LessWrong and Rationality ebooks via Amazon 2011-09-11T16:08:25.063Z · score: 22 (22 votes)
Tip: Reading LW on the Kindle 2011-08-06T22:40:04.792Z · score: 12 (13 votes)


Comment by anonym on Mathematics as a lossy compression algorithm gone wild · 2014-06-16T16:08:50.488Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

the structure of the universe is isomorphic to the ideal math that we could use to explain and predict it. I would not be at all surprised to find out that somehow, "they are the same thing," whatever that might mean.

Tegmark's Mathematical universe hypothesis is one answer to what that might mean.

Comment by anonym on Skills and Antiskills · 2014-05-17T16:44:16.521Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's more useful to keep the meaning of "skill" as something like "the ability to do something well", which is what everybody expects you mean when you use the word, and talk instead about better and worse applications of skills. It's not the skill that's context dependent, but how useful or beneficial the application of the skill is in a particular scenario.

Comment by anonym on 2013 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2013-12-04T04:49:02.089Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Survey completed. I cooperated without thinking about it much. I believed that TDT-like reasoning would probably lead a significant number of others to cooperate too, and I felt I should support the group.

Comment by anonym on Rationality Quotes August 2013 · 2013-08-21T02:25:19.908Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

When a concept is inherently approximate, it is a waste of time to try to give it a precise definition.

-- John McCarthy

Comment by anonym on Rationality Quotes August 2013 · 2013-08-21T02:23:44.347Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

The opposite intellectual sin to wanting to derive everything from fundamental physics is holism which makes too much of the fact that everything is ultimately connected to everything else. Sure, but scientific progress is made by finding where the connections are weak enough to allow separate theories.

-- John McCarthy

Comment by anonym on How I Ended Up Non-Ambitious · 2012-01-27T07:35:43.449Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm the same. Great one-on-one, and extremely awkward when there are two or more other people, which I find to be very exhausting due to the extra conversation dynamics you note. It's also very difficult too when you're the sort of person who likes to periodically be silent for a period in order to think more deeply about what you're talking about -- with more than one other person there, somebody else will just start a new conversation on a new topic to avoid the "dreaded silence".

Comment by anonym on "Talking with God", a transhumanist short story · 2012-01-10T04:30:05.790Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Do you mean complimentary, and not complementary?

Comment by anonym on New 'landing page' website: · 2011-12-17T20:12:28.229Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's much better now. The only issue remaining is that the 'Frequently Asked Questions" is just a tiny bit too wide to fit on one line inside the containing box, so the 'ns' of 'Questions' sticks outside of the gray box it is supposed to be inside.

Comment by anonym on New 'landing page' website: · 2011-12-13T16:59:43.689Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

On the topic of how the site looks in different browsers, and finding out whether the layout is borked on some browsers, you could use

At the moment though, it fails due to an internal server error when it tries to fetch If you fix that, you should be able to easily see how the site looks in a bunch of different browsers on different operating systems.

Comment by anonym on New 'landing page' website: · 2011-12-13T16:54:24.622Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I also see the FAQ page as broken with 'Questions' in the header appearing overlayed on the #2 and #3 items in the 'contents' list. With Firefox 8 on Linux at default zoom, and zooming down to make the fonts smaller than normal does fix it.

I agree with nyan_sandwich that things would be much improved if the CSS used ems instead of pixels, which are guaranteed to break if users have non-standard fonts or font sizes or their browser happens to have different enough default CSS rules.

Comment by anonym on Rationality Quotes October 2011 · 2011-10-04T03:57:46.057Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

He did say "all exact science", a phrasing I think he probably chose carefully, so I'd charitably interpret the remark as being about people uttering purported scientific truths.

Comment by anonym on Rationality Drugs · 2011-10-02T03:05:42.057Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Please elaborate. In what ways have you found it to be mind-altering?

Comment by anonym on Rationality Quotes October 2011 · 2011-10-02T02:27:50.864Z · score: 20 (20 votes) · LW · GW

It would be an error to suppose that the great discoverer seizes at once upon the truth, or has any unerring method of divining it. In all probability the errors of the great mind exceed in number those of the less vigorous one. Fertility of imagination and abundance of guesses at truth are among the first requisites of discovery; but the erroneous guesses must be many times as numerous as those that prove well founded. The weakest analogies, the most whimsical notions, the most apparently absurd theories, may pass through the teeming brain, and no record remain of more than the hundredth part….

