Open Thread, Apr. 20 - Apr. 26, 2015

post by Gondolinian · 2015-04-20T00:02:58.277Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 355 comments

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


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355 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by dxu · 2015-04-20T00:19:27.748Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Has anyone here ever had the "location" of their sense of self change? I ask because I've recently read that while some people feel like "they" are located in their heads, others feel like "they" are in their chests, or even feet. Furthermore, apparently some people actually "shift around", in that sometimes they feel like their sense of self is in one body part, and then it's somewhere else.

I find this really interesting because I have never had such an experience myself; I'm always "in my head", so to speak--more precisely, I feel as though "I" am located specifically at a point slightly behind my eyes. The obvious hypothesis is that my visual sense is the sense that conveys the most information (aside from touch, which isn't pinned down to a specific location), which is why I identify with it most, but the sensation of being "in my head" persists even when I have my eyes closed, which somewhat contradicts that hypothesis. Also, the fact that some people apparently don't perceive themselves in that place is more weak evidence against that hypothesis.

So, any thoughts/stories/anecdotes?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-20T02:43:24.269Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

The large field of the so-called out-of-body experiences is precisely about the "location of self" moving outside of the body. I understand that specific types of meditation and mental exercises can produce this effect fairly reliably. So can some psychoactives.

the sensation of being "in my head" persists even when I have my eyes closed

Don't forget that your ears which provide you with hearing and the sense of balance and orientation are on your head, too.

comment by Ishaan · 2015-04-21T22:58:12.014Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've have had out of body experiences which match the description of other out of body experiences fairly well (for example, while I am half dreaming with eyes open during sleep paralysis) and I think that's completely different.

In an out-of-body experience of the type that I have, you feel like your head and other body parts are somewhere different than where it really is.Your sense of self in relation to your body is preserved. You might still be in your head, but you imagine your head is somewhere else. (And hallucinate visual and tactile phenomenon consistent with your body being somewhere else).

It's not much different drom a regular dream - instead of dreaming you're in a fantasy place, you dream you are in your room but in another location of your room. (Then you feel a sort of snap back to your true body when the dream ends)

That's different from feeling a sense of self as localized somewhere other than behind the eyes.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T09:22:04.227Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is learned - Aristotle considered it is in the heart and the brain is just about cooling blood. I think it is because we are taught from childhood to "use your head" etc.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-21T16:41:55.340Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Be critical of these sorts of factoids. Aristotle was a 'wise man' which in that pre-scientific time meant more seemingly-wise than actually-wise regarding most topics (although Aristotle was better than other contemporaries to be fair). You can take it as weak evidence that Aristotle claiming the self to be in the heart and not in the brain means that most people of the time thought it was in the brain not the heart, as with today. His view got recorded for history because it was contrarian.

comment by Houshalter · 2015-04-22T06:41:55.508Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Is this true that most people believed the brain was where thought came from? I know the Egyptians used to rip it out because they didn't think it was important.

I was literally just thinking about this the other day, about how ancient people didn't notice that people that got head injuries would change their behave or die instantly.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-04-23T12:09:12.731Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was literally just thinking about this the other day, about how ancient people didn't notice that people that got head injuries would change their behave or die instantly.

I don't have a single friend whose behavior I'd have noticed changing after a head injury: the only reason I know it happens is because I've read case reports of it happening to someone. Maybe some doctor might have noticed, but then, I'd expect ancient peoples to also have fewer head injuries that were serious enough to change behavior but also mild enough to be survivable.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-22T15:47:33.980Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Is this true that most people believed the brain was where thought came from? I know the Egyptians used to rip it out because they didn't think it was important.

That is good evidence, on the other hand.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-22T14:44:28.238Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

People that got heart injuries tend to die instantly, too :-/

A better clue would be that you can knock someone out by hitting him on the head, but not on any other part of the body.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-22T15:47:13.451Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you hit someone hard in the region of the heart, they die.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-22T15:59:02.748Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You're missing the point. There is only one part of the body that you can apply physical shock to in order to make someone lose consciousness for a time.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-22T20:20:54.330Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But you could also say that death is a more permanent form of losing consciousness. To someone who doesn't know better, I could certainly see someone thinking "If something happens to the brain, you get seriously messed up. But if something happens to the heart you die, period. So perhaps the heart is more important than the brain since even the slightest injury or malfunction means instant death. Therefore, our life force must reside in the heart, not the brain." This could even lead you to thinking that the brain's purpose is in someway indirectly related to the heart, e.g. blood cooling, such that damage to the brain can cause damage to the heart, which is why some but not all damage to the brain is deadly.

I get what you are saying, but I think that connection is only obvious in hindsight.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-22T21:14:02.320Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Therefore, our life force must reside in the heart

For the purposes of this subthread we should distinguish "life force", "soul", and "mind". They were commonly thought to be separate concepts and not necessarily residing in the same body part.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-22T21:55:57.251Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Depends on the culture.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-26T23:08:18.750Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You can pass out from serious injuries, even if they're not in the head.

comment by Toggle · 2015-04-22T20:20:54.247Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

In ancient Greece, it was common knowledge that the liver was the thinking organ. This is obvious, because it is purple (the color of royalty) and triangular (mathematically and philosophically significant).

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-20T00:26:47.844Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I've occasionally been able to move my sense of self downwards from my head. From what I've read, people didn't put their sense of self in their heads (it was typically in the heart or abdomen) until the importance of the brain was discovered.

comment by pianoforte611 · 2015-04-20T00:47:20.121Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I find this very hard to believe, given that humans are highly visual creatures and our eyes are located in our head. What time period/people had their sense of self in their heart or abdomen?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T09:26:41.391Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Whenever my nerdy/schizoid/introverted side is stronger, I feel exactly this, I am behind the eyes and staring forward, as in this state my spatial location ability, the ability to be aware in 360 degrees, is bad. But whenever this side of me retreats a bit (for example any sense of success or victory beats down the inner nerd for a while) and I come out from my inner shell to bask in the world, I feel at home in space, I get 360 degrees awareness, I know where my legs and hands are and so on, then I am less aware of where I am and more in the center of the body, perhaps chest level.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2015-04-20T03:49:38.748Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Not everyone is that visually focused.

I'd say I'm more focused on auditory and kinesthetic senses. I'm focused in my head, but more between the ears than behind the eyes.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-04-20T01:01:41.670Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Even moreso than visual, we are mental creatures. Ideas and culture can make all the difference.

To the OP: there are times and circumstances by which I can lose much connection to the location of my body at all. Usually associated with stargazing.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-04-20T13:33:57.449Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I also recall that the perceived location of self (soul, mind) has changed historically. Without doubt Aristotele placed it in the heart but otherwise refs are hard to find. I vaguely recall reading about it in Precht.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T09:23:28.401Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Worth noting, the Dalai Lama recommends before falling asleep focusing the sense of self in the middle of the chest at the level of the heart for deeper sleeping or in the throat for more vivid dreams. I have never tried it, but may be an experiment for people with sleep problems or trying to lucid dream.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-04-20T13:43:17.008Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've occasionally been able to move my sense of self downwards from my head.

Just tried it. I'm able to move the focus of my attention downward. Mostly the same way as I can consciously widen the angle of my attention.

But I can't be sure that this implies that it is my self. I'd like to add that there are multiple self: A perceiving self (which I'm tempted to locate in the brain), a whole self which contains everything of my body that I take to be my body and then probably another self which is the space that I contain and where I do not wan't anybody to intrude on. And some more.

ADDED: The widening of the angle of perception seems to be this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deconcentration_of_attention

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-20T19:41:52.712Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I just tried imagining being in my heart looking up at my head. I can't guarantee that I actually moved my sense of self-- maybe "I" was still in my head creating an imagined self in my heart-- but it was at least an interesting and rather cheering experience. I feel more alert.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-04-20T19:55:10.018Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Can confirm that.

I noticed that my mood subly changed in response to the moved location - presumably due to the associations these bring. This would match up with the Dalai Lama receommendations in some other comment.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-20T20:54:28.050Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For me, there was a large postural change. Oddly, moving my sense of self down meant that my head came up.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-04-20T21:32:27.396Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Another thing I noticed: The effect feels like when directing attention toward something outside of the focus area (direction of gaze).

comment by mwengler · 2015-04-21T22:46:44.981Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I always thought my sense of self was in my head because of where my eyes and ears were. I look out at myself and see my hands typing and my legs when I am walking and I am looking from my head. I.e., I am in my head, that is the center.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-20T23:52:26.410Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

http://www.yale.edu/minddevlab/papers/starmans%26bloom.pdf?hc_location=ufi

I'm not sure this is definitive, but it's at least interesting.

comment by Username · 2015-04-20T23:25:58.681Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

When I'm reaching into a space I can't see with my hands to say, untangle something, I definitely have more of a sense of space around my hands than my head. Closing your eyes and untying/retying your shoes right now might simulate this.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-04-21T03:40:24.908Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have had out-of-body experiences. Nothing too major; just the sensation of floating above my 'actual' body, sometimes only a few centimeters, other times a full human body length (as if I was standing on my own head). I had a burst of these out-of-body experiences around 2005-2006 (perhaps four or five in a two-year period) and have not had them since. Each episode lasted only a minute or two. Once, a friend was present, and they told me I had 'zoned out' for several minutes. It's worth mentioning don't know what caused or triggered the episodes. During the episodes my eyes were fully open and I could see what was happening in front of me. However, I wasn't focused on sensory input but was more inward-focused on my own thoughts.

If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T07:24:26.091Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm very doubtful of the significance of this because it seems unlikely that evolution would have selected for this kind of perception (there are many points of failure, not just a single one). It seems more likely that this notion only arises when you ask this very question, and that naturally, the mind is simply concerned with the position of all body parts (for safety and coordination, a.k.a. proprioception). With drugs or some dedication we appear to be able to override parts of our self-representation which are concerned with proprioception with arbitrary stories that incorporate sensations that we focus on, but it should better be something romantic ("the brain with which I think, the feet with which I feel the ground"), as people would laugh at your if you said your self is located at your anus because you defacate from it.

comment by Elo · 2015-04-26T21:56:53.511Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A hypothesis; if you think your sense of self is connected to the location of your eyes; try spend some time blindfolded; say 1 hour in a normal/safe environment without vision and see if it moves. It might just be in your hands as you feel your way around; or your feet as you travel around.

it would seem reasonable that the focus of your interaction with the environment feels like its at one of your strongest senses but might be elsewhere for other people with different sensory wiring.

comment by bageldaughter · 2015-04-23T22:08:03.144Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Cool question.

I have experienced a change in 'location' of my sense of self- it 'spreads out'. It is a feeling that "I" do not reside in the particular head/body of Bageldaughter, but instead in both my head/body and the other things I happen to be keenly aware of. If I am deeply engrossed in a conversation or social activity, "I" will begin to be identified with the group of individuals as a whole. The particular intentions, thoughts or feelings that I typically associate with myself lose some of their distinguishing quality from the ones I perceive from others.

There is often an accompanying "spreading-out" of "my" location in time- the round-trip time of ideas through a group is often slower than just through my own head. I will get the sense that my "current moment" spans back to a thought that originated in my friend's head one minute ago!

I can invoke this sensation pretty reliably. It can be fun. I get worried when people talk about experiencing this type of thing as some kind of higher truth than normal, because it seems like a sign of mental illness that may not end well.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-23T16:52:19.096Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As a single data point, this is totally bizarre to me... I've never in my life felt a "sense of self" anywhere myself, but I find the idea intriguing.

How do you locate yourself? Do you have to meditate or something, or are "you" just always there?

comment by jam_brand · 2015-04-23T06:54:47.152Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I commented in that thread myself and what you've said seems a worthy addition even without a disclaimer; it adds at least as much to the discussion as this post which nobody has downvoted. (of course, it might seem easy for me to say your comment should be posted if I'm not the once risking the karma punishment for doing so, so note that I'd be willing to copy/paste what you've said and take any punishment/reward for myself if you'd like)

comment by Ishaan · 2015-04-21T23:21:21.458Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Try closing your eyes and navigating your home with a cane at the same time and see if it persists? Try checking if it persists when you're playing video-games? Does your sense of self go into the character? What about if you watch another person really closely?

I have a shifting spatial attention that changes according to the task at hand. The only sense in which "self" is located in my "head" is that to me the world "self" partially means things like "face" and "brain" to me and so recalling the word "self" directs my spatial attention there, in the same way that "door' directs spatial attention to the door.

But as I go through the day I don't think there is anything mentally privileged about the space right behind my eyes unless I specifically start thinking about "self" and what it means. I suspect spatial attention and the nature of how verbal concepts direct it is most of what is going on here.

comment by jam_brand · 2015-04-21T16:47:10.568Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't had this experience myself, but apparently it's not difficult to induce: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/25/134059271/creating-the-illusion-of-a-different-body

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-21T16:38:46.911Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I find this really interesting because I have never had such an experience myself; I'm always "in my head", so to speak--more precisely, I feel as though "I" am located specifically at a point slightly behind my eyes.

As a single data point, this exactly corresponds to me. I identify with the locus of my vision. I wonder how blind, or blind-deaf people identify.

comment by emr · 2015-04-20T01:11:54.241Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe the head is the most vulnerable region to injury, and the locating of the self in the head reflects the need to protect the brain and other inputs (mouth, eyes, ears).

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T09:28:41.063Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Besides just look at a dog or any animal really, it does everything with the head, eat, fight, hunt etc.

comment by negamuhia · 2015-04-24T11:56:46.964Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you practice mindfulness meditation, you'll realize that your sense of self is an illusion. It's probably true that most people believe that their "self" is located in their head, but if you investigate it yourself, you'll find that there's actually no "self" at all.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-21T07:05:07.813Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I retract my Great Filter hypothesis: I realized this predicts an ever smaller population of ever smarter hominids, who still have a good quality of life, making up in smarts what they miss in numbers. But the simple fact is, hominid populations were not dwindling. They were pretty steadily taking over the planet, migrating out of Africa and all that.

Well, unless it happened before and caused the mitochondrial Eve bottleneck and then things turned different after that, but that is adding too much detail and courting a conjunction bias, so I don't propose that until more evidence is unearthed.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-21T12:10:03.680Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted for updating.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2015-04-20T16:14:20.377Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I've noticed a lot of disciplines, particularly ones that sometimes have to justify their value, often make a similar claim:

"[subject] isn't just about [subject matter]: it teaches you how to think"

This raises some interesting questions:

  • I can believe, for example, that Art History instils in its students some useful habits of thought, but I suspect they're less general than those from a discipline with an explicit problem-solving focus. What kind of scheme could one construct to score the meta-cognitive skills learned from a particular subject?

  • Are there any subjects which are particularly unlikely to make this claim? Are any subjects just composed of procedural knowledge without any overarching theory, cross-domain applicability, or necessary transferable skills?

  • Are there particularly potent combinations of skills, or particularly useless ones? It seems that a Physics degree and a Maths degree would have similar "coverage" in terms of thinking habits they instil, but a Physics degree and a Law degree would have much broader coverage. "I have technical skills, but I also have people-skills" is a fairly standard contemporary idea. Do Physics and Law have strikingly different coverages because Physics Lawyers don't really need to exist?

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-20T22:08:07.070Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I would interpret that claim as: "we may be practically useless, but we are still fucking high-status!" :D

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2015-04-21T10:42:20.487Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The claim isn't just made with arguably useless disciplines, though. Many people argue (quite rightly, IMO) that programming doesn't just teach you to command machines to do your bidding, but also instils powerful thinking tools. So even if kids don't grow up to be software developers, it's still valuable for them to learn programming. Similar arguments could be made for law or finance.

comment by JQuinton · 2015-04-21T17:49:26.817Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Slightly off topic, but I both program and play guitar and for the longest time I was wondering why I was getting an overwhelming feeling of the two bleeding into each other. While playing guitar, it would "feel" like I was also coding. Eventually I figured out that the common thread is probably the general task of algorithm optimization.

There's no way for me to tell if programming made me a better guitar player or vice versa.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-21T11:09:03.120Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So even if kids don't grow up to be software developers, it's still valuable for them to learn programming. Similar arguments could be made for law or finance.

Could you make that argument for finance? I see that learning finance is very useful for personal financial decisions but how does it provide use beyond that?

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2015-04-21T14:28:56.221Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Obviously "finance" is a very wide area that covers a lot of different ideas, but my observation of "finance people" is that they have a powerful mental vocabulary for thinking about what kind of a value something is and what can be done with it over time. For example: the difference between stock values and flow values, expected return of a portfolio of assets, the leveraging of credit, the mitigation of risk.

