Rationality Quotes November 2011

post by Jayson_Virissimo · 2011-11-01T18:28:38.290Z · score: 6 (9 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 395 comments

Here's the new thread for posting quotes, with the usual rules:

395 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by scav · 2011-11-02T15:36:55.548Z · score: 42 (44 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just noticed CVS has started stocking homeopathic pills on the same shelves with--and labeled similarly to--their actual medicine. Telling someone who trusts you that you're giving them medicine, when you know you’re not, because you want their money, isn’t just lying--it’s like an example you’d make up if you had to illustrate for a child why lying is wrong.

-- Randall, XKCD #971

comment by PhilGoetz · 2011-12-31T20:18:56.299Z · score: 12 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I noticed this too, but they're fake homeopathic pills. They're not really homeopathic - they have active ingredients in the same quantity as the original brand-name products they are knock-offs of, but with the word "homeopathic" added as a marketing ploy. They're lying about lying.

comment by Maniakes · 2011-11-02T01:12:00.510Z · score: 41 (43 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.

John W. Gardner

comment by Emile · 2011-12-31T16:22:47.182Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree with the general thrust, but ... even though modern western society does scorn plumbers (compared to philosophers), our pipes do hold water, and I don't have any complaints about the overall quality of plumbing.

Our society may not have much high words of praise for excellence in plumbing (you're more likely to talk about your hobby as a wildlife photographer than your job fixing toilets on your OK Cupid profile, even if you're average at the first and excellent at the second), but good plumbers get more money than bad plumbers, which is enough to get quality plumbing. By contrast, good philosophers get more praise from their peers than bad philosophers do, which is both harder to evaluate and less motivating.

So I don't think it's a matter of humble activity / exalted activity; designing bridges and transplanting hearts are exalted activities too, and we don't tolerate much shoddiness there.

comment by wallowinmaya · 2011-10-31T19:55:56.486Z · score: 30 (32 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.

Voltaire

comment by Nisan · 2011-11-22T03:02:18.584Z · score: 28 (28 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some years ago I was trying to decide whether or not to move to Harvard from Stanford. I had bored my friends silly with endless discussion. Finally, one of them said, “You’re one of our leading decision theorists. Maybe you should make a list of the costs and benefits and try to roughly calculate your expected utility.” Without thinking, I blurted out, “Come on, Sandy, this is serious.”

-Persi Diaconis

By the way, Diaconis stayed at Stanford. He's giving a public lecture on Nov. 30.

comment by gwern · 2011-11-23T03:00:52.743Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a pretty cool paper; eg.

There is not very much variability in coin flips, and practiced magicians (including myself ) can control them pretty precisely. My colleagues at the Harvard Physics Department built me a perfect coin flipper that comes up heads every time. Most human flippers do not have this kind of control and are in the range of 51⁄2 mph and 35 to 40 rps. Where is this on Figure 1? In the units of Figure 1, the velocity is about 1⁄5—very close to the zero. However, the spin coordinate is about 40—way off the graph. Thus, the picture says nothing about real flips. However, the math behind the picture determines how close the regions are in the appropriate zone. Using this and the observed spread of the measured data allows us to conclude that coin tossing is fair to two decimals but not to three. That is, typical flips show biases such as .495 or .503.

Or:

One of the most useful things to come out of my study is a collection of the rules of thumb my friends use in their decision making. For example, one of my Ph.D. advisers, Fred Mosteller, told me, “Other things being equal, finish the job that is nearest done.” A famous physicist offered this advice: “Don’t waste time on obscure fine points that rarely occur.” I’ve been told that Albert Einstein displayed the following aphorism in his office: “Things that are difficult to do are being done from the wrong centers and are not worth doing.” Decision theorist I. J. Good writes, “The older we become, the more important it is to use what we know rather than learn more.” Galen offered this: “If a lot of smart people have thought about a problem [e.g., God’s existence, life on other planets] and disagree, then it can’t be decided.”

comment by Nisan · 2011-11-23T03:05:02.996Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm glad Vaniver brought it to my attention.

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-10-31T19:38:26.668Z · score: 26 (40 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

On precision in aesthetics, metaethics:

RS: Butt-Head, I have a question for you. I noticed that you often say, "I like stuff that's cool." But isn't that circular logic? I mean, what is the definition of "cool," other than an adjective denoting something the speaker likes?

BH: Huh-huh. Uh, did you, like, go to college?

RS: You don't have to go to college to know the definition of "redundant." What I'm saying is that essentially what you're saying is "I like stuff that I like."

B: Yeah. Huh-huh. Me, too.

BH: Also, I don't like stuff that sucks, either.

RS: But nobody likes stuff that sucks!

BH: Then why does so much stuff suck?

B: Yeah. College boy! Huh-huh, huh-huh.

-Rolling Stone, Interview with Beavis and Butt-Head

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-05T22:30:09.728Z · score: 24 (30 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.

Gloria Steinem

comment by sketerpot · 2011-11-10T01:44:39.252Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This doesn't need to be true. Accepting the truth without getting pissed off is a learnable skill.

comment by Alerik · 2011-11-17T05:57:26.618Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think, in terms of truths that "set one free," there is a high probability of being in bondage to some delusion or malformed anxiety, and that the wrenching effect of having to overturn a lot of one's prior beliefs is quite likely to have some anger component, even if only at whatever forces kept one in ignorance previously. In many cases it means coming to terms with the degree to which one had been used and manipulated up until the new perspective arrived. At least this mirrors my experience leaving the church, as well as in some other emotionally loaded topics.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-03T07:45:04.550Z · score: 22 (22 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is better to destroy one's own errors than those of others.

Democritus

comment by sketerpot · 2011-11-09T02:49:25.293Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Certainly more convenient. I mean, you're right there. You don't even have to verbalize your arguments!

comment by Nominull · 2011-10-31T15:31:51.630Z · score: 22 (24 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Opening your eyes doesn't make a bad picture worse.

comment by orbenn · 2011-11-01T16:39:42.240Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Technically true, but that's a horrible analogy. Bullys are still a problem if you don't notice them. An ugly picture is completely not a problem if no one sees it, so in a way it is worse.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-01T19:57:17.191Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Isn't this opposed to Lovecraft's claim that nothing he could describe would be as scary as the unknown / the reader's fears?

As well, there are a lot of shock pictures out there that were worse than what I could imagine before having seen them, and looking at them is worse than remembering them. If "worse" refers to subjective experience, then it seems obvious that closing your eyes can help.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-01T21:01:30.175Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As well, there are a lot of shock pictures out there that were worse than what I could imagine before having seen them, and looking at them is worse than remembering them.

Care to name an example? I've been so desensitized, I think the worst any picture could do for me is to be somewhat depressing. Lovecraft, however, is still horrifying.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2011-11-01T23:25:33.580Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You actually find Lovecraft horrifying? I read a bit (color out of space, a short about ancient lizard people being wiped out by a vengeful god, and a bunch of descriptions) and found it peculiar and sad, but not horrifying. Too much Poe as a baby, I guess.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-02T00:19:48.240Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Lovecraft directly taps into my own madness and fears. He is psychologically quite similar to me and manages to actually express how bad xenophobia and the utter indifference of the cosmos feel. Worst of all, his more madness-focused stories like The Dreams in the Witch-House directly remind me of my own periods of insanity and paranoia. So it's really horrifying through its realism, at least for a certain kind of person.

(And he is the only one I know who does that, though I'm (intentionally) not very familiar with some related authors like Ligotti.)

Plus, violations of the natural order are much worse than anything in traditional horror. A color that doesn't fit in the light spectrum is more terrifying and disgusting to me than serial killers, torture or 2girls1cup. Not sure I can explain that one.

comment by kurokikaze · 2011-11-03T08:58:34.921Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Pfft. Even magenta doesn't fit in the light spectrum. Are you terrified yet? :)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-03T15:09:28.899Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good point. No wonder it has such a negative association.

comment by Armok_GoB · 2011-11-02T17:21:11.830Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This reminds me of an experiment I've wanted to do for some time, but don't have the necessary equipment for. I'd love to see it tested by someone who do.

Take multiple light sources each shining in only one frequency, that can be dimmed, in specific triplets. Quickly eyeballing it I'd suggest [420nm, 550nm, 600nm] and [460nm, 500nm, 570nm]. using a normal white light source as a reference, first adjust the relative intensity of each triplet so the combined light appears white, then scale the combined light (probably by simply altering the distance) to the same intensity. Both lights should now appear identical. if they don't make further minor adjustments. Look at them side by side, until you can see the colour out of space. :)

rot13 hint url: UGGC://RA.JVXVCRQVN.BET/JVXV/SVYR:PBAR-ERFCBAFR.FIT

comment by saturn · 2011-11-03T01:18:11.647Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why do you want to do this?

comment by Armok_GoB · 2011-11-03T20:06:41.941Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Because seeing tetracromaticaly would be awesome, even if it's only possible in contrived settings.

comment by lavalamp · 2011-11-03T20:30:27.794Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you expect that setup to feel much different than say, putting florescent and incandescent bulbs next to each other?

I think you need some special equipment to actually see tetrachromatically: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrachromacy#Possibility_of_human_tetrachromats

comment by Armok_GoB · 2011-11-03T22:14:14.994Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My neurology intuition has proven useful in the past, and I trust it a lot more than that wikipedia article.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-01T23:30:06.506Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Same here, though I do enjoy (some of) Lovecraft's writing. I just don't find it as frightening as he apparently did. When I was little, Poe's Fall of the House of Usher and Bradbury's There Will Come Soft Rains literally gave me nightmares for weeks, so I must have developed some powerful mental antibodies.

comment by Nominull · 2011-11-01T21:04:11.679Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please don't taunt the basilisk.

comment by Dorikka · 2011-11-02T01:10:27.959Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or just appropriately encode the text/label the link/add appropriate warnings?

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-02T04:55:47.948Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I do not have a very visual imagination, and so find it easy to forget the details of disturbing pictures, even if I saw them moments ago (forget meaning not be able to recreate in my mind, rather than not be able to recognize). Of the time when I was frequenting 4chan, I think my least favorite picture was ybghf gvg.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-11-09T13:04:45.603Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Search Google Images for "teratoma".

comment by Nominull · 2011-11-01T21:00:23.927Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As always when we hear the word "worse", we need to ask ourselves, "worse on what metric?"

comment by player_03 · 2011-11-01T23:36:02.840Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This reminds me of Lojban, in which the constructs meaning "good" and "bad" encourage you to specify a metric. It is still possible to say that something is "worse" without providing any detail, but I suspect most Lojban speakers would remember to provide detail if there was a chance of confusion.

comment by Karmakaiser · 2011-10-31T13:12:50.951Z · score: 21 (23 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone's fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, I'm one of Us. I must be. I've certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We're always one of Us. It's Them that do the bad things.

-Terry Pratchett, Jingo

comment by JenniferRM · 2011-11-02T00:19:56.272Z · score: 20 (22 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

People can learn to look you in the eyes even when they're lying to you. But it's kind of like a fake smile; there are involuntary muscles up there. If you know what you're looking for, you can still tell. But what does it mean if they're looking you in the eyes and they mean it? It means that, at least in that moment, they're doing what they really believe is right. That's the definition of integrity.

That part is easy. That's not the surprising thing.

The surprising thing, to me, was that someone can have integrity and still be completely evil. It's kind of obvious in retrospect; the super-villain in an action movie can always look the hero in the eye, and he always does, just to prove it. He has integrity. Evil with integrity is more respectable, somehow, than plain evil. All it takes to have integrity is to do what you think is right, no matter how stupid that may be.

Beware of people with integrity.

-Avery Pennarun

comment by gaffa · 2011-10-31T18:41:50.774Z · score: 20 (20 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can't make a movie and say 'It was all a big accident' - no, it has to be a conspiracy, people plotting together. Because in a story, a story is about intention. A story is not about spontaneous order or complex human institutions which are the product of human action but not of human design - no, a story is about evil people plotting together.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2011-11-01T08:47:57.884Z · score: 23 (23 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

One of the strengths of Apollo 13 is that it has only good guys in it, battling together against an unforeseen, mysterious and near-lethal twist of fate.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-31T18:50:43.931Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Apparently he hasn't seen many Cohen brothers movies...

comment by juliawise · 2011-11-01T22:13:51.801Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or movies that are about relationships instead of stuff blowing up. There are plenty of good movies with plots and no bad guys.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-31T19:35:15.120Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Which isn't to say this undermines his overall point - such movies are the exception, and interesting partly because of that - just that his language was too forceful.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-01T12:48:58.873Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's a mystery novel that left me incredibly angry at the author because I was expecting an interesting complex cause tying all the murders together, but there wasn't. I'm probably a calmer person now, and for all I know, there may have been hints I was missing about what sort of story it was.

Gur Anzr bs gur Ebfr

comment by Solvent · 2011-11-02T10:06:50.970Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

...I think it's a sign of the times that I can read rot13 to the extent that I know what book you said. Dammit, I was going to read that book one day.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-02T12:46:27.657Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Apologies. I've seen a post with a link to a rot13 page-- I'll see if I can make that work for future spoilers.

You still might want to read the book-- it had a lot of engaging detail and characters.. That's why I was so angry at not getting the sort of ending I wanted.

comment by Solvent · 2011-11-04T10:02:48.659Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It probably isn't a common enough affliction to have to worry about.

