Open thread, Feb. 16 - Feb. 22, 2015

post by MrMind · 2015-02-16T07:56:15.915Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 125 comments

If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post (even in Discussion), then it goes here.

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comment by Sherincall · 2015-02-18T20:51:28.592Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reddit is giving away 10% of their ad revenue to 10 charities that receive the most votes from the community. You can vote for as many charities as you want, with any account that has been created before 10AM PST today.

You can vote for your favorite charities here. I've had problems with the search by name, so if you don't find something, try searching by EIN instead.

Quick links: CFAR, MIRI

comment by endoself · 2015-02-18T22:09:01.967Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

GiveWell, GiveDirectly, Evidence Action/Deworm the World. You can vote for multiple charities.

comment by Sherincall · 2015-02-18T22:42:44.438Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can also influence the votes by upvoting (and downvoting) your charities at /r/redditdonate. That is where discussions on the effectiveness take place.

As of this post, the placement is: GiveDirect-25, MIRI-47, CFAR-143, EvidenceAction-189, GiveWell-238.

comment by DataPacRat · 2015-02-17T14:09:19.810Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Prisoner's Dilemma Variant

There are a few tweaks to the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma which can affect which strategies tend to be successful. A very common one is to randomize how long the round is, so predicting the end-game doesn't overwhelm all other strategy factors. A less common one is adding noise, so that what each program tries to do isn't necessarily what happens.

Does anyone know of any tourneys that have been run where, in addition to Cooperation or Defection, each program also has the choice to End The Game, simulating quitting a business relationship, moving away, shunning, or otherwise ceasing to interact with another program?

comment by badger · 2015-02-18T19:09:49.764Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not aware of any tourneys with this tweak, but I use a similar example when I teach.

If the payoff from exiting is zero and the mutual defection payoff is negative, then the game doesn't change much. Exit on the first round becomes the unique subgame-perfect equilibrium of any finite repetition, and with a random end date, trigger strategies to support cooperation work similarly to the original game.

Life is a more interesting if the mutual defection payoff is sufficiently better than exit. Cooperation can happen in equilibrium even when the end date is known (except on the last round) since exit is a viable threat to punish defection.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-18T18:39:28.549Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Haven't heard about such version.

What happens when you quit interaction? If this is literally end of the game, you will probably get less points than other players. Well, depending on the payout matrix; because usually the strategies don't change if you add a constant to all numbers in the matrix, but in this case the constant would influence the cost of quitting the game prematurely.

Perhaps the players who leave their partner should be assigned a random partner in the next turn -- chosen randomly those from players who left their partner (or their partner left them) in this turn. Thus everyone would play the same number of turns; you just have an opportunity to replace your partner if you beieve that a random replacement will be better.

Let's suppose there are so many players that your chance of randomly meeting the same player again is almost zero, so we don't have to consider with this option.

As an example of the game, let's say there are two kinds of players: DefectBot always chooses "defect". OneChanceBot always chooses "cooperate", but immediately leaves if the opponent defects. At the beginning, DefectBots will gain points, but after a few turns most OneChanceBots will end up in a pair with another OneChanceBot and gain many points, while most DefectBots will end up in a pair with another DefectBot. If the DefectBots also choose to leave if their opponent defects, they will gain some time, but ultimately all OneChanceBots will be removed from the pool of players who change pairs.

In this game the correct strategy would strongly depend on the environment. For example, let's suppose we have five kinds of RandomBots, each kind in every turn cooperates with some probability (different number for different kind of RandomBot), and each kind in every turn leaves their partner with some probability. You are the only non-random player, and you know about the RandomBot nature in advance, but you don't know the exact probabilites. To play this game best, you would have to collect a lot of data, make your model of the RandomBot probabilities, and then for every partner you get evaluate the chance the he belongs to one of those kinds, and whether it is better or not to replace them with a random choice. Could be an interesting Bayesian exercise. But you would need many turns (maybe thousands) so that the good strategy would win reliably over another non-random player who made a mistake in their Bayesian equations.

comment by Error · 2015-02-16T16:32:14.045Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've noticed that when I'm working on personal projects or (to a lesser extent) complex games, my motivation to continue working or playing drops off significantly as soon as I've figured out the solution for the project or the optimal strategies for the games. The sensation is a bit like, say, playing an RPG and doing some postgame quest for the Infinity+1 sword, and then not wanting to play anymore once you have it -- I worked hard to get a godweapon but don't have any urge to use it. This is particularly frustrating for programming projects, that tend to get dropped unfinished after the major problems have been solved.

I don't really have any point to make with that. It's just irritating.

comment by Punoxysm · 2015-02-16T17:54:06.084Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You've dropped out of the lower end of Flow, the optimal level of challenge for a task.

You've solved the intellectually interesting nugget, or believe you have, and now all that's left are the mundane and often frustrating details of implementation. Naturally you'll lose some motivation.

So you have to embrace that mundanity, and/or start looking at the project differently.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-17T15:44:36.828Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree entirely, having faced exactly the same problem in my day job: some studies are complete, I feel like I have a reasonable guess about the conclusions we can draw from them... maybe I've even presented the main findings at a research conference or two. But a real logjam occurs when it's time to write up and submit for peer review, despite publication being a strict requirement for continuation of my post.

I very much agree with the "flow" analysis: I have an incredible drop-off in motivation once the problem is "solved" to my satisfaction, even if the task is not complete. My initial way to deal with this problem was to bury myself in other tasks, but all of them started piling up at this same stage.

I hadn't even realised this was happening until I took a full day to take stock of all my different projects, using more of a project management approach and most importantly, setting aside the short term pressures to reflect on longer term issues.

The solution for me has been to set aside time that is solely dedicated to "embracing that mundanity": setting attainable short-term goals and evaluating success/failures weekly (originally, daily). And when it seems like too much drudgery, explicitly reflecting on the alternatives if I don't get through the mundane bits.

comment by Curiouskid · 2015-02-17T13:35:19.958Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think this is relatively common. I was talking about this with a friend a while back.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-16T12:44:27.725Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does anyone else find that the problem of qualia seems like more of a problem for some senses than others? For example, my sense of sight versus my sense of hearing. When I look at the color red, I perceive some fundamentally different sensation than when I look at blue. Though they are both caused by looking at different frequencies of light, there is something "over and above" the frequencies that is difficult to explain, and has caused so much ink to be spilled in the philosophy of consciousness.

However, when I hear something, I just hear frequencies. This is whether I am listening to a symphony or a single sine wave, white noise, or the person currently shoveling snow outside. There isn't anything "over and above" the sounds; they are all obviously the same "kind" of thing to me. I can categorize the individual frequencies if it is a simple enough sound, and more complicated sounds, while I can't categorize them, don't feel like they are anything different than just combinations of simple frequencies.

