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Comment author: algekalipso 31 March 2016 03:36:18AM 0 points [-]

I have seen this argument before, and I must confess that I am very puzzled about the kind of mistake that is going on here. I might call it naïve functionalist realism, or something like that. So whereas in "standard" naïve realism people find it hard to dissociate their experiences with an existing mind-independent world, they then go on to perceive everything as "seeing the world directly, nothing else, nothing more." Naïve realists will interpret their experiences as direct, unmediated, impressions of the real world.

Of course this is a problematic view, and there killer arguments against it. For instance, hallucinations. However, naïve realists can still come back and say that you are talking about cases of "misapprehension", where you don't really perceive the world directly anymore. That does not mean you "weren't perceiving the world directly before." But here the naïve realist has simply not integrated the argument in a rational way. If you need to explain hallucinations as "failed representations of true objects" you don't, anymore, need to in addition restate one's previous belief in "perceiving the world directly." Now you end up having two ontologies instead of one: Inner representations and also direct perception. And yet, you only need one: Inner representations.

Analogously, I would describe your argument as naïve functionalist realism. Here you first see a certain function associated to an experience, and you decide to skip the experience altogether and simply focus on the function. In itself, this is reasonable, since the data can be accounted for with no problem. But when I mention LSD and dream, suddenly that is part of another category like a "bug" in one's mind. So here you have two ontologies, where you can certainly explain it all with just one.

Namely, the green is a particular qualia, which gets triggered under particular circumstances. Green does not refer to the wavelength of light that triggers it, since you can experience it without such light. To instead postulate that this is in fact just a "bug" of the original function, but that the original function is in and of itself what green is, simply adds another ontology which, when taken on its own, already can account for the phenomena.

Comment author: kilobug 31 March 2016 07:06:33AM 0 points [-]

No, it is much more simple than that - "green" is a wavelength of light, and "the feeling of green" is how the information "green" is encoded in your information processing system, that's it. No special ontology for qualia or whatever. Qualia isn't a fundamental component of the universe like quarks and photons are, it's only encoding of information in your brain.

But yes, how reality is encoded in an information system sometimes doesn't match the external world, the information system can be wrong. That's a natural, direct consequence of that ontology, not a new postulate, and definitely not any other ontology. The fact that "the feeling of green" is how "green wavelength" is encoded in an information processing system automatically implies that if you perturbate the information processing system by giving it LSD, it may very well encode "green wavelength" without "green wavelength" being actually present.

In short, ontology is not the right level to look at qualia - qualia is information in a (very) complex information processing system, it has no fundamental existence. Trying to explain it at an ontological level just make you ask invalid questions.

Comment author: kilobug 30 March 2016 03:49:03PM 2 points [-]

First, "Social justice" is a broad and very diverse movement of people wanting to reduce the amount of (real or perceived) injustice people face for a variety of reasons (skin color, gender, sexual orientation, place of birth, economical position, disability, ...). Like in any such broad political movement, subparts of the movement are less rational than others.

Overall, "social justice" is still mostly a force of reason and rationality against the most frequent and pervasive forms of irrationality in society, which are mostly religion-based, but yes it varies from subparts of the movement. It is, historically, a byproduct of the Enlightenment after all.

That said, there are several levels of "rationality" and "rationalism", and it might be very rational to make irrational demands.

When you make demands in social and political context, you know your demands will usually not be completely fulfilled. Asking for something "impossible" may be the best way, from a game theoretical point of view, to end up with having something not too far from what you really want - the same way that when you're bargaining the price of an item in an informal market (like in latam or maghreb).

It can also be a powerful way to make people think about a question in novel ways and try to find alternative solutions which aren't part of the hypothesis space they usually wander. "Abolish prisons" may seem an irrational demand, and it's very likely that something "like prison" will be required for a few very dangerous individuals, but it can make people think about possible alternatives to prison, something they don't usually do, and which could very well be used for 90% or even perhaps 99% of people currently in prison.

Of course, making "irrational" demands can also be counterproductive, it can discredit the movement, may you appear to be a lunatic, ... but it's a powerful tool to have in your toolbox when you rationally pursue some deep changes in society.

Comment author: kilobug 30 March 2016 08:11:54AM 0 points [-]

One issue I have with statements like "~50% of the variation is heritable and ~50% is due to non-shared environment" is that they assume the two kind of factors are unrelated, and you can do an arithmetic average between the two.

But very often, the effects are not unrelated, and it works more like a geometric average. In many ways it's more than genetic gives you a potential, an ease to learn/train yourself, but then it depends of your environment if you actually develop that potential or not. Someone with a very high "genetic IQ" but who is underfed and kept isolated and not even taught to read will likely not be a very bright adult, it'll not be "(genes + environment)/2" pour more "(genes * environment)".

Other times, it's more like the environment can help compensate for the genes, offsetting a disability, in a way that you end with "min(genes, environment)" rather than average.