But yeah, I'll pick the book up some time.

comment by khafra · 2011-11-02T13:07:20.308Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I read Sbhpnhyg'f Craqhyhz before Gur Anzr bs gur Ebfr, so the nature of the ending was no surprise to me; but I still enjoyed the book.

comment by Alejandro1 · 2011-11-01T01:25:25.858Z · score: 18 (20 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Consider an instance close to hand: arguments on the Internet. Whether the discussion is about abortion or the definition of atheism or the advisability of tax cuts, one might think that the longer the debate continues, the more ideas would emerge. In fact, the reverse is the case. A couple of scientists discussing the proper taxonomy of flesh flies will entertain many options, but thousands of people talking about God will endlessly repeat the same rhetorical moves.

Jim Harrison

comment by peter_hurford · 2011-10-31T16:20:46.800Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Expert estimates of probability are often off by factors of hundreds or thousands. [...] I used to be annoyed when the margin of error was high in a forecasting model that I might put together. Now I view it as perhaps the single most important piece of information that a forecaster provides. When we publish a forecast on FiveThirtyEight, I go to great lengths to document the uncertainty attached to it, even if the uncertainty is sufficiently large that the forecast won’t make for punchy headlines.

Nate Silver

comment by Alejandro1 · 2011-10-31T20:03:56.316Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

From the same post:

One might expect it [our gut-feel sense] to be especially bad in the case of presidential primaries. There have been only about 15 competitive nomination contests since we began picking presidents this way in 1972. Some of them — like the nominations of George McGovern in 1972 and Jimmy Carter in 1976 — are dismissed by experts if their outcomes did not happen to agree with their paradigm of how presidents are chosen. (Another fundamental error: when you have such little data, you should almost never throw any of it out, and you should be especially wary of doing so when it happens to contradict your hypothesis.)

comment by Xom · 2011-11-01T20:14:06.021Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing you probably hunt about until you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one's meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations.

~ Orwell

comment by RobinZ · 2011-11-01T20:36:05.955Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Politics and the English Language", 1946.

comment by Armok_GoB · 2011-11-02T17:33:37.946Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is the exact opposite of my experience- I think wordlessly with both abstract and concrete things, and hunting for words might work for the concrete things occasionally, since they are mostly the same, but for almost all abstract things there simply does not exist any word even close to what I want to say, so surrender - the hard kind, accepting defeat and humiliation, like that class scene in MoR - and making do with unbearably clumsy, confusing and muddled metaphor is exactly what I have to learn in every case I don't know the exact mathematical notation to formalize my thoughts.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-12T07:52:00.054Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You could try using "kind of shit" or similar as the only noun in you consciousness used to describe abstract things. E.g. "Those kinds of shit, or those kinds of shit? Hmm...the first kind of shit seems much less bad when I think about it. Pile of shit - I mean, virtue ethics - it is, then!"

comment by Armok_GoB · 2011-11-12T18:18:49.057Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Huh? How would that help me communicate wordless ideas? Just because I know what "shit" means doesn't help the other person understand what I mean by it. If anything this'd make the problem much worse.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-12T18:37:43.795Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

From the original quote I thought the problem being addressed wasn't communication, but using a cached carving of reality despite new evidence. Something analogous to how seeing a movie sets images of a book's characters and settings in one's mind.

comment by Armok_GoB · 2011-11-13T01:53:57.288Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, that's the problem talking about in the OP. Then I said "I'm having exactly the opposite problem" in response to that OP.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-13T11:09:26.464Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sorry, I misinterpreted your statement.

As for how I now think you intended it, "making do with unbearably clumsy, confusing and muddled metaphor is exactly what I have to learn in every case I don't know the exact mathematical notation to formalize my thoughts," I disagree to some extent, as conveying ideas has much to do with the flawed interpreters, and not just perfectly formalizing thoughts. See e.g. my misinterpretation above. ;-)

The sequence post on that is here.

comment by Armok_GoB · 2011-11-13T17:17:12.894Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a different problem, and a much harder one, although the specific apple tree case I'm surprised they didn't figure out: "I don't know, but I have a hunch it might be between 10 and 1000. "

If I have the notation I can explain it to other somewhat rational people who also know that notation, and might be better at explaining things than me so that others can get the idea indirectly as well. If I don't know the notation the idea is stuck in my head forever.

comment by spriteless · 2011-11-12T01:46:34.836Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find that some of the charts used to plan software and to turn English into logical constructs match my thoughts more closely than the English itself.

comment by Armok_GoB · 2011-11-12T18:22:50.239Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yea. Lot's of problems thou. They tend to be domain specific, making anything in them tends to take ages due to the low brain-computer bandwidth and/or flawed interfaces, others are unlikely to understand them, etc.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-01T23:01:13.089Z · score: 16 (18 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I let go of a hammer on a planet that has a positive gravity, I need not see it fall to know that it has in fact fallen. [...] Gentlemen, human beings have characteristics just as inanimate objects do.

-Spock, "Court Martial", Star Trek: The Original Series

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-03T17:33:53.872Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

on a planet that has a positive gravity

Heh.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-11-11T22:49:58.519Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The universe of Star Trek could get pretty weird.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2011-11-03T14:43:41.857Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wait...theory trumps data?

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2011-11-03T15:34:05.779Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If Spock wasn't looking then he has no data. The theory makes predictions. That's the point of theories.

EDIT: See "Belief in the Implied Invisible"

comment by Nominull · 2011-10-31T17:29:21.748Z · score: 16 (20 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Writers of all stripes enjoy engaging in the most cynical readings of human behavior because they think it makes them appear hyper-rational. But in fact here is a perfect example of how trying to achieve that makes you irrational. Human emotion is real. It is an observable phenomenon. It observably influences behavior. Therefore to fail to account for it when discussing coupling and relationships is the opposite of cold rationality; it is in fact a failure of empiricism.

-L'Hote on Kate Bolick's "All the Single Ladies"

comment by Pfft · 2011-10-31T18:24:06.854Z · score: 28 (30 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This sounds good out of context, but I think it was actually confused. The context was a complaint that '"marriage market" theories leave love out of the equation'. But this is a false dichotomy. It could well be that people marry out of sincerely felt love, but fall in love with "older men with resources" and "younger women with adoring gazes”, as the original article had it. The cues that cause you to fall in love are not easily accessible to introspection.

More to the point, the original article was speculating about how a demographic shift that makes women wealthier than men would affect dating culture. What does it even mean to account for human emotion here? The way the problem is set up, the abstract model is the best we can hope for. In general, when discussing big trends or large groups, we don't have detailed information about the emotions of everyone involved. In that case, leaving those out of the model is not a failure of empiricism, it's just doing the best with what's available.

I think there are different contexts where this same quote makes more sense: for example you probably won't get a very good understanding of eBay auctions by assuming that everyone involved follows a simple economic model.

comment by kalla724 · 2011-11-02T20:34:16.435Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The best way to escape from a problem is to solve it.

-Alan Saporta

comment by djcb · 2011-11-01T21:48:31.513Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The nurse recorded the time of death, 9:21 P.M. He discovered, oddly, that the clock had halted at that moment —just the sort of mystical phenomenon that appealed to unscientific people. Then an explanation occurred to him. He knew the clock was fragile, because he had repaired it several times, and he decided that the nurse must have stopped it by picking it up to check the time in the dim light.

[ James Gleick - Genius - The work and Life of Richard Feynman; this is a really chilling passage, which describes the moments just after Feynman's wife has passed away, which devastated him. Somehow, this struck me.]

comment by RobinZ · 2011-11-01T22:01:44.186Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Arlene died a few hours after I got there. A nurse came in to fill out the death certificate, and went out again. I spent a little more time with my wife. Then I looked at the clock I had given her seven years before, when she had first become sick with tuberculosis. It was something which in those days was very nice: a digital clock whose numbers would change by turning around mechanically. The clock was very delicate and often stopped for one reason or another - I had to repair it from time to time - but I kept it going for all those years. Now, it had stopped once more - at 9:22, the time on the death certificate!

I remembered the time I was in my fraternity house at MIT when the idea came into my head completely out of the blue that my grandmother was dead. Right after that there was a telephone call, just like that. It was for Pete Bernays - my grandmother wasn't dead. So I remembered that, in case somebody told me a story that ended the other way. I figured that such things can sometimes happen by luck - after all, my grandmother was very old - although people might think they happened by some sort of supernatural phenomenon.

Arlene had kept this clock by her bedside all the time she was sick, and now it stopped the moment she died. I can understand how a person who half believes in the possibility of such things, and who hasn't got a doubting mind - especially in a circumstance like that - doesn't immediately try to figure out what happened, but instead explains that no one touched the clock, and there was no possibility of explanation by normal phenomena. The clock simply stopped. It would become a dramatic example of these fantastic phenomena.

I saw that the light in the room was low, and then I remembered that the nurse had picked up the clock and turned it toward the light to see the face better. That could easily have stopped it.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, "Los Alamos from Below" (third chapter of Part 3)

comment by djcb · 2011-11-01T22:08:20.825Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nice. This is probably where mr. Gleick got it from. The strange thing is that (I think), Feynman's wife's first name is Arline, not the more common Arlene. I found Gleick's book nice in that it did attempted to look beyond some of legends/anecdotes.

comment by billswift · 2011-11-03T21:29:36.336Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you are up to a harder read, Jagdish Mehra's biography The Beat of a Different Drum does a better job of covering Feynman's actual work.

comment by djcb · 2011-11-03T22:02:05.442Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks -- I'll put that on my reading list. Will read some other books in between though!

comment by RobinZ · 2011-11-01T22:22:43.885Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I recognized it from Mr. Gleick's remarks. As for the name, I copied the text from the free preview on Amazon.com - they spelled it Arlene in the book. Guess there was an overambitious proofreader.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-01-13T03:06:12.297Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Alternate explanation: The clock stopped before his wife died, but the nurse recorded 9:21 as his wife's time of death, because she determined the time by checking the clock, not realizing it had already stopped.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-01-13T15:33:25.756Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Things like this always remind me to doubt clever-sounding explanations of phenomena I wouldn't actually have predicted in advance. Obviously, "not supernatural" is a very strong bet - but the specific hypotheses? Those are less obvious.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-01-13T15:33:05.824Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

According to this comment, he had seen the nurse pick up the clock. So there's that.

comment by Pfft · 2011-10-31T14:46:39.644Z · score: 15 (21 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

[,,,]we don't just talk about arguments in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments. We see the person we are arguing with as an opponent. We attack his positions and we defend our own. We gain and lose ground. We plan and use strategies. If we find a position indefensible, we can abandon it and take a new line of attack. Many of the things we do in arguing are partially structured by the concept of war. Though there is no physical battle, there is a verbal battle, and the structure of an argument--attack, defense, counter-attack, etc.---reflects this. It is in this sense that the ARGUMENT IS WAR metaphor is one that we live by in this culture; its structures the actions we perform in arguing. Try to imagine a culture where arguments are not viewed in terms of war, where no one wins or loses, where there is no sense of attacking or defending, gaining or losing ground. Imagine a culture where an argument is viewed as a dance, the participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way. In such a culture, people would view arguments differently, experience them differently, carry them out differently, and talk about them differently.

-George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By.

comment by juliawise · 2011-11-01T22:17:15.922Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think navigators (maybe orienteers?) would be a better model than than warriors or dancers.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-01T22:24:23.084Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Would you (or anyone else) please explore this further? How would we change the way we talk about discourse?

comment by juliawise · 2011-11-02T11:39:22.742Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

War is something we do to win. Dance is something we do either to entertain others, or for our own enjoyment. Debate teams work like this - you're assigned a position which you must argue, even if you don't believe it. The performers/debaters do it some for their own pleasure, and they attract audiences who come to be entertained. My husband and I do a lot of arguing/debate for amusement, which is more like social dance in that it's playful and designed to entertain us rather than to accomplish any other goal.

But neither of these metaphors deal with objective truth. If I win a war, a debate, or a lawsuit, it doesn't prove my point is correct. It just means I fought or argued more skillfully or impressively. In navigation, both skill and objective truth are involved. Imagine two people who are trying to reach a destination (representing truth). They need skill to figure out how to get there, and can even compete for who gets there first (as in the sport of orienteering). Or, they can collaborate to find it together. If I confidently and stylishly navigate in the wrong direction, I won't reach my destination. I can only get there by reading the signs correctly.

I would prefer serious argument to be more about truth-seeking and less about showing off or defeating the opponent.

comment by anandjeyahar · 2011-11-02T08:28:58.124Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have been preferring dancers over warriors.. but navigators does ring a bell... But orienteers.. kind of too abstract for me... while we are talking of navigation how about scouts??

comment by billswift · 2011-11-03T22:13:40.188Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Too abstract"? What exactly are you thinking of? Orienteering is one of the most concrete and immediate forms of navigation. (I did a little in high school, in the brushy woodlands common in the Mid-Atlantic region it is a real challenge.)

ADDED: How about changing the [CLOSE] button to something like DISCARD. I keep clicking on it when I want to commit an edit and losing my work.

comment by anandjeyahar · 2012-02-15T00:39:00.278Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oops really late reply. Anyway, i meant that the similarities are not apparent at first read. In fact i was extrapolating from the Orient sense of the word.. Now i see it better, was not aware of orienteering as a sport. Thanks

comment by Hey · 2011-11-02T09:01:09.381Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am thinking of coding up a web app for accumulating, voting, and commenting on quotes. Kind of like bash.org but much fancier.

Is that something you guys would be interested in? If so, what features would you want?

This would be free to use of course, and the site would not lock down the data (ie it would be exportable to various formats).

