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

Comment author: fubarobfusco 11 May 2016 01:38:38AM *  1 point [-]
  • Legislating for individuals to be held more accountable for large-scale catastrophic errors that they may make (including by requiring insurance premiums for any risky activities)

If I blow up the planet, neither my insurance nor your lawsuit is going to help anything. Which is to say, this proposal is just a wealth transfer to insurance companies, since they never have to pay out.

Comment author: ChristianKl 06 May 2016 09:58:03PM 4 points [-]

Let's take the best computer programmer. Imagine he tries to write down all his important knowledge in a book. He writes down all statements where he believes that he can justify that they are true in a book.

Then he gives the book to a person who never programmed with equal IQ.

How much of the knowledge of the expert knowledge get's passed down through this process? I grant that some knowledge get's passed down, but I don't think that all knowledge does get passed down. The expert programmer has what's commonly called "unconscious competence".

Allen might call that kind of knowledge part of the best knowledge of our civilization. It's crucial knowledge for our technological progress.

But to get back to the main point, to accept that the contemplative, logocentric approach has flaws is not simply about focusing on it itself but on demonstrating alternatives.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 06 May 2016 10:08:22PM 3 points [-]

This seems to be a complicated, abstruse way of saying "reading statements of knowledge doesn't thereby convey practical skills".

Comment author: morganism 30 April 2016 12:09:07AM 0 points [-]

The first legal ruling for an AI or robot may be in the pipe, and it was filed by the DoJ. this may set a precedent for an AI to have legal standing, as the ruling is filed against an electronic device.

United States of America v. Apple MacPro Computer, et al


Comment author: fubarobfusco 30 April 2016 07:50:18AM *  4 points [-]

The 1916 case United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola did not recognize Coca-Cola as containing an incipient intelligence, nor did 2013's United States v. One Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton contemplate dinosaur necromancy.

Titles like this just represent the legal fiction for in rem cases, in which a case is brought against a piece of property — originally e.g. unclaimed property or contraband.


Comment author: Diadem 26 April 2016 09:46:40AM 8 points [-]

I think that's somewhat missing the point of a lot of advice like that though. Often advice in the form of proverbs or popular quotes is not meant to be taken literally. It's meant to offer you a new angle from which to look at the problem.

Just because two quotes contradict each other, doesn't mean they can't both be good advice. If you think someone is being too rash, quoting a proverb like "discretion is the better part of valour" can be good advice. But if you think they are being too cautious, the opposite ("nothing ventured, nothing gained") can also be good advice.

Most advice is context dependent.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 26 April 2016 06:40:30PM 0 points [-]

"discretion is the better part of valour"

This is a (slight paraphrase of a) quote from a character who is offering a rationalization for cowardice. It wasn't intended as a positive thing in the original work.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 22 April 2016 06:28:42AM 1 point [-]

I didn't know there were supersedes in nntp. Cool.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 22 April 2016 07:51:58AM 0 points [-]

Super pedantic nitpick: the netnews medium predates NNTP.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 22 April 2016 03:32:40AM *  1 point [-]

I'll often find myself snarkily responding to feature requests with "you know, someone wrote something that does that 20 years ago, but no one uses it."

You and me both, buddy.

But you forgot "Now get offa my lawn!"

Use a standardized API that properly models your data and it's usage, and whaddya know, we already have one in NNTP. Let people put whatever clients they want for presentation on top of that.

Sounds about right to me.

Thinking about it, I doubt that NNTP would have modeled edits or karma. I think posts were write once. And looking around a little, I've seen Reddit called Usenet 2.0. Maybe they've made things better. They've probably extended the discussion model beyond what NNTP had.

And as a practical matter, probably the shortest distance to a new client for LW would be to expose the reddit API service, then use existing reddit clients that can be pointed to whatever reddit server you want.

Could LW expose the reddit API as a web service?

Comment author: fubarobfusco 22 April 2016 04:17:26AM *  3 points [-]

I think posts were write once.

The netnews standards allow cancellation and superseding of posts. These were sometimes used by posters to retract or edit their posts. They were often used for spam control and moderation. Cancels and supersedes were occasionally also used for hamhanded attempts at censorship ... by entities clueless enough to think they could get away with it.

Cancels and supersedes are themselves posts, and don't travel through the network any faster than the original post. And as sites can restrict whom they'll accept posts from, they can also restrict whom they'll accept or process cancel or supersede messages from.

Comment author: gjm 13 April 2016 01:25:11PM 1 point [-]

I gravely doubt that anyone has that expression permanently stuck on their face. The image you linked to was obviously created in order to show "SJWs" in a bad light, and I can't imagine that anyone wanting to do that would use typical photos rather than particularly bad-looking photos for that purpose.

(The SJWiest people I know do not generally wear that sort of expression.)

I'm sure you're right that treating impurity and disgustingness as moral is not confined to the political right.

I suspect that the things treated as disgustingly wrong in "social justice" circles tend not to be ones that arouse feelings of disgust, as such, in most people, whereas things treated as disgustingly wrong among traditionalist social conservatives are often more widely felt to be disgusting. To put it differently: I suspect that "moral disgust" takes different forms on the left and on the right: on the left it's usually moral disapproval that has engendered disgust, and on the right it's usually disgust that has engendered moral disapproval.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 13 April 2016 03:12:30PM 1 point [-]

The image you linked to was obviously created in order to show [someone] in a bad light, and I can't imagine that anyone wanting to do that would use typical photos rather than particularly bad-looking photos for that purpose.

