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 21 July 2014 08:20:16PM 2 points [-]

Travel around using public transportation. Which places are convenient to get from/to, and which places aren't?

Google Maps is a pretty good simulator for this.

One thing to keep in mind, if you're coming from somewhere with marginally sensible public transit, like New York City or Portland: The Bay Area is not a metropolitan area; it's several metropolitan areas that don't cooperate very well. Bus systems are on the city or county level (Muni, ACTransit, VTA, and SamTrans); there are light rail systems that don't connect (BART and VTA), and a commuter rail line that doesn't reliably sync with the above (Caltrain).

Visit the offices of the major tech companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Twitter. Ask some of their employees how they feel about being a software engineer in Silicon Valley.

Find a current employee to give you a tour. You generally can't wander around people's offices unescorted.

Eat at local restaurants - not so much the fancy/expensive ones, but the ones a person might go to for a typical, everyday lunch outing.

The larger companies have cafeterias; even many startups have catered food.

See some of the sights. Again, the emphasis would be on the things that would affect our everyday lifestyle, should be decide to move, not so much on the tourist attractions. For example, the Golden Gate Bridge is an awesome structure, but I doubt it would improve my everyday life very much. In contrast, living near a good running trail would be a big boost to my lifestyle.

Look up bike trails and such online.

Do some apartment viewing, to get a feel for how much rent a good/medium/student apartment costs in different areas and how good the amenities are.

Expect to be astonished by the prices, and watch out for aggressive HOAs.

Go to some local LW meetups, if there are any scheduled for the time window.

Subscribe to the bayarealesswrong mailing list on Google Groups; meetup announcements are posted there.

Visit the Stanford and UC Berkeley campuses and the surrounding areas.

Go for it. Stanford is huge and Berkeley is hilly, by the way.

Interact with locals and ask them about their experience living in the region

See also mailing list. Also note that the visible populace of a busy town looks very different at different times, based on whether people are at work, whether school is in session, etc.

Visit a number of different neighborhoods, to try to get a sense of the pros and cons of each

You could spend days or weeks doing this in one town. Live near where you work, or find a workplace that's near where you want to live — commuting sucks.

Discuss how to apply Bayesian decision theory to the problem of finding the optimal place to live ;)

Hmm ....

In response to Polling Thread
Comment author: KnaveOfAllTrades 15 July 2014 03:31:34PM *  0 points [-]

The observation that many people claim that god exists, is positive evidence that god exists, i.e. P(God exists|Many people claim god exists, other background information) > P(God exists|Not many people claim god exists, other background information).

Given all other information, what is the likelihood ratio of the observation that many people claim that god exists, with respect to the hypothesis that god exists? I.e. what is the ratio: P(Many people claim god exists|God exists, other observations) / P(Many people claim god exists|God does not exist, other observations) ?

Edit: The second poll might be restricting to numbers between zero and one, so I'm adding this one for bigger values. Please answer this third poll question as you would answer the second, but only if there was a problem answering the second one, to try to avoid double-counting.

Submitting...

Comment author: fubarobfusco 15 July 2014 06:32:02PM *  1 point [-]

The observation that many people claim that Vishnu exists is evidence against the proposition that there is no god but Allah. But the observation that many people claim that there is no god but Allah is evidence against the proposition that Vishnu exists.

We could try to factor this as "a divine being exists" vs. "that divine being has properties X, Y, and Z", but different traditions don't even agree on what a divine being is. Mormonism and some Dharmic traditions, for instance, consider that humans could be reinstanced as divine beings after death, whereas most Abrahamic traditions do not.

Comment author: Costanza 14 July 2014 12:14:35AM 34 points [-]

What is the purpose of an experiment in science? For instance, in the field of social psychology? For instance,what is the current value of the Milgram experiment? A few people in Connecticut did something in a room at Yale in 1961. Who cares? Maybe it's just gossip from half a century ago.

However, some people would have us believe that this experiment has broader significance, beyond the strict parameters of the original experiment, and has implications for (for example) the military in Texas and corporations in California.

Maybe these people are wrong. Maybe the Milgram experiment was a one-off fluke. If so, then let's stop mentioning it in every intro to psych textbook. While we're at it, why the hell was that experiment funded, anyway? Why should we bother funding any further social psychology experiments?

I would have thought, though, that most social psychologists would believe that the Milgram experiment has predictive significance for the real world. A Bayesian who knows about the results of the Milgram experiment should better be able to anticipate what happens in the real world. This is what an experiment is for. It changes your expectations.

However, if a supposedly scientific experiment does nothing at all to alter your expectations, it has told you nothing. You are just as ignorant as you were before the experiment. It was a waste.

Social psychology purports to predict what will happen in the real world. This is what would qualify it as a science. Jason Mitchell is saying it cannot even predict what will happen in a replicated experiment. In so doing, he is proclaiming to the world that he personally has learned nothing from the experiments of social psychology. He is ignorant of what will happen if the experiment is replicated. I am not being uncharitable to Mitchell. He is rejecting the foundations of his own field. He is not a scientist.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 14 July 2014 07:28:25AM *  2 points [-]

Maybe the Milgram experiment was a one-off fluke.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment#Replications_and_variations

In Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View (1974), Milgram describes nineteen variations of his experiment [...]

(emphasis added)

Comment author: fubarobfusco 13 July 2014 09:49:40PM *  3 points [-]

Next up: Harry attends a Wesleyan seminary and studies apologetics, in Harry Potter and the Rationalizations of Methodism.

In response to comment by pragmatist on "Dialectics"?
Comment author: RichardKennaway 12 July 2014 09:22:44AM 2 points [-]

As for the idea of "dialectic", Marx got it from Hegel, and a full understanding of Hegel -- if it is possible at all -- is not something that can be effectively communicated in a comment or short internet article, I think.