I am thinking there are a lot of communities that post quotes for internal use, and might be interested in a kind of unified web site for this. My initial thought is that it would be like Reddit, where each tribe/community/subculture/topic/etc gets its own subdirectory.

comment by DanielVarga · 2011-11-03T19:26:19.701Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Are you aware of my Best of Rationality Quotes post? I'm not saying that it is directly relevant for you, but there is stuff there that might give you some inspiration, especially the weird aggregate statistics at the end.

comment by Hey · 2011-11-04T15:26:38.748Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, I was not aware of this. I would like to create something like this, but generic so every online community can use it.

comment by JenniferRM · 2011-11-02T00:17:36.417Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

All scientists despise the ideology of 'breakthroughs' --- I mean the belief that science proceeds from one revelation to another, each one opening up a new world of understanding and advancing still farther a sharp line of demarcation between what is true and what is false. Everyone actually engaged in scientific research knows that this way of looking at things is altogether misleading, and that the frontier between understanding and bewilderment is rather like the plasma membrane of a cell as it creeps over its substratum, a pushing forward here, a retraction there --- an exploratory probing that will eventually move forward the whole body of the cell... in real life, science does not prance from one mountain top to the next.

-Peter Medawar in "Does Ethology Throw Any Light on Human Behavior?"

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-05T07:49:49.691Z · score: 13 (19 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sweetie, if you work reaaaaly hard, and focus reaaaaly well, and there aren't that many people who are still better at what you do than you are despite your best efforts, you can be whatever you want. If you don't die.

Zach Weiner, SMBC]

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-11-04T22:04:34.901Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

“Tell me, Eben: how is’t, d’you think, that the planets are moved in their courses?”

“Why, said Ebenezer, “’tis that the cosmos is filled with little particles moving in vortices, each of which centers on a star; and ‘tis the subtle push and pull of these particles in our solar vortex that slides the planets along their orbs – is’t not?”

“So saith Descartes,” Burlingame smiled. “And d’you haply recall what is the nature of light?”

“If I have’t right,” replied Ebenezer, “’tis an aspect of the vortices – of the press of inward and outward forces in ‘em. The celestial fire is sent through space from the vortices by this pressure, which imparts a transitional motion to little light globules – ”

“Which Renatus kindly hatched for that occasion,” Burlingame interrupted. “And what’s more he allows his globules both a rectilinear and a rotatary motion. If only the first occurs when the globules smite our retinae, we see white light; if both, we see color. And if this were not magical enough – mirabile dictu! – when the rotatory motion surpasseth the rectilinear, we see blue; when the reverse, we see red; and when the twain are equal, we see yellow. What fantastical drivel!”

“You mean ‘tis not the truth? I must say, Henry, it sounds reasonable to me. In sooth, there is a seed of poetry in it; it hath an elegance.”

“Aye, it hath every virtue and but one small defect, which is, that the universe doth not operate in that wise.”

-John Barth, the Sot-Weed Factor

comment by jsbennett86 · 2011-11-01T00:53:29.558Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Who first called Reason sweet, I don't know. I suspect that he was a man with very few responsibilities, no children to rear, and no payroll to meet. An anchorite with heretical tendencies, maybe, or the idle youngest son of a wealthy Athenian. The dictates of Reason are often difficult to figure out, rarely to my liking, and profitable only by what seems a happy but remarkably unusual accident. Mostly, Reason brings bad news, and bad news of the worst sort, for, if it is truly the word of Reason, there is no denying it or weaseling out of its demands without simply deciding to be irrational. Thus it is that I have discovered, and many others, I notice, have also discovered, all sorts of clever ways to convince myself that Reason is "mere" Reason, powerful and right, of course, but infinitely outnumbered by reasons, my reasons.

Richard Mitchell, The Gift of Fire

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T00:05:44.499Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Virtually no idea is too ridiculous to be accepted, even by very intelligent and highly educated people, if it provides a way for them to feel special and important. Some confuse that feeling with idealism.

--Thomas Sowell

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-09T17:05:37.956Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is idealism a different state of mind? Surely brain circuitry doesn't change when considering true ideas.

comment by MinibearRex · 2011-11-04T14:36:39.083Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Through the discovery of Buchner, Biology was relieved of yet another fragment of mysticism. The splitting up of sugar into CO2 and alcohol is no more the effect of a "vital principle" than the splitting up of cane sugar by invertase. The history of this problem is instructive, as it warns us against considering problems beyond our reach because they have not yet found their solution.

-Jacques Loeb, 1906, on the discovery of the mechanism of glycolysis

comment by Alejandro1 · 2011-10-31T22:44:25.228Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I want to give thanks to the divine
Labyrinth of causes and effects
For the diversity of beings
That form this singular universe,
For Reason, that will never give up its dream
Of a map of the labyrinth,

Jorge Luis Borges, “Another poem of gifts” (opening lines).

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-31T18:11:05.132Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-11-01T02:00:28.404Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Even if they did, would you believe them?

comment by soreff · 2011-11-02T16:41:23.886Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

One of the grislier consequences of Alzheimer's disease is that it places its victims in almost precisely this position. Yes, their minds are going. It isn't so much that they don't believe the diagnosis as that, by the time it can be made, they cannot understand it.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-02T17:14:53.071Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, their minds are going. It isn't so much that they don't believe the diagnosis as that, by the time it can be made, they cannot understand it.

That would seem to apply only if the diagnosis is made very late. Plenty of people know about their condition and must watch as their minds steadily deteriorate. See, for example, Terry Pratchett's "Living With Alzheimer's" documentary.

comment by soreff · 2011-11-02T17:26:22.605Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Many Thanks! I was relying on Sherwin B. Nuland's description of it in a chapter in his "How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter " . That was published in 1994. I guess earlier diagnosis is feasible today.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2011-11-02T10:29:08.345Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

were getting stupider. :p

comment by Emily · 2011-11-02T17:30:54.257Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's nothing stupid about "was" there. The subjunctive and indicative are equally grammatical in this context in modern English --- informal contexts might even prefer the latter over the former.

comment by baiter · 2011-11-04T02:31:09.833Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

John Adams, Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials

comment by peter_hurford · 2011-11-01T02:23:57.429Z · score: 11 (25 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think, therefore I am perhaps mistaken.

Sharon Fenick

comment by kalla724 · 2011-11-02T20:30:48.362Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.

Bertrand Russell

A common sentiment among the thoughtful, it seems.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-02T22:17:15.875Z · score: 21 (25 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would never die for my beliefs because... screw that I would rather lie.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2011-11-03T19:46:09.837Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is Bertrand Russell willing to die if he encounters someone with a gun who demands he agree that 2 + 2 = 5?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-03T20:28:23.757Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am willing to lie if I encounter someone with a gun who demands I agree that 2 + 2 = 5.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-03T20:44:30.963Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Profess the belief or adopt the belief?

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-03T21:35:56.139Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Deceptively clever.

Russell would have liked that one, I think.

comment by byrnema · 2011-11-03T22:00:24.740Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why? (Can you explain?)

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-03T22:17:06.542Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

At first glance, it looks like a misunderstanding. "I would never die for my beliefs" is unambiguous, and the "because I might be wrong" is merely a bit of explanation in case you're wondering why he'd take that stance. So obviously, Russell would not be willing to die for "2+2=4".

Russell, while a Philosopher of any sort, is perhaps best known for his contributions to math and logic. He is the sort of person who would have insisted that he can't be wrong that 2+2=4.

In the case that "X because Y", it is generally assumed that ~Y would have counterfactually resulted in ~X. It was a popular-enough way to approach the problem in the early 20th century, anyway. Thus the statement seems to imply that for any beliefs Russell can't be wrong about, he is willing to die for them. And thus he seems to be saying that he would die for "2+2=4", and we're left to ponder what that would mean.

In what way is it "dying for one's beliefs" to refuse to capitulate to a gunman about a trivial matter? I'd guess that in that situation, Russell would have perfectly good reasons left to not die for "2+2=4".

So we might conclude that there are a lot of reasons not to die for a lot of beliefs, other than that we might be wrong about them. So that's not Russell's true rejection of dying for one's beliefs.

comment by byrnema · 2011-11-03T23:22:22.369Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah, got it. Thanks for the explanation.

Since Russell said he wouldn't be willing to die for his beliefs because of X, it seems logical to conclude he would be willing to die if not-X. But that is absurd (as highlighted by Eliezer's question) so Russell hadn't given his true rejection.

... I'll add that Russell didn't give his true rejection but a clever one, so he does prefer cleverness over truthiness, so he would appreciate Eliezer's rhetorical question, which was more clever than accurate (because 2+2=4 is something Russell could still possibly be wrong about.)

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-03T22:29:05.867Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

die for "2+2=5"

Did you mean that, or did you mean die for not "2+2=5"?

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-03T23:12:30.393Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seems ambiguous. I'm not sure which I meant to write. I'll fix it to be consistent.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2011-11-03T20:58:09.688Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

He's probably talking about "ought" beliefs, not "is" beliefs. Even so...

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-03T19:55:34.227Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's a bit late to threaten Bertrand Russell with anything, particularly a gun, considering that he died decades ago.

comment by TimS · 2011-11-02T20:50:14.543Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Barbarians shouldn't win. At the very least, we shouldn't surrender ahead of time.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-02T20:51:24.110Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

(Brackets, then parentheses.)

comment by cousin_it · 2011-11-04T08:38:52.837Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would die if I believed that would save the world, does that count?

comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-02T00:46:36.375Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Repeat.

comment by peter_hurford · 2011-11-02T16:10:43.659Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Aye, sorry. It's a good quote.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-02T08:22:53.284Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

At sea once more we had to pass the Sirens, whose sweet singing lures sailors to their doom. I had stopped up the ears of my crew with wax, and I alone listened while lashed to the mast, powerless to steer toward shipwreck.

-- Odysseus in Odyssey

comment by Raemon · 2011-11-02T13:56:49.857Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm confused about why it was valuable for him to be able to hear, if he wasn't allowed to act upon information.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-02T14:28:00.591Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The point of the story is that it illustrates the power of precommitment; Odysseus made a choice in advance not to steer towards the rocks even though he knew that when the opportunity would arise he would want to steer towards them.

Why he wanted to be lashed to the mast instead of stooping his ears with wax I guess was because he desired to hear the "sweet singing".

comment by MinibearRex · 2011-11-04T14:45:36.427Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It was implied in myths that if you listened to the Sirens (and survived), you would learn more about yourself. Curiosity about your own true nature, fighting self-deception, etc. Very much a rationalist motivation.

comment by Raemon · 2011-11-04T16:00:40.633Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Huh. Never got that. Cool.

comment by Armok_GoB · 2011-11-02T17:43:41.343Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Getting hit by basilisks can be very fun.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-03T17:55:29.668Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Pure curiosity, probably. It's the same reason that (some) people climb mountains or poke around with rare and special rocks that glow in the dark.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-02T14:02:56.935Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

For the same reason a kleptomanic may enjoy visiting a museum even where all the beautiful works of art are securely displayed. Because he could appreciate the aesthetic without knowing that his decisions at the time would destroy him.

comment by Raemon · 2011-11-03T17:42:57.940Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This makes sense, but I never felt it was really implied by the story. It always sounded like there was supposed to be a practical reason for sailing the ship.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-03T17:56:58.666Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To get to the other side?

comment by Raemon · 2011-11-03T18:59:32.088Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

:P

Practical reason (with respect to sailing the ship) for lashing yourself to the mast.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-04T16:55:08.677Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think so - I mean, he was lashed to the mast so he couldn't influence the sailing of the ship. And it's not like he could shout orders, what with everyone else's ears plugged.

comment by Torvaun · 2011-11-07T16:48:12.695Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

When he stopped thrashing about trying to free himself so that he could go to the Sirens, the crew could know the danger had passed.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-07T17:01:08.887Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ooo, nice!

Although potentially vulnerable, if the song left him with sufficient reason to pretend.

comment by gwern · 2011-11-20T17:42:20.477Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"The method of 'postulating' what we want has many advantages; they are the same as the advantages of theft over honest toil. Let us leave them to others and proceed with our honest toil."

Bertrand Russell, Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy 1919 ( http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logical-construction/#Hon )

comment by scav · 2011-11-02T15:46:28.889Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There are not books enough on earth to contain the record of the prophecies Indians and other unauthorized parties have made; but one may carry in his overcoat pockets the record of all the prophecies that have been fulfilled.

-- Mark Twain

comment by sketerpot · 2011-11-10T02:23:56.713Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A specific instance of the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy, which in turn is a type of selection bias.

comment by MichaelGR · 2011-11-06T17:23:05.447Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The correctness of a decision can’t be judged from the outcome. Nevertheless, that’s how people assess it. A good decision is one that’s optimal at the time it’s made, when the future is by definition unknown. Thus, correct decisions are often unsuccessful, and vice versa.

--Howard Marks, The Most Important Thing p.136 (about investing, but applies to other things)

comment by GLaDOS · 2011-11-06T16:32:00.001Z · score: 8 (26 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
We do what we must
because we can. 
For the good of all of us.
Except the ones who are dead.

(^_^)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-07T03:09:07.730Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Rule three of Quote Thread: You don't quote yourself on Quote Thread.

comment by Baughn · 2011-11-07T15:27:29.319Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"GLaDOS can do whatever she wants, just don't eat me."

-- Baughn

comment by sketerpot · 2011-11-14T00:15:51.693Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Technically, that does count as a rationality quote. Or at least a very rational one.

comment by satt · 2011-11-05T23:11:48.554Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or to postpone the action that it appears to demand at a given time.

Who knows, asked Robert Browning, but the world may end tonight? True, but on available evidence most of us make ready to commute on the 8.30 next day.

Austin Bradford Hill, "The Environment and Disease: Association or Causation?"

comment by MichaelGR · 2011-11-04T18:56:35.658Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

We have two classes of forecasters: Those who don't know and those who don't know they don't know.

