Is Rationality Maximization of Expected Value? 2010-09-22T23:16:04.427Z · score: -23 (26 votes)


Comment by anlamk on [LINK] Amanda Knox exonerated · 2015-03-28T11:10:38.245Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm just surprised to see that the Kercher family is sad that the accused were acquitted.

Why do the Kercher family think that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are guilty?

Update: Here's a clue to the family's thinking:

Whether that faith would remain solid after the court of cassation’s ruling, however, was unclear. Although the family have always been careful not to personalise the legal battle, they may well find the definitive clearing of both Knox and Sollecito hard to fathom. An earlier verdict by the court of cassation, which found Rudy Guede, an Ivorian, definitively guilty of Kercher’s murder, specified that the murder could not have been carried out by him alone, and that he must have had accomplices.

How, therefore, the only other people who have ever been seriously considered suspects in the case are now to walk free – for good – as a result of the same court is likely to be a bitter pill for the family to swallow.

Comment by anlamk on Open thread, Mar. 23 - Mar. 31, 2015 · 2015-03-28T10:59:38.662Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hey, the Supreme Court annulled the conviction. Any thoughts? I'm sure this has come as a (pleasant) surprise to you.

I guess we'll know better when they publish their reasoning in 90 days.

Comment by anlamk on Amanda Knox Guilty Again · 2014-02-05T21:07:40.217Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

Comment by anlamk on Amanda Knox Guilty Again · 2014-02-01T10:36:52.731Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hello komponisto,

By 'why', I mean why do courts keep changing their opinion when the evidence is the same? I know you have written on this subject a lot before (which influenced my opinion) so here are some questions (perhaps some a little basic) I have about the case. (Some may be just rehashing old facts about the case.)

(1) You write that 'the Supreme Court has gotten the verdict it wanted.' Why does the Supreme Court want to convict Sollecito and Know? The appeals courts cited 'a complete dearth of evidence' when they acquitted Sollecito and Knox - which is what I think. How did the prosecution respond to this?

(2) In the room murder was committed, no DNA evidence pertaining to Knox and Sollecito was found. How does the prosecution explain that only one assailant (Guede) left traces of DNA but the two others left no such traces?

(3) It is said that the evidence shows that Kercher was killed by multiple people. What is your take on this? Do you think it was Guede and some other accomplice? If so, do you think Guede knows more than in fact he admits?

(4) Perhaps most basically, how did Knox and Sollecito get implicated in this crime? I mean there were a lot of witnesses being questioned but how did the police/investigators somehow get the idea that Knox and Sollecito were suspects?


Comment by anlamk on Amanda Knox Guilty Again · 2014-01-31T13:03:23.220Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW


There have been informed discussions of this subject on LW before.

Particularly to parties informed on the subject: Can someone explain the court's reasoning? I can't quite follow why Knox and Sollecito were first convicted, then acquitted and yet are convicted once again.

Comment by anlamk on The mechanics of my recent productivity · 2014-01-09T20:08:29.894Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for sharing your experience. It was inspiring indeed.

Comment by anlamk on Urges vs. Goals: The analogy to anticipation and belief · 2012-01-25T02:53:52.683Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The Inuit may not have 47 words for snow

The Inuit does not have 47 words for snow! Please, don't propagate this falsehood, especially on a 'rationality' blog.

Edit: Sorry I read incorrectly. My apologies! It says 'may not'...

Comment by anlamk on Consequentialism Need Not Be Nearsighted · 2011-09-03T03:02:12.505Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if most of the responses to JJT's thought experiment consider the least convenient possible world. (Recall Yvain's insightful discussion about Pascal's wager?)

Most of the responses that I have read try to argue that if the act of killing a healthy person to steal his organs for organ-missing people were generalized, this would make things worse.

By the way, this worry about generalizing one's individual act feels so close to thoughts of Kant - oh the irony! - whose "first formulation of the CI states that you are to 'act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.'". (Does this sound like this "What happens in general if everyone at least as smart as me deduces that I would do X whenever I'm in situation Y"")?

