Posts

Parapsychology: the control group for science 2009-12-05T22:50:06.821Z · score: 70 (70 votes)
We're in danger. I must tell the others... 2009-10-13T23:06:46.947Z · score: 3 (4 votes)
Open Thread: September 2009 2009-09-01T10:54:03.786Z · score: 2 (5 votes)

Comments

Comment by allancrossman on The Last Number · 2013-09-22T01:31:40.696Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Huh, integer. I don't know how that got past me when I wrote that.

Comment by allancrossman on Open Thread: May 2010 · 2010-05-04T21:18:29.630Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Is Eliezer alive and well? He's not said anything here (or on Hacker News, for that matter) for a month...

Comment by allancrossman on A LessWrong poster for the Humanity+ conference next Saturday · 2010-04-14T22:04:42.472Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's Herreshoff.

Comment by allancrossman on The Last Number · 2010-04-10T20:00:47.032Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

4.2 - 1 = 3.2. Simples.

Comment by allancrossman on It's not like anything to be a bat · 2010-03-27T22:32:37.946Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If the various species of ET are such that no particular species makes up the bulk of sentient life, then there's no reason to be surprised at belonging to one species rather than another. You had to be some species, and human is just as likely as klingon or wookie.

Comment by allancrossman on It's not like anything to be a bat · 2010-03-27T15:49:41.779Z · score: 8 (18 votes) · LW · GW

"why am I me, rather than an animal?" is not obviously sillier than "why am I me, rather than a person from the far future?".

Well, quite. Both are absurd.

Comment by allancrossman on Rationality quotes: March 2010 · 2010-03-01T21:28:14.423Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I suppose. The comment could be:

"Also Crystal nights is a good story about a topic of some interest to the futurist/transhumanist element on LW, namely rfpncr sebz n fvzhyngvba."

Comment by allancrossman on Rationality quotes: March 2010 · 2010-03-01T20:58:03.066Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Reading through it now. There are two relevant words in Roko's description, only one of which is obvious from the outset.

Still I'm not sure I fully agree with LW's spoiler policy. I wouldn't be reading this piece at all if not for Roko's description of it. When the spoiler is that the text is relevant to an issue that's actually discussed on Less Wrong (rather than mere story details, e.g. C3PO is R2D2's father) then telling people about the spoiler is necessary...

Comment by allancrossman on Demands for Particular Proof: Appendices · 2010-02-16T20:43:07.397Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

if something better were possible, it probably would have evolved by now

I don't think this argument works. Adaptive evolution has mostly been driven by DNA mutations and natural selection. DNA is transcribed to RNA and then translated into proteins. I'm not sure evolution (of Earth's cell-based life) could produce something radically different, because this central mechanism is so fundamental and so entrenched.

Comment by allancrossman on Demands for Particular Proof: Appendices · 2010-02-16T20:18:58.162Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Proteins are held together by van der Waals forces, which are much weaker than covalent bonds

I'm not sure how this affects the argument, but the very flexibility of proteins is one of the things that makes them work. A whole bunch of biological reactions involve enzymes changing shape in response to some substance.

Comment by allancrossman on A survey of anti-cryonics writing · 2010-02-10T22:17:57.493Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"In biology 101 one learns that most organisms value having kids over living for a long time."

This is a bit more advanced than you imply; I learned about the trade-off between long life and reproductive fitness in a second year dedicated evolution class.

Comment by allancrossman on Epistemic Luck · 2010-02-10T15:40:27.321Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Nobody bothers to make a fuss about ghostists because ghostism isn't particularly important.

Comment by allancrossman on Epistemic Luck · 2010-02-09T23:39:13.045Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Do you also get annoyed by people who don't believe in ghosts who criticize people who do without being aware of their own irrationality?

Comment by allancrossman on Normal Cryonics · 2010-01-24T17:21:48.869Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It would be easier to accept texts as mere teaching stories if they were clearly intended as such. A few are, like the Book of Job, and possibly, Jonah. Parts of Genesis, maybe (though I doubt it). But it can't be right to dismiss as a mere story everything that doesn't seem likely or decent. Much of it is surely intended literally.

Comment by allancrossman on Normal Cryonics · 2010-01-24T13:39:42.088Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Just quoting the Bible is like creationists smugly telling each other that evolutionists think a monkey gave birth to a man.

It's not like that at all. Many Bible passages dealing with Hell are perfectly clear, whereas it takes a great distortion of evolutionary theory to get to "a monkey gave birth to a man".

