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Comment author: Vaste 17 January 2012 04:18:29PM 3 points [-]

I've thought about this problem before, but in the context of peer peer-to-peer file sharing.

The problem is that everyone is acting independent and with limited knowledge. It's hard to know what other people are choosing. There may also be long delays between you and others paying and the cost changing.

Say that the optimal outcome is that out of $1000M, $200M is spent on insect nets and $800M on wells, and that you can only donate to one charity (too bothersome or high transaction costs or something). Now, if everyone is rational they are going to donate to the wells, and no one to nets. This is a suboptimal outcome. It'd also be difficult to coordinate the millions of people donating, so that just the right amount choose nets instead of wells. A solution to such coordination is to roll a dice. If everyone makes a random selection and lets the probability of choosing nets be 2/10ths then the expected outcome is just what we want.

Now, you can adjust this to how many (you think) are playing like yourselves. E.g. if you know most people are going to give to wells, perhaps it'd be better if you put higher probability on nets (perhaps 100%).

Comment author: a_gramsci 14 February 2012 09:52:38PM 2 points [-]

The thing about that is, is that not everyone is donating at the same time, so that they can see the expected value change.

Comment author: timtyler 08 November 2011 10:30:28PM 0 points [-]

Me? I suppose so - if I could be really convinced the process was reliable. Make two of me and I might need less convincing.

Comment author: a_gramsci 09 November 2011 02:18:11AM -2 points [-]

I don't know. The question of self is a hard one. I would not, because I would like my consciousness, as in the one that I control (a little recursive, but you get the point) to be alive, and because that other me is another distinct set of atoms, and therefore my neurons don't control him. So I would say no

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 08 November 2011 09:03:13PM 3 points [-]

You seem to be assuming that we'd be simulated by a universe which is physically like our own.

Our simulations, at least, are of much simpler scenarios than what we're living in.

I'm not sure what properties a universe would need to have to make simulating our universe relatively cheap and easy. I'm guessing at smaller and faster fundamental particles.

Comment author: a_gramsci 08 November 2011 09:33:46PM -1 points [-]

You're right, that was one of the erroneous assumptions I made. The problem with that is that there are an infinite number of permutations of possible universes. Even if only a small fraction of them are habitable, and a small fraction of those are conducive to intelligent life, we still have the multiplying by infinity issue. I don't know how valid using infinity in an equation is though, because when there are two infinities it breaks down. For example, if they're are an infinite amount of dogs in New York, and 10% of dogs are terriers, technically the probability of the next dog you see being a terrier is equal to that of any other dog. That again simply doesn't make sense to me

Comment author: timtyler 07 November 2011 04:41:23PM *  8 points [-]

Despite this witches' brew of new technologies, a conceptual gulf remains in the futurist community between those who imagine human destiny, if any, lies in digital computers and hypothetical artificial consciousness; and in contrast radical bioconservatives who believe that our posthuman successors will also be our supersentient descendants at their neural networked core - not the digital zombies of symbolic AI run on classical serial computers.

Digital creatures need not be "zombies" - any more than human beings are - and they certainly don't need to run on "classical serial computers".

There is a gulf much like the one David describes - but the "bioconservative" position seems unbelievable to me - the future will be engineered.

Comment author: a_gramsci 08 November 2011 08:22:34PM 2 points [-]

Random question that just occurred to me: would you be fine if an exact copy was made of you (ignore quantum mechanics for now), and the old you was killed off?

Comment author: Zed 08 November 2011 12:52:17PM *  1 point [-]

P(Simulation) < 0.01; little evidence in favor of it and it requires that there is some other intelligence doing the simulation, that there can be the kind of fault-tolerant hardware that can (flawlessly) compute the universe. I don't think posthuman ancestors are capable of running a universe as a simulation. I think Bostrom's simulation argument is sound.

1 - P(Solipsism) > 0.999; My mind doesn't contain minds that are consistently smarter than I am and can out-think me on every level.

P(Dreaming) < 0.001; We don't dream of meticulously filling out tax forms and doing the dishes.

[ Probabilities are not discounted for expecting to come into contact with additional evidence or arguments ]

Comment author: a_gramsci 08 November 2011 08:14:22PM 0 points [-]

On your argument, there is little need to flawlessly compute the universe. If a civilization sees that their laws are inconsistent with their observations, then they will change their laws to reflect their observations. Because there is no way to conclusively prove your laws are correct, it is impossible for a simulation to state that "Our laws are correct, therefore there is a flaw in the universe". Furthermore, on the probability that our ancestors have obtained the computing power of running a simulation:

An estimate for the power of a (non-quantum) planet sized computer is 10^42 (R. J. Bradbury, “Matrioshka Brains.”) operation per second. Its hard to pin down how many atoms there are in the universe, but lets put it at around 10^80, and with 128 bits needed to hold each coordinate, to the degree of one pm, and another for its movement, that puts it at around 10^83 operations to run a simulation.

