Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Comment author: Ishaan 18 March 2015 01:44:07AM 2 points [-]

What is the name of the logical fallacy where you rhetorically invalidate an argument by providing an unflattering explanation of why someone might holds that viewpoint, rather than addressing the claim itself? I seem to remember there being a word for that sort of thing.

Comment author: bramflakes 18 March 2015 01:46:31AM 8 points [-]
Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 17 March 2015 11:17:20AM *  0 points [-]

To what? And why?

Why would intelligence even be a quantity thing? Just because we measure it with IQ tests, it does not mean it is a fungible commodity, the same way how giving a car 1 or 5 stars of safety on a crash test does not simply mean the some cars have more layers of pillows bolted on on that others: it is just a measure of the efficacy of entirely different technologies and processes used. Increasing intelligence probably means learning entirely new kinds and ways of reasoning and approaches to problems.

Why would external things influence intelligence esp. in a magical, fictional universe? Just make it a property of the immortal soul and whatnot and not related to brains and whatnot.

EDIT I googled the term intelligence explosion now and found this:


"Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; "

IMHO this is bogus because it sums up intelligence as one fungible commodity used for different things, like desining machines. But intelligence is simply a measure of various talents and skills. Machine-design skill is part of it, but neither does a machine-designing machine necessarily have intelligence in other fields, nor does a person who is an intelligent lawyer know anything about designing machines, nor would he be necessarily very good at learning it. Perhaps, if we understand intelligence as not knowledge but ability to learn. Which is highly suspicious because it assumes there is no innate, inborn, genetic, or unconscious/circumstantial knowledge used for designing machines or for learning anything else, to the extent that our ability to learn may be quite simply constrained by other kinds of knowledge and not a general information-sponging skill (to intelligently learn is not the same as to memorize, making sense of something requires pre-existing knowledge to relate it to).

If you see intelligence not as an information sponge (because that would be just a memory) but pre-existing knowledge that makes new knowledge learnable in an understood way, you have an NP complete problem of learning new and new information being slower and slower as it needs to be checked against and referenced against everything else, you get logarithmic growth of computing power and intelligence.

And all this our non-magical universe where we don't even think intelligence is a function of immutable souls. But we don't have wizards either.

Comment author: bramflakes 17 March 2015 06:52:17PM 2 points [-]

you might be interested in reading this

Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 17 March 2015 10:24:28AM -1 points [-]

Why not to use explanations for magic that actual "thaumaturgical" traditions used? Basically that reality is a projection of our minds, and sufficiently concentrated and focused minds can change reality in ways that is perceptible for others too, and thus magical rituals and chanting and spells are ways to concentrate and focus the mind. You can also give it a neat theistic angle, such as when god made man in his own likeness it meant also giving him some of his creative power, to make things ex nihilo just with his mind.

Comment author: bramflakes 17 March 2015 11:11:24AM 1 point [-]

because that trivially leads to intelligence explosion

Comment author: dxu 17 March 2015 01:08:52AM *  0 points [-]

Yes, which could just as easily be an attempt to be faithful to the characters. We know Harry has read quite a bit of cog-sci, and that he likely hasn't quite internalized it to the degree where he can explain the concepts without the use of the terms themselves, and thus resorts to quoting more-or-less verbatim from the material that he's read. That's not to say the novel is intended to teach cog-sci, and in fact there are gaping holes in the cog-sci presented within HPMoR--holes that are not in the Sequences.

Comment author: bramflakes 17 March 2015 10:51:48AM *  2 points [-]

The science material is presented to the reader in good faith, by the protagonist, who is only ever shown to be wrong in his attempts to link the science to magic, not the science itself. If it's attempting to be faithful to the Harry's youthful hubris, then shouldn't there be parts when Hermione says "actually Harry, you've misunderstood Kahneman and Tversky on X, Y and Z ...", like what happens for magical topics?

There is a section on the site called "science" which reads

All science mentioned in Methods is standard science except where otherwise specified (IIRC, the only two uses of nonstandard theories are Barbour’s timeless physics in Ch. 28 and my own timeless decision theory in Ch. 33). Wherever possible, I have mentioned standard terminology inside the book to make Googling easier. At some future point I may compile a complete list for all the scientific references in Methods, but this has not yet been done.

and if that weren't enough, Yudkowsky explicitly states that the science material is meant to be didactic.

Furthermore, "but it's better in the Sequences" is a terrible excuse. How many people are going to read a fun work of fiction, vs a sprawling 888 series of contrarian philosophy essays? A significant fraction of people on this very site have not read them, and then imagine what the odds are for the average fanfic reader (of whom there are an order of magnitude or two more than LessWrong users). Thousands of people are reading this story and taking what Yudkowsky says on faith (did you independently Google every science reference in the story? I sure didn't), so if the science is wrong then that's thousands of people coming away worse-off than when they started, and Yudkowsky is aware of this possibility..

Comment author: dxu 16 March 2015 09:58:24PM *  1 point [-]

Oh, I agree. HPMoR is entertaining, but it's not good as a didactic work.

That being said, is HPMoR really meant as a didactic work? It seems to me that Eliezer never really intended it to be a vehicle for teaching; see Chapter 1, in which he links to LessWrong at the very top of the page as a way "to learn everything the main character knows". To me, anyone really looking to learn rationality should look at the Sequences, not HPMoR--and from EY's disclaimer in Chapter 1, it looks as though he agrees.

Also, what do you mean by this part?

Harry always just happening to come up with the right answer for no reason

I don't recall that ever happening.

Comment author: bramflakes 17 March 2015 12:15:16AM *  2 points [-]

That being said, is HPMoR really meant as a didactic work?

We are talking about the fanfic where characters routinely block-quote from cogsci textbooks, aren't we?

