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Comment author: Wendy_Collings 29 June 2008 05:28:59AM 7 points [-]

First, can you clarify what you mean by "everything is permissible and nothing is forbidden"?

In my familiar world, "permissible" and "forbidden" refer to certain expected consequences. I can still choose to murder, or cheat, blaspheme, neglect to earn a living, etc; they're only forbidden in the sense of not wanting to experience the consequences.

Are you suggesting I imagine that the consequences would be different or nonexistent? Or that I would no longer have a preference about consequences? Or something else?

Comment author: Wendy_Collings 23 March 2008 03:51:25AM 0 points [-]

Eliezer - "an opportunity to help people think differently"?

But what for?

And: "a moral choice about whether human beings should modify themselves in certain ways"?

Again; what for? Enjoyment of life increases physical and emotional health. Each person's enjoyment is a matter of individual taste. Why mess with it?

Aren't you just biased against people who have different tastes from yours? Please note my comments above on imagination as part of the natural world.

Comment author: Wendy_Collings 23 March 2008 03:14:38AM 1 point [-]

Further on reality:

A poem or story about ghosts or dragons is a product of a human mind, made possible by the evolution of imagination in humans, and influenced by that human's experiences and cultural heritage.

In other words, it's just as much a part of the natural world as the song of a bird.

People who enjoy the products of others' imaginations are enjoying an aspect of reality, just as much as those who like watching the play of light on water, or admire how a tree grows according to natural law.

Comment author: Wendy_Collings 23 March 2008 02:39:41AM 0 points [-]

Eliezer, you seem to be deeply offended by the fact that many people enjoy fantasy over reality, or don't get a kick out of science. As you put it, they don't have the scientific attitude that "nothing is mere".

Yet why should you expect people to be different from the way they are?

You said it yourself: "Part of binding yourself to reality, on an emotional as well as intellectual level, is coming to terms with the fact that you do live here."

That means accepting the reality that people like the things they like, not wishing for a fantasy world where people magically like the things you think they ought to.

Comment author: Wendy_Collings 27 February 2008 02:27:16AM 0 points [-]

"The mathy posts appeal to people who are serious about moving this burgeoning field forward, and the non-mathy posts appeal to people who are more casually interested in the concepts" - (Snappycrunch)

Beware of mistaking mathematical thinking for rational thinking; math is a tool like any other, to be used rationally or irrationally. Nassim Taleb demonstrates this very well in his book "Fooled by Randomness".

There's nothing casual about being interested in the concepts of rational thinking; even the mathematically minded (who will naturally be more interested in the mathy posts) need the concepts to understand what framework to put the math into.

Comment author: Wendy_Collings 13 February 2008 08:54:30PM 1 point [-]

Very sensible. I never could understand why people made such a fuss about whether the tree made a sound or not. (The best answer I saw was a cartoon of the fallen tree saying quietly to itself, "Oh, shit.")

Perhaps this also has relevance to the classic omnipotence paradox - "Can an omnipotent being (or God) create a rock so heavy that that being can't lift it?" Since few people want to redefine omnipotence (if we did, we'd soon want another word that meant what "omnipotent" used to), the answer is simple: the omnipotent being will be able to create such a rock, and then just lift it anyway, while still being unable to.

It doesn't make sense, but the thing is, it doesn't have to. The words "omnipotent", "rock", "heavy", "can't", still mean what we understand them to mean. And we understand pretty well what "paradox" means, too. A paradox is obviously a problem for human reason, but would be no problem at all for divine omnipotence.

In response to Something to Protect
Comment author: Wendy_Collings 31 January 2008 11:27:26PM -2 points [-]

"The point is that given this information, rationality picks choice 2." - Posted by: GreedyAlgorithm

Sorry, no. Given this information, rationality says that there is not enough information to make an appropriate decision, and demands to know the context. If contextual information isn't available, rationality will say that either option 1 or 2 may be right, depending on circumstances.

Rationality never dismisses context as irrelevant just because it isn't known. If unknown factors make the right answer uncertain, then you must accept that it is uncertain.

Context can change what you're trying to achieve. Many people seem to assume that the point (re Circular Altruism problems) is to save as many lives as possible, but this might have to be balanced with other goals - e.g. setting a limit to acceptable risk (as in not risking destruction of the entire human population, whatever their number), or spreading risk instead of marking certain people for death (as in putting the last few people from a sinking ship in the lifeboat, not leaving them behind to make a crowded lifeboat safer).

Making assumptions is one of the danger pitfalls for rational thinkers. So is a reluctance to say "I don't know the answer" when appropriate.

In response to Something to Protect
Comment author: Wendy_Collings 31 January 2008 02:26:15AM -1 points [-]

I totally agree with "Anon", and others who made similar points in the Circular Altruism post. Context matters! Is it a one-time choice, or an iterated choice? Is there an upper limit to the number of deaths, or no limit? Are the 500 the number of people on the sinking ship/last people on planet earth, or possible victims from a much larger pool? You can only do the math and make a rational decision when you have ALL the numbers from the relevant context.

The first steps of rationality lie not in separating problems from their context, but in determining what context is relevant.

In response to Circular Altruism
Comment author: Wendy_Collings 22 January 2008 08:53:00PM 0 points [-]

Eliezer, can you explain what you mean by saying "it's the same gamble"? If the point is to compare two options and choose one, then what matters is their values relative to each other. So, 400 certain lives saved is better than a 90% chance of 500 lives saved and 10% chance of 500 deaths, which is itself better than 400 certain deaths.

Perhaps it would help to define the parameters more clearly. Do your first two options have an upper limit of 500 deaths (as the second two options seem to), or is there no limit to the number of deaths that may occur apart from the lucky 4-500?

In response to The Allais Paradox
Comment author: Wendy_Collings 20 January 2008 10:37:00PM 0 points [-]

I'm afraid I don't follow the maths involved, but I'd like to know whether the equations work out differently if you take this premise:

- Since 1A offers a certainty of $24,000, it is deemed to be immediately in your possession. 1B then becomes a 33/34 chance of winning $3,000 and 1/34 chance of losing $24,000.

Can someone tell me how this works out mathematically, and how it then compares to 2B?

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