Posts

The paperclip maximiser's perspective 2015-05-01T00:24:31.581Z

Comments

Comment by angela on Is Spirituality Irrational? · 2016-02-17T14:26:58.713Z · LW · GW

There is a specific emotion which can be induced by some types of trailer, classical and religious music, meditation, long distance running, psychedelics, natural beauty, some types of art and thinking about certain abstract topics (especially consciousness, theoretical physics, pure maths, meta-ethics, economics) - an emotion that might be described as 'cosmic sadness', 'intense euphoria' or 'being profoundly moved'.

It is rational for a hedonist to seek to experience this emotion even though experiencing it often causes irrational beliefs, because it is the most pleasurable of all emotions. The emotion is more easily triggered following a period of low mood and is subsequently often followed by a period of improved mood - the popular fallacy that 'suffering is ultimately a good thing' may occur because people notice a pleasurable emotion happening after suffering has occurred.

Until late adolescence I referred to this emotion as 'a spiritual experience' and used it as justification for cranky beliefs - it wasn't until after I stumbled across HPMOR that I learnt to experience this emotion whilst maintaining the belief that the emotion had entirely natural causes.

Comment by angela on Coffee: When it helps, when it hurts · 2015-11-03T13:52:46.861Z · LW · GW

In the study which found impaired neurogenesis the rats were consuming caffeine chronically. Were the impairments in neurogenesis due to sleep deprivation which would not occur in morning-only human coffee drinkers?

Comment by angela on How to Be Happy · 2015-10-21T04:34:17.242Z · LW · GW

From personal experience, the times when I've been happiest are:

a) The weeks after the time during adolescence when I entered an altered state of consciousness induced by meditation and music during a christian summer camp and believed that I'd had a spiritual experience - this cured the issues with eating disorder / depression that I'd had before (whereas professional counselling was totally ineffective) but I regret that at the time I was too young to be able to interpret my experience rationally. Maybe this is why religion correlates positively with happiness among pentecostals/evangelicals but not among religious groups with less focus on inducing altered states of consciousness.

b) Peak experiences during runners' high, listening to music, seeing profoundly beautiful scenery or thinking about philosophy.

c) After I tripped on magic mushrooms while a student - for days after the trip I was extremely hyperactive (even compared to my (extremely energetic) baseline) and excited, and I felt alert despite sleeping much less than usual. Be cautious about trying this as there is always the risk of a bad trip. I tried micro-dosing a few weeks before the trip, taking a dose insufficient to produce hallucinations but strong enough to create a feeing of euphoria similar to runners' high but more relaxed and less excited - I'd recommend micro-dosing as a way to get the happiness-boosting effects without the risks associated with tripping.

I'm not sure why entering altered states of consciousness causes intense happiness. I suspect that down-regulation of 5HT2A receptor activity plays a role, since psychedelics act on 5HT2A and an increase in 5HT2A receptor density is the most common finding from dissections of the brains of depressed patients. Increases in BDNF expression and neurogenesis may also play a role. SSRIs probably work by increasing neurogenesis - I don't know whether entering altered states affects neurogenesis but they involve entering a REM-like state of mind and the best current hypotheses about the function of REM sleep are that it plays a role in neurogenesis and in consolidating emotional memories - on the other hand SSRIs actually suppress REM sleep. Many people taking SSRIs report that their emotions are blunted whereas I'm not aware of anyone reporting blunted emotions are taking psychedelics - it would be interesting to test how psychedelics affect REM sleep on subsequent nights after the trip, and whether the degree of REM suppression among people taking SSRIs is different in those who report blunted emotions compared with those who don't.

Comment by angela on Wild Moral Dilemmas · 2015-06-27T16:51:30.856Z · LW · GW

Whether to cheat on gift aid and whether I should steal money from my parents to fund charitable donations. In my case the fear of being caught and desire to appear moral in front of other people won out over the desire to do the right thing.

Comment by angela on Wild Moral Dilemmas · 2015-06-24T21:46:35.354Z · LW · GW

When I have to go home during the holidays I have the dilemma of deciding whether it is worse to eat animal products or to argue with my parents. Normally I'd compromise and agree to eat small quantities of milk and eggs and only eat meat in cases where it would be wasted if I don't eat it. Now Mum often cooks too much meat and tries to persuade me that the leftovers will be wasted if I don't eat them. If I eat them, she'll keep using the same trick. If I don't, she'll say that I'm being irrational and betraying my principles against wasting food.

Comment by angela on Autism, or early isolation? · 2015-06-21T19:08:20.521Z · LW · GW

At around three years old one of the staff at preschool suggested that I had Aspergers or ADHD after I had gotten into trouble for playing with the fire extinguisher. I was formally diagnosed on the autistic spectrum at age four/five. I took two separate verbal ability tests at age 4y7m as part of the assessment process to receive a diagnosis and scored respectively in the 4th and 96th percentiles. Wildly discrepant, but not in the gifted range.