None of the sound frequencies are fundamentally different in the way that red and blue are. An oboe and a violin may have different profiles of overtones when played, but they aren't different experiences like color. I don't get the impression of fundamentally different qualities when I listen to them.

The difference between these two senses is so strong that I think if I had been born blind (and also without taste or smell, which are even MORE qualia-like and problematic), or at least born with black-and-white vision, I would never understand what the problem with qualia is. There wouldn't be any internal experience that would seem unknowable to others. When I looked at something there would just be "I am experiencing a light intensity of 75% maximum", just as when I hear something there's just "I am experiencing a certain combination of frequencies".

Why does light have "metadata" associated with each frequency in my mind, while sound does not?

EDIT: By qualia I am not referring to sensory perception in general, but to the ineffable and incommunicable experiences like the redness of an apple. I can't tell if someone else sees what I would call blue when they look at an object I would call red. Sound doesn't have that for me, as far as I can tell.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-02-16T16:43:04.470Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There are different chemical sensors for various colors in people's eyes, while there's just one system for sound.

That being said, music has a major aspect of qualia, even if it's not consistent from one person to another or between cultures.

I wonder whether there's something simple about vision and/or something that enables people to be abstract about it.

People can feel emotionally connected to a wide range of visual characters, but we're still using voice actors for animated movies because synthesized voice doesn't sound good enough.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-16T17:21:15.918Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, it's almost the other way around.

A row of approximately 3,500 inner hair cells (IHC’s) are situated along the basilar membrane, picking up the resonances generated by the incoming waves. The inner hair cells are spread out exponentially over the 3.4 centimetre length of the tube - with many more hair cells at the beginning (high frequencies) than at the end (low frequencies). Each inner hair cell picks up the vibrations of the membrane at a particular point - thus tuned to a particular frequency. The ‘highest’ hair cell is at 20 kHz, the ‘lowest’ at 20 Hz - with a very steep tuning curve at high frequencies, rejecting any frequency above 20 kHz.

When a hair vibrates due to incoming sound, it sends an action potential to the brain. So we have three types of sensors for seeing, but thousands for hearing.

comment by Houshalter · 2015-02-17T06:20:25.285Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But there are even more pixels in the eye. The difference is that these inputs have dimensional structure. A pixel in the center of your vision results in a very similar response to one a degree higher. A sound at 1000hz sounds similar to one at 1100hz.

And in fact the structure of the brain actually enforces this dimensionality. Nearby frequencies have overlapping representations. E.g. 1000hz might be 00111000 and 1100 might be 00011100, representing the inputs which are active.

But colors have no dimensionality. Red is qualitatively different than blue. They are different kinds of inputs.

comment by Pfft · 2015-02-18T16:20:05.668Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess part of the problem is that there are only three color receptors, rather than thousands, so there is less reason to represent commonalities between them. That said, we do talk about "warm" and "cool" colors, which mainly seems to refer to how much blue is mixes in them. So that seems a bit like a one-dimensional "heat" scale, with blue on the cold end and red/green on the work end?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-16T16:07:16.300Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I hear a word, then parsing from frequencies to language is a step that adds meaning.

When I'm dancing and most of my attention is focused on kinesthetic perception and the vibe of the music, I often don't get language immediately when my dancing partner just says something. It seems like my language module has to first to be restarted.

The McGurk effect is pretty interesting when thinking about audio qualia. The same frequency that reaches the ears produces different perceived qualia depending on visual input.

At the Solstice event I did lead a meditation where I among other things lead attention to perceiving the qualia of silence that exists independent of noises in the environment. Perceiving that qualia worked even for the person in that group where my priors were that they were least likely to be able to follow it. To me that silence-qualia is a audio qualia that's not simply a perception of frequencies.

At the moment I focus a lot of effort on phonemes. They are qualia that differ among different people. Most German speakers can't hear a difference between the English words "cap" and "cab". With training however it's possible to start hearing the difference and perceive the two words differently.

In Salsa Music it takes most beginners time to learn to hear "the one", the note that's begins a tact.

I personally got very irritated when I read of perception of rhythm in things in the writing of Moshé Feldenkrais. Even through I'm dancing for more than five years, I still feels completely different. In some sense hearing "the one" in Salsa is likely rythmn perception. A lot of my deeper investigation of qualia comes as a result of dealing with Danis Bois perceptive pedagogy. When I asked my main teacher for perceptive pedagogy about rhythm, she unfortunately told me that's she also bad at it. There's still room for me to develop finer qualia for rythmn.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-16T16:30:25.014Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think we are using qualia to refer to different things. I am using it to mean something more specific than just a subjective sensory experience; I'm referring to incommunicable ,"extra" experience (i.e., there is no way to tell if we see the same "color" when we look at a red apple, even though we are both seeing the same frequency of light. For all I know, you experience what I would call blue). Sorry if my definition wasn't clear; is there another, more specific word for this aspect of qualia?

The difference between phoneme comprehension in different languages does not appear to reference this definition of qualia. I experience the phoneme "p", and though I am mentally assigning it to a bucket that other languages would split further into an aspirated "p" and unaspirated "p", there's no special "p-ness" about that sound that distinguishes it from other phonemes in some ineffable way. It's just frequencies, completely unlike colors which have metadata.

When you learn to hear "the one" note that begins a tact, does it sound fundamentally different from other sounds, or does it just feel different, even though the sound itself is qualitatively like all others? I would consider it to be an ineffable qualia iff that sound were as different from the same sound in a another context as red is from blue.

When I am playing piano, the upbeats and downbeats, or the beginning of a phrase, feel different to me, likely in the same way that the note that begins a tact feels different to you (I presume). But I wouldn't say the upbeats and downbeats are different qualia; they only feel that way to me because I'm anticipating them and treating them differently. They don't have any different qualities from each other.

But again, that's probably just me. I think the main reason I'm interested in reverse engineering minds is so we can finally properly research these questions. They're so hard to even talk about!

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-16T17:16:31.089Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would consider it to be an ineffable qualia iff that sound were as different from the same sound in a another context as red is from blue.

I can give you 100 pairs of colors that you couldn't distinguish from each other that go from red to blue. There no point where you would be able to draw a clear boundary where redness stops and blue begins. I likely even need less than 100 pairs.

If you touch my hand or if you touch my face, that's both a different qualia, in some sense. It's not the same way different than red and blue are different. It's also not the same way different than two phonemes or two notes are different.

Two days ago I has chatting with a friend and we both have well developed kinesthetic qualia. We talked about how I'm not speaking from being present in my belly. Then I said something and he said: "Well, you are in your head, there no solution to the problem from there." I answered: "I do feel present in my chest, don't you also perceive me as present in my chest?". He answers: "Yes, you are present ribcage upwards, but not in your belly...".