More generally, they seem to be able to look at some number assigned to a thing, and observe that it's morphologically similar to some other number assigned to some different thing, and understand what sort of things can happen to both those numbers, and what sort of process is required to turn one sort of number into another sort of number.

comment by mwengler · 2015-04-21T22:26:08.548Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Finance is about marshalling resources and using them to efficiently create a lot more wealth. Since wealth is at minimum the thing that keeps us from working 24/7 on getting enough food to eat, and generally gives us the kind of free time we need to invent AIs, post on message boards, have hobbies, and try to get the hot chicks, it can be quite useful even for a non-wall-street worker. Think of finance as the thing that keeps you from carrying a balance on your credit card or buying lottery tickets as investments.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-22T11:35:27.066Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's not an argument for the claim that finance skills instill thinking tools that are useful in other domains. It's just an argument that finance skills are useful.

comment by James_Ernest · 2015-04-21T09:17:08.165Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Physics lawyers definitely need to exist. I would strongly like to get an injunction against the laws of thermodynamics.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-20T16:25:48.169Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Seems to me that "teaches you how to think" does not necessarily imply instilling habits of thought. I would interpret that (say, in the context of Art History) as:

  • Supplying you with some maps of unknown to you territory
  • Giving you some tools to explore and map the territory further
  • Pointing you towards some well-worn tracks as "default" ways of thinking about the issues involved

The habits of thought are not involved in all of this -- it's more of a broadening-your-horizons exercise.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-04-21T14:05:46.110Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

"[subject] isn't just about [subject matter]: it teaches you how to think"

Most (~70%) of the times it is a euphemism for "it's useless, but we like it so we still want to use taxpayers' money to teach it".

(If people really cared about teaching people how to think, they'd teach cognitive psychology, probability and statistics, game theory, and the like, not stuff like Latin.)

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-04-23T12:19:17.959Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

(If people really cared about teaching people how to think, they'd teach cognitive psychology, probability and statistics, game theory, and the like, not stuff like Latin.)

I expect you're typical-minding here. I know enough linguistics enthusiasts who feel that learning new languages makes you think in new ways that I believe that to be their genuine experience. Also because I personally find a slight difference in the way I think in different languages, though not as pronounced as those people.

Presumably they, being familiar with the thought-changing effects of Latin but not having felt the language-changing effects of cognitive psychology etc. (either because of not having studied those topics enough, or because of not having a mind whose thought patterns would be strongly affected by the study of them), would likewise say "if people really cared about teaching people how to think, they'd teach Latin and not stuff like cognitive psychology". Just like you say what you say, either because of not having studied Latin enough, or because of not having a mind whose thought patterns would be strongly affected by the study of languages.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-04-24T09:02:09.521Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I know enough linguistics enthusiasts who feel that learning new languages makes you think in new ways that I believe that to be their genuine experience. Also because I personally find a slight difference in the way I think in different languages, though not as pronounced as those people.

Sure, but the same happens with living languages as well.

not having studied Latin enough

I studied Latin for five years. Sure, it is possible that if I had studied it longer it would have changed my thought patterns more, but surely there are cheaper ways of doing that. (Even the first couple months of studying linear algebra affected me more, but I don't expect that to apply to everybody so I didn't list it upthread.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-21T14:28:10.645Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A while ago I read that a betting firm rather hires physics or math people than people with degrees in statistics because the statistics folks to often think that real world data is supposed to follow a normal distribution like the textbook example they faced in university.

Outside of specific statistics programs a lot of times statistics classes lead to students simply memorizing recipes and not really developing a good statistical intuition.

Teaching statistics sounds often much better in the abstract than in practice.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-04-22T17:02:24.854Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That's a good point, but on the other hand, even thinking that everything is a Gaussian would be a vast improvement over thinking that everything is a Dirac delta and it is therefore not ludicrous to speculate about why some politician's approval rating went down from 42.8% last week to 42.3% today when both figures come from surveys with a sample size of 1600.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-22T17:15:17.899Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A well trained mathematician or physicist who never took a formal course on statistics likely isn't going to make that error, just as a well trained statistician isn't going to make that error.

I would think that the mathematician is more likely to get this right than the medical doctor who got statistics lessons at med school.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-21T15:46:00.747Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

because the statistics folks to often think that real world data is supposed to follow a normal distribution like the textbook example they faced in university.

That is, ahem, bullshit. Stupid undergrads might think so for a short while, "statistics folks" do not.

comment by mwengler · 2015-04-21T22:19:25.469Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) was a hedge fund that lost billions of dollars because its founders, including nobel prize winners, assumed 1) things that have been uncorrelated for a while will remain uncorrelated, and 2) ridiculously low probabilities of failure calculated from assumptions that events are distributed normally actually apply to analyzing the likelihood of various disastrous investment strategies failing. That is, LTCM reported results as if something which is seen from data to be normal between +/- 2*sigma will be reliably normal out to 3, 4, 5, and 6 sigma.

Yes, there WERE people who knew LTCM were morons. But there were plenty who didn't, including nobel prize winners with PhDs. It really happened and it still really happens.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-22T00:04:09.837Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I am familiar with LTCM and how it crashed and burned. I don't think that people who ran it were morons or that they assumed returns will be normally distributed. LTCM's blowup is a prime example of "Markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent" (which should be an interesting lesson for LW people who are convinced markets are efficient).

LTCM failed when its convergence trades (which did NOT assume things will be uncorrelated or that returns will be Gaussian) diverged instead and LTCM could not meet margin calls.

Hindsight vision makes everything easy. Perhaps you'd like to point out today some obvious to you morons who didn't blow up yet but certainly will?

comment by mwengler · 2015-04-23T01:38:49.156Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that people who ran it were morons or that they assumed returns will be normally distributed.

An LTCM investor letter, quoted here, says

"…only one year in fifty should it lose at least 20% of its portfolio."

And of course, it proceeded to lose essentially all of its portfolio after operating for just a handful of years. Now if in fact you are correct and the LTCM'ers did understand things might be correlated and that tail probabilities would not be gaussian, how do you imagine they even made a calculation like that?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-23T01:52:07.410Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can we get a bit more specific than waving around marketing materials?

Precisely which things turned out to be correlated that LTCM people assumed to be uncorrelated and precisely the returns on which positions the LTCM people assumed to be Gaussian when in fact they were not?

Or are you critiquing the VAR approach to risk management in general? There is a lot to critique, certainly, but would you care to suggest some adequate replacements?

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2015-04-21T16:17:53.254Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Statisticians think everything is normally distributed" seems to be one of those weirdly enduring myths. I'd love to know how it gets propagated.

comment by gjm · 2015-04-21T16:40:49.711Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I strongly suspect that a large part of its recent popularity is because in the recent CDO-driven crash it suited the interests of the (influential) people whose decisions were actually responsible to spread the idea that the problem was that those silly geeky quants didn't understand that everything isn't uncorrelated Gaussians, ha ha ha.

comment by Emile · 2015-04-21T21:51:15.411Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I can't say I ran into it before (whereas "economists think humans are all rational self-interested agents", jeez...)

comment by Kindly · 2015-04-21T21:32:44.526Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Given that I remember spending a year of AP statistics only doing calculations with things we assumed to be normally distributed, it's not an unreasonable objection to at least some forms of teaching statistics.

Hopefully people with statistics degrees move beyond that stage, though.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-21T18:37:09.876Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Someone was overly impressed by the Central Limit Theorem... X-)

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-04-21T16:27:27.974Z · score: -2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I read that Germans are often anti-semites, is it true?

comment by Elo · 2015-04-26T22:03:10.457Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect that with "mastery of a skill" comes an ability to understand "mastery", in that - on a variation of man-with-a-hammer syndrome; holding the mastery of one area will help you better understand the direction to head in when mastering other areas, and learning in other areas.

to me the line now reads; "mastery of [subject] isn't just about [subject matter]: mastery teaches you how to think"

where can vary; the significance of what people are trying to convey is maybe not in the but in the experience of learning.

comment by SanguineEmpiricist · 2015-04-21T19:10:12.967Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

If any one has sleep apnea with or without snoring or even a hint of being too tired during the day please fix it. My life is profoundly better and I have access to a life i did not know was possible, no more sadness or depression whatsoever.

My life is 20-40x better I feel like I have woken up in another world that was shut off from me for the first 20ish years of my lifespan.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-04-22T00:45:51.249Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

On that note, I've heard a lot about how addressing sleep apnea is great but how do you check if you have it in the first place (or, at least, to the extent that would warrant seeing a doctor about it)? 'Being tired during the day' doesn't seem like a strong self-diagnostic criterion.

comment by SanguineEmpiricist · 2015-04-22T02:50:21.984Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

sleeping on my side worked for me, if i am not disciplined i mess it up, the expectation is so large that perhaps a mouthguard or machine is worth it. If you wake up at night but cannot remember or remember falling then I now that is a good sign.

google sleep apnea/shallow breathing while sleeping. I'm afraid I cannot do too much more to help with my current knowledge.

comment by Elo · 2015-04-26T22:07:04.937Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I tried a lot of sleep tracking with apps and wearables. (fitbit, basis, sleep as android)

I currently use both fitbit and basis, fitbit visualises long term sleep better, basis visualises a single night better.

These devices showed me what my sleep looks like, and further what my "normal sleep pattern" looks like. while I have good sleep now; if I stop having good sleep; I will have the graphs to prove it.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-20T18:15:30.034Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I'm inclined to think that policy towards illegal immigration is a result of incoherent moral standards-- some combination of "discourage strangers from showing up in large numbers" and "rescue harmless people who are close to death".

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-20T22:31:59.438Z · score: 21 (21 votes) · LW · GW

It reminds me of a thought experiment I have read somewhere. Imagine that there are many people in the world who are dying from starvation. They would happily agree to be your slaves, if you feed them. There is too many of them and they are not qualified for modern economy; if you would give them more than a minimum, there wouldn't be enough for you to have a decent life. Imagine you only have the following three options:

A) Share everything with them. Everyone will live, but everyone will be rather poor.
B) Accept them as your slaves, in exchange for food and shelter. Everyone will live, you will keep your quality of life, but there will be a huge inequality.
C) Refuse to interact with them. You will keep your quality of life, but they will die from starvation.

If we order these options by altruism, which is how those poor people would see them, we get A > B > C. It would be best to make those poor people our equals, but even helping them survive as slaves is better than letting them die.

If we order these options by pure egoism, we get B > C > A. Having slaves would be a cool improvement, keeping status quo is acceptable.

But in the typical decision process, we refuse B to signal that we are not complete egoists, and refuse A because we are not really that much altruistic. Thus what remains is the option C... which paradoxically both altruists and egoists consider to be worse than B (and the altruists also worse than A).

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-20T23:38:25.977Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

The thing is, I don't think a lot of illegal immigrants are unqualified for a modern economy. If they were unqualified, there wouldn't be so many laws trying to keep them from working.

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-21T09:05:08.440Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Great point!

Although hypotetically here could be two independent interests that just happen to be strategically aligned. Some people want to stop unqualified immigrants, other people want to stop qualified immigrants who would compete with them on the job market.

Also there are of course concerns other than economical, such as people bringing with them some nasty habits from their cultures. These were not included in the thought experiment, which perhaps makes it irrelevant for real-world situations.

Also having slaves has the risk of those slaves rebelling later.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-21T12:08:15.467Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I wasn't kidding when I said one of the motivations was a desire to not live with large numbers of strangers. One issue might be cognitive load-- the strangers have unfamiliar customs (is a sincere apology accompanied by a smile or a serious expression?) and possibly an unfamiliar language.

As far as I can tell, the economic side of not wanting immigrants is a sort of merchantilism-- a belief that all that matters is where the money is, so that new people showing up and getting paid for work just seems like money getting drained away. Weirdly, rich people who show up and spend money without working locally may be disliked, but they don't seem to be as hated as poor people who do useful work. I don't think it's just about competition for jobs.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-25T10:40:06.058Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

https://hbr.org/2015/04/emotional-intelligence-doesnt-translate-across-borders

A few examples of people from different cultures misreading each other.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-21T21:28:00.320Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Even without that, there's a lot of issues about giving them welfare. We could allow them entry as second-class citizens who have no minimum wage or access to welfare but still need to pay taxes. We'll avoid having to give them welfare, but we'll need to admit that we have second-class citizens, which is something we pretend to be against.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-21T22:06:26.202Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It also means that the people who are currently working at minimum wage jobs are likely to lose their jobs to the cheaper competition.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-22T04:04:30.834Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That depends on the degree to which the two groups compete for jobs. There are also positive secondary effects which reduce the impact (immigration reduces inflation and increases the overall market size). The employment impact of immigration on low-skilled workers is somewhere between slightly negative and slightly positive.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-21T17:05:21.506Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Slavery is a non sequitur here. Under the circumstances you might suggest "I will pay you below minimum wage" or "I will pay you nothing, but provide housing on my plantation where you work." But so long as they have the right to walk away at any time its not slavery, and there's nothing in the setup that justifies that loss of liberty. Your hypothetical situation is an argument against the minimum wage, not pro-slavery.

comment by mwengler · 2015-04-21T22:10:03.266Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think policy is a result of incoherent moral standards. I think it is a result of different people having different moral ideas that they consider important. So some subset of people are concerned enough to be active in discouraging strangers from showing up, and some other subset of people are concerned with rescuing people who are close to death, and the political/legislative system cobbles these things together into something which can pass a vote.

I suspect CEV is unlikely. That is, if one were to extrapolate volition from bunches of different people, the result would not be coherent, it would be incoherent. Because people have different and inconsistent volitions.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-04-20T21:39:39.686Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say inconsistent rather than incoherent moral standards, or different moral standards at tension.

Honestly, this seems like a "well, duh" sort of thing. One just needs to read the rhetoric from say both sides of the US immigration debate, or both sides of the discussions in Europe about refugees from North Africa to see this pretty clearly.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-04-21T03:54:03.741Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Probably but I'm not sure why that should be surprising; most moral standards we hold are inconsistent. So what would distinguish policy towards illegal immigration from other policies?

In a previous open thread, I brought up the theory of right-wing authoritarianism, which purports that conservative attitudes may be partially a defensive response to perception of threat. That offers one way of looking at policy towards illegal immigration: Maybe some people really do view immigrants as a threat to their way of living. So from that perspective they would not view them as harmless.

It may be simpler than that, though. Maybe 'rescue harmless people who are close to death' is not a strong value (or a value at all) for some. Certainly we know that psychopaths do not hold this as a value, and may even consider it an anti-value -- they would enjoy increasing the number of harmless people who are close to death. I'm sure this is not true for the majority of human beings, however.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-04-20T02:11:49.141Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The big cryonics story of the week, about the Thai toddler Matheryn Naovaratpong:

The Girl Who Would Live Forever

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-girl-who-would-live-forever

Two-year-old cryogenically frozen by parents

http://www.cnet.com/news/two-year-old-cryogenically-frozen-by-parents/

The girl who could come back from the dead: Toddler who died from a brain tumour is FROZEN by parents who hope she can one day be revived by medical advances

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3043272/The-girl-come-dead-Toddler-died-brain-tumour-FROZEN-parents-hope-one-day-revived-medical-advances.html#ixzz3XoNKDW00

PZ Myers weighs in. I guess he got bored with inflicting damage on communion wafers and accusing Michael Shermer of sexually assaulting women, and now he wants to pick on cryonicists:

How to live forever

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/04/16/how-to-live-forever/

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-20T08:44:08.499Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

PZ Myers weighs in. I guess he got bored with inflicting damage on communion wafers and accusing Michael Shermer of sexually assaulting women, and now he wants to pick on cryonicists:

I am oscillating between "calm down, politics is the mindkiller" and "if the iron is hot, I want to believe it is hot".

Is there any hope that if we bite our collective tongues and not feed the trolls, they will get bored and find a new victim? I am afraid that when the troll has sufficient power and allies in online media, the old advice of not feeding it is just not available anymore; whatever you do, someone else on the planet will feed the troll anyway.

It almost makes me think these guys are maximizing evil, but then I realize they are simply maximizing money, and the laws of the universe say that you generate most screaming when you poke in the place it hurts. It is nothing personal; it's just that your tears are an important component in paperclip production. The Clippy does not hate you, it just calmly explores the places where your density of sensory receptors is highest. It could just as well try to make you laugh, but that is a less productive thing to do with humans.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T09:40:07.636Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Money? I think PZ types are mainly looking for narcissistic supply. Also, there was an article either here on on SSC about how people sometimes don't want to be high status just feel high status, cannot find it anymore, but seems relevant.

EDIT found it I think this is what is going on here, not really money.

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-20T13:03:39.225Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, the link explains why some people may be obsessed by some ideas -- because they generate feeling of status in their heads. Now other question is why this idea instead of some other idea. For example, you are looking for a "bad guy" whose reputation you can smash online, thus generating heroic feelings in yourself... so, from all the available options, why choose cryonics?

Well, I guess it is somehow similar to the previous "bad guys", so whatever enemy-detection algorithm chose them, it also chose cryonics.

atheists... video game fans... cryonicists... -- complete the pattern

What do these have in common?

  • They are groups of people considered weird by most of the society.
  • They are predominantly male groups (which may be merely a consequence of the previous fact, but it takes 0.1 second to spin it as sexism).
  • Those people care about their group strongly, but outsiders do not empathise with them.

