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Comment author: kremlin 27 January 2014 06:57:24PM 0 points [-]

I was stumblin and I found this article, which I think graphically does a great job of making a similar point (although that point wasn't its explicit intention).

All of the graphs except 'tautology' limit the number of worlds you could be in.

Variables in Arguments as a Source of Confusion

5 kremlin 09 January 2014 01:16PM

I was reading an argument happening in the comments of an article about Light Table switching to open source. The argument was about freedom in relation to software, and it went basically something like this:

People who use OSX are less free [than Linux users], because they don't have the freedom to modify their OS source code.

No, they have the exact same freedom. People who use OSX and people who use Linux both have the freedom to modify the source code of Linux.

I'm not entirely sure, but this conversation reminded me immediately of arguing about a tree falling and making a sound when nobody's around to hear.

The first persons statement uses a variable in the place that the second persons statement uses a constant.

X's freedom is [partially] a function of [X's OS].
X's freedom is [partially] a function of OS_List. (where OS_List is just a list of the OSs that he could in principle modify, regardless of if he wants to or is using any of those OSs)

(Obviously OS_List is a variable as well, but with respect to each person it's relatively unchanging).

I've seen this crop up in various conversations before - one person arguing using a variable where another person is using a constant (if that's the right way to describe it).

How does one diagnose the problem with this argument, if there is a problem? Is it a similar problem to the Tree in the Forest problem? Is there a standard rationalist way to dissolve the dispute so that both parties can leave not only agreeing, but also having a high probability of being correct when they leave?

Comment author: ChristianKl 26 December 2013 09:33:41PM 2 points [-]

Is this just technophobia? Or am I missing something, and this really is a horrible, evil technology that should be avoided at all costs? [That's a rhetorical question -- I'd be surprised if even one LWian held that position]

You seem to underrate the amount of contra-contrasrism on Lesswrong. For most subjects you will find someone on Lesswrong that can take the other side of the debate.

I guess what I'm asking is, what are the psychological roots for the almost-unanimous aversion to this attempt at gathering and using information about what people want?

Take a look at the discussion about Transcendence. You will find a sentiment that a film isn't supposed to be judged by the amount of fun that reader have in the cinema but that the film is supposed to be judged on the way it frames the societal debate.

Pop culture is culture that optimised on short-term enjoyment and pleasing the audience. Serious fiction is supposed to be optimised for more noble goals.

Effective technology that focuses on giving people what they want by looking at what people read is technology that engages in what we label on Lesswrong as "wireheading".

Ugly things happen when you start to pay all journalists by the click instead of focusing on accurate reporting.

Nassim Taleb said on the subject: "Truck driver who read books don't want to read books that are written for truck drivers."

Comment author: kremlin 26 December 2013 09:47:54PM 1 point [-]

I guess I don't imagine the idea always being used to that degree. I can imagine someone writing a new classic novel and they turn in their first draft of their next draft to their publisher, and their publisher says something like, "This sentence structure...studies have shown that it's a bit too complicated for most readers to parse on the first read, and they can take 3 or 4 times reading it before they understand what you were trying to say. Try to simplify it or break it up into multiple sentences."

I mean, that's not the only example. That's a rather mild example of how this sort of data would come into play, but I guess the examples I think of are less, 'Shelf full of Twilight novels' and more 'Same variety of books we have now, written with structure that's more in tune with how people read and think.'

I want a shelf full of Twilight as little as the next guy. But I also see that this sort of data can be used in helpful ways as well, not just used to produce the next mind-numbing teen fantasy.

Comment author: Liron 01 December 2012 04:40:19AM 4 points [-]

I haven't yet seen anyone else point out that space and time look like a simple generalization of discrete causal graphs to continuous metrics of relatedness and determination, with c being the generalization of locality.

Yeah, this is one of the most profound things I've ever read. This is a RIDICULOUSLY good post.

In response to comment by Liron on Causal Universes
Comment author: kremlin 26 December 2013 04:36:54PM 2 points [-]

The 'c is the generalization of locality' bit looked rather trivial to me. Maybe that's just EY rubbing off on me, but...

Its obvious that in Conways Game, it takes at least 5 iterations for one cell to affect a cell 5 units away, and c has for some time seemed to me like our worlds version of that law

Comment author: ygert 25 December 2013 09:11:54PM *  8 points [-]

I think you are wrong in saying that no one claims benefits from it: claiming benefits is practically all the linked article does. (BTW, your link goes to page two of the article. You may want to fix that. [Edit: Fixed.])

