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In response to The Stamp Collector
Comment author: fubarobfusco 04 May 2015 08:49:11AM 0 points [-]

One point I notice here is that "value" is in the map, not the territory. The whole notion that agents have values is a way of modeling real-world things; it isn't a principle on which the world rests.

For instance, people sometimes make big, definitive-sounding claims about "human terminal values", but these are basically (pretty rough) attempts to create a map that might be useful for predicting human behavior. Insofar as that map isn't predictive, it's worth amending or discarding.

Comment author: James_Miller 03 May 2015 12:03:19AM 2 points [-]

Why is it such a big deal for SpaceX to land its used booster rocket on a floating platform rather than just having the booster parachute down into the ocean and then be retrieved?

Comment author: fubarobfusco 03 May 2015 04:37:02AM 3 points [-]

It's a step toward landing it back at the launch site for rapid reuse.

The project's long-term objectives include returning a launch vehicle first stage to the launch site in minutes and to return a second stage to the launch pad following orbital realignment with the launch site and atmospheric reentry in up to 24 hours. Both stages will be designed to allow reuse a few hours after return.


Comment author: knb 26 April 2015 12:21:09AM *  2 points [-]

The Wall Street Journal has an article up claiming that the world economy is currently experiencing an excess of capital, labor, and commodities, and that this is potentially a cause of serious problems.

Could anyone explain to me how it is possible to have an excess of capital and an excess of labor?

ETA: You can get around the paywall by googling the title of the article and clicking the first link.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 26 April 2015 02:07:26AM -1 points [-]

According to Marx, in capitalism, improvements in technology and rising levels of productivity increase the amount of material wealth (or use values) in society while simultaneously diminishing the economic value of this wealth, thereby lowering the rate of profit—a tendency that leads to the paradox, characteristic of crises in capitalism, of "reserve army of labour" and of “poverty in the midst of plenty”, or more precisely, crises of overproduction in the midst of underconsumption.

— Wikipedia, "Overproduction"

Comment author: shminux 05 April 2015 06:39:19PM 11 points [-]

I like your write-up, very clear and accessible. You certainly have a gift for popularization, not just research. A rare combination.

I would just note upfront that

Reasoning well has little to do with what you're reasoning towards.


Rationality of this kind is not about changing where you're going, it's about changing how far you can go.

are white lies, as you well know. It's not unusual in the process of reasoning of how to best achieve your goal to find that the goal itself shifts or evaporates.

"How to best serve God" may result in deconversion.

"How to make my relationship with partner a happy one" may result in discovering that they are a narcissistic little shit I should run away from. Or that both of us should find other partners.

"How to help my neighborhood out of poverty" might become "How to make the most money" in order to donate as much as possible.

This goal-evaporation danger is rarely as extreme, but it is ubiquitous. Every goalpost shifts when you optimize your shot hard enough. Your analogy

Your deepest desires are not a burden, but a compass

is very apt: following it strictly helps you reach your destination, but does not mean your destination is there or has what you expected. Or won't get you killed in the process.

In this essay you talk about Instrumental Rationality as if it were separate from Epistemic. It is not. The dangers of good reasoning ought to be noted upfront, the way MoR!Harry did to Draco, only more so. Hopefully you already plan to talk about it in one of your remaining three essays.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 08 April 2015 10:59:02PM 4 points [-]

Every goalpost shifts when you optimize your shot hard enough.

Optimize hard enough for "get the ball into the goal as fast as possible" and you explode the ball and drive its husk through the bodies of the defending team, and you don't get asked to play football any more.

Comment author: emr 03 April 2015 11:58:06PM 1 point [-]

Even a dog knows the difference between being kicked and being stumbled over.

-- Oliver W. Holmes

Comment author: fubarobfusco 04 April 2015 02:32:30AM 1 point [-]

Dogs have been specifically bred for many thousands of years to respond to human signals.

(So have humans.)

Comment author: CronoDAS 31 March 2015 07:11:28PM *  8 points [-]

I have a small problem. My girlfriend (that I've been with for almost a year, and hope to be with for more years to come) has something of a New Age/unscientific worldview, which I find slightly disturbing, but I don't know how to attempt to "convert" her to something, well, less wrong, without upsetting her or making her feel stupid or something like that, or even how to react to her talking about her more "unusual" experiences.

