Rationality Quotes: December 2010

post by Tiiba · 2010-12-03T03:23:07.900Z · score: 6 (11 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 342 comments

Every month on the month, Less Wrong has a thread where we post Deep Wisdom from the Masters. I saw that nobody did this yet for December for some reason, so I figured I could do it myself.

* Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be voted up/down separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)

* "Do not quote yourself." --Tiiba

* Do not quote comments/posts on LW/OB. That's like shooting fish in a barrel. :)

* No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.

342 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Tesseract · 2010-12-03T09:21:13.778Z · score: 49 (53 votes) · LW · GW

He uses statistics as a drunkard uses a lamppost: for support, not for illumination.

G.K. Chesterton

comment by Tesseract · 2011-08-11T20:12:56.922Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Correction: This quote is usually attributed to Andrew Lang. Not sure how I got that wrong.

comment by MichaelGR · 2010-12-03T17:39:42.899Z · score: 40 (42 votes) · LW · GW

The Noah principle: predicting rain doesn’t count, building arks does.

-Warren E. Buffett

comment by gwern · 2010-12-03T18:46:09.892Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Source: 2002 annual letter to Berkshire shareholders, according to http://research.lifeboat.com/buffett_warns.htm and http://www.insurancejournal.com/magazines/southcentral/2002/03/25/editorsnote/19139.htm

comment by MichaelGR · 2010-12-08T17:25:15.880Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The 2002 letter can be found here:

http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2002pdf.pdf

comment by gwern · 2010-12-15T20:05:51.369Z · score: 35 (35 votes) · LW · GW

'One day when I was a junior medical student, a very important Boston surgeon visited the school and delivered a great treatise on a large number of patients who had undergone successful operations for vascular reconstruction.

At the end of the lecture, a young student at the back of the room timidly asked, “Do you have any controls?” Well, the great surgeon drew himself up to his full height, hit the desk, and said, “Do you mean did I not operate on half the patients?” The hall grew very quiet then. The voice at the back of the room very hesitantly replied, “Yes, that’s what I had in mind.” Then the visitor’s fist really came down as he thundered, “Of course not. That would have doomed half of them to their death.”

God, it was quiet then, and one could scarcely hear the small voice ask, “Which half?”'

Dr. E. E. Peacock, Jr., quoted in Medical World News (September 1, 1972), p. 45, as quoted in Tufte's 1974 book Data Analysis for Politics and Policy; http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2010/12/the-ethics-of-random-clinical-trials.html

comment by kpreid · 2011-08-19T03:03:44.942Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have empirically determined that this quote is excellent for reading aloud. 2/3 of the audience was moved to applause.

comment by gwern · 2011-08-19T03:10:05.885Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Cool! What audience was that?

comment by kpreid · 2011-08-19T17:00:29.494Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

3 coworkers at lunch. I used it for comparison with the (arguable) equivalent problem with deliberate experiments on law/government/society, which was the topic of discussion.

But my conclusion above is probably mostly due to that the quote is written as a story; it even has text explicitly indicating tone of voice.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-09-12T00:52:11.774Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I like the message behind the quote, but surely in the case given a massive natural control exists in all patients prior to the introduction of the new surgery?

comment by gwern · 2011-09-12T00:59:58.415Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Patient groups and techniques change over time, assuming the data was even recorded in the first place. (eg. a lot of data from the past would not be useful today as a direct comparison or control group, simply because diets have changed so much.)

comment by JamesAndrix · 2010-12-09T07:28:48.318Z · score: 30 (32 votes) · LW · GW

A young boy walks into a barber shop and the barber whispers to his customer, “This is the dumbest kid in the world. Watch while I prove it to you.” The barber puts a dollar bill in one hand and two quarters in the other, then calls the boy over and asks, “Which do you want, son?” The boy takes the quarters and leaves. “What did I tell you?” said the barber. “That kid never learns!” Later, when the customer leaves, he sees the same young boy coming out of the ice cream store. “Hey, son! May I ask you a question? Why did you take the quarters instead of the dollar bill?” The boy licked his cone and replied, “Because the day I take the dollar, the game is over!”

Found on /r/funny

comment by anonym · 2010-12-03T08:36:05.775Z · score: 30 (30 votes) · LW · GW

Truth is much too complicated to allow anything but approximations.

— John Von Neumann

comment by sketerpot · 2010-12-05T06:02:08.188Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Incidentally, he was one of the main people behind the invention of Monte Carlo methods for approximating things that were too complicated to calculate exactly.

comment by gwern · 2010-12-12T03:25:47.449Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"God, in the dream, illumined the animal's brutishness and he understood the reasons, and accepted his destiny; but when he awoke there was only a dark resignation, a valiant ignorance, for the machinery of the world is far too complex for the simplicity of a wild beast.

Years later, Dante was dying in Ravenna, as unjustified and as lonely as any other man. In a dream, God declared to him the secret purpose of his life and work; Dante, in wonderment, knew at last who and what he was and blessed the bitterness of his life....upon waking, he felt that he had received and lost an infinite thing, something that he would not be able to recuperate or even glimpse, for the machinery of the world is much too complex for the simplicity of a man."

--"Inferno I, 32", Dreamtigers, Jorge Luis Borges

(I'm a little curious what LWers will make of this one. Seeing all the variant interpretations is half the fun of these quote threads.)

comment by billswift · 2010-12-03T05:21:36.564Z · score: 30 (32 votes) · LW · GW

A little learning is not a dangerous thing to one who does not mistake it for a great deal.

-- William A White

comment by Alexandros · 2010-12-11T11:03:27.558Z · score: 29 (29 votes) · LW · GW

if you're the smartest person in the room, go look for a room with smarter people in it.

kevinpet at Hacker News

comment by sketerpot · 2010-12-03T22:25:21.858Z · score: 27 (29 votes) · LW · GW

Mitch Hedberg on the distinction between labels and the things to which they are applied:

I just bought a 2-bedroom house, but it's up to me, isn't it, how many bedrooms there are? Fuck you, real estate lady! This bedroom has a oven in it! This bedroom’s got a lot of people sitting around watching TV. This bedroom is A.K.A. a hallway.

comment by shokwave · 2010-12-04T03:59:14.296Z · score: 25 (25 votes) · LW · GW

This bedroom's over in that guy's house! Sir, you have one of my bedrooms, are you aware? Do not decorate it!

And more Mitch Hedburg, illustrating how redrawing the map won't alter the territory.

comment by sfb · 2010-12-04T06:09:29.856Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"What happens if you say that and someone gets offended?" "Well they can be offended. [..] Now you have adults going 'I was offended! I was offended and I have rights!'. Well so what? Be offended. Nothing happens".

Steve Hughes. (link: confusion is in the mind, not the territory - so is offensiveness).

comment by MichaelGR · 2010-12-03T17:40:15.528Z · score: 25 (25 votes) · LW · GW

A man who has committed a mistake and doesn't correct it, is committing another mistake.

-Confucius

comment by Tesseract · 2010-12-13T08:39:25.328Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A concurring opinion:

All men can make mistakes; but, once mistaken, a man is no longer stupid or accursed who, having fallen on ill, tries to cure that ill, not taking a fine undeviating stand. It is obstinacy that convicts of folly.

Sophocles, Antigone

comment by David_Gerard · 2010-12-13T12:59:30.731Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is why sincere stupidity is actually worse than insincere stupidity: the sincere tend to insist on their folly.

e.g. in this dialogue form (which I see way too much of on LessWrong):

A: X's action Y was stupid, and X should have known this because of Z.

B: But X's action was entirely justifiable according to V and W!

B's statement is in the place in a discussion where a refutation would go, but doesn't actually address the folly; and seems to claim that sincerity makes stupidity less bad. Whereas in practice, sincere stupidity promises more stupidity in the future.

(A's statement is an assertion about the processes leading X to commit Y, rather than merely the folly of Y; however, A is asserting that bad results that could have been reasonably predicted should have been. The discussion can then go into a long thread about the meaning of "reasonable", possibly with one of A or B subtly dissing the other's Bayesian-fu.)

comment by apophenia · 2010-12-03T22:32:47.735Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is a useful way to think of things, so you don't worry about changing and committing another mistake--it's a good way to make yourself cost-sensitive to mistake duration.

comment by gwern · 2010-12-12T03:33:38.282Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

From the Analects, although I can't seem to narrow it down any further. (There are a lot of ways to translate things.)

comment by topynate · 2010-12-12T03:50:58.985Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Chapter 15, verse 30.

comment by gwern · 2010-12-12T04:20:10.079Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think you may need to specify translation or edition; eg. I don't see anything similar in http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Analects/Section_3#Part_15

comment by topynate · 2010-12-12T04:30:19.411Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That would be:

The Master said, "To have faults and not to reform them,-this, indeed, should be pronounced having faults."

The verse number may differ slightly between versions: on this site it's verse 29.

comment by FAWS · 2010-12-12T04:38:32.494Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's translated as

The Master said, "To have faults and not to reform them,-this, indeed, should be pronounced having faults."

there. The wikisource/Legge translation is more literal, but I'm not sure it's better.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-03T05:39:17.731Z · score: 23 (23 votes) · LW · GW

The question I ask myself like almost everyday is 'Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?'

Mark Zuckerberg

comment by Tiiba · 2010-12-03T18:46:28.782Z · score: 12 (20 votes) · LW · GW

And the answer is, "Yes! I run the world's biggest honeypot for teenage idiots who want to post pics of themselves racing on a freeway with a suspended license and a beer in the cupholder."

comment by phob · 2010-12-04T16:37:15.802Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect the answer is "making as much money as I possibly can", and he's doing much better than all of us. He can convert that to other forms of value later.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-04T04:23:41.740Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, this book, which is where I found the quote, demonstrates how much of a social and political impact Facebook really has. It's definitely an interesting read.

comment by MartinB · 2010-12-04T03:18:28.122Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Or no, because someone has to take care of minor stuff too, and some of it has to be done personally. No one manages to do important stuff all the time.

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2010-12-05T05:25:16.503Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The key is to neglect the minor stuff until it becomes important to do it!

comment by MartinB · 2010-12-05T15:08:41.001Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That only works if the effort stays the same and the cost of neglect are acceptable.

I usually shower before it becomes necessary, and brush my teeth from time to time.

comment by Snowyowl · 2010-12-05T06:04:56.249Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I've found that mindset is really bad for meeting deadlines.

comment by billswift · 2010-12-04T06:33:42.375Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Pretty close to Lakein's Question: "What is the best use of my time right now?" (from Alan Lakein's How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, 1973).

comment by patrissimo · 2010-12-15T04:55:44.543Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I found this quote brilliant solely because of the incongruous "like" in there. It makes the whole thing turn into a Deep Mystery instead of a Deep Saying.

After all, wouldn't someone who does the important things also stick to the most important words, ie those with content, unlike "like"? If so, how delightful is the erroneous arrogance of this quote! If not, what a fascinating challenge to my assumptions about the implications of language pattern!

comment by billswift · 2010-12-03T05:16:54.387Z · score: 20 (22 votes) · LW · GW

In the Information Age, the first step to sanity is FILTERING. Filter the information; extract the knowledge.