For a clickbait website, this is a perfect target. All they have to do is write: "Your way of life makes you hate women, therefore your way of life should be regulated by well-meaning outsiders. What is our proof for this? We have found this one women who feels uncomfortable with you. And since you have a minority of women, it must be a general rule. Now stop resisting and start obeying your new overlords!"

Well, for me the interesting question here is who are the next likely targets. Who else fits this pattern? Can we recognize them before they are attacked? And assuming we care about them, can we use this knowledge to somehow protect them?

My suspicion is that "rationalist" and "effective altruists" do fit this pattern; they were just not given sufficiently high priority yet. It may depend on how large wave of hate the attack on cryonicists can generate. (There is always a risk of choosing too weird group, so the outsiders will be too indifferent to join the wave.)

Of course there is always the chance that I am pattern-matching here too much. My only defense is that we could use this model to generate predictions about who will be attacked next, and then see whether those predictions were right. (On the other hand, it also feels like doing homework for PZ Myers, so maybe this is not a good topic for a public debate.)

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-04-20T21:41:51.183Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think this is what is going here at all. The pattern match that is going on is cryonics and fringe science or pseudoscientific ideas that sound like they are promising things they cannot deliver. This much more about PZ thinking of himself as a skeptic and having just enough biology background to think he can comment on any biology related issue.

comment by satt · 2015-04-25T02:07:35.135Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah. The parent & sibling comments here got me curious about exactly what PZ wrote, and whether it'd be a transparently politically motivated fulmination against cryonicists.

But the post, as far as I can see, is just an unfavourable comparison of cryonics to ancient mummification, and Myers calling cryonicists frauds who practice "ritual" & "psuedo-scientific alteration of [a] corpse", frauds sometimes defended with "the transhumanist technofetishist version of Pascal’s Wager". Strong stuff, but I don't see anything in the post about partisan politics, race, nerd culture (unless one counts "transhumanist technofetishist" as a dog-whistle meant to slam nerds in general...?), or sexism or feminism or gender (well, except the reference to the frozen girl as a "girl").

Ctrl-F-ing for "Myers" doesn't reveal anything along those lines either.

I see several comments in the political categories I mentioned but they weren't posted by PZ or cheered by PZ, so I'm a bit surprised by the comments here focusing on PZ to impute political motives to him and psychoanalyze him.

PZ's post all but says he's slamming cryonicists because (to his mind) they're crooks & quacks. (Based on the reference to "tortur[ing] cadavers", maybe there's a purity-violation ick-reaction too. That's still pretty distant from the motivations people are speculating about here.) I don't understand why I'd need a special explanation for that, over & above the more common reasons why people tend to scoff at cryonics (absurdity heuristic, plus scepticism about future technological trends w.r.t. brain preservation & re-instantiation, plus over-generalization from everyday experience of how freezing affects food and the like).

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T15:46:07.707Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The funny part is PZ being a nerdy white male atheist scientist so basically the perfect target for this. Could this partially be a preventive action i.e. if I shoot at my group, perhaps people don't notice I am one of them?

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-20T22:01:41.254Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In debates I read about similar people, "projection" is a word mentioned repeatedly. I would also suspect "reaction formation" (known as "the lady doth protest too much" outside of psychoanalysis) to play an important role.

That means, I think there is more than merely strategically shooting at one's own phenotype to draw attention away from one's own person. If drawing attention away would be the only goal, it would make more sense to try draw attention away towards some other group, also an easy target, but not including me. For example, white male nerds could shoot at white male jocks, since it is only being white and male that is considered a bad thing in certain circles. Similarly, white male atheists could shoot at white male Christians. So there must be some additional explanation.

(Not everyone is like this. There are also people who do not shoot at their own group, but at a different group, or at least at a much larger supergroup so that their own group gets a smaller fraction of attention. For example white male non-nerds shooting at white male nerds, or rich white people putting huge emphasis on whiteness and maleness and maybe also cissexuality but never ever mentioning class privilege. (Which is rather ironic, considering that the whole privileged/oppressed framwork was stolen from Marx. Here, Marx would be an example of a rich white male shooting at rich white males.))

So I guess in a way these people are trying to shoot at themselves -- on some metaphorical level. It's like they perceive something undesirable in themselves... then use typical mind fallacy to generalize it to their whole group (because being a member of a sinful group is less painful than being a sinful individual in otherwise mostly healthy group) ... and then try to atone for their sins by attacking all the other members of their group (because it is less painful than trying to improve oneself). That is, on some level they are sincerely fighting against something they consider evil. They just completely lost control over the huge biases that govern their evil-detection mechanisms.

Here is an experimental prediction: Find a sample of über-politically-correct white men publicly shooting at their own group (not just a similar group or a huge superset). Explore their background, and the background of typical members of such group. I predict that among these online warriors you will find a higher percent than in general population of racists, rapists, etc. (Where by "racists" I don't mean scoring non-zero on an implicit association test, but like actual neo-Nazis; etc.)

comment by dxu · 2015-04-21T03:18:06.697Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"calm down, politics is the mindkiller"

Agreed. Of course, calming down is hard enough by itself without people seemingly actively trying to prevent you from calming down--people like, say, the commenters in that particular blog post. (Major kudos to DataPacRat for managing to stay calm while he/she was being accused of believing in "godbots"; I would not have been able to do the same.) I'm inclined to apply the principle of charity here along with Hanlon's Razor to conclude that they're not actually deliberately trying to piss you off... but God, it sure feels like it sometimes.

comment by RowanE · 2015-04-21T02:46:26.784Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Well, hats off to /u/DataPacRat for fighting the good fight in that comment section. I suspect most of the thread is people who just came in to post their little dig at the weird meat-popsicle cultists and then move on, so I'm not sure if he's achieving much, but if nothing else he's stopped me from feeling I need to go in there and join the fray to say what he ended up saying, except less well.

comment by dxu · 2015-04-21T03:10:13.168Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/04/16/how-to-live-forever/

Lots of people employing the weirdness heuristic, as expected. Oh, and of course David Gerard's over there too.

sigh

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-20T19:35:21.574Z · score: 5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

PZ Myers:

I also wonder what a future civilization would do if they inherited tanks of liquid nitrogen containing extracted blobs of diseased brains and decapitated heads. Does anyone really believe that they’d feel any obligation to resurrect them, even if they could?

Here's a fun topic of conversation - if I happen across PZ Myers, and he's having a heart attack, should I feel any obligation to perform CPR?

comment by dxu · 2015-04-21T03:23:43.308Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I get that Myers' article pisses a lot of people here off (myself included), but let's try to refrain from mean-spirited-ness, neh? Mind-killing happens readily enough by itself without people helping the process along.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-21T07:54:14.884Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Normally, yes I think it wise to refrain from mean-spirited-ness. But when someone writes a hit piece against the parents of a recently deceased toddler because they dared to try to save her life in a weird way, well, in this case I'm going to make an exception.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-21T11:57:03.803Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Normally, yes I think it wise to refrain from mean-spirited-ness. But when someone writes a hit piece against the parents of a recently deceased toddler because they dared to try to save her life in a weird way, well, in this case I'm going to make an exception.

The fact that his behavior emotionally triggers you is no reason to engage in bad and unproductive behavior yourself. Even if it's "justified".

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-21T17:17:05.204Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think you are greatly missing the point. If you want to be effective in the world, sometimes that involves being politically smart. And sometimes the politically smart thing to do is a show of force. You should not jump from emotion straight to action. But sometimes after examining the evidence and weighing the possibilities, the best response is an angry toned rejection.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-21T21:30:29.851Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But sometimes after examining the evidence and weighing the possibilities, the best response is an angry toned rejection.

I have nothing against calculated actions that shows force. Against a blogger who in the business of getting page views by stirring up controversy being mean-spirited isn't showing force.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-04-21T00:02:19.795Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone really believe that they’d feel any obligation to resurrect them, even if they could?

Yes, if they have cryonics or its successor technologies for themselves and they can reason about consequences carefully. If you have an injury or pathology in the 24th Century that the health care providers don't know how to treat, you could go into brain preservation to see if the health care providers in, say, the 26th Century would know how to help you. Some of those health care professionals active in the 26th Century might have been born in the 20th or 21st Centuries and have gone through a round or two of brain preservation themselves, and they entered the practice of medicine in the 26th Century as one of their new careers. "Hey, I know this guy. He helped to resuscitate me in 2327. I owe him so I'll return the favor."

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-04-20T20:21:56.007Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

He's not saying in that quote that they shouldn't feel an obligation, he's making a point focusing on doubting whether they'd want to resurrect them. I think they very likely would, and PZ is ignoring the entire first-in/last-out which cryonics plans on using to further encourage people to resurrect, but it helps to actually focus on what his criticism is.

comment by Jiro · 2015-04-20T20:41:25.317Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you can perform CPR with little cost to you, you should. If performing CPR has a large cost to you, or if there are so many people that need CPR that performing CPR on all of them is, in total, a large cost to you, you are not obliged to do anything.

How easy would it be for the future civilization to resurrect the brains?

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-21T07:47:38.845Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure cost of resurrection isn't his true rejection, his true rejection is more like 'point and laugh at weirdos'.

I'm guessing that any civilisation capable of resurrecting cryonics patients would be post-scarcity, and cost would therefore be irrelivent. But even if I am wrong on this point, well, to continue his mummified Egyptians analogy, can you imagine how much money you would make selling the TV rights to the first ever resurrection of a Pharaoh?

Additionally, don't Alcor, and many individuals, have funds set up to cover the cost of resurrection?

I understand that there are plausible arguments against cryonics, such as technological feasibility. But the "why bother saving people?" argument is both stupid and repugnant.

comment by The_Duck · 2015-04-22T06:53:14.409Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure cost of resurrection isn't his true rejection, his true rejection is more like 'point and laugh at weirdos'.

Also for a number of commenters in the linked thread, the true rejection seems to be, "By freezing yourself you are claiming that you deserve something no one else gets, in this case immortality."

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-22T17:44:34.046Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is almost identical to the argument against free-market medical care "Why should you get better treatment just because you can afford it?". I wonder how many commentators would agree with both arguments.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-22T17:54:18.478Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"By freezing yourself you are claiming that you deserve something no one else gets, in this case immortality."

Heh. Any true-believer Christian would laugh at cryonics and point out that the way to everlasting life is much simpler -- just accept Jesus... X-D

Oh, and any true-believer Buddhist would be confused as to why would you want to linger on your way to enlightenment.

comment by Jiro · 2015-04-21T16:03:12.828Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I find the idea of "true rejection" over-used. Many people, for many things, have more than one reason to reject them, and none of those reasons is the reason.

can you imagine how much money you would make selling the TV rights to the first ever resurrection of a Pharaoh?

That would only make money because it hasn't been done before. Each successive Pharaoh resurrection would make less money. A question asking what a future civilization would do about a frozen head implies asking what they would do for a typical frozen head. Being one of the first frozen heads they run across is very atypical, and carries a higher profit only because it is atypical.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-22T17:40:00.817Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Each successive Pharaoh resurrection would make less money.

It might also cost less money, because most of the cost might be R&D to work out how to resurrect someone, after which resurrecting each person is easy.

Continuing the Egypt analogy, each additional Egyptian artefact is less interesting than the previous one, yet people continued digging them up rather than just digging up the first few.

comment by dxu · 2015-04-21T23:30:50.115Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I find the idea of "true rejection" over-used. Many people, for many things, have more than one reason to reject them, and none of those reasons is the reason.

This does not seem psychologically realistic. Humans aren't built to arrive at conclusions through rational evaluation of multiple independent lines of evidence; rather, they choose their answer in advance for some reason or other (usually "this is weird" or "my tribe rejects this"), and only then begin cherry-picking arguments to support their conclusion.

That would only make money because it hasn't been done before. Each successive Pharaoh resurrection would make less money. A question asking what a future civilization would do about a frozen head implies asking what they would do for a typical frozen head. Being one of the first frozen heads they run across is very atypical, and carries a higher profit only because it is atypical.

This is true, but ignores skeptical_lurker's point that any civilization capable of resurrection is likely to be post-scarcity.

comment by Jiro · 2015-04-22T05:05:06.941Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This does not seem psychologically realistic. Humans aren't built to arrive at conclusions through rational evaluation of multiple independent lines of evidence

That seems to have an implied "... so every time I argue with a human, I should never assume that the human has more than one reason for something". I hope you can see how that will go seriously wrong when the human actually does have more than one reason, and particularly on LW-style topics.

This is true, but ignores skeptical_lurker's point that any civilization capable of resurrection is likely to be post-scarcity.

If the civilization is post-scarcity, then making money from TV rights to the first Pharaoh is not useful as an analogy; the future civilization never does one thing because it gets them more of something than another thing does.

comment by dxu · 2015-04-22T14:51:34.857Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That seems to have an implied "... so every time I argue with a human, I should never assume that the human has more than one reason for something".

Absolute claims are almost never correct. Replace the "never" in your statement with "usually not, especially when discussing politically charged, or better yet, weird-sounding topics" and you've got yourself a deal.

comment by Jiro · 2015-04-22T15:28:42.100Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You're refusing to address someone's stated argument, and in fact, are saying something that is nonresponsive if he means what he is actually saying.

Yes, sometimes you have to do that. But making it your default behavior when addressing all people in the real world who don't agree with you is a bad idea.

comment by dxu · 2015-04-22T15:57:09.016Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But making it your default behavior when addressing all people in the real world who don't agree with you is a bad idea.

Who said anything about making it your default behavior? There's a difference between "many" and "most", and an even bigger difference between "many" and "all".

comment by Jiro · 2015-04-22T17:44:29.619Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, change that statement to include the word "most".

Making it the default behavior for when addressing most people who don't agree with you is still a bad idea.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-21T17:18:01.710Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Additionally, don't Alcor, and many individuals, have funds set up to cover the cost of resurrection?

Yes, that's why Alcor is so expensive.

comment by RowanE · 2015-04-21T01:07:11.532Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Presumably, the ease will change with time, tending easier until ceilings of possible economic and technological progress are reached. If it takes centuries for the procedure of resurrecting the cryopreserved to go from "experimental and expensive" to "cheap and routine", the old 21st-century cryo-patients can wait, they aren't getting any deader.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-21T17:13:24.725Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is it wrong that I'm most saddened that they tore apart her brain for a year chasing that tumor, before they did the sensible thing and let her be cryopreserved?

Not that this is an open and shut case at all, but we need laws on the books regarding elective cryopreservation in the case of brain degenerative disease.

comment by witness · 2015-04-21T01:59:47.551Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You know what he does for a living don't you?

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-04-21T03:07:17.060Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

"Evolutionary developmental biology," which means Myers tries to understand biology that happens on its own. The cryonics idea, by contrast, involves trying to get human biology, and specifically the human brain, to do something it didn't evolve to do, namely, enter a state of preservation through vitrification. Basically Myers doesn't think about cryonics as an engineering challenge because he doesn't have experience or talent with that sort of practical problem solving.

Myers invokes his credentials as a neuroscientist to criticize cryonics; but then another neuroscientist, Kenneth Hayworth, started the Brain Preservation Foundation because he thinks that cryonics deserves a second look due to advances in organ vitrification. I would like to see these two go head to head (yeah, I see the pun potential there) in a debate.

comment by Salemicus · 2015-04-20T14:28:46.319Z · score: -4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

PZ Myers weighs in. I guess he got bored with inflicting damage on communion wafers and accusing Michael Shermer of sexually assaulting women, and now he wants to pick on cryonicists:

How is he picking on cryonicists? On the contrary, he is "picking on" (ie pointing out the flaws in) cryonics. There is a world of difference. The bulk of the article is a compare and contrast between lengthy quotes of mummification and cryopreservation.

Yes, Myers is engaged more in mockery than detailed argumentation. If a view cannot stand up to mockery, it doesn't deserve defenders.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-04-20T15:29:06.475Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

If a view cannot stand up to mockery, it doesn't deserve defenders.

Or in other words, if you can bully someone out of defending their beliefs, you win.

Really?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-20T15:58:23.853Z · score: -4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Or in other words, if you can bully someone out of defending their beliefs, you win.

No, that does not follow. Your straw is very weak.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-04-20T19:22:05.952Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

No straw, but purest steel. I stand by my words.

Mockery is neither data nor reasoning: no update is epistemically required of the person attacked. The outcome is a matter of their fortitude, not the rights or wrongs of their case. The purpose of mockery is to crush the hated enemy by shouting loudly.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-20T19:36:30.968Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Mockery is neither data nor reasoning: no update is epistemically required of the person attacked.

That depends -- mockery is just a form in which many things can be clothed, including data and reasoning.

But in any case, the original claim was

If a view cannot stand up to mockery, it doesn't deserve defenders

which, without too much contortions, could be reformulated as "a view which cannot encourage sufficient fortitude in any of its defenders does not deserve to be defended". And then you said

if you can bully someone out of defending their beliefs, you win

You do? What do you win? And how does that relate to whether the belief mocked was (epistemically) correct or not?