Comment author: Vulture 16 March 2015 01:28:59AM 4 points [-]

Just as a little bit of a counterpoint, I loved the 2006-2010 ebook and was never particularly bothered by the length. I read the whole thing at least twice through, I think, and have occasionally used it to look up posts and so on. The format just worked really well for me. This may be because I am an unusually fast reader, or because I was young and had nothing else to do. But it certainly isn't totally useless :P

Comment author: bramflakes 16 March 2015 11:20:08PM *  4 points [-]

Oh, I didn't mean to imply I didn't like it! It was a welcome companion for hundreds of long school bus journeys.

Comment author: Rangi 13 March 2015 04:33:00PM 4 points [-]

With SumatraPDF 3.0 on Windows 8.1 x64, the links in the PDF version do not show up. With Adobe Reader 11 on Windows 7 x86, they look fine. On the other hand, SumatraPDF can also handle the MOBI and EPUB versions.

Comment author: bramflakes 14 March 2015 12:08:28AM *  5 points [-]

I'm getting problems too. The contents pages look like this, for example.

Comment author: bramflakes 13 March 2015 11:13:36PM *  8 points [-]

One of the most common complaints about the old Sequences was that there was no canonical default order, especially for people who didn't want to read the entire blog archive chronologically.

I was tricked into doing this. Years ago someone posted an ebook claiming to be the Sequences, but was actually just every single Yudkowsky blog post from 2006 to 2010 -_-

It took until noticing that only Yudkowsky's side of the FOOM debate was in there that I realized what had happened

Comment author: dxu 09 March 2015 05:50:42AM *  8 points [-]

Right, okay, I'm back, and on further reflection, I think I've actually decided that leaving Harry his wand isn't even that bad of a mistake. So, let's get started on why:

it just doesn't make sense to order 37 death eaters to shoot Harry if he raises his wand, rather than order one Harry to drop the damn wand.

If Harry needed his wand to demonstrate something (which he very plausibly might have), it would have made no sense to take it away. From Voldemort's perspective, the threat from letting Harry keep his wand (as opposed to, say, his Time-Turner or a hidden Portkey on his person) is close to none; with the precautions he took against Harry, Harry would have needed to pull off a wordless, movement-free, multi-targeting, incapacitating, direction-neutral attack, which is a tall order even for most grown wizards, much less a first-year at Hogwarts. If the threat is minimal and the benefit is high (demonstrating a secret spell), simple cost-benefit analysis would tell Voldemort to let Harry keep his wand. And so he did. The fact that Harry had an attack that just happened to fulfill all the aforementioned criteria is pure coincidence (I would have called it authorial fiat, if it weren't so brilliantly foreshadowed), and the outside-view probability of such would have been extremely tiny.

strip Harry naked

Again, hidden Portkeys, Time-Turners, Transfigured threats, etc., are all possibilities, and indeed, given Harry's planning tendencies, probabilities. Stripping him naked isn't ultra-paranoia; it's just common sense. Taking the wand, on the other hand, is ultra-paranoia, especially if Voldemort felt there was a benefit to be gained from letting Harry keep the wand; otherwise he'd basically be Pascal's Mugging himself on the off-chance that Harry developed some never-before-seen magical ability off-camera.

But Eliezer wanted it both ways, both to treat Voldemort as super-ultra-cautious AND let Harry keep his damn wand.

Voldemort wasn't "super-ultra-cautious". He was "just cautious enough to succeed". And had Harry not gone and invented partial Transfiguration from Muggle principles back in Chapter 28, he damn well would have.

And actually, thinking more about this has led me to formulate a reply to this as well (beyond my last reply, that is):

and don't give me the "hindsight bias" crap, people were complaining about that in advance

The commenters knew about partial Transfiguration. Voldemort didn't. Also, they had the opening quote from Chapter 1 to guide them. Again, Voldemort didn't. That's a huge informational advantage, and is not to be underestimated. (To see how enormous of an advantage it really is, just look at all of my above arguments, and count how many of them rely on Voldemort not knowing about partial Transfiguration. Answer: all of them.) Hindsight bias doesn't necessarily just apply when you know the answer for a fact; it also applies when you have a bunch of additional information that makes you reasonably confident in a given answer. So yes, upon further reflection, I will "give [you] the 'hindsight bias' crap", because upon further reflection, it's not actually crap.

Comment author: bramflakes 09 March 2015 08:45:46AM *  7 points [-]

If Harry needed his wand to demonstrate something (which he very plausibly might have), it would have made no sense to take it away.

So have him drop it and a Death Eater confiscate it, and if he says he needs it to demonstrate something, Voldemort can ask "do you plan to usse it to attack me, sservantss, or to esscape?" before returning it to him. Then as soon as he's done, confiscate it again. That's an extra 10 seconds; which is a small price to pay to hedge against a Black Swan.

Voldemort doesn't know about Partial Transfiguration, but he does know Harry has powers he knows not, which is what this entire charade was about in the first place! I would've done it it just in case.

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 08 March 2015 07:20:52PM 4 points [-]

Now that I think of it, Quirrel watched over Harry as he felled a bunch of trees in Precautionary Measures pt.2. And that involved partial Transfiguration.

So was Voldemort really unaware that Harry could Partially Transfigure Things? Or did he only underestimate what could be done with that?

Comment author: bramflakes 08 March 2015 08:12:39PM *  1 point [-]

He wouldn't have had enough information to conclude that Harry had invented a new type of Transfiguration - he would probably think it was a particularly powerful cutting hex for a first year, or something. Still stupid of him not to have made inquiries after two times witnessing its effects (cutting through the wall of Azkaban, felling the trees).

View more: Next