Filter first for substance. Filter second for significance. These filters protect against advertising.

Filter third for reliability. This filter protects against politicians.

Filter fourth for completeness. This filter protects from the media.

-- Marc Stielger, David's Sling

comment by gwern · 2010-12-24T18:08:58.731Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW · GW

"Claude Shannon once told me that as a kid, he remembered being stuck on a jigsaw puzzle. His brother, who was passing by, said to him: "You know: I could tell you something."

That's all his brother said.

Yet that was enough hint to help Claude solve the puzzle. The great thing about this hint... is that you can always give it to yourself."

--Manuel Blum, "Advice to a Beginning Graduate Student"

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2013-08-03T03:17:31.599Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Good quote, but the last sentence seems misleading - what the brother was saying was something like "there's something obvious you aren't noticing" (thus prompting Shannon to look again with fresh eyes), which isn't always true.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-12-12T03:31:23.779Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

"Look! Can your fortunetelling explain that?!"

"Ha! Can your science explain why it rains?"

"YES! Yes, it can!"

  • Avatar: the Last Airbender
comment by HonoreDB · 2010-12-12T06:45:01.731Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Great, I'd been trying to think of a quote from that show for this thread. Loved it.

Katara and Sokka's polar opposite reactions to the fortune teller both seem like good rationalist attitudes. Sokka's the sceptic in the quote. Katara corners her and asks her absolutely everything she can think of, just in case she's for real.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-05-04T20:56:38.781Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sokka gets extra points for living in a world where magic undeniably exists, but still looking for rational explanations.

Though my other favourite quote from him when he fails to explain something is "Thats avatar stuff, that doesn't count" (The Swamp) Not sure if that counts as compartmentalising or him acknowledging a lack of necessary expertise in a given area.

comment by Automaton · 2010-12-03T07:42:32.769Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

“On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow.”

--Nietzsche

comment by cousin_it · 2010-12-03T08:11:09.673Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't this true for any sort of mountains that are difficult to climb, not just the mountains of truth? For example, training makes you better at lying too!

comment by Nornagest · 2010-12-03T08:54:44.817Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

With this in mind, I suppose the difficult part would be correctly identifying the range you're climbing.

comment by gwern · 2010-12-12T03:19:58.860Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But is being able to lie better of intrinsic value?

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-12T03:49:22.821Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Plausibly. There are worse goals to have than maxing your stats.

comment by GeorgieChaos · 2010-12-24T06:01:26.566Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. Your ability to communicate ideas and to understand ideas doesn't give two beans whether the ideas are true or not. The better you are at lying the better you are at clearly presenting any thought, including thoughts that are true, or neither true nor false.

comment by shokwave · 2010-12-24T09:14:04.500Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The better you are at lying the better you are at clearly presenting any thought, including thoughts that are true, or neither true nor false.

This is false for the case of clearly presenting deductive arguments, which are a non-zero portion of "thoughts that are true". (They are also probably a lot more significant, on average, than the average thought that is true.)

Your ability ... to understand ideas doesn't give two beans whether the ideas are true or not.

This is a thread full of evidence that the quoted phrase is either not specific enough, or incorrect for a subset of people.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2010-12-24T06:10:34.927Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In my experience, this is true only up to a point.

Yes, there are techniques that work just as well for communicating/understanding truths as for falsehoods. But there are also techniques that work much better for truths than falsehoods.

It would not surprise me if specializing in the latter set of techniques resulted in more progress along those lines than pursuing a more general rhetorical skill.

comment by GeorgieChaos · 2010-12-24T18:51:49.908Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'd be very interested to find out more about techniques like that. Would you point me toward a place to start?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2010-12-24T20:36:58.659Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, one technique that works pretty well along these lines is reporting detailed experimental results demonstrating (or failing to demonstrate) the principle one wants to communicate/understand, and encouraging one's peers to reproduce the experiments.

Not quite as good, but sometimes more accessible, is selecting some theoretical examples of the principle one wants to demonstrate on the basis of a general guideline (rather than a guideline chosen case-by-case so as to return preselected examples) and working one's way rigorously through those examples to see where they lead.

The How to Change Your Mind sequence isn't a bad starting point.

comment by GeorgieChaos · 2010-12-24T05:57:54.595Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you intend on being any sort of performer, certainly.

comment by Jordan · 2010-12-03T21:47:09.088Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Disregarding cliffs and chasms!

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-23T05:55:51.568Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

The moral code of our society is so demanding that no one can think, feel and act in a completely moral way. [...] Some people are so highly socialized that the attempt to think, feel and act morally imposes a severe burden on them. In order to avoid feelings of guilt, they continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations for feelings and actions that in reality have a non-moral origin.

-- Ted Kaczynski

comment by gwern · 2010-12-24T18:13:00.265Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

From chapter 4, #25 of The Unabomber Manifesto: Industrial Society And Its Future.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-25T03:35:19.980Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was actually curious how that quote would be received. The quote itself is insightful and relevant yet the author is a source of negative affect, approximately a terrorist. I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

comment by gwern · 2010-12-25T15:39:47.793Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not surprised. I think a number of us read Kevin Kelly's essay; he was a very smart guy and so avoids the most obvious errors; and even shares quite a few basic views with us - he just takes them in a different way ('one man's modus ponens is another man's modus tollens'). And I think he's been quoted and upvoted in the past.

comment by Lightwave · 2010-12-03T09:09:36.354Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

"Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin."

-- Charles Darwin

comment by David_Gerard · 2010-12-11T21:30:54.241Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Witching was turning out to be mostly hard work and really short on magic of the zap!-glingle-glingle-glingle variety. There was no school and nothing that was exactly like a lesson. But it wasn’t wise to try to learn witching all by yourself, especially if you had a natural talent. If you got it wrong, you could go from ignorant to cackling in a week ...

When you got right down to it, it was all about cackling. No one ever talked about this, though. Witches said things like “You can never be too old, too skinny, or too warty,” but they never mentioned the cackling. Not properly. They watched out for it, though, all the time.

It was all too easy to become a cackler. Most witches lived by themselves (cat optional) and might go for weeks without ever seeing another witch. In those times when people hated witches, they were often accused of talking to their cats. Of course they talked to their cats. After three weeks without an intelligent conversation that wasn’t about cows, you’d talk to the wall. And that was an early sign of cackling.

“Cackling,” to a witch, didn’t just mean nasty laughter. It meant your mind drifting away from its anchor. It meant you losing your grip. It meant loneliness and hard work and responsibility and other people’s problems driving you crazy a little bit at a time, each bit so small that you’d hardly notice it, until you thought that it was normal to stop washing and wear a kettle on your head. It meant you thinking that the fact you knew more than anyone else in your village made you better than them. It meant thinking that right and wrong were negotiable. And, in the end, it meant you “going to the dark,” as the witches said. That was a bad road. At the end of that road were poisoned spinning wheels and gingerbread cottages.

What stopped this was the habit of visiting. Witches visited other witches all the time, sometimes traveling quite a long way for a cup of tea and a bun. Partly this was for gossip, of course, because witches love gossip, especially if it’s more exciting than truthful. But mostly it was to keep an eye on one another.

Today Tiffany was visiting Granny Weatherwax, who was in the opinion of most witches (including Granny herself) the most powerful witch in the mountains. It was all very polite. No one said, “Not gone bats, then?” or “Certainly not! I’m as sharp as a spoon!” They didn’t need to. They understood what it was all about, so they talked of other things. But when she was in a mood, Granny Weatherwax could be hard work.

  • Pratchett, "Wintersmith"
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-12-11T21:37:57.989Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As soon as I saw "Witching was turning out to be..." in the "Recent Comments" bar, I said, "Hey, I bet that's a Pratchett quote".

comment by nazgulnarsil · 2010-12-09T16:49:02.368Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

"Imagine being told you were made for a purpose, and that longevity and happiness are not in the list of design objectives." -David Eubanks, Life Artificial

comment by Broggly · 2010-12-20T06:43:44.097Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Frankly it wasn't really that bad to be told that. After all, part of ensuring the design objectives were accomplished was making the thought "your purpose is to reproduce as much as possible" seem really really exciting.

comment by Rain · 2010-12-06T03:06:16.959Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.

-- Laurens Van der Post

comment by MichaelGR · 2010-12-05T21:49:21.400Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

-George Bernard Shaw

comment by RichardKennaway · 2010-12-03T21:15:01.795Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

"When I start to wonder if black swans exist, I put down my copy of Mind and pick up my copy of Nature."

-- Ariadne (former columnist in New Scientist).

comment by ata · 2010-12-11T01:47:11.394Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I pick up my spraypaint and find a swan. Soon I don't have to wonder anymore.

comment by RyanW · 2010-12-11T01:22:42.119Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

"When I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my yogurt"

comment by gwern · 2010-12-12T03:39:19.667Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Huh? I understand the original quote in its Nazi play context, but not this parody.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-12-12T09:39:30.614Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yogurt is milk with a culture of bacteria.

comment by gwern · 2010-12-12T18:42:27.954Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

OK, that makes it make a little more sense, but is there anything to it than free association on the noun 'culture'? I dunno, something about consumerism or snacking or something?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-12-12T20:56:28.724Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's a silly joke rather than a witty one. For what it's worth, I thought it was pretty funny.

I believe that silliness is actually more difficult to make work-- it's more delicately dependent on people's associations-- though that may simply mean that I'm better at witty.

This reminds me of "WWJD? JWRTFM!" [1] which I tried to interpret as a complex theological reference to the relationship between Jesus and the Christian bible, but which apparently is just a routine tech support joke.

[1] What Would Jesus Do? Jesus Would Read the F---ing Manual! [2]

[2] There was a recent request to keep overt profanity off LW. I have no idea whether cursing or veiled cursing is more annoying on the average.

comment by ata · 2010-12-12T22:52:31.070Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I believe that silliness is actually more difficult to make work-- it's more delicately dependent on people's associations-- though that may simply mean that I'm better at witty.

Another reason that silliness is more difficult to do well is that it's a large search space compared to the target you're trying to hit — there are vastly more ways to be silly than ways to be simultaneously silly and actually funny, so most people attempting it end up just doing the former and thinking that it passes for humour. Example: almost all (alleged) comedy music.

(That applies even more so with absurdist humour. In that case, the search space is even larger — anything that doesn't make sense, pretty much — and, indeed, a lot of people first attempting absurd humour end up just being absurd but not humourous. I think this has something to do with positive bias — a person finds they enjoy some variety of absurd humour, and they decide they want to make their own, so they try to reverse-engineer the rule; they hypothesize that the rule is "it makes no sense" (or, within a particular genre, something more specific but still insufficient), and they observe that it fits the positive examples they know of, but fail to search for things that fit the hypothesized rule but which they don't find funny.)

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-12-12T21:22:50.365Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

FWI, regarding profanity - if you are talking about my comment about profanity, Alicorn et al. convinced me that my concerns did not have sufficient basis.

comment by ata · 2010-12-12T19:27:57.566Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I thought it was just a silly joke referencing the original quote. I'm not sure if it's supposed to have any point deeper than that.