I would guess, that most people on LW wouldn't know what to do with that notion of presence. It's something we both perceive but where the experience is incommunicable for me.

When you learn to hear "the one" note that begins a tact, does it sound fundamentally different from other sounds, or does it just feel different, even though the sound itself is qualitatively like all others?

Feel is a word for things that are perceived kinesthetically. I see no reason not to things perceived kinesthetic qualia. Of course kinestic qualia aren't visual qualia.

A recent experience was getting annoyed by the drilling machine of my neighbor. I can recognize that I feel tension in specific parts of my head that are produced by that sound. I don't feel "the one" in Salsa in a similar kinesthetic way that's communicable. For me it's an incommunicable experience that I can't break down. It's a primitive.

If we go back to red and blue. It's also worth noting that English is a language that has words for those two colors. Ancient Greek doesn't have exactly the same distinction. Homer speaks of a wine dark sea.

The same way you can train new phoneme distinctions you can train new color distinctions. Interestingly naming the colors helps with the ability to develop a new perceived color.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-16T17:31:26.959Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can give you 100 pairs of colors that you couldn't distinguish from each other that go from red to blue. There no point where you would be able to draw a clear boundary where redness stops and blue begins.

This is true, but it doesn't change the fact that I am experiencing colors when I look at them. Why is there "redness" or "blueness" to begin with?

The same way you can train new phoneme distinctions you can train new color distinctions. Interestingly naming the colors helps with the ability to develop a new perceived color.

But being able to distinguish between colors or sounds isn't the problem I'm trying to address. The problem for me is, why do colors have metadata associated with them while sound does not?

comment by arundelo · 2015-02-16T19:33:29.779Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

why do colors have metadata associated with them while sound does not?

What about (for example) "low" and "high"? ("What if low pitches sound to you the way high pitches sound to me, and vice versa?")

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-16T19:47:30.069Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hmmm. That could be true. But it still doesn't feel like there are qualia associated with sound in that way; for low pitches you can actually hear the individual vibrations, so to me it doesn't seem like it's possible for you to be hearing what I hear as a high note. The true nature of the sound is apparent at such low pitches, and it's as if there's nowhere for qualia to be hiding.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-16T17:46:34.759Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But being able to distinguish between colors or sounds isn't the problem I'm trying to address. The problem for me is, why do colors have metadata associated with them while sound does not?

The core question here is: For how many colors do you have something like "redness" or "blueness" and what does it take to get that for a new color.

Particularly it takes a name. The name is metadata. It's makes the thing a primitive. An important step from going from vague feelings of difference to things with metadata is to give it a name. At least that's what I happen to believe at the moment.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-02-17T14:05:24.694Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think perceiving color as qualia requires a name-- in Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things, Lakoff describes a lot of research on how people classify color. While some languages have more words than others for colors, there's good agreement on what the best example is for each color, and a sequence for the order in which color words appear in each language.

Also, even if there's a word which covers red and orange, best examples of the color peak at what we would call a good red or a good orange,

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-17T14:46:03.936Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The experience of how perceiving the sound "C3" is different from perceiving the sound of a raindrop also seems very incommunicable. I don't think I could communicate it to a person who's completely deaf.

I don't think that's what you need the name for. tzachquiel speaks about "metadata". A name adds "metadata" that goes beyond what was there beforehand.

Emotions are quite interesting in that regard. It changes things to put a label on a sensation. In Focusing, putting a label on the sensation is an essential part. It's also a step in the Sedona method. Taking a label away can also make certain process such a EmoTrance easier.

If you want to describe how you are angry you can talk about how your heart rate rises and how you feel sensations in your belly but the label "anger" adds incommunicable metadata to it. It changes the experience.

Fear also raises emotions and might also let's you feel sensation in your belly but it's different in a way that just doesn't boil down to raised heart rate and inner movement.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-02-17T19:14:43.391Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm reasonably sure that my experience of Focusing being different from ordinary use of language is typical-- ordinary use involves accepting approximate words for experience, while Focusing takes a lot more time to find words that feel satisfyingly exact.

I agree that there's metadata associated with sounds as well as color.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-16T17:52:03.578Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Though there are many specific shades that I would group under the category "red", each one is it's own separate experience and I can distinguish colors very finely (I get a perfect score on this color sorting test) and remember them later. I do not believe naming the categories is the cause of qualia, because I also name sounds (C, E-flat, oboe, violin, etc.) and I don't experience the same thing with sound as I do with color.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-16T17:57:58.763Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Though there are many specific shades that I would group under the category "red", each one is it's own separate experience and I can distinguish colors very finely

That still opens the door to find colors for which you don't have a separate experience at the moment and develop a separate experience.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-16T18:11:38.607Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The proliferation of incommunicable experiences doesn't seem like a good way to solve this problem :) But on a related note, that's actually a good idea for some Anki cards; learn a bunch of more fine-grained color names and become able to better remember them. Of course, the fidelity of the screen will become important at that point...

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-16T22:15:51.360Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The proliferation of incommunicable experiences doesn't seem like a good way to solve this problem :)

The interesting thing is studying the process of what happens when you build more of them. It might be possible to systematize the process and then find out something interesting through quantitative analysis.

But on a related note, that's actually a good idea for some Anki cards; learn a bunch of more fine-grained color names and become able to better remember them.

If you want I can send you the deck. My deck has all CSS color names and also finer distinction via hex numbers.

Otherwise I have thought a bit about the issue. Redness is not only a single color but also a dimension. If you take any two colors you can compare them in their redness. You can't compare to notes by how much "C" they are. A note is either C or it isn't.

comment by shminux · 2015-02-16T15:43:17.437Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My guess is that the difference is in the structure of the visual cortex vs auditory cortex, in addition to the difference between input sensors. In people who lack one of these two senses, the remaining one takes over most of the "unused" cortex. So it would be interesting to compare their qualia to the "standard" ones. I bet there is some literature to this effect.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-16T16:01:11.650Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Someone should do a large-scale study of peoples' experiences of qualia for each sense. Much like Galton's experiments with mental imagery, people could have wildly different experiences that we previously weren't aware of. I'm not aware of any such studies, though, or studies that look into the relationship between sensory deficits and heightened experiences. Heightened sensitivity, sure, but not quality of experience. Philosophers don't seem to do many psychology experiments.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-16T13:05:59.130Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

One account has to do with the influence of labels, as imposing some kind of structure. In this case, using distinct words to refer to colours vs (typically) lack of such for sound frequencies, see for example Gary Lupyan (2012) (pdf).

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-16T13:16:47.079Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But there are such labels for sound; we label individual frequencies as notes (C, D, E, et cetera), as well as overall profiles of sound (oboe, violin, piano, etc.). We also have words to describe the qualities of arbitrary sounds such as harsh, melodious, twittering, whining, thumping, and many others. I don't think the difference between sight and hearing has to do with splitting up the space into discrete categories, since we do that for both senses.