But suppose this act were not to be repeated in the following (candidate?) least convenient possible world. Suppose a group of ethics students killed a healthy human to distribute his organs to organ missing people. They did this very secretly and only once to increase the total utility/happiness/quantifiable measure of goodness and they have no intention to repeat the act - precisely to parry the sorts of objections people have been voicing. And they have succeeded in increasing utility as the killed person was an ex-convict homeless guy with no family or friends. The saved individuals were cherished entrepreneurs and aging prevention scientists.

Now the question is, was their act of killing an ethical one? In a world where Eliezer Yudkowsky is the president and Less Wrongers are law-makers, should these people be jailed?

That said, I don't think objections such as these are knock-off arguments against consequentialism, the way they may look so. I will explain why later.

Comment by anlamk on Consequentialism Need Not Be Nearsighted · 2011-08-31T03:50:51.485Z · score: 8 (16 votes) · LW · GW

"If you object to consequentialist metaethical theories"

There is no such thing as a 'consequentialist metaethical theory'.

Consequentialism is a first-order ethical theory.

While most people here despise philosophy (see here ), I do wonder how much people actually understand philosophy.

Comment by anlamk on Casey Anthony - analyzing evidence using Bayes · 2011-07-19T04:55:48.062Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you (or anyone else) are still interested, I recommend this article . I think I'm pretty close to the position the author articulates.

Comment by anlamk on Casey Anthony - analyzing evidence using Bayes · 2011-07-10T01:49:32.520Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The only consideration I can think of even close to the insightfulness of komponisto's analysis of how the coverup is the only hard question in the Knox case would be to ask how often mothers cover up a murder of their children they were not culpable in. And when you ask it like that, then Anthony looks highly likely to be guilty.

This morning I read the following. I still don't have statistics on this but this should be relevant:

Nicholson, who worked as a social worker on the child abuse team at Dayton Children’s before becoming director of Care House in 1998, said there are facts about the case that she finds extremely troubling. “What I can tell you definitively is that the parents of children who die accidentally don’t lie about it; they don’t wait 31 days before reporting the deaths, and those are facts of this case that are seemingly indisputable,” Nicholson said.

Comment by anlamk on Casey Anthony - analyzing evidence using Bayes · 2011-07-08T06:24:24.626Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

komponisto, I would be very interested in reading if you decided to do a similar post (to the Knox case post you had) for this case as well - even if it's just a discussion post.

Also, you say that p(Anthony=guilty) is 'possibly over %50'. Let's assume it's %50.

This claim could be interpreted as the following. Suppose that there are X many possible scenarios for what happened, given the constraints of our evidence about the case. In X/2 Anthony is guilty and in X/2, she is not guilty.

This seems implausible to me. X/2 alternate scenarios (scenarios that don't involve Anthony's guilt) seem too many.

What other alternate scenarios are there?

Comment by anlamk on Casey Anthony - analyzing evidence using Bayes · 2011-07-08T06:14:28.263Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Let me note that most (all?) of this evidence is contested by the defense. Juror #3 Jennifer Ford, in her post-verdict interview with ABC news, said that she didn't believe the evidence based on chloroform.

The stench similarly was also contested.

I personally think that Case Anthony at least caused the death of Cayley that involved criminal elements. So, I am biased - I've made up my mind. I could change it if someone could explain all of the above in a more plausible way.

Judging by the public uproar, I guess that most people think she is guilty. Even the jurors themselves said that they 'were sick to their stomachs' in delivering the verdict, which is a strange display of human psychology.

Comment by anlamk on Casey Anthony - analyzing evidence using Bayes · 2011-07-07T19:25:30.152Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What exactly do people mean by 'proof'? With near certainty, almost nothing can be proven.

Since the body decomposed under the soil for 30 days, it's really hard to determine the precise case of death - even though I think some prosecution witnesses made the argument that it was a homicide. It's hard to link the murderer with the body, since the body was discovered so much later.

I think the prosecution had enough 'circumstantial evidence' to get a conviction. I think that beyond a reasonable doubt, Casey Anthony was responsible for the child's death. It may not have been murder but something happened to that child which this woman tried to cover up.

