The One That Isn't There 2009-11-20T20:10:11.447Z
Pound of Feathers, Pound of Gold 2009-10-23T17:48:43.336Z
The Featherless Biped 2009-09-02T17:47:00.573Z
Book Review: Complications 2009-07-01T18:39:03.138Z
Guilt by Association 2009-06-24T17:29:10.462Z
The Laws of Magic 2009-06-15T19:13:08.743Z
Would You Slap Your Father? Article Linkage and Discussion 2009-06-02T18:49:25.107Z
The Frontal Syndrome 2009-06-01T16:10:30.632Z
Inhibition and the Mind 2009-05-21T17:34:07.084Z
The First Koan: Drinking the Hot Iron Ball 2009-05-07T17:41:43.586Z
Actions and Words: Akrasia and the Fruit of Self-Knowledge 2009-04-15T15:27:13.693Z
Proverbs and Cached Judgments: the Rolling Stone 2009-04-01T15:40:15.528Z
Recognizing the Candlelight as Fire: Joshu Washes the Bowl 2009-03-29T18:13:00.412Z
When It's Not Right to be Rational 2009-03-28T16:15:15.367Z
On Seeking a Shortening of the Way 2009-03-27T17:11:52.039Z
Beginning at the Beginning 2009-03-11T19:23:23.651Z


Comment by Annoyance on The One That Isn't There · 2009-11-21T20:42:30.354Z · LW · GW

Alcohol is an just example. It's well-known that crude global brain impairment reduces self-monitoring first.

Comment by Annoyance on The Featherless Biped · 2009-11-20T20:11:36.175Z · LW · GW

Recursive definitions are possible, but they must still be founded on a base level that does not reference itself. Each other level can then be defined in a way that is not self-referential.

Comment by Annoyance on The Featherless Biped · 2009-11-20T19:28:17.327Z · LW · GW

"The definition of a mammal is simple: descent from the most recent common ancestor of all mammals."

Valid definitions cannot reference themselves.

Comment by Annoyance on The Featherless Biped · 2009-10-31T13:51:52.893Z · LW · GW

".--but we admit to the category of mammals many animals that fail one or more of these criteria."

No, we don't. Dolphins have all of the required attributes to be considered mammals. If they didn't, we couldn't call them mammals any longer.

Comment by Annoyance on Pound of Feathers, Pound of Gold · 2009-10-24T16:19:28.721Z · LW · GW

That is an absolutely charming interpretation, and one that makes a lot of sense. However, in my experience, it's not how the riddle is commonly used.

That would be a great way to show off your knowledge of jeweler's weights, though.

Comment by Annoyance on Pound of Feathers, Pound of Gold · 2009-10-23T19:51:04.622Z · LW · GW

There's more to it, of course. Ask the question with substances that don't produce strong associations regarding "weight" (really, density), and people tend not to get it wrong no matter how much time pressure is involved.

Comment by Annoyance on The Featherless Biped · 2009-09-08T13:22:39.043Z · LW · GW

The biological category of 'mammal' is quite well-defined, thank you.

And fuzzy definitions are fine until you're dealing with a case that lies in the penumbra, at which time it becomes a massive problem.

Comment by Annoyance on The Featherless Biped · 2009-09-08T13:21:31.764Z · LW · GW

In other words, we have to learn logic, we're not born with it.


Electric charge doesn't spontaneously do arithmetic either.

No. It does nothing but mathematics.

Comment by Annoyance on Why I'm Staying On · 2009-09-08T13:18:04.300Z · LW · GW

This looks sincere to me, and given that it's sincere, people really ought to be allowed more chance than this to recover from their mistakes.

I say that depends entirely on the nature of the mistake. Gross negligence should not be forgiven, although the proper response is not necessarily retributive.

Comment by Annoyance on The Featherless Biped · 2009-09-04T20:03:35.280Z · LW · GW

If these points about psychology were actually as commonly known as the composition of water then you wouldn't need an analogy- you would just sarcastically remark "A citation? Really?".

Nope, 'cause you people know virtually nothing about psychology. Which is why I so frequently see statements of boggling ignorance made here about how and why human minds do stuff.

If a person wants citations to support a statement about the composition of water, my reaction is to tell them to go find a schoolchild and ask them about chemistry. Or pick up a brightly-colored children's book about science and learn something. Maybe watch a little 3-2-1 Contact or Bill Nye.

Comment by Annoyance on The Featherless Biped · 2009-09-04T20:00:39.690Z · LW · GW

Not in the way that 'rationalization' is used in natural language. That refers to a non-rational statement that is used in place of rationality in order to satisfy the desire to present an argument as rational without having to go through the trouble of actually constructing and adopting a rational position.

The biggest functional difference: when a reason is abolished, the behavior goes away. When a rationalization is abolished, the behavior remains.