That brings up an interesting point, though; I can't tell the absolute pitch of a note without some thought (I cheat by comparing it to the note I know I'd make if I hummed completely without tension, which is a B, though I wish I had perfect pitch). So sounds are all relative to each other for most people, which could somehow account for them all sounding alike.

Can anyone with perfect pitch tell us whether they experience notes as being fundamentally different in the way colors usually are?

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-02-16T13:55:55.661Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can anyone with perfect pitch tell us whether they experience notes as being fundamentally different in the way colors usually are?

When I was a child I had perfect pitch, but as I didn't follow a musical career, I've never used it, and I haven't checked whether I can still hear a note and hit exactly the same key on the piano first time. But to me, pitch perceptions form a continuous one-dimensional space. It's more like being able to recognise the length of things. There's no special quality to something being a foot long rather than 11 or 13 inches; it's just recognisably 12 inches long.

Harmonies, on the other hand, are more like colours. There are distinct qualities to major and minor triads etc., and to chord sequences.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-16T14:25:15.742Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Agreed - we do use such labels for many aspects of sounds, but with the exception of labelling musical notes, sound-related terms tend to refer to multidimensional characteristics of sounds, not just frequencies (although in many cases, related to frequency). This leads to a situation in which sound quality terms may tend to be less discrete than basic colour words; if so one would predict less categorical perception than is observed for basic colour words.

I think we can also see this same phenomenon in colour as well - once we go beyond a language's basic colour terms where colour labels are not nearly so contrastive (mauve/fuschia?).

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-21T12:39:12.422Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have no education in labeling sounds, but I do think I generally attach more "meaning" or structure to them than I do to colors.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-21T12:35:57.114Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

However, when I hear something, I just hear frequencies. This is whether I am listening to a symphony or a single sine wave, white noise, or the person currently shoveling snow outside. There isn't anything "over and above" the sounds; they are all obviously the same "kind" of thing to me. I can categorize the individual frequencies if it is a simple enough sound, and more complicated sounds, while I can't categorize them, don't feel like they are anything different than just combinations of simple frequencies.

Really? Do you know how well you hear tones and musicality? Because my mind seems to attach all kinds of subtle qualia to sound.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-21T14:34:57.453Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm definitely not tone deaf, I love classical music, and I play the piano, so I assume I have an above-average ability for musicality. I love music, it's just that the individual tones I hear aren't special in the way colors are. They're just... frequencies.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-16T19:23:20.037Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I tell you about a 'dry, purple bass of the highway', what do you feel? What do you imagine? (Sorry if this is irrelevant.)

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-16T19:50:54.801Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Initially I think of a dessicated purple fish lying on a desert highway, but that's just because my brain went for what I assume is not the version of "bass" you meant. If I try thinking about it in the intended sense, I see a highway through a purple filter, the purple getting stronger towards the edges of my vision. The image is wavering in time to thumping dubstep. An interesting image, even if it is irrelevant.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-16T22:01:07.797Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Arrgh, that is translation for you. I myself see a highway dipping slightly and then rising and somewhat hazy because of hot air. It's just, have you ever felt that singleness of imagery as a combination of traits, that do not necessary include colour? Does not curved/straight line seem to add more meaning to some descriptions than it strictly should, for example? Here some other (mangled) translations, hopefully showing what I mean (from the poetry of Ондо Линде):

tongue's restive lightning

Speech is a stone shearing the river's ripples, reflection running along rejections

cavernous between-the-lines

plaintains' ballroom skirts

the votive candles' slumber of little birds

etc. It seems to me that there is a perception of objects at rest, objects rushing by and objects caught in a moment of movement, weightless, that can occupy more attention than colour in a description. (Is this what you meant by qualia?)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-02-17T14:07:21.791Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think of the sound of cars hissing along the highway, possibly at dusk.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-17T17:35:18.247Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And yet it is a single image, is it not?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-02-17T19:24:52.304Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, though I'm not sure why that's important.

I'm a reader who's relatively willing to cooperate with the writer-- unless I'm sure the writer is speaking nonsense about facts, I'll go with "what might that mean"? When Lovecraft talks about unspeakable horrors, I'll reflexively try to create a (toned down) reaction of unspeakable horror rather than thinking "if you aren't going to describe it, why should I bother scaring myself when you aren't giving me anything to work with?".

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-18T10:43:46.504Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was just saying that for me, at least, color is not the only qualia (?) that has an unparalleled vividness, I also have this impression from depth/vastness/enclosedness/... and from stillness/continuing movement/..., and it doesn't have to be activated through vision.

comment by Capla · 2015-02-20T18:38:48.346Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I want to spend a few weeks seriously looking into cryonics: how it works, the costs, the theory about revival, the changes in the technology in the past 60 years, the options that are available.

I want to become an expert in cryonics to the extent that I can answer, in depth, the questions that people typically have when they hear about this "crazy idea" for the first time. {Hmm...That sounds a little like bottom-line reasoning, trying to prepare for objections, instead of ferreting out the truth. I'll have to be careful of that. To be fair, I will need to overcome objections to get my family to sign up. Still, be careful of looking for data just to affirm my naive presumption.}

What should I read?

comment by pcm · 2015-02-22T15:37:28.978Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ralph Merkle's cryonics page is a good place to start. His 1994 paper on The Molecular Repair of the Brain seems to be the most technical explanation of why it looks feasible.

Since whole brain emulation is expected to use many of the same techniques, that roadmap (long pdf) is worth looking at.

comment by jaime2000 · 2015-02-22T05:27:45.742Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Read Chronospause, Cryonics, and Mike Darwin's comment history. Mike Darwin is very, very based.

If you still want more, try reading all the articles under the "cryonics" tag and gwern's "Plastination versus Cryonics".

comment by G0W51 · 2015-02-19T15:01:07.834Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Perhaps individuals are more liable to believe claims that have a small number of strong arguments than believe claims with a large number of weak arguments, even if the sum of the evidence for both claims is equally strong, as individuals often can’t hear all arguments for something, so they only hear the n strongest ones.

comment by Curiouskid · 2015-02-17T14:06:23.213Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I recently found out that Feynmann only had an IQ of 125.

This is very surprising to me. How should I/you update?

Perhaps the IQ test was administered poorly.