I know that the law works under the presumption of innocence but I wonder why prosecution was assumed to be under such burden of proof. Doesn't the defense also have a burden to explain the duct tape, the stench, etc.? Has the defense met that burden? I don't think so.

Comment by anlamk on Casey Anthony - analyzing evidence using Bayes · 2011-07-07T19:06:17.012Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for posting this.

I don't know about Bayes but I think Occam's razor (simplest explanation for the data) indicates that most likely she's guilty of murder. Here are the relevant events (as evidence) that I'm thinking about:

  • Casey Anthony borrowed a shovel from her neighbor on June 18th 2008. Cayley Anthony was last seen alive on June 15th 2008.

  • There were search queries like chloroform, 'how to break a neck' (and others) found on Casey Anthony's computer - through reconstructed Firefox cache browser. The computer files were deleted to hide the data, so special software was used to reconstruct the data.

  • There was a month between the last time Cayley Anthony was seen alive and the time she was reported as missing. When she was reported as missing, it was the grandmother, Casey Anthony's mother Cindy Anthony, who reported it.

  • During that month, Casey Anthony was seen as partying and entering 'hot-body' contests.
  • In Cindy Anthony's call to 911, she describes the stench in Casey Anthony's car as a foul smell 'as if someone died in there'.
  • The body was found only a quarter a mile away from the house where here parents and Casey Anthony live.
  • There was a duct tape with the skeletal remains of the body. Same type of duct tape was also found in Anthony household.

I could go on and on and on...

The jurors acquitted Casey Anthony on the basis that there was no connection between her and the dead body of the child and that prosecutors weren't able to prove a link between her and the dead body of the child.

My reaction is that if you look at all the circumstantial evidence, the simplest explanation that fits all the data is that she probably killed her child. Yes, you can have someone just curious about chloroform searching google. Yes, it may also have been food rotting in the car. Yes, Casey Anthony may have borrowed the shovel for gardening - but if you string together all these explanations, the final conjunction of all of them just becomes a lot less probable.

Comment by anlamk on Conceptual Analysis and Moral Theory · 2011-05-17T21:19:52.765Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There is a reason why the Gettier rabbit-hole is so dangerous. You can always cook up an improbable counterexample to any definition.

That's a very interesting thought. I wonder what leads you to it.

With the caveat that I have not read all of this thread:

*Are you basing this on the fact that so far, all attempts at analysis have proven futile? (If so, maybe we need to come up with more robust conditions.)

*Do you think that the concept of 'knowledge' is inherently vague similar (but not identical) to the way terms like 'tall' and 'bald' are?

*Do you suspect that there may be no fact of the matter about what 'knowledge' is, just like there is no fact of the matter about the baldness of the present King of France? (If so, then how do the competent speakers apply the verb 'to know' so well?)

If we could say with confidence that conceptual analysis of knowledge is a futile effort, I think that would be progress. And of course the interesting question would be why.

It may just be simply that non-technical, common terms like 'vehicle' and 'knowledge' (and of course others like 'table') can't be conceptually analyzed.

Also, experimental philosophy could be relevant to this discussion.

Comment by anlamk on The Good News of Situationist Psychology · 2011-04-01T20:04:50.275Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

If our situation controls our behavior (let's try to bracket "to what extent" and "how" it does so), then wouldn't it also control what kind of situation we will go for?

Here's an example from an Orwell essay: "A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks."

And then I've always wondered about the following: If situationism is true, why do the folk have such a robust theory of character traits? Can we provide an error theory for why people have such a theory?

Note that the folk do seem to allow for some 'situationism' - for example, when someone gets drunk, we admit they'll have a different persona and some more than others.

Comment by anlamk on Towards a Bay Area Less Wrong Community · 2011-03-20T10:34:44.160Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thursdays 7pm is a little tough for me. I have a chess game at my chess club 8pm every Thursday. Weekends work better for me.

Nonetheless, thanks for organizing.

Comment by anlamk on Yes, a blog. · 2010-11-19T22:06:46.672Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, you'll have to excuse a bit of my ignorance here.

Classical philosophers like Hume came up with some great ideas, too, especially considering that they had no access to modern scientific knowledge. But you don't have to spend thousands of hours reading through their bad ideas to find the few good ones, because their best ideas have become modern scientific knowledge.

