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Comment author: Grothor 10 December 2014 05:31:19AM 14 points [-]

It seems like we suck at using scales "from one to ten". Video game reviews nearly always give a 7-10 rating. Competitions with scores from judges seem to always give numbers between eight and ten, unless you crash or fall, and get a five or six. If I tell someone my mood is a 5/10, they seem to think I'm having a bad day. That is, we seem to compress things into the last few numbers of the scale. Does anybody know why this happens? Possible explanations that come to mind include:

  • People are scoring with reference to the high end, where "nothing is wrong", and they do not want to label things as more than two or three points worse than perfect

  • People are thinking in terms of grades, where 75% is a C. People think most things are not worse than a C grade (or maybe this is just another example of the pattern I'm seeing)

  • I'm succumbing to confirmation bias and this isn't a real pattern

Comment author: atorm 10 December 2014 07:30:24PM 0 points [-]

I think it's the C thing. I have no evidence for this.

Comment author: atorm 05 December 2014 05:51:51PM 1 point [-]

Engineering instead of biology.

Comment author: dspeyer 23 October 2014 04:33:19AM 55 points [-]


Didn't have a scanner, so I traced my hand on a piece of paper with a pencil and measured that. Not sure I got enough accuracy to take seriously. Oh, well.

Comment author: atorm 25 October 2014 05:25:24PM 0 points [-]

I'm confident you didn't.

Comment author: atorm 25 October 2014 04:12:57PM 37 points [-]

I did everything but finger length. I am shame.

Comment author: [deleted] 19 September 2014 12:28:03PM 1 point [-]

[Please read the OP before voting. Special voting rules apply.]

Homeownership is not a good idea for most people.

In response to comment by [deleted] on What are your contrarian views?
Comment author: atorm 25 September 2014 12:55:22AM 0 points [-]

Please elaborate.

Comment author: jsteinhardt 16 September 2014 01:57:20AM 3 points [-]

Society. For the second question, not quite sure what it would mean to provide monetary value to society, since money is how people trade for things within society rather than some extrinsic good.

Comment author: atorm 25 September 2014 12:15:31AM 1 point [-]

It sure isn't great for the smart people.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 19 September 2014 08:19:34AM *  13 points [-]

Exactly what is repugnant about utilitarianism?

It's inhuman, totalitarian slavery.

Islam and Christianity are big on slavery, but it's mainly a finite list of do's and don'ts from a Celestial Psychopath. Obey those, and you can go to a movie. Take a nap. The subjugation is grotesque, but it has an end, at least in this life.

Not so with utilitarianism. The world is a big machine that produces utility, and your job is to be a cog in that machine. Your utility is 1 seven billionth of the equation - which rounds to zero. It is your duty in life to chug and chug and chug like a good little cog without any preferential treatment from you, for you or anyone else you actually care about, all through your days without let.

And that's only if you don't better serve the Great Utilonizer ground into a human paste to fuel the machine.

A cog, or fuel. Toil without relent, or harvest my organs? Which is less of a horror?

Of course, some others don't get much better consideration. They, too, are potential inputs to the great utility machine. Chew up this guy here, spit out 3 utilons. A net increase in utilons! Fire up the woodchipper!

But at least one can argue that there is a net increase of utilons. Somebody benefited. And whatever your revulsion at torture to avoid dust specks, hey, the utilon calculator says it's a net plus, summed over the people involved.

No, what I object to is having a believer who reduces himself to less than a slave, to raw materials for an industrial process, held up as a moral ideal. It strikes me as even more grotesque and more totalitarian than the slavery lauded by the monotheisms.

Comment author: atorm 24 September 2014 11:41:06PM 1 point [-]

Seconding the question "What moral theory do you espouse?"

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 17 August 2014 03:00:23PM 3 points [-]

Sorry for the late response! I was avoiding LW.