Comment by Annoyance on The Featherless Biped · 2009-09-04T19:57:15.503Z · LW · GW

And the recognition that the process that ordinary people went though had pretty much NOTHING in common with "necessary and sufficient conditions" was not made by philosophers.

Ordinary people struggle to decide whether dolphins are fish or penguins are birds. And they often get it wrong if they haven't been explicitly taught otherwise; even then, some still screw up their answers.

Comment by Annoyance on The Featherless Biped · 2009-09-04T19:54:54.371Z · LW · GW

Your final conclusion is like saying that [blah blah blah]

No, it's not. Associational processing can emulate logical thinking, but it's not restricted to it and will not normally produce it. Restrictions have to be added for logic to arise out of the sea of associations.

Comment by Annoyance on The Featherless Biped · 2009-09-02T21:44:11.587Z · LW · GW

Common knowledge, thomblake. Do you need citations to know that water is composed of one atom of oxygen and two of hydrogen?

These points are to psychology what the composition of water is to chemistry: widely known and non-controversial.

Comment by Annoyance on Misleading the witness · 2009-09-01T13:48:48.928Z · LW · GW

If I had a dollar for every brainy person who'd been gulled because they thought they were "too smart" to require being skeptical...

and if I had a dollar for every average idiot who sleepwalked straight into an obvious scam I would make a lot more money.

Those sets are not disjoint.

Comment by Annoyance on Misleading the witness · 2009-08-13T15:36:08.310Z · LW · GW

Most "rationalists" are quite smart people, so tricks that are designed by a trickster to fool the masses rarely work on us.

Wrong. Tricksters rely on people making stupid assumptions and failing to check assertions. People with a lot of brainpower can do those things just as easily as people without.

Physicists asked to evaluate paranormal claims do very poorly, yet they are clearly very brainy. It takes more than just brains to be intelligent - you have to use the brains properly.

If I had a dollar for every brainy person who'd been gulled because they thought they were "too smart" to require being skeptical...

Comment by Annoyance on Would Your Real Preferences Please Stand Up? · 2009-08-13T15:32:05.108Z · LW · GW

That traditional anecdote (and its modified forms) only illustrate how little the pro-qualia advocates understand the arguments against the idea.

Dismissing 'qualia' does not, as many people frequently imply, require dismissing the idea that sensory stimuli can be distinguish and grouped into categories. That would be utterly absurd - it would render the senses useless and such a system would never have evolved.

All that's needed to is reject the idea that there are some mysterious properties to sensation which somehow violate basic logic and the principles of information theory.

Comment by Annoyance on The Second Best · 2009-07-28T18:29:23.600Z · LW · GW

Categorical imperatives that result in persistence will accumulate.

Why should any lifeform preserve its own existence? There's no reason. But those that do eventually dominate existence. Those that do not, are not.

Comment by Annoyance on Are You Anosognosic? · 2009-07-20T19:27:38.125Z · LW · GW


Most people who devote the necessary thought to the matter eventually realize that they are pathological, deeply so, and that significant work-arounds are the only way to compensate for the irrevocable faults hardwired into their minds.

It's not a question of whether, it's a question of how.

Comment by Annoyance on Are you crazy? · 2009-07-20T19:22:32.924Z · LW · GW

"Sanity" is not well-defined, here.

There are plenty of people just as sociopathic as John, and just as dangerous as John but more so, who would not be considered insane or perceived as dangerous by society at large.

Most people in positions of power have strong sociopathic tendencies. It's just that many of them conform sufficiently well with society's expectations that they're not recognized as threats.

Comment by Annoyance on Absolute denial for atheists · 2009-07-20T19:18:39.007Z · LW · GW

There are limits to the degree to which fnords can be discussed with others. Without doing the hard work necessary to perceive them, others cannot receive benefit from having them pointed out to them - and that can even be harmful, as our mental immune systems will construct defensive rationalizations to protect fnords brought to our attention that we're not strong enough to abolish.

Comment by Annoyance on Being saner about gender and rationality · 2009-07-20T19:10:21.490Z · LW · GW

The main issue is that we might be driving people away, and there are at least a few people for whom it is true.

Whether this is a problem depends on the people being driven away, and why.

Comment by Annoyance on Absolute denial for atheists · 2009-07-17T16:16:22.549Z · LW · GW

Those are excellent points, particularly the first. Adolf Hitler was one of the most effective rhetoricians in human history - his public speaking skills were simply astounding. Even the people who hated his message were stunned after attending rallies in which Hitler exercised his crowd-manipulation skills.

Comment by Annoyance on Absolute denial for atheists · 2009-07-16T18:09:55.499Z · LW · GW

I don't think this post counts as 'trolling'. Certainly the desired responses to it could be used to troll, but that's not at all the same thing.

