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Comment author: XiXiDu 01 August 2014 03:06:31PM 0 points [-]

So, this "Connection Theory" looks like run-of-the-mill crackpottery. Why are people paying attention to it?

From the post:

“I don’t feel confident assigning less than a 1% chance that it’s correct — and if it works, it would be super valuable. Therefore it’s very high EV!”

Comment author: fubarobfusco 01 August 2014 06:25:35PM 1 point [-]

Sounds like a Pascal's memetic mugging to me.

Comment author: sediment 29 July 2014 10:23:36AM *  0 points [-]

Well, there's a frustrating sort of ambiguity there: it's able to pivot between the two in an uncomfortable way which leaves one vulnerable to exploits like the above.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 30 July 2014 05:48:01PM *  1 point [-]

Sure, and it's also vulnerable to abuse from the other side:

"I have bogosthenia and can't exercise because my organs will fall out if I do. How should I extend my lifespan?"
"You should exercise! Exercise increases lifespan!"
"But my organs!"
"Are you saying exercise doesn't increase lifespan? All these studies say it does!"
"Did they study people with no organs?"
"Why are you bringing up organs again? Exercise increases lifespan. If you start telling people it doesn't, you're going to be responsible for N unnecessary deaths per year, you quack."
"... organs?"

Comment author: pianoforte611 29 July 2014 11:36:59AM 1 point [-]

Usually in these exchanges the truth value of A is under dispute. But it is nevertheless possible to make arguments with uncertain premises to see if the argument actually succeeds given its premises.

"But A isn't true" is also a common response to counterfactual conditionals - especially in thought experiments.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 30 July 2014 05:39:52PM 0 points [-]

Well, sometimes thought-experiments are dirty tricks and merit having their premises dismissed.

"If X, Y, and Z were all true, wouldn't that mean we should kill all the coders?"
"Well, hypothetically, but none of X, Y, and Z are true."
"Aha! So you concede that there are certain circumstances under which we should kill all the coders!"

My preferred answer being:

"I can't occupy the epistemic state that you suggest — namely, knowing that X, Y, and Z are true with sufficient confidence to kill all the coders. If I ended up believing X, Y, and Z, it's more likely that I'd hallucinated the evidence or been fooled than that killing all the coders is actually a good idea. Therefore, regardless of whether X, Y, and Z seem true to me, I can't conclude that we should kill all the coders."

But that's a lot more subtle than the thought-experiment, and probably constitutes fucking tedious in a lot of social contexts. The simplified version "But killing is wrong, and we shouldn't do wrong things!" is alas not terribly convincing to people who don't agree with the premise already.

Comment author: E_Ransom 29 July 2014 03:36:45PM 3 points [-]

I am looking for methods by which I can gain experience working with state or federal (American) organizations. I plan to begin applying for jobs with government libraries and archives next year, and I would like some experience besides what I am doing for my current job. I do not mean that my current job is pointless, only that I feel no reason not to spend time augmenting it.

As I am not a student, I cannot apply for online internships, which was my first plan. I could enroll in an online class but I do not have the money for the tuition. So, I am looking for other options. Anything that will help me get a foot in the door and begin to network with people and organizations within the government.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Comment author: fubarobfusco 30 July 2014 05:10:33PM *  -1 points [-]

If you code, talk to the Code for America folks?

Comment author: Punoxysm 28 July 2014 10:10:31PM *  4 points [-]

Well I don't like the dragon parable either. It's overlong, a bit condescending and ignores the core problem that anti-aging research has done a pretty poor job of showing concrete achievements, even if it's right that it's under-prioritized. I was not a fan of yours exactly because I think the parable elides the most important parts of the actual topic. Even if a direct discussion would be flamey, it's not better to discuss a poor proxy. I'm not trying to pick on you, I just think you tried to define the problem with some premises that were well worth dispute.

There are all sorts of other bad analogies out there though: "If canada launched missiles at the US, how would it respond?", even though the US hasn't turned Canada into a prison-state over the course of 50 years, is one on the news a lot right now.

Parables about the danger of nuclear weapons that ignore the fact that this danger was successfully handled (there was something on here using it as an analogy for AI).

Also, when parables are kind-of-but-not-really trying to be coy about what they're actually about is a bit annoying, leading to stilted writing (but that's the least of my issues).

EY also has a lot of dubious parables, but tackling those is a subject for a bigger post.

And of course there's the whole genre of parables where two fictional interlocutors are arguing, the strawman 'loses' the argument, and that's supposed to convince us of something. I think LW manages to avoid overt versions of this.

In the realm of politics (both Red/Blue and further-from-mainstream) people often apply "argument by utopia", which suffers similar issues in that it attempts to prematurely define convenient facts and use a narrative to elide gritty, worthwhile details of an issue.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 29 July 2014 12:05:24AM 5 points [-]

Well I don't like the dragon parable either. It's overlong, a bit condescending and ignores the core problem that anti-aging research has done a pretty poor job of showing concrete achievements, even if it's right that it's under-prioritized.

Hmm. I suppose I thought the point of "Dragon Tyrant" was not to narrowly advocate for the anti-aging research program; but rather to get people to take seriously the "naïve" idea that death is bad.

Or, more specifically, to say that even though ① defeating death seems like an insurmountable goal because death has always been around, and ② there are people advocating on a wide variety of grounds against attempting to defeat death, it is nonetheless reasonable and desirable to consider.

"Dragon Tyrant" uses the technique, common to sociology and "soft" science fiction (e.g. Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams), of making the familiar strange — taking something that we are so accustomed to that it is unquestioned, and portraying it as alien.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 28 July 2014 11:47:08PM *  3 points [-]

I was thinking about the idea of lost purposes in my kitchen, and a vivid illustration of the idea occurred to me:

You plan to make homemade ice cream for your partner's birthday party next week, so you put "cream" on your shopping list. The next day, you break up with your partner on surprisingly unfriendly terms. You are no longer going to be attending the birthday party. But then you find yourself at the supermarket, with your shopping list in hand, putting a carton of cream into your cart.

EDIT: The birthday-party/break-up thing is a fictional scenario, not something that actually happened to me. Sorry for any worries!

Comment author: Benito 26 July 2014 06:28:03PM *  5 points [-]

If this is the case, I imagine that the story will be darn-near not understandable towards the end, when Harry finds this out.

I mean, what do you expect to happen when you expect reality to fit your expectations? When the territory starts to match to the map?!

Edit: a Added the words 'you expect' and changed nearby words to be grammatically appropriate.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 26 July 2014 09:04:15PM 1 point [-]

Sounds like the ending of Anathem.

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.


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.


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

(emphasis added)

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