Comment by Abd on Cold fusion: real after all? · 2015-07-29T21:53:21.761Z · LW · GW

Thanks, Eliezer. You suggested "Although many claims have been made and some claims continue to be made, none of the claims has ever been replicated reliably despite a very great deal of effort."

That is what the article claims. "The term was popularised with the work of Pons and Fleischmann, which gained tremendous publicity but was irreproducible.[1]

The citation is to a study on that clearly demonstrates the opposite. The entire Rational Wiki article is trolling, designed to insult and irritate, which is typical of the RatWiki approach.

I'm still an admin there, totally useless. Wikipedians came there to impose the Wikipedian view on the cold fusion article, there is a huge history (as the article points out, but doesn't point out details), but, bottom line, when I found that RatWiki was quite willing to tolerate me being told to "go fuck your kids," by a Wikipedian attack dog who had created the disruption on Wikipedia that led to the second cold fusion ArbCom case (where I was actually confirmed in my filing claim) I essentially gave up on the site.

David Gerard was a big part of that. Technocrat, VIP Wikipedian, and quite willing to impose his opinions instead of actually learning what is in sources. Hence the article is full of "information" that is contrary to the sources cited. Try to explain that there? Tl:dr.

Yet, at least, the article points to some sources of interest. Those have been excluded from Wikipedia. The article snark is visible on RatWiki, the Wikipedia article pretends to be neutral. Some of the same pseudoskeptical ideas prevail in both places.

The claim that cold fusion researchers are motivated by a dream of limitless energy is a common claim. It was said about me. I have no idea that cold fusion is necessarily useful for energy production, just that it is not impossible. My interest on Wikipedia was encyclopedic," not POV-pushing. I was very careful about that, but I confronted abusive administration, twice, successfully.* That is quite enough to make a non-administrator persona non grata on Wikipedia. So then, once banned there, I actually became involved in the field, hence my published article. My goal is to promote careful research, with increased precision, and I have the support of at least one of the most notable critics of cold fusion. This is what science is about.

Comment by Abd on Cold fusion: real after all? · 2015-07-29T21:20:35.146Z · LW · GW

Wow, it's been more than two years since I commented on Less Wrong. Great article here, though, as usual with cold fusion, it still contains some misunderstandings. Let me dispose of some of them by fiat.

Anything to do with Rossi is not science. There have been demonstrations and tests, including one with a level of independence that remained inadequate. Rossi is commercial, his methods are secret, and so any reports from him cannot be reproduced. It's trivially easy to dismiss Rossi as a fraud, but on closer examination, the matter is complex. He might be a fraud, or he might have something, and most of us, to know the truth about it, will have to wait. Personally, I don't trust a word he says without verification, which has nothing to do with fraud, necessarily, but everything to do with his being a commercial actor with possible motive to confuse competition.

Something like this is true with Swartz, though Swartz does disclose much more. In the end, it is proprietary ttechnology and crucial details are withheld. So while Swartz may have put on some interesting demos, again, this is not really science, and Swartz has an ... interesting ... reputation in the field. Swartz, in general, thinks that almost everyone else is wrong.

When I first saw Iwamura's results, I thought this was IT. Conclusive. However, the devil is in the details, and that was six years ago, I've learned a great deal since then. As noted, NRL was unable to replicate, even though working with Iwamura. To be sure, NRL has had great difficulty replicating any cold fusion results. I don't know why. I have discussed this extensively with an NRL researcher, and he has, in fact, seen results that convinced him that the phenomenon was real. However, this is the bottom line: sketchy and anecdotal results are far from enough to overturn a massive rejection cascade, which cold fusion went through in 1989, and the effects linger.

Direct evidence is needed. It exists.

What is remarkable is that the author here seems to be unaware of it. I attempted to cover that in the Wikipedia article, because this is amply found in reliable source. It was excluded, and so was I.

It remains missing, in spite of secondary peer-reviewed source. Editors who would have known to place it have been banned.

(Iwamura's results are still on the table, they have not been rejected. However, the significance of those results is entirely unclear. The reactions reported are not those reported by others. Transmutation reactions are somehow "sexy." However, the best established transmutation in FP Heat Effect experiments is to tritium, and that is about a million times down in level from helium. it's like the neutron results: people get all excited by them, but levels are very low, at best roughly a million times down from tritium. All this distracts from the main event. It's exciting because those results are "nuclear," and thus unexpected in a chemical environment. But nobody ever looked this close before.)

Cold fusion was very much unexpected. The name could be misleading. Pons and Fleischman actually claimed an "unknown nuclear reaction," and they knew full well that what they had found didn't match the known deuterium fusion reaction. I could give many reasons why that's impossible under the PF conditions. There is an obvious conclusion: the effect is not the known deuterium fusion reaction. It is something else.

However, it is fusion, as to result, and what is being fused is deuterium, but that straight fusion reaction is very well-known, and half the reactions produce tritium and half produce a neutron, the latter would be at fatal levels if the heat produced were from this.

Instead, helium is produced. d + d -> helium plus gamma is a very rare branch, normally. In this case, the helium and heat are commensurate, and at the fusion ratio, but that is wonky! I.e., if there is a single nuclear product, there must also be a gamma, and those gammas are not observed, the energy ends up entirely as heat. There are proposed mechanisms that handle this, but none of them, so far, match experiment enough to be useful, none have been tested and confirmed.

Cold fusion is a mystery. That's been my theme, now, for some years. We do not know how this reaction takes place. We know some of the conditions, and we know the result (heat and helium). See my paper in Current Science:

There is another article in that Current Science issue by Mike McKubre that fully addresses why there were so many early replication failures.

This is all quite well-known.

Running a Fleischmann-Pons experiment is still very difficult. There are protocols now with "success" at greater than fifty percent, i.e., more than half of the cells will show statistically significant heat, sometimes much more than that. The search for a "reliably reproducible experiment" distracted many from studying what was already available, protocols that sometimes generate the heat. What is needed, then, is to measure helium. Helium is not easy to measure, at the levels involved. There is always a concern about leakage. However, leakage is unlikely to produce helium that is correlated to the heat production (and "heat" in these cases is not very hot, not enough to, say, foster leakage. In some work, the cell is held at constant elevated temperature, so the "excess heat" is how much that heating is backed off to maintain the temperature). This work has been done many times, see my paper. Don't pay much attention to the diagram, that was eye candy wanted by some. It is a result, but it could be very confusing, that's from gas-loaded work, not a Fleischmann-Pons experiment.

The fact is that this work could all be done again. It has not had a priority in the field for about a decade, because people working in the field already know that helium is the main product (almost entirely). If anyone is still not convinced that the Anomalous Heat Effect -- as it is now being called -- is real, supporting research to confim this with increased precision would be in order. (Right now, Storms estimate, the reaction Q is 25 +/- 5 MeV/4He, compared to a theoretical value of 23.8 MeV/4He. The difficulty is in capturing and measuring all the helium, but it can be done. McKubre's best work has the error bars at 10%, and that is still quite a bit seat-of-the-pants.

Setting aside the commercial efforts, which are almost entirely with nickel-hydrogen reactions, we think, palladium deuteride as a fuel may never be practical. However, we won't really know until we understand the mystery. Palladium is scarce. Unless reaction efficiency can be drastically increased, there isn't enough palladium to handle our energy needs. That's why nickel and hydrogen are so interesting, but ... the science behind NiH is nowhere near as well established as with PdD. We don't know the product, for example. Storms thinks it is deuterium, but he has no evidence, just a theory.

(The correlation is not weak, it is very strong. In particular, in extensive experimental series, if there is no heat, there is no anomalous helium. If there is heat, there is almost always commensurate helium, and the exceptions are not only rare, but explainable.

As to explosions, I know of none that were clearly nuclear. SRI was chemistry, and that might be so of others. The most interesting was a melt-down, not an explosion, the original Pons and Fleischmann event from 1984. In that case, the heat might have been nuclear; it was the P&F account of the damage that may have convinced the University of Utah to back these electrochemists. They responded by scaling down. Probably a good idea.

Comment by Abd on Why Real Men Wear Pink · 2012-11-19T01:26:32.904Z · LW · GW

Apathy isn't ever a virtue.

Why are you telling me what I can or cannot consider a virtue?

Ah, you may consider anything you like about anything. You may, for example, consider anorexia a virtue.

However, if simple indifference is a virtue, then I have a limitless supply of virtue, because I am indifferent to a limitless supply of possible objects.

"Lesser social awareness" is a recognized psychological impairment (it means "lesser than normal," or "lesser" as in lessened for the individual), perhaps a developmental or affective disorder.

Indifference about status may be something we might laud, under some circumstances, but it can also be an indicator of depression.

Again, the operative conditional is "may be." The word "apathy" is also important. That's why I distinguished between apathy and indifference. Apathy is an abnormal indifference. Someone who is apathetic about food is anorexic.

The situation under consideration was someone "giving up on being fashionable." That implies a change, that the person was concerned about fashion or appearance previously. Obviously, this might be the result of some turning to more important concerns, but, as stated, and with real people, a shift like that can be a symptom of a disorder.

So, Kawoomba, what is your concern here? What's important about this topic?

Personally, I'm concerned about anyone who would think of apathy as a virtue. Apathy is a psychological condition, it is not "rational."

Indifference may be rational. One who is apathetic will not even consider issues or investigate possibilities. One who investigates possibilities may decide that they are indifferent among a number of possible choices.

I might even be a fashionista, but on a particular day decide to wear those old torn pants and shirt, even if they are the "wrong color," and so what? But that's not apathy, it's indifference. Apathy isn't really a choice, it's a disabling of the mechanisms that make choices and take action.

At least that's what "apathy" means to me. When I'm apathetic, I don't want to get up in the morning. It's all too much trouble. It could mean anything from not enough coffee to girlfriend deficiency anemia.

Or it could be something deeper.

Comment by Abd on Why Real Men Wear Pink · 2012-11-18T23:43:59.010Z · LW · GW

Apathy isn't ever a virtue.

It might indicate that something is irrelevant, but it was only stated that this "may be" an indicator of a "deeper problem," i.e., various psychological disorders do have apathy, particularly a loss of concern for how one appears to others, as a symptom.

Comment by Abd on Rationality Quotes November 2012 · 2012-11-17T14:50:26.715Z · LW · GW

I adopted an African girl. What "race" is she? What determines this?

What determines it? Ancestry. Race is basically a way of asking "who were your ancestors?" and accepting a blurry answer because, well, each person has a lot of ancestors!