I think you're confusing the issue of whether something is valued (and so worth defending) with whether something is empirically/scientifically correct (and so "true").

comment by dxu · 2015-04-21T03:28:00.579Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I find it of significantly greater value to engage in detailed argumentation than in mockery. If cryonics has flaws in it, those flaws can be pointed out without resorting to sarcasm, and doing so simply raises the probability of mind-killing.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-21T21:24:48.826Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I've come up with an interesting thought experiment I call oracle mugging.

An oracle comes up to you and tells you that either you will give them a thousand dollars or you will die in the next week. They refuse to tell you which. They have done this many times, and everyone has either given them money or died. The oracle isn't threatening you. They just go around and find people who will either give them money or die in the near future, and tell them that.

Should you pay the oracle? Why or why not?

comment by cousin_it · 2015-04-22T11:01:06.999Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I wouldn't pay. Let's convert it to a mundane psychological experiment, by replacing precognition with precommitment (which is the right approach according to UDT):

1) Ten participants sign up for the experiment.

2) One participant is randomly chosen to be the "loser". We know who the "loser" is, but don't tell the participants.

3) Also, each participant tells us in private whether they are a "payer" or "non-payer".

4) Each "payer" who is not a "loser" pays $10 (this corresponds to paying the oracle and staying alive). The "loser" pays $100 (this corresponds to dying). Everyone else pays nothing.

It seems obvious that you should choose to be a "non-payer", right?

In terms of the original problem, if you're the kind of person who would pay the oracle if you were approached, you're causing the oracle to approach you, so you're paying for nothing.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-23T21:44:03.346Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In terms of the original problem, if you're the kind of person who would pay the oracle if you were approached, you're causing the oracle to approach you, so you're paying for nothing.

I don't think that it's specified in the OP that the oracle considers it likely that you will pay or indeed approaches people based on their likelihood to pay.

comment by Elo · 2015-04-26T22:18:00.933Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

but it is! it really depends on how many levels of "If I know that the oracle knows that I know" you want to go into. Because if the oracle is able to factor in your decision to pay or not in whether they tell you that you should pay then thats a super-duper-oracle.

Also paying and dying is permissable and not great either.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-22T00:15:10.187Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It's just a version of the Newcomb's problem with negative outcomes instead of positive.

Presumably the oracle makes its offer only to people from two classes: (1) Those who will die next week AND will not pay $1000; and (2) Those who will pay $1000 AND not die next week. Since it's the oracle it can identify these people and make its offer only to them. If you got this offer, you are in one of the above classes but you "don't know" in which.

comment by jam_brand · 2015-04-22T09:34:42.384Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree. Paying $1000 is akin to one-boxing and not paying is like two-boxing.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2015-04-22T17:00:24.773Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So, as in most such problems, there's an important difference between the epistemological question ("should I pay, given what I know?") and the more fundamental question ("should I pay, supposing this description is accurate?"). Between expected value and actual value, in other words.

It's easy to get those confused, and my intuitions about one muddy my thinking about the other, so I like to think about them separately.

WRT the epistemological question, that's hard to answer without a lot of information about how likely I consider accurate oracular ability, how confident I am that the examples of accurate prediction I'm aware of are a representative sample, etc. etc. etc., all of which I think is both uncontroversial and uninteresting. Vaguely approximating all of that stuff I conclude that I shouldn't pay the oracle, because I'm not justified in being more confident that the situation really is as the oracle describes it, than that the oracle is misrepresenting the situation in some important way. My expected value of this deal in the real world is negative.

WRT the fundamental question... of course, you leave a lot of details unspecified, but I don't want to fight the hypothetical here, so I'm assuming that the "overall jist" of your description applies: I'm paying $1K for QALYs I would not have had access to without the oracle's offer. That's a good deal for me; I'm inclined to take it. (Though I might try to negotiate the price down.)

The knock-on effect is that I encourage the oracle to keep making this offer... but that's good too; I want the oracle to keep making the offer. QALYs for everyone!

So, yes, I should pay the oracle, though I should also implement decision procedures that will lead me to not pay the oracle.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-04-22T18:16:58.416Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The knock-on effect is that I encourage the oracle to keep making this offer... but that's good too; I want the oracle to keep making the offer. QALYs for everyone!

I think a key part of the question, as I see it, is to formalize the difference between treatment effects and selection effects (in the context where your actions might reflect a selection effect, and we can't make the normally reasonable assumption that our actions result in treatment effects). An oracle could look into the future, find a list of people who will die in the next week, and a list of people who would pay them $1000 if presented with this prompt, and present the prompt to the exclusive or of those two lists. This doesn't give anyone QALYs they wouldn't have had otherwise.

And so I find my intuitions are guided mostly by the identification of the prompter as an "oracle" instead of a "wizard" or "witch." Oracle implies selection effect; wizard or witch implies treatment effect.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2015-04-22T19:55:20.407Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Leaving aside lexical questions about the connotations of the word "oracle", I certainly agree that if the entity's accuracy represents a selection effect, then my reasoning doesn't hold.

Indeed, I at least intended to say as much explicitly ("I don't want to fight the hypothetical here, so I'm assuming that the "overall jist" of your description applies: I'm paying $1K for QALYs I would not have had access to without the oracle's offer." ) in my comment.

That said, it's entirely possible that I misread what the point of DanielLC's hypothetical was.

comment by cousin_it · 2015-04-23T09:23:10.366Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

DanielLC said:

They just go around and find people who will either give them money or die in the near future, and tell them that.

I interpreted that as a selection effect, so my answer recommended not paying. Now I realize that it may not be entirely a selection effect. Maybe the oracle is also finding people whose life would be saved by making them $1000 poorer, for various exotic reasons. But if the probability of that is small enough, my answer stays the same.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2015-04-23T13:21:42.122Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Right. Your reading is entirely sensible, and more likely in "the real world" (by which I mean something not-well-thought-through about how it's easier to implement the original description as a selection effect), I merely chose to bypass that reading and go with what I suspected (perhaps incorrectly) the OP actually had in mind.

comment by shminux · 2015-04-26T06:19:24.424Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Clearly you give them money, since otherwise you are almost certain to die. It's just one-boxing in disguise.

comment by nshepperd · 2015-07-22T04:00:14.822Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is essentially just another version of the smoking lesion problem, in that there is no connection, causal or otherwise, beween the thing you care about and the action you take. Your decision theory has no specific effect on your likelyhood of dying, that being determined entirely by environmental factors that do not even attempt to predict you. All you are paying for is to determine whether or not you get a visit from the oracle.

ETA: Here's a UDT game tree (see here for an explanation of the format) of this problem, under the assumption that oracle visits everyone meeting his criteria, and uses exclusive-or:

ETA2: More explanation: the colours are states of knowledge. Blue = oracle asks for money, Orange = they leave you alone. Let's say the odds of being healthy are α. If you Pay the expected reward is α(-1000) + (1-α) DEATH; if you Don't Pay the expected reward is α 0 + (1-α) DEATH. Clearly (under UDT) paying is worse by a term of -1000α.

comment by Jiro · 2015-04-26T17:55:39.326Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Variation on this:

An oracle comes up to you and tells you that you will give it a thousand dollars. This oracle has done this many times and every time it has told people this the people have given the oracle a thousand dollars. This oracle, like the other one, isn''t threatening you. It just goes around finding people who will give it money. Should you give the oracle money?

comment by Elo · 2015-04-26T22:19:40.898Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I believe in testing rules and breaking things. So no. Don't give and see what happens.

comment by nshepperd · 2016-01-15T06:41:43.555Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Under UDT: pay iff you need human contact so much that you'd spend $1000 to be visited by a weird oracle who goes around posing strange decision theory dilemmas.

comment by Unknowns · 2015-04-27T16:21:14.152Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, but you will.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-27T05:30:36.027Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Every decision theory I throw at it says either don't pay or Error: Divide By Zero. Is this a trick question?

comment by Jiro · 2015-04-27T14:40:09.450Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know what "error: divide by zero" means in this context. Could you please clarify? (If you're suggesting that the problem is ill-posed under some decision theories because the question assumes that it is possible to make a choice but the oracle's ability to predict you means you cannot really choose, how doesn't that apply to the original problem?)

comment by gjm · 2015-04-27T16:15:27.292Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You want to figure out whether to do as the oracle asks or not. To do this, you would like to predict what will happen in each case. But you have no evidence concerning the case where you don't do as it asks, because so far everyone has obliged. So, e.g., Pr(something good happens | decline oracle's request) has Pr(decline oracle's request) in the denominator, and that's zero.

comment by Jiro · 2015-04-27T17:33:35.125Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think you can say something similar about the original problem. P(decline oracle's request) can (for the new problem) also be phrased as P(oracle is wrong). And P(oracle is wrong) is zero in both problems; there's no evidence in either the original problem or the new problem concerning the case where the oracle is wrong.

Of course, the usual Newcomb arguments apply about why you shouldn't consider the case where the oracle is wrong, but they don't distinguish the problems.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-27T16:30:43.594Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Pr(decline oracle's request) in the denominator, and that's zero.

That's a forward-looking probability and is certainly not zero.

In the absence of evidence you just fall back on your prior.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-27T19:13:33.173Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In order to get Error: Divide By Zero, you have to be using a particular kind of decision theory and assume P(decline oracle's request) = 0.

comment by Jiro · 2015-04-27T17:35:38.601Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Your prior for what?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-27T17:49:36.375Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For the baseline, "underlying" probability of the oracle's request being declined. Roughly speaking, if you have never seen X happen, it does not mean that X will never happen (=has a probability of zero).

This assumes you're a passive observer, by the way -- if you are actively making a decision whether to accept or decline the request you can't apply Bayesian probabilities to your own actions.

comment by Houshalter · 2015-04-25T10:35:39.841Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I really want to say that you should pay. Obviously you should precommit to not paying if you can, and then the oracle will never visit you to begin with unless you are about to die anyway. But if you can't do that, and the oracle shows up at your door, you have a choice to pay and live or not pay and die.

Again, obviously it's better to not pay and then you never end up in this situation in the first place. But when it actually happens and you have to sit down and choose between paying it to go away or dying, I would choose to pay it.

It's all well and good to say that some decision theory results in optimal outcomes. It's another to actually implement it in yourself. To make sure every counter factual version of yourself makes the globally optimal choice, even if there is a huge cost to some of them.

comment by tut · 2015-04-25T12:57:42.380Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The traditional LW solution to this is that you precommit once and for all to this: Whenever I find myself in a situation where I wish that I had committed to acting in accordance with a rule R I will act in accordance with R.

comment by Houshalter · 2015-04-25T20:06:10.462Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's great to say, but much harder to actually do.

For example, if Omega pays $1,000 to people or asks them to commit suicide. But it only asks people it knows100% will not do it, otherwise it gives them the money.

The best strategy is to precommit to suicide if Omega asks. But if Omega does ask, I doubt most lesswrongers would actually go through with it.

comment by Kindly · 2015-04-25T21:25:30.254Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So the standard formulation of a Newcomb-like paradox continues to work if you assume that Omega has a merely 99% accuracy.

Your formulation, however, doesn't work that way. If you precommit to suicide when Omega asks, but Omega is sometimes wrong, then you commit suicide with 1% probability (in exchange for having $990 expected winnings). If you don't precommit, then with a 1% chance you might get $1000 for free. In most cases, the second option is better.

Thus, the suicide strategy requires very strong faith in Omega, which is hard to imagine in practice. Even if Omega actually is infallible, it's hard to imagine evidence extraordinary enough to convince us that Omega is sufficiently infallible.

(I think I am willing to bite the suicide bullet as long as we're clear that I would require truly extraordinary evidence.)

comment by Houshalter · 2015-04-26T05:07:37.873Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Please Don't Fight the Hypothetical. I agree with you if you are only 99% sure, but the premise is that you know Omega is right with certainty. Obviously that is implausible, but so is the entire situation with an omniscient being asking people to commit suicide, or oracles that can predict if you will die.

But if you like you can have a lesser cost, like Omega asking you to pay $10,000. Or some amount of money significant enough to seriously consider just giving away.

comment by Kindly · 2015-04-26T05:42:26.318Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I did say what I would do, given the premise that I know Omega is right with certainty. Perhaps I was insufficiently clear about this?

I am not trying to fight the hypothetical, I am trying to explain why one's intuition cannot resist fighting it. This makes the answer I give seem unintuitive.

comment by tut · 2015-04-22T12:38:35.679Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Pay iff you would pay $1000 to avoid learning of your death the last week of your life. If you don't pay the oracle only shows up when you are about to die anyway.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-21T21:42:46.505Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Give them the thousand dollars under eyes of police who then imprison the oracle for blackmail so that you get your 1000 dollars back.

comment by LawrenceC · 2015-04-22T13:41:27.723Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And then 7 days later, you die.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-22T14:00:08.106Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The prediction was only about giving the money. Not about it permanently staying with the oracle.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-21T22:33:47.988Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't blackmail require that the oracle threaten you somehow? They're just predicting the future. They will not take any action against you regardless of whether or not you pay.

On the other hand, if oracles did this a lot and people payed them frequently, it probably would become illegal.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-22T11:16:59.641Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think the average court of law would interpret: "Give me thousand dollars or you will die in the next week" as a threat.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T01:29:49.601Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So, do the cops regularly lock up cancer doctors?

comment by Kindly · 2015-04-22T00:19:56.286Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You're saying that it's common knowledge that the oracle is, in fact, predicting the future; is this part of the thought experiment?

If so, there's another issue. Presumably I wouldn't be giving the oracle $1000 if the oracle hadn't approached me first; it's only a true prediction of the future because it was made. In a world where actual predictions of the future are common, there should be laws against this, similar to laws against blackmail (even though it's not blackmail).

(I obviously hand over the $1000 first, before trying to appeal to the law.)

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-22T03:38:47.158Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(I obviously hand over the $1000 first, before trying to appeal to the law.)

Why? People who use the strategy of always paying don't live any longer than people who use the strategy of never paying. They also save money and get to find out a week in advance if they'd die so they can get their affairs in order.

comment by Kindly · 2015-04-22T04:18:45.957Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That wasn't obvious to me. It's certainly false that "people who use the strategy of always paying have the same odds of losing $1000 as people who use the strategy of never paying". This means that the oracle's prediction takes its own effect into account. When asking about my future, the oracle doesn't ask "Will Kindly give me $1000 or die in the next week?" but "If hearing a prophecy about it, will Kindly give me $1000 or die in the next week?"

Hearing the prediction certainly changes the odds that the first clause will come true; it's not obvious to me (and may not be obvious to the oracle, either) that it doesn't change the odds of the second clause.

It's true that if I precommit to the strategy of not giving money in this specific case, then as long as many other people do not so precommit, I'm probably safe. But if nobody gives the oracle money, the oracle probably just switches to a different strategy that some people are vulnerable to. There is certainly some prophecy-driven exploit that the oracle can use that will succeed against me; it's just a question of whether that strategy is sufficiently general that an oracle will use it on people. Unless an oracle is out to get me in particular.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-04-21T23:39:56.348Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't blackmail require that the oracle threaten you somehow? They're just predicting the future.

Defenses along those lines have been tried a long time ago: "Well, your honor, I never actually said I'd burn down his house. I only said it would be a shame if his house happened to burn down."

An oracle that did it often enough would (in the US) probably be brought up on racketeering charges and sent to prison for a long time.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-22T00:07:26.664Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you say it's a shame if someone's house burned down, you're implying that you'd burn it down. A reasonable person could conclude that you'd burn it down. The oracle makes it quite clear that they are not going to kill you. You may or may not give them money, and then they will leave. You'll only die if that would have happened anyway.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-04-22T00:35:07.051Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you say it's a shame if someone's house burned down, you're implying that you'd burn it down. A reasonable person could conclude that you'd burn it down.

The point is that a statement does not have to be a literal threat for a reasonable person to interpret it thus.

The oracle's statement is logically equivalent to "If you don't pay me in the next week, then you will die". The oracle isn't actually saying that they'll kill you, but phrased that way any reasonable person would interpret it as a threat.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-22T01:08:13.165Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The oracle's statement is logically equivalent to "If you don't pay me in the next week, then you will die". The oracle isn't actually saying that they'll kill you, but phrased that way any reasonable person would interpret it as a threat.

How about doctor's "If you don't go to a hospital and have a surgery, then you will die" -- is this a threat?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-22T11:51:08.144Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How about doctor's "If you don't go to a hospital and have a surgery, then you will die" -- is this a threat?

If the doctor would say: "I'm the only doctor who can help you with your problem and if you go to another doctor and ask him to operate you, you will die" he's likely outside of medical ethics.

But let's see we don't have a doctor but have a person who claims to be a witch. She goes around and diagnoses that people have a "dark curse" and unless the person pays them money to remove the curse the person will die. If that's someone's business model I don't think our courts would like kindly on that person.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-04-22T15:19:11.193Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

unless the person pays them money to remove the curse the person will die

The OP's description doesn't seem to imply that refusal to pay causes the death. The oracle is simply saying that there are two possible futures: in one, the victim pays the money and survives; in the other one, the victim doesn't pay and doesn't survive.