What are some of Hume's "bad" ideas? He's a philosopher I cherish quite a bit. I'd be interested to know what his "bad" ideas are. (Have you read Hume at all? Or anything about Hume?)

You don't have to read Kant to think abstractly about Time; thinking about "timelines" is practically built into our language nowadays.

I think reading Kant about "Time" (why capital T?) could be a bad idea, since so many ideas about space and time were influenced by modern physics. (For instance, Kant thought that physical space, a priori, was Euclidean - please correct me if I'm misinterpreting Kant here-, which is unfortunate but completely reasonable.)

I think the most exciting idea Kant had was his attempt to establish a "Copernican Revolution" in philosophy - that our perception of the world and minds were somehow limited and subject to constraints like any other object in the world. I will direct all interested parties to this podcast .

Comment by anlamk on Collecting and hoarding crap, useless information · 2010-10-11T03:00:12.017Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with caveats. I mean I just looked up what the hell is a 'g6' - it turns out it's a twin-engine airplane manufactured by Gulf Stream. (They will finish production in 2012 - it's said. Price tag is $58M.)

Now I surely for hell didn't need to know that but I couldn't help myself... like a g6... so fly like a g6...

My caveat is that it may be good to accumulate seemingly useless information. You can't after all predict when it'll be handy.

Comment by anlamk on Open Thread September, Part 3 · 2010-10-02T05:48:15.779Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you know these laws?

The laws I know ban wearing the veil/turban (i mean the same thing by these two words) in government-related places - you can't wear it in the work place if you are working for a government, can't wear it in public universities, can't wear it in the TBMM (the Turkish congress) etc. etc... You are free to wear it on the street or in the workplace if you are working for a private company. I may be mistaken - the ban covering the universities is the most famous and contentious.

Could you confirm that the text matches wikipedia's description?

Which text? I've not read the wikipedia entry - just linked to it, thinking it would repeat what I already know.

How does this fit in your understanding of history?

You mean Yvain's story? It makes no sense. In 1920s, Turkey was largely being rebuilt after WW1 and the Turkish War of Independence. The legal system/constitution was being overhauled. The Arabic script was replaced with the Latin script. It is said that in one day, the entire country became illiterate - i.e. nobody understood the new alphabet at first.

With so much going on, I find it funny that Atatürk would pause and decree laws about prostitution. Consider me biased, but I think Atatürk had more urgent things to attend.

Comment by anlamk on Open Thread September, Part 3 · 2010-10-01T08:15:21.108Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

As a Turk, I strongly believe that story is fictional.

Where and how was this ban issued? Can you give more details?

You may be hearing some fictional story based on his social reforms.

See here

And the veil, currently banned in public universities, is still very much a hot button issue. Also, a large segment of the Turkish population still wears the veil. The country is deeply divided over this issue.

Comment by anlamk on Is Rationality Maximization of Expected Value? · 2010-09-28T09:59:40.568Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Don't get over-excited. You are still losing money in a less than fair-odds situation.

And since most people don't stop gambling until they have some deficit from gambling, casinos usually make more than the odds give them.

Comment by anlamk on Is Rationality Maximization of Expected Value? · 2010-09-28T09:51:47.919Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There is nothing in what I wrote that implies people value their lives infinitely. People just need to value their lives highly enough such that flying on an airplane (with its probability of crashing) has a negative expected value.

Again, from Nick Bostrom's article:

"Pascal: I must confess: I’ve been having doubts about the mathematics of infinity. Infinite values lead to many strange conclusions and paradoxes. You know the reasoning that has come to be known as ‘Pascal’s Wager’? Between you and me, some of the critiques I’ve seen have made me wonder whether I might not be somehow confused about infinities or about the existence of infinite values . . .

Mugger: I assure you, my powers are strictly finite. The offer before you does not involve infinite values in any way. But now I really must be off; I have an assignation in the Seventh Dimension that I’d rather not miss. Your wallet, please!"