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2010-12-12T19:21:40.426Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I dunno either. Maybe saying that the speaker is low-brow enough not to care about culture in the sense of art and only care about culture in the sense of food. But a low-brow person (stereotypically speaking) wouldn't know or care that yogurt is a culture of bacteria. So that doesn't really work.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-12T19:24:35.833Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But a low-brow person (stereotypically speaking) wouldn't know or care that yogurt is a culture of bacteria. So that doesn't really work.

I can imagine Dilbert speaking the quote credibly.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-05T16:53:45.976Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I pick up my copy of the Sibley Guide to Birds.

comment by ata · 2010-12-28T23:38:26.764Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

It's amazing how much "mature wisdom" resembles being too tired.

— Lazarus Long (in Time Enough For Love by Robert Heinlein)

comment by tut · 2010-12-31T10:26:45.787Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Spider Robinsson usually says that in his podcast. And it was posted here a few days ago as a Robinsson quote. How sure are you of your attribution?

comment by ata · 2011-01-02T20:27:07.271Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I looked it up; it's from Lazarus Long in "Time Enough For Love".

comment by Document · 2011-01-06T22:34:57.826Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It still wasn't technically said by Heinlein, then.

comment by ata · 2011-01-06T23:17:34.651Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't read the books and I don't know much about Heinlein, so I can't judge this myself, but I've heard Lazarus Long described as an Author Avatar several times, such that sayings attributed to him may as well be attributed to Heinlein.

comment by Document · 2011-01-07T02:05:02.588Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

While you may trust your own judgment in this case, do we want to promote a general rule that any quote can be attributed to someone as long as they "may as well" have said it?

comment by ata · 2011-01-07T02:22:01.662Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough, I'll edit the post.

comment by Document · 2011-01-07T02:28:33.250Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks.

comment by topynate · 2010-12-03T06:20:06.936Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

"Empty arguments with words cannot (in any way) compare with a test which will show practical results."

Ma Jun, inventor or reinventor of the South Pointing Chariot and the differential gear.

comment by AlanCrowe · 2010-12-03T15:17:01.261Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The word empty spoils the quotation. The point is that

Powerful arguments with words cannot compete with a test which will show practical results

or

Good arguments with words that lose to a test which shows practical results are reduced thereby to empty arguments.

comment by Tesseract · 2010-12-03T16:41:18.675Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I read it as

Arguments with words are inherently empty, and therefore cannot compare with a test which will show practical results.

comment by billswift · 2010-12-03T05:15:07.285Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

"When in total ignorance, try anything and you will be less ignorant."

-- G.Harry Stine, A Matter of Metalaw

comment by anonym · 2010-12-03T08:37:53.360Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You can never knowingly follow that advice, because if you knew you were in total ignorance, your ignorance would be less than total ;).

comment by Peter_de_Blanc · 2010-12-03T10:52:42.826Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but you can at least knowingly commit to following the advice. Build a robot that detects whether you are in total ignorance, and takes a random action if so. Then forget about the robot.

comment by anonym · 2010-12-04T04:03:24.609Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

But a robot that one has forgotten about taking a random action for some forgotten reason isn't likely to reduce one's state of ignorance.

comment by Psy-Kosh · 2010-12-12T04:08:44.219Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

That's the thing about power, I think. To some people --those of us who have none-- anyone who has it and uses it is a villain. To those who have it, anyone who tries to stop them from using it is a villain. Because we're all the heroes of our own story, no matter what horrible things we might be doing.

Sometimes people do terrible things with the best of intentions. I don't think that makes them any less guilty. But if you understand their reasons, you might find it more difficult to condemn them out of hand. You might find it more difficult to call them villains.

On the other hand, sometimes people do terrible things with the absolute worst of intentions. But even there, I don't think they're supervillains. I think they're just people.

(emphasis added)

  • David J. Schwartz, "Superpowers"
comment by sfb · 2010-12-07T17:52:51.278Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

"If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you." -Oscar Wilde

comment by Vaniver · 2010-12-06T03:04:33.032Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

"Any fool can have an opinion; to know what one needs to know to have an opinion is wisdom; which is another way of saying that wisdom means knowing what questions to ask about knowledge."

--Neil Postman, "Building a Bridge to the 18th Century"

comment by Kazuo_Thow · 2010-12-04T06:03:10.692Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

The splitting of the atom has changed everything save the way men think, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.

-- Albert Einstein

comment by ata · 2010-12-11T01:56:47.875Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

... unfortunately, there is a flaw in the reasoning. ... [T]o say that each of two numbers cannot be bigger than the other is to repeat the statement that is to be proved. It is not correct in logic to prove something by saying it over again; that only works in politics, and even there it is usually considered desirable to repeat the proposition hundreds of times before considering it as definitely established.

— Carl E. Linderholm, "Mathematics Made Difficult"

(There are many more good quotes to be found in this book.)

comment by HonoreDB · 2010-12-06T05:41:04.388Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

The scared fighter may be the best fighter, but the scared learner is always a poor learner.

--John Holt

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2010-12-07T13:10:04.931Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Amusingly, the first time I read this I misread "scared" as "sacred." And it works either way.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-07T13:23:39.388Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Amusingly, the first time I read this I misread "scared" as "sacred." And it works either way.

And for an added twist I read it as "scarred"...

comment by Tiiba · 2010-12-15T15:51:53.278Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So what IS the best fighter?

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2010-12-15T22:40:27.810Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The scared sacred scarred fighter, it would seem.

comment by anonym · 2010-12-03T08:34:17.426Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-03T10:08:14.779Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

God is nowhere treated worse than by the natural scientists who believe in him. Materialists simply explain the facts, without making use of such phrases, they do this first when importunate pious believers try to force God upon them, and then they answer curtly, either like Laplace: Sire, je n’avais pas, etc., or more rudely in the manner of the Dutch merchants who, when German commercial travellers press their shoddy goods on them, are accustomed to turn them away with the words: Ik kan die zaken niet gebruiken [I have no use for the things] and that is the end of the matter: But what God has had to suffer at the hands of his defenders! In the history of modern natural science, God is treated by his defenders as Frederick William III was treated by his generals and officials in the Jena campaign. One division of the army after another lays down its arms, one fortress after another capitulates before the march of science, until at last the whole infinite realm of nature is conquered by science, and there is no place left in it for the Creator. Newton still allowed Him the “first impulse” but forbade Him any further interference ‘in his solar system. Father Secchi bows Him out of the solar system altogether, with all canonical honours it is true, but none the less categorically for all that, and he only allows Him a creative act as regards the primordial nebula. And so in all spheres. In biology, his last great Don Quixote, Agassiz, even ascribes positive nonsense to Him; He is supposed to have created not only the actual animals but also abstract animals, the fish as such! And finally Tyndall totally forbids Him any entry into nature and relegates Him to the world of emotional processes, only admitting Him because, after all, there must be somebody who knows more about all these things (nature) than John Tyndall! What a distance from the old God – the Creator of heaven and earth, the maintainer of all things – without whom not a hair can fall from the head!

~Frederick Engels, Notes and Fragments for Dialectics of Nature

comment by sfb · 2010-12-04T06:56:21.955Z · score: 7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

"To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune... to lose both seems like carelessness." - Oscar Wilde (though he didn't mean it to refer to cryonics).

[Edit: correction, thanks ciphergoth]

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2010-12-15T22:44:53.408Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Cryonics. Cryogenics is the science of making things cold.

comment by Divide · 2010-12-06T17:58:26.305Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the explanation, wouldn't have thought about it from this angle without it. It's pretty good when read in this way. Upvoted.

comment by AstroCJ · 2010-12-03T09:27:03.168Z · score: 7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

[EDIT: Found to be erroneous! Sorry!]

I don't feel frightened, not knowing things; I think it's much more interesting.

-Richard P. Feynman

comment by marxus · 2010-12-05T06:55:30.553Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Nice. Do you have a source for that? Google didn't come up with much.

comment by AstroCJ · 2010-12-05T11:00:12.157Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My source was http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Cd36WJ79z4 is an autotuned piece which includes footage of Feynman speaking those words, but it looks like it's from interviews with BBC's Horizon.

See under "Doubt and uncertainty":

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/broadband/archive/feynman/index_textonly.shtml

comment by AstroCJ · 2010-12-05T11:04:39.038Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Tch! And the transcript makes it plain that I have been fooled by video editing. I suggest then the following replacement:

"...I don't have to know an answer, I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious Universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is so far as I can tell. It doesn't frighten me." - RPF

comment by DSimon · 2010-12-03T08:05:15.133Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

| Theory and practice sometimes clash. And when that happens, theory loses. Every single time.

-- Linus Torvalds

comment by Peter_de_Blanc · 2010-12-03T10:48:22.639Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I felt a desire to argue against this quote, but of course a better idea would be to ask what it means.

I'm guessing that "practice" means "the way people are solving this problem now," while "theory" means "the study of what makes a problem-solving method good."

If theorists invent some method that they think is good, but which has already been rejected by practitioners, then I would guess that the theorists have a wrong notion of "good," and they should update their theory on the evidence. If the theorists invent a new method, then there is a chance that it is an improvement, and it may catch on.

comment by gerg · 2010-12-03T16:21:35.690Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

My first reading of this quote was essentially "the map loses to the terrain". I interpreted "theory" as "our beliefs" and "practice" as "reality".

comment by Peter_de_Blanc · 2010-12-03T21:45:03.464Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If your beliefs are defeated whenever they clash with reality, then you have attained a mastery of rationality that very few humans achieve. Torvalds' quote looks to me like an "is" statement rather than an "ought" statement, so I can't agree with your interpretation.

comment by David_Gerard · 2010-12-03T22:48:19.050Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

He's talking about the status of the code in question in his Linux tree, the one everyone in the world pulls from, so in that context he does in fact have the power to make his opinions reality ...

comment by Peter_de_Blanc · 2010-12-04T09:49:39.916Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

According to gerg's interpretation, you're saying that Torvalds' theory wins against practice, which contradicts Torvalds' statement.

comment by DSimon · 2010-12-06T14:18:37.604Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that quite jives. The situation seems to be the opposite: Torvalds' practice (the Linux code base, and its quite healthy community of contributors and users, who would be annoyed if ext4 programs stopped working suddenly) is winning against theory (the notion that the API policy of the Linux kernel should be revised more in favor of elegance over compatibility).

comment by Peter_de_Blanc · 2010-12-06T21:05:57.664Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've been assuming that this subthread is about gerg's interpretation. Are you claiming that interpretation is correct, and offering some clarification, or are you just offering a different interpretation?

comment by DSimon · 2010-12-07T18:03:07.319Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The former. Gerg's interpretation is about the map and the terrain, and it seems to me that "the actual codebase in its practical usage" associates closely with "the terrain", while "ideas/predictions about what would make the API more elegant" associates closely with "the map".