I guess the difference in our interpretations is what we take the "and" to mean; you seem to see it as denoting causation, whereas I'd say it's merely denoting temporal consecution.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2015-04-22T17:05:13.257Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The oracle is simply saying that there are two possible futures

I think you mean "that there are only two possible futures."

Which leaves me puzzled as to your point.

If I am confident that there are only two possible futures, one where I pay and live, and one where I don't pay and die, how is that different from being confident that paying causes me to live, or from being confident that not-paying causes me to die? Those just seem like three different ways of describing the same situation to me.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-22T16:04:18.234Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The OP's description doesn't seem to imply that refusal to pay causes the death.

I'm rephrasing Lumifers example to a person who doesn't work within the traditionally accepted medical field.

It makes no statement about how the causation works. That means a person who doesn't know how the causation works can not sure that the oracle doesn't cause it in some way.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T01:45:46.453Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If the doctor would say: "I'm the only doctor who can help you with your problem and if you go to another doctor and ask him to operate you, you will die" he's likely outside of medical ethics.

Or the only doctor with access to the right experimental procedure.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-04-22T02:07:43.073Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Here's where jurisprudence gets fun.

The doctor is asking for money (payment for surgery) and saying the patient will die otherwise. So, what's the difference?

Visiting a doctor means you're consulting a medical expert and asking for an expert opinion. Properly speaking, the doctor is giving a prognosis that you're likely to die, and is suggesting a course of treatment. Statements like that are part of the medical profession and can be reasonably expected in the course of ordinary medical consultation.

Now, if the doctor is abusing his position and trying to frighten the patient into paying for unnecessary treatment, then he could be charged with fraud. If he's threatening to kill the patient unless money is paid, then that's extortion.

The main point is that the doctor is an expert, is being asked for an expert opinion, has grounds for predicting the death of the patient, and is recommending a course of action that would prevent that death.

In the oracle's case, asking for money and predicting the death have no clear relationship, The oracle isn't receiving payment for services rendered. The sole purpose of the oracle's statement is to frighten someone else into giving the oracle money while getting nothing in return. If the oracle decided to, say, charge money upfront to tell people when they would die, that's a different story.

I'm sure someone can discover a loophole in the above. I'm a layman, not a jurist. However, even in real life there are people who get paid good money to find and exploit loopholes.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-22T14:33:17.272Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You added a lot of assumptions.

Let me rephrase the example to sharpen the point:

You're walking down the street when an unknown woman approaches you. She looks at you carefully and says "I'm a doctor and you are ill. The illness is fatal unless you immediately go a hospital and have operation/treatment X. If you don't do this, you will die." Then she turns around and walks away.

Did she just threaten you?

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-22T03:36:14.274Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say that the main point is that the doctor pays a cost to help you, where a blackmailer would pay a cost to hurt you. If you never pay, the blackmailer has no incentive to hurt you and you'd be fine, but the doctor would have no incentive to help you and you'd die.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-22T03:34:18.884Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If a reasonable person interpreted as a threat, then for all intents and purposes, the question would be if you would pay someone $1000 if they threaten to kill you. I don't care how the oracle phrases his statement, or how he proves that he's an oracle. Whatever he does, it makes it clear to a reasonable person that it's not a threat.

comment by drethelin · 2015-04-21T22:37:10.440Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It doesn't matter if they're in fact just predicting, since you can easily convince the cops that they're threatening.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-21T23:13:12.927Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

They convinced you they were predicting. Presumably they can convince the cops as well. Perhaps it's well-established that they're an oracle after they made all that money on the stock market. Then they went into oracle mugging after it was declared insider trading.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-22T12:02:16.958Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The fact that the oracle made money on the stock market in no way implies that there wasn't a causal relationship between the actions of the oracle and future price movements.

comment by dhoe · 2015-04-20T08:09:34.432Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I have this half-baked idea that trying to be rational by oneself is a slightly pathological condition. Humans are naturally social, and it would make sense to distribute cognition over several processors, so to speak. It would explain the tendencies I notice in relationships to polarize behavior - if my partner adopts the position that we should go on vacations as much as possible, I almost automatically tend to assume the role worrying about money, for example, and we then work out a balanced solution together. If each of us were to decide on our own, our opinions would be much less polarized.

I could totally see how it would make sense in groups that some members adopt some low probability beliefs, and that it would benefit the group overall.

Is there any merit to this idea? Considering the well known failures in group rationality, I wonder if this is something that has long been disproved.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-04-20T19:41:00.695Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

There are studies that compared performance of couples with randomly assigned pairs (from the same group) and found that couples perform better than random assignment. This suggests that couple specialize and at the same time rely on the specialization of the other part ("I knew you'd make the appointment").

The other side of the coin this breaking-up: You feel like a part of your brain has been ripped off - namely the part you outsourced to your partner.

comment by Username · 2015-04-20T23:34:24.154Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You feel like a part of your brain has been ripped off - namely the part you outsourced to your partner.

Just like when the internet goes out and you can't get to google/Wikipedia/etc! But more traumatic considering how much more bandwidth is exchanged between people in physical and emotional space.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-04-23T12:30:44.963Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Mercier & Sperber made a similar argument, commenting that e.g. things that seem like biases in the context of a single individual (such as confirmation bias) are actually beneficial for the decision-making of a group. An excerpt:

... the idea that the confirmation bias is a normal feature of reasoning that plays a role in the production of arguments may seem surprising in light of the poor outcomes it has been claimed to cause. Conservatism in science is one example (see Nickerson 1998 and references therein). Another is the related phenomenon of groupthink, which has been held responsible for many disasters, from the Bay of Pigs fiasco (Janis 1982) to the tragedy of the Challenger shuttle (Esser & Lindoerfer 1989; Moorhead et al. 1991) (for review, see Esser 1998). In such cases, reasoning tends not to be used in its normal context: that is, the resolution of a disagreement through discussion. When one is alone or with people who hold similar views, one’s arguments will not be critically evaluated. This is when the confirmation bias is most likely to lead to poor outcomes. However, when reasoning is used in a more felicitous context – that is, in arguments among people who disagree but have a common interest in the truth – the confirmation bias contributes to an effi- cient form of division of cognitive labor.

When a group has to solve a problem, it is much more efficient if each individual looks mostly for arguments supporting a given solution. They can then present these arguments to the group, to be tested by the other members. This method will work as long as people can be swayed by good arguments, and the results reviewed in section 2 show that this is generally the case. This joint dialogic approach is much more efficient than one where each individual on his or her own has to examine all possible solutions carefully.8 The advantages of the confirmation bias are even more obvious given that each participant in a discussion is often in a better position to look for arguments in favor of his or her favored solution (situations of asymmetrical information). So group discussions provide a much more effi- cient way of holding the confirmation bias in check. By contrast, the teaching of critical thinking skills, which is supposed to help us overcome the bias on a purely individual basis, does not seem to yield very good results (Ritchart & Perkins 2005; Willingham 2008).

For the confirmation bias to play an optimal role in discussions and group performance, it should be active only in the production of arguments and not in their evaluation. Of course, in the back-and-forth of a discussion, the production of one’s own arguments and the evaluation of those of the interlocutor may interfere with each other, making it hard to properly assess the two processes independently. Still, the evidence reviewed in section 2.1 on the understanding of arguments strongly suggests that people tend to be more objective in evaluation than in production. If this were not the case, the success of group reasoning reviewed in section 2.3 would be very hard to explain.

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-20T10:25:16.728Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, it is difficult to maintain balance when the other person is pushing in some direction. You feel the instinct to push the other way, as if to provide a balance on average. The problem is, balance on the average means imbalance in your head, if the other person is unbalanced.

It's like when we have a debate about how much is 2+2, and the other person insists that it is 3, then when I say 4, there is a risk that in the future we will achieve a compromise value of 3.5, which I already perceive as wrong. So people have the social instinct to say at least 5, so that the future compromise value may be 4. Even if they originally did not really believe it was 5.

One possible solution would be to make everyone write their opinion before hearing the opinions of others. But that can be done in artificial settings, not in real life -- we usually already heard the opinions of some people. Also, if we have iterated debates about the same topic (e.g. the vacations), we can already predict what our partner will say.

To me it simply means that to have a rational debate, it is better to exclude the people who are strongly mindkilled about something. (Obviously, deciding who they are, is a problem on a higher level.) Maintaining balance is difficult on its own, and almost impossible when someone keeps pushing you on one side: you either fall on the side you are pushed, or you tilt to the opposite direction and fall down later when you are alone. We should not overestimate our own ability to be reasonable in difficult situations.

I could totally see how it would make sense in groups that some members adopt some low probability beliefs, and that it would benefit the group overall.

I can imagine a debate where you flip a coin and you either present your true opinion, or you role-play a selected opinion. Problem is, how would you create the set of the role-played opinions?

What if you forget to include something important? What if most of the supposedly "random" opinions are actually variants of one side (which is already overrepresented in the sincere part of debate), and the other side is underrepresented (and some third side is completely absent). That would be quite likely if people who prepare the "random" options are from the same population as the sincerely debating ones: they would add many minor variants of their own opinion, because those would sound meaningful; and then a few obvious strawmen of their enemies, to create a feeling of a fulfilled duty.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-04-21T04:01:07.072Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's a powerful idea and it actually goes deeper than you may think. We are divided even internally inside ourselves. There is reason to think that your internal rational decision-making processes consist of multiple sub-processes that combine and compare various points of view. Each sub-process has the same level of interaction with other sub-processes as you would have when speaking to another person. Your mental sub-processes may not even distinguish between thoughts and ideas coming from another part of your brain and coming from another person.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T12:06:02.573Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Thought experiment. You are doing a really boring job you dislike like data entry, but so well paid you don't want to leave it. You cannot automate it. You cannot work from home. You sit in the office 8 hours Thankfully it does not take 8 hours, you can do it in 5 and then browse the web or something.

What do you do? Trying to spend the other 3 meaningfully like studying with Anki, and trying to find challenging games in the actual job part are two obvious ones, what else? E.g. would you listen to ebooks while doing it? What else?

comment by wadavis · 2015-04-20T14:28:50.528Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Plan A: Change your environment; spend three hours a day preparing a proposal for management/ownership to work as a contractor paid by entry opposed to an employee paid by the hour. Find the relevant tax and overhead savings to make this a mutually beneficial arrangement. Find out who in management/ownership can approve your proposal and who it just creates headaches for, buy beer for both.

I understand that goes against the spirit of your question, that your work environment may be to rigid, management that could approve the proposal are out of reach of the data entry staff, or one of many other arguments, but 60 hours a month is a large amount of time, it is shocking what could be done.

Plan B: Now on to things I've actually done in that situation; spend 60 hours preparing a bulletproof argument/presentation for a raise, spend 60 hours learning how to create better resumes, spend 60 hours learning how to job hunt without a resume (handshakes and recommendations), spend 60 hours job hunting, and last on the list spend the time on entertainment so that you are mentally recharged to make the most of your personal time.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-04-20T13:32:02.517Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I can't concentrate if the words I'm hearing are not the ones I'm typing. Ebooks would be a terrible distraction for me during data entry. Music without lyrics would be better.

During blank minutes at a call center I used to work at, I made slow progress at writing a novel. It was made more enjoyable by the quirk that my writing flows better with pen and paper.

comment by mwengler · 2015-04-21T22:26:48.532Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Post to lesswrong.com.

comment by shminux · 2015-04-20T23:03:56.596Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Tried something like that. Was unable to do anything productive after 5 hours without a real deadline.

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-21T09:10:11.683Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Could you hire a cheap online personal assistant that would give you the deadlines? Like, you would make a plans for the whole week in advance, give those plans to the assistant, and then during the week the assistant would role-play being your manager. (Using another person as proxy for your planning self.)

comment by shminux · 2015-04-21T16:25:39.796Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If it doesn't feel real, it's easy to ignore.

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-20T20:31:27.016Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would start programming mobile games, and would hope to make money from them. If I don't succeed, at least I had a hobby, and maybe can use the experience to get a more interesting job later. If I do succeed, then I do not have to solve the problem of boring job anymore.

That would require sufficient freedom to spend those 3 hours not just programming, but also painting pictures, editing 3D models, editing levels, and testing the game on the phone. Okay, hypothetically that is not necessary; there can be some parts that I have to do at home. But it would be much more convenient if I could do whatever is necessary for the game immediately when I need it.

Or, if I wouldn't have a specific plan, I would just learn random stuff from online universities. I enjoy learning, so I wouldn't necessarily care about how useful are those lessons. I would imagine that some part of that would be useful somehow later, if nothing else, then for impressing people.

Someone who is a buddhist could use those three hours to meditate daily, and achieve nirvana in a few years, while keeping a well-paying job. Also, being a buddhist could help with the feelings of boredom from the job. ;)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-20T21:35:53.817Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Someone who is a buddhist could use those three hours to meditate daily, and achieve nirvana in a few years, while keeping a well-paying job.

That's not how it works.

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-20T22:54:25.701Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You are right, Buddha himself had to quit his job before he could achieve enlightenment.

comment by Elo · 2015-04-26T22:24:14.411Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

upvoted for the determined, "thats not how nirvana works".

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-21T04:21:27.585Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why exactly mobile? From a user angle, it is super hard to fish out the borderline good ones from all the crap in Google Play, the search engine does not really help you find the unpopular good ones amongst the popular crap, so it is mostly from hearsay, and the UI has limitations. I guess I would go for the desktop.

comment by Slider · 2015-04-21T00:29:54.758Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Renegotiate work time to 5 hours.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-23T17:37:30.182Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

An interesting complete-disillusionment-with-academia letter from a Ph.D. student.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-04-23T19:47:56.755Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

People have been complaining about academia for a very long time. Then again, every other human organization has burned-out/disillusioned people writing similar complaints.

As for me, I definitely don't have what it takes to stick around in academia and plan to leave as soon as I get my degree.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-04-22T15:53:57.028Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The story of Matheryn Naovaratpong's cryopreservation has gotten quite a bit of coverage in English-language websites in Southeast Asia:

Father of cryonically preserved Thai girl: I will just hug her if we meet again

http://www.straitstimes.com/news/asia/south-east-asia/story/father-cryonically-preserved-thai-girl-i-will-just-hug-her-if-we-mee#xtor=CS1-10

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-04-23T01:48:49.574Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That's very interesting. I'd be interested to see if this actually leads to an uptick of interest in Southeast Asia.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-04-23T02:26:05.375Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That region's newly emergent middle class people and wealthy people might lack Westerners' prejudices which have made cryonics such a hard idea to sell in our parts of the world.

For one thing, they have witnessed rapid economic progress in their own societies in their own generation, so they wouldn't understand the appeal of Western pessimism about apocalyptic and dystopian futures.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-23T11:32:23.960Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

They likely don't have the same prejudices as Westerners but that doesn't mean that they don't have other prejudices.

Without understanding the local culture a lot more than most of of Westerners do it's hard to make this kind of prediction.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-04-23T02:48:27.963Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's an interesting hypothesis. Is there any way to test it? Also is there any way to take advantage of it? That suggests that the window for cryonics there may not be very long, possibly on the order of 20 years or so.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-04-23T03:00:38.304Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know how to test it, though I suspect the relative absence of christian beliefs in those countries would make a difference. And why would such a "window" even exist there? If these countries can figure out how to keep economic progress going indefinitely without the dysfunctions in Western societies identified by, say, Peter Thiel, then these countries could very well take the lead in becoming increasingly "futuristic" on their own, without having to look to the West for models and guidance.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-23T10:35:43.154Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would be interesting to find out what the public reaction is in Thailand, and also to see what their science fiction is like.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-04-23T17:14:06.266Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

By window I meant the following: you said that " they have witnessed rapid economic progress in their own societies in their own generation, so they wouldn't understand the appeal of Western pessimism about apocalyptic and dystopian futures." If that is what is going on, then the next generation may not see that as much. If so, we have around a generation. I agree that if the economic progress continues at a fast pace that may not end up with some of the issues we have here, but in general developing countries have as they've neared parity with the developed countries had their improvement rates by many metrics slow down and come more or less into alignment with Western growth rates. Look at for example infant mortality levels and expected lifespan.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T09:19:41.728Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"life pro tips" for people slightly on the schizoid spectrum? I have realized that my version of "nerdiness" actually checks significant checkmarks of diagnostic criteria, such as indifference, aloofness, anhedonia, inner fantasies, being suspiciously "good" at dealing with criticism (i.e. not care) etc. One good idea I managed to google up is to build empathy by praising people. This goes well with a buddhist practice I have found earlier, which is to wish good things to people, like happiness or long life.