W. Stanley Jevons

Comment by anonym on Rationality Quotes October 2011 · 2011-10-02T02:17:17.320Z · score: 40 (42 votes) · LW · GW

Although this may seem a paradox, all exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation. When a man tells you that he knows the exact truth about anything, you are safe in inferring that he is an inexact man.

Bertrand Russell

Comment by anonym on Rationality Quotes October 2011 · 2011-10-02T02:13:23.102Z · score: 13 (17 votes) · LW · GW

The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them.

William Lawrence Bragg

Comment by anonym on Rationality Quotes October 2011 · 2011-10-02T01:54:31.252Z · score: 24 (24 votes) · LW · GW

The most valuable acquisitions in a scientific or technical education are the general-purpose mental tools which remain serviceable for a lifetime. I rate natural language and mathematics as the most important of these tools, and computer science as a third.

George E. Forsythe

Comment by anonym on [LINK] Daniel Pink talks about Motivation · 2011-09-23T06:20:10.564Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the explanation. Your explanation accords with what I've heard from my coach and what I've read. What surprised me in your original comment was this sentence in particular:

The first goal was to memorize a massive amount of opening theory and what is known as 'book' knowledge.

That sounded to me like much more than "studying the Ruy Lopez and Queen's Gambit to illustrate basic ideas about central control". It sounded more like "try to memorize every line of every variation of the Ruy Lopez that is in MCO".

Comment by anonym on [LINK] Daniel Pink talks about Motivation · 2011-09-23T03:24:39.473Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In my experience, the main goal of chess coaching and training was to teach you how to act like you were a computer. Any kind of "intuitive" play or even creative play was harshly criticized from a young age. The first goal was to memorize a massive amount of opening theory and what is known as 'book' knowledge. Once a student has a reasonable amount of book knowledge, then you move on to techniques to focus you on calculating quickly.

This hasn't been my experience at all. At what level do you believe that memorization of opening theory is the first goal? I've seen coaches state again and again that most players under 2000 (i.e., most tournament chess players) spend too much time memorizing opening theory, when they would get far more benefit from working on tactics and middlegame technique, playing through lots of master games, and playing more slow chess. This is what my coach has recommended to me (I'm only about 1700 ICC standard, probably much less than you), and I've heard it stated again and again that too much emphasis on opening theory is a serious problem for sub-2000 players.

Comment by anonym on Knowledge is Worth Paying For · 2011-09-21T20:15:55.953Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

A good way of getting cheap textbooks is to use a price alert service that notifies you when the price of a new or used book drops below a certain price. When you don't need the text in a hurry, and would rather save money and buy used, that works well, because students often want to get rid of a textbook in a hurry and offer it for sale at far below the typical used price for that book. Those deals tend to go pretty quickly though.

Another good idea is to buy the previous edition, especially for texts that have many editions. When the 8th edition of a textbook is going for $80 used, you can often get the 7th edition used for ridiculously cheap (like $10 or $15), and the previous edition was often released just a few years ago (some texts have a new edition every few years) and has only minor differences.

Comment by anonym on A philosophy professor elicits college students' reactions to Less Wrong · 2011-09-21T02:42:53.706Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I think the positive reactions are probably mostly a case of guessing the teacher's password. Perhaps the teacher conveyed a positive impression beforehand, but the default password guessing behavior would probably be to guess "teacher wants us to write about this appreciatively" regardless of whether he said anything additional about the site -- that would be expected for a community blog devoted to refining the art of {rationality, wisdom, justice, aesthetics, ...}.

Comment by anonym on Fix My Head · 2011-09-17T06:46:47.989Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you wear a retainer or any other kind of orthodontic device? I still wear a retainer now and then, and I often get a very severe headache the first night I wear it (I only wear it at night sometimes) if I've forgotten to wear it for a longer period than usual.

Don't know if that's at all relevant to your case, but am throwing it out there just in case.

Comment by anonym on Fix My Head · 2011-09-17T06:42:35.625Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

As a frequent sufferer of headaches, the only over-the-counter medication that works really well for my headaches are the Excedrin formulations that include acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine. Each of those ingredients alone is nowhere near as effective in my experience as the combination.

Comment by anonym on Meetup : Northern Virginia: Nonviolent Communication · 2011-09-13T03:21:30.595Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For anybody else who is as puzzled by "NoVa: NVC" as I was, NVC is, judging from this and a few other references, Non-Violent Communication.