That is not what "race" means when people use the word. Race is a division of humanity into categories. Who determines the categories? Do those categories naturally occur? On what does the "race" category depend? Can "race" be identified visually? Can it be genetically determined?

Yes, if you divide people up into "races," or into geographical population groups, and study their genetics, you can find statistical significance, but the two divisions will produce differing evaluations for individuals.

The classic way to identify someone's "race" involves identifying one's own group visually (and sometimes behaviorally, perhaps through dialect or language), and then lumping together those who don't seem to match "my race" into other groups. That is why someone who is "mixed race" will be lumped into the "other group," until the mixture becomes small enough to not be visible. How people perceive themselves is irrelevant to this process.

"Race" is a racist concept, naturally. The word "racist" is hot, and gets mixed up with racial chauvinism, but that's distracting. I use "racism" to refer to the belief in race as an objective reality.

That version of race is obviously a biological reality, because people have different ancestries, even going back long distances, and the ancestry distribution can be geographically plotted.

I wrote that population genetics was a reality. Race is not. It's arbitrary, and race is not scientifically defined. The conclusion is a non sequitur. Race has been totally discredited academically, and that's not just political correctness.

Knowing she was adopted from Africa, odds are good that she's mostly African.

Odds are entirely that she is African, i.e., she was born in Africa. I know that her grandparents were born in Africa, in her tribal region. Beyond that, I don't know. Probably it goes back further, but there are always strays.

If her ancestry plot maintains "African" location, say entirely, back, say, 20 generations, does that mean that she is racially "African"? I hope you'd know that this could give results that might seem preposterous to those who depend on visual identification of "race."

The basic question is being ignored. How is "race" identified? As used, my "race" does not depend on where I was born. It depends on ... what? Where someone else was born? Who, specifically? What lumps all these people together? And separates them from others, who might look quite the same?

That's only one step more informative than "human," since it only gives you the archaic racial category- Negroid- which tells you as much as "Caucasoid" or "Mongoloid."

"Archaic racial category." So race is being used to define race? Those are just as you stated, "racial" categories, which assumes some identity based on ... what?

Ethnicity would give a much narrower picture- about one person in six is African, but only about one person in four thousand is Gurage.

Adding on the data that she's Ethiopian muddies the picture- due to its northeastern position, Ethiopia has been the site of significant mixing, and there's quite a bit of ethnic diversity: the primary ethnicity, Oromo, is only a third of the population- your Chinese daughter, though, most likely has significant Han ancestry (92% of the population of mainland China).

Lucky guess about my Chinese daughter. The one-child policy impacts Han Chinese the most.

However, "Ethiopian" tells you almost nothing about "race." Let's start with this: Each tribal grouping in Ethiopia, by default, considers itself to be very different from the others. There are over seventy such groupings in Ethiopia, if we mark them by language.

So, using the archaic terms and assuming she's from one of the more prevalent ethnicities, your daughter probably has about 60% Caucasoid ancestry and 40% Negroid ancestry.

Unlikely, in fact. She's from the Kambata-Timbaro Tribal Region, her native language was Kambatigna. It's a minor ethnicity, there are maybe a few hundred thousand Kambata.

In the U.S., she is readily identified by people as "Black." She doesn't look "Ethiopian" (which is popularly known through high-Arab ancestry general appearance). Is "Black" a race? What defines it?

I once had a friend tell me that my Chinese daughter was, of course, going to be more intelligent than the Ethiopian girl.

So, good IQ estimates in Africa are generally hard to come by, but Ethiopia supposedly has the world's lowest average IQ, at 63 (administered in 1991, sample size of 250), and China is estimated to have an average IQ of 100. Working off that data (and assuming both groups have a standard deviation of 15), that gives a 96% chance that the Chinese daughter is smarter.

Was that a test administered racially, or was it according to how and where the child was raised and tested?

What kind of intelligence was measured? Intelligence generally confers survival value, but the form of intelligence selected shifts with environment.

Garbage in, garbage out.

Of course, given that they're your daughters, there's not much reason to guess; you could just get them both tested, which would be way cheaper and more informative than sponsoring another test of Ethiopian national IQ.

Ethiopian "national IQ" is totally irrelevant. Somehow, Ethiopia, with that supposedly low IQ, managed, almost uniquely in Africa, to avoid extended outside control, with an ancient and literate culture.

What I personally know is that, possibly contrary to stereotypes, the Ethiopian girl is highly competitive, she stars at whatever she does, the Chinese girl -- raised here since she was under a year old -- is shyer and suffers from the shadow of her younger sister. Both girls have no difficulty figuring out how to do what they want on computers. I have no confidence that IQ tests would tell me much of value, though at some point both girls will be tested to determine if they belong in "gifted" programs.

My racist friend knew nothing about my daughter's ethnicity, he was judging entirely on "African," based on his early experience with "Blacks" on the street in America (are they "African"?) , which wasn't, shall we say, "positive."

Comment by Abd on Rationality Quotes November 2012 · 2012-11-17T02:00:31.771Z · LW · GW

The fact is, race is a good predictor of things like civilization, intelligence, violence, etc. I offer no explanations.

Eh? What is this thing you call "race," Earth Monkey?

We used to think the answer was obvious. You know, it's obvious what "race" someone is, isn't it? Until you start to look at the details.

Race is a cultural convention. There is a science of population genetics, and it isn't about "race." Rather, people use population genetics to infer the social marker called "race."

I adopted an African girl. What "race" is she? What determines this? She has tribal markings on her eyes -- or the scars from tribal medicine for conjunctivitis, hard to tell -- but the markings are characteristic of her region and tribe, so someone who knows could tell where she comes from, as to the region.

I once had a friend tell me that my Chinese daughter was, of course, going to be more intelligent than the Ethiopian girl. The Chinese daughter is no slouch, intellectually, but her younger sister is definitely smart as hell. My friend was a racist. Lots of people are racist. That is, they believe that race is a biological or even a "spiritual" reality. He wasn't being mean, he was just being ignorant.

Comment by Abd on Rationality Quotes November 2012 · 2012-11-16T21:38:20.743Z · LW · GW

We are seeing political memes here, standard stories or arguments. First, the mercury in CFLs compared to the impact of incandescents. That one is just plain silly, and hairyfigment cited some good sources. Sure, mercury in CFLs is a matter of concern, but in the real world, we must compare choices until we have better ones.

As to Female Genital Mutilation, I have a perspective on it, as I have a daughter from Ethiopia, a place where female circumcision is practiced, and there was some suspicion that she had been circumcised. (Believe it or not, it's not always easy to tell. The ultimate professional opinion was, No.)

Is it "mutilation" or is it a "cultural practice" or does it have some other purpose?

There are all kinds of variation in the process. But to start, what about "Male Genital Mutilation," i.e., circumcision, which is practically universal in Islam and Judaism? Female circumcision is controversial in Islam, and, apparently, was a pre-Islamic practice that was allowed, the Prophet is reported as saying, "If you cut your women, cut only a little." It was never considered an obligation by sane Muslim scholars.

The horror stories that are told about FGM are far, far from a "little." Probably the soundest approach to alleviating suffering here would be education, and that is exactly what is going on in Ethiopia.

Someone who imagines that there is some moral absolute here is dreaming. It looks like a cultural absolutism is being suggested. This culture is good and that culture is bad. Personally, I'm horrified by the extreme stories. However, I was also circumcised as a boy, it was routine, and my parents were Christian. And that has gone in and out of fashion over the years. Because my older boys were born at home, they were not immediately circumcised. There were problems, later, and eventually they went through the procedure. And it was a real problem, the doctor botched it. It would have been trivial at birth. Does that mean that boys should be circumcized?

No. It may indicate that if it's going to be done, doing it earlier is probably less traumatic, for technical reasons. And doing it is largely a matter of cultural preference, and people do get crazy over Male Genital Mutilation.

Comment by Abd on Empirical claims, preference claims, and attitude claims · 2012-11-15T21:05:02.345Z · LW · GW

I don't know how much to trust the Wikipedia article, but logical positivism, in its strong forms, is meaningless. That is, it is based on a proposition that by its own criteria, is not verifiable. However, what is truly valuable -- because I say so! -- is developing a recognition of what is verifiable and what is not. To go further and claim that unverifiable statements are therefore meaningless is to go too far.

A writer here wrote, about the statement "[JB] sucks." And another commented, what if "JB's music is objectively crappy music??" After this was tagged as not a rational statement, he changed the text to read "That JB's music is crappy music according to some standard."

It gets preposterous. Yes, the writer was correct. If there is a standard, which can be objectively applied, for "crappy music," then one could make a claim that the music is "objectively crappy by the standard."

But that standard itself, is it objective? How was it determined? Suppose we take a survey of his target audience, choosing 100 children in a certain age range. If the survey has a scale of 1-10, with names for each choice, with, say, 1-2 being labelled "crappy," and we play them a song, and ask for their response, and a majority of them rate it as "crappy," that would allow us to claim a certain kind of objective measurement (of a subjective response).

But this is not what we ordinarily mean when we say something is "crappy." I would mean

(1) I don't like it.

(2) We don't like it. (I.e., me and some undefined group, maybe my friends).

(3) It doesn't work, it's buggy, ugly, etc.

But the expression is not objective, it doesn't point to objective measures or standards. If we had something objective to report, we wouldn't say it that way, except perhaps as a summary or lead-in.

Language is fluid, ordinary human speech is not mathematics. I'll put it this way: it's always wrong and it's always right. That is, it is always possible to interpret it to find flaws, and always possible to find something that works.

I don't want to say "is true," because that would enter a completely different territory of discussion. Right now, we are talking about types of statements, and it's a valuable inquiry.

Comment by Abd on Empirical claims, preference claims, and attitude claims · 2012-11-14T21:02:16.503Z · LW · GW

Anyone who would propose "objectively crappy" isn't expressing rationality. There is no "objectively crappy," unless you have objective standards for "crappy," and apply them objectively.

I think Justin Bieber sucks.

I'm not going to tell my daughter that, because it's just my own reaction, and my daughter would kill me.

Okay, okay, she wouldn't kill me. She'd just tell me I'm an idiot. She'd be right.

I'm training her to distinguish between judgment and fact. It's a task, she's eleven. She does understand, when she's sane. But the programming is strong that opinion is Real, man. And you actually are an Idiot, Dad.

Except when I just did something she likes (which is most of the time) and she is saying You are Awesome, Dad. Hey, I think she's Awesome, too. That's an objective fact.


"Justin Bieber sucks" is a subjective comment. It would be so even if every human being agreed, and, rather obviously, that's not the case.