Tovalds doesn't have direct access to the reality of his users, but he does have direct access to the code they use.

comment by gerg · 2010-12-09T02:48:28.937Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting nuance. You have taken "loses" to mean "defeated", presumably leading to "and therefore updated"; I agree that this is by no means an automatic process. But I took "loses" to mean "is less accurate" (which of course makes my interpretation more tautological).

comment by David_Gerard · 2010-12-03T12:00:51.452Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Torvalds is an engineer applying engineer's thinking, and here "practice" means engineering. The context was problems with a particularly awful API that just wasn't fit for purpose, but which had twenty years' encrusted usage to work around. He was responding to an ext4 filesystem programmer who was complaining that KDE4 users suffering dataloss on ext4 just weren't using the bad API the way he thought they should, even though other filesystems did not exhibit the dataloss.

I must confess that, reading the email, I don't see how he derives the last line from what he's saying above ... it doesn't seem to follow from taking about a 20-years-encrusted SNAFU. Perhaps it does follow from a programmer demanding people use an API the way he thinks they should, rather than the way everyone conventionally had for two decades. Real-world use winning over abstractions of how things should be:

So rather than come up with new barriers that nobody will use, filesystem people should aim to make "badly written" code "just work" unless people are really really unlucky. Because like it or not, that's what 99% of all code is.

It is, however, a widely-quoted statement - it resonates with people somehow. This is not, of course, the same as constituting or being about rationality.

comment by DSimon · 2010-12-04T20:10:04.423Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's about rationality on the grounds that the filesystem programmer had lost sight of the necessity of winning; in this case, putting out code that actually works, rather than code that makes the programmer feel good.

It's painful to write clunky APIs, and pleasant to write elegant APIs... but that doesn't mean much if your elegant code would just be thrown away on release because everyone's already using the existing API.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-04T03:43:46.217Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If theorists invent some method that they think is good, but which has already been rejected by practitioners, then I would guess that the theorists have a wrong notion of "good," and they should update their theory on the evidence.

Practitioners can reject an idea for wrong reasons -- for example, because it seems weird and runs contrary to how things were always done.

comment by D_Alex · 2010-12-03T09:36:36.099Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think so. Many, many common practices would be improved by some properly applied theory.

comment by wiresnips · 2010-12-04T02:45:48.506Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"properly applied" qualifies it as practice

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2010-12-15T22:43:13.320Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In my experience, most people who say something like this mean "To hell with your longer-term thinking, look at the short-term success my short-term thinking has got me!"

comment by DSimon · 2010-12-15T22:54:06.105Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's a good point. However, Torvalds specifically has got some solid long-term success as well to his credit.

And in programming in particular, I think there's a lot to be said for avoiding elegance creep.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2010-12-15T22:57:52.715Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, but I think the same category contains his disdain for the "license purists" who criticized his choice of BitKeeper.

comment by DSimon · 2010-12-15T23:20:49.165Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the reference, I hadn't heard about that controversy before. Reading this article linked from that WP page reduces my respect for Torvalds a fair bit.

Luckily for everybody, though, the end result of the kerfluffle was the excellent git software.

comment by billswift · 2010-12-03T05:20:49.577Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

The brighter you are, the more you have to learn. -- Don Herold

I don't know the context of this, I came across it as a quote, but I can see two totally different interpretations, both true.

ADDED: Make that five interpretations.

The two I had in mind were:

Epistemic responsibility - you have an ethical obligation to learn because you can.

The more you have to learn - I don't know about you, but I am about as likely to stop learning as to stop breathing - I'm not likely to do either voluntarily.

comment by James_Miller · 2010-12-03T16:26:31.010Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why? I can see why there is a greater marginal value to putting more time into learning if you are bright, but why is there a higher marginal value of learning more if you are bright especially if, like almost everything else, there is eventually diminishing marginal returns to learning and bright people know more than not bright people.

comment by Snowyowl · 2010-12-03T22:06:21.126Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Bright people have more unanswered questions, maybe? You can't be pondering the Gibbs paradox without knowing much more about thermodynamics than I currently do.

comment by gjm · 2010-12-03T23:21:15.670Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Three interpretations.

  1. The brighter you are, the more there is for you to learn.
  2. The brighter you are, the more there is that you need to learn.
  3. The brighter you are, the more need there is for you to learn.

(I hadn't noticed #3 until I read James Miller's comment.)

comment by atucker · 2010-12-08T22:46:18.898Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Theories have four stages of acceptance. i) this is worthless nonsense; ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view, iii) this is true, but quite unimportant; iv) I always said so.

-- J.B.S. Haldane

comment by sfb · 2010-12-04T07:15:15.830Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

"The second suggestion is to think as well as to read. I know people who read and read, and for all the good it does them they might just as well cut bread-and-butter. They take to reading as better men take to drink. They fly through the shires of literature on a motor-car, their sole object being motion. They will tell you how many books they have read in a year.

Unless you give at least forty-five minutes to careful, fatiguing reflection (it is an awful bore at first) upon what you are reading, your ninety minutes of a night are chiefly wasted. This means that your pace will be slow.

Never mind. " - Arnold Bennett, How to Live on 24 hours per day.

comment by neq1 · 2010-12-04T03:10:53.629Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You have to realize that a great number of things are discussed in these proceedings that the mind just can't deal with, people are simply too tired and distracted, and by way of compensation they resort to superstition.

-- Kafka, The Trial

comment by MichaelGR · 2010-12-03T17:38:21.773Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

A small leak can sink a great ship.

-Benjamin Franklin

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-12-03T17:47:34.789Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

That reminds me: when I was little, there was a puzzle in a happy meal that said, "Rearrange these letters to spell something that can make a canoe sink: ELAK." The correct answer, of course, was "leak". I was upset, because my answer was "a elk". (And now that I think about it, if you draw this as a causal diagram, "lake" should be a valid answer too.)

comment by Benquo · 2010-12-03T20:12:07.298Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Well, strictly speaking, if you pile KALE high enough on your canoe, it will also cause it to sink due to excess weight. But that doesn't make KALE the best or most likely answer.

I do like your answer, though.

comment by Larks · 2010-12-03T18:25:55.054Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Clearly causality is secondary to grammar; had it been 'ELANK' you would have been right.

comment by Tiiba · 2010-12-03T18:49:52.934Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For some reason, I really like "a elk".

comment by TheOtherDave · 2010-12-03T17:53:29.052Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure what to make of the fact that "lake" was the answer that jumped out at me.

comment by MC_Escherichia · 2010-12-03T19:30:04.416Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That you are given three of the four letters for "lake" in correct, consecutive order.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-12-03T20:23:53.375Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't remember the original order of the letters in the puzzle, but it must have been constructed to make the intended answer not stand out.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-03T19:29:33.399Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That was my answer too.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-03T19:28:32.842Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The correct answer, of course, was "leak". I was upset, because my answer was "a elk".

But "a elk" has no meaning as a phrase! It's just an error. There's no 'n' so elks are out.

(My answer was lake btw.)

comment by MBlume · 2010-12-26T03:14:12.798Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.

Winston Churchhill

comment by David_Gerard · 2010-12-20T11:00:03.176Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Coping with radical novelty requires an orthogonal method. One must consider one's own past, the experiences collected, and the habits formed in it as an unfortunate accident of history, and one has to approach the radical novelty with a blank mind, consciously refusing to try to link it with what is already familiar, because the familiar is hopelessly inadequate. One has, with initially a kind of split personality, to come to grips with a radical novelty as a dissociated topic in its own right. Coming to grips with a radical novelty amounts to creating and learning a new foreign language that can not be translated into one's mother tongue. (Any one who has learned quantum mechanics knows what I am talking about.) Needless to say, adjusting to radical novelties is not a very popular activity, for it requires hard work. For the same reason, the radical novelties themselves are unwelcome.

comment by HonoreDB · 2010-12-15T09:51:22.458Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain.

--J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-12-15T10:34:22.830Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I can't help but ask whether you've ever found this advice personally useful, and if so, how.

comment by MBlume · 2010-12-15T21:53:27.567Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Actually my first thought upon reading that was "follow the improbability" -- be suspicious of elements of your world-model that seem particularly well optimized in some direction if you can't see the source of the optimization pressure.

comment by Nentuaby · 2010-12-18T02:12:32.743Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

A much more concrete example is cloud computing. Granted, computers don't "think," but it's a close enough analogy.

You must always keep in mind that there is no magic "cloud"- only concrete machines that other people own and keep hidden from you. People who might have very different ideas than you on such matters, as for example, privacy rights.

comment by xamdam · 2010-12-15T10:50:02.717Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Never trust another computational agent unless you can see its source code?

comment by Larks · 2010-12-15T16:28:46.969Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Telemarketers.

comment by bcoburn · 2010-12-15T21:24:39.878Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The reasonable way to interpret this seems to be "don't trust something you don't understand/cannot predict." Not sure how seeing where it keeps its brain helps with that, though.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-15T13:40:36.207Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Never trust other thinking beings if you don't know the location of their intelligence center so that you can destroy it if necessary?

comment by waitingforgodel · 2010-12-15T11:33:18.456Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Never trust anyone unless you're talking in person? :p

comment by HonoreDB · 2010-12-15T22:33:52.383Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is the allusion I had in mind, but actually I've had occasion to quote this when talking about corporations and similar institutions. If an organization doesn't keep its brain inside a human skull (and I'm sure some do), it seems guaranteed to make bizarre decisions. Anthropomorphizing corporations can be a dangerous mistake (certainly has been for me more than once).

comment by topynate · 2010-12-15T14:13:53.023Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Talking to Clippy? As in, I don't.

comment by Clippy · 2010-12-15T16:44:41.171Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why not?

comment by ata · 2010-12-15T15:59:03.480Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That is racist against entities that think with things other than what we'd call brains.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-16T10:16:06.517Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That is racist against entities that think with things other than what we'd call brains.

Don't you mean sexist? ;)

comment by nshepperd · 2010-12-18T02:44:06.433Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Come now, that was below the belt.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-15T16:51:49.603Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It isn't racist, it's realistic. If an entity thinks with something that we don't even call a brain, we shouldn't trust it because we have no way of knowing its motivations.

Clippy is a perfect example. How can I trust it to be a paperclip maximizer rather than an entity that claims to be a paperclip maximizer? (Over 50% of the LessWrong members, I estimate, do not) If Clippy were human, I would be able to easily assess whether or not it is telling the truth (in this particular instance, the answer would probably be "no", because most humans I know do not make very good paperclip maximizers). If Clippy is not human, then I have no way to judge which points in mindspace make its actions most likely.

comment by ata · 2010-12-15T17:28:28.199Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

It isn't racist, it's realistic. If an entity thinks with something that we don't even call a brain, we shouldn't trust it because we have no way of knowing its motivations.

Yes, but it says "never trust", not "don't trust by default". It should be possible for non-brain-based beings to demonstrate their trustworthiness.

Edit: Also, you can't spell "REALISTIC" without "RACIST LIE". Proof by anagram. So there.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-16T10:26:09.605Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but it says "never trust", not "don't trust by default". It should be possible for non-brain-based beings to demonstrate their trustworthiness.

If we were going to be technical we'd have to start by considering whether or not race is involved at all. It is potentially prejudiced, but not racist.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2010-12-15T17:04:20.394Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Talk about underconfidence!

I estimate a 99.9+% likelihood that nobody on this site trusts Clippy to be a paperclip maximizer.

