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Comment author: elharo 06 April 2016 04:19:14PM 3 points [-]

What science gets wrong, more science sets right. (What religion gets wrong, by way of contrast, more religion rarely sets right.)

-- Dan Savage, American Savage, p. 152

Comment author: Desrtopa 06 March 2016 12:33:43PM *  1 point [-]

In the short term, giving people money makes them less poor, but in the long term, it may not be so effective.

Comment author: elharo 06 March 2016 05:11:04PM *  0 points [-]

The long term discussed in that article is multiple generations, and there's still evidence there that wealth does transfer to children and further (e.g. the Swedish doctors). It has little to say about the relative efficacy of social programs vs. direct cash grants in alleviating poverty today.

Comment author: elharo 06 March 2016 01:08:28AM -2 points [-]

It is comfortable for richer people to think they are richer because of the moral failings of the poor. And that justifies a paternalistic approach to poverty relief using vouchers and in-kind support. But the big reason poor people are poor is because they don’t have enough money, and it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that giving them money is a great way to reduce that problem—considerably more cost-effectively than paternalism.

-- Charles Kenney, "For Fighting Poverty, Cash Is Surprisingly Effective", Bloomberg News, June 3, 2013

Rationality Quotes Thread March 2016

5 elharo 05 March 2016 06:44PM

Another month, another rationality quotes thread. The rules are:

  • Provide sufficient information (URL, title, date, page number, etc.) to enable a reader to find the place where you read the quote, or its original source if available. Do not quote with only a name.
  • Post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson. If you'd like to revive an old quote from one of those sources, please do so here.
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.
Comment author: elharo 23 February 2016 01:33:28AM 4 points [-]

If there’s a single lesson that life teaches us, it’s that wishing doesn’t make it so. Words and thoughts don’t change anything. Language and reality are kept strictly apart—reality is tough, unyielding stuff, and it doesn’t care what you think or feel or say about it. Or it shouldn’t. You deal with it, and you get on with your life.

Little children don’t know that. Magical thinking: that’s what Freud called it. Once we learn otherwise we cease to be children. The separation of word and thing are the essential facts on which our adult lives are founded.

--Professor Fogg in The Magicians by Lev Grossman, p. 248

Comment author: James_Miller 03 February 2016 04:59:44PM *  5 points [-]

In my experience on this planet, anything that is both important and corruptible (without detection) is already corrupted.

Scott Adams

Does this fit with your experience? As a cynical economist, I'm pleasantly surprised at how non-corrupt grading is at U.S. colleges.

Comment author: elharo 06 February 2016 01:34:01PM 0 points [-]

I suspect the answer is that grading at U.S. colleges just isn't that important.

Rationality Quotes Thread February 2016

5 elharo 02 February 2016 06:17PM

Another month, another rationality quotes thread. The rules are:

  • Provide sufficient information (URL, title, date, page number, etc.) to enable a reader to find the place where you read the quote, or its original source if available. Do not quote with only a name.
  • Post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson. If you'd like to revive an old quote from one of those sources, please do so here.
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.
Comment author: [deleted] 16 January 2016 03:32:38PM -1 points [-]

I think it is true. So true. People whom I have upbraided for selling rare flowers or digging vegetable gardens on protected territories immediately began to talk about oligarchs having private residences in our beloved forests and why am I not doing anything about that?..

In response to comment by [deleted] on Rationality Quotes Thread January 2016
Comment author: elharo 17 January 2016 01:11:23PM 2 points [-]

I've experienced this as well, in different contexts. It's depressing to watch birders and even more commonly bird photographers trample on protected habitat just to get a better look at a bird. That being said, there's perhaps a fallacy here. It is absolutely true that some people value their personal comfort and wealth over broader values like environmental protection or the general health of the population, at least some of the time. It is also true that some people pick broader values like environmental protection or the general health of the population, even at some cost to their personal comfort and specific wants, at least some of the time.

Neither statement is true of all people, all of the time. The real questions we should ask are:

1) How many people, how much of the time? 2) Which people? And why? 3) What can we do to require less specific sacrifice in favor of the general good?