Comment by Abd on Empirical claims, preference claims, and attitude claims · 2012-11-14T19:38:26.494Z · LW · GW

For example, how do you classify your very first (meta-)claim: "None of them are falsifiable claims about the nature of reality." Is it an opinion?

The snarky answer: It's not a falsifiable claim.

Any claim might be falsifiable if it is adequately specified, so that it becomes testable. If a claim, as stated, isn't falsifiable, it might become so through specification. The author hints at this with:

"Justin Bieber sucks". There are a few ways we could interpret this as shorthand for a different claim.

And some of the "different claims" may be falsifiable.

Ultimately, we could also take unfalsifiable claims as being expressions of some attitude. It's only when we try to determine if they are "true" as applied to some reality "out there" that we run into trouble.

The value of the post is in practicing and developing the skill of ready identification of the whole class of claims that are not factual, i.e., not about reality aside from our judgments, opinions, estimations, theories, preferences, conclusions.

Comment by Abd on Rationality Quotes November 2012 · 2012-11-14T19:17:58.216Z · LW · GW

China forces everyone to use it.

Oversimplified. One-child policy. I have an adopted Chinese daughter, I went to China for the adoption in 2002, and I talked about the policy with Chinese working for the adoption agency.

"Artificial birth control" is one method by which Chinese might avoid unwanted children, but if anyone is forced to use it, that's not official by the government. However, there were isolated, unofficial actions taken by local officials, sometimes, cases of forced abortion.

See also Two-child policy.

Normal enforcement of the policy is through fines on excess children, the definition of excess varies by region, ethnic group, and, sometimes, the sex of already-born children. The most stringent requirements are on the Han majority

The situation is much more complex than most in the West might imagine..

Comment by Abd on Bayes for Schizophrenics: Reasoning in Delusional Disorders · 2012-11-14T03:28:23.174Z · LW · GW

And frankly, looking at the world that way, I think I'd rather be dead than continue to perform in this environment. So all my attempts at "motivation" and "effort" get tainted by that evaluation.

A certain kind of personal trap has been laid out and described, quite well. There is a set of ideas or "takes" on reality that have been accepted as real, but ideas and takes are never real. The error is widespread and normal, even encouraged, but when the content goes awry, the results can be devastating.

The key in the above statement is "this environment." There is no "this environment." As Buckaroo Banzai said, "Wherever you go, there you are." Any environment contains ample evidence to support almost any interpretation, and our ability as human beings to invent interpretations is vast, so everywhere we look, we can find what we have believed.

We may imagine that the goal is to invent interpretations that are "true." But interpretations are neither true nor false. The problem with the value-laden interpretations being invented here is the effects they cause. There are useful interpretations, that empower us, and ones that don't.

There are two kinds of interpretations. The first, and fundamental kind, is predictive, it takes raw sensory data and predicts what is coming next. That's not the problematic kind, though if we get stuck in an inefficient predictive mode, believing our predictions are "true," confirmation bias can still strike. Still, this kind of interpretation can be readily tested.

The problem is in the second kind of interpretation, the division into good and bad, sane and insane, and hosts of these higher-level interpretations. They are much further from reality than the first kind of interpretation, and it is far more difficult to test them. How do we test if the world ("this environment") is actually good or evil, friendly or hostile?

We are continually creating our world, but we imagine that we are only discovering it. So we are easily victims of "how it is." Yet we make up "how it is"! That's a judgment, it is actually a choice.

We imagine that we are constrained in our choices by our identity, but the identity does not exist. That's ancient rationality. the self is an illusion. Let's put it this way: if it comes from causation from the past, that's not a choice, it's just a machine.

Is there anything other than the machine? You have a choice in how to answer this question! One of the choices is "No." That, then, will create you -- and continue to create you -- as a victim of the past, while at the same time, if you are normal, you still think that you are "real." That's actually inconsistent.

Far be it from me to confine anyone to only two choices, but there is at least another choice. "Yes," there is something else, which can be experienced. But it is not a "thing" other than the machine. We are machines, but what we don't know is the capacity of the machine. It may be that the machine can do things we never dreamed of.

Including, by the way, connecting with other people so that we are no longer limited by individual identity. Doing this may take training, it is not necessarily automatic for all of us, and especially not for those of us who were asocially intelligent. (Like me, for example.)

It's highly likely that our friend here has experienced situations like what he describes, and being caught in a belief that this defines his future is obviously painful. But what do those situations have to do with today and tomorrow, unless he keeps recreating them?

ialdabaoth, I hope you won't give up. I don't think you need to learn something new, exactly, you need to unlearn stuff that you have accepted routinely, and for a long time. Rather than MoreRight, you need to be LessWrong. See what remains when you start dropping stuff that maintains the trap, that doesn't help you.

You will continue to think the thoughts that you thought, but you don't have to believe them. The ancient technique is to identify them as what they are, made-up interpretations, chatter, coming from the past. Some will be useful, so use them. Many will be other than that. Keep your eyes open, you will know the difference. Test ideas, don't imagine that they are truth. They are tools.

Comment by Abd on Firewalling the Optimal from the Rational · 2012-11-14T03:16:46.694Z · LW · GW

I pointed to sources that contain huge lists of sources, including such studies. Some of what I pointed to is free. There is no need to reproduce this here. The relevance here is to cascades, which occur without "conspiracies."

A common response to a cascade being pointed out is to call the observer a "conspiracy theorist," and that happens even if no conspiracy has been alleged. That people might be unconsciously motivated by issues of reputation and "face" is just what's so for human beings.

I mentioned funding and was explicit that I did not know if this had an actual effect on recommendations.

Taubes has laid out the history of the "official dietary recommendations," and he makes a persuasive case that some serious errors were made, and that some are persisting in beliefs that are not consistent with what is scientifically known.

Anyway, aceofspades asks for studies. He didn't specify the context, but it was that he had written

Would you mind linking to this research that shows low carb diets lower cardiac risk factors?

I linked to extensive coverage of that research, by science journalists. However, specifically, and just what I picked up quickly:

Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or low-fat diet. (Blood lipids, i.e., cardiac risk factors, were studied.)

Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN diets for change in weight and related risk factors among overweight premenopausal women: the A TO Z Weight Loss Study: a randomized trial. (Lipid profile was studied.)

Systematic review of randomized controlled trials of low-carbohydrate vs. low-fat/low-calorie diets in the management of obesity and its comorbidities. (This is a "systematic review," very much on point as to cardiac risk.)

Part of my own experience:

I was under forty when my doctor, whom I trusted greatly, recommended that I go on a low-fat diet because I had mildly elevated cholesterol. Over 20 years later, the results: I'd gained about 30 lbs, my cholesterol levels were a lot higher. Sure, I wasn't terribly compliant, but I'd shifted the balance greatly toward low-fat. Turns out my experience was typical. Compliance with low-fat diets is commonly poor, and the effect of the recommendation is often weight gain and worsening lipids. So then statins are prescribed....

My new doctor suggested the South Beach diet (kind of a compromised lower-fat or lower-sat-fat Atkins diet, also by a famous cardiologist), but I did the research this time, and found that the science was stronger behind Atkins. I told him, and he led me into his office and handed me the standard textbook on diabetes, written in the 1920s, that described what was then the standard treatment for type II diabetes. A low-carb diet. Insulin had just been discovered, and insulin was considered a miracle drug for the rest, who didn't respond to low-carb diets. Fast forward, the American Diabetes Association discourages low-carb diets. Why? It's really a good question!

Well, why hadn't this doctor told me straight out about low-carb, that my high cholesterol was not necessarily a problem? It's a little thing called "standard of practice." He could lose his job and/or his license. However, he could smile at me and tell me "whatever you are doing, keep it up." (Because my lipids and other indicators of heart health improved greatly.)

And then I found from a biopsy that I have prostate cancer. Taubes describes a plausible mechanism for how high-carb diets can increase the incidence of prostate cancer.

My story is anecdotal, and there is much we don't know about diet, but "experts" still confidently tell us what to eat and what not to eat, and it's entirely possible that the advice given to me, in full good faith, 30 years ago, led me into a potentially fatal disease. And similar may be true for many others. And it is still going on.

I was referred to a radiation oncologist who advised radiation treatment, if not surgery. So, again, I did the research, and found that the latest advice for someone exactly my age and situation was "watchful waiting." I'm still more likely to die from something else than prostate cancer.

So why the recommendation from the oncologist? Well, it's what he does. Go to a carpenter, you are likely to get some advice that involves a hammer. But is he aware of the latest research? Probably, though possibly not. But he's not about to recommend something based on that, because it is not yet the "standard of practice," and he can get his ass sued. Even if the advice was right as to risks.)

Cascades are a real problem that dumb down social structures, and especially when they create a "scientific consensus" that isn't rooted in science and the scientific method. Cascades, however, occur in all kinds of social situations.

Comment by Abd on 2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2012-11-14T01:11:42.322Z · LW · GW

Hm. When I originally read your description of solving the matrices, it seemed to me like your algorithm was shaped the wrong way- I would look at the matrix, identify the transformation, predict what the right answer would be, and then find it in the options. (I only used serious thought and hypothesis falsification on the last question.) Now I'm less confident that I understand my algorithm for identifying the transformation.

That loss of confidence is a clue that you are understanding the process better.

How do you "identify the transformation"? That's the whole banana!

There is a separate step, finding the answer in the set of answers, which is a partial confirmation. If one is not certain of the entire transformation, but has identified aspects of it, possible elements of the transformation, sometimes the choice can be made by elimination among the answers. But the process you describe is my own default, and that's how I started. At first it was trivial. It got less simple. Then I saw that I was going to run out of time! Then it became a matter of optimizing what I was going to answer, once I got that I was unlikely to complete.

Obviously, I could take the test again, but that would defeat the purpose. I did go back to review certain problems, for the discussion here. Yes, to be a more standard intelligence test, the results should be reported by age. I suspect that, unless someone has trained for this kind of test, raw results will peak at a certain age, then decline after that.

Or the test could be untimed, in which case I'd expect I could do very well. I might do better than some younger people, just as "smart," who aren't as careful. I would not generally be satisfied with less than total, accurate prediction, with a simple algorithm. (Any answer could be justified with a complicated enough algorithm.)

Back to the question of how the transformation is identified. It's an excellent question. It is questions like this that must be answered to develop artificial intelligence.

And for general artificial intelligence, they must be answered in the general case. It may be possible to find specific, "trick" algorithms that work for specific problems. But humans can solve these problems "out of the box," so to speak, without almost no instruction. How do we do that?