Comment by allancrossman on Normal Cryonics · 2010-01-24T09:42:54.574Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

you could try asking them

I have. You point out the verses to them and they say things like "Well all I know is that God is just." Or they just say "Hmm." What I want to know is what a thinking sort of hell-denying Christian says.

Or reading their books

Since this is essentially a heretical position, I'm not sure how heavily it's defended in the literature. Still, I do have in my bookshelf an anthology containing a universalist essay by Marilyn McCord Adams, where she states that "I do not regard Scripture as infallible [... but ...] I do not regard my universalist theology as un-Scriptural, because I believe the theme of definitive divine triumph is central to the Bible". She seems to want to reject the Bible and accept it too.

You could even think up good arguments yourself for reconciling the belief with the verses.

I think the most coherent Christian position would be: There is a God. Various interesting things happened at God's doing, including Jesus and his miracles. The people who witnessed all these events wrote about them, but invariably these accounts are half fiction or worse. Paul is clearly a charlatan.

But nobody seems to believe this: Christians who think the Bible is fallible nevertheless act as if it is mostly right.

flaunting Biblical quotations [...] does not make a good argument

It's necessary when dealing with the doublethink of people who want to take the Bible as divine yet reject key parts of it.

going "nyah! nyah!"

Note that this sort of comment provokes an automatic reaction to fight back, rather than to consider whether you might be correct.

Comment by allancrossman on Normal Cryonics · 2010-01-21T21:32:32.469Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

IAWYC, but to nitpick, not all Christians believe in an eternity of torture for nonbelievers.

Indeed, but I wonder how they deal with passages like Revelation 14:11, Matthew 25:41, or Mark 9:43.

Its conceptually possible to believe that the Bible is full of nonsense yet Jesus really did die for our sins. But nobody ever seems to actually hold this position. Or if they do, they never seem to come out and say it.

Comment by allancrossman on Open Thread: January 2010 · 2010-01-18T22:35:19.078Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why that Culture novel, precisely? I don't recall it as one of the better ones.

Admittedly, I'm unusual in that my favourite Culture story is The State of the Art. General Pinochet Chili Con Carne! Richard Nixon Burgers! What's not to like?

Comment by allancrossman on Open Thread: January 2010 · 2010-01-18T21:49:44.012Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Small Sounds, Big Deals: Phonetic Symbolism Effects in Pricing", DOI: 10.1086/651241

http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/651241

Whether you'll be able to access it I know not.

Comment by allancrossman on Drawing Two Aces · 2010-01-03T12:48:07.763Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If the player has the SPADE:

  • 1/3 of the time, he also has the HEART.
  • 2/3 of the time he doesn't, and so must choose the SPADE.
  • 1/6 of the time he chooses the SPADE though he did have the HEART.

So 5/6 of the time he chooses the SPADE, but only 1/6 of the time does he choose the SPADE while having the HEART.

Thus, the chance of him having the HEART when he has chosen the SPADE is 1/5.

Comment by allancrossman on Open Thread: January 2010 · 2010-01-03T11:50:32.329Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

contains a correction on its last page

Argh how silly of me not to see that. I stop reading at the references! Honestly though, it's annoying that the abstract remains wrong.

Comment by allancrossman on Open Thread: January 2010 · 2010-01-02T17:27:51.144Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The influence can only proceed via their actual treatment.

But the question is whether it's safe to advise people to wait, knowing that they can have surgery later if needed.

Anyway my main question was whether I'd done the stats right.

Comment by allancrossman on Open Thread: January 2010 · 2010-01-02T13:14:03.398Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I was only going to post all the minutiae if there was any interest...

http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/reprint/295/3/285.pdf

The two groups are as follows:

Assigned to "Watchful Waiting":

  • 336 patients
  • 17 had problems after 2 years

Assigned to surgery:

  • 317 patients
  • 7 had problems after 2 years

Some patients crossed between the two groups, but this does not matter, as they were testing the effects of the initial assignment.

They report p = 0.52, but they also give a 95% confidence interval for the difference in risk, which just barely contains zero; which is a dead giveaway that p should be around 0.05, right? Anyway, doing a chi-squared test on the above numbers, I got p = 0.053.

The relevant bit is at the top of page 289 (page 6 of the PDF). Also relevant are the Results section of the abstract, and Figures 1 and 2. Essentially the entire problem is this statement:

At 2 years, intention-to-treat analyses showed that pain interfering with activities developed in similar proportions in both groups (5.1% for watchful waiting vs 2.2% for surgical repair; difference 2.86%; 95% confidence interval, -0.04% to 5.77%; P=.52)

Comment by allancrossman on Open Thread: January 2010 · 2010-01-02T12:35:02.393Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I recently had to have some minor surgery. However, there's a body of thought that says it's safe to wait and watch for symptoms, and only have surgery later. There's a peer reviewed (I assume) paper supporting this position.