These things may deal with the social aspect of it pretty well, but I guess what I would like to know, is this kind of internal retreat from the outer world does come from retreating to the social world? I mean, perhaps not for everybody, but for me the world outside my head can be split into two distinct categories, the social world of humans and the material world of everything else, nature, the universe, also human made things, cars etc. The world of subjects and the world of objects, right? Do you think feeling aloof, indifferent and internally retreating from the world of objects too (unlike aspergers, who are often fascinated by a narrow range of objects, this seems the major difference between asperger and schizoid) can come from a retreat from the social, human world, so fixing that would fix the other as well? How to put it... I was never really interested in the beauty of nature (as a subset of never really interested in anything), do you think getting more interested in people (by practicing praises and good wishes) also makes one more interested in this non-people things of the world as well? That everything reduces to the social?

comment by Elo · 2015-04-26T22:25:58.385Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I can offer no help; but feel like "life pro tips for living happy with schizoid spectrum disorders" would be a really good piece of knowledge to create.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-04-25T23:39:46.962Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sigh. Another dead transhumanist. I never met Dan Fredinburg, but I gather from his friends' posts on Facebook that he wanted to upload his mind some day.

And what an unlikely way to die. You put your life at risk by trying to climb Everest under normal conditions. Fredinburg just happened to attempt that when a catastrophic earthquake struck Nepal.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-23T19:39:40.247Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A paper with some empirical results on tools and techniques for fighting procrastination and distractions (in the context of taking online courses).

comment by GuySrinivasan · 2015-04-22T06:58:10.178Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone have software or procedures they have found useful for evaluating large, hard, inference problems? I don't know what the right class of problem is. Mine is that I have several years and lots and lots of notes of symptoms a family member has exhibited, including subjective recollections all the way to MRIs, and I'd like to organize my thoughts and inferences around what common cause(s) might be, priors, weight of evidence, etc.

I plan to improvise, but I'd like to steal first.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-04-23T09:39:13.014Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure what you mean.

BUGS maybe?

comment by satt · 2015-04-25T02:49:42.610Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think what GuySrinivasan's asking is closer to "how do I organize a mass of evidence & ideas about a topic so I can better reason about it" than "how do I grind numerical statistical inferences out of a formal Bayesian model"?

comment by Strangeattractor · 2015-04-24T22:26:00.927Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

One way to approach it would be to organize the data around the questions "What seems to have an effect on the system? What makes things better, what makes things worse, even if the effect is very small (but reproducible)?" Then, investigate those things.

Doctors are kind of terrible at doing that. They tend to have a tool box of "these are the things I know how to do" and any information that doesn't fit their specific specialty is discarded as irrelevant.

I'm not sure how useful it would be to weight things by evidence if part of the problem is that some things haven't been investigated enough, or are simply not well-enough understood by modern medicine and science.

comment by ArvinJA · 2015-04-24T15:04:47.555Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have a friend with an undiagnosed disease and am thinking about doing the same thing. One thing I've thought about is using a Bayesian Network as a tool, but then again, I'd have to be really careful about how I plug in data, and it would be good to know if there are other approaches to this as well. PM me if you find a good way to go about this.

comment by DataPacRat · 2015-04-21T14:35:05.162Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Seeking writing advice: how to keep writing

I've been having some shoulder pain for the past couple of weeks, which I've seen a doctor for. I've also noticed that I haven't actually written anything new for my novel, "S.I.", for almost that long, and have just been posting chapters from my buffer to the forum I post them in.

Given my previous attempt at writing long fiction ("Myou've Gotta Be Kidding Me"), I anticipate two likely courses. One, pain sucks, and when it goes away, my writing motivation will return, and I'll get back into the swing of things. Or two, my writing engine has run out of motivation-fuel for this story generally. In the latter case, I think I can avoid leaving the story entirely unfinished, though there would still be all sorts of dangling plot threads and unsolved mysteries; I should be able to muster up enough typing to have my protagonist finally feel overwhelmed by everything she's facing, retreat to Elliot Lake, and jump to my intended finale. It's far from a perfect solution, but seems better than putting the story on permanent hiatus (or more formally cancelling it) without any finish at all, as I ended up doing with "Myou've".

I'm hoping it's the first course. What I don't know... is if there's any way I can tweak the odds to /favour/ the first course.

Any ideas?

comment by jam_brand · 2015-04-22T09:04:05.539Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have no direct experience with this myself, but have heard good things about http://zhealth.net. A quick search turns up Will Eden once recommending it here on LW and apparently a practitioner was brought in for a lecture at one of the first rationality camps so perhaps CFAR staff or one of the alums listed at http://rationalitybootcamp.blogspot.com could say more about it.

comment by Emily · 2015-04-21T16:04:02.780Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is your keyboard / workstation set up correctly to minimise strain or whatever on your shoulder? I think an optimally positioned desk, keyboard, chair, screen etc should avoid much (any?) shoulder movement at all. You don't say whether typing exacerbates the shoulder pain or if it's just a background level of pain that's bothering you while writing, though.

comment by DataPacRat · 2015-04-21T16:18:44.963Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Typing doesn't increase the shoulder pain. (As of the latest doctor's visit, he thinks it's actually more of a neck problem.) It's more the general background level of pain that's keeping me from being able to spend any time coming up with plot-stuff I want to write.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-21T17:49:43.373Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes the connection between pain and its cause aren't obvious. I was having fairly severe random knee pains, and it turned out that getting my bike lubricated made them go away, even though the pain wasn't happening when I was riding my bike or soon after riding it.

You might want to check on the ergonomics of everything you usually do.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-04-21T17:05:39.829Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Write by hand on your bed. Write on your phone during bus rides. Write by dancing to sign language. Write in a new medium humanity hasn't dreamt of. The keyboard is just one of many possible tools.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-21T14:51:36.089Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe speech-to-text software can make writing less painful?

comment by knb · 2015-04-26T00:21:09.155Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The Wall Street Journal has an article up claiming that the world economy is currently experiencing an excess of capital, labor, and commodities, and that this is potentially a cause of serious problems.

Could anyone explain to me how it is possible to have an excess of capital and an excess of labor?

ETA: You can get around the paywall by googling the title of the article and clicking the first link.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-26T22:34:30.351Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There are not enough people with great ideas to produce new products starting companies that don't take away the market of existing companies.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-04-26T16:25:52.352Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Two guesses:

  • There is a lot of capital and a lot of labor, but in different areas where they don't complement each other. For example, maybe there is a lot of car factories and equipment, but not enough skilled workers to operate the equipment.

  • There is just more economic power than people actually want. For example, there is a lot of car manufacturing capacity and a lot of skilled auto workers, but people don't feel the need to buy more cars.

As a side note, I strongly believe that the conceptual tools of "modern" economics are increasingly ill-suited to describe the modern world. Economic concepts like supply/demand and labor/capital were developed in an era where most economic activity was centered around the production and distribution of goods - either agricultural or industrial. In the modern world, physical goods are becoming less and less important. Agriculture is down to 1% of GDP in the US, and industry is down to 20% (even this number seems high). The economy is now dominated by sectors like health care, education, technology, and government. These sectors cannot be described well by traditional economic concepts. What does it mean to talk about the "demand" for health care or education? How can one apply concepts like marginal cost and comparative advantage to the technology sector, where the marginal cost is zero and there is usually a free version of every product available?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-26T21:58:47.266Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A lot of capital existing means that inflation adjusted US t-bond have at the moment a 0.07% interest rate. It even used to be negative in 2013.

A lot of labor existing means that we have high unemployment in many countries.

It's sad that big pharma companies buy back their own shares and let go of employees instead of investing the money into developing new drugs.

Apple doesn't buy back shares but has $158.8billion in cash in there reserves that they don't manage to invest into developing new technology.

comment by solipsist · 2015-04-26T16:18:27.299Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

With a 1,000 square kilometer industrial complex for the manufacture of slinkys and a million trained botanists.

comment by knb · 2015-04-28T06:22:38.348Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The article makes it pretty clear they are not describing a mismatch scenario. In a mismatch you have simultaneous shortages and gluts, but the article never talks about shortages of X while there is a surplus of Y, only gluts.

comment by Elo · 2015-04-26T22:36:53.092Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Send them to me! slinkys that is! it's time to change the world for the better!

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-26T16:45:02.589Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Send them to me. Botanists, that is. It's time to change the world for the better.

comment by solipsist · 2015-04-26T16:10:56.528Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A shortage of land?

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-04-26T15:22:41.034Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am really confused by economics.


I can't see this article, what kind of labor did they have in mind? There is a chronic shortage of skilled/creative labor, so I am assuming they mean the kind of labor that's vulnerable to being automated away. Perhaps the key shortage that explains this situation is education and training. In a modern economy people and money isn't enough anymore.

comment by knb · 2015-04-26T17:46:43.863Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You can access the full article by googling the article title. It should be the first link.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-04-26T14:58:14.726Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Paywall.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-04-26T02:07:26.221Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

According to Marx, in capitalism, improvements in technology and rising levels of productivity increase the amount of material wealth (or use values) in society while simultaneously diminishing the economic value of this wealth, thereby lowering the rate of profit—a tendency that leads to the paradox, characteristic of crises in capitalism, of "reserve army of labour" and of “poverty in the midst of plenty”, or more precisely, crises of overproduction in the midst of underconsumption.

— Wikipedia, "Overproduction"

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-04-26T09:10:35.500Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Has anyone made a mathematical model of that? I don't know what most of the words in it mean, in concrete terms.

It sounds like "we can make more than we want with less labour than we can supply." Is that accurate?

In scarcity, which has been all of history up to the present, everyone's strategy has been to get as much work as they can, make as much stuff as they can, and sell as much stuff as they can, in order to get as much stuff as they can in exchange. I can imagine that when half the workforce can make twice as much stuff as everyone wants, that may not work so well. But that's just a verbal story, and I don't trust those.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-22T20:37:34.779Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I remember hearing a quote somewhere on LW saying something like "pain/discomfort is what you feel when you level up". Does anyone know what the actual quote is? Where it was said?

comment by jam_brand · 2015-04-23T00:53:11.676Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer said it in http://lesswrong.com/lw/ul/my_bayesian_enlightenment : "That scream of horror and embarrassment is the sound that rationalists make when they level up."

comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-23T01:08:05.249Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

THANK YOU!

comment by moreati · 2015-04-24T09:43:53.924Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's also "Pain is weakness leaving the body", which is less specific but probably pre-dates Eliezer's quote.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-24T13:00:03.841Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I like it!! Never heard it before but it's becoming one of my favorite quotes.

comment by Elo · 2015-04-26T22:29:36.336Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

that line is specifically helpful for tricking your brain into thinking that physically exhausting exercise is a good thing. (don't use it too much, and don't hurt yourself doing it) i.e. pushups.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-26T23:49:32.787Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's funny, I actually tried to do as many pushups in a row as I can the day after hearing it. And I did the most I've ever done before btw :)

Why do you think it's specifically good for physical exertion? What about mental or emotional exertion?

comment by Elo · 2015-04-27T00:54:11.154Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect; pain is a physical feeling, weakness is similarly an understanding of physical problems. By pipining the pain=negative weakness, you convince yourself that (temporarily) more pain is helpful to the cause of doing more pushups, rather than previously "not helpful" as you would have been treating pain and deciding to stop.

I have heard it work before for pushups or similar exercise by danielfilan

(side note: don't push too hard, trust your body's limits - it tends to know when its going to break)

comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-27T01:14:21.750Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My impression is that the advice applies more generally than to just physical pain. My impression is that there's a lot of times when your body produces pain-like signals telling you to stop, when it's really in your interest to push through.

  • Mental: overcoming akrasia.
  • Emotional: doing things that scare you, but that will ultimately be in your interest.

And so, to use the emotional example, when I push past fear, I imagine it as weakness leaving my body. I imagine a) becoming a stronger person for having pushed past it and being more capable of pushing past it in the future. And b) I imagine it as weakness leaving the body in the sense of my pushing myself towards an end that is more preferable to me.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-27T14:51:09.824Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

when your body produces pain-like signals telling you to stop ... Mental ... Emotional

I think you're confusing your body signaling with pain and your mind yelling "I don't wanna!" These are very different things.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-27T15:08:26.892Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for clarifying. I know what you mean, but I had just been using the wrong vocabulary.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2015-04-21T06:54:08.738Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If utility is logarithmic in wealth, the Kelly Criterion tells me the right size of stake to put on a given bet, given the odds offered, my subjective probability and my wealth. In practice, in the real world, what's the right number to plug into the "wealth" part of the equation? My current savings? My yearly salary? The value of my home minus the money owing on it?

comment by Epictetus · 2015-04-22T13:31:14.788Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The "wealth" part of the equation is the total amount you're willing to gamble with. If you have money set aside for frivolities like food, then that wouldn't be part of your wealth as far as the Kelly Criterion is concerned.

The general principle with gambling is never to bet more than you're willing to lose. Kelly betting is optimal in the sense that over the long run, no other system will outperform it. In the short run, it's quite volatile and you can get very low.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-21T18:35:05.434Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In practice, in the real world, what's the right number to plug into the "wealth" part of the equation?

The amount which you can afford to lose.

comment by CBHacking · 2015-04-21T08:20:25.268Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not so much in response to your specific question, but when trying to figure out what I can afford, I actually take a pretty simple approach: my liquid assets (mostly in the bank) plus things I could easily liquidate (stocks, etc.) minus a "rainy day fund" (this has varied in size over the years, but tends to sit at between 2 and 10 thousand USD, based on how hard I think it would be to get a job or find housing in the event that I lost one or both). Things like 401K and HSA are omitted; they're already earmarked for specific things and mean I don't have to worry about keeping other funds back for those purposes. Assets that are technically resalable but either not worth the effort or of high utility to my daily life (my computer, my car, etc.) are also omitted, though in a pinch I would of course sell them too.

The result is the money I can afford to spend. I can use it on video games, or vacations, or gifts for people, or a new car (at which point I would sell the old one), or fighting malaria. I can trickle it away on living expenses if I decide to quit my job and pursue hobbies or whatever (I would start looking for a new one once I got within "expected job hunt time * cash outflow rate" distance of the bottom of this wealth, though I could dip into the rainy day fund if needed).

I can also invest it into riskier things than a savings account, like stocks... or into any other kind of betting.

comment by gjm · 2015-04-21T14:16:29.708Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The answer probably depends on what your utility is nearest to being proportional to the logarithm of.

Most likely your utility (so far as you have one) looks like other_stuff + f(wealth) where wealth = g(annual_income, liquid_assets, other_assets) or something of the kind, where f and g are functions about which we don't know very much. It's probably OK to assume that g is just a linear combination of its inputs. So it seems like there are two things to do.

  • Figure out what g looks like by imagining various possible states-of-wealth and ordering them by preference. E.g., would you rather an income of £50k/year and assets of £500k of which £100k are easily accessible, or an income of £200k/year and no assets, or no income and assets of £1M of which £200k are easily accessible? Etc.
  • Figure out what f looks like by imagining various gambles. E.g., suppose you have no assets; would you prefer a salary of £30k or of (£25k or £40k, equiprobably)?

And then you can try plugging the result into the Kelly formula, seeing how over-risky it feels, and (if you are so inclined) correcting for excess risk aversion not already factored into f.

comment by tut · 2015-04-21T08:10:40.681Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The same thing that you want to maximize in the long run.

comment by mwengler · 2015-04-21T22:05:43.189Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If utility is logarithmic in wealth, the Kelly Criterion tells me the right size of stake to put on a given bet

This is true, but incomplete. If utility is monotonically increasing with wealth, the Kelly Criterion tells you how to size your bets.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-04-22T02:29:08.787Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That is only true if you are making lots of bets and expect them to be your main source of income. But that assumes away Ciphergoth's question.

comment by mwengler · 2015-04-23T01:06:12.208Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, it is true if you want to have the highest expectation value of utility in your life, and the answer to ciphergoth's question is you use all your wealth.

If instead of wanting to maximizing utility, you might prefer to minimize the probability that your utility will fall below a certain level. In this case, the bad tails of the distribution of Kelly criterion strategies matters to you and the expected utility does not. You might come up with some modification of Kelly criterion that meets this criterion of avoiding really bad outcomes with high probability. Or you might find some entirely different criterion or policy that meets the avoidance of bad outcomes that you are trying to achieve.

The OP's original question hides a lot of complexity in its "in the real world" clause. In the real world, are we expected-utility maximizers? Or are we low-utility-probability minimizers? Or are we something else? Until we know we can't evaluate investment/betting strategies.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-04-23T06:14:18.409Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

comment by Omid · 2015-04-20T00:54:06.977Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think I have ADHD. What should I do now?

comment by buybuydandavis · 2015-04-20T03:46:34.943Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'd give ADHD meds a try. In fact, I did.

I had a doctor who said they were like a light switch and you'd know quickly if they were helping (he had ADHD as well).