Please spell out an acronym the first time you use it in every article. It takes you 20 seconds to do that, and it took me a couple of frustrating minutes of searching, just as it will take others minutes of searching unless they see my comment.

ETA: thank you for the edits.

Comment by anonym on What does it take? · 2011-09-13T03:03:11.720Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why would it be more likely that you're speaking to a deity than that you are in a simulation speaking to the principal investigator of an experiment or some other non-theistic scenario?

The difficulty I have with this thought experiment is that I can't decide how to distinguish between the hypothesis that there is a deity with whom I'm now conversing, and the many hypotheses that preserve a purely naturalistic universe in which my brain (or a simulation of my brain) is receiving coherent sensory inputs that make it seem like I'm interacting with a deity who can read my mind and show me absolutely anything I ask for -- he could even give me the memories of having proven the Riemann hypothesis to my satisfaction, of having taken me to my funeral...

My gut feeling is that the simulation hypothesis and some other non-theistic hypotheses have higher prior probability for me, and any evidence for the theistic alternative is also consistent with the simulation and some other hypotheses -- which I guess indicates with a problem with simulation hypothesis in this case, since it's not falsifiable.

Comment by anonym on What does it take? · 2011-09-12T15:08:13.592Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

We know he doesn't provide false evidence, but the person in the scenario doesn't know that. How could they distinguish between that scenario and the scenario where the gentleman lies when says he will always tell the truth.

Comment by anonym on Case Study: Reading Edge's financial filings · 2011-09-07T04:12:18.139Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I always thought was basically Brockman's way of getting cheap publicity for the intellectuals his literary agency represents and the books they are currently selling.

Thanks for the interesting investigation, which largely confirms my suspicion.

Comment by anonym on How memory works - video lecture from Stanford · 2011-09-07T03:51:06.866Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm reading Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain at the moment, and it seems a good textbook for people like me who don't have a hardcore background in biology.

A popular non-textbook on the topic of memory in particular is Kandel's In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind, which I really liked. The following, by the same author, looks very interesting, and has just gone on my future purchase list: Memory: From Mind to Molecules.

I'm curious to hear opinions from more knowledgeable people than me though.

Comment by anonym on Open Thread: September 2011 · 2011-09-07T03:41:36.494Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I agree. I was hoping somebody could make a coherent and plausible sounding argument for their position, which seems ridiculous to me. The paper you referenced shows that if you present an extremely simple problem of probability and ask for the answer in terms of a frequency (and not as a single event), AND you present the data in terms of frequencies, AND you also help subjects to construct concrete, visual representations of the frequencies involved by essentially spoon-feeding them the answers with leading questions, THEN most of them will get the correct answer. From this they conclude that people are good intuitive statisticians after all, and they cast doubt on the entire heuristics and biases literature because experimenters like Kahneman and Tversky don't go to equally absurd lengths to present every experimental problem in ways that would be most intuitive to our paleolithic ancestors. The implication seems to be that rationality cannot (or should not) mean anything other than what the human brain actually does, and the only valid questions and problems for testing rationality are those that would make sense to our ancestors in the EEA.

Comment by anonym on Prisoner's Dilemma Tournament Results · 2011-09-05T17:51:02.630Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This definitely seems like main material to me. Thanks for putting it together and for the very nice summary of results.

Comment by anonym on Open Thread: September 2011 · 2011-09-05T17:30:24.664Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I don't recall any discussion on LW -- and couldn't find any with a quick search -- about the "Great Rationality Debate", which Stanovich summarizes as:

An important research tradition in the cognitive psychology of reasoning--called the heuristics and biases approach--has firmly established that people’s responses often deviate from the performance considered normative on many reasoning tasks. For example, people assess probabilities incorrectly, they display confirmation bias, they test hypotheses inefficiently, they violate the axioms of utility theory, they do not properly calibrate degrees of belief, they overproject their own opinions onto others, they display illogical framing effects, they uneconomically honor sunk costs, they allow prior knowledge to become implicated in deductive reasoning, and they display numerous other information processing biases (for summaries of the large literature, see Baron, 1998, 2000; Dawes, 1998; Evans, 1989; Evans & Over, 1996; Kahneman & Tversky, 1972, 1984, 2000; Kahneman, Slovic, & Tversky, 1982; Nickerson, 1998; Shafir & Tversky, 1995; Stanovich, 1999; Tversky, 1996).