Rather obviously, we are designed to detect patterns of behavior, which we use for prediction.

Comment by Abd on 2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2012-11-13T17:55:52.090Z · LW · GW

There is little doubt in my mind that there is an age-related shift. Calling it "bad" would be shallow. There is a trade-off.

I don't see it as a difference in "ability to solve," but rather as a difference in the speed with which untrained heuristics can be used. That could be related to the effect I've long noticed, a marked decline in an ability to multiprocess, to handle multiple independent threads or processes. If solving the matrix involves testing a large number of possibilities, the more that can be tested at once, the faster the process will be. It's as if I've moved toward being a Turing machine, from being massively parallel.

I would not consciously perceive the "separate processes," necessarily. Rather, the result of them would pop up in my consciousness as "ideas." I'd just "see" the solution.

The decline might be the result of increased capacity being devoted to depth rather than breadth. If so, it's not a "bad" happening, but a relative disability related to an improvement in a different ability.

It points to certain issues in life extension, however. The brain might naturally reach a kind of saturation. Life extension without intelligence enhancement in some way, i.e., the development of cyborg technology, might not be all so valuable. (We are experiencing this to a degree in that we have rapid access to massive information, but the bandwidth of those connections is generally narrow.)

But these are just ideas. I have no specific test of "depth."

Comment by Abd on Meta: What do you think of a karma vote checklist? · 2012-11-13T17:37:16.899Z · LW · GW

I'm not sure it will do much good, but here is the post, and this is a permanent link to the discussion as it stands now. This was a goodbye post, to AD, one of the seemingly saner members of the RationalWiki community, an elected moderator. There is a link in my goodbye post back to AD's comment in a discussion that included history, but that's a lot more than I expect people here to be interested in. Suffice it to say that the user has a history of being exactly what he says he is, a highly effective troll. He says "professional."

(To understand some of the discussion, "promote" on RatWiki means "remove sysop privileges" or sometimes "block.")

Comment by Abd on Meta: What do you think of a karma vote checklist? · 2012-11-13T17:14:22.944Z · LW · GW

A "public vote system" has been used for centuries in standard deliberative process. You go to a Town Meeting and think that a question should not be considered, and you so move, and that is subject to immediate and very public vote. Private voting systems have been used and often have an abusive effect. Such systems, in standard process, when allowed, generally require a supermajority. Elections are an exception, where secret ballots are standard.

Much comment here seems to assume yes/no on "private." It's possible to collect data on "impressions" that is private, and it is not necessarily abusive. It can become abusive when this is used in a fixed decision-making system.

The karma system is quite popular, and the way it works should not, ideally, be damaged by "improvements." Improvements may address the ways that it does not work, and there are a number.. There are many good ideas in this thread. Some of them, implemented raw, could do harm. Hence the need for discussion and the development of informed consensus, which can be very different from raw, knee-jerk consensus. Such raw consensus can be used to develop starting points, and is worthy of respect, but not worship.

Otherwise a community is vulnerable to cascades and to confirmation bias.

Standard deliberative process uses committee systems for topics not ready for full consideration and vote. The conversations take place in small groups, where brainstorming may be more open and less harmful, and, ideally, all significant points of view are represented in those groups. Distributed communication is essential for sound and efficient social process.

Comment by Abd on Meta: What do you think of a karma vote checklist? · 2012-11-13T16:48:42.401Z · LW · GW

By the way, setting up a "reason" option, is an excellent idea, properly implemented. It could be a checklist, with one option being to enter a specific explanation. This then becomes metacomment, only in-the-face of those concerned to look at it. Layering.

Comment by Abd on Meta: What do you think of a karma vote checklist? · 2012-11-13T16:43:26.403Z · LW · GW

I'm new here and might not understand the present karma system completely or correctly. I like it, in certain ways, but I also know, from long internet history, that systems like this can be abused.

A well-known and acknowledged internet troll just openly threatened (on RationalWiki, where I've retired) to come here and harass me. I know what he does. I'm not concerned about argument from him, the karma system will handle that. However, he will also do these things, it can be predicted:

*He will look at all my past contributions and will down-vote them as much as allowed.

*He will register new accounts as needed. He's highly skilled at this.

*He will look for any method of gaming the system, he will probe for vulnerabilities.

*He doesn't care about the site purpose. He cares about winning a game.

The present karma system looks vulnerable to activity like this. I don't see any clear sign that he's been active so far. I reached a nadir of about -40, which is not surprising, I had raised certain issues that might be unpopular here. I modified my behavior, that's a positive effect of the karma system. I'm at -2 right now.

His threat might be empty. However, these are the problems with the karma system that I see:

  1. The voting is anonymous and there is no accountability. There is a suggestion that's been made that downvoting should have a cost. It's possible that all voting should have a cost. Otherwise we get voting (an action with consequences) with no personal responsibility (leading to a weighting toward people who really don't care, but just respond, knee-jerk, possibly irrationally).

  2. Voting systems ideally represent what happens in the brain. We have affective and aversive responses, and we do make decisions based on the overall weight. However, rational process, internally, can look at each response and value or devalue it, and the same happens in social processes with responsible actors. In the karma system, there is no way to look at what is producing up-votes and down-votes, and most votes are not accompanied by any comment at all.

  3. Voting is presently three-valued, like Range 3 voting: i.e., values of -1, 0, +1. While this can be a great voting system (substantially better than binary), the total votes in each category, in real systems, can make a big difference in subsequent process. I.e., a net of -1 based on a single downvote, is a very different creature than the same net with 50 ups and 51 downs. The latter is probably of high interest! It would indicate a true divided community, as distinct from one that doesn't care, it could indicate an area that needs more discussion. If it's +50 and -53, it would indicate the same thing, the difference is in the noise, but now the karma system would inhibit the very discussion needed.

This leads to some immediate suggestions:

  1. Report the votes in each category, not just the total.

  2. Increase the resolution, i.e., say, allow double voting in each category of vote, and categorize these separately. (The system then becomes Range 5.)

  3. Consider systems that make users more accountable. Perhaps report for each user how many upvotes they cast and how many downvotes. Or even make voting not anonymous. In real deliberative organizations, all opinion is public, and secret ballot is never used for issues, only for certain kinds of elections. An Objection to Consideration of the Question, for example, is subject to immediate, public vote. And if someone still wants to raise the issue, they know to whom to talk, individually. That is a device that increases social intelligence (distributed conversations).

  4. Use a percentage rule for consequences of vote totals, rather than a fixed difference.

It is a general situation that internet process is at a primitive stage. Moving toward simulation of intelligent decision-making process could greatly improve the effectiveness of any society.

The karma system is a great step toward this, but appears vulnerable in certain ways.

Comment by Abd on Logical Pinpointing · 2012-11-13T15:48:29.934Z · LW · GW

I don't have an answer to the specific question, only to the class of questions. To approach understanding this, we need to distinguish between reality and what points to reality, i.e, symbols. Our skill as humans is in the manipulation of symbols, as a kind of simulation of reality, with greater or lesser workability for prediction, based in prior observation, of new observations.

"Apples" refers, internally, to a set of responses we created through our experience. We respond to reality as an "apple" or as a "set of apples," only out of our history. It's arbitrary. Counting, and thus "behavior like integers" applies to the simplified, arbitrary constructs we call "apples." Reality is not divided into separate objects, but we have organized our perceptions into named objects.

Examples. If an "apple" is a unique discriminable object, say all apples have had a unique code applied to them, then what can be counted is the codes. Integer behavior is a behavior of codes.

Unique applies can be picked up one at a time, being transferred to one basket or another. However, real apples are not a constant. Apples grow and apples rot. Is a pile of rotten apple an "apple"? Is an apple seed an apple? These are questions with no "true" answer, rather we choose answers. We end up with a binary state for each possible object: "yes, apple," or "no, not apple." We can count these states, they exist in our mind.

If "apple" refers to a variety, we may have Macintosh, Fuji, Golden delicious, etc.

So I have a basket with two apples in it. That is, five pieces of fruit that are Macintosh and three that are Fuji.

I have another basket with two apples in it. That is, one Fuji and one Golden Delicious.

I put them all into one basket. How many apples are in the basket? 2 + 2 = 3.

The question about integer behavior is about how categories have been assembled. If "apple" refers to an individual piece of intact fruit, we can pick it up, move it around, and it remains the same object, it's unique and there is no other the same in the universe, and it belongs to a class of objects that is, again, unique as a class, the class is countable and classes will display integer behavior.

That's as far as I've gotten with this. "Integer behavior" is not a property of reality, per se, but of our perceptions of reality.

Comment by Abd on 2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2012-11-13T15:22:13.163Z · LW · GW

Interesting, Friendly-HI. I was pointing to something distinct from both. In the Wikipedia article, "crystallized intelligence" is not about "knowledge," per se, but is something integrated. What has shifted for me is "fast," when it comes to a series of new analyses of my sensory input. I'm not that kind of fast any more. However, "depth" appears to have increased.

To me, it's important that I distinguish my accumulated experience from "truth." It's just my accumulated experience, my past. The present and future remain open, as long as I'm alive.

Comment by Abd on Rationality Quotes November 2012 · 2012-11-12T18:25:11.496Z · LW · GW

What I've observed in myself about reports of "God" doing something I'll describe as "insufficient curiosity." I have frequently not asked how the person identified the source as "God."

White beard, what? No, I've assumed, way too easily, that their actual experience doesn't matter.

And this could also be quite interesting if the person is a mathematician. Depends on what is more important to us, solving the unsolved math problem, and perhaps understanding heuristics, or coming up with evidence that something unexpected is going on. Can't explain it? Goddidit. Q.E.D.

Comment by Abd on Digging the Bull's Horn · 2012-11-12T16:08:55.806Z · LW · GW

The key is confirmed experimental results that are other than predicted by established theory. When theory is very well established, there is a tendency to out-of-hand dismiss contradictory results as probable errors. Sometimes that "theory of error" is accepted without the errors ever being identified. This especially can happen if there is mixed success in confirmation, which can happen when a phenomenon is not understood and is difficult to set up.

Nuclear physics is such a field, where quantum mechanics is incredibly successful at making accurate predictions when the environment is simple, i.e., in a plasma.

However, in the solid state, to apply quantum mechanics, to predict fusion probabilities, notably, requires simplifying assumptions.

Seeking to test the accuracy of these assumptions, Pons and Fleischmann, starting in about 1984, found a heat anomaly. The effect was difficult to set up, it required loading of deuterium into palladium at a ratio higher than was normally considered possible, and most palladium samples didn't work.

