in users. If you don't have anything in your reading-queue the top part disappears completely and you just have the recent discussion (though by default the HPMOR, The Sequences and The Codex are in your reading queue)

In response to comment by Habryka on Feedback on LW 2.0
Comment author: Viliam 08 October 2017 09:53:32PM *  0 points [-]

I think an important thing is that the first screen of the first page should contain the most important things both for the newcomers and for the regular readers.

For newcomers, it's the links to HPMOR, The Sequences and The Codex (and anything else that may be later included). Should be at the top, but don't need to take much space vertically.

For regular readers, it's the new articles and featured articles. Perhaps in two columns. This way the whole first page could fit on an average monitor.

The "progress" part feels quite forced. Having the links displayed, either people will read the stuff, or they will not. If they decide not to read it now, no need to rub their faces in it.

EDIT: For people who are logged in, the part for newcomers could be collapsed. If they have an account, they have already see it. But there should be a way to show it again.

In response to Feedback on LW 2.0
Comment author: Viliam 01 October 2017 03:24:49PM *  12 points [-]

I don't know if there is a Schelling point for providing feedback, so I made this thread.

Speaking for myself, my reaction to LW 2.0 could be summarized as: "This is so confusing and so difficult to figure out, that I'll just... leave it for later." Before I get to the individual complaints, here is the meta one:

If you want to change dozen things about a website, don't change them all at the same time. For the user, some of them will feel like an improvement, and others may feel like an opposite of improvement; but all of them feel like an extra cognitive burden. So even if of those dozen changes 7 are in the positive and 5 in the negative direction, the overall impression may still be negative. Also, consider loss aversion; people will be more annoyed by losing a feature they liked.

Now the details:

The font seems to be bigger, and the spaces between lines also seem bigger. (I didn't actually measure it; this is my impression from looking at the page.) As a result it feels like there is much less content on the screen, which makes it more difficult to perceive as a whole, reduces my efficiency of speed reading, and makes me push Page Down more often. In general it creates what I call a "Facebook experience", where you keep pressing Page Down till your fingers hurt.

The font is blurry, and gray instead of black. So despite the text being larger, the smaller contrast makes it actually more difficult to read. Ironically, the only thing that should be less visible against the background -- the upvote and downvote buttons you didn't click -- is visible enough, so I have a problem to quickly see whether I did or didn't vote on the article.

The screen area containing the text is not limited, making it more difficult for my eyes to scan the lines. (Yes, this is a repeated topic in my complaints: it feels as if the page was optimized in various aspects to slow down my reading speed.) On LW1, the parts of the screen containing the text has white background, the sides have a light gray background; when reading the text I am barely aware that those sides exist. On LW2 the text is floating in the large ocean of white background; I am reading on a wide monitor, and my eyes are constantly jumping to the edges of the screen. (No, I am not going to change the size of my browser window to fit LW2; all other websites are okay with me keeping the window maximized.)

The new content is displayed in a what seems like a random order. Yeah, it can be changed. But then I will create a bubble for myself where what I see is quite different from what other people see, so I hesitate about that.

The comments don't have boxes, so it is difficult to see where one comment ends and another comment starts, or which comment replies to which one.

...I guess this is enough complaints for one comment. Trying to be a bit more constructive, I guess the easiest solution for my problems would be to create a CSS stylesheet which would try to make LW2 visually as similar as possible to LW1. Like, seriously, look at LW1, look at Hacker News, look at Slashdot, look at Reddit... all those websites use small fonts with sharp edges. It probably happened for a reason.

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