Both of these questions are better asked of very specific cases. For instance, you'll get different answers if you talk about, for example, reducing marine speed limits in Florida to protect manatees or installing smokestack scrubbers on coal-fired power plants.

Talking in generalities often avoids the hard work of quantification on real world problems in favor of ideologically motivated displays of tribal allegiance.

In response to Why CFAR's Mission?
Comment author: alyssavance 31 December 2015 01:11:21PM *  11 points [-]

I mostly agree with the post, but I think it'd be very helpful to add specific examples of epistemic problems that CFAR students have solved, both "practice" problems and "real" problems. Eg., we know that math skills are trainable. If Bob learns to do math, along the way he'll solve lots of specific math problems, like "x^2 + 3x - 2 = 0, solve for x". When he's built up some skill, he'll start helping professors solve real math problems, ones where the answers aren't known yet. Eventually, if he's dedicated enough, Bob might solve really important problems and become a math professor himself.

Training epistemic skills (or "world-modeling skills", "reaching true beliefs skills", "sanity skills", etc.) should go the same way. At the beginning, a student solves practice epistemic problems, like the ones Tetlock uses in the Good Judgement Project. When they get skilled enough, they can start trying to solve real epistemic problems. Eventually, after enough practice, they might have big new insights about the global economy, and make billions at a global macro fund (or some such, lots of possibilities of course).

To use another analogy, suppose Carol teaches people how to build bridges. Carol knows a lot about why bridges are important, what the parts of a bridge are, why iron bridges are stronger than wood bridges, and so on. But we'd also expect that Carol's students have built models of bridges with sticks and stuff, and (ideally) that some students became civil engineers and built real bridges. Similarly, if one teaches how to model the world and find truth, it's very good to have examples of specific models built and truths found - both "practice" ones (that are already known, or not that important) and ideally "real" ones (important and haven't been discovered before).

Comment author: elharo 11 January 2016 12:02:00PM 2 points [-]

I've learned useful things from the sequences and CFAR training, but it's almost all instrumental, not epistemic. I suppose I am somewhat more likely to ask for an example when I don't understand what someone is telling me, and the answers have occasionally taught me things I didn't know; but that feels more like an instrumental technique than an epistemic one.

In response to Why CFAR's Mission?
Comment author: elharo 11 January 2016 11:56:56AM 1 point [-]

Basically, because it seems to me that if people had really huge amounts of epistemic rationality + competence + caring, they would already be impacting these problems. Their huge amounts of epistemic rationality and competence would allow them to find a path to high impact; and their caring would compel them to do it.

I agree with this, but I strongly disagree that epistemic rationality is the limiting factor in this equation. Looking at the world, I see massive lack of caring. I see innumerable people who care only about their own group, or their own interests, to the exclusion of others.

For example, many people give to ineffective local charities instead of more effective charities that invest their money in the developing world because they care more about the park down the street than they do about differently colored refugees in the developing world. People care more about other people who are closer to them and more like them than they do about different people further away. Change that, and epistemic rationality will take care of itself.

Solutions for the problems that exist in the world today are not limited by competence or epistemic rationality. (Climate change denial is a really good example: it's pretty obvious that denial is politically and personally motivated and that the deniers are performing motivated reasoning, not seriously misinformed. Better epistemic rationality will not change their actions because they are acting rationally in their own self-interests. They're simply willing to damage future generations and poorer people to protect their interests over those of people they don't care about.)

Anna's argument here is a classic example of the fallacy of assuming your opponents are stupid or misinformed, that they simply need to be properly educated and everyone will agree. This is rarely true. People disagree and cause the problems that exist in the world today because they have different values, not because they see the world incorrectly.

To the extent that people do see the world incorrectly, it is because epistemic rationality interferes with their values and goals, not because poor epistemic rationality causes them to have the wrong values and goals. That is, a lack of caring leads to poor epistemic rationality, not the other way around.

This is why I find CFAR to be a very low-effectiveness charity. It is attacking the wrong problem.

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