This is the most salient conclusion. Photography is — among other things — the art of selectively promoting some visual evidence to the viewer's consciousness.

To put it differently: I suspect that "moral disgust" takes different forms on the left and on the right: on the left it's usually moral disapproval that has engendered disgust, and on the right it's usually disgust that has engendered moral disapproval.

I'm not so sure. For one thing, "the left" and "the right" are concepts far up the ladder of abstraction, whereas a lot of "moral disgust" seems to be trained System 1 responses. Here are some things that might elicit "moral disgust" responses by people with different trained responses:

  • A parent and five-year-old child are in a store. The child picks up a toy from a shelf and does not put it back when the parent tells him to. The parent slaps the child on the face. The child drops the toy, begins quietly crying, and then puts it back on the shelf.
  • A political leader holds a rally in which the symbols of his party and nation are presented alongside one another. In a speech, he denounces the opposition party as corrupted by global business elites.
  • Two women sit on a park bench cuddling and kissing each other.
  • An elderly man dies alone in a nursing-home bed. He hadn't seen his son or daughter in ten years. His death is not noticed by staff for twelve hours.
  • Two fifteen-year-olds have sex. They use a condom, but it breaks. The young woman goes to the neighborhood pharmacy and buys an emergency contraceptive with her own money.
  • A worker completes his federal tax forms and mails a check to the government. He feels proud to have completed a duty to his nation.
  • A family finish dinner and throw away several portions-worth of uneaten food.
  • In a city playground, a man is watching twin girls swing on the swings.
  • A religious denomination, facing declining attendance, combines three parishes into two. They sell the now-abandoned third church building to a commercial developer. The developer has the sanctuary demolished and puts up a pirate-themed sports bar with scantily-clad waitresses. (Arrr.)
  • Outside an open-air market in an affluent suburb, an elderly woman is sitting on the sidewalk with a sign asking for money to pay for food and medicine.
  • An engineering company releases a product that is so successful, their competitors close up shop and lay off tens of thousands of workers.
  • A singer performs on television wearing only a skimpy bikini printed with the national flag.
  • A political leader orders a bombing run on a city block that contains both a terrorist headquarters and a pediatric clinic.
  • A professor asks an undergraduate student to come to the professor's house for dinner. Later, they have sex.
  • An artist uses her own bodily wastes as a medium to paint a representation of a religious figure, seals it in plastic, and exhibits it in a gallery.
  • A business executive contemplates a report on the expected costs of cleaning up a polluted factory site and the likelihood of a successful lawsuit against her firm. She decides not to order the cleanup.
  • A dark-skinned man who was raised Christian, and a light-skinned woman who was raised Muslim, meet at a social event and become romantically involved.
  • A woman accused of murdering her two children is found not guilty and released. The judge cites the fact that a police officer on the case was found to have threatened the woman's neighbor to get the neighbor to testify.
  • A man comes home from work and finds a note from his wife saying that she is out at her boyfriend's house and will be back around 7:30pm. When she gets home, her husband has prepared dinner for the two of them. Later, in bed, they watch the latest episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
Comment author: James_Miller 12 April 2016 12:59:33AM 15 points [-]

My 11-year-old son had homework on how to be more compassionate. Rather than doing the homework he decided to donate (and tell the teacher that he was donating) $25 to the against Malaria foundation.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 12 April 2016 05:53:08AM 5 points [-]

I wonder if the teacher knows the term "category error".

A: "How would you improve your rationality?"
B: "I've just sent $25 to IBM."

Comment author: fubarobfusco 07 April 2016 02:02:00AM 2 points [-]

One conceptual difference between netnews (Usenet, NNTP, etc.) and current bloggyweb systems (LW, Reddit, Wordpress, Livejournal, etc.) is that bloggyweb systems have two kinds of messages, whereas netnews has only one.

The two kinds of messages in the bloggyweb are often called "posts" and "comments". A post is a top-level item. A comment is always attached to a single post. Some bloggyweb systems allow a tree structure of comments descending from a post. But comments and posts are fundamentally different, not only visually but also in the database schema behind them. They are also socially different: the ability to create a post is often restricted, whereas any damnfool can spam the comments. Comments are inferior to posts in every way: they are less searchable, they often can't be independently linked-to, they are presented as subordinate to posts in the user interface, etc.

In the netnews system, there is only one kind of message. Messages can contain metadata that refers to other messages — particularly by saying "this message is a reply to that one." If you want to start a new thread, you just create a message that is not a reply to any other message. If you want to continue a thread, you reply to a message in that thread. But a "thread" is not a thing — it's just a chain of messages linked to each other by metadata.

There are also other major differences. In the bloggyweb system, topical tagging is an afterthought; you find messages by following sites such as lesswrong.com, or forums such as reddit.com/r/rationality. In the netnews system, topical tagging is how anyone ever finds any messages. Topical tags in netnews are called "newsgroups". The user interface makes it seem like messages are inside newsgroups, but really a newsgroup is just a bit of indexing for tags, along with some glued-on rules for things like moderation.

In response to Fake Amnesia
Comment author: NancyLebovitz 03 April 2016 09:37:14PM 4 points [-]

I've heard that as a behavior is being extinguished, it becomes less common, but it's just as intense when it happens. That's something else to check.

In response to comment by NancyLebovitz on Fake Amnesia
Comment author: fubarobfusco 03 April 2016 10:00:58PM 1 point [-]

This makes intuitive sense, anyway: someone who is about to smoke (what turns out to be) their last cigarette before they finally succeed in quitting, does not therefore do a half-assed job of lighting it.

View more: Next