Comment by Annoyance on Absolute denial for atheists · 2009-07-16T18:08:14.829Z · LW · GW

Clarity. The first depends on the interpretation of "abuse", and as such I think it's very likely that many people will agree with it to some degree.

The second is much more precise; although I think it is demonstrably untrue, I expect it will draw much reflexive denial.

Comment by Annoyance on Absolute denial for atheists · 2009-07-16T17:53:12.212Z · LW · GW

These are excellent examples. I don't see why they're being voted down.

The second, however, is much better than the first.

Comment by Annoyance on Our society lacks good self-preservation mechanisms · 2009-07-16T17:47:27.589Z · LW · GW

Self-perpetuation in the strictest sense isn't always the point. The goal isn't to simply impose the same structure onto the future over and over again. It's continuity between structures that's important.

Wanting to live a long life isn't the same as having oneself frozen so that the same physical configuration of the body will persist endlessly. The collapse of ecosystems over a hundred-million-year-long timespan is not a failure, no more than our changing our minds constitutes a failure of self-preservation.

Comment by Annoyance on Absolute denial for atheists · 2009-07-16T17:32:44.658Z · LW · GW

I can't think of any particular issues that I'm convinced I know the truth of, yet most people will reflexively deny that truth completely.

I can, however, think of issues that I think are uncertain, but that the uncertainty of said issue is denied reflexively and completely. I suppose they would be meta-issues rather than issues themselves - it's a subtle point I'm not interested in pursuing.

Probably the most obvious one that comes to my mind is circumcision. I've never seen so many normally-intelligent people make such stupid and clearly incorrect arguments, nor so much uncomfortable humor, nor trying desperately to avoid thinking, for any other issue I've discussed with others, even things like abortion, religion, and politics.

Comment by Annoyance on Recommended reading for new rationalists · 2009-07-14T21:16:13.190Z · LW · GW

Bujold sometimes appears to argue for theism, but a very peculiar form of it that doesn't really match what most people mean by the term.

In some ways she seems to be a theological consequentialist - suggesting that people are better for believing that other people have souls, or at least acting as though they believe that other people have souls, regardless of whether it's literally true.

Cordelia Vorkosigan's religious beliefs are rather... odd. This is particularly clear in one exchange from Mirror Dance:

It's important that someone celebrate our existence... People are the only mirror we have to see ourselves in. The domain of all meaning. All virtue, all evil, are contained only in people. There is none in the universe at large.

Cordelia claims to be a theist. How can that claim be reconciled with her statement above?

Comment by Annoyance on Recommended reading for new rationalists · 2009-07-10T15:20:00.149Z · LW · GW

But, if you read his essays with an eye toward the workings of the mind, specifically how humans think when they theorize (which I consider his main topic) you will find useful things there that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

I disagree. His logical errors are quite common; he serves as a good example of failure, yes, but such is rarely hard to find.

Comment by Annoyance on Recommended reading for new rationalists · 2009-07-10T15:16:07.791Z · LW · GW

Falling Free, by Lois McMaster Bujold.

It's a great story, but there's one scene in it that permanently changed my understanding of rationality: Leo Graf's first lecture to the engineering class where he discusses the relationship between engineering and ethics. The argument applies to all science and ways of applying scientific knowledge - really, to any and all attempts to interact with reality.

Comment by Annoyance on Causality does not imply correlation · 2009-07-08T16:17:53.475Z · LW · GW

This is a really spectacular post.

One quibble: in the case being discussed, one variable is actually a property of the other variable, rather than another thing that is affected by something else.

Is it really appropriate to say that A causes B when B is just a property of A?

Comment by Annoyance on Not Technically Lying · 2009-07-08T16:10:56.487Z · LW · GW

We're not retarded. We're advanced

Comment by Annoyance on Not Technically Lying · 2009-07-08T16:04:27.917Z · LW · GW

A lie is a knowing statement of untruth, almost always made in the hope that it will be mistaken for a sincere statement of truth.

Deception is far larger than lies.

As for intent - it's difficult to show, and depends partly on the qualities of the listener. Especially stupid and small-minded people often accuse others of trying to deceive them when the real problem was that they leapt to an invalid conclusion. My experience is that people without a great deal of self-candor will often accuse others of deception rather than considering the possibility that they themselves were dumb.

Comment by Annoyance on Book Review: Complications · 2009-07-07T18:03:33.129Z · LW · GW

Yes. But that isn't the point. It holds across all deaths, not those necessarily caused by the error.

Comment by Annoyance on Book Review: Complications · 2009-07-02T14:02:48.437Z · LW · GW

In the first section, yes. In the later sections, no.

Preferring minimal changes, I've altered the sentence you had a problem with - but not in the way you suggested. Your way is fine, too. I just like mine better.