They were not ready to announce the work, but the University of Utah forced them, for intellectual property reasons, to hold a press conference. All hell broke loose, it is said that for a few months the bulk of the U.S. discretionary research budget was spent trying to reproduce their results.

Most of these efforts were based on inadequate information about the original research, most failed (for reasons that are now understood), and a cascade developed that there was nothing but incompetence behind the finding.

However, some researchers persisted, and eventually there were many independent confirmations, and the heat effect was found, by a dozen research groups, to be correlated with the production of helium, at the ratio expected for deuterium fusion to helium, within experimental error. Helium was not expected to be a normal product of deuterium fusion (it's a rare branch), and when normal (hot) fusion does result in helium, there is always a gamma ray, required by conservation of momentum. No gamma rays.

The mechanism is not known. What I've written here is what you will find if you look for recent reviews of the field in mainstream journals. (See especially Storms, "Status of cold fusion (2010)," Naturwissenschaften.)

But the opinion is still extremely common that the whole thing is "pathological science," or worse.

Until the mechanism is known, this might be a laboratory curiosity, or it could open up a whole new territory, with vast implications. More research is needed.

Comment by Abd on Rationality Quotes November 2012 · 2012-11-12T15:33:23.426Z · LW · GW

I suggest the downvoting was due to quibbling about the word "moral" when:

The usage was peripheral, the more active phrase there was "technological progress." But "moral progress" does have a referent, morality is merely as perceived, it's subjective, that's all. Konkvistador, "moral progress" is something made up by Earth monkeys, and only applies to Earth monkeys dealing with Earth monkeys.

It may have no meaning for one who is not an Earth monkey.

The conclusion, the point of the quote, was ignored. That conclusion is, at least, interesting (to this Earth monkey!).

Yes. Even the point of the quote is subjective. "Should" could imply morality, i.e., we "should" take it personally, maybe we are "bad" if we don't.

However, it can be interpreted to mean something objective. I.e., we "should take it personally" means that we have been affected personally.

We have a choice, reading, to derive value and meaning, or to criticize and find fault. We may also see both, i.e., value and error, and both of these depend on the interpretive choices we make. The statement is just a pile of letters, without the meanings Earth monkeys supply to their arrangement.

It is highly likely that every down-voter was an Earth monkey.

Comment by Abd on Firewalling the Optimal from the Rational · 2012-11-11T21:53:56.753Z · LW · GW

In comments on this thread, the issue of diet and "consensus" came up. Why I consider this topic important here, quite in line with what EY asserted in his post, is shown in this New York Times column by John Tierney.

The issue is not this or that alleged fact. ("Saturated Fat is Harmful," or "Saturated Fat is Good" or even "We don't know") The issue is how we know what we know, and what we don't know, and how individual and social fallacies lead to possible error.

Tierney writes about cascades, social phenomena that can afflict scientists, whom we might imagine would know better, creating the appearance of a "scientific consensus" that is not rooted in science and the scientific method.

Usually, most scientists get it right most of the time, but I've seen several such cascades create a false "scientific consensus" that is almost invulnerable, and it can take generations for that false consensus to unravel, so strong are the social mechanisms that maintain it. A few who are willing to risk their careers in pursuit of real science eventually prevail -- the scientific method is ultimately powerful --, but the cost can be enormous to all of us in terms of poor decisions and delayed benefits.

We might consider creating some case studies. Unless we reach back to old controversies, these will be, by nature, controversial-in-the-present. The goal would not be an answer about "the truth." The value would be in examining the reasoning, the sources and processes of what people (including experts) believe or trust.

Many people readily fix on conclusions, and politics ("importance") easily leads to belief that anyone with a contrary conclusion -- or even who only presents contrary evidence -- is a positive danger, a menace to health or science, to be condemned and sanctioned.

Comment by Abd on Firewalling the Optimal from the Rational · 2012-11-11T19:48:04.291Z · LW · GW

For some of the other side, see a review of Taube's latest book, "Why We Get Fat".

The author is Harriet Hall, supposedly a skeptic, but what I can see in the review is a set of assumptions that are, for her, unchallenged. Small example: salt. A few people with high blood pressure may benefit from salt reduction. Most people don't. Some people may be harmed.

Taubes again in the New York Times, Salt, We Misjudged You.

The summary:

This attitude that studies that go against prevailing beliefs should be ignored on the basis that, well, they go against prevailing beliefs, has been the norm for the anti-salt campaign for decades. Maybe now the prevailing beliefs should be changed. The British scientist and educator Thomas Huxley, known as Darwin’s bulldog for his advocacy of evolution, may have put it best back in 1860. “My business,” he wrote, “is to teach my aspirations to conform themselves to fact, not to try and make facts harmonize with my aspirations.”

What Taubes encounters:

Gary Taubes is a Blowhard

Center for Science in the Public Interest

These critics have in common that they misrepresent Taubes. He's raising possibilities, not claiming proof.

However, what Taubes points to is the possibility that what they have been advocating for decades might be harming people. This is unthinkable.

He must be wrong, so they will find every flaw, real or imagined, ignoring the central problem, that sound research has never done more than imply possible harm, and that at best reduced salt, for normal people, may have a tiny effect on longevity, and, in the other direction, may have serious consequences, increasing mortality.

People whose entire livelihoods, long-term, depend on the "consensus" that they created and pushed, often against the evidence, often against strong scientific opposition, with retaliation against those with contrary opinions, then imply that Taubes is making it up to make money.

When an old pot calls the new kettle black, we may need to stand back and develop some perspective.

Comment by Abd on Firewalling the Optimal from the Rational · 2012-11-11T03:30:20.725Z · LW · GW

Okay, read Taubes' article in the New York Times, "What if it's all been a big fat lie?". That's ten years old, there has been research published since then, but nothing to change the basic conclusions.

I suggest reading it before the rest here!

The organizations are not "scientific." They are largely political creatures, and how they are funded can be an issue. If cholesterol is not the problem, what happens to the statin drug market? But I don't know that recommendations are driven by funding.

Taubes is a thorough science writer, a skeptic, and it is indeed science that he's interested in. He is not selling a diet.

Taubes covers the history of diet recommendations in the U.S. It's shocking.

Something brief: In 1957, the American Heart Association opposed Ansel Keys (the author of the epidemiological study that got the whole fat=bad thing going), with a 15-page report, saying there was no evidence for the fat/heart disease hypothesis. Less than four years later, a 2-page report from the AHA totally reversed that, and, according to Taubes, that report included a half-page of "recent scientific references on dietary fat and atherosclerosis," many of which contradicted the conclusions of the report, which recommended reducing the risk of heart disease by reducing dietary fat..

What happened? Did the science change that quickly? Read Taubes! (i.e, read the book, "Good Calories, Bad Calories." Taubes also has a recent book, less technical, more popular, I think, but I haven't read it.)

I could point to studies; the Atkins diet in particular has been studied independently, and it improves cardiac risk factors, it does not make them worse. Yet it's a high-fat diet. So what is the risk?

Yes. I'm arguing against a commonly-recommended diet. I'm suggesting that relying on these agencies and their recommendations, without understanding the science, is very dangerous.

Taube had written a book about salt, and when he was doing the research, he noticed nutritional "expert" after "expert" who had no clue how science works, who used extremely poor reasoning, conclusion-driven. And he noticed the same when he started working on fat.

When I started reading in the field, out of personal necessity, I could see it myself, really poor "science" being commonly asserted as if it were simple fact.

Such as "a calorie is a calorie." I.e., it's said there is no difference between fat calories and carb calories, and the claim of Atkins that fat had a "metabolic advantage" was allegedly preposterous, this would supposedly violate the laws of thermodynamics.


  1. various foods take different amounts of energy to metabolize, and some calories are excreted.

  2. food calories are not thermodynamic calories, and this is not merely the "kilocalorie" thing, they are modified according to metabolic factors estimated from studies that were done about a century ago, and that may not be accurate under various dietary conditions.

  3. carb metabolism (burning glucose) runs the body in a different way, and has behavioral effects, compared to fat metabolism. Appetite shifts (fat suppresses appetite, generally).

There never was good evidence that saturated fats increased cardiovascular risk, that was speculation from the highly flawed Keys study. It was thought "well, to really know will take very expensive trials, we can't do that, so why not reduce fat? It can't hurt!"

But it could and probably did hurt. Lower fat in the diet, you almost certainly raise carbs, and quite possibly increase obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and there is an effect on cancer, apparently.

Bottom line, the officially-recommended diets have very little science behind them.

This really is not the place to debate the issue. Read the literature! Taubes is an excellent door into it, the book GCBC is about a fourth footnotes.

Or look at the Wikipedia article Saturated fat and cardiovascular disease controversy, (Do not trust Wikipedia articles to be neutral. They frequently are not. Use them to find other sources.)

It's tempting to sit back and trust the official organizations. It's a lot of work to actually read the evidence. However, is this important?

I thought it was, like, my life depends on it.

The AHA is a $600 million/year organization. If fat/heart disease hypothesis is as wrong as it appears to be, they may have cost Americans, in damage to health, a great deal more than that. Now, consider what we know about human organizations. When they get it spectacularly wrong, but before there is absolute proof, do they back up easily?

No. Their business is to be the experts, remember that $600 million per year.

Comment by Abd on Firewalling the Optimal from the Rational · 2012-11-09T03:48:35.879Z · LW · GW

There is a lot of really bad "science" out there on diet, there was a political decision made in the 1970s to promote low-fat diets, in spite of what most scientists thought. For a detailed story on this, and on what is known about fat and carbohydrates in diet, I suggest Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories.

While little about diet is certain, the bulk of the scientific evidence is that "high saturated fat intake," in the context of a low-carbohydrate diet, does not increase real cardiac risk. On the contrary, high-fat low-carb diets, like the Atkins diet, lower cardiac risk factors.

The "scientific consensus" described above isn't.

This isn't about "paleo diet," as such, except that paleo diets do tend to be high-fat and low-carb. We did not evolve eating grain, and then the grain may be highly processed to remove most fiber, creating rapid absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, requiring, then, fast insulin release to avoid toxic levels.

We can eat carbohydrrates, but they were a small part of our diet, generally mixed with fiber, which slows digestion. Fat also does this. It's being claimed with substantial evidence that the "diseases of civilization," i.e., heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, are largely caused by diets with high carb content, especially highly processed carbs. High natural fat content does not seem to be a problem, the opposite.

I did the research and am bettiing my life on this. And I wish we knew more than we do. Taubes has started a Nutrition Science Initiative.