John Kenneth Galbraith

comment by JenniferRM · 2011-11-02T00:16:16.726Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A lot of people are interested in predicting the future so that they can orient their present activities accordingly. With a few exceptions we can discuss, I think the future is inherently uncertain and unpredictable. We are way better off if we accept the enormous uncertainty that pervades the world and approach it with a sense of adventure and mystery... There are a couple of small but important exceptions to the unpredictability of the unfolding. We can notice a current reality that is hidden or nonobvious. We might notice the reality by looking at data, watching conversations, or observing practices. We then discuss the reality and its consequences in the near term -- a year or two is easiest, but sometimes we can go up to five years. Management guru Peter Drucker was a master at this; he said that others who rated him as a good prognosticator were wrong because all he was doing was revealing current truths that most of them had missed.

-Peter Denning

comment by Thomas · 2011-11-01T19:12:34.040Z · score: 8 (24 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?

  • American proverb
comment by thomblake · 2011-11-01T22:33:30.157Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A propos:

Thales of Miletus was a philosopher - so committed was he to thinking carefully that once he was walking along contemplating deeply and thus fell into a well. The locals made fun of him, commenting that philosophers were so busy attending to the stars that they could not see what is in front of them.

Since coins were recently invented (or recently brought to Asia Minor), Thales was involved in a discussion over the power of money. His interlocutors didn't believe that a philosopher could become rich, but he insisted that the power of the mind was paramount. To prove the power of having a reasoning mind, he devised a way of predicting weather patterns. He used this knowledge to buy up everyone's olive presses when the weather was bad and managed to corner the market, becoming quite wealthy when a very good season followed soon after.

comment by SisterY · 2011-11-03T23:21:50.258Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In "Self-poisoning of the mind" Jon Elster uses the Thales olive incident as an example of a perverse cognitive bias:

In his retelling of the [Thales olive] story, de Montaigne (1991, p. 153) explicitly asserts that when he condemned money-making, Thales ‘was accused of sour grapes like the fox’. Although Thales wanted to ‘show the world’ that the accusation was unfounded, one could also imagine that he had made a fortune in order to demonstrate to himself that his philosophy was not the product of sour grapes. Not content with thinking that he could have acquired riches had he wanted to, he might have decided to actually acquire them to deflect self-suspicion. [Emphasis in original.]

What Elster is pushing is that, since we are aware we edit reality to suit our self-images, we constantly suspect ourselves of doing so, and perversely believe the worst of ourselves on very flimsy evidence.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-03T23:26:18.613Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, Welcome to Less Wrong, apparently. Your handle looks familiar for some reason, so I didn't notice you were new.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2011-11-04T11:39:08.096Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Isn't that SisterY of The View from Hell?

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-04T13:34:39.371Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Right, that SisterY. You're probably right.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2011-11-04T14:06:13.079Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not a fan of rhetorical questions? How about meta-jokes?

comment by SisterY · 2011-11-04T19:47:41.332Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Making a point to show that a point is not a point is not as good as making a nonpoint to show that a point is not a point.

-Chuang-tzu

comment by Kutta · 2011-11-04T20:27:44.917Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's witholding potentially important information. Also, you still have to address other people's erroneous beliefs about their points.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-04T15:07:45.435Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No and yes.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-04T11:33:08.083Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I recall a user by that name on Overcoming Bias.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-03T23:25:01.883Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This being markdown, begin the first line of that blockquote paragraph with a greater-than sign and replace the italics tags with asterisks.

comment by Thomas · 2011-11-02T10:51:30.570Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't buy that Thales indeed predicted any weather patterns so well, that he became rich be cause of those pattern predictions of him. Just an urban legend from those times.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-02T18:15:32.985Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just an urban legend from those times.

While I agree that this is the more probable explanation, I'm not sure one needs to predict the weather particularly well to know "it'll likely be different at some point soonish", which seems to be all he needed for the above story.

comment by khafra · 2011-11-02T13:03:52.952Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree. With the strong incentives for people involved in the olive trade to be as good as possible at predicting the weather, it's hard to believe a philosopher could become better than the subject matter experts of his time; especially with the armchair methods popular at the time, and especially^2 since we still can't predict the weather very well. Also, the story switches from "the power of money" to "the power of thought" abruptly.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-02T17:44:38.230Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

especially with the armchair methods popular at the time

Thales was arguably the first Western philosopher, and despite the 'well' story, he was noted for being particularly observant and empirical. The primary distinction between Thales and earlier philosophers was that where other philosophers made explanations based on supernatural forces and agents, Thales preferred explanations referring to the natural properties of objects. Notably, he was the first recorded person to study electricity.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-02T13:58:38.202Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Indeed a likely explanation - Aesop in particular was fond of writing about the exploits of Thales, and we know how often he drifted from fact for his subjects.

comment by gjm · 2011-11-01T19:29:50.092Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you're so rich, why aren't you smart? -- Traditional reply. (I'm not sure it makes much sense, but then neither does the original question.)

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-01T19:51:18.281Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To which, of course, the reply is that they don't need to be, and so why waste the effort? That is, they are smart, on the level that's important.

comment by RobinZ · 2011-11-01T21:04:23.473Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oddly, this reply works equally well for the original quote.

comment by anandjeyahar · 2011-11-02T07:46:53.252Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Exactly.... to me this is always a sign of a strawman argument..

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2011-11-03T14:52:15.580Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or rather, a fully general counterargument.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-03T14:59:33.869Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or maybe both statements are equally ridiculous.

comment by gjm · 2011-11-01T22:13:36.296Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If the only thing that's important is money, yes.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-01T22:17:01.965Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or if money were fungible.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-11-03T12:41:37.853Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?

  • American proverb

"It takes money to make money."
- Titus Maccius Plautus.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-11-02T01:52:57.550Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Because my utility function includes moral constraints.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2011-11-02T10:26:36.352Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

is that your true reason or is it a reason that allows you to assert status over those wealthier than you?

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-11-02T10:29:02.055Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If so, then my utility function places status/morality above wealth. Which also answers the question.;

comment by RomeoStevens · 2011-11-02T21:12:45.499Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

all of the economic analysis I've seen indicates it is more efficient to maximize wealth and then buy what you value directly. Forgoing money because it would harm someone is probably less efficient than making money and donating to givewell.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-11-02T11:24:40.980Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A better phrasing might be: "If you're so smart why aren't you fulfilling your Goals/Utility Function"

comment by Xom · 2011-11-02T13:09:05.956Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Effort.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-01T19:16:27.982Z · score: -7 (15 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Occupy Wall Street movement would like to have a word with you (or rather, with your proverb).

comment by Logos01 · 2011-11-03T12:06:11.001Z · score: 2 (14 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Have you read many of the "99%" bio-snippets? Having gone through about a hundred of them now, I am struck by nothing else save how exquisitely bad those people are at the skill of making sound economic decisions. Honestly; if the 99% is comprised of people who after two years of schooling have 60,000 in student debt knowing they have no career opportunities ahead of them ... why are they doing it?

comment by Prismattic · 2011-11-04T01:19:03.751Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

after two years of schooling have 60,000 in student debt knowing they have no career opportunities ahead of them ... why are they doing it?

The college wage premium is large and growing.

The unemployment rate is much worse among those who do not have a college degree.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't, basically.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-04T01:53:32.236Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The college wage premium is large and growing.

The problem is that "college" is not an atomic thing. If you break it down by major, some are very much not worth the money and time, while others are very much worth the money and time. I mean, check out Table 7: computer software engineers with a bachelor's degree have twice the lifetime earnings of teachers with a bachelor's degree, who themselves barely earn more than the average person with "some college."

And so when you hear that the number of people seeking journalism degrees is growing, you start to wonder if those people don't know that journalism is a collapsing field, or if they don't care.

comment by Prismattic · 2011-11-04T02:25:32.411Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A person enrolling in an architecture degree program in 2004 probably estimated that their employment prospects were quite good. Too bad said person graduated in 2008. Predicting job prospects at the moment of matriculation is a ticklish thing.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-11-04T01:37:28.662Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have long been of the opinion that much of that is a result of privilege more than actual benefit of college education. I myself was able to find my way to an income above the national average per individual (and at that on the lower end of average for my industry) without even an Associate's degree. (I've actually done this twice, in two different industries. After the housing market crashed I had to essentially start over from scratch. I made some economic strategy re-assessments after that external wrecking-ball destroyed the path I was then on, and am now once again on a track to an early retirement; it is my long-term goal to have sufficient capital reserves to be able to live comfortably off of 3% APY returns by the time I'm 55. The economic downturn delayed me from 50 to 55. And I will note that I'm doing this without engaging in entrepeneurship of any kind; my sole foray into that field demonstrated I do not have the necessary social skillset to succeed in that venue.)

And I have no student debt to pay off, at that.

My parenthetical is actually demonstrative of my point here: I have achieved all of these things not because I am especially gifted, or especially insightful, or especially privileged. I have started with little to no social safety net and have built/rebuilt myself a total of three times, once from personal failure which I assessed and acted upon to adjust as necessary, once from external failure.

The only thing I can claim to have is what Eliezer would call, I suspect, a "winning attitude". One of my primary supergoals is, simply: "do what works."

comment by Prismattic · 2011-11-04T02:30:09.537Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Whether the wage premium is a signalling issue or a skill issue, it's still a fact.

And while I congratulate you on your own good fortune, you are generalizing from one example.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-11-04T02:41:21.022Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Whether the wage premium is a signalling issue or a skill issue, it's still a fact.

Yes but correlation isn't causation.

(EDIT: I want to point out that the statement "going to college gets you good wages" is just as magical thinking, when expressed solely in that manner, as "It rains sometimes when I dance." Demonstrate a causal link between the two if you want the fact of their being correlated to be treated as meaningful.)

And while I congratulate you on your own good fortune, you are generalizing from one example.

I am expressing a general principle through a single example, yes.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-03T12:44:59.197Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're staring in the face of a giant availability bias.

"We are the 99%" is filled with people who can afford a webcam/camera, a computer, and internet access. Some even have gone to college. That's vastly richer than the average human being.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-11-03T13:04:06.922Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's vastly richer than the average human being.

But still representative of somewhere between two-thirds and four-fifths of Americans. (The computer / webcam part anyhow). Especially with the advent of camera smartphones.

You're staring in the face of a giant availability bias.

We have, I suspect, a definition problem. When I state "99%" I am referring to those who describe themselves by that title.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-03T14:04:59.889Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But still representative of somewhere between two-thirds and four-fifths of Americans. (The computer / webcam part anyhow). Especially with the advent of camera smartphones.

Yet still a far cry from actually representing the 99%.

We have, I suspect, a definition problem. When I state "99%" I am referring to those who describe themselves by that title.

No, you're not. You're generalizing from the hundred or so pictures you saw on a single website that's only tangentially related to the movement. Hence, availability bias.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-11-03T15:17:14.305Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yet still a far cry from actually representing the 99%.

99% of what, exactly? Furthermore, if 80% of a population has characteristic X, then interviewing those with characteristic X will yield patterns that would hold, all other things being equal, for 99% of said population as well -- to within specific limits. (That's what the whole notion of "statistically relevant sampling sizes" are about.)

No, you're not. You're generalizing from the hundred or so pictures you saw on a single website that's only tangentially related to the movement. Hence, availability bias.

Who said anything about it being from a single website? Who said the submitters were the ones with the computers?

Furthermore: As I just explicitly stated, by "99%" I refer *solely to those who self-apellate in this manner.

Even, thusly, if we somehow allow for an "availability bias", the simple fact of the matter is that said bias simply isn't sufficient to the task of overcoming the fact that I have taken a statistically relevant sampling size of the protestors who self-apellate as "99%", and found that the overwhelming majority of them exhibit seriously poor economic planning abilities in various ways. (Not a single description on a single sign showed good planning done in by external forces. Not one. Out of one hundred. Of a movement numbered less than one hundred thousand individuals.)

I'm sorry, but you'll just have to provide better, sounder, reasoning if you expect my beliefs on this matter to be revised in the direction you appear to insist.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-03T17:49:40.795Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have taken a statistically relevant sampling size of the protestors who self-apellate as "99%", and found that the overwhelming majority of them exhibit seriously poor economic planning abilities in various ways.

Can I see your data ? I was thinking of collecting some myself, but if I can just piggy-back on your effort, then I don't have to :-)

Not a single description on a single sign showed good planning done in by external forces...

Well, there's this one, but it's just a single random sign off of a front page of one website, so it's probably not statistically significant all by itself.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-11-03T23:55:27.888Z · score: -9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can I see your data ? I was thinking of collecting some myself, but if I can just piggy-back on your effort, then I don't have to :-)

Only archived in wetware, I'm afraid. Watched enough videos (many I'm sure on youtube) where the signs were legible, and seen enough of the signs via reddit to accumulate to over 100.

Well, there's this one,

... dude works for 20 years at minimum wage, and then when he gets sick with a non-acute ailment expects everyone to drop their shit and make his life better as a free ride -- and that's an example of "good planning done in by external forces"?

I think not, sir.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-04T00:08:33.880Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

... dude works for 20 years at minimum wage, and then when he gets sick with a non-acute ailment expects everyone to drop their shit and make his life better as a free ride -- and that's an example of "good planning done in by external forces"?

That summary is incorrect. He worked for 20 years at his chosen profession, lost his job, then found work at minimum wage instead of no work at all, then got sick.

