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Comment author: ShardPhoenix 07 December 2010 02:55:45AM *  7 points [-]

Is it just me or is Overcoming Bias almost reaching the point of self-parody with recent posts like http://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/12/renew-forager-law.html ?

Comment author: cupholder 07 December 2010 04:20:00AM 2 points [-]


Comment author: ata 09 November 2010 05:00:29AM *  6 points [-]

Rationality quotes: very many from @BadDalaiLama on Twitter.

(Edit: there's also this handy archive.)

Comment author: cupholder 10 November 2010 12:56:26PM 4 points [-]

This one felt quite LW-relevant:

If $1 million makes you happy, that doesn't mean $10 million will make you 10 times as happy.

It's good to be reminded now and then that dollars are not, in fact, utilons.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 27 October 2010 05:51:56PM *  2 points [-]

I don't have enough background to estimate how serious the decay would be. But with 1.40e15 decays after 10,000 years that's around 3000 decay events a second (in practice most of that will be in the first few thousand years given that decay occurs exponentially). It seems that part of the issue also is that there's no repair mechanism. When something is living it can take a fair bit of radiation with minimal negative results. In some circumstances living creatures can even benefit from low levels of radiation. But radiation is going to be much more damaging to cells when they can't engage in any repairs.

Edit:Also note that the majority of the radiation that people are subject to is from potassium 40 so if this is ok then we're generally ok. It seems that radiation is not a major limiting factor on long-term cryonic storage.

Comment author: cupholder 27 October 2010 09:42:41PM 2 points [-]

The lack of an automatic repair mechanism makes things hairier, but while frozen, the radiation damage will be localized to the cells that get hit by radiation. By the time you get the tech to revive people from cryonic freezing, you'll most likely have the tech to fix/remove/replace the individual damaged cells before reviving someone. I think you're right that radiation won't be a big limiting factor, though it may be an annoying obstacle.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 26 October 2010 03:51:58PM 0 points [-]

Well, no. You can't put a body at liquid helium temperatures without massive damage (the whole vitrification trick doesn't work as well). And liquid helium is also much harder to get and work with than liquid nitrogen. Helium is in general much rarer. The radiation shielding also will only help with background radiation. It won't help much with radiation due to C-14 decay or due to potassium decay. Since both are in your body naturally there's not much to do about them.

Comment author: cupholder 27 October 2010 05:34:35PM *  2 points [-]

I don't know so much about C-14, but wouldn't potassium decay's effects be small on timescales ~10,000 years? The radioactive natural isotope K-40 has a ridiculously long half life (1.25 billion years, which is why potassium-argon dating is popular for dating really old things) and only composes 0.012% of natural potassium. Potassium's also much less abundant in the body than carbon - only about 140g of a 70kg person is potassium, although admittedly it might be more concentrated in the brain, which is the important part.

ETA - I did calculations, and maybe there is a problem. Suppose 0.012% of K is K-40 by mass. Then I get 0.0168 grams of K-40 in a body, which comes out as 0.00042 moles, 2.53e20 K-40 atoms. With a 1.25 billion year half life that makes 1.40e15 decays after 10,000 years. In absolute terms that's a lot of emitted electrons and positrons. I don't know whether the absolute number (huge) or the relative number (miniscule) is more important though.

Comment author: knb 14 August 2010 07:31:13AM *  4 points [-]

De Catanzaro (sorry, my misspelling) developed a theory that suicide occurs in people who have low estimates of their ability to contribute to their own genetic fitness. So he looked at various factors that specifically contribute to lower genetic fitness, such as believing you are a burden to family, being homosexual (that surprised me), being a virgin, not having had sex in a year, and not having had sex in a month.

The survey questions he created had very high correlations with suicidal ideation and suicidal action. At least some of his predictions were apparently novel.

Separately, this evolutionary explanation for suicide also offers a possible explanation for why men commit suicide so much more often--they are much more likely to fail at heterosexual mating. Once you account for the mating difference, the difference almost disappears.

Comment author: cupholder 14 August 2010 09:23:26AM 6 points [-]

This is a nice example of the slipperiness I sometimes notice when I think about how one could test an ev. psych hypothesis. My first thought after reading your comment was 'but won't all those factors be just as correlated with unhappiness and depression as with genetic fitness? Surely there's a less complex explanation here: unhappy people don't like living as much, so they try killing themselves more.'

Then I thought a little more and realized that could also have an ev. psych basis: maybe we evolved to kill ourselves more when we're unhappy with life. But that's a different ev. psych argument than 'we evolved to kill ourselves more when we have low genetic fitness.' Or is it? Maybe we evolved to kill ourselves more when we're unhappy because unhappiness correlates with low genetic fitness? What would it even mean in concrete terms for all of these possible evolutionary explanations to be false?