Comment by Abd on 2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2012-11-09T01:22:41.995Z · LW · GW

The URL is incorrect, the comma at the end should be removed. Here is the page

Comment by Abd on 2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2012-11-08T20:59:14.333Z · LW · GW

Well, when I went back and looked at a couple of problems, I was able to solve them, so far. It was definitely, then, an issue of time. (When I find the solution, I expect, it is completely clear and the missing frame is fully specified, and it's reasonably simple. I.e., "obvious in retrospect," as you wrote.)

I do know, independently, that my "multiprocessing" abilities have declined, and that these would be likely be important to any algorithm for solving these problems. I'm sure I could improve my time with practice.

Thanks for your kind thoughts and for the link. I'll check it out.

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-08T03:07:27.116Z · LW · GW

Nature doesn't have laws

Well obviously, once you accept that everything else follows. What I'm asking is why you think that

when I wrote that Nature does not have "laws," I did not mean what I did not write. I did not write that Nature was arbitrary, for example. What we call "laws," however, are interpretations, heuristics, models. Nature has no problems to solve, needs no predictions. We have problems, and an AI will have problems.

It is obvious that Nature is commonly predictable. However, "commonly" is not enough. Can Nature disobey, for example, her own "laws"? It looks like she can, because what we have come to is an understanding of probability. If a situation can resolve as A or B, with some probability for each, we can develop laws that predict probability, but that does not predict any particular behavior in an individual instance. We have developed a probability. Nature doesn't handle itself that way.

However, you can believe that Nature does follow laws if you like. And you can attempt to determine those laws. And that is highly useful, even necessary. However, if you believe what you have created, as if Nature were bound by the :"laws" you have inferred -- and, hopefully, tested -- you will become less able to see the exceptions. If by any chance, you notice one (the cards are stacked against it), you will dismiss it as some error.

, give that it looks very lawful: objects fall down, energy is conserved, if a prediction is true on Monday it stays true on Tuesday, every exception to known rules turns out to obey deeper rules with practical consequences we can exploit. Why can't we just say "The thing has looked absolutely lawful for millenia, case closed"?

someone who believes Nature does have this construct called "laws" is not reductionist


When I read Yudkowsky, I interpret him as I interpret the Qur'an. That is, I assume that he's right. It's just a temporary assumption that facilitates understanding. So I have interpreted "reductionism" in a way that makes it -- to me -- right. It's consistent with what I've read, so far. However, applying this, Yudkowsky is not always fully reductionist. Essentially, he's human. So far, anyway. Seems to me that he acknowledges this.

I could write more, but I'm in awe.

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-08T01:21:51.428Z · LW · GW

Give it time.

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-08T00:55:35.428Z · LW · GW

This "general understanding" might be so for some (most?) in the LW community, but my prior on that is, like, highly unlikely that a single individual in a few words has "adequately dealt" with centuries of human experience and thought and inquiry. What is quite possible is that EY has addressed certain outlines of the subject;.Generally I'm in agreement with him, but also see certain unexplored points. I'm continuing to read, and as I read more, I find both more agreement and more of what I usually call "edges."

I wouldn't dream of "creating a TLP on 'virtues of Islam.' Wrong place, for sure. I'm far more interested in rationality and the stated goals of this blog.

However, there was a whole school of Islam, dominant for a time, called the "rationalists," and science was considered compatible with Islam for centuries. That's an Islam that, I assume, most LWians haven't contacted. So there may be some room for this, that's all.

I'm quite aware that atheism is the standard belief here. However, is that a rational necessity? (And if it is, I'm still interested in the question of what atheism is. I do not think of it as being "wrong.")

What is "obvious" to me is not what is being inferred by some from what I've written, nor would I expect it would be obvious to others who don't share the necessary referents. I simply offered to respond if asked.

Fubarobfusco, thanks for the link. I'll check that out. I do not imagine that LWers are monolithic, though some may imagine that their own opinions are the opinions of the group. Maybe. More likely, not, though they might dominate.

edit: I'd already read that, and TheSimpleTruth. I've been looking for a while, and I haven't seen an examination of "faith and religion," but only of certain naive ideas about them. I'm pretty sure that a higher degree of sophistication exists here. But I can't yet prove it. Where should I look?

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-08T00:37:58.341Z · LW · GW

Thanks, shminux. Yes, you understood me. I do get the sense, though, that MixedNuts is getting it. We'll see.

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-08T00:25:15.030Z · LW · GW

Yes. If accurate, unambiguous communication is the purpose, that's true, though for that purpose, even in English, terms must be specifically defined for context. Jargon. Seems to me that this happens around here.

If a different form of communication is the purpose, such as with poetry, Arabic might even be optimal.

However, the Qur'an does explain why it's in Arabic. It's because Muhammad was Arab. And so was his community.

Did you notice the place where I mentioned that each of the seven "dialects" (sets of meanings for words) and the seven "interpretations" was confirmed by the Prophet as being legitimate? I assume, for some purpose.

The Leader Astray is one of the names of God, for example. The Qur'an is not a science textbook, in spite of some rather naive and enthusiastic claims by some Muslims.

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-07T22:54:43.068Z · LW · GW

Is this specific to the Arabic language, or is it just the mismatch there will be between any two languages?

It's not specific to Arabic, but Arabic is particularly amenable to such wide interpretation.

I note that Christians take a completely different view of their sacred text: it must be provided to everyone in their own language, the better for them to understand it.

Well, what Christians? Some Christians do insist on studying the "relatively original" texts.

And the problem Christians face is different. To some extent, they don't have the original text. They only have translations (at best) and rumors (in the other direction.)

Much Christian opinion (as with much Muslim opinion) is preposterous. In order to revere the Bible, as "the Word of God," and especially what they will hold up and thump or whatever they do, they have to create a whole doctrine of "inspired translation." They have to assume, as well, that there is a message that can be translated, one size fits all, equivalent. No wonder the standard Christian story is so ... dumb.

(I hasten to add that there are lots of Christians who understand it differently, and, in my experience, they more that they actually know about their religion, the broader their view. The naive fundamentalist view is largely ignorant of Christian tradition, not only of other possibilities.)

What happens with a text like the Qur'an, or the Torah, or the Gospels, is that they are interpreted, and that the interpretations come to be considered the original message, so much so that the original message practically disappears -- even if the text is being read in the original language.

I read what's reported of Jesus in the Gospels, and don't notice that he claims to be God. He said some other things that are so interpreted, even though there are alternate interpretations that, in some cases, are extremely simple and consistent with the context. I've gone over these passages with Christians, on occasion. It is as if they can't hear the alternate meanings, they keep saying, "But he said ...!"

However, they don't know what he said. He didn't speak Greek, for starters, as far as we can tell. The only actual words of Jesus purportedly preserved were the words on the cross, kept in Aramaic, the language of the people of the time. (Aramaic and Arabic are very similar.)

Now as to Qur'anic exegesis, I'd be happy to look at any particular passage, indeed,it's an obligation (it's that "Muslim" thing, though it's also broader, I do feel an obligation to respond on topics where I have unusual knowledge) . I can't create top level posts, though my karma has been coming back up from the initial big whack. But I can respond to them.

What is it a reminder of?

It doesn't say. I can only say what's obvious to me, from my own experience of it. It's a reminder of life, of our relationship with Reality, and we all, if we study and carefully consider ourselves, already know what it would remind us of. But there still is a language problem.

Or it's not for you. The Qur'an does not, as some might assume, condemn "non-Muslims." It warns against the consequences of denial, though. Yup. Be careful, eh? (And the Book says that it is for those who seek to be careful, it just doesn't create a Careful Club, with badges that will ward off Hellfire, just say the magic words.

Rumi made the point.

He describes the situation of the castle of a King, defended by dogs. Someone coming, unwelcome, to the castle, telling the dogs, "I take refuge in the King from your viciousness," will be torn to pieces by them. No, only if the visitor is actually clinging to the "hem of the King" will they be safe. Rumi was asserting that the most common ritual phrase in Islam, repeated with every prayer session, was useless unless it represented a reality.

An actual refuge being taken in Reality, an actual trust in Reality, I've been saying.

My reading of it reminds me only of ...

There is a good chance that you understood none of it. That's okay. It's not in your language, and was not explained to you consistently with your existing accepted concepts (i.e., creating a bridge).. You expected something different from a book. This is no ordinary book, even if we simply look at it from a point of view of history.

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-07T21:57:27.009Z · LW · GW

I don't know that we diverge. We have not discussed this. Do remember, above, that I said that the difference between a theist and atheist was only a thin space. It might not even be an important space. However, that could depend on what he means by "atheist" and what I mean by "Muslim," which has been the whole point of this discussion, coming as commentary on EY's "Uncritical Supercriticality."

His post seems to me to be about this problem we have of making assumptions about people and positions from affliiations, and what amount to political responses to real or imagined difference. "The affective death spiral." Thanks, shminux, for the questions you ask, which, in my experience, bring insight.

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-07T21:43:08.243Z · LW · GW

So, your deity-like thing is distributed among human brains, and synchronizes by communication between humans?

Okay, this is a "deity-like thing." It's not a deity. It's a thing. I gave examples showing the arising of something more than individual intelligence, and by that I mean immediate intelligence, not something built up (like the collection of experimental reports -- which is another kind of intelligence).

Once when attending Mass a a child, I felt like I was connected to some unfathomable entity, and connected through it to the other people in the church. Is that anything like what you're referring to? (The other people were actually bored out of their skulls and discreetly making fun of the prayers. Probably a bad example.)

I assume that your experience was real. What you were experiencing, and what you might make it mean, are distinct. I'm referring, though, to something more demonstrable, that might have been present for you in that moment as a beginning, a taste. Not as the full monte.

Someone else might have a similar experience with scientific insight. Suppose that the "unfathomable entity" was simply Reality, and everyone there was in some kind of relationship with Reality. Some might be bored, contemptuous, but some might be in awe as well. Frankly, I think Reality is awesome.

So, yeah, if groups of appropriately behaving people can and do act as morally better and smarter than individuals, that's awesome and possibly worship-worthy. (Possibly because I worship anything that looks at me the right way, but still.)

You are still defining all this as if your personal judgment of "better" is real, but, yes. It's not that your personal judgment is "wrong," that would be just as much of a story.

And your comment about your response to what "looks at you the right way" is an accurate description of what most of us do, most of the time, even if we think we are "rational."

But I was under the impression that Islam involved a deity that created the universe, and had more power over it than a group of well-coordinated humans.