Comment by anlamk on Is Rationality Maximization of Expected Value? · 2010-09-28T09:48:06.537Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

'Small enough' here would have to be very much smaller than 1 in 100 for this argument to begin to apply. It would have to be 'so small that it won't happen before the heat death of the universe' scale. I'm still not sure the argument works even in that case.

How small should x be? And if the argument does hold, are you going to have two different criteria for rational behavior - one with events where probability of positive outcome is 1-x and one that isn't.

And also, from Nick Bostrom's piece (formatting will be messed up):

Mugger: Good. Now we will do some maths. Let us say that the 10 livres that you have in your wallet are worth to you the equivalent of one happy day. Let’s call this quantity of good 1 Util. So I ask you to give up 1 Util. In return, I could promise to perform the magic tomorrow that will give you an extra 10 quadrillion happy days, i.e. 10 quadrillion Utils. Since you say there is a 1 in 10 quadrillion probability that I will fulfil my promise, this would be a fair deal. The expected Utility for you would be zero. But I feel generous this evening, and I will make you a better deal: If you hand me your wallet, I will perform magic that will give you an extra 1,000 quadrillion happy days of life. ... Pascal hands over his wallet [to the Mugger].

Of course, by your reasoning, you would hand your wallet. Bravo.

Comment by anlamk on Is Rationality Maximization of Expected Value? · 2010-09-28T06:07:26.881Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is the problem that 0.01 or 0.05 too high?

Take a smaller value then.

In fact, people take such gambles (with negative expectation but with high probability of winning) everyday.

They fly on airplanes and drive to work.

Comment by anlamk on Is Rationality Maximization of Expected Value? · 2010-09-28T06:05:31.161Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, I already knew about this.

Related is also Martingale gambling.

Comment by anlamk on Is Rationality Maximization of Expected Value? · 2010-09-28T06:04:37.706Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's hard to enjoy gambling if you are sure you'll lose money, which is how I feel like. I may be over pessimistic.

Roulette gives you odds of 1.111 to 1 if you place on Red or Black with expectation -0.053 on the dollar. So I may be over-pessimistic. See the wiki entry.

Comment by anlamk on Is Rationality Maximization of Expected Value? · 2010-09-28T06:00:19.733Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The nonlinear utility of money?

Well, the point I was trying to make was supposed to be abstract and general. Nick Bostrom's Pascal's Mugging piece argues for a very similar (if not identical) point. Thanks for letting me know about this.

And yes, I'm bad at dealing with small probabilities. I feel that these evoke some philosophical questions about the nature of probability in general - or whatever we talk about when we talk about probabilities.

Comment by anlamk on Is Rationality Maximization of Expected Value? · 2010-09-28T05:54:02.432Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Obviously, this needs more discussion but the kind of thought I was trying to motivate was the following:

How is that saying a non-repeating singular event has a very small probability of occurring different from saying it will not happen?

This was motivated by the lottery paradox. Questions like, when you buy a lottery ticket, you don't believe you will win, so why are you buying it?

Examples like these sort of pull my intuitions towards thinking no, it doesn't make sense to speak of probabilities for certain events.

Comment by anlamk on Is Rationality Maximization of Expected Value? · 2010-09-28T05:51:00.043Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry that talking about money lead to confusion. I guess the point I was making was the following. See my respond to mattnewport, i.e.:

Suppose you have a gamble Z with negative expectation with probability of a positive outcome 1-x, for a very small x. I claim that for small enough x, every one should take Z - despite the negative expectation.

Comment by anlamk on Is Rationality Maximization of Expected Value? · 2010-09-28T05:49:37.903Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What exactly does maximizing expected utility yield in these particular cases?

For one, I could be convinced not to take A (0.01 could be too risky) but I would never take B.

I feel that if maximization of expected utility involves averaging probabilities of outcomes weighted by payoffs, then it's going to suffer from similar difficulties.

Comment by anlamk on Is Rationality Maximization of Expected Value? · 2010-09-28T05:46:07.983Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Wouw... Thank you for this charitable interpretation. I'll try to respond.

(1) You don't have to construe the gamble as some sort of coin flips. It could also be something like "the weather in Santa Clara, California in 20 September 2012 will be sunny" - i.e. a singular non-repeating event, in which case having 100 hundred people (as confused as me) will not help you.