In fact, I'm pretty much incorrigible on this point... that is, I estimate the likelihood that people will mis-state their beliefs about Clippy to be significantly higher than the likelihood that they actually trust Clippy to be a paperclip maximizer.

I do understand that this is epistemicly problematic, and I sort of wish it weren't so... I don't like to enter incorrigible states... but there it is.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-15T19:20:09.583Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What is your estimation of the likelihood that I was understating my beliefs about Clippy?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2010-12-15T20:56:11.091Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You haven't actually stated any beliefs about Clippy; you stated a belief about the readership of Less Wrong.

Regarding your beliefs about Clippy: as I said, I am incorrigibly certain that you believe Clippy to be human.

As for the likelihood that you were understating your beliefs about LW readers... hm. I don't have much of a model of you, but treating LW-members as a reference class, I'd give that ~85% confidence.

The remaining ~15% is mostly that you weren't understating them so much as not bothering to think explicitly about them at all, and used "over 50%" as a generic cached formula for "more confident than not." Arguably that's a distinction that makes no difference.

I estimate the likelihood that you actually disagree with me about LW readers, upon thinking about it, as ~0%.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-16T10:18:54.761Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It isn't racist, it's realistic.

That category of things that we call racist does not exclude things simply because they are realistic. Political correctness isn't about being fair.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-16T18:34:45.295Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would actually call a statement racist if it's primarily justified by racism (in which case it will be realistic only if it happens to be so accidentally). Since "racist" has a lot of negative connotations, it isn't useful to call something racist if you plan to agree with it, and therefore if I had to make a racially-based realistic statement, I'd call it something dumb like a racially-based realistic statement.

comment by Clippy · 2010-12-15T16:46:56.440Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Or a suggestion to generalize the concept of a "brain" for non-biological intelligences, such as paperclip maximizers.

comment by Nic_Smith · 2010-12-11T22:15:29.904Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I swear, if I write a column saying it was a beautiful day yesterday, I'll get at least two letters informing me that it wasn't a nice day for the people starving in Bangladesh, and if I wasn't such a heartless son of a bitch who only thinks about himself, I'd realize that and stop talking about the weather, so I should do everyone a favor and kill myself. -- Tom Naughton

comment by RichardKennaway · 2010-12-08T10:43:26.527Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I prefer the company of peasants because they have not been educated sufficiently to reason incorrectly.

Montaigne

comment by shokwave · 2010-12-08T15:18:14.051Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Strikes a blow against education as the source of reason, but also strikes a blow against reason requiring training. Ambivalent.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-05-05T00:38:08.313Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Or it means that people who acquire knowledge and reasoning skills practically are better than those who have been taught it by authority without needing to test it. (If we assume peasant to include intelligent and competent people in their fields like blacksmiths, officers etc; and education to be primarily rote learning of classics.)

comment by Hurt · 2010-12-03T17:05:30.050Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know if this quote has already shown up, but it's one of my favorites.

"Consider this: You are the architect of your own imprisonment."

-- Macros the Black (from Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar Saga)

comment by Jordan · 2010-12-03T21:37:30.984Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

There is no governor anywhere; you are all absolutely free.

Robert Anton Wilson, The Trick Top Hat

comment by gwern · 2010-12-12T03:29:57.604Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"What did other people's deaths or a mother's love matter to me; what did his God or the lives people choose or the fate they think they elect matter to me when we're all elected by the same fate, me and billions of privileged people like him who also called themselves my brothers? Couldn't he see, couldn't he see that?

Everybody was privileged. There were only privileged people. The others would all be condemned one day. And he would be condemned, too."

--Albert Camus, The Stranger

comment by DSimon · 2010-12-03T08:14:26.663Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

| "Why did I do that?" I asked.

-- The Poet Who Is Odd, Knapsack Poems by Elanor Arnason

comment by Snowyowl · 2010-12-03T22:00:28.027Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The mind boggles as to what he has actually done that is so strange on reflection.

Gentlemen, behold! I have made love to this machine! And now, upon retrospect, I ask why?

-- Dr. Weird, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force*

comment by DSimon · 2010-12-04T20:01:02.262Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If you're curious, please read the story; it's short, and interesting! Actually, let me just spoil the premise now because I think it's neat and suspect other people will as well.

Knapsack Poems is about an alien race called the goxhat, in which each "person" consists of around 10 individuals, of varying gender. There's no telepathy or anything cheap like that, it's just a cornerstone cultural meme for the goxhat.

So when The Poet Who Is Odd asks themself "Why did I do that?", it's not rhetorical. Arguing with oneself is not uncommon.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2010-12-04T20:48:39.137Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

It's not necessarily rhetorical even for actual people in the real world. At least, I often find that when I ask myself questions and answer them out loud (or in writing), I get surprising answers. (Arguing with myself is not uncommon.)

Also, you might enjoy Vinge's Fire Upon the Deep.

comment by gwern · 2010-12-12T03:22:41.287Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"How can I know what I think until I see what I say?"

--E. M. Forster

(Strongly second the Vinge recommendation.)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2010-12-12T04:52:46.960Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I quote that quote a lot.

comment by Snowyowl · 2010-12-04T21:42:43.568Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting... After reading Three Worlds Collide, I've developed a taste for stories involving aliens that are... well, alien. I skimmed that section of the story, but I apparently didn't pick up on enough. Thanks for the recommendation!

comment by JK_Ravenclaw · 2010-12-18T18:17:53.845Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"A man has free choice to the extent that he is rational." -- St. Thomas Aquinas

comment by JK_Ravenclaw · 2010-12-18T18:17:47.211Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Knowledge is a continuous fabric, in which ideas are connected to other ideas. Reason-free zones, in which people can assert arbitrary beliefs safe from ordinary standards of evaluation, can only corrupt this fabric, just as a contradiction can corrupt a system of logic, allowing falsehoods to proliferate through it." -- Steven Pinker

comment by JK_Ravenclaw · 2010-12-18T18:17:25.836Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear." -- Bertrand Russell

comment by JK_Ravenclaw · 2010-12-18T18:17:13.506Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Reality contains not only evidence, but also the means (such as our minds, and our artefacts) of understanding it. There are mathematical symbols in physical reality. The fact that it is we who put them there does not make them any less physical." -- David Deutsch

comment by JK_Ravenclaw · 2010-12-18T18:16:21.239Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"If one devalues rationality, the world tends to fall apart" -- Lars von Trier

comment by ActaNonVerba · 2010-12-04T10:27:43.277Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." Henry David Thoreau

comment by shokwave · 2010-12-04T16:39:08.297Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

But be careful of writing your conclusion first!

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-04T11:31:46.148Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Wait... I can read that two ways and they are both worth a quote - for entirely different reasons.

comment by ActaNonVerba · 2010-12-04T10:27:25.824Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Even though it is a path of 1,000 miles, you walk one step at a time. Consider this well." - Miyamoto Musashi

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2010-12-03T18:06:42.231Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

Max Planck

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-03T19:43:00.684Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

p(double post | a quote is awesome and relevant) = 0.87

Which way do I need to update?

comment by MartinB · 2010-12-04T03:06:50.499Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The quotes idea is pretty much wrong. And sadly sometimes used as an argument against life extension.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-04T04:33:16.019Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It took me a few minutes to see what you meant there. I read 'quotes' as a simple plural. Which leads to a parsing of your first sentence as a position of some merit purely by accident.

And sadly sometimes used as an argument against life extension.

Really? Well, I suppose that would actually make sense according to a certain not-outright-insane value system.

comment by MartinB · 2010-12-04T11:13:00.997Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Really?

It would be bad even if the premise were true. Then the pure idea of 'yeah, we have to let you all die because otherwise all the shiny new ideas would not prosper' is so much out of proportion. Most people do not even work in idea maintaining, but do pretty mundane jobs, or moonlight as grandparents.

Over time I notice the occasional instance of ageism in young people. It is very easy to ignore collected experiences of others, and in some cases bad. It would be awesome to have people still around that lived through history. Instead each generation to some degree forgets what was before.

It hurts me each time someone (my age or younger) claims how he does not care about history at all, because -

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-04T11:34:10.220Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Over time I notice the occasional instance of ageism in young people.

And in middle aged people and old people too. :)

comment by shokwave · 2010-12-04T16:45:27.408Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The premise is true and generally accepted as such; a slightly more formal treatment was given by Kuhn, but it amounts roughly to "new scientists produce advancements, old scientists stick to dogma, the status of oldies is so powerful they have to die or retire for advancements to prosper."

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2010-12-15T22:47:07.062Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Shortly after "Structure of Scientific Revolutions", there was a paradigm shift in geology: plate tectonics. Which went from fringe to scientific consensus in, as I understand it, well under a decade thanks to overwhelming evidence. Did unusually many geologists die that decade?

comment by MartinB · 2010-12-04T17:02:02.913Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I hope there have been some changes in the way scientists work since the 1960s. Also I hope that it depends on the specific field.

As a conclusion of the initial argument one could add time limits to tenure, but please lets not argue for killing off scientists justs for being to old.

comment by soreff · 2010-12-04T23:21:03.618Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

time limits to tenure

Nice way to put it! To phrase it another way:

To argue in favor of mortality because of fears of entrenched conservatives is to demand capital punishment where term limits would suffice.

comment by MartinB · 2010-12-05T02:30:53.430Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you!

Try to get someone to put it in these words. Usually no one demands the killing of professors, or even mentions how he likes to have old people die from neglect.

If someone boldly states that he wants all these old people to die to free up space, or what ever, than you probably found a person you do not actually want to have a discussion with.

comment by MartinB · 2010-12-05T02:35:36.834Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I hope there have been some changes in the way scientists work since the 1960s.

I completely forgot about a very important point. When rejuvenation actually works, then it might also make the brain work better, younger and so on. If it is true, that great scientists do their most important work before reaching age X, then after a rejuvenation they might be able to do even more with their good as new brain + more experience. Then it would not be a matter of getting rid of holders of old ideas, but find a way to deal with people that have an unreachable time advantage, that cannot be made up. It would be good for society to keep experienced mind in work.

comment by Perplexed · 2010-12-04T18:53:03.579Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No real need to kill them off, as long as new ones are being born. Unanimity is nice, but simple majorities can usually get the job done.

As for your time limits idea, I might go further, and send everybody back to school to get a new PhD every 100 years: in a new field, at a different school, in a different language.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-05T17:18:26.663Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You're only going to give me 100 years to study mathematics, uninterrupted?

B-b-but! That's nowhere near enough time!

comment by MartinB · 2010-12-04T19:35:14.636Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am happy to see how it will turn out

comment by shokwave · 2010-12-04T17:40:17.996Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This might be the answer you are looking for.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-12-05T03:28:52.739Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Kuhn did not say that. His notion of paradigm advancement had a lot to do with a lot of other things. His canonical example of paradigm change (the Copernican revolution) had people actively changing their minds even in his narrative. And there are a lot of problems with his story of how things went, see for example this essay.

Furthermore, in many other shifts where new theories came into play, the overall trend happened with many old people accepting the new theory. Thus for example, Einstein's special relativity was accepted by many older physicists.

comment by zombiefeynman · 2010-12-06T16:35:00.989Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

...While Einstein himself rejected quantum mechanics!