The article gave one viewpoint (and left out the other), and so everyone else is trying to give the counterpoint. (Not that I'm saying it's wrong for the article to only give one side: maybe debates work better for transmitting information than balanced pieces. But it certainly is the correct response to try to steelman the other viewpoint when you see an article in favour of one side.)

Comment author: kremlin 26 December 2013 08:51:41AM 5 points [-]

I don't think that's what they were doing. The commenters (the NY Times commenters, btw, not the Ycombinator commenters) seem to genuinely believe that it is only bad and no good.

"It might be the time to download “1984” from your Scribd or Oyster subscription service. I'm sure they have it."

"Surrendering your thoughts: A Haiku

Creepy. Nasty. Yuk. A good way to hasten the Singularity "

"I'm going to find out the top 50 favorite words and then write a book using only those 50 words. Who cares about creativity? It's about the money, kids."

I don't think these comments come out of a desire to just present the other side fairly. I think that this is just, straightforwardly, what they think about the concept of studying reader preferences.

Comment author: Metus 26 December 2013 05:05:04AM *  1 point [-]

In addition to ygert's good comment I want to mentioned that maybe there is a status thing involved too. Maybe you noticed that in the natural sciences and in engineering there is the meme that something is either mathematical or not worth doing. A more extreme form is to see themselves as the most important workers in the world. Ackknowledging that, yes, studying literature to learn what makes a great piece of literature just like studying engineering to learn what makes a great bridge is a worthwhile and valuable endaveour, will hurt their status in the hacker community. Just go to a site like reddit and see how English majors are bashed on by engineering majors.

I am guilty myself of hating the humanities. Until the exact day I realised what the subject is about and that studying at college does not have to be a purely economic decision.

Comment author: kremlin 26 December 2013 08:45:49AM 1 point [-]

There was a bit of ambiguity on my part: the commenters I was referring to weren't Hacker News commenters, but the commenters on the original article itself, on NY Times.

One Sided Policy Debate - The Science of Literature

4 kremlin 25 December 2013 08:48PM

On HackerNews, this article was linked. The general idea is that companies are studying what people like to read, to help authors produce books that people like to read.

Now, for me, when I look at this idea, I see some down sides, but I certainly see some benefits as well.

Almost none of the commenters on NYTimes seemed to see any benefit whatsoever to studying reader behaviour. There were a few who saw the downsides as more mild than the other commenters. But most of the commenters basically saw this technology as some sort of 1984-esque idea that will turn all books into uninteresting, unimaginative pieces of paper that would better serve as a door stopper than as something for literary consumption. Out of 50 comments that I've read, only one person has said something along the lines of, 'This technology can possibly offer something to help authors improve their books'.

Is this just technophobia? Or am I missing something, and this really is a horrible, evil technology that should be avoided at all costs? [That's a rhetorical question -- I'd be surprised if even one LWian held that position]

I guess what I'm asking is, what are the psychological roots for the almost-unanimous aversion to this attempt at gathering and using information about what people want?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 28 November 2013 12:25:53PM 1 point [-]

Not sure about how the system works, just started using it yesterday, so I hope I will not bring doom to the whole party.

Comment author: kremlin 28 November 2013 04:24:16PM 1 point [-]

I've invited you.

I'm sure you'll be fine. It's not until they start adding the new boss/quest mechanics that it will be possible for anyone to bring doom to a party.

Comment author: ZankerH 26 November 2013 05:22:29PM 1 point [-]
Comment author: kremlin 26 November 2013 06:05:25PM 0 points [-]

invite sent

Comment author: kremlin 24 November 2013 02:12:35PM 1 point [-]

You and I were talking about this in IRC. I remember expressing a concern about HabitRPG that, while it does genuinely motivate me at the moment, I'm not sure what's going to happen when it ends: when I've upgraded all my items, when I've collected all the pets, etc etc. If I just start over, the new game will likely motivate me significantly less than the first time around. And more than likely I just plain won't want to start over.

I've been trying to think of ways around this gamification problem, because it plays a part in nearly every attempt at gamification I've seen. I think that, for one aspect of gamification -- motivating yourself to learn new things -- there is a way that at least sort of overcomes the 'what happens when it ends?' problem:

Skill Trees. Like This . Maybe a website, or application, that starts with just the bare-bones code for creating skill trees, and you can create an account and add a skill tree to your account from a list of existing searchable skill trees, or you can create your own skill tree if you can't find one that's appropriate for you and that will allow other people with similar goals to add your skill tree system to their account, etc.

Comment author: kremlin 24 November 2013 09:43:30PM 5 points [-]

BTW I've started a LessWrong Party on HabitRPG for when they start implementing new mechanics that will take advantage of parties. If anybody wants to join the party send me your User ID, which you can find in Settings > API

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