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Comment author: ShardPhoenix 27 March 2014 12:43:33AM 2 points [-]

This post reminds me that "using Google to judge the popularity of things" is a good example of the problem described in the OP. Many times on the internet I've seen people claim that something is more or less popular/known than it really is based on a poorly formulated Google search.

Also, compared to when you last played, high-cost cards are more likely to be viable.

Comment author: lessdazed 04 April 2014 08:10:49PM 3 points [-]

Many times on the internet I've seen people claim that something is more or less popular/known than it really is based on a poorly formulated Google search.

I've seen it too. Even Nate Silver did it in this New York Times blog post, where he estimates the number of fans for each team in the National Hockey League "by evaluating the number of people who searched for the term “N.H.L.”" Using his method, Montreal is the only Canadian market with a team for which it is estimated that fewer than half of the people are avid hockey fans (as he defined it).

In Montreal, French is the official language and the language spoken at home by most people.In French, the NHL is called the "Ligue nationale de hockey," abbreviated "L.N.H."

Comment author: lessdazed 20 June 2012 08:57:41PM 0 points [-]

I honestly can't think of a single instance where I was convinced of an informal, philosophical argument through an academic paper. Books, magazines, blog posts - sure, but papers just don't seem to be a thing.

I have been convinced of the invalidity of other arguments by academic papers.

I have also been significantly persuaded by the failure of academic papers to make their case. That is, seeing that a poor argument is held in wide regard is evidence that the advocates of that position have no better arguments.

I too do not remember being convinced of many things by formal academic papers, just a very few things.

Comment author: alyssavance 20 June 2012 07:10:06PM *  4 points [-]

Hi Luke! Thanks for replying. Quick counterpoints:

  • Probably most importantly, what do you view as the purpose of SIAI's publishing papers? Or, if there are multiple purposes, which do you see as the most important?

  • If in-person conversations (despite all their limitations) are still the much preferred way to discuss things, instead of papers, that's evidence in favor of papers being bad. (It's also evidence of SIAI being effective, which is great, but that isn't the point under discussion.) If papers were a good discussion forum, there'd be fewer conversations and more papers.

  • If, as you say, the main audience for papers written by SIAI is through SIAI's website and not through the journals themselves, why spend the time and expense and hassle to write them up in journal form? Why not just publish them directly on the site, in (probably) a much more readable format?

  • The problem with conformity in academia isn't that it's impossible to find someplace to publish. You can always find somewhere, given enough effort. The problem is that a) it restricts the sorts of things you can say, b) restricts you, in many cases, to an awkward way of wording things (which I believe you've written about at http://lesswrong.com/lw/4r1/how_siai_could_publish_in_mainstream_cognitive/), and c) it makes academia a less fertile ground for recruiting people. Those are probably in addition to other problems.

  • I agree that we care more about prestige within academia than we do about prestige in almost all similarly sized groups. However, it seems fairly strongly that we aren't going to have that much prestige in academia anyway, given that the main prestige mechanism is elite university affiliations, and most of us don't have those.

  • Which people have come through Eliezer and Bostrom's papers? (That isn't a rhetorical question; given how large our community is compared to Dunbar's number, it's likely there is someone and it's also likely I've missed them, and they might be really cool people to know.)

  • Using my own personal experiences is generalizing from a single dataset, and that's indeed biased in some ways. However, it's very far from generalizing from a single example; it's generalizing from the many thousands of arguments that I've read and accepted at some point in the past. It's still obviously better to use multiple datasets, if you can get them.... but in this case they're difficult to get, because it's hard to know where your friends got all their beliefs.

  • Sure, it's easier to get people to read a single paper than all of the Sequences. But that's a totally unfair comparison: the Sequences are much, much longer, and it's always easier to read something shorter than something longer. How hard would it be to get someone to read a paper, vs. a single Sequence post of equal length, or a bunch of Sequence posts that sum to an equal length?

  • If all new areas of research are developed through in-person conversations and mailing lists, that doesn't imply that papers are a good way to do FAI research; it implies that papers are a bad way to do all those other kinds of research. If what you say is true, then my argument equally well applies to those fields too.

  • Of course, there are some instances of academic moderation being net good rather than net bad. However, to quote of your earlier arguments, "don't generalize from one example". I'm sure that there are some well-moderated journals, just as I'm sure there are Mafia bosses who are really nice helpful guys. However, that doesn't imply that hanging out with Mafia bosses is a good idea.

Comment author: lessdazed 20 June 2012 08:28:15PM -1 points [-]

Probably most importantly, what do you view as the purpose of SIAI's publishing papers? Or, if there are multiple purposes, which do you see as the most important?

In order to think of some things I do that only have one important purpose, it was necessary to perform the ritual of closing my eyes and thinking about nothing else for a few minutes by the clock.

I plan on assuming things have multiple important purposes and asking for several, e.g. "what do you view as the purposes of X."

There was nothing wrong with what you said, but it is strange how easily the (my?) mind stops questioning after coming up with just one purpose for something someone is doing. In contrast, when justifying one's own behavior, it is easy to think of multiple justifications.