Comment by Annoyance on Book Review: Complications · 2009-07-02T14:02:09.815Z · LW · GW

That's certainly an issue, probably a contributing one. But the statistics strongly suggest that autopsy results aren't used to reduce error, as doctors are just as wrong now as they were eighty years ago.

Comment by Annoyance on Book Review: Complications · 2009-07-02T14:01:02.127Z · LW · GW

Yes, but they're also the sum of prejudices, irrational convictions, short-circuited reasoning processes, and other biases.

Gawande discusses the decision to try to remove only the affected tissue rather than go for amputation - a decision which seems to work out. Then he asks how he and the other doctors knew they could spare the leg.

That's a fundamental failure, changing a guess to knowledge in highsight.

Comment by Annoyance on Controlling your inner control circuits · 2009-06-29T17:38:05.033Z · LW · GW

You're supposed to try to tear apart your own claims, first. Making random but testable assertions for no particular reason is not part of the methodology.

Comment by Annoyance on Guilt by Association · 2009-06-26T18:08:35.835Z · LW · GW

Okay. I was unsure if your statement was meant to be a personal insult or a comment about medicine - your comments have cleared that up for me.

If I may offer a suggestion:

Access NewsBank from your local library, go to the "search America's newspapers" option, and do some searching for the phrase "nasal radium". There will be lots of duplication. You may find it useful to only search for articles written between 1990 and 1995, just to get a basic understanding of what it was.

Then realize that the vast majority of surgical treatments where introduced in pretty much the same way, and had the same amount of pre-testing, as nasal radium.

Comment by Annoyance on Guilt by Association · 2009-06-26T17:55:30.567Z · LW · GW

Please note that I do not rule out the possibility that we derive a net benefit. It's just that it isn't obvious that we do.

A counterexample of my being right? Or a counterexample relating to medicine?

Comment by Annoyance on Guilt by Association · 2009-06-26T16:52:21.999Z · LW · GW

Bing bing bing!

The real issue, of course, is why they're the easiest for us to represent.

That's coming up next.

Comment by Annoyance on Guilt by Association · 2009-06-26T16:51:18.531Z · LW · GW

why people make the mistake that "if not Q, then also not P".

Um... I don't think that's a mistake. Given "If P, then Q", the non-existence or falsehood of Q requires that P also not exist / be false. It leads to contradiction, otherwise.

Comment by Annoyance on Guilt by Association · 2009-06-26T16:49:37.161Z · LW · GW

After I got into a warm discussion with some other members of the speech and debate club in high school, I started doing a little research into the field of medicine and its errors.

Long story short: doctors are not the experts most people (including many of them) believe them to be, our system of medicine is really screwed up, and it's not even obvious that we derive a net benefit from medical intervention considered overall.

(It's pretty obvious that some specific interventions are extremely important, but they're quite basic and do not make up the majority of all interventions.)

Comment by Annoyance on Guilt by Association · 2009-06-25T15:01:45.662Z · LW · GW

Doesn't it depend upon the context?

No. "P implies Q", even in regular, everyday English, does not suggest that P is the set of all possible causes for Q. Context doesn't matter.

Comment by Annoyance on Requests to the Right Ear Are More Successful Than to the Left · 2009-06-25T14:24:47.584Z · LW · GW

As one of the comments at Wired points out, the left side of the brain specializes in verbal processing.

Thus, it's a confounding factor that prevents us from concluding that the left side is "more amenable". That is possible, but not indicated.

Comment by Annoyance on Guilt by Association · 2009-06-25T14:03:39.320Z · LW · GW

I argue that what we tend to understand by the statement "p implies q" is that p is the set of things that result in q.

But since that's not what the words mean even in standard English, it's clearly a misunderstanding on the part of the students.

Comment by Annoyance on Guilt by Association · 2009-06-25T13:55:52.630Z · LW · GW

Is "If P, then Q. P. Therefore, Not-Q." also just as basic and elemental an error as "P is Fermat's Last Theorem. Therefore, P is false."?

No, it's far more basic. "Fermat's Last Theorem" is a very complicated concept which is only being referenced here. The full logical description of the concept - which is what's necessary to evaluate the argument - would be much longer.

Comment by Annoyance on Guilt by Association · 2009-06-25T13:50:18.231Z · LW · GW

The statement "If P, then Q. Q. P is not ruled out." is correct logic. But it conveys very little information.

Comment by Annoyance on Guilt by Association · 2009-06-25T13:48:52.678Z · LW · GW

When the patient is utterly unable to produce a rational justification for their behavior, and the therapist has asked reasonable questions based on logically-derived premises, the assertion becomes extremely unreasonable.

When the issue isn't rationality per se, but other concerns - and people begin to insist that others around them have the motivations that their own actions strongly indicate they themselves have - projection seems to be quite obvious.