I think that high g/IQ is still really important to success in various fields. (Stephen Hsu points out that more physicists have IQs of 150 than 140, etc. In other words, that marginal IQ matters even past 140.).

comment by spxtr · 2015-02-17T19:53:24.324Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Feynman was younger than 15 when he took it, and very near this factoid in Gleick's bio, he recounts Feynman asking about very basic algebra (2^x=4) and wondering why anything found it hard - the IQ is mentioned immediately before the section on 'grammar school', or middle school, implying that the 'school IQ test' was done well before he entered high school, putting him at much younger than 15. (15 is important because Feynman had mastered calculus by age 15, Gleick says, so he wouldn't be asking his father why algebra is useful at age >15.) - Given that Feynman was born in 1918, this implies the IQ test was done around 1930 or earlier. Given that it was done by the New York City school district, this implies also that it was one of the 'ratio' based IQ tests - utterly outdated and incorrect by modern standards. - Finally, it's well known that IQ tests are very unreliable in childhood; kids can easily bounce around compared to their stable adult scores.

So, it was a bad test, which even under ideal circumstances is unreliable & prone to error, and administered in a mass fashion and likely not by a genuine psychometrician.

-- gwern

comment by passive_fist · 2015-02-17T23:26:58.485Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A related question, concerning Hsu's point: How much can historical data be trusted to reflect current trends? During the 50's and 60's, physics (especially nuclear physics and the closely-related field of particle physics) were "hot topics" and everyone "wanted in"; it's not hard to imagine that the very best and brightest people entered the field during that time. But is that true anymore? It's possible that as the desirability of a physics career has decreased, the average level of intelligence in the physics community has also decreased, and that the reputation that physics has for being "the smartest of the smart" may just be a leftover from a previous era.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-02-18T00:24:15.823Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

IQ is iffy enough as it is, it was even iffier back in the 1930s, and Feynmann doesn't strike me as the sort who'd take IQ tests seriously.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-17T17:26:26.676Z · score: -5 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Feymann got his Nobel prize for making funny drawings of quantum physics. IQ isn't the limiting factor for that feat. It's willingness to pursue ideas that other people weren't willing to pursue.

comment by gjm · 2015-02-17T22:22:29.200Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you may be considerably understating the sophistication and the mathematical content of what Feynman did to get the Nobel Prize.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-18T13:40:39.273Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My post was a bit tongue in check. I don't want to minimize the fact that Feynman was sophisticated. The main issue is that he didn't compete were other competed.

In an intellectual field where everybody tries roughly to do the same thing IQ picks winners. Again I simplify. Feymann had a quality of approaching problems differently then the rest. Feymann had a way to motivate himself to engage deeply in a playful way with physics at a level where there no obvious use in going down a certain path of thoughts beyond having fun.

comment by spxtr · 2015-02-17T23:53:12.785Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a little misleading. Feynman diagrams are simple, sure, but they represent difficult calculations that weren't understood at the time he invented them. There was certainly genius involved, not just perseverance.

Much more likely his IQ result was unreliable, as gwern thinks.

comment by Curiouskid · 2015-02-17T13:55:21.009Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Stephen Hsu estimates that we'll be able to have genetically enhanced children with IQs ~15 points higher in the next 10 years.

Bostrom and Carl Schulman's paper on iterated embryo selection roughly agrees.

It seems almost too good to be true. The arguments/facts that lead us to believe that it will happen soon are:

  • we do pre-screening for other traits. The reason we can't do it for intelligence at the moment is that we don't know what genes to select for.
  • We will get that data soon, as the cost of genetic sequencing falls faster than Moore's law.

I still "alieve" that it's too good to be true. Does anybody have any reason to doubt the claims made above?

Also, the ~15 point estimate is based on the assumption that we don't do iterated embryo selection (which can't be done in humans yet).

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-17T15:26:02.305Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The difference between having a child with an IQ 55 vs IQ 145 partner already gives you more than 15 IQ points in your child on average.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2015-02-18T21:38:07.048Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The supply of IQ-145 partners is limited. That aside, I don't think I understand your point.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-18T21:53:38.814Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

By using partner selection you can already greatly increase the expected IQ of your children (worked for me!), so it shouldn't surprise us that other methods will also work to do this. The supply of sperm from IQ>145 men isn't all that limited.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-02-22T17:47:21.527Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That amounts to claiming h²=1/3, which is awfully low.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-02-16T21:58:25.410Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Considering options for reducing environmental impact of energy, it seems it would be both more economical and more environmentally sound for a large group of people to get together and invest in a nuclear power plant than for each of them to individually install solar panels on their roofs. Taking the USA as an example, the typical home consumes about 15,000 kWh/year and an average home solar installation providing this power would have a total cost of $30,000, or about $12,000 after city rebates and tax credits. It would provide power for about 20 years without extensive maintenance. If a million people got together and paid $5000 each, however, they could fund a full-size nuclear power plant and get the same amount of power for 60 years (they would actually get about 18,000 kWh/year, and the excess capacity could be sold off to fund power plant maintenance).

comment by Salemicus · 2015-02-17T10:48:09.345Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If a million people paid $5,000 each, no power plant gets built because the government won't allow it.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-02-17T11:06:59.440Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Definitely. I'm not proposing that as an actual realistic plan. It's just interesting to compare cost vs. utility (both in terms of power generated and impact on the environment) of the different energy sources. The only real way to put the plan into action would be government subsidies on nuclear power plants.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-21T12:40:28.832Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A million people wouldn't pay $5000 each without a coordination mechanism.

comment by Pfft · 2015-02-18T16:30:02.694Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Really though? My intution is that democratic governments are very sensitive to issues that lots of people care about, particularly if they show that they care about them by paying real money.

For comparison, the National Rifle Association has 5 million members, and a revenue of $256 million (so ~$50 per member), and is considered to have a big influence in politics. Google's online petition against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) gathered 7 million signatures ($0 per signer), and the act failed. This "build your own powerplant" movement would be similarly sized.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-02-17T18:03:25.604Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A number of small towns in North Carolina invested in nuclear plants a few decades ago. They regretted it and have recently been getting out of the deal.

comment by Pfft · 2015-02-18T16:35:36.391Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This thing? The key sentence seems to be

The towns had invested in power plants as a hedge against unpredictable energy costs, but their economic bet backfired when nuclear costs skyrocketed in the wake of the 1979 nuclear accident at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania.

That agrees with my previous impression, which is that nuclear power is currently too expensive to be viable without government subsidies. But I guess passive_fist is comparing nuclear against solar power, rather than against the cheapest available power, so nuclear could still be the better choice between the two.

comment by drethelin · 2015-02-16T23:29:16.037Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, if only we could get the population of a large city to all agree to pay 5000 dollars for a plan that would pay off in 60 years!

comment by passive_fist · 2015-02-16T23:33:56.925Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It would pay off immediately (well, as soon as the power plant is built, but most power plant construction delays are due to funding delays, which would not be an issue here). The investment isn't that large; $5,000 would pay itself back for the average household in 1-4 years of power bills.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-17T12:10:15.215Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The investment isn't that large; $5,000 would pay itself back for the average household in 1-4 years of power bills.