In my case social isolation was due more to a lack of interest in socialising than to a lack of innate ability. I was comparatively sociable during my primary school years, though I had a few periods of selective mutism, and in earlier childhood I'd play with more boisterous older children but refused to interact with other children my own age. When I got older my peers were no longer interested in playing running-around games and switched to spending all their time chatting about topics that I had no interest in. So I became a loner and developed social anxiety issues.

Some symptoms didn't apply to me; I never had difficulty with understanding pragmatics or sarcasm or with theory of mind and I never had enough difficulties with abstract thought to prevent me from studying philosophy or category theory.

However I was/am hyperactive, hypersensitive to sound, lined up toys, would scream at any attempt to have my hair brushed, refused to wear shoes and socks until I was given seamless socks and rocked or stimmed when stressed. I have atrocious handwriting, can't really catch a ball and once accumulated so many bruises that a teacher called social services. I frequently space out, which could be interpreted either as a sign of autism or of the ability to think about something more interesting than my immediate surroundings. Additionally, I have narrow obsessive interests in life, the universe and everything in the complement of the set of things that non-nerds are interested in.

NB I deviate from the nerd stereotype insofar as I am blonde, like being outdoors and run ten miles a day.

I suspect that the clumsiness is a sign of cerebellar problems, and the sensory differences are down to 'weak central coherence' - being more conscious of the lower levels of sensory processing.

Comment by angela on Does cognitive therapy encourage bias? · 2015-06-09T15:08:00.956Z · LW · GW

Does CBT make the patient happier, or is it a way of persuading patients to self-rate their happiness as higher on surveys and pretend to be happy? I was forced into talking therapy during the early teenage years (for issues related to Aspergers syndrome) and am convinced that the answer is the latter.

Comment by angela on Genes are overrated · 2015-05-31T19:46:22.476Z · LW · GW

In the specific case of height increases it is possible that heterosis played a role; genes correlated with greater height are more often dominant than recessive, and as modern transport led to people mating further afield rather than mainly marrying others within their village average homozygosity decreased.

Comment by angela on Eliezer Yudkowsky Facts · 2015-05-22T12:59:04.982Z · LW · GW

There exists a polynomial time reduction from SAT to the problem of asking Eliezer Yudkowsky whether a formula is satisfiable. It only remains to be proved that he is not using any hyper-computable processes.

Comment by angela on The Neglected Virtue of Curiosity · 2015-05-09T20:41:27.190Z · LW · GW

Curiosity also has it's downsides; it's hard to get boring work done when there's always some question that you urgently need to google.

Comment by angela on The paperclip maximiser's perspective · 2015-05-01T08:03:49.962Z · LW · GW

Maybe she cares about other things besides paperclips, including the innate desire to be able to name a single, simple and explicit purpose in life.

This is not supposed to be about non-human AGI paperclip maximisers.

Comment by angela on LessWrong experience on Alcohol · 2015-04-23T06:48:35.767Z · LW · GW

I have tried alcohol twice in an attempt to break my reputation for being a loner who doesn't drink. Both times I felt very drowsy afterwards, had to go to bed early and slept about ten hours. Sleepiness was the only discernible effect.

Comment by angela on [LINK] The Wrong Objections to the Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics · 2015-02-20T08:50:28.823Z · LW · GW

Assuming that the question means "would you be interested" and not "does there exist at least one person in the multiverse who would be interested".

Comment by angela on Link: Writing exercise closes the gender gap in university-level physics · 2015-02-20T07:02:44.009Z · LW · GW

The students were split up into the control and values affirmation groups. If the values affirmation group happened by chance to contain more of the brighter women then the control group would contain fewer of them so the two samples cannot be treated as independent. The paper doesn't seem to mention any attempt to take this into account, so the actual p-values might be higher than those calculated in the paper, which weren't especially low to begin with.

Comment by angela on Cookies vs Existential Risk · 2015-02-11T09:35:04.924Z · LW · GW

I can concentrate much better after I've spent time running around outdoors, watching sunsets or listening to good music. I do not believe that the pleasure of being outside is more important than my other goals, but when I force myself to stay indoors and spend more time working I become too moody to concentrate and I get less work done in total than I would if I had 'wasted' more time. Cookies are different though, because the tedium of baking them outweighs the pleasure of eating them.

Comment by angela on Brain shrinkage in humans over past ~20 000 years - what did we lose? · 2014-11-25T04:58:02.412Z · LW · GW

As human population densities increased and complex societies formed, selection pressure for social skills increased, and social skills became more relevant than intelligence. Larger brains usually have fewer long-range connections but more local connections, and long-range connections enable the rapid processing required for socialising. People with autism tend to have larger brains than those without and females tend to have smaller brains than males, so an inverse correlation between brain size and social skills would not surprise me.

Comment by angela on Calorie Restriction: My Theory and Practice · 2014-10-18T07:43:36.767Z · LW · GW

If slowing metabolism increases longevity, how come exercise, which increases metabolism, is beneficial?

As an endurance runner with a BMI of ~20 on an eat-as-much-as-you-like diet, is my calorie consumption is optimal for longevity?