I didn't feel any improvement and stopped.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-04-20T03:53:13.323Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Consider experimenting with supplements. If you are a U.S. student look into getting exam accommodations. You might also consider neurofeedback and meditation.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-04-20T10:35:59.537Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

UK also.

comment by evand · 2015-04-20T03:18:00.271Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What problems are your trying to solve? Knowing you have ADHD is useful because it offers insight into what solutions will work well. For example, it might offer suggestions as to what medications might produce useful results.

comment by Omid · 2015-04-20T15:58:23.378Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I want to have more focus and find it easier to do boring things.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-20T16:17:53.616Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's a very common desire. I am guessing that most everyone would like to have more focus and willpower.

comment by Houshalter · 2015-04-25T11:13:21.795Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Everyone would like better vision but some people can't see more than a few feet without the help of glasses.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-27T14:18:09.417Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

However when people just say "I want to see better", you don't know whether they actually need a telescope, a microscope, or a pair of glasses.

comment by Houshalter · 2015-04-27T19:29:04.376Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well the question asked was "what problems are you trying to solve (which an ADHD diagnosis might help with)". For that specific problem there are various medications and other methods which seem to help people with ADHD.

Just like a person with nearsightedness would describe a problem of seeing objects that are far away, and a diagnosis would help them solve that problem.

comment by AspiringRationalist · 2015-04-22T01:27:04.011Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In environments where you can, allow yourself to fidget, or even better, keep moving more actively (stationary bike, exercise ball, treadmill, etc.). I have borderline ADHD and have found that to be much more effective than meds. YMMV.

comment by Elo · 2015-04-26T22:35:30.439Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

consider the effects that caffeine has on kids with ADHD. (there is some research out) and then evaluate if that is similar to caffeine'e effect on you.

After that consider other alternatives; but coffee seems like the most "secretly be normal" advice I have.

<I don't drink coffee>

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-25T16:16:02.789Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are there people who would be interested in a (virtual) reading group for Pearl's Causality?

comment by CurtisSerVaas · 2015-04-25T14:21:24.426Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've edited the LW-wiki to make a list of LWers interested in making debate tools..

In general, I think it'd be useful to make a post similar to the "What are you working on threads", so that people with similar interest can find each other. What do people think of a "People working on X repository" post?

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-04-26T17:18:09.225Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What sort of technology is "Moloch-dangerous"?

That is, what sort of technology, social, engineering, or otherwise, presents new opportunities to throw things into the fire to gain victory? Is it "all," or "some with [these features]"?

comment by Dorikka · 2015-04-26T19:11:57.198Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Off the top of my head, wherever the marginal returns from an an increase in ecficacy are very large, either because the outcome is very sensitive to some factor or the prize is just very big. So places with strong feedback loops where you can consolidate the gains, and you know others are doing so as well. Thus, probably just about any technology that is suddenly in demand due to an unexpected event, for one. Another may be any sort of strong truly defensive (protective, not deterrent) capability. Obvious yet profitable applications of new technology fall into the event category above, if first to market wins most of market share.

May also be worth thinking of anti-moloch factors, resulting in underinvestment relative to gains. Market share will be split many ways, first mover has little advantage, and perhaps greater costs. So maybe lack of strong IP protection. What else?

comment by Algon · 2015-04-23T20:15:49.329Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What are the consequences of neutral actions in ethics? After a quick perusal of Google, there doesn't seem to be anything addressing my question, and I think there should be some discussion on this.

This question is related to a problem I've been having with ethics lately; namely, should ones ethical system be viable in any kind of reality? Failing that, shouldn't there be some omniversal meta-ethical structure?

I've had a few thoughts on this, and some arguments played out in my head, but I want to see what others think.

comment by hairyfigment · 2015-04-24T17:15:22.611Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What sort of consequences are you thinking of? The idea that ethics can consider two options equally preferable and not care which one you take follows from the idea of an ethical utility function (even a complicated function that only exists in an abstract mathematical sense). We don't need to assume it directly, we can go with the Archimedean property (roughly, that crossing the street can be worth a small chance of death).

comment by DataPacRat · 2015-04-21T23:03:14.412Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Seeking Phi in Game Theory

For a bit of fiction I'm thinking of... is there any aspect of game theory in which offering the number/symbol phi can indicate a threat to defect unless the other player cooperates?

So far, a quick bit of Googling has only turned up phi in relation to the Bargaining problem, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bargaining_problem , and while I /could/ wrestle such an interpretation out of what's there, I'm hoping there's a less abstruse way to go about it.

comment by DataPacRat · 2015-04-22T01:32:55.371Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Aha - at http://www.pnas.org/content/109/26/10409.full.pdf , zero-determinant strategies are defined by two factors, chi and phi, and at least when chi is 1, maximum phi results in the strategy of Tit-for-Tat, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Hm... is there a mathematical notation for the maximum of a variable, like |x| indicates the absolute value of x?

comment by DataPacRat · 2015-04-23T15:52:10.385Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In addition, when chi is at the extortionate level of 3.5, then when phi is maxxed out, the odds of player X cooperating if player Y cooperated last turn are 66.6% or 50%, depending on whether player X also cooperated on the previous turn. Thus, in order to give player Y enough of an incentive to want to cooperate - providing odds of at least 50% of ending up with CC - player X may have their own incentive to set chi to something below 3.5. As it happens, there are two mathematical constants a little below that that might be chosen - the inverse Fibonacci constant, also called psi, about 3.36, or the more widely-known pi, 3.14.

comment by TrE · 2015-04-22T06:34:30.402Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is ) not sufficient?

comment by DataPacRat · 2015-04-22T12:53:14.749Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My goal is for a relatively simple, even iconic, image or logo, which can be easily interpreted regardless of the viewer's language. The symbol for Phi - a circle with a line through it - provides fodder for as much interpretation as I desire, from the overlapped 1 and 0 of binary to an ouroborus to an axis-and-equator to the Golden Ratio - and if a minimal modification can explicitly add the "maximum value of the variable denoted by this symbol", I'll be a happy little rat indeed.

comment by philh · 2015-04-23T14:17:48.435Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This page suggests "∨".

(I've only ever seen that symbol meaning "or", but that's a kind of maximum.)

comment by DataPacRat · 2015-04-23T15:47:51.664Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's one of the two possibilities I've found over the past day. The other is ⊤ from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greatest_element .

(I wonder if presenting this idea to an actual mathematician would induce any wincing? Off to /r/math to find out...)

comment by gjm · 2015-04-23T15:53:09.456Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

∨ is the mathematical symbol for "or" (in logic) -- my guess is that it may be derived from the fact that the initial letter of the Latin word for "or" is "v". There's a kinda convention that when you have a(n associative) binary operator, you use a bigger version of it to signify applying it to all the things in a sequence or set, so you'd want a larger one -- a bit like a capital "V".

⊤ is the mathematical symbol for the "top" element of a Boolean algebra; maybe more generally of a lattice. You wouldn't use it to mean "maximum of these things" in general.

comment by DrVoltron · 2015-04-21T17:10:03.711Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've recently added flossing to my nightly routine before bed.

Confused this with the rationality diary, sorry about that.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-21T12:18:49.697Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone here suffer from sexual or general anhedonia? Any comforting guesses as to when we will reach the point of being able to routinely cure it?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-21T14:18:13.537Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Any comforting guesses as to when we will reach the point of being able to routinely cure it?

Do we "routinely cure" depression? People do stop being depressed but I'm not sure that I would use the word "routinely cure".

It might be more productive to think of the suffering person as a subject than as an object. Feeling pleasure is only possible if you actually see yourself as a subject.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-22T04:09:24.044Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Parts of the brain don't function right. Contrary to your and the majority's belief, it's not a matter of choice to see yourself as a subject and alter your thinking. It wouldn't cure your aging for the same reason it won't cure the type of anhedonia in question.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-22T11:56:24.671Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you make a choice to see yourself as a subject than you might still frequently drop into the old habits, but that doesn't mean that you can't make that choice. It doesn't mean that making that choice won't help you to more frequently feel as subject.

I have multiple times seen that when someone makes that shift his body language changes to a visible extend. They become more present. Emotional processing starts to happen that otherwise wouldn't.

It wouldn't cure your aging for the same reason it won't cure the type of anhedonia in question.

Large parts of aging aren't about disassociating emotions*. Associating emotions won't make your telomeres longer. On the other hand anhedonia seems very much about disassociated emotions and a straightforward way to associate emotions is to move from seeing oneself as object to seeing oneself as subject.

*If you want more input into the parts that are, read Thomas Hanna's "Somatics: Reawakening The Mind's Control Of Movement, Flexibility, And Health"

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-22T12:21:38.670Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Seems being the keyword. Posting here was probably a mistake. The whole world thinks that if your dick behaves like rubber incapable of any pleasure, it must mean you're thinking the wrong way. I just wanted some optimism about future scientific breakthroughs. Seemed like the place.

Sorry, that wasn't appreciative.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-22T12:39:26.868Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The whole world thinks that if your dick behaves like rubber incapable of any pleasure, it must mean you're thinking the wrong way.

No, certain thinking patterns are associated with certain problems. Psychological interventions do help people.

I just wanted some optimism about future scientific breakthroughs.

What naivety on my part that I thought you wanted to change. Of course it's easier to blame it on supposedly unchangeable traits of the brain.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-22T13:16:00.938Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

As the same person you were responding to, I know there is no point trying to make you comprehend that there is a possibility your idiotic belief about my anhedonia being different than other devastating illnesses and curable by myself is not true just because it makes you feel smug and justified to blame others for their suffering. I don't care about being banned, so here goes. What you said was extremely cruel. I wish you decades of torture. Congratulations on making the world a worse place, you shit.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-22T14:29:43.179Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As the same person you were responding to, I know there is no point trying to make you comprehend that there is a possibility your idiotic belief about my anhedonia being different than other devastating illnesses and curable by myself is not true

The fact that nothing you tried in the past cured it doesn't imply that it's incurable. It just means that nothing you tried worked. Believing in the ability to change is helpful for quite a lot of mental health issues.

blame others for their suffering

I don't blame your for suffering. You are free to suffer if you want. If you want to interpret my comment as blaming than I'm blaming you for unwillingness to do things I consider likely to improve your situation.

comment by HedonicTreader · 2015-04-21T13:06:25.463Z · score: -6 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I only know it from SSRIs. I also know general anhedonia or perhaps hypothymia from depression.

Suicide is a reliable cure at least for the experience of it (unfortunately the best suicide options are also legally limited, plus of course it costs one's life).

Other cures, to my best knowledge, are not reliable, except for invasive stuff like literal wireheading. Related to depression, this piece by Yvain is good.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-04-22T09:49:59.885Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Suicide is a reliable cure

Please, please don't do this.

comment by HedonicTreader · 2015-04-22T11:19:20.207Z · score: -2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Do what? Commit suicide or talk about suicide?

As for the latter, the request is childish, and as for the former, I have yet to meet a person who would even pay the financial cost of living for another person.

Yet, for some reason, everybody feels entitled to judge whose life is worth living - even for total strangers. And why wouldn't you? You get to be morally superior AND you get to have higher social status AND you get the upvotes for being a nice person AND you don't have to go through the suffering AND you don't have to pay the cost.

Bravo. Well done. Thanks for the objective discussion.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-04-22T11:34:55.053Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You are welcome to die if you wish, although I would probably not want you to. But if you encourage others, in particular depressed people, to commit suicide you can expect some pushback. That's because you are being an asshole.

comment by HedonicTreader · 2015-04-22T12:55:44.201Z · score: -6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I have not encouraged anyone to commit suicde, you lying piece of shit.

comment by mwengler · 2015-04-21T22:01:03.047Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Suicide is a reliable cure at least for the experience of it

You will be even more anhedonic and hypothymic after you are dead. That is NOT a cure, not even unreliably!

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-22T04:05:03.814Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's often considered as a "treatment" by the "patients" precisely you will NOT be anhedonic and hypothymic when you're dead, i.e. unable to experience these states! The rest of his/her point is correct as well, though.

comment by mwengler · 2015-04-23T00:59:29.551Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Anhedonic means NOT feeling joy. You will feel no joy when you are dead. Hypothymic means not having much emotion. You will have even less when you are dead.

If the OP had claimed pain from depression, then yes, I would have to agree. Death would be a way to eliminate pain.

It seems I have met a lot of people who have attempted suicide but whose lives were saved. I can't help thinking that if their desire to be gone were rational, they would have learned from their mistake and gotten it right in a 2nd or 3rd attempt. The fact that there are so many people who attempt suicide but fail, and then stay alive for years afterwards, seems to me strong evidence that suicide is a choice that is often made irrationally. And so more good than harm is done by setting the difficulty level of suicide high enough that you actually have to be thinking somewhat rationally to succeed.

comment by HedonicTreader · 2015-04-22T04:28:47.840Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I know you are sincere, but you are understimating that getting rid of the unpleasantness is half the game for us depressives. Being dead objectively removes the unpleasantness, by destroying the parts of the brain that instantiate unpleasantness.

You deny this so strongly because you are offended by it, which is simply a mix of cultural programming and psychological death aversion on your part.

What you have to realize is that you are harming people by it, because this is the political foundation for the reduction in our suicide options. I would be objectively far better off if I could buy a deadly dose of barbiturates, drink it, fall asleep and then die. Society as a whole would also be objectively better off (an improved version would be one that allows me to donate my organs).

Facts don't go away because you don't like them; LessWrong is the one place where I would have expected people to understand that.

comment by jam_brand · 2015-04-22T09:44:14.780Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I second the Yvain recommendation, the linked post is excellent.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T11:51:51.949Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't understand this actually lost at conscpicuous leisure. The point of status games is to signal power that could destroy a potential opponent. Wearing a heavy gold necklace does it (it could pay for hit men). Having a lot of leisure time not. Maybe I am just too used to people playing the aggressive kinds of status (gym-grown muscles are another good example of a could-destroy-you signal) but a signal without teeth - a signal lacking the demonstration of potentially dangerous power - does not seem like something to me that is supposed to work. What am I missing? Why didn't all those conspicuous leisure guys (or later contrarians or authentics) just walk around with gold jewelry for example?

comment by Epictetus · 2015-04-20T17:08:20.891Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It signals wealth and security. Obvious signals of power also signal some level of insecurity. The one going around instilling fear is himself afraid. Criminals know how precarious their own positions are. The boss realizes that a lot of his underlings are just waiting for a moment of weakness so they can stab him in the back. In one sense, appearing not to care can send a signal that you're powerful enough that others don't even register as threats.

comment by Elo · 2015-04-26T22:42:16.452Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

this is my point. multi-level signals. where leisure = money and time for leisure = money and time.

comment by knb · 2015-04-20T19:49:12.702Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't understand this actually lost at conscpicuous leisure. The point of status games is to signal power that could destroy a potential opponent.

If you think status signalling reduces to a threat of force, you are missing out on the most important parts. Cooperative signalling and in-group/out-group signaling are extremely important.

Wearing a heavy gold necklace does it (it could pay for hit men).

Gold chains are a lousy symbol as they are easy to fake and actually pretty cheap by first world signalling standards. Hence they are currently only used by underclass people or those not long removed from the underclass.

What am I missing? Why didn't all those conspicuous leisure guys (or later contrarians or authentics) just walk around with gold jewelry for example?

In the past, leisure demonstrated ownership of capital (i.e. I don't have to constantly be working because my money makes money.) Leisure activities can also demonstrate social group membership (going to a yacht regatta vs. going to an avant-garde fashion show.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-20T12:08:52.180Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If the people with the highest social popularity are "authentic" then being "authentic" is a signal for other people that you have high social popularity.

Outside of the ghetto popular men don't wear gold chains, so it's not a signal of high social popularity.

The point of status games is to signal power that could destroy a potential opponent

I can also simply that you can help your friends and family. A medical doctor doesn't have his social status only because he's rich. He's also a go to person to ask for medical advice.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T12:17:29.527Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My point is precisely that I think status is not popularity but more like power. In fact, it surprises me to even consider status as popularity. Al Capone type criminals were not liked, but feared. Fear can elicit more respect(ful behavior) than liking. Wait, now I am seriously confused, I always assumed people behaving high status should come accross at least slightly scary to others, even a genuine achievement as "oh, he can do something I never will", could it really be that acting high status is more often liked than feared? A classic example of high-status signal is correcting other people's grammar. That cannot possibly make one popular, but a bit feared yes, as it conjure childhood memories of teachers.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-04-20T13:39:02.007Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For Americans, Meryl Streep may be far more popular than Vladimir Putin, but that does not translate into a corresponding hierarchy of fears.

It's a common error of too many parents to believe that fear brings respect. In my experience, fear brings hatred. Only the self-preservation parts of the reaction to fear are often mistaken for gestures of respect. Again, my experience is that true respect comes from admiration.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T15:04:28.400Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But again the problem is that does status mean popularity? What does that mean? It is not that I think popularity creates fear, I think status as such does not equal popularity, it is more like being seen a BIG, not popular, and t this may or may not create fear.

As for fear and respect, this is highly complicated IMHO. As far as I can tell, there are some people who genuinely respect those who scare them because they admire their fearsomeness. I think at our school the bully type guys genuinely respected the scariest male teachers as basically they saw them a role model on how to be a bigger bully. I think there is something true about the cliche "these villains only respect violence" type stuff from movies. Basically it means, often when people were hurt a lot, they will turn very defensive and the best defense is an offense and thus adopt a hard, tough "don't try messing with me" frame. At that point, those who are more fearsome may be genuinely respected and imitated. This is pretty common with males of lower-class background, the most dangerous looking MMA guys having the most respect.