If that's true why can't some company get 20% per year on their capital by building a new nuclear power plant? Anything with predicted return well over the 10% should get funding.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-21T12:41:38.853Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If that's true why can't some company get 20% per year on their capital by building a new nuclear power plant?

Who says that they can't do so, rather than that they haven't noticed they could do so, or can't persuade people to get over their phobia of nuclear power and let them do so?

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-17T00:11:18.216Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you show your estimates behind that claim?

comment by knb · 2015-02-19T22:20:11.411Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does the solar power estimate include the cost of batteries for providing electricity at night?

comment by passive_fist · 2015-02-19T23:59:00.875Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by philh · 2015-02-16T12:17:58.574Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

One of my favorite moments in Diaspora, or in any book ever, was when one character (Inoshira?) was trying to convince another (Yatima?) to do something. Yatima runs a nonsentient simulation of verself, and realizes that Inoshira has something like a 90% chance of convincing ver, and decides to save ver the trouble and goes along with it.

Except... I was searching for that passage for the recent quotes repository in /r/discussion, and I can't find it. The closest I've found is before the two of them visit the bridgers, but that's not how that scene goes.

I've spoken to someone else who read the book and didn't remember that part. Does anyone else remember it? Did I make it up?

(Precedent for me making it up: I remember Tyler Durden saying that the sixth rule of fight club is "there is no sixth rule". I remember the intonation of that line. That is not the sixth rule of fight club.)

comment by edanm · 2015-02-16T12:58:02.217Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I remembered it too. Found the quote you're referring to, I think:

"He ran a quick self-predictive model. There was a ninety-three per cent chance that he’d give in, after a kilotau spent agonising over the decision. It hardly seemed fair to keep Karpal waiting that long."

Egan, Greg (2010-12-30). Diaspora (Kindle Locations 3127-3129). Orion. Kindle Edition.

comment by philh · 2015-02-16T13:37:17.675Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you!

comment by iarwain1 · 2015-02-17T01:59:06.865Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Scholarship hack: Get accepted to UMUC. All University of Maryland libraries are interconnected, and as an online college UMUC will ship books anywhere in the US (not sure about Hawaii / Alaska) free of charge + free return shipping. So for the price of the application fee you get access to 12 university libraries with delivery to your doorstep.

Disclaimer: I myself haven't done precisely as described above, since it's not necessary for me - my neighbor takes UMUC classes and lets me use his account.

Does anybody else have similar hacks? Any similar institutions that'll ship to your door?

comment by knb · 2015-02-17T08:49:06.860Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

So for the price of the application fee you get access to 12 university libraries with delivery to your doorstep.

Did you forget to add the price of tuition? Still this might be a great idea if you're working toward a degree (that accepts UMUC credits) at a school that doesn't pay for books.

comment by iarwain1 · 2015-02-17T18:44:35.869Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My suggestion was to apply and then not actually take any classes. If that's against your morals then maybe you can ask to audit a class or something like that.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-18T13:53:07.250Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you apply and not take any classes while paying no tuition? If so how long till they kick you out?

comment by iarwain1 · 2015-02-18T21:08:45.425Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As I said I've never done it actually this way. A friend of mine suggested that applying and never actually taking classes would almost certainly work. Presumably they'd kick you out after a year or so, but you could probably just apply again.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-02-23T04:41:32.733Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Learn German in high school and go to university for free in Germany. Do well, then go to a top-tier US institution for a MSc, hopefully at a reduced rate with some grad student funding. When you're done you have a great educational resume with language and international experience, for much less than a normal US university education would charge.

comment by TheSurvivalMachine · 2015-02-16T22:20:51.780Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm wondering if there are any fellow chess players here on Less Wrong. I'm a Fide Master from Sweden, ELO rating ~2300.

I think it would be interesting to get some statistics on the strength of the chess players here and relate that to other LW community statistics, such as IQ for example.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-02-20T11:12:46.221Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

ELO ~1825. I haven't played chess for a while, preferring go, poker, 'eurogames', computer games and so forth. I doubt that chess will correlate strongly with IQ - Kasparov only had an IQ of 137, which is below the LW average. A certain amount of intelligence is needed, but beyond that practise is more important.

comment by TheSurvivalMachine · 2015-02-20T15:04:07.107Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I also love to play other types of games! Mostly other boardgames, but also some computer games.

I could not find a source for Kasparov's IQ to be 137, many sites states that he has an alleged or estimated IQ of 190, which doesn't sound very reliable.

As for the IQ average of LW it seem to be under some doubt also, because of the large risk of selection bias.

comment by gjm · 2015-05-20T15:14:15.425Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I expect chess rating among LWers to be determined far more by how much time one's put into getting better at chess than by IQ, for the usual reason.

Back when I was in secondary school I played a moderate amount of chess and was maybe somewhere around 1750 (i.e., better than almost anyone who has never taken the game at all seriously, and worse than almost anyone who's actually any good). I play only rarely and casually now; perhaps 1600ish?

comment by Alejandro1 · 2015-02-16T16:50:09.565Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've had an experience a couple of times that feels like being stuck in a loop of circular preferences.

It goes like this. Say I have set myself the goal of doing some work before lunch. Noon arrives, and I haven't done any work--let's say I'm reading blogs instead. I start feeling hungry. I have an impulse to close the blogs and go get some lunch. Then I think I don't want to "concede defeat" and I better do at least some work before lunch, to feel better about myself. I open briefly my work, and then… close it and reopen the blogs. The cycle restarts. So Lunch > Blogs, Work > Lunch, and Blogs > Work.

(It usually ends with me doing some trivial amount of work--writing a few lines for a paper, sending an email, etc--and then going for lunch with an only half-guilty conscience.)

Has anybody else experienced circular-like preferences, whether procrastination-related like these or in a different context?

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-16T17:03:48.695Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's multiple agents with their own preferences fighting for the mic. One agent with a loop is not a good model here, imo.

comment by Manfred · 2015-02-16T23:33:32.984Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I disagree; I think that rather than multiple agents, one should self-model as zero agents.

Rather than the expected link of the blue-minimizing robot, I will instead link you somewhere else.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-17T10:56:45.750Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You are addressing the clothes and telling them they have no emperor. They can't hear you.

But Dennett is sort of besides the point here. I can build a simple agent ecosystem in LISP, and nobody would suggest there is anything conscious there. "Agent" talk as applied to such a LISP program would just be a useful modeling technique. An "agent" could just be "something with a utility function that can act," not "conscious self."

In fact, in the kinds of dilemmas humans face that the OP discusses, often some of the "agents" in question are something very old and pre-verbal and (regardless of your stance on consciousness) not very conscious at all. This does not prevent them from leaving a large footprint on our mental landscape.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-17T13:57:42.482Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The part that causes circularity is probably the work: it feels easy when you are not doing it (in far mode), but difficult when you are about to do it (in near mode). You preferences are probably something like this:

The Abstract Idea of Work > Lunch > Blogs > The Real Work

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-21T12:48:37.875Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

it feels easy when you are not doing it (in far mode), but difficult when you are about to do it (in near mode).