It has been common for these empirical demonstrations of a gap between descriptive and normative models of reasoning and decision making to be taken as indications that systematic irrationalities characterize human cognition. However, over the last decade, an alternative interpretation of these findings has been championed by various evolutionary psychologists, adaptationist modelers, and ecological theorists (Anderson, 1990, 1991; Chater & Oaksford, 2000; Cosmides & Tooby, 1992; 1994b, 1996; Gigerenzer, 1996a; Oaksford & Chater, 1998, 2001; Rode, Cosmides, Hell, & Tooby, 1999; Todd & Gigerenzer, 2000). They have reinterpreted the modal response in most of the classic heuristics and biases experiments as indicating an optimal information processing adaptation on the part of the subjects. It is argued by these investigators that the research in the heuristics and biases tradition has not demonstrated human irrationality at all and that a Panglossian position (see Stanovich & West, 2000) which assumes perfect human rationality is the proper default position to take.

Stanovich, K. E., & West, R. F. (2003). Evolutionary versus instrumental goals: How evolutionary psychology misconceives human rationality. In D. E. Over (Ed.), Evolution and the psychology of thinking: The debate, Psychological Press. [Series on Current Issues in Thinking and Reasoning]

The lack of discussion seems like a curious gap given the strong support to both the schools of thought that Cosmides/Tooby/etc. represent on the one hand, and Kahneman/Tversky/etc. on the other, and that they are in radical opposition on the question of the nature of human rationality and purported deviations from it, both of which are central subjects of this site.

I don't expect to find much support here for the Tooby/Cosmides position on the issue, but I'm surprised that there doesn't seem to have been any discussion of the issue. Maybe I've missed discussions or posts though.

Comment by anonym on Rationality Quotes September 2011 · 2011-09-04T19:34:13.855Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I interpret the first part as saying that there are no laws of matter other than ones our minds are forced to posit (forced over many generations of constantly improving our models). And the second part is something like "minds are subject [only] to physics", as you said. The second part explains how and why the first part works.

Together, I interpret them as suggesting a reductive physicalist interpretation of mind (in the 19th century!) according to which our law-making is not only about the universe but is itself the universe (or a small piece thereof) operating according to those same laws (or other, deeper laws we have yet to discover).

Comment by anonym on Make evidence charts, not review papers? [Link] · 2011-09-04T19:12:14.793Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Much of the heavy lifting is also done by the assignment of numbers and colors to indicate the impact of the experiment on a hypothesis. That's much easier to grok as a whole than plain text. I can also easily make quick judgments from the chart that are much more difficult to do from a review paper, such as "later experiments generally oppose this hypothesis, and only early experiments strongly support it" (among those in the chart, of course).

Comment by anonym on [Link] “How to seem good at everything: Stop doing stupid shit” · 2011-09-04T19:05:12.889Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Nice link. Chess and piano performance were the two examples that came to mind for me before clicking the link.

However, increasing the quality that yields the greatest marginal benefit is not necessarily the same as increasing the minimum of the individual actions (assuming you don't define "minimum quality" in terms of marginal benefit). For example, if the lowest quality action only has a small impact on outcome, there is probably something else it would be more beneficial to improve. Of course, some composite skills probably do have performance proportional to min(indvidual_skill), in which case increasing the minimum would always be most beneficial, but most don't.

Comment by anonym on Rationality Quotes September 2011 · 2011-09-04T18:11:38.451Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Every truth is a path traced through reality: but among these paths there are some to which we could have given an entirely different turn if our attention had been orientated in a different direction or if we had aimed at another kind of utility; there are some, on the contrary, whose direction is marked out by reality itself: there are some, one might say, which correspond to currents of reality. Doubtless these also depend upon us to a certain extent, for we are free to go against the current or to follow it, and even if we follow it, we can variously divert it, being at the same time associated with and submitted to the force manifest within it. Nevertheless these currents are not created by us; they are part and parcel of reality.

Henri L. Bergson -- The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics, p. 218

ETA: retracted. I posted this on the basis of my interpretation of the first sentence, but the rest of the quote makes clear that my interpretation of the first sentence was incorrect, and I don't believe it belongs in a rationality quotes page anymore.

Comment by anonym on Rationality Quotes September 2011 · 2011-09-04T18:06:58.014Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Very often in mathematics the crucial problem is to recognize and discover what are the relevant concepts; once this is accomplished the job may be more than half done.

Yitz Herstein

Comment by anonym on Rationality Quotes September 2011 · 2011-09-04T17:58:03.488Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.