Here's a copy of an e-mail where I summarized the argument in TWDHN before, and suggested some directions for the paper (note that this was written before I had read the post on Moloch):

In a nutshell, the argument goes something like:

  1. Evolution adapts creatures to the regularities of their environment, with organisms evolving to use those regularities to their advantage.
  2. A special case of such regularities are constraints, things which an organism must adapt to even though it may be costly: for example, very cold weather forces an organism to spend a part of its energy reserves on growing a fur or other forms of insulation.
  3. If a constraint disappears from the environment, evolution will gradually eliminate the costly adaptations that developed in response to it. If the Arctic Circle were to become warm, polar bears would eventually lose their fur or be outcompeted by organisms that never had a thick fur in the first place.
  4. Many fundamental features of human nature are likely adaptations to various constraints: e.g. the notion of distinct individuals and personal identity may only exist because we are incapable of linking our brains directly together and merging into one vast hive mind. Conscious thought may only exist because consciousness acts as an "error handler" to deal with situations where our learned habits are incapable of doing the job right, and might become unnecessary if there was a way of pre-programming us with such good habits that they always got the job done. Etc.
  5. The process of technological development acts to remove various constraints in our environment: for example, it may one day become possible to actually link minds together directly.
  6. If technology does remove previous constraints from our environment, the things that we consider fundamental human values would actually become costly and unnecessary, and be gradually eliminated as organisms without those "burdens" would do better.

What I'd like to do in the paper would be to state the above argument more rigorously and clearly, provide evidence in favor of it, clarify things that I'm uncertain about (Does it make sense to distinguish constraints from just regularities in general? Should one make a distinction between constraints in the environment and constraints from what evolution can do with biological cells?), discuss various possible constraints as well as what might eliminate them and how much of an advantage that would give to entities that didn't need to take them into account, raise the possibility of some of this actually being a good thing, etc. Stuff like that. :-)

Does that argument sound sensible (rather than something that represents a total misunderstanding of evolutionary biology) and something that you'd like to work on? Thoughts on how to expand it to take Moloch into account?

Also, could you say a little more about your background and amount of experience in the field?

Comment author: atorm 22 August 2014 03:02:27AM 3 points [-]

This argument seems like something I would need to think long and hard about, which I see as a good thing: it seems rare to me that non-trivial things are simple and apparent. I don't see any glaring misinterpretation of natural selection. I would be interested in working on it in a "dialogue intellectually and hammer out more complete and concrete ideas" sense. I'm answering this quickly in a tired state because I'm not on LW as much as I used to be and I don't want to forget.

I'm getting a PhD in a biological field that is not Evolution. Both this and my undergraduate education covered evolution because it underlies all the biological fields. I have one publication out that discusses evolution but is not actually specifically relevant to this topic. I'll happily share more detail in private communications if you can't find an explicitly evolutionary biologist.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 07 August 2014 01:00:21PM *  7 points [-]

As I mentioned in the comments of Scott's post, I've been thinking about turning my "Technology will destroy human nature" essay into a formal paper, but I'd probably need someone more familiar with evolutionary biology as my co-author to make sure that the analogies to evolution make sense and to otherwise help develop it. TWDHN was basically talking about various physical limits that are currently stopping us from racing to the bottom but which technology will eventually overcome. Now that I've read Meditations, I might want the paper to discuss the other things holding Moloch in check that Scott talks about (excess resources, utility maximization, coordination), too.

Comment author: atorm 07 August 2014 10:43:21PM 6 points [-]

I'm a biologist looking for co-authorships.

Comment author: wedrifid 19 July 2014 12:19:33PM 42 points [-]

Is there anything we should do?

  • Meet 10 new people (over a moderately challenging personal specific timeframe).
  • Express gratitude or appreciation.
  • Work close to where we live.
  • Have new experiences.
  • Get regular exercise.

ie. No. Nothing about this article comes remotely close to changing the highest expected value actions for the majority of the class 'we'. If it happens that there is a person in that class for whom this opens an opportunity to create (more expected) value then it is comparatively unlikely that that person is the kind who would benefit from "we shoulding" exhortations.

Comment author: atorm 19 July 2014 05:24:46PM 12 points [-]

I want this list posted in response to every "is there anything we should do" ever. Just all over the internet. I would give you more than one upvote just for that list if I could.

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