Upon reading this paper I found what looked like a statistical error. Looking at outcomes between two groups, they report p = 0.52, but doing the sums myself I got p = 0.053. For this reason, I went and had the surgery.

Since I'm just a novice at statistics, I was wondering if I had in fact got it right - it's disturbing to think that a peer reviewed paper stating an important conclusion would be wrong.

If any dan-level statistician here has the inclination, I'll post a link to the paper here for your perusal...

Comment by allancrossman on Parapsychology: the control group for science · 2009-12-07T18:50:18.548Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In science, that step is already done.

Only in general, but not for specific questions like: does compound XYZ affect tumour growth?

Comment by allancrossman on Parapsychology: the control group for science · 2009-12-07T18:43:12.147Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

why theologians never come up with arguments disproving the existence of God

Well if they do they get called philosophers of religion instead...

Comment by allancrossman on Parapsychology: the control group for science · 2009-12-06T10:28:37.208Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

However to state the following: "one in which the null hypothesis is always true" is making a bold statement about your level of knowledge.

OK. But the point about what we can conclude about regular science stands even if this is only mostly correct.

Comment by allancrossman on Frequentist Statistics are Frequently Subjective · 2009-12-05T11:10:11.867Z · score: 20 (20 votes) · LW · GW

I really like the idea of parapsychology as the control group for science; it deserves to be better known.

Comment by allancrossman on Morality and International Humanitarian Law · 2009-12-03T21:16:50.097Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In a symmetric war

True, but these are pretty rare these days.

Comment by allancrossman on A Less Wrong singularity article? · 2009-11-22T18:14:59.873Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Of course, Kant distinguished between two different meanings of "should": the hypothetical and the categorical.

  1. If you want to be a better Go player, you should study the games of Honinbo Shusaku.
  2. You should pull the baby off the rail track.

This seems useful here...

Comment by allancrossman on News: Improbable Coincidence Slows LHC Repairs · 2009-11-09T21:11:56.003Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

the only reason, as far as I can tell, why the MWI is being chosen as the source of the dilemma is because we're already starting with the assumption that the MWI is correct and relevant here.

I think we're starting with the assumption that it's vastly more likely than the other possible explanations.

Comment by allancrossman on News: Improbable Coincidence Slows LHC Repairs · 2009-11-09T19:59:50.632Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

After all these experiments, all you know is that the LHC isn't turning on. You don't really have evidence of anything going in potential parallel universes.

Sure you do - the probability of you making the observation that the LHC persistently fails to turn on is something like 1 if MWI is true and if a functional LHC would destroy the world; it's surely much lower otherwise.

Comment by allancrossman on Practical rationality in surveys · 2009-11-08T16:06:30.393Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"Statistically significant results" mean that there's a 5% chance that results are wrong

Hmm. Assuming the experiment was run correctly, it means there's a less than 5% chance that data this extreme would have been generated if the null hypothesis - that nothing interesting was happening - were true. The actual chance can be specified as e.g. 1%, 0.01%, or whatever.

Also, assuming everything was done correctly, it's really the conclusions drawn from the results, rather than the results themselves, that might be wrong...

Comment by allancrossman on The Danger of Stories · 2009-11-08T10:15:04.347Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

a "ko" rule which says that the location of the last move played can make a difference

That information could however be considered part of the current position.

Comment by allancrossman on Dissenting Views · 2009-11-03T09:49:51.693Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm perfectly happy with the idea that there could be stuff that we can't know about simply because it's too "distant" in some sense for us to experience it; it sends no signals or information our way. I'm not sure anyone here would deny this possibility.

But if that stuff interacts with our stuff then we certainly can know about it.

Comment by allancrossman on Dissenting Views · 2009-11-02T22:26:41.881Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

On the other hand, there is no proof that X is not dependent upon or manipulated in (scientifically) unfathomable ways by a larger X-prime

But is there any reason to favour this more complex hypothesis?

Comment by allancrossman on The Featherless Biped · 2009-10-31T19:45:38.277Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

to avoid circularity, it is sufficient to take the MRCA of a few indisputable mammalian groups such as primates, rodents, carnivores, ungulates, etc. to include all mammals

But the MRCA of "indisputable" groups won't be an ancestor of basal groups like the monotremes or marsupials.