Of course, it could also be the opposite way around, as many people have more anxiety about things than they end up feeling when they do the things.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-02-22T18:39:24.572Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Patterns of development found in modern cities apparently were present in ancient cities too.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-02-22T17:02:14.614Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"When visibility is poor, people have car accidents because they can't see what's ahead of them, right? Actually, the Mandelbaum Effect implies that sometimes people have accidents because they aren't even looking for what's ahead of them. [...] Although it's possible to test for it, no one quite knows how to compensate for the effect yet."

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-22T17:35:21.961Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I may be becoming a bit too obsessed with self-driving cars, but this seems like one more strong argument for them.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-02-23T04:43:06.552Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Probably other people are insufficiently obsessed with self-driving cars.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-23T10:24:50.520Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Most of the people who move we technology forward are obsessed.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-17T16:00:31.723Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Re: "The regulator's career incentive does not focus on products that combine low-grade consumer harm with addictive superstimuli; it focuses on products with failure modes spectacular enough to get into the newspaper."

The issue with these "standard libertarian" arguments is that its model of government is the Federal Government of the USA. For smaller, less diverse nations, that operate less on clear incentives and more on a shared sense of culture or "shared common sense" (sensus communis) it is easier to develop a kind of public opinion, public consciousness that goes beyond media driven incentives.

In the USA the Utah government used to have a good track record of regulating things the way Mormons like them to have regulated. This is of course problematic on its own, but it is probably an entirely different set of problems.

The Feds, which US Libertarians generally mean under the term "government", are a particularly unusual kind of government, because it is not really based on a shared culture. The cultural overlap between Utah Mormons and NY Rationalists is fairly low. At best you could say it is arising from the negotiations between Utah Mormons and NY Rationalists and everybody else how to make a set of rules and a system of services that benefit all. Since this is almost obviously impossible because you don't even agree in what "to benefit" means, don't be surprised to find out it does not work well. But toss in a thought experiment of a Hispanic Republic of Southwest Texas and you will find it would work better.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-21T16:54:43.654Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yo, I know I'm pretty unpopular and all, but what's with my last 30 days karma fluctating but my actual karma not changing at all?

comment by g_pepper · 2015-02-21T17:33:48.654Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Presumably it is due to the fact that each day, any karma that was earned 30 days prior will roll out of your 30 day karma calculation, but not out of your total karma calculation. On any particular day, if you do not earn any karma, your total karma will remain unchanged, but if you did earn karma 30 days prior to the current day, your 30-day karma will change.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-21T18:32:49.482Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, my 30 day karma went down, got -2 but my total karma was unchanged. Weird. Had -42 now it's -44 and my total didn't change at all.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-22T04:27:27.365Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What that likely means is that just over 30 days ago you got two upvotes. That no longer goes into the 30 day but still counts towards your total. I would however recommend strongly on focusing more on the message that your karma sends overall in terms of what comments have been received well and which have not rather than look at minor fluctuations.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-23T09:13:51.812Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Maybe the values are cached, and recalculated at different moments.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-21T12:33:22.253Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I want to look at deep neural-net learning and hierarchical inference through some kind of information-theoretic lens and try to show why hierarchical learning is such a powerful general principle. Anyone have an idea whether mutual information or KL-divergence is the normal measure used for this kind of study, or where I might look for literature other than surveys of deep learning, or why I might use one rather than the other?

comment by G0W51 · 2015-02-20T13:06:13.397Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It may be beneficial for people in some space colonies to be outlawed from going to some other inhabited astronomical objects, as this could potentially prevent harmful nanotechnology and superviruses from reaching them. My main concern with this idea is that colonists wouldn't want to leave their old homes forever, even though they wouldn't be able to visit their old homes very much anyways due to the transportation costs. Alternatively, perhaps individuals going to a different astronomical object could be thoroughly searched to make sure they aren't carrying any supervirus or nanotechnology, though I don't know if this is feasible.

comment by maxikov · 2015-02-18T07:20:39.803Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What is the probability of having afterlife in a non-magical universe?

Aside from the simulation hypothesis (which is essentially another form of a magical universe), there is at leas one possibility for afterlife to exist: human ancestors travel back in time (or discover a way to get information from the past without passing anything back) to mind-upload everyone right before they die. There would be astrong incentive for them to not manifest themselves, as well as tolerate all the preventable suffering around the world: if changing the past leads to killing everyone in the original timeline, the price for altering the past is astronomical. Thus, they would have to only observe (with the reading of brain states as a form of observation) the past, but not change it, which is consistent with the observation of no signs of either time travelers or afterlife. But if will happen in future, it means it's already happening right now. How do you even approach estimating the probability of that?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-18T13:35:41.862Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Giving our physical laws I don't see how "observing without interfering" is non-magical. There seems to be a lot of assumption you make about the term non-magical that aren't well founded.

comment by maxikov · 2015-02-18T23:53:18.301Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you only observe by absorbing particles, but not emitting them, you can be far enough away so that the light cone of your observation only intersects with the Earth later than the original departure point. That would only change the past of presumably uninhabited areas of space-time.

comment by RowanE · 2015-02-18T13:31:25.407Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think a more reasonable thing to explore for "afterlife in a non-magical universe" is the considerations brought up in this post by Yvain

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-02-18T12:23:27.698Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How do you even approach estimating the probability of that?

You don't.

At least, that's the approach I take to all such Weird Tales.

comment by Ander · 2015-02-21T00:17:12.516Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The time travel seem even more magical to me than the simulation hypothesis.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2015-02-17T18:23:01.942Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reading the Main post on Sidekicks, I considered it worth noting in passing that I'm looking for a sidekick if someone feels that such would be an appropriate role for them.

This is me for those who don't know me:

And this is my flowchart/life;autobiography in the last few years:

Nice to meet you! :)

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-02-17T22:12:01.316Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What would be your sidekick's mission?

comment by diegocaleiro · 2015-02-17T22:25:44.927Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It feels to me like that would depend A LOT on the person, the personality, our physical distance, availability and interaction type. I feel that any response I gave would only filter valuable people away, which obviously I don't want to do.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-18T13:50:17.796Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I feel that any response I gave would only filter valuable people away

I think that's unlikely. At the moment it's harder to decide for people whether they are a match. Being more concrete likely increases response rates.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-17T15:44:20.486Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why I buy lottery tickets (re: )

I simply don't understand the logic of the post. Deciding what things you need to do is to improve your life is easy, the hard thing is to commit to it and do them. You still have plenty of daydreaming time left especially before you fall asleep. Investing dreaming and fantasizing into them does not make your decisions any better: usually they are simple decisions, the hard thing is just executing them. Spending thousands of hours mulling over why I need to work out more or how to convince my boss to implement that new thing learning which makes me better at the job market does not make it any more efficient.