It makes some sense in a story about motivated cognition and tribal arguments. It might be that to criticize, we look mostly for something someone does that has no justification, and invest less in attacking someone along a road that has some defenses. A person being criticized invests in defending against those attacks they know are coming, and does not try and think of all possible weaknesses in their position. There is some advantage in being genuinely blind to one's weaknesses so one can, without lying, be confident in one's own position.

Maybe it is ultimately unimportant to ask what the "purposes" of someone doing something is, since they will be motivated to justify themselves as much as possible. In this case, asking what the "purpose" is would force them concentrate on their most persuasive and potentially best argument, even if it will rarely actually be the case that one purpose is a large supermajority of their motivation.

Comment author: lessdazed 14 June 2012 06:10:14PM -1 points [-]
Comment author: [deleted] 07 June 2012 07:58:29PM 4 points [-]

Hey guys. My name is Michael and I'm a business student living in Little Rock, Arkansas. I've recently become fascinated by the work of SI and I'm interested in participating any way I can. I've long considered myself a rationalist after I abandoned religion in my teens. However lately I realized I need to interact with other rationalists in order to further my development. I'm considering trying to attract more LessWrong members from where I live. If anybody has any advice concerning that I'd be happy to hear it.

In response to comment by [deleted] on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2012)
Comment author: lessdazed 07 June 2012 11:09:31PM 0 points [-]

However lately I realized I need to interact with other rationalists in order to further my development.

1) What made you believe this?

2) At present, what do you think are the best reasons for believing this?

Comment author: lessdazed 07 June 2012 05:38:57PM -1 points [-]

Teaching tree thinking through touch.

These experiments were done with video game trees showing evolutionary divergence, and this method of teaching outperformed traditional paper exercises. Perhaps a simple computer program would make teaching probability trees easier, or the principles behind the experiments could be applied in another way to teach how to use these trees.

Comment author: tenlier 05 June 2012 04:25:24AM 1 point [-]

Do you really have that preference?

For example, if every but one of trillions of humans was being tortured and had dust specks, would you feel like trading the torture-free human's freedom from torture for the removal of specks from the tortured. If that were so, then you just are showing a fairly usual preference (inequality is bad!) which is probably fine as an approximation of stuff you could formalize consequentially.

But that's just an example. Often there's some context in which your moral intuition is reversed, which is a useful probe.

(usual caveat: haven't read the sequences)

Topic for discussion: Less Wrongians are frequentists to a greater extent than most folk who are intuitively Bayesian. The phrase "I must update on" is half code for (p<0.05) and half signalling, since presumably you're "updating" a lot, just like regular humanssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.

Comment author: lessdazed 05 June 2012 04:25:16PM *  0 points [-]

since presumably you're "updating" a lot, just like regular humans

It's a psychological trick to induce more updating than is normal. Normal human updating tends to be insufficient.

Comment author: lessdazed 05 June 2012 02:39:21PM 3 points [-]

I say to myself in my mind, "nice clothes, nice clothes," alluding to belief as attire, and imagine they're wearing what most caused their statement.

For example, if someone said "Jesus never existed!" I might imagine them wearing a jacket that says "Respect me! I am sophisticated," or a hat saying "accept me, I'm a leftist just like you," or a backpack that says "I am angry at my parents."

Comment author: wedrifid 29 May 2012 05:52:02PM 4 points [-]

Indiscriminately calling the soldiers and especially the war dead heroes is quite rational, as it facilitates the country's task of maintaining an enlisted military force, as opposed to a mercenary force.

Enlisted soliders get paid already. Plus they get to wear uniform and the associated status perks. Simple economics applies even without introducing 'mercenary forces'.

Comment author: lessdazed 04 June 2012 06:28:25AM 1 point [-]

Presumably without the ribbons they'd have to be paid more. And the status perks seem tied to the same thing that causes people to call war dead "heroes."

Comment author: fubarobfusco 31 May 2012 04:45:48PM *  12 points [-]

The difference between soldiers and (almost) everyone else is that the soldiers' job involves risking one's life.

According to the 2010 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the jobs with the highest fatal injury rate per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers in the U.S. were:

  • Fishers and related fishing workers
  • Logging workers
  • Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
  • Farmers and ranchers
  • Mining machine operators

The fatal injury rate for people in the fishing trade is 116 per 100,000 — or slightly more than 1 in 1000, per year. (If you value your life, do not go into the fishing business; and if you value other people's lives, you might consider buying farmed rather than wild-caught fish!)

According to this Congressional Research Service report, the worst year for U.S. military deaths recently was 2007, when 1953 out of 1.6 million military FTEs died. However, 235 of these deaths were due to illness rather than injury, whereas the above figures for other occupations deal only with injury. Subtracting these, members of the military are risking their lives slightly less than the people who bring you your salmon and tuna.

If you want to make a moral difference between soldiers and other people in dangerous occupations, you might consider making it on the basis that soldiers have to deal with threats to their lives that are caused by other people's deliberate hostile action. Humans tend to reckon risks caused by other people's deliberate action as being morally worse than risks caused by dangerous environments. Whether this difference should be considered a bias, or part of our utility function, or both, is another issue ...

Comment author: lessdazed 31 May 2012 05:00:29PM 8 points [-]

What about infantry v. armor? Or helicopter pilots v. people piloting drones from a base in Nevada? "Military" isn't too homogeneous a category.

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