A trivial example: She once mentioned that a certain kind of stone (it may have been hematite) had "healing powers". I expressed vague skepticism but didn't press the issue any further.

More seriously, my girlfriend has told me stories about seeing and interacting with "spirits", although she's asked me not to repeat any of them, and I've had to reassure her that no, I don't think she's crazy. For example, she said that whenever she goes to a particular railroad crossing, she always sees a woman riding a bicycle along the tracks that nobody else sees, and that one side of the woman's head looks horribly injured. There's another spirit, which she says reminds her of me, that usually hangs out on the roof outside her second-story window on nights when I'm not there, and sort of stands guard. He's asked to come in, but she says that spirits can't come in if you don't let them and she's always said no, except once when she was in a hotel and he spent the night on the side of the double bed she wasn't sleeping on.

I'm not sure how to react or deal with this. She feels kind of fragile emotionally to me, so I have to tread lightly; her father died when she was seven and her mother died when she was thirteen, and she says she's always afraid people are going to leave her. She also has something of an inferiority complex and is hypersensitive to perceived slights. She worries that, because didn't do well in school, people (including me) will treat her like she's stupid. She's also fat and she thinks it makes her ugly. I, of course, think she's beautiful and sexy, but she doesn't quite believe me when I tell her that.

Any advice? ("Break up with her" will be ignored.)

Comment author: fubarobfusco 31 March 2015 08:16:06PM 11 points [-]

When I was in college in small-town New England in the late '90s, one year a group of freshmen became convinced that the woods near campus were haunted by a malicious evil spirit — a wraith. This upset them greatly; they reported feeling the wraith as an oppressive and disturbing presence. Practical advice such as "there's no such thing as wraiths; you are all just working each other up into a tizzy over nothing" was ineffective to relieve their upset.

Eventually, a friend of the group got a friend of his, who was an initiated practitioner of ritual magick, to send them a spell to banish the wraith. The spell was cast, and the people who had felt the wraith's presence reported that it was no longer bothering them.

Now, one self-consistent description of these events is that wraiths literally exist, and banishing-spells literally work. Another is that when people become caught up in playing out an upsetting story, bringing that story to a close within its own rules can work to end their upset.

Other possibly relevant tales:

Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 25 March 2015 08:19:58AM 1 point [-]

I don't know if you are extremely optimistic or I am misunderstanding something, but much much more common is the case when you feel entirely powerless to change the things you are critical of, because they are set up so by bigger, more powerful people or some other similar cause, or simply you don't think you are the kind of person who can tackle big things. Low self-esteem is the most common cause of feeling goal-por. BTW the analogy stands: the most common move to being surrounded is not shooting in 360 but surrendering.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 25 March 2015 06:33:39PM *  0 points [-]

I was inverting the connotation of the expression — in the same way that "target-rich environment" has been inverted from being a euphemism for a bad situation (being surrounded by people who want to kill you) into an expression for a good situation (having lots of opportunities to choose from).

Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 23 March 2015 02:11:50PM 7 points [-]

Instrumental rationality is about reaching goals. Any methods for finding goals? There is a military term "target-rich environment". I think you live in a goal-rich environment if it is risky both ways: if you both fail hard and win big. If your environment does not look very goal-rich, what are some good ways to "mine" goals out of it? Broader, fighting boredom / tedium.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 24 March 2015 07:41:58PM 2 points [-]

IIRC, "target-rich environment" was originally a euphemism for being surrounded by the enemy.

By analogy, a "goal-rich environment" might be one in which you are very critical of everything — no matter what you look at, you can see a way in which it sucks and should be improved — and a "goal-poor environment" is one in which pretty much everything is okay with you.

Comment author: bramflakes 18 March 2015 01:46:31AM 8 points [-]
Comment author: fubarobfusco 18 March 2015 07:48:40PM 1 point [-]

A related idea is psychologizing — analyzing someone's belief as a psychological phenomenon rather than as a factual claim.

Comment author: g_pepper 18 March 2015 01:50:39AM 1 point [-]

I believe that is the genetic fallacy.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 18 March 2015 07:42:48PM 1 point [-]

The genetic fallacy has more to do with dismissing a claim because of its origins or history, rather than because of who holds that view today. For instance, arguments from novelty or antiquity are genetic fallacies.


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