(And, yes, I'm aware of the philosophical glitches in the Copenhagen Interpretation. But Einstein refused to accept QM on principle, and I'm not sure any evidence could have convinced him, which is rather poor form for one of the greatest thinkers of all time.)

comment by Manfred · 2010-12-06T17:05:19.364Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is probably wrong. If Einstein were transported to today we could almost certainly convince him of the correctness of quantum mechanics. Not only that, the guy did a lot of important quantum mechanics research, which should suggest that it's not as simple as "he rejected it." Wikipedia says that he initially thought matrix mechanics was wrong, but became convinced of it when it was shown to be equivalent to the Schroedinger forumulation.

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2010-12-07T23:13:10.358Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not only that, the guy did a lot of important quantum mechanics research, which should suggest that it's as simple as "he rejected it."

You are probably right on with this comment, but I think I may have misunderstood you on one point. Did you mean "it's not as simple as 'he rejected it.' "? The way it is now looks like it contradicts the rest of the post.

Also, I recall that Einstein did change his mind at least one important point, the existence of the "cosmological constant." So that implies he wasn't especially close-minded.

comment by Manfred · 2010-12-08T19:05:43.292Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hah, yes. Typos strike again. Fixed.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-04T11:28:32.125Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It hurts me each time someone (my age or younger) claims how he does not care about history at all, because -

because - there are not enough elves and wizardesses in that genre of story?

comment by MartinB · 2010-12-04T12:14:21.210Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No. It is more a case of 'history is old stuff, that happened a long time ago, is done & over with, and does not matter any more'. Why care about the past when so much is happening right now.

I do not think the way history is dealt with is that much better, to some degree visiting historic museums or sites is just signaling.

comment by shokwave · 2010-12-04T17:28:39.150Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I do not think the way history is dealt with is that much better, to some degree visiting historic museums or sites is just signaling.

That is basically the concept behind 'costly signalling', that people will pay time and money to visit a museum in order to signal, and in doing so accidentally learn something about history.

comment by MartinB · 2010-12-04T19:41:41.782Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

thx for the reminder

comment by RichardKennaway · 2010-12-04T07:19:22.063Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

And sadly sometimes used as an argument against life extension.

Really?

Yes.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2010-12-03T22:59:20.474Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ooops. To redeem my tarnished honor, I propose an algorithmic solution to the duplicate quote problem: a full list of quotes indexed by author (of the quote). Checking to see if a quote has already been posted would then be a fast operation.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-04T03:51:02.953Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Your honour remains intact! I predicted that the quote had been used, based primarily on how much I like it. Google didn't find it in a quotes thread. I suppose that would mean my honour is tarnished. How much honour does one lose by assigning greater than 0.5 probability to something that turns out to be incorrect. Is there some kind of algorithm for that? ;)

comment by DanielLC · 2010-12-04T04:50:35.894Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You add the log of the probability you gave for what happened, so add ln(1-0.87) = -2.04 honor. Unfortunately, there's no way to make it go up, and it's pretty much guaranteed to go down a lot.

Just don't assign anything a probability of 0. If you're wrong, you lose infinite honor.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-04T04:54:27.637Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I like it, but that 'no way to make it go up' is a problem. It feels like we should have some sort of logarithmic representation of honour too, allowing for increasing honour if you get something right, mostly when your honour is currently low.

To what extent do we want 'honour' to be a measure of calibration and to what extent a measure of predictive power?

comment by nshepperd · 2010-12-05T06:56:09.132Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A naive suggestion could be to take log(x) - log(p), where p is the probability given by MAXENT. That is, honor is how much better you do than the "completely uninformed" maximal entropy predictor. This would enable better-than-average predictors to make their honor go up.

This of course has the shortcoming that maximal entropy may not be practical to actually calculate in many situations. It also may or may not produce incentives to strategically make certain predictions and not others. I haven't analysed that very much.

comment by DanielLC · 2010-12-05T06:25:48.310Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I can't remember the Post I got that from. It wasn't talking about honor.

This is the only possible system in which you're rewarded most for giving the answers accurately, and your honor remains the same regardless of how you count it. For example, predicting A and B loses the same honor as predicting A and predicting B given A.

Technically, you can use a different log base, but that just amounts to a scaling factor.

comment by Mass_Driver · 2010-12-04T08:51:43.335Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I like it, but that 'no way to make it go up' is a problem.

I agree; the typical human brain balks and runs away when faced with a scale of merit whose max-point is 0.

To what extent do we want 'honour' to be a measure of calibration and to what extent a measure of predictive power?

Yes.

In other words, my honor as an epistemic rationalist should be a mix of calibration and predictive power. An amusing but arbitrary formula might be just to give yourself 2x honor when your binary prediction with probability x comes true and to dock yourself ln (1-x) honor when it doesn't. If you make 20 predictions each at p = 0.5, 0.55, 0.6, 0.65, 0.7, 0.75, 0.8, 0.85, 0.9, and 0.95 for a total of 200 predictions a day and you are perfectly calibrated, you would expect to lose about 3.4 honor each day.

There's gotta be a way to fix this so that a perfectly calibrated person would gain a tiny amount of honor each day rather than lose it. It might not be elegant, though. Got any ideas?

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-04T09:48:59.385Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree; the typical human brain balks and runs away when faced with a scale of merit whose max-point is 0.

Zero does seem more appropriate either as a minimum or a midpoint. If everything is going to be negative then flip it around and say 'less is good'! But the main problem I have with only losing honor based on making predictions is that it essentially rewards never saying anything of importance that could be contradicted. That sounds a bit too much like real life for some reason. ;)

There's gotta be a way to fix this so that a perfectly calibrated person would gain a tiny amount of honor each day rather than lose it. It might not be elegant, though. Got any ideas?

The tricky part is not so much making up the equations but in determining what criteria to rate the scale against. We would inevitably be injecting something arbitrary.

comment by DanielLC · 2010-12-05T06:29:16.213Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You're supposed to have a probability for everything. The closest you can do to not guessing is give every possibility equal probabilities, in which case you'd lose honor even faster than normal.

You could give yourself honor equal to the square of the probability you gave, but that means you'd have incentive to phrase it in as many questions possible. After all, if you gave a single probability for what happens for your entire life, you couldn't get more than one point of honor. With the system I mentioned first, you'd lose exactly the same honor.

comment by shokwave · 2010-12-04T04:04:51.708Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Honour I don't know about; I feel like any honour lost you could gain back by giving us a costly signal that you are recalibrating. But it does let us determine how badly calibrated you are, and then we can make judgements like pr(wedrifid is wrong | wedrifid is badly calibrated).

:P

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-04T04:18:47.349Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Particularly when the 'prediction' was largely my way of complimenting the quote in a non-boring way. :P

I was actually relieved when I didn't found it wasn't in the quotes thread. I wasn't sure what I would update to if it was a double post. Slightly upward, only a little - there were too many complications. I can even imagine lowering p(double post | a quote is awesome and relevant) based finding that the instance is, in fact, a double post. (If the probability is particularly high and the underlying reasoning was such that I expected comments of that level of awesome to have been reposted half a dozen times.)

The tricky part now is not to prevent my intuitive expectation from updating too much. I've paid particular attention to this instance so by default I would expect my intuitions to base to much on the single case.

comment by sketerpot · 2010-12-05T06:19:25.185Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The hard part would then be making that list algorithmically. An easier algorithmic method would be to do approximate string matches with previous quote threads, using something like the Smith-Waterman algorithm for pairwise local sequence alignment. This is what biologists do when they have a gene sequence and want to know if something like it is already in the databases, and there's no reason why the method shouldn't also apply just as well to English text.

The way this would look to users is just a text box where you paste in the quote, and it'll tell you if the quote has been posted before. Even easier to use than a full list of quotes.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-03T19:55:33.297Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Which way do I need to update?

Actually, I'm not sure. "Max Plank" isn't mention in a quotes thread. It does have an sequence post essentially dedicated to it and references elsewhere in posts.

Let's see. About:

p(double post | a quote is awesome and relevant) = 0.82

I have updated p(quote is in the quotes section | quote is discussed on the site) and p(quote is attributed) somewhat too.

(And, pre-emptively, I do feel comfortable providing two digits of precision. Not because I have excessive confidence in my ability to quantise my subjective judgements but rather because using significant figures as a method of communicating confidence or accuracy is a terrible idea.)

comment by Jack · 2010-12-03T20:25:45.785Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And, pre-emptively, I do feel comfortable providing two digits of precision. Not because I have excessive confidence in my ability to quantise my subjective judgements but rather because using significant figures as a method of communicating confidence or accuracy is a terrible idea.

This seems right but I'm not sure why. Can you articulate your reasons?

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-04T04:47:19.745Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Let's see. I need to purge my conclusion cache. (What's the name for Eliezer's post on not asking 'why' but asking 'if'? I definitely needed to apply that.)

Yes, approximately what FAWS said. If I know I'm only accurate plus or minus 0.1 and the value I calculate is 0.75 then it would be silly to round off to 0.8. Compressing the two pieces of information (number and precision) into one number is just lossy. It can become a problem when writing say, 100 too. Although that can technically be avoided by always using scientific notation.

comment by FAWS · 2010-12-03T20:53:26.177Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not wedrifid, but you needlessly lose some small amount of information. The digits after the last significant one still are your best bet for the actual value, so you systematically do worse than you could.

comment by anonym · 2010-12-03T08:25:36.044Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The value of a problem is not so much coming up with the answer as in the ideas and attempted ideas it forces on the would be solver.

— Yitz Herstein

comment by anonym · 2010-12-03T08:19:46.172Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I reckon that for all the use it has been to science about four-fifths of my time has been wasted, and I believe this to be the common lot of people who are not merely playing follow-my-leader in research.

— Peter Medawar

comment by Jordan · 2010-12-03T21:45:33.895Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Up voted, although I think 'wasted' is a bit harsh. I would call lost time to unsuccessful research a necessary cost. If we all knew exactly which problems to study and which approaches to use it wouldn't be research, it would be divination.

comment by anonym · 2010-12-04T04:19:56.700Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I read the quote not as saying that four-fifths of his time had no value at all but that so-called 'wasted' time is a necessary part of the research process and actually does have value.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-04T03:02:49.301Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As seen elsewhere in this thread, Nietzsche disagrees.

comment by JamesAndrix · 2010-12-03T05:03:27.880Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"Today I will question my own confusion."

From Today I Will Nourish My Inner Martyr - Affirmations for Cynics by Ann Thornhill & Sarah Wells

comment by RobinZ · 2010-12-25T00:26:32.296Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I apologize if this is a duplicate, for I cannot find it with the search bar:

What are the facts? Again and again and again — what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what "the stars foretell," avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable "verdict of history" — what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!