The concept behind the impression is one that separates the "deity" from the "universe," one object that controls another. Reality allows us to imagine that we have power over it, but that's a product of how we think about it.

For survival, we have found that results are usually correlated with our actions, in certain ways. If our actions are not founded in an acceptance of reality-as-it-is, however, they are likely to be ineffective, so the more effective actions likely involve "acceptance." Islam is the Arabic word for this.

(If we have developed an inaccurate model, that perhaps worked under some circumstance but not others, what happens when we encounter the "deviations" depends on whether we believe the model or not. I.e., believe that the model is real, that it is not merely a model.

If we believe the model, our strong human tendency is to reject observations of difference, violations, if we even notice them.

If we don't believe the model, but simply use it -- or, in the case of many models, weallow it to function without explicit consciousness that it is a model, but without formalizing it as a belief -- we have the possibility of improving the model, or even of discarding it in favor of something else, or nothing at all.) We, in this case, place Reality as superior to any model.

The power of Reality, though, is without effort. (Qur'an.) There is no separation between the intention and the realization.

The asshole who decided on malaria had less intelligence than a mosquito. Apparently, intelligence is over-rated.

Okay, malaria exists. We are developing the power to choose otherwise, and that power already applies over much of the Earth. The same power is also bringing new risks. I propose that we are responsible. This is not merely happening to us, we are creating it.

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-07T20:00:20.782Z · LW · GW

Where did you get this "disembodied" from?

Dichotomy. Either it's embodied, and I want to know where and why it can be called "reality's intelligence" rather than "several billion entirely unrelated intelligences", or it's not and I want to know how that works.

Aristotelian logic, right? Look at the assumption:

"entirely unrelated." Where did that come from? If they are intelligent, and if the Reality that they encounter is connected, they are not unrelated.

Something is missing here. There is an intelligence that transcends human intelligence, and it is possible for any of us to experience it. Landmark routinely accomplishes this, failure is rare. It's called the Self in Landmark, sometimes they capitalize the whole word, SELF.

My theory or understanding is that the Self is what arises or is experienced when two (or more) human brains are entrained, when their thinking is coherent and free. It's not mere "social reality," where people agree on memes. The intelligence of the Self. compared to that of an individual human, could be like the intelligence of an ant colony compared to that of an individual ant. To me, faced with this experience, the Self seems to be unlimited. However, I do assume that it is limited, in fact, it's simply operating in another realm, a realm not accessible to me as an individual.

By the way, in Landmark, this distinction is communicated in the Advanced Course. The Forum brings people into contact with it, but not explicitly.

I tested this. I told a story to people who had taken the Advanced Course (and that requires the Forum as a prerequisite).

"The Forum is about becoming free of the limitations of our past -- they nod -- the Advanced Course is about this."

Everyone who has taken the AC, when I've said that, has lit up. It's palpable, I'm sure it could be measured psychometrically. (And I just met a neurologist, a scientist, just completing the same training I completed, who is working on that). People who haven't, mostly, ask "About what?"

And if I try to explain it, well, I may be reacting from within my own world of survival, looking good, being right, blah blah. I'm not being there. And for that test to work as a test, I have to be there, with that very person.

While people who have experienced this, in any of various approaches -- Landmark certainly doesn't own this -- can talk about it with each other, I've never seen it successfully explained to anyone who hadn't experienced it. And I didn't experience anything like this, myself, until my mid-thirties. I was way too caught in my own head.

In other words, "multiple intelligences" may not be independent at all. In the example I gave from Landmark, there is a high-bandwidth connection. It's not just words, which are very low-bandwidth. It's the small muscle movements, the eyes, tone of voice, the presence of the person, that allows this connection. To experience that presence, we have to have dropped, or be able to drop, the "chatter" that normally dominates most brain activity, and attend to what is actually present. Reality, right here, right now.

I.e., the collective intelligence of a group might be far higher than that of any individual, so much higher that the individual may not be able to perceive on understand it, but can only notice it, by certain marks, and accept it.

The mark that I would point to first is clarity, but there are also other marks like love, joy, compassion, courage, that are not about individual survival. Landmark is not just about this experience, however, because it's understood that this can be merely something pleasant (or transiently ecstatic), so it's tested, against real-world measures, that show the operation of higher intelligence. Long story.

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-07T19:28:05.461Z · LW · GW

Just an idea: you create the meaning. You see what you choose to see, when it comes to seeing "meaning."

Huh, interesting. Why is the Qur'an then superior to the Bible, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Tintin, or a blank piece of paper?

Well, "superior" has a lost, unspecified standard. I've never encountered anything else like the Qur'an. It claims that it is not the first "message", and I can see traces elsewhere. However, the best alternative mentioned above is the "blank piece of paper." If you can receive the message in a blank piece of paper, you would receive the message in all the rest.

I could justify this statement from the Qur'an itself.

Also, how do you know that you accept the Qur'an, rather than just projecting on it what you already believe? Or is there no difference?

Setting aside issues with "believe," there is no difference. You could say that the Qur'an is a mirror which shows me, if I pay attention, what I know, or think I know.

Yes, there is a danger. However, if the basic message is accepted, if I stick with the blank piece of paper, and don't believe anything that is not on it, I won't actually create persistent error.

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-07T19:04:19.841Z · LW · GW

Stuff exists -- or appears to exist -- that many of us detest as human beings. That's obvious. What does this mean about Reality itself? It does demolish naive conceptions of Reality, for sure. Or of God. Same thing!

So what is the sophisticated answer that makes it okay? I've seen attempts, but they were less than convincing

"Okay" is a human judgment. Any story that makes it "okay" is a human story, invented, because "okay" does not exist in Reality, just as "not okay" does not exist.

So you aren't convinced by this or that story. That only tells us something about you, not about Reality, and "you" don't exist, in Reality. "You" are a concept, an illusion, not a reality. As am I.

You are looking for explanations of an illusion. It can be done, I'll claim. That is, by the way, a reductionist claim. Right?

I will also claim that an experience, a state of being, is possible that doesn't make "evil" okay, "evil" being shorthand for the "detestable," but it leads to something else, an acceptance of Reality that also gives us maximum power to change, to create transformation. Call it clear thinking if you like, that leads to maximized probability for effective action, rooted in fundamental values.

What's "fundamental"? Well it's probably written in our DNA. It isn't an absolute, it's a quality of life as it evolved, so this is reductionist. Or there is something beyond Theostoa, there is SuperTheostoa, and I can't tell the difference. Not yet, anyway, and it may not be possible.

Comment by Abd on 2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2012-11-07T16:41:53.317Z · LW · GW

I would be careful with the interpretation of your results.

Well, what I wrote was banter.

There are many kinds of intelligence. The test measures a particular kind, one that could probably be simulated (AI) with relative ease (I'm not saying it's easy, but that what is involved is a series of tests, trials, of possible transforms, and then a checking of transforms that work for simplicity. It's looking for an aha! pattern.

I know that I'm not as good at this now as I was when younger. A related example: I'm looking for my black waist pack, in my office, a room full of stuff. I walk through and don't see it. We are in a hurry to leave, so I ask my 9-year-old daughter to check. She sees it immediately. It's in plain sight. I have "tunnel vision." Not literally. I still have peripheral vision. But I don't interpret the full field, as I used to, only a narrower field, more central. I have to actually look at the bag to recognize it.

I trust the test as a reasonable one, that would measure a certain kind of intelligence that is highly useful.

Damn! I'm used to thinking of myself as really smart, for almost sixty years. Time to move on. Yes, I'm still smart in some ways, but I already knew that there are many ways in which I'm not, maybe never was.

What I've been told by doctors is that the cognitive impairments I've noticed are normal. People learn to compensate for them.

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-07T16:02:50.504Z · LW · GW

I don't think you don't mistrust Islam as a concept.

I mistrust all concepts, in theory.

In fact, of course, I rely on concepts in daily life. In practice, I trust some. But they are all suspect, because, compared to the pure possibility of emptiness, they limit us. We trade that loss for utility.

Concepts are great! But the map is not the territory. If I want to know the territory, I have to experience the territory, any map will distract me. If I have chosen to travel from A to B, then a map can be very useful.

Ideally, I have the map, I can plot a course from A to B, but if I pass by C, of greater interest than B, I'll still see C, even if it's not on the map of All Places of Interest.

I think you tackle the concepts directly, rather than adding an extra barrier of "this is an abstracted ideology, I don't buy those".

It's more fundamental than that. I mistrust any interpretation. Abstracted ideologies are merely further from what I do trust, Reality. Sensory data is an aspect of reality. What that data can be made to mean is interpretation.

You call yourself a Muslim,

I wear a Muslim hat.

not an independent theologian with ideas from Islam.

I'm not a theologian, though I do think about what might be called theology. Islam, as I define it -- which happens to resemble the sources -- is not theology, though it has theological implications.

In many ways my approach is Buddhist, if one wants an "ism" to try to contain it.

Most of us are so distracted by words.

Comment by Abd on 2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2012-11-07T01:29:14.844Z · LW · GW

question 26 only. rot13

Frcnengryl pbafvqre gur "znva yvar," naq gur npprffbel yvarf. Va rirel genafsbezngvba, gur znva yvar ebgngrf pbhagrepybpxjvfr 45 qrterrf. Gung yrnqf gb N, Q, naq R nf cbffvovyvgvrf. Va gur gjb iregvpny genafsbezngvbaf, gur npprffbel yvarf pbaarpg gb gur raqcbvagf bs gur znva yvar. Gung yrnirf bayl N. Gurer vf nyfb n pbafvfgrapl va gur ebgngvba bs gur fznyyre yvarf, ohg vg'f zber pbzcyrk gb rkcerff. Guvf vf yvxryl abg gur orfg nafjre.

In looking again at the survey, I answered no questions at all, and got an IQ score of 78. I answered A to all questions and also got a 78.

This calls the test into question, which I'd love to do. Effing test gave me a 110 when I tried! How sucky is that?

(I think it might be a good test, showing me a developing problem with speed. But obviously it doesn't work well at the low end.)

Comment by Abd on 2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2012-11-07T01:01:22.597Z · LW · GW

Should we answer here? Some people are still taking the test. I have this issue with a number of comments in this thread. The instructions did not mention anything about reading the comments before taking the survey.

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-07T00:19:34.873Z · LW · GW

I guess we should first agree on what the term "intelligent" means.


[edit: I didn't see an alternate meaning for what I wrote. I meant that it was smart to check for or seek agreement on the meaning, not that "intelligent" means "smart," a mere synonym.]