(2) I've specifically said that if you have enough trials to converge to the expectation (i.e. the point about Weak Law of Large Numbers), then the point I'm making doesn't hold.

(3) Besides, suppose you have a gamble Z with negative expectation with probability of a positive outcome 1-x, for a very small x. I claim that for small enough x, every one should take Z - despite the negative expectation.

What's your x, sunshine? If 0.01 isn't small enough, pick a suitably small x. Nick Bostrom in Pascal's mugging picks 1 over quadrillion to demonstrate a very similar point. I picked 0.01 since I thought concrete values would demonstrate the point more clearly - I feel like they've been more confusing.

In fact, people take such gambles (with negative expectation but with high probability of winning) everyday.

They fly on airplanes and drive to work.

(4) Besides, even if we construe the gamble being repeated like a coin toss, I feel like with 0.99^99 = 0.37, you stand to lose 10M with probability 0.37 . I don't know about you but I wouldn't risk 10M with those kinds of odds. It helps to be precise when you can and not to go with a heuristic like "on average there should be 1 W in every 100 trial"...

Comment by anlamk on So You Think You're a Bayesian? The Natural Mode of Probabilistic Reasoning · 2010-07-15T02:49:53.201Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, to clarify, here's an example from here :

To illustrate, in a study conduced by Tversky and Kahneman (1974), a random number was generated by spinning a wheel. Participants were then asked to specify whether this random number was higher or lower than was the percentage of nations that are located in Africa--referred to as a comparative question. Finally, participants were instructed to estimate the percentage of nations that are located in Africa-an absolute question. Participants who had received a high random number were more inclined to overestimate the percentage of nations that are located in Africa. The anchor, as represented by the random number, biased their final estimate.

Here, the biased thinking isn't a result of thinking in terms of abstract probabilities as opposed to concrete frequencies.

I'm sympathetic to the points G makes. It's just that K&T's results don't always depend on information presented as probabilities.

Comment by anlamk on So You Think You're a Bayesian? The Natural Mode of Probabilistic Reasoning · 2010-07-15T01:48:53.948Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW


I see how Gigerenzer's point is relevant to some of the biases such as the conjunction fallacy.

But what about other biases such as the anchoring bias?

Is there really a way to show that all fallacious reasoning in K&T's experiments is due to presentation of information in terms of probabilities as opposed to frequencies?


Comment by anlamk on How to always have interesting conversations · 2010-06-16T07:18:06.745Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know. I am hesitant.

I can think of instances in which someone has started talking about an anecdote and the other person wasn't really responsive at all. (And, yeah, more than anything it was I who were telling the anecdote.) I guess it requires social savvy to pick which anecdote to tell.

I don't think engaging someone meaningfully (i.e. "hooking") in a conversation is as easy as making more statements as opposed to asking questions.

Conversation is more of an art than an exact science - 'tis true...

Anybody wants to call me so they can hear my totally irrelevant anecdote?

Comment by anlamk on You Be the Jury: Survey on a Current Event · 2009-12-13T21:53:33.846Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the link! I will try to fight it :-).

Comment by anlamk on You Be the Jury: Survey on a Current Event · 2009-12-11T19:31:44.076Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

From the link you give:

She told him she could go even more and showed him. He asked why she was so good at stretching and she explained she had been doing gymnastic when she was younger. So he asked her if she could do the other things, the cartwheel, the split, the bridge and she showed him.

Thanks for this - one more mystery solved.

Comment by anlamk on You Be the Jury: Survey on a Current Event · 2009-12-11T06:21:31.556Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for your summary.

The only place I differ from you is the cartwheel part. This behavior strikes me as genuinely insensitive and disrespectful but being disrespectful and insensitive doesn't make one a murderer.

I'd like to believe that the prosecution has a case but for the life of me, I can't see one.

One thing that struck me as weird is that Kercher's family was 'pleased' with the verdict - do they really think that Knox and Sollecito took part in the murder? Why do they think that way? I'd like to know. Surely, the Kercher family must be reasonable people - so why are they pleased with the verdict?