So at first it looks impractical to compute a universe, but this computer need to perform its operations in a seconds time. (Practical value of a computer that runs infinitely slowly), it can compute its values infinitely slowly. And so, no matter the size of the universe, a computer can simulate it. And because it can compute its values infinitely slowly, it can compute an infinite number of universes.

So in conclusion, there is a very low probability that a civilization evolves to the point where it can simulate a universe, and the motives are also dubious. But, because of that fact that if it does, there is no upper bound to the number of universes the civilization can simulate, and so we are almost certainly in a simulated universe, because the probability of us being in a simulated universe is determined by n/p, where p is the probability of a universe being simulated, and n is the number of universes being simulated, that ends up being a probability of infinity, and so we are most likely part of a simulated universe.

Comment author: taelor 04 November 2011 09:31:34PM *  5 points [-]

The main problem with using the Socratic Method as a didactic tool is that it really wasn't intended for that purpose; Socrates was a man who claimed to know nothing, and the "Socratic method" is simply a collection of techniques he developed to demonstrate that other people didn't know anything either. 90% of his so-called Method (as demonstrated in the early dialogues like Euthyphro or Charmides -- which have the highest probability of actually being representative of things he actually said, and not just mouthpiecing from Plato) consists of Socrates demanding that people define their terms, refusing to continue the argument until they did so, and then pointing out that the definitions they supply are either self-contradictory or inconsistent with what they're actually arguing. When used correctly, the Socratic method is great at exposing logical inconsistency and self- contradiction, but extremely inefficient when it comes to guiding people to truth -- its purpose is to destroy; it does not create.

Comment author: a_gramsci 05 November 2011 12:22:53AM 1 point [-]

That's really interesting; maybe we need a new name for the (convoluted) modern Socratic method?

Comment author: dlthomas 04 November 2011 10:58:00PM 1 point [-]

In any form of teaching, expecting an appropriate inferential distance is important. I wonder to what degree that can be trained explicitly.

Comment author: a_gramsci 04 November 2011 10:58:53PM *  1 point [-]

That's why I think that the basic concept of "building block" schooling works-you essentially keep the distance constant, but teach them ever more challenging topics. The one time where there is a large gap is in the introduction of completely new ideas or subjects. For example, in physics when people first learn of general relativity there is a large inferential distance, which is very hard to remedy.

Comment author: Bugmaster 04 November 2011 10:32:49PM 1 point [-]

I partial to the Socratic method as well, but whenever I'm explaining something to someone, I have to constantly remind myself to stay away from it. Unfortunately, in my experience (which may not be representative), the Socratic method elicits very strong negative emotions in the target audience, and it does so very quickly. Making people hate you is not a good educational technique.

Comment author: a_gramsci 04 November 2011 10:51:24PM 1 point [-]

Interestingly, the one time that I find that the modern Socratic method works is math. Because it is so much more helpful in math to have an innate understanding of the subjects, you have to be able to explain why an equation or theorem works/is true. So when time permits, guiding them with questions is very helpful, as figuring something out sticks in your mind more than having it on a board.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 04 November 2011 07:46:07PM 4 points [-]

I'm curious: are you comparing the Socratic method here to some other technique that works more reliably with a broad range of capabilities?

I would have thought that no matter what technique I use, the subset of my class that I devote most of my attention to will get the most benefit, and everyone else will be frustrated that they aren't getting as much out of it as they could with more attention.

Comment author: a_gramsci 04 November 2011 09:12:26PM *  1 point [-]

You're right, I really wasn't thinking of a specific method of comparison, rather I was just kind of ranting on how much I dislike it. Of the teaching methods we have: Lecturing- Above average students might be bored if the teacher is telling them information they already knew, but it many times has just a blanket boredom effect

Demonstrating- Even if certain students already know information, can still be interesting if they try to extend their thinking on the demonstration. The opposite of a lecture, many times has a blanket engaging effect

Socratic- See above post So really, there is no silver bullet, only what you say of devoting attention to specific subsets of class. Apart from the limited use cases of a demonstration, the only way to maximize what part of the class is interested is by catering to the largest subset

Comment author: Barry_Cotter 11 October 2011 02:01:29PM 1 point [-]

The only (unfortunate) major difference between the English[0] and Irish university systems is that most English degrees take three years Ireland has been steadily moving towards four for decades. We have the same grading system for degrees, the same (old) academic calendar with some universities having adopted the American one. I am not under the impression that the manner of teaching is wildly different in the US from the rest of the world (except for the abombination that is the Socratic method, in that other abombination, the postgraduate law school). They do seem to be much more fond of multiple choice tests than in those parts of the world with more dialects of English.

[0] I could probably have said British, but the Scottish system is different in some ways I'm too lazy to look up.

Comment author: a_gramsci 04 November 2011 07:27:26PM 0 points [-]

On the Socratic method; I was wondering if anyone had any ideas about that or could write an article on the benefits and consequences of it. From what I see is that the above average students get frustrated when the jump to conclusions faster than the teachers guide the class to them, and the below average students who consistently aren't understanding the questions, with the Socratic method really only working for the average students (this scale though can be re-calibrated, for example if the teacher caters the to the below average students, now the average students are also frustrated, and vice versa.)

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