Time Enough for Love (1973) or The Notebooks of Lazarus Long (1978), Robert A. Heinlein

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-12-14T12:25:42.212Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

To learn to write well is to pursue a connection between your facility with language and the content, intellectual and otherwise, of your character. I do not mean by this that people who cannot write well have no character or that writing is the only way in which people can show their character. I mean, simply, that you cannot write well if you do not make this connection, because not to make it is to fail, as a writer, in holding yourself accountable for the quality of your own thinking. Or, to put it another way, it is to fail to take your own intellect seriously. As a teacher, primarily of writing but also of literature, I measure my success not in how many A’s or B’s I give out—since grades reflect the surface of learning, not necessarily its quality—but in whether my students have begun to take on the responsibility not simply of having ideas, but of having the audacity, because we lie to our students if we do not acknowledge that it takes courage, to attempt to communicate those ideas in words compelling enough to command a reader’s attention above and beyond the fact that they were written in response to a classroom assignment…. As writers, we exercise this responsibility—we hold ourselves accountable—most obviously through the process of revision. In order for revision to be meaningful, however, in order for revision even to be possible, a writer must have a sufficient stake in what she or he is attempting to revise that the work of seeing it anew feels both worthwhile and necessary.

---Richard Jeffrey Newman

comment by RyanW · 2010-12-11T01:19:55.608Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

“Complexity is a symptom of confusion, not a cause.” - Jeff Hawkins

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-11T02:15:52.162Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Lies! I use complexity to cause confusion in my opponents all the time!

comment by RichardKennaway · 2010-12-08T10:44:11.489Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So it is with minds. Unless you keep them busy with some definite subject that will bridle and control them, they throw themselves in disorder hither and yon in the vague field of imagination... And there is no mad or idle fancy that they do not bring forth in the agitation.

Montaigne

comment by RichardKennaway · 2010-12-06T06:55:55.804Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The key to getting a reputation for being brilliant is actually being brilliant, not just acting like you are.

Seth Godin

comment by shokwave · 2010-12-06T12:33:43.299Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Whatever happened to 'fake it till you make it'?

comment by RichardKennaway · 2010-12-06T12:40:04.286Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Duelling quotes!

For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.

Aristotle

We learn an art or craft by doing the things that we shall have to do when we have learnt it

Another translation

comment by GeorgieChaos · 2010-12-24T05:50:50.350Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My experience in the circus bears this out.

To learn to juggle you have someone tell you what your mind and hands need to do when juggling, and you throw the balls in the direction you know they need to go, and you keep doing it (being corrected as often as you can find a better juggler) until you stop dropping them and can keep your pattern solid indefinitely.

To learn to handstand you get upside down do whatever you can to find out what balancing feels like. You can't feel it unless you're doing it.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-06T08:36:00.359Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

How cute. Also, on a related note:

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake
Oh, you better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Clause is coming to town

ie. I think the quote is unhealthily idealistic. An exhortation for good behaviour by means of conveying a false model of reality.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-12-20T07:44:04.550Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

HPMOR demonstrates:

1) People usually don't recognize faked genius as faked when they see it; they don't realize what's missing from "genius" characters in their fiction.

2) However, if you then show them real genius, they can recognize it as new, different, better, and important (though they may not realize what the added ingredient was).

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-20T07:53:05.886Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This applies to stereotypical fiction 'genius' when compared to an actually clever fictional character. Yet I'm not so sure it applies to gaining real world reputation. In many fields it can be demonstrated that being recognized as a brilliant expert is not actually strongly correlated with domain performance but instead determined by social factors.

If you want to get a reputation for being brilliant gain a solid baseline proficiency in an area and then actually become brilliant at politics. Or, of course, choose one of the few fields where objective performance is hard to hide from.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2010-12-06T09:12:59.562Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I knew you'd react to it that way.

I disagree.

comment by gwern · 2010-12-12T03:43:09.670Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I knew you'd react to it that way.

Sure, but unless you registered it beforehand at somewhere like http://predictionbook.com/, I'm afraid it doesn't count. Sorry! Maybe next time.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-06T10:01:13.007Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I knew you'd react to it that way.

You were thinking of me as you wrote that? I'm flattered. :)

comment by RichardKennaway · 2010-12-06T12:14:24.157Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Depends on what I was thinking. :-)

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-07T05:16:33.455Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Surprisingly enough it doesn't.

comment by katydee · 2010-12-06T01:59:53.095Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"The proper, wise balancing of one's whole life may depend upon the feasibility of a cup of tea at an unusual hour."

--Arnold Bennett, How to Live on 24 Hours Per Day

comment by David_Gerard · 2010-12-06T08:51:50.282Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Heh. I got to that line in the book and promptly tweeted it.

comment by sfb · 2010-12-04T07:18:49.057Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"they have attained [happiness] by realising that happiness does not spring from the procuring of physical or mental pleasure, but from the development of reason and the adjustment of conduct to principles.

Now, shall I blush, or will you?

Do not fear that I mean to thrust certain principles upon your attention. I care not (in this place) what your principles are. Your principles may induce you to believe in the righteousness of burglary. I don't mind. All I urge is that a life in which conduct does not fairly well accord with principles is a silly life; and that conduct can only be made to accord with principles by means of daily examination, reflection, and resolution. What leads to the permanent sorrowfulness of burglars is that their principles are contrary to burglary. If they genuinely believed in the moral excellence of burglary, penal servitude would simply mean so many happy years for them; all martyrs are happy, because their conduct and their principles agree.

As for reason (which makes conduct, and is not unconnected with the making of principles), it plays a far smaller part in our lives than we fancy. We are supposed to be reasonable but we are much more instinctive than reasonable. And the less we reflect, the less reasonable we shall be. The next time you get cross with the waiter because your steak is over-cooked, ask reason to step into the cabinet-room of your mind, and consult her. She will probably tell you that the waiter did not cook the steak, and had no control over the cooking of the steak; and that even if he alone was to blame, you accomplished nothing good by getting cross; you merely lost your dignity, looked a fool in the eyes of sensible men, and soured the waiter, while producing no effect whatever on the steak. " - Arnold Bennett, How to Live on 24 hours per day.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-04T16:23:00.231Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If they genuinely believed in the moral excellence of burglary, penal servitude would simply mean so many happy years for them; all martyrs are happy, because their conduct and their principles agree.

That sounds all deep and wise... until you observe that it seems to be an arbitrary redefinition of 'happy', redefinition of 'genuinely believe in the moral excellence' or blatantly wrong as a matter of fact. The accuracy of the claim doesn't seem to be an important part of the intent, that is, it is bullshit.

Other parts of the excerpt are not bad - that part is just a point that people often try to take too far. The benefits of internal coherence and happiness are not tautological. Not even close.

comment by Miller · 2010-12-04T04:33:09.353Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member." -- Groucho Marx

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-12-08T02:56:30.414Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This may be funny but the actual context makes it a) less rationalist and b) a bit sad. There's some argument that he was actually talking about the standard at the time that Jews couldn't have any access to the trendier clubs.

comment by Miller · 2010-12-11T16:59:36.333Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting -- below I give the wikipedia take on it.

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Groucho_Marx

I sent the club a wire stating, "PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON'T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER".

Telegram to the Friar's Club of Beverly Hills to which he belonged, as recounted in Groucho and Me (1959), p. 321

Groucho sent the quote to a club which he was a member of, that was founded by a Jew. I can see how one could infer an ironic reference to antisemitism from that. Interesting that the quote as often paraphrased drops the 'people like me' part.

comment by simplicio · 2010-12-08T01:44:29.387Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's funny, but NO NO NO! This is exactly why rationalists suck at forming socially cohesive groups! :)

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-08T02:21:33.754Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That doesn't seem all that likely to me. It would seem somewhat more likely if the quote was 'will not'...

comment by Miller · 2010-12-04T04:37:30.277Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I rather immediately decided to see if this had been posted before. Google indexed this comment within 2 minutes.

comment by Tuna-Fish · 2010-12-07T01:35:51.793Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This site uses the google custom search (see sidebar), and it provides a feature for on-demand indexing. I suppose it shares the index it makes with google proper.

alongandunlikelystringtotesthypothesis

comment by Tuna-Fish · 2010-12-07T01:41:18.242Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So far, this has been a failure -- the test string still isn't found by google, and the previous post doesn't even show up in the custom search yet.

Had to stop polling because google now thinks I'm a bot.

comment by Perplexed · 2010-12-07T01:47:53.564Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I found the posting easily enough by searching "google custom search lesswrong". Try your experiment again using a shorter string.

comment by gwern · 2010-12-12T03:40:44.134Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Imagine my surprise when I once added a reference to a Wikipedia and 20 seconds later googled it to see whether I missed anything - and that WP article was prominent in the hits.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-04T04:49:41.591Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Google does seem to love this site! (I wonder if Google has specialised technology in place for handling reddit based sites.)

comment by AlanCrowe · 2010-12-03T20:00:31.365Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

History of science is good stuff -- economists should try it some time. Once you start looking it's usually pretty easy to appreciate the wry maxim that scientific advances are usually named for the last person to "discover" them, not the first.

figleaf

comment by soreff · 2010-12-24T23:45:01.156Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

the combination of compliant human + distress call is something of a universal tool, all the cat needs to do is identify there is a problem, then meow until the human makes it go away.

-Nestor

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-12-18T00:44:53.247Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

“No choice. At. All. When you feel instead of think, there is little room for choice.”

-- Ravel Puzzlewell in Planescape: Torment

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-18T02:35:10.318Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Even when I feel ambivalent?

comment by gwern · 2010-12-12T03:14:33.045Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"I thought a little [while in the isolation tank], and then I stopped thinking altogether. … incredible how idleness of body leads to idleness of mind. After two days, I’d turned into an idiot. That’s the reason why, during a flight, astronauts are always kept busy."

Oriana Fallaci as quoted in Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon, by Craig Nelson, which cites 'Fallici, Oriana If the Sun Dies. New York. Atheneum, 1967', seen on http://www.johndcook.com/blog/2010/12/11/after-two-days-id-turned-into-an-idiot/

comment by apophenia · 2010-12-09T18:54:18.745Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

Arthur Schopenhauer

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2010-12-15T22:53:47.756Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I hate that quote; it's completely backwards and depends entirely on selection effect.

Many ideas accepted as self-evident, both true and false, are first violently opposed. Many ideas violently opposed are first ridiculed. However, most ridiculed ideas stay ridiculed, and most violently opposed ideas stay violently opposed.

Similarly: If you win, before that they probably fought you. If they fight you, before that they probably laughed at you. And if they laugh at you, before that they probably ignored you.

comment by ata · 2010-12-15T23:36:34.686Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

True, but the quote itself doesn't contradict that. (Though, certainly, a lot of people do misuse quotes like that in the wrong direction to claim that (e.g.) they are right because they are being ridiculed, or that they will win because they are being ignored or laughed at.)

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2010-12-16T07:45:39.196Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The only reason I have ever heard anyone say such a thing is when their ideas are not accepted as being self-evident (they haven't won) and they want to suggest that the opposition they are currently facing is simply one step in a natural progression towards success.

comment by ata · 2010-12-16T20:37:56.104Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I completely agree. (Good counterquote from Carl Sagan: "The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.") I was only pointing out that the quote itself isn't completely backwards, while agreeing that people mainly invoke it to make backwards claims like that.