Needless to say, I don't consider it healthy. I mean, not healthy for children. As for adults... I would say, for most people, by the time we turned 30, unless we lived in very sheltered circumstances, we probably developed a darker, harder, "don't try messing with me" side just as a cumulative effect of conflicts and bullying received and all that. And thus we may respect scary dominant people. It is probably part of the normal cumulative emotional scarring going on with life. Well, or mine is abnormal.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-20T17:39:12.928Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

And thus we may respect scary dominant people.

That's respect that leads to avoiding conflicts with those people. On the other hand we usually don't build relationships with them that are about exchanging favors.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T17:59:59.774Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is status about favor exchange? I really would like a definition of what status is and isn't. My go-to definition is that it is about being "big". This is primitive, but that is the whole point, it has to be.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-20T21:36:32.644Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Status is about access to resources and control for resources. A person who gets favors from other people can access more resources.

Having the ability to physically beat up a doctor isn't likely to give you any preferential treatment from the doctors. Other forms of social status do.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-20T13:11:18.991Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That cannot possibly make one popular

You got the causation the wrong way around. The point of a signal isn't that the signal itself makes you popular it's that the signal goes along with status.

Few people correct the status of people they consider to be higher status then themselves. The only way that a low status people corrects a high status person is that the person is completely clueless.

Correcting a high status person can mean losing their support.

Al Capone type criminals were not liked, but feared.

There are social interactions where people I driven by mainly by fear but that's not the kind of environment in which you want to be.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-20T13:27:03.926Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Popularity means that you can get help. We aren't in the early environment any more, and I don't think we have quite the same reflexes.

Also note that if violence is a possibility, older men get safety and dominance by their ability to recruit younger men, not by their ability to do their own fighting.

Have another angle-- in civilization, winning means coming out ahead while cooperating.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-20T00:26:24.194Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've occasionally been able to move my sense of self downwards from my head. From what I've read, people didn't put their sense of self in their heads (it was typically in the heart or abdomen) until the importance of the brain was discovered.

comment by mwengler · 2015-04-21T22:43:57.084Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Comment moved elsewhere.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T11:44:18.630Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Simple proposal for Great Filter: when human intelligence evolved, it also had negative effects: bigger infant head -> more dangerous, more painful childbirth, also human children are prematurely born compared to other animals, develop slow, require a lot of care. Hence human intelligence directly caused high maternal risk and high maternal investment, and could it be the cause of the runaway intelligence arms race inside the species? Making it more important for men to compete for women since you could easier lose your mate during birth or she is too tied up in maternal care for another one and so on, so more intelligence means more maternal care / risk means more competition means more use for intelligence and more chance of intelligent genes spreading etc. Hominid women running a risk gamble when hooking up with smart men - more chance you die during labor, but if you win, your son may spread your genes effectively.

My point is: perhaps without intelligence having drawbacks i.e. without having to push that big infant brain through a vagina, there is no runaway arms race of intelligence. A species that does not have this danger of intelligence does have intelligence leading to more sexual competition means it does not develop further intelligence.

Was this considered?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-20T14:39:52.551Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Dinosaurs had bigger heads than humans. Even bears can have bigger heads than humans. It seems unlikely that head size is the limiting factor for a Great filter. There seems also no reason why a brain has to be located in the head and not in the torso.

comment by Slider · 2015-04-21T00:40:37.982Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A thought occurred to me that it's more likely that a brain initially develops near major sensory input channels. Dinosaurs did have secondary brains thought but their function is also proximity based (ie reflex time gets too long for just one brain location in that sized body).

I could guestimate that the primary constraint is eye to brain distance and the other senses are near because of lessened wiring and easier time integrating the information the nearer to a pointlike approximation one gets. That is if the information itself doesn't require a spesific placing.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T14:56:22.768Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Dinosaurs did not give birth and bears don't have a particularly big head to body ratio - the idea here is specifically that childbirth is hard and dangerous, not simply running around with a big head would be so.

As for the brain, I think having eyes close to mouth is useful to basically every animal, being able to hit food or enemies with the mouth accurately, and eyes came from brains.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-20T15:02:01.724Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Dinosaurs did not give birth

There no reason why species on other plants who are intelligent have to give birth. Yes, humans do but to be a great filter it would have to be true more universally.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T15:24:59.582Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Precisely. I am trying to say that giving birth means intelligence has a downside, and that could have paradoxically lead to intelligence getting more widespread due to the downside meaning the need for more intense competition.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-04-20T14:11:58.152Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Simple proposal for Great Filter

This is not a possible explanation for the Great Filter.

Hence human intelligence directly caused high maternal risk and high maternal investment, and could it be the cause of the runaway intelligence arms race inside the species?

more chance of intelligent genes spreading

perhaps without intelligence having drawbacks i.e. without having to push that big infant brain through a vagina, there is no runaway arms race of intelligence.

You have this exactly backwards. If intelligence has negative side effects, this means you would expect less intelligence, for basic differential equation reasons. If large-headed women are more likely to give birth to large-headed babies (which die or kill them because of birthing difficulties), then small-headed babies are evolutionarily favored over large-headed babies. (This is why human babies are born so prematurely; that's the trick that lets you have a big adult head and still survive childbirth. If this trick were not possible, we probably would not be as intelligent as we are.) The selective advantage of intelligence goes down--instead of producing 1.05 times as many children, a smarter person might produce only 1.02 times as many children. In the first case, we obviously get intelligent life faster.

A possible explanation for the Great Filter is that there are planets where smarter animals only produce 0.98 as many children--and thus there are no animals smart enough to significantly alter their environment or make it to space.

But that would need to be a geographic / environmental claim about the planet, and it would need to hold everywhere. On Earth, it seems like one narrow location produced intelligent enough animals. From the unique geographical features of that location, one might suspect that the Cognitive Revolution was a significant filter--but, as with most filter-related things, this is hard to estimate. Was that location only slightly better than other locations, such that other places would have allowed evolution of civilization-creating animals a bit later in geological time (which is immensely later in historical time)? Are locations like that rare on random planets, or could Earth actually have surprisingly few locations that allow the evolution of civilization-creating animals, and that doesn't matter because you only need one?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T15:35:21.790Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The point I am trying to make is what if it is a bit more complicated than negatives or positives. Imagine any trait that increases your chance to find a mate but decreases the chance your mate survives into having another kid. A possible parallel would be having spikes on the back that look very sexy but do awful things to the mothers insides during birth.

The important thing is not to calculate if it is a net positive or net negative, but rather what happens? You are a male animal with such a mutation, such as they sexy spiky back, you knock up six females, four give birth to kids with the same spiky back, half them male, other two mothers die during birth. Now your pack / dating pool has a gender imbalance but no matter - you are still attractive, you are the guy with the sexy spiky back so go on outcompeting other males. You end up with more kids than other males, from more females, some of them who died during giving birth. The mole mothers your spiky-back kids kill, the more intense the competition for females becomes, but that is fine for you, you are the attractive guy with the spiky back. Your sons continue the same. See how the spiky back could be a runaway feature? The guy with even bigger spikes has kids who kill even more mothers but still he gets more mates. And so on. The mother-killing aspect of spikes contributes to more intense sexual competition, in which the sexy nature of said spikes works more efficiently.

Does that make sense?

Of course in this case we would probably see females develop spike-resistant insides. Aaaaand maybe that is where the nerds-are-creepy meme came from :-DDD (disregard this last part, just a joke)

comment by Vaniver · 2015-04-20T18:02:49.941Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

See how the spiky back could be a runaway feature?

Until some other species takes over your ecological niche.

I seem to remember hearing about a gene in mice that would ensure that it always gets copied into the offspring if present (leading to rapid growth in the gene pool) but had the unfortunate effect that homozygotes are sterile.* Under random mating, you can calculate the population levels at which the gene frequency is stable,** but under non-random mating, a group where 50% of the parents have this gene could totally annihilate itself (as it would be possible to ensure that every child in the next generation is a carrier, and thus the generation after that will be totally sterile).

But consider this gene without a drawback: if one parent has at least one copy, then the child will, and if both parents each have at least one copy, then the children will have two copies, but the gene is fitness neutral in all permutations. Then we can calculate how many generations it will take for the gene to reach fixation, given random mating.

*Suppose the mechanism was that it would break the other chromosome. This means you're the only option--unless the other chromosome had the exact same idea, and now there aren't any functional chromosomes.

**As it turns out, the heterozygote advantage and homozygote disadvantage are both so strong that the only stable levels are 0 and 1. If you drop the heterozygote advantage to something more likely, like a heterozygote having a 55% chance of passing it on to a child, then you get a more interesting answer.

The important thing is not to calculate if it is a net positive or net negative, but rather what happens?

This is a fundamentally mistaken way of looking at evolution. The only important thing is whether it is a selective advantage or disadvantage! Populations roll down the selection gradient, and the assumption that population sizes are the same from year to year is a feature of mathematical models, not reality.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T18:17:34.683Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You are good at lowering the probability I give to this hypothesis, and I thank you for that, but it is stil not 0.

First about the second point - my point is more like selective advantages do not mean the fitness of the group, or even the fitness of the parents to be maximized, but solely that of the propagation of the gene in descendants. So, from that angle, a gene killing some parents but still making an animal more sexually succesful can still confer a selective advantage. Depending on the ratio of this two of course. My point is precisely that on the whole it can be hugely destructive for the group.

Of course, and now back to your first point, this weakens the group. This would happen with a spiky back but here is where my metaphor stops being useful. It is intelligence. It begins with the ecological dominance - social competition model. The group was all right before intelligence. Surely a weaker but smarter group can compensate for the group level weakening?

My point is pulling an Occam here. Our best hypothesis is that an unknown factor X launched a runaway IQ based competition inside the hominid species. What if factor X is intelligence itself, basically it killing mothers, thus making the sexual competition of males more vivid? Surely such a reduction of factors is worth pondering? And as a side-effect, whatever group level weakness it would cause wrt other species, they would resolve that because of this intelligence, which according to EDSC was not formerly necessary, but at this point became useful for keeping other species at bay?

And if this all at least sounds not-impossible enough to invest resources into pondering or testing, it could generate a Great Filter hypothesis, namely that intelligence needs to be advantageous for the offspring but at some level harmful to parents (dangerous birth, maternal care) to launch such an arms race, it would basically predict that any alien species without the special difficulties of Earth mammals and their problems of pushing a big head through a vagina would not have this arms race.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-20T19:38:45.983Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure, but I think your model assumes intelligence is mostly (entirely?) useful for males. Actually, females also have a complex bunch of roles, since they need to take care of themselves and their children and make alliances to get help from both males and females.

You might be interested in Mother Nature by Sarah Hrdy.

comment by mwengler · 2015-04-21T22:40:54.608Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Actually it is notable that women and men have such similar intelligence. Women and men are quite easy to distinguish physically in a variety of ways, but there is probably way ( I don't believe one has been discovered) to reliably distinguish a woman from a man based purely on how their minds work. Minds are a lot more like livers, kidneys and eyeballs (effectively identical in each sex) than like body shape, genitals or hair distribution. I haven't heard this said before, but this would seem to suggest that minds are NOT primarily to get us laid, that they do not evolve from sexual selection, but rather arise from natural selection (survival of the fittest).

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T20:12:32.053Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Of course, but "useful" is different from "increases reproductive fitness", and the basic assumption is that the selective pressure of intelligence came from competition inside the species. It is sort of difficult for me to imagine what kind of competition can happen between ancestral females to increase reproductive fitness (and not simply to have a better life, these two are different things). Let's assume for now it is not for higher quantity of children, nor for higher quality sperm thus the genetic quality of children (it does not really require much of a competition, it is cheap), what else is left? Largely the upbringing and life of those children. Am I on the right track there that it is more about what happens to the children once they are born? Are the get resources invested by the genetic father, by the tribe, by the chieftain, by the queen, by whoever, what status they get and so on? As this sounds vaguely possible for I just don't know to visualize it. (Sort of Cersei Lannister situation, push children into high status positions?)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-20T20:53:40.457Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have to check on this, but I think competition can go all the way to low status female's children being killed. Even if it doesn't go that far, less access to food/more stressed mothers mean that the children of a low status mother are more likely to be less capable adults.

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-20T22:57:42.267Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yep, higher-status female apes sometimes kill lower-status female apes' babies. One of the reasons why female cliques are so important even when females typically do not use them to kill other adult females.

In humans, you see how some women have the instinct to touch other women's babies, and how those mothers are usually scared like shit. Touching other womens' babies is a female status move. -- That's because as a female ape you couldn't realistically defend yourself and your baby from a group of female apes; you would be completely in their mercy. So another female ape touching your baby reminds you of your relative positions in the tribe.

comment by mwengler · 2015-04-21T22:35:47.721Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Imagine any trait that increases your chance to find a mate but decreases the chance your mate survives into having another kid.

This is practically the definition of a trait that is chosen through sexual selection rather than survival of the fittest. Believe it or not, those big boobs are net negatives at helping women survive, but they sure attract a lot of male attention. The antlers on deer and moose, the tail on a peacock, these all hurt the survival chances of the creatures carrying them, but females dig them so whaddyagonnado. Riding motorcycles, driving fast sports cars, and spending all your money on diamonds and hotel suites are none to helpful at surviving, but great ways to get a certain kind of laid.

What does this have to do with great filters?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T18:38:14.105Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You really can't have a kid survive its mother who died in childbirth if the kid is as helpless as here.

UNLESS you have not only competition, but altruism, too.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T18:40:59.122Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, altruism can pretty easily be part of the picture. Kin selection and all that. Or, we can simply say that if a gene makes a male mate with 2x as many females but also makes 20% of the females die with the child dying too, it still propagates. And it still increases sexual competition by unbalancing gender ratios thus if it was in itself a sexual competition advantage, now it is on the relative level stronger.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-20T19:24:35.819Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Or, we can simply say that if a gene makes a male mate with 2x as many females but also makes 20% of the females die with the child dying too, it still propagates.

Propagates for a very short while. If you initial population was stable (which means that each female had, on the average, two children which survive until they breed), introducing a mutation which kills off 20% of the females during birth is likely to lead to this population dying out pretty quickly. Yes, you'll have lots of males around, but they can't give birth.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T18:33:35.637Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. 1 compared to what animals? 2 what does your theory predict regarding infanticide/cannibalism in intelligent species? 3 at what level of reproduction effort would childbearing remain viable, given a lifespan of twenty max and high children mortality? 4 ...genes effectively - in what way? Polygamy?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T18:42:43.318Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW
  1. primates 2. no idea, must think about it, how did you localize it in hypothesis space i.e. why does it sound interesting at all? 3. no idea, this is really where I lack the training, but will think about it, but it is probably a complex math problem including ever longer gestation periods and all that 4. yes clearly
comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T18:55:04.633Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

2 well, if a trait has some visible manifestation, what prevents the offspring from being eaten before reaching reproductive age? Competition still works. 3. I don't know, too. Just thought someone might give it their best shot. 4. If only the sons can use it effectively, then does it not mean that daughters having this gene would be outcompeted, dying in childbirth always (if it's a dominant allele) or a fixed % of times (if it's not), and so the allele will just reach some equilibrium in the population? And the 'intelligent' males will seek to have children from 'not-intelligent' females, since some offspring is strictly better than zero? (That's probably what Vaniver said.)

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-20T14:22:02.178Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"more intelligence means ... means more competition means more use for intelligence"

Seems to me there is always enough competition in the nature. It's not like without difficult childbirth our species would have become completely lazy and its evolution would stop.

Sorry, this is how I parsed your argument. I am not sure what exactly are you saying is the bad thing that could happen to species that would be similar to humans, only would have no problem giving childbirth to children with huge heads.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T17:57:35.466Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My point is more like the runaway arms race of intelligence is pretty tricky to figure out. Sure, one thing is clear - if it only happened inside one species, the selective pressure was inside the species: not adaptation to the environment (that would predict a world where we have 70 IQ chimp servants) but something inside the species, and given that it has to be a pressure, a do-or-not-reproduce kind of pretty tough stuff, and being nice and empathic with each other is not a pressure, it must be some kind of a competition. So far it is not a new idea, but a rehearsal of the most popular hypotheses.

Now, my point is simply you got a factor inside the hominid species, a factor X, which leads to the runaway arms race of intelligence, an Y. My point is, what if they are the same?

It is Occam and Solomonoff at work here. Usually we assume two variables, an unknown factor X launched a runaway arms race of intelligence, Y competition inside the human-hominid species.

So why not ponder the possibility that X = Y ? What if intelligent offspring killing / tying up mothers due to big heads led to males more intensely IQ-compete for the women who were not dead nor tied up with a child or three?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-20T22:21:44.263Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

the selective pressure was inside the species: not adaptation to the environment (that would predict a world where we have 70 IQ chimp servants)

No. There no evidence that different lineages differ mainly in inside species selection.