The horrifying prospect is: do they know something I don't? If so, I must search for it and learn it... :-(

Comment by anlamk on You Be the Jury: Survey on a Current Event · 2009-12-10T21:53:16.087Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Would anyone actually be up for discussing the specifics of the case? (I don't know why but I find myself oddly interested in this case.)

As far as I can tell, the biggest pro-defendant evidence is that there is no major DNA evidence of Sollecito and Knox in the room where murder took place. We are told that there is a bra clasp with Sollecito's DNA and a knife that has both Amanda's and Kercher's DNA - both of these DNA traces are 'weak' in the sense that they are not that obvious, require a hefty search and are hard to see in lab. On the other hand, there are 'strong' traces of Guede's DNA in the victim's blood and in the room.

So, the first thing that worries me is that if it were a crime committed by three people, why would you have one person's DNA everywhere in the room and yet two others' only faintly there?

Again, this is the strongest pro-innocent (for Knox and Sollecito) argument that I have - and the one that convinces me most likely that Sollecito and Knox haven't done it.

I don't know - can anyone else site cases in which there was a group murder and yet only a single person left behind 'strong' traces of DNA? Maybe this isn't so unusual after all.

On the pro-guilty side, I must admit that I find Knox's and Sollecito's behavior the morning after the murder and during the investigation a bit strange. If 'Meredith was [her] friend', as Amanda Knox says in her trial, why were she doing cart-wheels during the investigation the morning after the murder? Shouldn't she be distraught and upset like all of other Meredith Kercher's friends? Accuse me of the mind projection fallacy but I feel like I would be distraught (and in a bad mood) even if the victim wasn't someone I knew.

But again, strange behavior isn't really an evidence. It's just something that makes one suspicious and raises uncertainty.

I can't find that many pro-guilty arguments. There are some tidbits that have a lot of uncertainty in them: i.e. Sollecito (allegedly) bought cleaning supplies the night of the murder allegedly again to clean up the murder mess, Sollecito claimed to be using the Internet at the time of the murder but his ISP records indicate otherwise, a woman claims to have heard three people running down that street that night.. etc. None of them as strong to make a case.

Besides these, a few other thoughts:

I really don't know how Sollecito and Knox got linked to this murder. How did they get dragged into this in the first place? Is there really evidence for the fact that it was a satanic sex-orgy gone wrong as the prosecutor claims it is? I mean, this satanic sex-orgy idea seems to be the prosecutor's imagination - there is no evidence for it.

Also, supposing Guede did it alone, would there be additional penalty or a reduction in penalty for him if he were to simply confess?

This whole thing seems to be like a backlash of conservative Italians' against whom they deem the immoral, selfish and arrogant youth. I have a hunch that the Italian prosecutor wants to punish Sollecito and Knox for a lifestyle he considers wrong.

I don't know what anyone else feels but the uncertainty of the case is somewhat disturbing. I wish there was a knockdown evidence and I could know the truth and be done with it instead of this restless search. Any else feeling that way?

Comment by anlamk on You Be the Jury: Survey on a Current Event · 2009-12-10T09:01:28.340Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW


I haven't made up my mind yet - and if anyone's interested, this cbs take on it looks well done:

Comment by anlamk on Open Thread: November 2009 · 2009-11-06T09:11:57.964Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I actually took information theory but this is more of an issue algorithmic information theory - something I have not studied all that much. Though still, I think you are probably right since Kolgomorov complexity refers to descriptive complexity of an object. And here you can give a much shorter description of all of consecutive natural numbers.

This is very interesting to me because intuitively one would think that both are problems involving infinity and hence I lazily thought that they would both have the same complexity.

Comment by anlamk on Open Thread: November 2009 · 2009-11-05T23:49:03.922Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but how are you going to represent 'n' under the hood? You are going to need eventually infinite bits to represent it? I guess this is what you mean by storage. I should confess that I don't know enough about alogrithmic information theory so I may be in deeper waters than I can swim. I think you are right though...

I had something more in mind like, the number of bits required to represent any natural number, which is obviously log(n) (or maybe 2loglog(n) - with some clever tricks I think) and if n can get as big as possible, then the complexity, log(n) also gets arbitrarily big.