Could he have saved more during those 20 years, and therefore done better? Undoubtedly. What size should an emergency fund be? Let's ask Google:

Though personal finance experts agree emergency funds are necessary, there’s no consensus on how much is enough. Some say you need save a year’s salary. Others believe $1000 is sufficient. Most advice tends to fall someplace in the middle.

says GetRichSlowly

Bankrate recommends creating a special account that you don't touch, except to pad it with 3-6 months' worth of expenses.

says LifeHacker

Most experts agree that you should keep between three and six months worth of your living expenses set aside in your emergency fund.

says About.com Financial Planning

Financial experts recommend that people maintain a cash reserve large enough to cover three to six months' worth of household expenses.

says Investopedia

Enough money to deal with major medical expenses following a prolonged period of un- and underemployment.

says... um... nowhere, as far as I can tell.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-03T23:58:23.021Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Only archived in wetware, I'm afraid.

This seems to leave you more vulnerable to many biases.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-11-04T00:11:16.844Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't disagree.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-11-04T00:20:44.278Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

... dude works for 20 years at minimum wage, and then when he gets sick with a non-acute ailment expects everyone to drop their shit and make his life better as a free ride -- and that's an example of "good planning done in by external forces"?

He worked in some ambiguous field for 20 years until he lost his job in the economic collapse, then he started working minimum wage, and with the insurance available to him on that job he was unable to afford treatment for cancer. Cancer is among the more acute ailments one might reasonably expect ever to face; if a tumor is malignant, that is, cancerous, then if untreated, it is unusual for it to be nonfatal.

If you start completely mischaracterizing data that is held up as a counterexample to your position, it's a good sign that you're being controlled by your preconceptions.

comment by Nornagest · 2011-11-04T00:34:49.526Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This doesn't really touch your broader point, but my understanding is that "acute)" refers to the progression of the disease -- how quickly it comes on and runs its course -- not its severity. Most cancers are highly lethal if untreated, but also long-lasting, making them chronic diseases.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-11-04T01:06:20.661Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

and with the insurance available to him on that job he was unable to afford treatment for cancer.

And then found it surprising that private institutions weren't paying his way for it, as per his own words.

Cancer is among the more acute ailments one might reasonably expect ever to face; if a tumor is malignant, that is, cancerous, then if untreated, it is unusual for it to be nonfatal.

In medicine, an acute disease is a disease with either or both of: # a rapid onset, as in acute infection # a short course (as opposed to a chronic course).

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-11-04T01:13:22.775Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And then found it surprising that private institutions weren't paying his way for it, as per his own words.

Common wisdom is that nobody in this country is supposed to get turned away from necessary life saving treatment due to personal inability to pay. I have been told this by EMTs myself. He is testifying that this is, in fact, incorrect.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-11-04T01:16:28.573Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Common wisdom is that nobody in this country is supposed to get turned away from necessary life saving treatment due to personal inability to pay.

For acute conditions.

I have been told this by EMTs myself.

Yup. It's the law. No emergency medical establishment can refuse care for someone currently suffering an acute, life-threatening condition regardless of ability to pay.

See, that's what they mean when they say "necessary life-saving treatment".

Where people get this notion it applies to cancer therapies, I don't know -- but nobody in the medical industry has ever actually said that. They wouldn't; it's not true. It's also not what the law says.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-11-04T01:21:47.337Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

So do you think that because he was dying of something that was not rapid-onset, and couldn't pay for treatment because he had lost his job in the economic crash and the job he was able to find in the meantime didn't give him enough to cover it, he had only himself to blame?

Edit: I also don't think it makes much sense to blame people for assuming that when they're told that they won't be turned away from treatment for necessary life saving procedures due to inability to pay, that it means what it sounds like it means.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-04T00:30:03.658Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As Desrtopa and dlthomas pointed out below, your summary of this guy's situation is incorrect; I think that your wetware-based data collection policy may have something to do with this.

Speaking more generally, I am not sure I understand your "big picture" view. You say:

...and then when he gets sick with a non-acute ailment expects everyone to drop their shit and make his life better as a free ride...

Does this mean that you're against the very idea of having a social safety net ? Or are you merely saying that, while a safety net is a good idea, this particular person's expectations are unreasonable ?

comment by Logos01 · 2011-11-04T01:10:42.626Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As Desrtopa and dlthomas pointed out below, your summary of this guy's situation is incorrect;

In that I misread where he stated he was earning minimum wage, yes. I acknowledge this.

I think that your wetware-based data collection policy may have something to do with this.

It's not exactly as though I planned to publish research papers on this topic. I expect that my own personal observations are replicable but they are not directly share-able.

This is no more unusual a "policy" than for anyone else who uses his or her own direct observations of a class of event to make judgments of said event. Please try not to use such loaded language.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-04T01:31:32.403Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is no more unusual a "policy" than for anyone else who uses his or her own direct observations of a class of event to make judgments of said event. Please try not to use such loaded language.

Fair enough, you're right, I shouldn't have used such a loaded word.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-11-04T01:13:20.913Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does this mean that you're against the very idea of having a social safety net ? Or are you merely saying that, while a safety net is a good idea, this particular person's expectations are unreasonable ?

I make no statements whatsoever about a social safety net. Which, by the way, according to that same posting has now "caught" him, although it has done so only once he was "officially" disabled. We can talk about the moral justice or expected social utility of that history some other time -- because right now, in this world, it is a matter of truth that it is irrational to expect private institutions to pay for your ailments without a vested interest in doing so.

So where, precisely, is his justification for the claim "despite what you were told"? Nobody was saying that.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-04T17:00:06.927Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

because right now, in this world, it is a matter of truth that it is irrational to expect private institutions to pay for your ailments without a vested interest in doing so.

I believe that the OWS crowd explicitly wants to change this situation; this is one of their long-term goals. Of course, they would probably prefer it if public institutions achieved this task, not private ones. We could argue whether this is a worthy goal or not, but hopefully we can both agree that it's an achievable one, at least in principle.

So where, precisely, is his justification for the claim "despite what you were told"? Nobody was saying that.

There's a general perception in our culture that hospitals are obligated to heal the sick (I used to believe it myself until relatively recently), and that the churches provide charity and support for the same purpose. In fact, churches actively market themselves based on this latter notion.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-03T20:30:47.374Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

99% of what, exactly?

Presumably these people started out as speaking for 99% of Americans, but now that the movement has gone international, that no longer makes sense. It's the nature of this beast to be slightly incoherent.

Who said anything about it being from a single website? Who said the submitters were the ones with the computers?

You originally linked to a website called "We are the 99%", which I had alluded to earlier. You didn't say anything about looking at other websites, so what else was I supposed to assume?

While it's true that they themselves may not directly own the computer, merely having access to the Internet is something that many poor people in the United States simply don't have. That "those who describe themselves as the 99%" do not actually represent "99% of Americans" or "99% of people" is orthogonal to my point about availability bias.

I have taken a statistically relevant sampling size of the protestors who self-apellate as "99%", and found that the overwhelming majority of them exhibit seriously poor economic planning abilities in various ways.

To estimate any scalar quantity from a population size of even 50,000, at 95% confidence, with a 5% margin of error, one would have to sample around 380 people. You're not even doing anything as rigorous as statistics. Nevermind that your criteria for judging "seriously poor economic planning abilities" is likely ad-hoc.

Conversely, if you want to convince anyone else about your beliefs regarding the protest movement, you'll just have to provide actual evidence.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-03T18:51:37.388Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Uh, no that's not what it's saying. It's railing against the top 1% of people that have huge capital. People who have webcams/cameras etc. are contained in the 99% of Americans. They aren't the "average" of the 99%. Each is one of the 99% who do not have huge capital and together they make up the 99%. In other words, in order for you to have a problem with their claims, you need to show that someone who says "We are the 99%" is actually part of the top 1%.

If you prefer, they could say "I am one of the 99%," but that's not as catchy.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-03T21:25:01.503Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Uh, no that's not what it's saying.

I have no idea what you're responding to here.

paper-machine was pointing out that those who post on that blog come from a particular subset of the "99% movement", and so only looking at people from that blog will skew your judgement of the entire mass of people.

Were you disagreeing that making inferences about a movement based on one blog constitutes availability bias?

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-03T21:48:21.832Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, reading through it again, I just seemed to misunderstand both people.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-03T17:45:15.075Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I haven't read that many bio-snippets, so you may be right. My gut feeling is that the OWS protesters are mainly complaining about our lack of a social safety net and a broken political system, but I have no hard data to verify this.

That said, I think your next sentence rests on some incorrect assumptions. You say:

Honestly; if the 99% is comprised of people who after two years of schooling have 60,000 in student debt knowing they have no career opportunities ahead of them ... why are they doing it?

You are implicitly assuming that a). the primary purpose of college is to prepare you for a specific career; and that b). it is relatively easy to pick a career, put yourself through training for that career, and then reap the financial rewards. IMO both of these assumptions are wrong. I'm prepared to defend my views, if you're interested (assuming I interpreted your comment correctly, that is).

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2011-11-03T17:57:04.198Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the quibble is more to do with why anyone would accrue $60,000 of debt knowing they'd have limited means of repaying it.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-03T17:59:59.786Z · score: -4 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think that's a fair point, but I also think that it should be possible to acquire an education without going into massive, unrepayable debt. Society as a whole would benefit if that were the case.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2011-11-03T18:03:35.520Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is possible to get an education without going into massive unrepayable debt. The rate of $60,000 over two years (italicised in the original comment) seems to also be part of the quibble.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-03T20:59:20.516Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think this depends on your field of study. My own education cost less than that, but by no means an order of magnitude less; and I was able to get a few scholarships to supplement the loans. This was a long time ago, however; and AFAIK the scholarships today are harder to get, and the costs are higher.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-03T18:06:39.931Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In most parts of California, the education you get at a community college is comparable to that in your first two years at a four-year institution (better in some ways, worse in others, and depends a little on your focus, of course). That cuts the cost nearly in half.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-03T20:54:10.925Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In most parts of California, the education you get at a community college is comparable to that in your first two years at a four-year institution

I think this depends quite strongly on the institution, as well as your area of study (as you said). FWIW, I went to a community college for two years in order to save money, just as you said. I then ended up having to to re-take several classes at the university anyway, and thus lost a lot of valuable time (and money). I could be an outlier, though.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-03T21:09:55.261Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Gotcha. It's something you need to be careful with, but not (I think) much more so than at a university.

Your education is important. Tens of thousands of dollars? Also important. Be aware of what your goals are, how you're meeting them, and at what cost.

Community college worked out very well for me, but I did have the advantage of living near one of the better ones.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-03T18:01:40.303Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To put it in a somewhat less glib way:

The answer to the question ("if you're so smart then why aren't you rich ?") is often, "because there are many factors beyound my control that determine to my net worth, and these factors weigh a great deal more than my intelligence or work ethic".

comment by sabre51 · 2011-11-01T19:11:56.341Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Our civilization is still in a middle stage: scarcely beast, in that it is no longer wholly ruled by instinct; scarcely human, in that it is not yet wholly ruled by reason.

Theodore Dreiser

comment by soreff · 2011-11-02T16:35:20.881Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Very much like Alexander Pope's:

Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,

A being darkly wise, and rudely great:

comment by brazzy · 2011-11-03T00:23:38.206Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or Terry Pratchett:

HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-03T00:53:14.678Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems like Terry Pratchett is explicitly contradicting Theodore Dreiser (IN ALL CAPS, no less).

Pratchett: "Humans need fantasy to be fully human."

Dreiser: "Fantasy is an atavism, humans need reason to be fully human."

Though it's possible that Dreiser was reflecting on cognitive bias, not on fantasy.

comment by bbleeker · 2011-11-03T14:24:20.563Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The ALL CAPS are because it's the character Death who is speaking here, in a voice like two concrete blocks being rubbed together, or the slamming of coffin lids.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-03T17:51:21.467Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's what I figured, but it still looks weird without context.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T00:04:32.673Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you don't believe in the innate unreasonableness of human beings, just try raising children.

--Thomas Sowell

comment by Patrick · 2011-11-02T01:03:39.671Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Almost anything can be attacked as a failure, but almost anything can be defended as not a significant failure. Politicians do not appreciate the significance of 'significant'.

-- Sir Humphrey Appleby

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-25T01:40:20.479Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The captain had a sudden awful thought.
"What's the chance that they've detected the dilithium?"
T'Vau said, "I can only estimate."
"Then do it."
T'Vau said, "Estimated probability one hundred percent."
Trofimov turned to stare at the Vulcan. "That's your guess?"
"It is an estimate," T'Vau said stiffly, "based on the level of Hecht radiation, and a standard survey of Klingon monitoring--"
"Your guess is that you're certain," Trofimov said, feeling slightly dizzy.

John M. Ford, How Much for Just the Planet?

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-14T00:35:34.322Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I never studied science or physics at school, and yet when I read complex books on quantum physics I understood them perfectly because I wanted to understand them. The study of quantum physics helped me to have a deeper understanding of The Secret, on an energetic level.

--Rhonda Byrne (Author of The Secret) (p. 156)

http://lesswrong.com/lw/ip/fake_explanations/
http://yudkowsky.net/rational/technical

comment by RobinZ · 2011-11-14T02:41:34.881Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a good irrationality quote - but that's a different thing.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-14T03:52:09.125Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It was too epic not to post. I wonder what people's emotional reactions to it are.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2011-11-14T13:38:51.799Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My rational reaction is to be sceptical of whether Rhonda Byrne's claimed understanding of quantum physics extends to passing a finals exam.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-14T14:33:59.765Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Presumably her passing a finals exam in quantum mechanics would depend on her wanting to pass rather than her understanding. ;-)

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-14T03:59:10.815Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does "Bingo!" count as an emotional reaction? (I mean, energetic?)

comment by Nisan · 2011-11-20T21:42:42.644Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's beautiful. Also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias.

comment by Eneasz · 2011-11-03T16:25:28.255Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Science is the assurance of things that exist, hoped for or not, the conviction of things that are actually seen.