I do not have a good definition, but let's borrow the one given by Eliezer. It ought to be an instrumentally good one, given that constructing an intelligence (a "friendly" one) is his life's goal:

But relative to the space of low-entropy, highly regular goal systems - goal systems that don't pick a new utility function for every different time and every different place - that negentropy pours through the notion of "optimization" and comes out as a concentrated probability distribution over what an "alien intelligence" would do, even in the "absence of any hypothesis" about its goals.

Now, I assume that your definition would not be identical to his, so feel free to express it here.

The post refers to a definition, but doesn't state it. A previous post has a definition:

(10) "Intelligence" is efficient cross-domain optimization.

I read this as an ability to "solve problems" efficiently, "cross-domain," i.e., not just in some narrow field. In our discussion, I quote EY as referring to Reality as if it has huge computational ability.

My own thinking has reflected on the "omniscience" and "omnipotence" of God as being almost a tautology: Reality knows all things, and over all things has power.

Reality, however, is not an "artificial intelligence," although artificial intelligence may exist, may be real. If it exists, it is limited by its computational power. The computational power of Reality will necessarily be greater. It may not be unlimited though. The Many Worlds interpretation might extend the power of Reality almost infinitely.

On the other hand, is Reality "efficient"?

I have no confidence in these ideas as "truth," but do see them as possibly useful, in terms of the relationship with Reality that might be fostered by them.

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-06T23:49:57.454Z · LW · GW

Dude, you don't get to distrust "ism"s when you belong to an organized religion. Some even-handedness, please!

"Belong to an organized religion." Huh? Do they own me? MixedNuts thinks I don't mistrust "Islamism?" Where did that come from?

Therefore, I don't believe anyone who says "Maybe the true laws of nature aren't reductionist after all" if they can't show me an exception to current theories that looks non-reductionist.

Problem is, this is a non-reductionist point of view, because it asserts that a map is the territory. "Reductionist" is, as described by Yudkowsky, an absence rather than a presence, but it is being asserted here as an absolute quality of "the true laws of nature." Nature doesn't have laws, AFAIK, we invent them as summary methods for predicting our experience, and someone who believes Nature does have this construct called "laws" is not reductionist. Want to be a reductionist, toss that belief.

I'm not seeing that I'm being read carefully. I did not "talk about Reality being intelligent." I asked a question.

I didn't claim what was asserted. Rather, I note it as some kind of possibility. In one sense, though, I can state something logically. If we are intelligent, and if we are real, then Reality must be intelligent. However, I do have some doubt about our intelligence, as well as our reality.

MixedNuts, you have a concept of "Muslim" as if it comprehensively identifies the world view of someone who admits being Muslim. I pointed to the Mu'tazila as a historical counter-example, what is called the "rationalist" school in Islam. Not that I "believe in" the "Mu'taziliyya positions."

It seems to be that you are attempting to stuff the thinking of an individual (me) into some set of fixed categories. How does that work for you? Does it help you to understand people?

I can see the appeal, but if there's intelligence, where's the brain? I've never seen intelligence that didn't come from a very specific kind of structure. Show me how the universe has that structure, or why the mountains of evidence against disembodied intelligence are invalid.

Fascinating. Where is your brain, MixedNuts? Does it exist in the universe? (These are questions, not insults!) Does your brain have the quality of "intelligence"?

If so, then does not Reality necessarily have the quality of intelligence?

Where did you get this "disembodied" from? (That might be something to do with SuperTheostoa.) I asked a question about Reality and intelligence. It could also be considered to be a question as to the nature of intelligence.

I'm being read with a pile of assumptions being added. That may be useful if it leads to the assumptions being identified as such. Is that possible?

There is no "mountain of evidence" against "disembodied intelligence." In fact, I haven't seen one piece of such. Which is no reason to accept disembodied intelligence, we don't accept propositions merely because there is no evidence against them. Unless, of course, we want to, or choose to. It might be useful, for this or that purpose.

It seems my comment about trust in reality struck home in some way. MixedNuts does not trust Reality, many people don't trust Reality. I mentioned that as a possibility. I did not suggest that one should trust reality. For some people, there may be no possibility of choice, for starters, but an irresolvable distrust in Reality is a psychopathology, it leads to many dysfunctions.

Why would I trust Reality?

Because I've got no fucking choice, that's why. Or, more accurately, a Hobson's choice. If I don't trust Reality, I have no way of knowing anything, not to mention I have a life of utter insecurity. And, yes, people live such lives.

Apparently there is a meme here that death is horrible, and so too is torture. I can get on board the latter, because torture doesn't seem to be inevitable, but death is inevitable. Sooner or later. Run the math on the risks. (But this is a factual assertion, and, of course, could be wrong. I just wouldn't bet on it.)

Stuff exists -- or appears to exist -- that many of us detest as human beings. That's obvious. What does this mean about Reality itself? It does demolish naive conceptions of Reality, for sure. Or of God. Same thing!

Obey. Great! I'm not sure what passage is being referred to, and this is certainly coming from translation. The only common equivalent I come up with in Arabic for "to obey" is aslam. It means to accept. Accept what?


Aslamtu li r-rabbi 'l-^alamiyn. I accept the Lord of the Worlds (^alamiyn). I think it was Abraham who said that, but I forget. "Worlds" is a term that could refer to nations, but I find more meaning from the root, ^ilm, to know. The realms of knowledge.

I could look up Qur'anic usages of the root SLM, and of other words that might mean "obey," if anyone is interested.

Yes, reading the Qur'an will be boring, if you read the translation of someone with a boring world-view. If you are looking for what is wrong with it, you will also be bored. It will be slogging through piles of symbols that are mostly meaningless.

Just an idea: you create the meaning. You see what you choose to see, when it comes to seeing "meaning."

Finding deep meaning is difficult with narrow translations. Someone familiar with Arabic, but stuck with piles of traditional interpretations (the "right" ones), may just find confirmation of them. Nevertheless, I've found Muslim scholars to be usually quite open-minded. There are exceptions, scholars who pander to the fundamentalists.

My approach was different. I had to depend, initially, on translations, but when a verse seemed "difficult," I looked up the words, and I usually had come to know the biases of the translator. Then I read the whole book in Arabic. Initially, I knew only the pronunciations, roughly. (I eventually got some classical training.) Then I read it again. And again.... I started to memorize it, from the beginning. As I did this, meaning that made sense -- the only useful kind -- started to pop out commonly, instead of just occasionally. I started to have the basis for routine recognition. Like a child.

I used to hate memorization, I had no respect for rote learning. Goes to show.

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-06T18:48:29.494Z · LW · GW

You are welcome, shminux. Since you used this collection of letters, "reductionism," and appear to posit that my view is "incompatible" with it, I looked it up. Yukdowsky's article, for starters. Aside from EY using the device of positing a series of stupid arguments to refute, and being a bit naive about what others "believe," when he actually gets to the definition, it seems quite like the way I think. In fact, if I hadn't noticed this many times, reading his work, I'd not be bothering with LW at all.

Yet I'm suspicious of any "ism," a high-level abstraction, proposed as if representing reality. Indeed, wouldn't a reductionist be suspicious?

Reductionism as a practical approach, fine.

Now, I notice that EY, in the post, capitalizes Reality.

But the way physics really works, as far as we can tell, is that there is only the most basic level—the elementary particle fields and fundamental forces. You can't handle the raw truth, but reality can handle it without the slightest simplification. (I wish I knew where Reality got its computing power.)

He's expressing, first, a reductionist position. It is indeed an "ism." It proposes itself as what is "really" so (but, to his credit, he qualifies it: as far as we can tell. Setting aside a quibble about "we," that's fine).

He is pointing to a unity, but is describing that unity in terms of present understanding ("elementary particle fields and fundamental forces"). Take out the "really," understand "physics" as a heuristic, a method of making predictions, a map rather than the territory, and I'm right with him, down to capitalizing Reality, because it becomes a proper noun.

A proper noun that happens to have, it seems, amazing "computing power." Now, my question: is this "computing power" intelligent?

If you have an answer, coming from knowledge, I'd love to hear how you know it. I'd answer the question myself, but these comments are already long.

Comment by Abd on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2012-11-06T16:21:37.265Z · LW · GW

I read Carrier. Interesting.

Reality, for me, is either Theostoa (without the ether construct) or SuperTheostoa, and I can't distinguish them, and I can't imagine how to distinguish them. Any mental thingie that might be ascribed to SuperTheostoa might be a not-understood, non-mental characteristic of Theostoa.

But both Theostoa and SuperTheostoa are covered by the word Reality. Aside from reality, there is nothing. When we "worship" other than Reality, we are led astray, leading me to the credo of Islam. Laa ilaaha illa 'llah, there is no object-worthy-of-worship (ilah, god) except The Object (al-ilah, the god, shortened to Allah).

All the lesser "supernaturals" seem like fantasy to me. There may be realities -- defined as actual experience -- behind them, but ... there are other possible explanations as well. I distinguish "experience" from what we take it to mean.

Setting up Reality as God, then, as a mode of thinking, leads to study, testing, falsification, rejection of dogma, clarity (in many senses), etc. It leads to trust in Something behind life, though for some it could lead to fear, even terror. It depends on what is already in the heart. "Heart," again, can be understood as a pile of mental thingies (high-level patterns of patterns) that are made up of interacting non-mental thingies (patterns), arising from the machine (the brain) and the programming (memories and interactions of memories). Or it is a "mental thingie" with its own existence, i.e., supernatural, but I don't see evidence for that.

A piece of meat is trying to figure out if there is anything other than itself. Perhaps I'm actually agnostic, full circle, except that I'm also Muslim, by the definitions.

This is overthought, but maybe it's useful to someone.

Comment by Abd on 2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2012-11-06T15:33:06.300Z · LW · GW

Took the IQ test. Humbling. Score 110.

IQ test in high school, 156. SAT 793/800 verbal, 783/800 math. Cal Tech. Yatta yatta. But that was many years ago. It's pretty obvious what happened. Timed test. I only finished, in the time, about 2/3 - 3/4 of the questions, maybe a bit more, I didn't keep count. (I skipped questions that weren't popping up right away, thinking I'd come back. Didn't have time.)

I'm 68 years old. I used to be able to hold a conversation on the phone and read a book at the same time, about something completely different. That disappeared when I was in my late 40s. The test requires, for the more difficult problems, testing many different hypotheses, if a clear pattern doesn't pop up immediately. It's almost certain that this takes more time for me now than when I was younger.

This almost certainly impacts my communication skills, for starters.