I think David Stove did a pretty good job. :)

As a rough approximation, though, the dialectical method is basically just systems thinking.

I've never understood what that is either, even though I work with "systems biologists". I don't see a distinction drawn between "systems biology" and just "biology".

"Dialectical materialism" in Marxist thought is basically just an application of this dialectical thinking to economics. One could approach economics analytically by first, say, constructing a model of individual economic agents, and then trying to figure out what happens when these agents interact under certain conditions.

That is, microfoundations for macroeconomics. This appears to be a disputed idea in macroeconomics, some arguing that microfoundations are essential, others that they are impossible.

The natures of individual elements are constituted by their participation in the system, and they change as the system evolves, so you shouldn't treat those individual natures as logically prior to the system.

When I try to translate this into concrete terms, I start imagining chemists arguing that you can't understand molecules in terms of atoms, because atoms can change their ionisation state when they combine into molecules.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 12 July 2014 04:07:16PM 0 points [-]

When I try to translate this into concrete terms, I start imagining chemists arguing that you can't understand molecules in terms of atoms, because atoms can change their ionisation state when they combine into molecules.

Well, suppose that someone claimed that a carbon atom is defined as possessing six electrons, always ....

Comment author: MrMind 10 July 2014 08:23:42AM 0 points [-]

Well, the rotating snakes have a lot of element that breaks the symmetry. But if you stare at a perfectly blank disk it's impossible to tell if it's moving or not.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 10 July 2014 02:46:45PM *  2 points [-]

I didn't mean to suggest that exactly the same thing was going on; just that it was analogous: it's possible to have the perception of motion without there being any motion going on. There's no consistency checker in the human perceptual system to keep that from happening.

I suspect that's why optical illusions are so fascinating to some of us — they demonstrate that our perceptions don't implement the law of non-contradiction. The snakes illusion is just a quick way to demonstrate this in humans who aren't in a religious ecstasy or on psychedelics.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 10 July 2014 12:25:21AM 8 points [-]

Captain, sensors are detecting a rapidly escalating Streisand Effect off the port bow!

Comment author: MrMind 08 July 2014 02:27:54PM 11 points [-]

In a weird dance of references, I found myself briefly researching the "Sun Miracle" of Fatima.
From a point of view of a mildly skeptic rationalitist, it's already bad that almost anything written that we have comes from a single biased source (the writings of De Marchi), but also bad is that some witnesses, believer and not, reported not having seen any miracle. But what arose my curiosity is another: if you skim witnesses accounts, they tell the most divers(e) things. If you OR the accounts, what comes out is really a freak show: the sun revolving, emitting strobo lights, dancing in the sky, coming close to the earth drying up the soaking wet attendants.
If you otherwise AND the accounts, the only consistent element is this: the 'sun' was spinning. To which I say: what? How can something that has rotational symmetry be seen spinning? The only possible answer is that there was an optical element that broke the symmetry, but I have been unable to find out what was this element. Do you know anything about it?

Comment author: fubarobfusco 09 July 2014 05:31:20PM *  4 points [-]

The human brain is capable of registering "X is moving" without being able to point to "X was over here and is now over there". This can happen visually with the rotating snakes illusion, or acoustically with Shepard tones, for instance. It's also pretty common on some psychedelic drugs.

Comment author: Lumifer 08 July 2014 05:00:13PM 1 point [-]

I am not arguing for real-valued utility functions. I am just pointing out that the "deal with infinities" claim looks suspect to me.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 08 July 2014 06:35:14PM *  -1 points [-]

Well, I'm no mathematician, but I was thinking of something like ordinal arithmetic.

If I understand it correctly, this would let us express value-systems such as —

Both snuggles and chocolate bars have positive utility, but I'd always rather have another snuggle than any number of chocolate bars. So we could say U(snuggle) = ω and U(chocolate bar) = 1. For any amount of snuggling, I'd prefer to have that amount and a chocolate bar (ω·n+1 > ω·n), but given the choice between more snuggling and more chocolate bars I'll always pick the former, no matter how much the quantities are (ω·(n+1) > ω·n+c, for any c). A minute of snuggling is better than all the chocolate bars in the world.

This also lets us say that paperclips do have nonzero value, but there is no amount of paperclips that is as valuable as the survival of humanity. If we program this into an AI, it will know that it can't maximize value by maximizing paperclips, even if it's much easier to produce a lot of paperclips than to save humanity.


Edited to add: This might even let us shoehorn deontological rules into a utility-based system. To give an obviously simplified example, consider Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, which come with explicit rank ordering: the First Law is supposed to always trump the Second, which is supposed to always trump the third. There's not supposed to be any amount of Second Law value (obedience to humans) that can be greater than First Law value (protecting humans).

Comment author: Lumifer 08 July 2014 04:23:12PM 1 point [-]

This allows us to deal with infinities, such as "I wouldn't kill my baby for anything."

I don't know how you will deal with infinities and real humans. It's quite trivial to construct scenarios under which the person making this statement would change her mind.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 08 July 2014 04:56:02PM -1 points [-]

Real-valued utility functions can only deal with agents among whom "everybody has their price" — utilities are fungible and all are of the same order. That may actually be the case in the real world, or it may not. But if we assume real-valued utilities, we can't ask the question of whether it is the case or not, because with real-valued utilities it must be the case.

To pick another example, there could exist a suicidally depressed agent to whom no amount of utility will cause them to evaluate their life as worth living: there doesn't exist an N such that N + L > 0. Can't happen with reals. The only way to make this agent become nonsuicidal is to modify the agent, not to drop a bunch of utils on their doorstep.

View more: Next