Jerry Coyne

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2011-11-06T08:33:52.347Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Science is the assurance of things that exist, hoped for or not, the conviction of things that are actually seen.

Cute, but false. Scientists have been positing "things" for centuries that a consensus of modern scientists no longer believe exist. Also, most of the controversial parts of science don't have anything to do with what can been "seen", but things that are only observable using specialized equipment (which would seem equivocal to the non-scientist) or when interpreted from inside an elaborate theoretical framework (which the non-scientist would likely not even understand).

comment by MarkusRamikin · 2011-11-06T07:50:02.184Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm having trouble parsing this sentence.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-06T07:58:43.695Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's a sort of rebuttal to the Bible, Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

This passage is often cited as one of the key passages in the Christian religion; Christians often use it when they debate atheists.

comment by MarkusRamikin · 2011-11-06T08:19:31.296Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, I see. Thanks.

comment by scav · 2011-11-02T15:40:39.813Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have no fear of ghosts, and I have never heard it said that so much harm had been done by the dead during six thousand years as is wrought by the living in a single day.

-- The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-02T15:43:57.412Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hmm, not sure I agree. The living now can cause great harm for the people in the future. In that regard at any given time the dead are creating harm in some sense. But the basic point seems valid. The dead at least can't alter their activity to help more or reduce harm, the living can.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2011-11-02T21:48:34.181Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The dead at least can't alter their activity to help more or reduce harm, the living can.

It's the other way around: in timeless view, nether living not dead can "alter" anything, the relevant fact is that you can influence activity of the living, but not of the dead (not as you said whether the dead themselves can alter things vs. the living can alter things).

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-20T21:06:26.893Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth's final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.

~Commissioner Pravin Lal, fictional character from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

comment by Thomas · 2011-11-11T09:09:52.754Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Power is nothing without control.

  • a comercial slogan of Pirelli Tyre Company
comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-04T00:04:15.825Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.

Jacob Bronowski

comment by roland · 2011-11-03T17:17:42.349Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As a team converges on a decision—and especially when the leader tips her hand—public doubts about the wisdom of the planned move are gradually suppressed and eventually come to be treated as evidence of flawed loyalty to the team and its leaders.

--Daniel Kahneman

comment by gwern · 2011-11-23T03:06:23.319Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

From the new book, I take it, based on http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-24/bias-blindness-and-how-we-truly-think-part-1-daniel-kahneman The full quote offers an interesting debiasing strategy:

Klein’s proposal, which he calls the “premortem,” is simple: When the organization has almost come to an important decision but hasn’t committed itself, it should gather a group of people knowledgeable about the decision to listen to a brief speech: “Imagine that we are a year into the future. We implemented the plan as it now exists. The outcome has been a disaster. Please take 5 to 10 minutes to write a brief history of that disaster.”

As a team converges on a decision, public doubts about the wisdom of the planned move are gradually suppressed and eventually come to be treated as evidence of flawed loyalty. The suppression of doubt contributes to overconfidence in a group where only supporters of the decision have a voice. The main virtue of the premortem is that it legitimizes doubts.

Furthermore, it encourages even supporters of the decision to search for possible threats not considered earlier. The premortem isn’t a panacea and doesn’t provide complete protection against nasty surprises, but it goes some way toward reducing the damage of plans that are subject to the biases of uncritical optimism.

comment by Craig_Heldreth · 2011-11-23T17:09:12.329Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Kahneman gave a talk at Google about how and why intuition works well for us on 10 November. I am about halfway through it and so far it is marvelous.

Link.

edit The same talk (very close) at Edge transcribed plus discussion after with Cosmides and Tooby and Pinker. Link to transcript.

comment by torekp · 2011-11-30T03:14:57.859Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Klein's proposal can also be used on arguments: suppose your argument will be found unconvincing (alternatively, suppose it's actually wrong). What were its weak points? Unfortunately my weak point forecasting is ... weak, so when back-and-forth is an option I much prefer that.

comment by roland · 2011-11-23T04:24:27.054Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, it is from the book "Thinking, fast and slow".

comment by JenniferRM · 2011-11-02T00:15:08.775Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Even more than the easier problem of remembering faces and matching them to favors, the ability of both parties to agree with sufficient accuracy on an estimate of the value of a favor in the first place is probably the main barrier to reciprocal altruism among animals. It is also likely the most important barrier to exchange among humans. Many kinds of exchange, probably many more than most economists perceive, are rendered infeasible by the inability of one or both parties to the exchange to estimate its value.

-Nick Szabo

comment by bogus · 2011-11-05T01:29:26.359Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Downvoted. Exchange does not require a common estimate of "value", although reciprocal altruism probably does. Rational agents will undertake all exchanges which make both of them better off according to each agent's utility function. Assuming TDT, agents which are similar to each other will also reach a Pareto optimum in a bilateral monopoly game.

Humans might sometimes be unable to agree to an exchange in a bilateral monopoly, but that need not imply any disagreement about "value": for instance, they might disagree about bargaining positions, or using brinkmanship to extract concessions from other parties.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-05T02:36:19.468Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

the ability of both parties to agree with sufficient accuracy on an estimate of the value

This seems like anthropomorphic pessimism.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stotting#Purpose, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signalling_theory, http://www.cracked.com/article_19456_8-things-you-wont-believe-plants-do-when-no-ones-looking_p2.html (especially #1) and http://lesswrong.com/lw/st/anthropomorphic_optimism/.

comment by ahartell · 2011-11-01T17:28:51.307Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Truth lies within a little and certain compass, but error is immense.

Henry St. John

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2011-10-31T11:34:37.252Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems to me as though people can only manage to see things at all clearly when some political wind or other is blowing from behind them; if they turn against it, it blows directly into their eyes, and they become blinded.

-Hans Georg Fritzsche

comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-28T05:05:25.681Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much;
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus'd;
Still by himself, abus'd or disabus'd;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.

Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides,
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the sun;
Go, soar with Plato to th’ empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As Eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule—
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!

Alexander Pope

comment by Dreaded_Anomaly · 2011-11-27T03:44:20.601Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Concepts that have proven useful in ordering things easily achieve such authority over us that we forget their earthly origins and accept them as unalterable givens. Thus they might come to be stamped as "necessities of thought," "a priori givens," etc. The path of scientific progress is often made impassable for a long time by such errors. Therefore it is by no means an idle game if we become practiced in analysing long-held commonplace concepts and showing the circumstances on which their justification and usefulness depend, and how they have grown up, individually, out of the givens of experience. Thus their excessive authority will be broken. They will be removed if they cannot be properly legitimated, corrected if their correlation with given things be far too superfluous, or replaced if a new system can be established that we prefer for whatever reason.

— Albert Einstein, obituary for Ernst Mach (1916)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-24T13:38:23.707Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yet conscious cynicism is much rarer than you might suppose. Few of us have the self-knowledge and emotional discipline to say one thing while meaning another.

David Frum

comment by MarkusRamikin · 2011-11-24T14:34:46.852Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Few of us have the self-knowledge and emotional discipline to say one thing while meaning another.

Yeah, right.

comment by gwern · 2011-11-24T15:49:47.923Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Keyword: "conscious cynicism".

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-24T17:41:26.514Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Markus's cynicism trumps your conscious!

comment by gwern · 2011-11-24T17:47:39.731Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

/bows

His kung fu is best.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-29T15:03:11.444Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ekman's studies on lying nurses found about half of them leaked nothing when lying about the emotional content of films they were watching. ("Oh, these are pretty flowers, not a gruesome surgery on a burn victim.") I don't think 'few' is the way I'd put it.

comment by Swimmer963 · 2013-01-13T16:28:43.000Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I hadn't known someone had decided to study that specifically...

Based on my experience of nursing school, I would say this ability not to leak emotional reactions is true of nurses in particular, because you do get used to seeing a lot of really gross or upsetting stuff and reacting matter-of-factly. I basically don't experience disgust anymore. (Specification: in certain situations where most people would be disgusted, I experience pretty much no emotions, i.e. cleaning up diarrhea or changing bandages on infected wounds. There are some situations where I wouldn't previously have been grossed out and I am now, i.e. by the idea of doing CPR without a pocket mask.) Even in the case of empathy in others' pain, I've had to learn to control my emotional reactions so that I can, you know, get my work done and not be totally useless.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-01-13T17:01:01.628Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is the study. A few more details (I don't have access to the full study):

One of the reasons they decided to study it was because it was a case where they were fairly confident that the liars actually wanted to lie well and be believed. The subjects were nursing students, and were all told that their ability to keep their calm and not present disgust is necessary for nurses. They watched a pleasant film about flowers, and narrated their reaction to it while being videotaped, and then watched an unpleasant film about surgery on a burn victim, attempting to react the same way as they did to the flower film.

The thing you're describing sounds different, though- whereas Ekman thought he had found people who hid their disgust well, perhaps he found people that didn't actually feel disgust in the disgusting situation. The full study may have more details.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-24T14:47:32.704Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yet conscious cynicism is much rarer than you might suppose. Few of us have the self-knowledge and emotional discipline to say one thing while meaning another.

That is a belief that I recommend people consciously choose to endorse in most social contexts. I wouldn't say it is true though, unless spoken by a three year old with respect to his peers.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-24T22:46:56.105Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

An example for your side:

“Naturally the common people don’t want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” ---Goering, quoted here.

The link has some added snark in square brackets, but I'm not up for figuring out how to defeat markdown to include it, and anyway the snark isn't part of the original quote.

I have no idea how you'd evaluate the average level of self-delusion.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-25T03:02:11.900Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Love it.

(And for reference, if something seems to be getting confused with markdown you can almost always fix it by throwing a "\" before the offensive character.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-20T08:59:41.935Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Look at any photograph or work of art. If you could duplicate exactly the first tiny dot of color, and then the next and the next, you would end with a perfect copy of the whole, indistinguishable from the original in every way, including the so-called "moral value" of the art itself. Nothing can transcend its smallest elements.

~CEO Nwabudike Morgan, fictional character from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri...or is he?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-20T21:18:29.489Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Damn you beat me to that one! I loved that quote as a kid.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-23T22:26:29.754Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My favorite quotes were always the Deirdre ones.

Eternity lies ahead of us, and behind. Have you drunk your fill?

comment by roland · 2011-11-07T21:10:21.973Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your moral feelings are attached to frames, to descriptions of reality rather than to reality itself.

--Daniel Kahneman

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-28T23:42:35.789Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"If you think a weakness can be turned into a strength, I hate to tell you this, but that's another weakness."

-- Jack Handey

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-28T23:40:31.061Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it."

-- Jack Handey

comment by vallinder · 2011-11-05T17:32:32.458Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

We cannot defy the laws of probability, because they capture important truths about the world.

Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases, p. 98

comment by MichaelGR · 2011-11-03T18:23:22.333Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Let us take what the terrain gives.

-Amos Tversky

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-29T10:51:38.942Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Nobody ever gets that really mad at somebody unless they are telling the truth."

--Gregory Cochran

Which I would modify to:

Nobody ever gets that really mad at somebody unless they think they are telling the truth.

Which based on feedback I would modify to:

"Nobody ever gets that really mad at somebody unless they fear he will be believed."

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-29T11:27:27.875Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just don't believe it. It's a convenient thing to say when the reaction to your accusation happens to be anger. If they don't get angry it must be true also because, um, they knew already and it isn't surprising, etc. Also, if they run away that means they are a witch and if they stay they are a witch.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-29T11:30:01.743Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That is certainly true. Taking such a saying to heart can basically make you just another crank ranting about how this is just like what happened to Galileo.

But it is often useful to remember that making a more moderate statement can actually get you in more trouble, precisely because it seems more believable to someone who's far away from you on the inferential chain. Thinking about it again, I see that the original quote will be more often employed in the first meaning than in this one.

Does anyone have a good quote that captures the spirit I wanted to convey?

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-29T21:22:22.212Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Check the rules: "No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please."

I think you're over 10 quotes already. Better exclude yourself from next month's quotes as well.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-29T21:26:09.396Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah thank you I had forgotten about that rule. Up voted.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-29T11:47:39.406Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I know which jobs my mother worked, but that didn't stop bullies using this line.

comment by Dar_Veter · 2011-11-29T11:44:39.506Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would not agree even with the second statement. Do Holocaust survivors fear Holocaust deniers are telling the truth? (or insert some even more offensive and unpopular belief)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-29T12:02:02.833Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good point.

"Nobody ever gets that really mad at somebody unless they fear he will be believed."

Better?

comment by komponisto · 2011-11-29T16:40:46.377Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Better?

No; when reading this I had no idea that you had (apparently) added the modified quote specifically in response to the grandparent, and thus I read the grandparent as an objection to the second version. And the objection stands.

(In fact, the grandparent actually says "I would not agree even with the second statement", so now I'm confused: what did you change?)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-29T17:24:10.629Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Better?

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-29T17:28:53.560Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

For anyone having trouble following, it is a question as to whether this edit makes things clearer.

To which I would answer (having seen an earlier version): yes, better.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-29T20:32:34.700Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Overall I now, after feedback and doing some thinking, I feel it was ill thought out of me to post this quote here.

comment by gwern · 2011-11-29T20:48:25.326Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Truthfully, I've thought that of a lot of your recent video game quotes.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-29T21:21:35.721Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hey I didn't start the Sid Meier's Alpha Centuari quote fad!

Just kidding, updating on your feedback, please don't ever hesitate to give it since I value your opinion a bit above the average rationalist.

What about my other posts and quote posts?

comment by gwern · 2011-11-29T21:42:26.364Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

None of them have been bad enough to form a cluster in my thoughts like 'those video game quotes are getting annoying'; was there any one in particular?

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-29T21:39:11.184Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hey I didn't start the Sid Meier's Alpha Centuari quote fad!