Richard P. Feynman

Comment by anonym on Rationality Quotes September 2011 · 2011-09-04T17:57:54.103Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The only laws of matter are those that our minds must fabricate and the only laws of mind are fabricated for it by matter.

James Clerk Maxwell

Comment by anonym on Rationality Quotes September 2011 · 2011-09-04T17:42:34.536Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

And oldy but goody.

Comment by anonym on Polyhacking · 2011-08-31T04:35:16.005Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Rat lover here. They're adorable little creatures, and have distinct personalities and quirks. The only shortcoming of rats is that they don't live that long, so you're having to deal with the death of your cherished little friends every 2 or 3 years or so.

For anybody who likes rats or is just curious to learn more about them, I highly recommend the most awesome

Comment by anonym on Book trades with open-minded theists - recommendations? · 2011-08-30T03:18:16.598Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted for The Demon-Haunted World.

Comment by anonym on Rational Home Buying · 2011-08-27T14:42:57.957Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I actually do use the 'save' feature in reddit. I find it a handy way to distinguish articles that I found especially useful or high-quality, or that I know I'll want to look at again in the future. Maybe I'm an exception though, because I don't use browser bookmarks or any other bookmarking-type service very much.

That functionality still works in lesswrong just as it does in reddit, but there just isn't a link to get to the page that shows all the stuff you've saved, as I noted elsewhere in this thread.

Comment by anonym on Rational Home Buying · 2011-08-27T14:38:13.344Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You can 'save' an article by clicking the disk icon above the 'Tags' section below an article.

There's no link anywhere to see articles that you've previously saved, but you can manually go to the following URL to see them:

It seems like an oversight on the part of the developers that the 'saved' functionality they got for free from the reddit codebase still works correctly, and the saved pages are accessible, but there's nothing in the UI that indicates how to access the page of previously saved articles.

Comment by anonym on [Poll] Who looks better in your eyes? · 2011-08-26T02:46:03.710Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

One can't get that from "who looks better to you?", except through a lucky guess. It could just as easily have been many other things.

Comment by anonym on [Poll] Who looks better in your eyes? · 2011-08-25T15:52:26.985Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I couldn't answer for this reason. It's asking "whom do you rate higher [according to criterion X]?" without specifying criterion X.

Comment by anonym on Leveling IRL - level 1 · 2011-08-12T03:48:31.219Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The example "Go is a much better game than chess" is much more likely to confuse, and that was the original phrase I objected to. Sure, if somebody thinks about it carefully, they'll realize it hides a value judgment, but as maybe you're aware, people don't consciously analyze everything they read and hear -- and things that are seen or thought about in passing often influence us in ways we are unaware of. I'm not trying to say there was a crime or anything or that one should never say a statement like "Go is a much better game than chess", but am I so out of place to actually point out that it's misleading?

Anway, you're downvoted for pushing obfuscation and then neglecting to even engage with the substance of my comments.

Comment by anonym on Leveling IRL - level 1 · 2011-08-11T02:36:09.959Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I should have said that. Thanks.

On the question of "I" statements though, there is a big difference between "Go is a much better game than chess", and "Go has a much larger state space than chess" (or even "Go is a more complex game than chess"). The former is in the same class of statement as "Chocolate ice cream is much better than vanilla ice cream".

What is the benefit of communicating "I prefer Go to Chess" as "Go is a better game than Chess"? It's less clear, less accurate, and it is likely to confuse many people into accepting that it's a statement about the games in general rather than a statement about one person's taste.

Comment by anonym on Leveling IRL - level 1 · 2011-08-10T03:03:37.488Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Go is a much better game than chess.

You mean, "I like go much more than chess", or "I think chess is a much better game than chess".

Oh, and it's not true that Go lends itself much better to measure progress. Chess has rating systems like the ELO rating system, which measure progress very well.

Comment by anonym on Stanford Intro to AI course to be taught for free online · 2011-07-30T19:41:32.215Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

whois shows Thrun (with his email address) as the registrant and administrative contact, so it seems legit.

Comment by anonym on How to solve the national debt deadlock · 2011-07-19T04:14:07.132Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What's wrong with coming up with an interesting theoretical construct that has almost zero hope of being implemented? Can't that be a vehicle for improving understanding? I don't see any failing in that. It's not like PhilGoetz was recommending we all start lobbying congress and spreading the word in the media about his idea.

Comment by anonym on More info about the book Eliezer is writing? · 2011-06-12T04:03:00.377Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Or: "Becoming Less Wrong".