The truth is that the interaction between genes and environment is much more complicated than a mere pondered arithmetic average, and this is rarely considered extensively when people speak of "how much is it genetic, how is it environmental".

Comment author: algekalipso 20 March 2016 05:49:20AM 0 points [-]

Both you and prase seem to be missing the point. The experience of green has nothing to with wavelengths of light. Wavelengths of light are completely incidental to the experience. Why? Because you can experience the qualia of green thanks to synesthesia. Likewise, if you take LSD at a sufficient dose, you will experience a lot of colors that are unrelated to the particular input your senses are receiving. Finally, you can also experience such color in a dream. I did that last night.

The experience of green is not the result of information-processing that works to discriminate between wavelengths of light. Instead, the experience of green was recruited by natural selection to be part of an information-processing system that discriminates between wavelengths of light. If it had been more convenient, less energetically costly, more easily accessible in the neighborhood of exploration, etc. evolution would have recruited entirely different qualia in order to achieve the exact same information-processing tasks color currently takes part in.

In other words, stating what stimuli triggers the phenomenology is not going to help at all in elucidating the very nature of color qualia. For all we know, other people may experience feelings of heat and cold instead of colors (locally bounded to objects in their 2.5D visual field), and still behave reasonably well as judged by outside observers.

Comment author: kilobug 23 March 2016 04:21:15PM 0 points [-]

The experience of green has nothing to with wavelengths of light. Wavelengths of light are completely incidental to the experience.

Not at all. The experience of green is the way our information processing system internally represent "light of green wavelength", nothing else. That if you voluntarily mess up with your cognitive hardware by taking drugs, or that during background maintenance tasks, or that "bugs" in the processing system can lead to "experience of green" when there is no real green to be perceived doesn't change anything about it - the experience of green is the way "green wavelenngth" is encoded in our information processing system, nothing less, nothing more.

Comment author: gjm 22 February 2016 02:58:50PM 1 point [-]

where do you draw the line?

Somewhere that's easy to evaluate and that generally gives results that match reasonably well with those of careful case-by-case deliberation. For most vegetarians, pigs will be on one side and spiders on the other; the exact location of the line will vary.

It doesn't need to give results that match perfectly in every case; no one has the time or mental energy to make every moral decision optimally. And it doesn't have to be deduced from universal general principles; the point of drawing a line is to provide an "easier" approximation to the results on gets by applying one's general principles carefully case by case.

So, e.g., the simplest vegetarian policy says something like: "Don't deliberately eat animals." This will surely be too restrictive for most vegetarians' actual values; e.g., I bet most vegetarians would have no moral objection to eating insects. But so what? It's a nice simple policy, easy to apply and easy to explain, and if it means you sometimes have to eat vegetables when you had the option of eating insects, well, that's not necessarily a problem.

Someone inclined towards vegetarianism who decides, after careful reflection, that most fish aren't sufficiently capable of suffering to worry much about (and/or just really likes eating fish) may choose a more permissive policy along the lines of "no animals other than fish" or "no animals other than seafood". That might be too permissive for their actual values in some cases -- e.g., they might not actually be willing to eat octopus. But, again, that's OK; if they see octopus on the menu they can decide not to eat it on the basis of actual thought rather than just applying their overall policy, much as a non-vegetarian might if they see monkey meat on a menu. Or they might just always defer to the overall policy and accept that sometimes it will lead them to eat something that overall they'd prefer not to have eaten. (I would expect the first of those options to be much more common.)

Another vegetarian, worried about broader harms than just being eaten, might adopt veganism: "Don't eat anything derived from animals." That's a really strict policy, strict enough to be really inconvenient and difficult for health in a way that ordinary vegetarianism isn't; that's probably one reason why few people are vegans. But, again, adopting such a policy isn't the same thing as claiming that eating something is morally acceptable if and only if it contains nothing derived from animals; it just means deciding that drawing the line there gives a good enough approximation with little enough cognitive load.

Do you think there's something wrong about all that? Because it seems obviously reasonable to me.

(Disclaimer: I am not myself a vegetarian, and my guesses about what "most vegetarians" think are only guesses.)

Comment author: kilobug 22 February 2016 03:39:56PM 1 point [-]

Do you think there's something wrong about all that? Because it seems obviously reasonable to me.

Well, perhaps it is a reason of "cognitive simplicity" but it really feels a very artificial line when someone refuses to eat meat in every situation, with all associated consequences, like they are invited to relatives for christmas eve dinner and they won't eat meat, putting extra burden on the person inviting him so they cook a secondary vegetarian meal for him, and yet not caring much about the rats that are killed regularly in the basement of his apartment by the pest control.

It feels more like a religious interdiction than an utilitarian decision. There are people who avoid eating meat, but do occasionally ("flexitarian" they are called I think). Those appear as much more reasonable than a strict "no meat" policy, if you admit that killing animals is something society has to do anyway, so you try to avoid it, but not in a strict manner.