Comment by angela on Outlawing Anthropics: An Updateless Dilemma · 2014-08-06T22:22:24.702Z · LW · GW

I remain convinced that the probability is 90%.

The confusion is over whether you want to maximize the expectation of the number of utilons there will be if you wake up in a green room or the expectation of the number of utilons you will observe if you wake up in a green room.

Comment by angela on How to Beat Procrastination · 2014-08-01T00:37:51.733Z · LW · GW

Drink lots of water. Stop eating anything that contains wheat and other grains.

I don't think that either of these two has much evidence going for it.

Do short but intense exercise once a week.

Once a week is not often enough. The endorphins from exercise wear off fast so to sustain high energy levels I require a short burst of intense exercise is required every few hours with a longer run at least once a day.

Comment by angela on The mystery of pain and pleasure · 2014-05-29T02:41:49.293Z · LW · GW

Even if it turns out that there is no rigorously definable one-dimensional measure of valence we still need to search for physical correlates to pleasure and pain and find approximate measures to use when resolving moral dilemmas.

Regarding the response to (6), why don't you want to maximise hedons? Having a rigorous definition of what you are trying to maximise needn't mean that what you are trying to maximise is arbitrary to you, and that pleasure is complex (or maybe it is simple but we don't understand it yet) does not imply that we don't want it.

Comment by angela on The Unfinished Mystery of the Shangri-La Diet · 2014-05-28T02:02:00.396Z · LW · GW

Then why does it also work for sugar water, which does not taste repulsive?

Comment by angela on 3 Levels of Rationality Verification · 2014-04-08T00:57:36.505Z · LW · GW

Basic true/false test; reverse stupidity is not intelligence but rationalists tend to have fewer false beliefs. Taking the test upon entering the school would prevent the school from teaching to the test and the test could be scored on multiple areas of which one is a cunningly disguised synonym for rationality and the others are red herrings so that irrationalists have no incentive to lie on the test.

Comment by angela on How Pascal's Wager Saved My Soul · 2014-01-22T13:37:56.480Z · LW · GW

I used to assume that the probability that heaven and hell existed was not zero, and I lived much of my teenage years by Pascal's Wager, partly because I was scared of what my parents would say if I stopped believing in God and partly because I had heard of miracle stories and not yet worked out how they had happened and I could not bear the thought of life being meaningless. Then I realised that if there were a non-zero probability of me having eternal life then the probability of me currently being in this first finite fraction of my life would be zero. Since I am currently on Earth the probability of eternal life must therefore be zero.

Comment by angela on The Irrationality Game · 2014-01-21T15:41:13.141Z · LW · GW

The hard problem of consciousness will be solved within the next decade (60%).

Comment by angela on A Bayesian Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus · 2014-01-20T08:09:36.052Z · LW · GW

The likes of Pythagoras got attributed with performing miracles too. Although Mark, the first synoptic gospel to be written, is claimed to be an eyewitness account in Christian circles, it is likely that none of the gospels were. Paul was writing before then, but he never directly met Jesus, he only had a vision of Jesus. Also, Paul does not mention the empty tomb anywhere.

Comment by angela on Giulio Tononi's "Integrated Information Theory" of Consciousness · 2014-01-16T23:20:18.759Z · LW · GW

There is a paper on both IIT and causal density here:

Comment by angela on The Irrationality Game · 2014-01-11T18:16:23.396Z · LW · GW

The amount of consciousness that a neural network S has is given by phi=MI(A^H_max;B)+MI(A;B^H_max), where {A,B} is the bipartition of S which minimises the right hand side, A^H_max is what A would be if all its inputs were replaced with maximum-entropy noise generators and MI(A,B)=H(A)+H(B)-H(AB) is the mutual information between A and B and H(A) is the entropy of A. 99.9%

Comment by angela on Doomsday Argument with Strong Self-Sampling Assumption · 2014-01-07T20:05:25.162Z · LW · GW

Following the reasoning behind the Doomsday Argument, this particular thought is likely to be in the middle along the timeline of all thoughts experienced. This observation reduces the chances that in the future we will create AI that will experience many orders of magnitude more thoughts than those of all humans put together.

Comment by angela on Arguments Against Speciesism · 2014-01-06T22:47:51.504Z · LW · GW

If some means could be found to estimate phi for various species, a variable claimed by this paper to be a measure of "intensity of sentience", it would the relative value of the lives of different animals to be estimated and would help solve many moral dilemmas. Intensity of suffering as a result of a particular action would be expected to be proportionate to the intensity of sentience, however whilst mammals and birds (the groups which possess neocortex, the parts of the brain where consciousness is believed to occur) can be assumed to experience suffering when doing activities that decrease their evolutionary fitness (natural beauty etc. also determine pleasure and pain and are as yet poorly understood, but they are likely to be less significant in other species anyway, extrapolating from the differences in aesthetics from humans with high vs low IQ). However for AI it is much harder to determine what makes it happy or whether or not it enjoys dying, for which we will need to find a simple generalisable definition of suffering that can apply to all possible AI rather than our current concept which is more of an unrigorous Wittgensteinian family resemblance.