Note to self: start a Warhammer 40K fad on the next month's thread.

"Success is commemorated, failure merely remembered."

comment by Prismattic · 2011-11-30T02:24:19.441Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sadly, my copy of Rogue Trader is back at my mother's house, but "Pain is an illusion of the body, despair an illusion of the mind" springs to mind, even though I haven't looked at the rulebook in years.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-11-30T07:19:23.153Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"A small mind is easily filled with faith", maybe?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-25T15:19:31.813Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I must study the plain physical facts of the case, ascertain what is possible, and learn what appears to be wise and right. The subject is difficult, and good men do not agree.

--Abraham Lincoln

comment by gwern · 2011-11-23T22:15:57.673Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hecataeus of Abdera, a Greek historian who lived at the end of the fourth century BCE, tells an amusing story about a certain march in which he participated during, or just following, Alexander the Great's conquest of the ancient Near East:

"When I was on the march toward the Red Sea, among the escort of Jewish cavalrymen who accompanied us was a certain Mosollamus [Hebrew Meshullam], a very intelligent man, robust, and by common consent, the very best of bowmen, whether Greek or barbarian.

This man, noticing that a number of people were now idling on the path and that the whole force was being held up by a seer who was taking the auguries, asked why they were stopping. The seer pointed to a certain bird he was observing, and told him that if it stayed in that spot, they would do well to wait around for a while. If it got up and flew forward, then they would be free to proceed; if, however, it flew backward, they were to turn back.

The Jew, without saying a word, drew his bow and shot, hitting the bird and killing it. The seer and some of the others became indignant and began heaping curses on him. "What you poor people getting so upset about?" he asked. Then, picking up the bird in his hand, he said: "How could any sound information about our journey have been provided by this poor creature, who was unable to make provision for his own safety? For if he had any gift for divination, he never would have come to this place, for fear of being killed by an arrow from Mosollamus the Jew."

--James L. Kugel, In the Valley of the Shadow pg 156-157 (doesn't provide any further reference)

comment by cousin_it · 2011-11-29T18:57:14.030Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The conclusion happens to be correct but the argument looks invalid to me. A man can smash a clock or a compass just as easily, but that doesn't prove that these defenseless devices cannot provide useful information.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-29T20:33:51.356Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The real argument may have went something like this: "I am a very busy and violent man, who, as I have just demonstrated, is quite accurate with a deadly projectile weapon. In light of this, would you perhaps prefer to rethink your policy of holding up my entire army ?"

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-29T21:20:57.662Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Similar to Solomon's classic legal argument: "Don't bother me with petty crap like this or I will slice your baby in half!"

comment by gwern · 2011-11-29T19:07:03.911Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think the implicit argument is anywhere near as simple as 'anything which provides information cannot be destroyed; this bird was destroyed; QED, this bird does not provide information.'

comment by cousin_it · 2011-11-29T19:12:53.412Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What is it, then? A more complicated implicit argument can still fail. (I can easily imagine a situation where the behavior of birds does provide information about the enemy army over the next hill, or something.) To rule out divination you really need to bring out the big guns and rule out all mysticism. I'm not sure any participants in the story could do that.

comment by gwern · 2011-11-29T19:16:40.580Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I imagine the argument would go something like 'Creatures usually act to preserve themselves; if the bird knew the future actions of the army, it would know about being shot by that Jew; if it knew about being shot, it would not be there (since it wants to preserve itself); the augur's interpretation is true only if the bird knows; it was shot, so it did not know; it did not know, so the augur's interpretation is false.'

There are ways we can rescue this if we want to make excuses for augury and I'm sure you can think of 3 or 4 counter-arguments, but why bother? It's a good story - 'physician, heal thyself!'

comment by cousin_it · 2011-11-29T19:27:48.605Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The argument was wrong even by the standards of the time. You just misunderstand the concept of divination :-) It doesn't rely on the bird consciously knowing anything. In fact, instead of watching the bird, you can kill it and inspect its entrails. Divination works (or doesn't) because the will of the gods leaks into the pattern of visible things (or doesn't).

comment by gwern · 2011-11-29T20:44:11.011Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can patch the argument easily; either the gods want their will known or not. If they don't, then the augur is screwed; if they do, then they want the bird to survive (to the point where the augur can figure out what was meant); and so on.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-11-29T21:11:07.102Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The gods are not required to be helpful, especially to the sacrilegious.

comment by Marius · 2011-11-29T21:31:10.645Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, but the people who believed in the Greek deities also typically believed those deities were heavily invested in immediate mortal conflicts and highly sensitive to slights. Those Greeks would have expected some protection for the bird or retaliation against Meshullam. Seeing none would provide evidence that the bird was not a favorite of any of their deities.

comment by gwern · 2011-11-29T21:40:26.180Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Deorum iniuriae Diis curae. This was not sarcastic or mocking in the slightest bit, as Marius points out and a reading of Herodotus will remind one.

comment by cousin_it · 2011-11-29T21:55:33.410Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems that any wrong argument for a correct conclusion has a decent chance of being patchable into a correct argument by a sufficiently smart patcher, so arguing about patchability of such arguments doesn't make much sense.

comment by gwern · 2011-11-29T22:46:05.247Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Such runs an argument against the principle of charity, indeed, that it licenses special pleading or endless special-casing.

comment by cousin_it · 2011-11-29T22:49:04.751Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nice connection! I see we had a post about that recently.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2011-11-29T20:13:59.835Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd just shoot the bird and carry it with me. Then whichever way I went was the right one!

comment by cousin_it · 2011-11-22T23:52:20.488Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I used to Code Fearlessly all the time, tearing up everything whenever I had a thought about a better way of doing something. (...) There are all sorts of opportunities to avoid making honest comparisons between the new way and the old way.

-- John Carmack

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-20T08:59:57.442Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I plan to live forever, of course, but barring that I'd settle for a couple thousand years. Even five hundred would be pretty nice.

~CEO Nwabudike Morgan, fictional character from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri...or is he?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-22T15:46:49.887Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Relevant video.

comment by Mass_Driver · 2011-11-19T21:07:04.249Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Man's unfailing capacity to believe what he prefers to be true rather than what the evidence shows to be likely and possible has always astounded me. We long for a caring Universe which will save us from our childish mistakes, and in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary we will pin all our hopes on the slimmest of doubts. God has not been proven not to exist, therefore he must exist.

~Academician Prokhor Zakharov, fictional character from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. God I wish Zakharov was real.

comment by citronade · 2011-11-18T16:32:21.122Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

...ennui is an emotion for rich people. It is like boredom, but more refined, like high-thread-count bed-sheets.

  • Charles Yu, Third Class Superhero
comment by spriteless · 2011-11-12T03:49:51.601Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Face your fears or they will climb over your back - Odrade in Frank Herbert’s Chapterhouse: Dune

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-10T06:16:23.200Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"It is the difference between the unknown and the unknowable, between science and fantasy, it is a matter of essence. The four points of the compass be logic, knowledge, wisdom and the unknown. Some do bow in that final direction. Others advance upon it. To bow before the one is to lose sight of the three. I may submit to the unknown, but never to the unknowable. The man who bows in that final direction is either a saint or a fool. I have no use for either."

-Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light

comment by gwern · 2011-11-23T02:18:59.530Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Dupe

comment by Grognor · 2011-11-10T04:51:52.850Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The facts are always friendly, every bit of evidence one can acquire, in any area, leads one that much closer to what is true.

-Carl Rogers

Less redundantly,

The facts are always friendly.

comment by gwern · 2011-11-23T02:20:54.372Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I tried to devise a similar maxim recently: "To the honest inquirer, all surprises are pleasant ones."

comment by Eneasz · 2011-11-03T16:29:18.447Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reach out and take also from the Tree of Life and eat, and live forever.

David Brin

comment by HonoreDB · 2011-11-04T19:01:52.052Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm all for appropriating religious language for fun, but the kind of argument David Brin makes strikes me as unhygienic. Inventing a strained interpretation of the Bible in order to support a conclusion you've decided on ahead of time is sinful, and I feel would actually be seen as disrespectful by most Christians. Jews like Brin do it all the time, but they're a minority.

Compare the Creationist who writes that the theory of evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics. She literally doesn't care whether she's right, since it's not her true rejection, and that makes her paper more annoying to scientists than if she'd just quoted her own sacred text.

comment by Nornagest · 2011-11-04T19:44:53.498Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Inventing a strained interpretation of the Bible in order to support a conclusion you've decided on ahead of time is sinful, and I feel would actually be seen as disrespectful by most Christians.

I don't think it makes much sense to get too sensitive about Bible quotes; the context seems more like quoting poetry to me, along the lines of trawling Shakespeare for phrases to use as a title or chapter heading. There's plenty of precedent for doing so, both theistic and nontheistic: so much so, actually, that I think the text of the Bible might be more important as a work of literature than it is as religious doctrine. After all, most of the points of any particular Christian denomination (even nominally fundamentalist ones) are derived not from a clear "thou shalt" but from one or two lines of the text filtered through a rather tortured process of interpretation, and there's way more text than there is active doctrine.

This all goes double for the Old Testament, and triple for anything like Revelation that's usually understood in allegorical terms.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-05T04:13:23.654Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Inventing a strained interpretation of the Bible in order to support a conclusion you've decided on ahead of time is sinful, as it is written: "And in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it."

http://www.randombiblequotes.com/

comment by Mass_Driver · 2011-11-06T07:03:21.414Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's sloppy, even for a random quote. The immediately preceding verse is "The foundation of the temple of the LORD was laid in the fourth year, in the month of Ziv."

11 - 7 = 4.

Whatever the flaws of the book of First Kings, failures of basic arithmetic in the literal text isn't one of them.

comment by Eneasz · 2011-11-04T19:37:43.824Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I feel like this would be a bad thing if there was some truth or reality that was being distorted. But simply retelling a story in a new light to make a new point is not new, nor do I see a problem with it. For example, "Wicked" is a great retelling of "The Wizard of Oz" from the Wicked Witch of the West's point of view. It takes the opportunity to make commentary on society, as well as the nature of story-telling.

For that matter, Methods of Rationality is a retelling of the Harry Potter cannon to tell a story that supports a particular conclusion drawn ahead of time. That's the nature of stories. As long as one doesn't confuse "story" with "reality", the "telling" with the "drawing the conclusion", then there shouldn't be a problem.

I think this could only be called unhygienic if people took the story to be literal truth. I don't think anyone here is in danger of that, and I suspect anyone who does think that way is unlikely to be swayed very far with Brin's clever turn of phrase.

comment by HonoreDB · 2011-11-04T21:21:09.661Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think this could only be called unhygienic if people took the story to be literal truth. I don't think anyone here is in danger of that, and I suspect anyone who does think that way is unlikely to be swayed very far with Brin's clever turn of phrase.

I thought that was the point of his talk! Wasn't he saying, in short, "Singularitarians, even if they're atheists, should quote the Bible when reaching out to Bible-believers?"

comment by Eneasz · 2011-11-04T22:54:51.087Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, but I think he was talking more of the "much of this is metaphor and can be interpreted in many ways" crowd. People who are already halfway to thinking life extension might be ok and not an unholy usurping of god's will.

comment by Eneasz · 2011-11-04T19:30:53.616Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Inventing a strained interpretation of the Bible in order to support a conclusion you've decided on ahead of time

Isn't that the job description of an apologist? I don't think most apologists are viewed as sinful or disrespectful by others of their faith.

comment by sketerpot · 2011-11-14T00:59:40.550Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It always bother me when atheists argue about the right way to argue with believers. This presupposes that there is a single Right Way. Personally, I'm happy that I live in a world where there are blunt and uncompromising people like Richard Dawkins, and people who take a gentler approach. And I'm happy that there are people using David Brin's clever Bible-quoting tricks. The combination of multiple approaches is more effective than picking one and using it consistently.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2011-11-14T01:08:27.481Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're just arguing that a "mixed strategy" (rather than a "pure strategy") is better, which might well be true, in which case we should figure out which mixed strategy is the Right Way...

(I'm not sure how your comment was relevant.)

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-14T01:22:29.497Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Different atheists also perform differently with different strategies. Thus, taking into account comparative advantage, unless there is a severe shortage or excess of practitioners of a strategy, or a strategy's usefulness has been severely misjudged, the Right Way is simply for everyone to keep doing whatever they're best at. Hence "don't criticize each others' strategies" rather than "75% of incendiaries should switch to being diplomats".

comment by sketerpot · 2011-11-14T01:16:32.578Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

On re-reading, I agree with you. I'm pretty sure that a reasonable argument can be made that closely resembles what I said, so I'm just going to post this instead of strikethrough-ifying that comment.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-27T00:21:20.393Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The moral, children, is approximately Baconian. Don't think; look. Try not to argue.

Jerry Fodor

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-25T15:33:52.954Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

For Wits are treated just like Common Whores; First they're enjoy'd, and then kickt out of Doors.

--John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester

comment by gwern · 2011-11-23T02:16:05.972Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"We promise according to our hopes; we fulfill according to our fears."

François de La Rochefoucauld, Maximes 38

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-20T20:52:26.518Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why do you insist that the human genetic code is "sacred" or "taboo"? It is a chemical process and nothing more. For that matter -we- are chemical processes and nothing more. If you deny yourself a useful tool simply because it reminds you uncomfortably of your mortality, you have uselessly and pointlessly crippled yourself.

~Chairman Sheng-ji Yang, "Looking God in the Eye", fictional character from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-02T01:38:50.543Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But wise men pierce this rotten diction
and fasten words again
to visible things.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-02T11:26:25.336Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Which is why "X Rays" still don't have an actual name, just a letter.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-02T14:14:36.952Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What? I thought they were Xtreeeeme Rays!

comment by earthwormchuck163 · 2011-11-01T03:07:16.172Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nature uses only the longest thread to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.