Life does not consist of chess-mastermind decisions. It is the plain simple decisions to buckle down and work on things that in your life situation are usually blindingly obvious.

This means you don't lose anything if you choose to fantasize about anything you feel like. Instant wealth? That is actually mathemathically possible. I also fantasize about completely impossible things like finding adventure on the Middle-Earth. Why exactly not? I don't feel the need my life needs more planning input: it only needs more dedication input.

I think Eliezer could have made a better argument if he said if you want to fantasize about something near impossible, then don't choose something as mundane as being a rich playboy in the 21st century - fantasize about being Galactic Emperor or Jedi or a Gondorian knight fighting Mordor. Something grand, something that may make you write a good novel one day.

I believe we live in a dull world and it is correct to not occupy our minds 100% of the time with it but also long for escape. Dull compared to not other possible or previous worlds, but to ones we can imagine. There is a huge movie industry capitalizing on it.

Winning the lottery is a meta-fantasy, it is about having the security and time and funds to live in a fantasy simulation, like doing Society for Creative Anachronism stuff 7/24. If we were rich, our life would be an RPG. We had weekend house that would be like a 19th century hunters camp. Another one had a large field where I would set up medieval tents and invite re-enactors to do some jousting and medieval swordfighting there.

The lottery fantasy is a meta-fantasy about throwing funds and time on your fantasy.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-17T17:17:42.468Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The problem isn't fantasizing about winning the lottery. The problem is paying to fantasize about winning the lottery. The expected value of the ticket is negative, but you can fantasize for free.

EDIT: But even then, there are more valuable uses of your time than fantasizing about something that will never happen.

This means you don't lose anything if you choose to fantasize about anything you feel like.

You do lose something; the opportunity cost of spending time fantasizing. If you get enough out of fantasizing to offset that cost, then by all means do it, but for most people there are other valuable things they could do that are just as fun, like fantasizing as a means of fleshing out book ideas.

comment by Xerographica · 2015-02-19T05:29:17.913Z · score: -8 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess I'm not going to win any karma awards. Unless there was an award for the person with the least karma. Would I win? Has anybody had less than -69 karma? Actually, -69 karma is kinda sexy. Maybe a good name for a band? To listen to while having strange sex with a mildly attractive robot?

I suppose it could be argued that having an anti-karma award would create a perverse incentive. You wouldn't want people intentionally saying irrational things if the anti-karma award suddenly became prestigious. Well... actually, if the anti-karma award did become prestigious... then maybe people would think twice before they voted things down. That could be a good thing. Of course I'm just saying that because I'm a little biased. hah.

Well... since this is going to be downvoted anyways... I might as well get my money's worth...

This voting thing is just as stupid as regular voting. Do you know why it's stupid? Because there's no cost involved! How in the world can you truly trust the results of contingent valuation techniques?

If you think resources can be efficiently allocated in the absence of some cost... then you probably also believe that there is such a thing as a free lunch. Which means that you're completely ignorant of basic economics.

In order for comments (and articles) to be efficiently allocated... you have to put a real life price on votes. In other words, if you really want the most valuable comments to be at the top and the least valuable ones to be at the bottom... then voters have to be turned into spenders.

If downvoting this comment of mine would cost you $1 dollar ... then you're going to think just a little harder than if it cost you $0 dollars. You're going to put more thought into it because if you spend that $1 downvoting this comment that you dislike... then you can't also spend that same dollar upvoting a comment that you like. This is the fundamentally basic and extremely important opportunity cost concept. It's how we get to the truth of people's values.

If we injected actual opportunity cost into the comments... then the allocation of the comments would far more accurately reflect the true values of the members of this website. It wouldn't reflect their opinions... it would reflect their values.

How would it work? You just allow people to donate, via paypal or whatever, any amount to this website. Each dollar they donate becomes a dollar in their Less Wrong bank account. Then you just tweak the programming a bit and voila! The allocation of comments transforms from bullshit to truth.

Right now the allocation of karma has to be bullshit. Why? Because a thumbs up or down really isn't a bet...

Overall, I am for betting because I am against bullshit. Bullshit is polluting our discourse and drowning the facts. A bet costs the bullshitter more than the non-bullshitter so the willingness to bet signals honest belief. A bet is a tax on bullshit; and it is a just tax, tribute paid by the bullshitters to those with genuine knowledge. - Alex Tabarrok, A Bet is a Tax on Bullshit

If you like that quote... then on this page... Louder ... is a link to a PDF document with 62 additional quotes/passages on the value of people putting their money where their mouths are.

Because the current allocation of karma is bullshit... the karma awards are as laughable as the outcome of any political election.

Like most of you I'm an atheist but the bible has at least one thing right... and that's the fact that sacrifice communicates value. It's not... god so loved the world that he voted for it... it's... god so loved the world that he sacrificed his son for it. It's one thing to say that you love your country so much that you vote... and it's another thing to say that you love your country so much that you sent your only son to Afghanistan to defend it.

Which member of this community is most worthy of your own sacrifice? Who would you most be willing to bet on? How much would you be willing to bet on them?

Of course I'm sure somebody's thinking that this would give way too much influence to the wealthy. Wrong! It would simply allow the wealthy to wield the influence that they already have. And if you don't like it, then write an article that convinces me that consumer sovereignty subverts, rather than manifests, the true will of the people.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-19T10:16:22.276Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How in the world can you truly trust the results of contingent valuation techniques?

You can trust by looking at the results that the process produces. The empiric method.

You getting negative karma is the system working as intended.

comment by RowanE · 2015-02-19T17:32:02.850Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not all signalling that costs money is a bet - if there's no way for correct judgement to be rewarded then you're not talking about a tax on bullshit, you're talking about a tax on speech. Which might be desirable for someone whose main experience of speech here is criticism of your ideas, but would probably not be a big step forward for LW.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-02-16T15:31:20.927Z · score: -34 (38 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Atheist bloggers had some fun the other day with creationist Ken Ham's pronouncement that because the King James Bible translates an obscure Hebrew word in a couple of passages as "unicorn," therefore unicorns must exist. To deny the reality of unicorns demeans god's word, or something to that effect.

I can see why atheists would want to deny unicorns: They don't want unicorns to hold them accountable for their adult virginity. : )

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-02-16T17:24:17.770Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're repeating your comment from the previous Open Thread. Did it worry you that nobody bothered to reply? I'd guess nobody did because your implication about the relative sexual inexperience of atheists is simply not true, is not funny, is not in good taste, and isn't even usable as seed for interesting discussion. Posting it again only adds to the annoyance.