However, there's no dispute about including monotremes. The clade that excludes them is called the Theria. Likewise with the marsupials: the clade that excludes both them and the monotremes is the Eutheria. Every clade potentially has a name; Mammalia is just a particularly well known one.

Things get dicey if the evolutionary relationships are unclear, of course, or if some conventional group is recognised as not being a true clade.

Comment by allancrossman on David Deutsch: A new way to explain explanation · 2009-10-30T16:14:51.908Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Read the comments to this TED talk, and try not to kill yourself in despair.

Comment by allancrossman on Rationality Quotes: October 2009 · 2009-10-22T20:44:54.456Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Mmm. You can usually tell that something's a celestial object, and thus not a flying object, without being able to classify it further...

Comment by allancrossman on Rationality Quotes: October 2009 · 2009-10-22T19:10:03.693Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Must be a boring fellow when stargazing!

I'm not sure stars can be called "flying objects".

Comment by allancrossman on Open Thread: October 2009 · 2009-10-13T23:29:35.025Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Saw it, only because I happened to look at recent comments at the time.

Comment by allancrossman on Anticipation vs. Faith: At What Cost Rationality? · 2009-10-13T16:41:43.422Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ugh. The horrible music is the worst thing about church. Give me sermons about fire and brimstone any day.

Comment by allancrossman on Let them eat cake: Interpersonal Problems vs Tasks · 2009-10-12T23:13:15.037Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Again I have failed. Actually I'm not sure I know what an RPG convention is...

OK, some results of a Google image search for "RPG convention crowd":

Comment by allancrossman on Let them eat cake: Interpersonal Problems vs Tasks · 2009-10-12T21:56:16.258Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer asks so I deliver (MtG conventions):

http://www.collectorsquest.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/magic_nationals_2008_player.jpg

http://www.wizards.com/mtg/images/daily/events/pthon09/Players.jpg

http://www.wizards.com/mtg/images/daily/events/usnat09/SF_AndersonGindey2.jpg

This is cherry-picked slightly - I ignored some pics with relatively low numbers of people, and some pics that looked like they weren't in the U.S. (but these had few females in attendance too).

Comment by allancrossman on How to get that Friendly Singularity: a minority view · 2009-10-10T21:42:46.065Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This might explain the maintainance of the trait better than how it came to arise in the first place... but maybe that's good enough.

Comment by allancrossman on How to get that Friendly Singularity: a minority view · 2009-10-10T21:31:35.602Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

an enabler for speeding evolution

While the idea of evolving the ability to evolve faster might be made to work, it needs to be spelled out carefully, lest it attribute foresight to evolution.

Ordinarily you have trait X and you say it increases fitness and goes to fixation in a population, but it's less obvious how this works with the trait of evolving faster... which is not to say that such a thing is impossible. But you might need to invoke differing long-term survival of large groups of species, or something...

Comment by allancrossman on Let them eat cake: Interpersonal Problems vs Tasks · 2009-10-08T19:48:38.283Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But does it work well in any environment? Someone, I forget where, once argued that rape in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness - where everyone knows everyone - would just get the rapist's skull bludgeoned in by the victim's friends or relatives.

(Though to be fair, a number of possible circumstances where this wouldn't be true could be imagined, I suppose...)

Comment by allancrossman on Open Thread: October 2009 · 2009-10-02T11:15:15.482Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A lot of stick and stones civilizations that can read, are there?

Not yet.

Comment by allancrossman on Ethics as a black box function · 2009-09-22T18:57:30.486Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure I'm understanding properly. You talk as if my action would drastically affect society's views of friendship. I doubt this is true for any action I could take.

Comment by allancrossman on MWI, weird quantum experiments and future-directed continuity of conscious experience · 2009-09-19T01:19:29.202Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Though not exactly a quantum immortality believer, I take it more seriously than most...

Objections mostly seem to come down to the idea that, if I split in two, and then one of me dies a minute later, its consciousness doesn't magically transfer over to the other me. And so "one of me" has really died.

However, I see this case as being about as bad as losing a minute's worth of memory. On the reductive view of personal identity, there's no obvious difference. There is no soul flying about.

Is there a difference between these four cases:

  • I instantly lose a minute's memory due to nanobot action
  • I am knocked unconscious and lose a minute's memory
  • I die and am replaced by a stored copy of me from a minute ago
  • I die, but I had split into two a minute ago

I'm not seeing it...

(Well, admittedly in the final case I also "gain" a minute's memory.)