So maybe the problem of producing every natural number consecutively has a different complexity from producing some arbitrary natural number. Interesting...

Comment by anlamk on Open Thread: November 2009 · 2009-11-05T23:19:30.636Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What is the notion of complexity in question? It could for instance be the (hypothetically) shortest program needed to produce a given object, i.e. Kolmogorov complexity.

In that case, the natural numbers would have a complexity of infinity, which would be much greater than any finite quantity - i.e. a human life.

I may be missing something because the discussion to my eyes seems trivial.

Comment by anlamk on Let them eat cake: Interpersonal Problems vs Tasks · 2009-10-12T18:10:03.997Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I disagree with your blunt formulation of intelligence as 'IQ'. An example: Lewis Terman (yes the father of Frederick Terman who has a building named after him at Stanford) followed a bunch of kids with high IQs - average of 151. As described in the article, William Shockley (have you heard of him?) didn't have a high enough to be one of the 'Termite's. But, as every electrical engineer will tell you, Shockley went onto invent the bipolar junction transistor at Bell Labs. (What's ironic is that Shockley himself adopted a static (unchangeable) view of human ability, became a racist proponent of eugenics and was shunned in the academia in his late career.)

In fact, Barry Schwartz claims that the success rate of the Termites was as good as a random sample of individuals but I can't quite find links for this claim. (It's in the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell however.)

A discussion of IQ would take us far afield but I suggest you also check out Flynn effect for instance.

Comment by anlamk on 'oy, girls on lw, want to get together some time?' · 2009-10-06T23:22:02.813Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This was really funny.

I'm reminded of a Seinfeld scene in which Jerry and Elaine, annoyed at each other, are in a push fight in Jerry's apartment when Kramer pops in, separates them and nonchalantly suggests, "Don't you two see you are in love with each other?". (Note that in the scene, it's obvious Jerry and Elaine are not romantically linked and that's why Kramer's comment is so funny.)

Comment by anlamk on Your Most Valuable Skill · 2009-09-29T17:05:52.162Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm always jealous when I hear about mathematical prodigies who are doing advanced work at young ages. I would have been one of them if I only I had someone who was willing to teach me math more complicated than arithmetic!

I'm sure we'd all be (all of Less Wrong, except I, who am not very smart - that's some weird grammar by the way that I just used) mathematical prodigies - if we only had someone who was willing to teach us math, because Gods know why, we were too lazy to go to a public library, pick up the books and study ourselves!

Comment by anlamk on Your Most Valuable Skill · 2009-09-29T17:03:49.931Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Inspired by Walter Mischel's marshmallow experiment, I'm going to go with delayed gratification. I think the most important skill (or perhaps meta-skill, as this particular skill allows one to develop skills) is the ability to delay gratification and discipline yourself to work on something for a prolonged period of time. Without hard work and discipline, you can't achieve much in life. I also want to link to an interview with Carol Dweck, since she is probably the psychologist who has influenced me the most in this regard.

Comment by anlamk on Confusion about Newcomb is confusion about counterfactuals · 2009-08-26T01:04:04.842Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

After all, Joe is a deterministic physical system; his current state (together with the state of his future self's past light-cone) fully determines what Joe's future action will be. There is no Physically Irreducible Moment of Choice, where this same Joe, with his own exact actual past, "can" go one way or the other.

You sound to me as though you don't believe in free will.

“You sound to me as though you don’t believe in free will,” said Billy Pilgrim.

“If I hadn’t spent so much time studying Earthlings,” said the Tralfamadorian, “I wouldn’t have any idea what was meant by free will. I’ve visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will.”

-- Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse–Five

Comment by anlamk on Sense, Denotation and Semantics · 2009-08-12T17:32:18.961Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

There is a field called philosophy of language. Have you heard of it? Here are some key papers/links:

On Sense and Reference by Frege

On Denoting by Russell

Reference and Definite Descriptions by Donnellan

SEP Entry on Reference

Kripke's Naming and Necessity Lectures (Wohooo I didn't know this was freely available... I might reread it now...)

A.P. Martinich's Standard Philosophy of Language Anthology

Now you are an educated man...