Feynman

comment by Nominull · 2011-11-01T16:01:52.614Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a duplicate: http://lesswrong.com/lw/7e1/rationality_quotes_september_2011/4rj0

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-20T21:43:43.642Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

We are all aware that the senses can be deceived, the eyes fooled. But how can we be sure our senses are not being deceived at any particular time, or even all the time? Might I just be a brain in a tank somewhere, tricked all my life into believing in the events of this world by some insane computer? And does my life gain or lose meaning based on my reaction to such solipsism?

-Project PYRRHO, Specimen 46, Vat 7. Activity recorded M.Y. 2302.22467. (TERMINATION OF SPECIMEN ADVISED)

~Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-20T21:05:49.744Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think, and my thoughts cross the barrier into the synapses of the machine - just as the good doctor intended. But what I cannot shake, and what hints at things to come, is that thoughts cross back. In my dreams the sensibility of the machine invades the periphery of my consciousness. Dark. Rigid. Cold. Alien. Evolution is at work here, but just what is evolving remains to be seen.

~Commissioner Pravin Lal, "Man and Machine", "We must Dissent", fictional character from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-20T08:59:29.779Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Resources exist to be consumed. And consumed they will be, if not by this generation then by some future. By what right does this forgotten future seek to deny us our birthright? None I say! Let us take what is ours, chew and eat our fill.

~CEO Nwabudike Morgan, fictional character from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri...or is he?

comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-13T23:26:48.086Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.

Einstein

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T11:23:10.957Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"We've taken too much for granted And all the time it had grown From the techno seeds we first planted Evolved a mind of its' own"

-Judas Priest 'Metal Gods'

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-09T00:01:31.063Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is far easier to concentrate power than to concentrate knowledge.

--Thomas Sowell

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-11-07T06:47:07.736Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

So I found [wrong] things that even more people believe, such as that we have some knowledge of how to educate. There are big schools of reading methods and mathematics methods, and so forth, but if you notice, you'll see the reading scores keep going down--or hardly going up in spite of the fact that we continually use these same people to improve the methods. There's a witch doctor remedy that doesn't work. It ought to be looked into; how do they know that their method should work? Another example is how to treat criminals. We obviously have made no progress--lots of theory, but no progress--in decreasing the amount of crime by the method that we use to handle criminals.

Yet these things are said to be scientific. We study them. And I think ordinary people with commonsense ideas are intimidated by this pseudoscience. A teacher who has some good idea of how to teach her children to read is forced by the school system to do it some other way--or is even fooled by the school system into thinking that her method is not necessarily a good one. Or a parent of bad boys, after disciplining them in one way or another, feels guilty for the rest of her life because she didn't do "the right thing," according to the experts.

Richard Feynman, "Cargo Cult Science"

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-07T19:02:42.699Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Progress in reducing recidivism rates.

Teacher tests clever idea, fails.

Sometimes authorities are right.

comment by Hey · 2011-11-02T08:56:35.496Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am thinking of coding up a web app for accumulating, voting, and commenting on quotes. Kind of like bash.org but much fancier.

Is that something you guys would be interested in? If so, what features would you want?

This would be free to use of course, and the site would not lock down the data (ie it would be exportable to various formats).

I am thinking there are a lot of communities that post quotes for internal use, and might be interested in a kind of unified web site for this. My initial thought is that it would be like Reddit, where each tribe/community/subculture/topic/etc gets its own subdirectory.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-02T01:36:39.549Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But wise men pierce this rotten diction and fasten words again to visible things.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

comment by sabre51 · 2011-11-01T19:10:44.777Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

> Our civilization is still in a middle stage: scarcely beast, in that it is no longer wholly ruled by instinct; scarcely human, in that it is not yet wholly ruled by reason.

Theodore Dreiser

comment by Jolima · 2011-10-31T22:18:51.161Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's no success like failure, and failure's no success at all.

  • Bob Dylan (Love minus Zero / No limit)
comment by Grognor · 2011-10-31T18:03:50.777Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fine.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2011-10-31T18:25:23.059Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And? Isn't this just the standard definition of realism?

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-10-31T17:26:43.276Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones.

-John Cage

Retracted: More I think about it, the less this quote makes sense.

comment by komponisto · 2011-10-31T21:15:02.970Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It makes quite a bit of sense.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-01T12:32:42.534Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I know, but aren't there valid rational reasons to be frightened of new ideas as well? It's like neophilia.

comment by dbaupp · 2011-11-01T12:34:56.239Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Maybe, but it isn't valid to be frightened of an idea purely because it is new.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-01T12:38:39.842Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Isn't it valid to be somewhat frightened of a new medicine purely because it's yet untested on humans?

comment by dbaupp · 2011-11-01T12:51:23.173Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You have additional information about the idea; you are frightened of it because it is new and it is a medicine.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-11-01T13:13:48.928Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you explain your reasoning in more detail as to why it's "valid" to be wary of a new medicine, but it's not "valid" to be wary of a new idea?

Keep in mind that reversed stupidity is not intelligence. That some people are stupidly afraid of new ideas doesn't automatically make it intelligence not to be afraid of them.

comment by quinsie · 2011-11-02T15:48:35.795Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's two components to it, really:

People perceive exposure to a bad medicine as being much harder to correct than exposure to a bad idea. It feels like you can always "just stop beleiving" if you decided something was false, even though this has been empericially been demonstrated to be much more difficult than it feels like it should be.

Further, there's an unspoken assumption (at least for ideas-in-general) that other people will automatically ignore the 99% of the ideaspace that contains uniformly awful or irrelevant suggestions, like recomending that you increase tire pressure in your car to make it more likely to rain and other obviously wrong ideas like that. Medicine doesn't get this benefit of the doubt, as humans don't naturally prune their search space when it comes to complex and technical fields like medicine. It's outside our ancestoral environment, so we're not equiped to be able to automatically discard "obviously" bad drug ideas just from reading the chemical makeup of the medicine in question. Only with extensive evidence will a laymen even begin to entertain the idea that ingesting an unfamiliar drug would be benefical to them.

comment by shokwave · 2011-11-02T08:55:28.252Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The vast majority of untested chemicals-that-would-be-medicine are harmful or at least discomfiting. The vast majority of untested words-that-would-be-ideas are nonsense or at best banal.

(That is, part of knowing it's medicine vs knowing it's an idea is our prior for "this is harmful", and the relevant properties of ideas, medicine, human bodies, and human minds play a part here.)

comment by dbaupp · 2011-11-01T13:39:51.370Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I didn't say that being wary (i.e. being careful of it) wasn't valid (and of course it is perfectly valid). I said that being frightened (i.e. not going near it) wasn't valid.

So I think we were just using those words slightly differently.

comment by DoubleReed · 2011-11-01T13:13:56.545Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Should you be frightened of an idea purely because it is old?

comment by dbaupp · 2011-11-01T13:36:11.869Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-23T09:56:57.481Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A witty quote proves nothing.

Voltaire

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-23T21:56:33.136Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

duplicate

comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-24T08:24:37.337Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Huh. Weird that my Google site search didn't turn it up, then.

comment by steven0461 · 2011-11-24T08:49:54.737Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Probably the different translations for "saying"/"quote".

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-20T21:21:46.287Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tau Ceti flowering: Horrors visited upon neighboring systems must never be repeated. Therefore: if it means the end of our evolution as a species, so be it..

~Caretaker Lular H'minee, "Sacrifice : Life", fictional character from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

vs.

Risks of Flowering: considerable. But rewards of godhood: who can measure?

~Usurper Judaa Marr, "Courage : To Question", fictional character from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

Where do you stand?

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-11-23T22:24:25.108Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

From personal experience, I can say that I hate both those guys, and their bullshit first-turn Ogres as well. Bah ! Bah I say !

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-20T21:02:08.760Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Imagine the entire contents of the planetary datalinks, the sum total of human knowledge, blasted into the Planetmind's fragile neural network with the full force of every reactor on the planet. That is our last-ditch attempt to win humanity a reprieve from extinction at the hands of an awakened alien god.

~Academician Prokhor Zakharov, "Planet Speaks", fictional character from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.

Seems like a bad strategy of trying to make the planetmind not wipe out humans. It might however preserve some human value in future universe states in those particular circumstances (where the planet mind was awakening and it was going to grow to goodhood and wipe out humans no matter what), since planet mind will probably be infected by some human memes.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-11-20T23:52:08.213Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

planet mind will probably be infected by some human memes.

I thought you were going somewhere else with that.

Then the Xenopsychologist made a muffled noise that could have been a bark of incredulity, or just a sad laugh. "Stars beyond," said the Xenopsychologist, "they're trying to persuade us to eat our own children."

"Using," said the Lord Programmer, "what they assert to be arguments from universal principles, rather than appeals to mere instincts that might differ from star to star."

...

Akon was resting his head in his hands. "You know," Akon said, "I thought about composing a message like this to the Babyeaters. It was a stupid thought, but I kept turning it over in my mind. Trying to think about how I might persuade them that eating babies was... not a good thing."

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-21T07:13:26.937Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I thought any argument or transmittable piece of information that could convince someone to change their values was a meme.

comment by summerstay · 2011-11-03T15:18:49.127Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Let any one examine the wonderful self-regulating and self-adjusting contrivances which are now incorporated with the vapour-engine, let him watch the way in which it supplies itself with oil; in which it indicates its wants to those who tend it; in which, by the governor, it regulates its application of its own strength; let him look at that store-house of inertia and momentum the fly-wheel, or at the buffers on a railway carriage; let him see how those improvements are being selected for perpetuity which contain provision against the emergencies that may arise to harass the machines, and then let him think of a hundred thousand years, and the accumulated progress which they will bring unless man can be awakened to a sense of his situation, and of the doom which he is preparing for himself... we must choose between the alternative of undergoing much present suffering, or seeing ourselves gradually superseded by our own creatures, till we rank no higher in comparison with them, than the beasts of the field with ourselves...

There is reason to hope that the machines will use us kindly, for their existence will be in a great measure dependent upon ours; they will rule us with a rod of iron, but they will not eat us; they will not only require our services in the reproduction and education of their young, but also in waiting upon them as servants; in gathering food for them, and feeding them; in restoring them to health when they are sick; and in either burying their dead or working up their deceased members into new forms of mechanical existence.

-- Samuel Butler, Darwin Among the Machines 1863

comment by TimS · 2011-11-03T00:12:29.278Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Don't sell yourself to your enemy in advance, in your mind. You can only be defeated here." He touched his hands to his temples.

  • Admiral Aral Vorkosigan, Mirror Dance
comment by Technoguyrob · 2011-11-04T02:30:33.379Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Do you know that a man has only one eye which sees and registers everything; this eye, like a superb camera which takes minute pictures, very sharp, tiny -- and with that picture man tells himself: 'This time I know the reality of things,' and he is calm for a moment. Then, slowly superimposing itself on the picture, another eye makes its appearance, invisibly, which makes an entirely different picture for him. Then our man no longer sees clearly, a struggle begins between the first and second eye, the fight is fierce, finally the second eye has the upper hand, takes over and that's the end of it. Now it has command of the situation, the second eye can then continue its work alone and elaborate its own picture according to the laws of interior vision. This very special eye is found here," says Matisse, pointing to his brain.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-05T05:10:34.024Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Check out "The Ecological Theory of Visual Perception" by James Gibson. The fact that it deals with visual sensory perception is merely coincidental with your quote. The real issue is that homunculus theories of perception just don't cut the mustard. Everything about you is part of your sensory perception. I highly recommend that book; as a grad student in machine perception myself, it helped me really realize that there's no special, sequestered perceiver inside of an entity. It's just data mashing up against matter that filters data.

comment by Dan_Moore · 2011-11-03T14:20:07.362Z · score: -14 (16 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
Avoid using ad hominems. Instead, use ad meme-inems.
comment by MarkusRamikin · 2011-11-03T14:26:35.903Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Avoid using ad hominems. Instead, use ad meme-inems.

What, if anything, does that mean? And who is it quoted from?

comment by Dan_Moore · 2011-11-03T14:37:54.325Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ad meme-inem means 'against the meme', and I made up the quote.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2011-11-03T14:52:02.343Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ad meme-inem means 'against the meme', and I made up the quote.

There is so much wrong with that sentence.

comment by Dan_Moore · 2011-11-03T15:14:52.578Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is so much wrong with that sentence.

?

-1 for being non-specific. E.g., bad neology, quoting myself...?

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2011-11-03T16:04:15.760Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I didn't downvote that particular comment, but it's a horrible neologism that doesn't need to exist, quoting yourself is explicitly prohibited in the rules on the main post (second on the list), and just saying something doesn't make it a quotation.

'Ad meme-inem' does not mean 'against the meme' any more than 'ad sandwich-inem' means 'against the sandwich'.

'Ad hominem' literally means 'to the man' in Latin. 'Ad' means 'to the', and 'hominem' means 'the man (who is the object of this sentence)'.

'Meme' is a word of Greek origin, so it doesn't really belong in a Latin expression. I would guess a suitable Latin substitute would be 'ratio', meaning reasoning or idea, which would decline to 'rationem' in this context. A more suitable Latin version of your sentiment would therefore be 'ad rationem'; you are taking the argument to the idea.

You wouldn't see this on a list of logical fallacies, though, because it isn't one.

comment by Dan_Moore · 2011-11-03T16:23:39.913Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Guilty on all counts.

comment by Dan_Moore · 2011-11-04T19:30:25.730Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

When you're in a hole, rule #1 - stop digging.

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