Comment author: simplicio 14 August 2010 01:02:15AM 8 points [-]

This is well-understood by irrationalists. Once in a discussion about the necessity of evidence, I got landed with "But you don't demand evidence that your wife loves you, right? You just have faith..."

A clever move. Now arguing the point requires me to... deny that I have faith in my wife?

Comment author: cupholder 14 August 2010 06:24:45AM 12 points [-]

'Why would I need to demand evidence? My wife freely gives me evidence of her love, all the time!'

Comment author: PeerInfinity 08 August 2010 01:57:59AM *  2 points [-]

Scenario: A life insurance salesman, who happens to be a trusted friend of a relatively-new-but-so-far-trustworthy friend of yours, is trying to sell you a life insurance policy. He makes the surprising claim that after 20 years of selling life insurance, none of his clients have died. He seems to want you to think that buying a life insurance policy from him will somehow make you less likely to die.

How do you respond?

edit: to make this question more interesting: you also really don't want to offend any of the people involved.

Comment author: cupholder 08 August 2010 03:46:25AM 1 point [-]

Maybe the salesman mostly sells temporary life insurance, and just means that no clients had died while covered?

Comment author: sketerpot 04 August 2010 07:10:17PM 17 points [-]

If you do experiments and you're always right, then you aren't getting enough information out of those experiments. You want your experiment to be like the flip of a coin: You have no idea if it is going to come up heads or tails. You want to not know what the results are going to be.

-- Peter Norvig, in an interview about being wrong. When I saw this, I thought it sounded a lot like entropy pruning in decision trees, where you don't even bother asking questions that won't make you update your probability estimates significantly. Then I remembered that Norvig was the co-author of the AI textbook that I had learned about decision trees from. Interesting interview.

Comment author: cupholder 04 August 2010 07:20:53PM 0 points [-]
Comment author: Leonhart 31 July 2010 09:53:53PM *  15 points [-]

Imagine the confusion of someone who wasn't paying any attention to LW over the critical period, missed all the drama, and is now trying to make sense of these cryptic comments...


Do I understand correctly (if this enquiry is vague enough to be allowable) that someone happened upon an argument or idea A such that

  • there is some plausible Bad Thing that can happen to one if and only if one knows A, because of decision-juju, in the same way that being a two-boxer means that your doom is not-winning on Newcomb?

  • there's no comparable upside to knowing it; it just sucks

  • deleting the threads was an effort to help those as lucky as myself to precommit to not knowing it, which is the winning move?

Comment author: cupholder 31 July 2010 11:44:24PM 7 points [-]

I think that's about right, although (as you can probably tell) there's some argument about just how 'plausible' the Bad Thing is. At any rate, I'm lucky enough to be immune to the Bad Thing because I got a bad case of tl;dr looking at Roko's original post.

Comment author: Morendil 31 July 2010 03:10:34PM 1 point [-]

I don't post things like this because I think they're right, I post them because I think they are interesting. The geometry of TV signals and box springs causing cancer on the left sides of people's bodies in Western countries...that's a clever bit of hypothesizing, right or wrong.

In this case, an organization I know nothing about (Vetenskap och Folkbildning from Sweden) says that Olle Johansson, one of the researchers who came up with the box spring hypothesis, is a quack. In fact, he was "Misleader of the year" in 2004. What does this mean in terms of his work on box springs and cancer? I have no idea. All I know is that on one side you've got Olle Johansson, Scientific American, and the peer-reviewed journal (Pathophysiology) in which Johansson's hypothesis was published. And on the other side, there's Vetenskap och Folkbildning, a number of commenters on the SciAm post, and a bunch of people in my inbox. Who's right? Who knows. It's a fine opportunity to remain skeptical.

-- Jason Kottke

Comment author: cupholder 31 July 2010 04:49:15PM *  7 points [-]

Who's right? Who knows. It's a fine opportunity to remain skeptical.

Bullshit. The 'skeptical' thing to do would be to take 30 seconds to think about the theory's physical plausibility before posting it on one's blog, not regurgitate the theory and cover one's ass with an I'm-so-balanced-look-there's-two-sides-to-the-issue fallacy.

TV-frequency EM radiation is non-ionizing, so how's it going to transfer enough energy to your cells to cause cancer? It could heat you up, or it could induce currents within your body. But however much heating it causes, the temperature increase caused by heat insulation from your mattress and cover is surely much greater, and I reckon you'd get stronger induced currents from your alarm clock/computer/ceiling light/bedside lamp or whatever other circuitry's switched on in your bedroom. (And wouldn't you get a weird arrhythmia kicking off before cancer anyway?)

(As long as I'm venting, it's at least a little silly for Kottke to say he's posting it because it's 'interesting' and not because it's 'right,' because surely it's only interesting because it might be right? Bleh.)

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