I do myself have lots of "ethical behavior", like I try to buy fair trade products when I can for stuff like tea, coffee, chocolate, ..., because I want third world producers to be treated decently. But I know that my computer was probably assembled by workers in sweet shops, and if I'm offered a non-fair trade tea at a relative I won't refuse it.

Comment author: gjm 22 February 2016 01:45:58PM 0 points [-]

farming even for vegetables requires killing rodents and birds

Killing birds? Really? I'd have thought keeping them away would be much more practical.

So why stop eating meat, and yet disregard all the other multiple cases in which our technological civilization massively kills animals?

You have more control over whether to eat meat than over those other things. And some of them are much smaller -- e.g., I guess the average driver kills at most one animal ever by bumping into them, whereas the average meat-eater may consume thousands of animals.

Comment author: kilobug 22 February 2016 01:57:58PM 0 points [-]

I guess the average driver kills at most one animal ever by bumping into them, whereas the average meat-eater may consume thousands of animals.

There we touch another problem with the "no meat eating" thing : where do you draw the line ? Would people who refuse to eat chicken and beef be ok with eating shrimps or insects ? What with fish, is it "meat" and unethical ? Because, whenever you drive, you kill hundred of flies and butterflies and the like, which are animals.

So where to draw the line, vertebrates ? Eating shrimps and insects would be fine ? But it's not like a chicken or a cow have lots of cognitive abilities, so feels quite arbitrary to me.

Comment author: kilobug 22 February 2016 11:10:54AM *  0 points [-]

I always felt that argument 1 is a bit hypocritical and not very rational. We kill animals constantly for many reasons - farming even for vegetables requires killing rodents and birds to prevent them eating the crops, we kill rats and other pests in our buildings to keep them from transmitting disease and damaging cables, we regularly kill animals by bumping into them when we drive a car or take a train or a plane, ... And of course, we massively take living space away from animals, leading them to die.

So why stop eating meat, and yet disregard all the other multiple cases in which our technological civilization massively kill animals ? I personally don't think most animals matter from an utilitarian point of view (they have no consciousness), but if they did, "not eating meat" wouldn't be enough, and eating meat from "dump" fish or chicken would be less a violation of ethics than killing "smart" rats for pest control.

Reason 2. would prevent eating factory-farmed meat, but it wouldn't prevent eating meat from less intensive forms of meat producing (or from wild game) which are usually available in supermarkets here in France, but a slightly higher price.

Reason 4. is just false taken in its absolute form - there are several studies showing that eating too much meat (especially processed meat) is harmful, but so far it seems some kind of meat (like chicken) is pretty harmless, and that eating a bit of meat is better health-wise than not eating any.

Reason 3. and 5. could justify eating less meat, but not no meat at all.

So with the available data, I would recommend eating perhaps less meat (for reasons 3., 4., 5.), less of the high-fat processed meat (like bacon) and try to buy food from more "humane" farms (for reasons 2), but not to stop eating meat completely.

Comment author: kilobug 08 January 2016 02:18:45PM 1 point [-]

Regular sleep may not suspend consciousness (although it can very well be argued in some phases of sleep it does), but anesthesia, deep hypothermia, coma, ... definitely do, and are very valid examples to bring forward in the "teleport" debate.

I've yet to see a definition of consciousness that doesn't have problems with all those states of "deep sleep" (which most people don't have any trouble with), while saying it's not "the same person" for the teleporter.

In response to Voiceofra is banned
Comment author: kilobug 24 December 2015 08:49:08AM 1 point [-]

+1 for something like "no more than 5 downvotes/week for content which is more than a month old", but be careful that new comment on an old article is not old content.

Comment author: UmamiSalami 23 December 2015 12:45:48AM *  1 point [-]

The problem is that by doing that you are making your position that much more arbitrary and contrived. It would be better if we could find a moral theory that has solid parsimonious basis, and it would be surprising if the fabric of morality involved complicated formulas.

Comment author: kilobug 23 December 2015 08:39:13AM 1 point [-]

There is no objective absolute morality that exists in a vacuum. Our morality is a byproduct of evolution and culture. Of course we should use rationality to streamline and improve it, not limit ourselves to the intuitive version that our genes and education gave us. But that doesn't mean we can streamline it to the point of simple average or sum, and yet have it remain even roughly compatible with our intuitive morality.

Utility theory, prisoner's dilemma, Occam's razor, and many other mathematical structures put constraints on what a self-consistent, formalized morality has to be like. But they can't and won't pinpoint a single formula in the huge hypothesis space of morality, but we'll always have to rely heavily on our intuitive morality at the end. And this one isn't simple, and can't be made that simple.

That's the whole point of the CEV, finding a "better morality", that we would follow if we knew more, were more what we wished we were, but that remains rooted in intuitive morality.

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