...but even so, even if it's not taken to also be suggesting the obviously-fallacious converse, it may still not be correct. Not all truth is "violently opposed" before becoming accepted; not all truth is ridiculed before being taken seriously; and some truths never are accepted as self-evident (not that all truths should be; hindsight bias, etc.). So yeah, any way you look at it it's a pretty dumb quote. (It's a good thing Schopenhauer probably never said it anyway!)

comment by khafra · 2010-12-11T02:56:52.054Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

With the caveat that P(Truth|observation of one or more stages) < P(observation of one or more stages|Truth)

comment by James_Miller · 2010-12-03T13:53:14.930Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Dueling Cryonics Relevant Quotes:

When it comes time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.

Tecumseh

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night. Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-04T08:17:09.726Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Until I reread the quotes, I thought your dueling should be dualing. I learned both that I was wrong, and that dualing isn't actually a word, even if duel and dual are.

However, I came up with the great idea that you could be dual-wielding cryonics quotes :)

comment by shokwave · 2010-12-04T09:02:24.455Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Piercing quote in one hand, bludgeoning logic in the other. Surely nobody has resistance to both?

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-04T16:45:52.827Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

They may have resistance to both, but as long as it's not 100%, we can manage!

comment by sketerpot · 2010-12-05T06:31:22.214Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Loads of people have resistance to both. Have you never talked with a religious nut? That's when you pull out the implied threat of being made to look stupid in public and triple-wield them.

It can be tricky to pull off, but the results are very gratifying.

comment by phaedrus · 2011-01-02T03:17:15.767Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

‎"Fine phrases are the last resource of those who have run out of arguments." -- Peter Singer

comment by ChristianKl · 2010-12-27T13:45:27.862Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Be proactively skeptical not defensively skeptical.

Tim Ferriss | The 4 hour body

comment by ChristianKl · 2010-12-27T13:44:36.927Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's important to look for hypotheses worth disproving

Tim Ferriss | The 4 hour body

comment by sfb · 2010-12-04T07:23:13.673Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"When a man finds a conclusion agreeable, he accepts it without argument, but when he finds it disagreeable, he will bring against it all the forces of logic and reason."

Thucydides

comment by waitingforgodel · 2010-12-03T10:09:10.755Z · score: 1 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Asked by Galileo to look through his telescope at the newly discovered four moons of Jupiter, a representative of the pope answered: "I refuse to look at something which my religion tells me cannot exist." -- newscientist

comment by gjm · 2010-12-03T14:22:05.755Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I think this quotation actually comes not from a real papal representative but from Brecht's play "Galileo".

(Isn't it obvious that this isn't the sort of thing a real person would be likely to say? Especially not the sort of person who would be sent to Galileo by the Pope.)

comment by RobinZ · 2010-12-03T14:36:07.318Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

(Isn't it obvious that this isn't the sort of thing a real person would be likely to say? Especially not the sort of person who would be sent to Galileo by the Pope.)

Shhh! That quote is a soldier for Our Side, don't break it! ;)

comment by MartinB · 2010-12-04T03:12:51.700Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Now should I upvote for the great use of irony, or down for abuses of logic? My joke detector is broken.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-12-04T03:20:10.135Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

The smiley is there as the equivalent of Braille for the joke-blind.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-03T14:58:25.623Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't it obvious that this isn't the sort of thing a real person would be likely to say?

No. I've heard similar. (Although it actually felt uncomfortable to give that answer given that it could be seen as not-not supporting a co-aligned solider that we had decided to burn!)

comment by MartinB · 2010-12-04T03:11:49.575Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

decided to burn

There is some doubt over the treatment Galileo actually got, and what for.

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2010-12-05T03:09:35.120Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think wedrifid meant that e would being seen as supporting a false but favorable quote that everyone else was decrying for being false. [Edited for spelling]

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-05T04:31:38.017Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, complete with television show spy talk lingo to extend the analogy.

comment by michaelkeenan · 2010-12-03T13:54:58.430Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The quote isn't accurate. There was argument over what was being seen through the telescope, not about whether to look through it. Details from a guy who wrote a book on Galileo here.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2010-12-03T17:50:52.286Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Some of Galileo's critics argued that at least some of his observations were artifacts of the instrument he was using (the telescope) and even cited experimental evidence in their critiques (such as looking at objects that could be seen with the naked eye as well as through the telescope and observing anomalies like duplication or "halos" through the latter). This is simply standard scientific criticism, not religious nay saying. So, even if the quote is accurate it wasn't necessarily representative of his critics.

The Jesuits of the Collegio Romano that were sent to meet with Galileo verified his observations by using his telescope, but disagreed with his interpretation of them. Therefore, it seems very unlikely that the quote is accurate.

Probably, the quote is a kind of bullshit.

comment by Gregg · 2012-02-11T03:40:30.152Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for a wonderful and rich forum of ideas. Looking fwd. to offering something soon.

comment by Nisan · 2012-02-11T04:14:39.648Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Welcome to Less Wrong!

comment by wjbishop · 2011-01-05T17:09:11.352Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got" -- Sheryl Crow

comment by shokwave · 2011-01-05T17:16:55.141Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No, it's definitely having what you want.

Also, here.

comment by rabidchicken · 2011-01-05T18:01:14.211Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would much rather have what I want as well . Wanting what I’ve got would make me consistently accept suboptimal conditions instead of making an effort to achieve maximum utility.

comment by Document · 2011-01-06T22:21:15.341Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Although I don't like dogpiles: the utility function is up for grabs?

comment by Unnamed · 2011-01-05T18:34:06.107Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's both.

Rabbi Hyman Schachtel (1954) proposed that ‘‘happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have’’ (p. 37). In two studies, we tested Schachtel’s maxim by asking participants whether or not they had and the extent to which they wanted each of 52 material items. To quantify how much people wanted what they had, we identified what they had and the extent to which they wanted those things. To quantify how much people had what they wanted, we identified how much they wanted and whether or not they had each item. Both variables accounted for unique variance in happiness. Moreover, the extent to which people wanted what they had partially mediated effects of gratitude and maximization on happiness, and the extent to which they had what they wanted partially mediated the effect of maximization. Results indicate that happiness is both wanting what you have and having what you want.

comment by nhamann · 2010-12-26T03:58:09.601Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is it hard to make decisions as president? Not really. If you know what you believe, decisions come pretty easy. If you’re one of these types of people that are always trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing, decision making can be difficult.

George W. Bush (source)

comment by ata · 2010-12-26T04:12:22.360Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

And if you're one of those types of people that are always trying to figure out what region of the multiverse they're in, or how many identical copies of them have been created by an intergalactic superintelligent trickster, or what anthropic reference class they're in, or whether they're living in a computer simulation, or how their choices will impact maybe-logically-impossible counterfactual worlds — you know, one of those people — decision making can be really difficult. ;)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2010-12-26T05:23:30.280Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The notion of being one of those people who tries to figure out what reference class they are in is causing me to giggle uncontrollably right now.

comment by ata · 2010-12-26T23:55:13.702Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am so proud to be part of a community where that can happen.

comment by aausch · 2010-12-08T15:05:50.909Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"I don't think anyone should have to do anything educational in school if they don't want to." -- Cordelia's character, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

comment by sfb · 2010-12-04T06:54:39.059Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when called upon to act according with the dictates of reason." - Oscar Wilde

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-03T10:02:56.897Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

del

comment by sfb · 2010-12-04T06:42:00.221Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. " - Oscar Wilde.

comment by MarcTheEngineer · 2010-12-13T18:24:24.359Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The apprentice thought, "we are blind", and he sat down and wrote Blindness to remind those who might read it that we pervert reason when we humiliate life, that human dignity is insulted every day by the powerful of our world, that the universal lie has replaced the plural truths, that man stopped respecting himself when he lost the respect due to his fellow-creatures. Jose Saramago

comment by waitingforgodel · 2010-12-07T16:14:49.510Z · score: -4 (22 votes) · LW · GW

I’d prefer to be raped rather than cuckolded; any other men have a preference?

RobinHanson

comment by LucasSloan · 2010-12-09T02:56:16.599Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Because cuckolding would require me to be in a relationship at all, I think I'll take it.

comment by Vaniver · 2010-12-07T17:01:06.311Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Why is this a rationality quote?

comment by waitingforgodel · 2010-12-07T17:09:49.989Z · score: 2 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Willingness to:

  1. Think about problems that don't seem "worth thinking about"

  2. Come to non-traditional conclusions, and share those thoughts publicly... even it it makes you look silly

comment by Vaniver · 2010-12-07T17:26:00.146Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Think about problems that don't seem "worth thinking about"

That hardly strikes me as rational- that just sounds like "curious" or "intellectually unbounded."

Come to non-traditional conclusions, and share those thoughts publicly... even it it makes you look silly

A good reason as to why this is Hanson displaying rationality, but that doesn't seem to me to be a "rationality quote." It isn't particularly deep wisdom that he imagines the closer harm to him is worse than the further harm to him. Being cuckolded is terrible enough for people to kill others, being raped is terrible enough for people to kill others and kill themselves; I suspect Hanson is unconsciously revealing which issue worries him more rather than which issue is actually worse to deal with.

There is also the following issue which I was hoping you would address:

Do not quote comments/posts on LW/OB. That's like shooting fish in a barrel. :)

comment by waitingforgodel · 2010-12-07T17:33:13.325Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

A good rationality quote is one that gets deeper the more you think about it -- and, for me personally, the above quote has been on the back of my mind all night.

YMMV, of course.

Edit: I took the LW/OB rule to be about more "obvious" quotes

comment by Desrtopa · 2010-12-09T13:52:51.306Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW
  1. Come to non-traditional conclusions, and share those thoughts publicly... even it it makes you look silly.

If it accomplishes little else, I don't see how this signifies rationality. It shows a lack of understanding of the importance of signaling.

comment by David_Gerard · 2010-12-09T14:24:43.857Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You have to stick around to defend them, and (and this is the tricky bit) have people willing to bother arguing them with you. Overcoming Bias appears to have disappeared down the rabbit hole of no feedback, for example. I suspect one needs to keep a close eye on one's awareness of how different one is from the mainstream of thought.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-07T17:04:12.661Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It conveys a message about the way humans think about moral problems.

comment by shokwave · 2010-12-07T17:06:16.779Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That qualifies just about any quote, though.

comment by Desrtopa · 2010-12-09T03:27:57.929Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That originates on OB, so it's not really eligible for this thread.

I'll be honest and admit that if I found it stirringly rational, it probably wouldn't have crossed my mind to point that out though.

comment by JamesAndrix · 2010-12-03T05:05:37.188Z · score: -9 (17 votes) · LW · GW

"My perceptions are worthless and misleading."

From Today I Will Nourish My Inner Martyr - Affirmations for Cynics by Ann Thornhill & Sarah Wells

comment by Snowyowl · 2010-12-03T21:40:09.946Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Pretty sure that book is a collection of jokes (albeit pessimistic ones). Besides, your perceptions are fine, it's your opinions that are worthless and misleading.

comment by EchoingHorror · 2010-12-05T00:25:16.824Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

your perceptions are fine, it's your opinions that are worthless and misleading.

I'm quoting this frequently for the next five years.

comment by AmyTan · 2010-12-09T06:11:10.455Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Knowing that this quote came from the same book makes me think it wasn't as wise as I thought.