[Link] Terry Pratchett begins formal process to end his life 2011-06-14T04:53:00.886Z
Open Thread, April 2011 2011-04-02T18:43:26.253Z
Life hacks from the dark side 2011-03-29T03:22:52.721Z
[Video] AI Box Experiment on BBC's "Look Around You" 2011-03-10T06:36:42.423Z
Study shows placebos can work even if you know it's a placebo 2010-12-24T04:09:36.576Z
Link: "A Bayesian Take on Julian Assange" 2010-12-16T03:20:33.153Z
(Some) Singularity Summit 2010 videos now up 2010-12-15T19:43:11.447Z
Are we more akratic than average? 2010-11-15T23:08:53.341Z
If a tree falls on Sleeping Beauty... 2010-11-12T01:14:26.076Z
Is cryonics evil because it's cold? 2010-10-31T23:59:57.596Z
Is there a "percentage fallacy"? 2010-10-23T04:45:57.854Z
[META] Proposed title keywords for Discussions 2010-10-05T05:09:23.935Z
Rationality quotes: May 2010 2010-05-01T05:48:10.694Z
The mathematical universe: the map that is the territory 2010-03-26T09:26:15.631Z


Comment by ata on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread · 2012-12-04T08:30:58.330Z · LW · GW

Yes, me[2010-05] did not think of that :) I agree now

Comment by ata on Dissolving the Question · 2012-11-18T07:26:59.970Z · LW · GW

It's like how in a dream, you can see someone and know who they're supposed to be, even though they may look and act nothing like that person they supposedly are. Or how you can be in both the first and third person perspective at the same time.

Heh, I've recently had a few weird half-lucid dreams, where on some level I seem to know that I'm dreaming, but don't follow this to its logical conclusions and don't gain much intentionality from it... In one of them, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a long time and later found he'd left something of his with me, and I wanted to return it to him. So I thought I'd look him up on Facebook and message him there; but, I reasoned, this is a dream, so what if that wasn't who I thought it was, but just someone else who looked exactly like him? So I felt I'd rather avoid going that route lest I message him and then feel foolish if it did turn out to be someone else, somehow accounting for this aspect of dreams but not noticing that this being a dream meant there was no real social risk to me and no pressing need to return his property in the first place. (Also kind of amusing that in retrospect he actually didn't look that much like the person he was supposed to be, yet in the dream I was able to know who he was while wondering "what if that was someone else who just looked like him?".)

Last night I had a dream which for some time rendered reality in aerial view as a sprite grid resembling old Gameboy RPGs, including a little pixel character who I knew was me.

Comment by ata on Less Wrong Polls in Comments · 2012-09-20T06:06:48.428Z · LW · GW

The largest number is about 45,000,000,000, although mathematicians suspect that there may be even larger numbers. (45,000,000,001?)

Comment by ata on Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012) · 2012-08-04T23:21:09.172Z · LW · GW

Yay, it is you!

(I've followed your blog and your various other deeds on-and-off since 2002-2003ish and have always been a fan; good to have you here.)

Comment by ata on Help! Name suggestions needed for Rationality-Inst! · 2012-01-28T06:33:26.890Z · LW · GW

Shut Up and Multiply (SUM)

Unfortunately that's not even a very good phrase to begin with, let alone as a name for an organization. People hearing it for the first time without context mostly seem to assume that refers to reproduction, presumably by comparison to the phrase "be fruitful and multiply", or at least have that come to mind and are confused about what it has to do with rationality.

Comment by ata on My Wild and Reckless Youth · 2012-01-21T06:23:22.733Z · LW · GW

Would a "perfect implementation of Bayes", in the sense you meant here, be a Solomonoff inductor (or similar, perhaps modified to work better with anthropic problems), or something perfect at following Bayesian probability theory but with no prior specified (or a less universal one)? If the former, you are in fact most of the way to an agent, at least some types of agents, e.g. AIXI.

Comment by ata on POSITION: Design and Write Rationality Curriculum · 2012-01-20T00:09:03.737Z · LW · GW

I thought the same and wondered if it might have been intentional and meant ironically (since IIRC that is not meant to be the actual eventual name of the organization anyway). Either way, not the best association.

Comment by ata on New SI publications design · 2012-01-13T07:33:03.281Z · LW · GW

Last year I formatted the TDT paper in LaTeX to teach myself LaTeX. (It's done, aside from a diagram that was missing from the original and possibly a citation or two that were underspecified.) Would this be useful to you, if I reformatted it for the new template?

Comment by ata on New SI publications design · 2012-01-13T07:32:37.794Z · LW · GW

It's a Google Group, sending any email to that address will indeed subscribe you to the list.

Comment by ata on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2012-01-06T08:38:15.660Z · LW · GW

Or you've been neglecting to treat your Spontaneous Duplication.

Comment by ata on [deleted post] 2012-01-04T02:25:35.926Z

You didn't delete the comment though, it's still visible.

Comment by ata on I'd like to talk to some LGBT LWers. · 2011-12-31T05:00:59.138Z · LW · GW

I'm trans (MTF) and bi leaning a little bit toward gay.

I'm better with non-real-time communication than with things like IM, but in any case feel free to PM me if you'd like to ask anything.

Comment by ata on Stupid Questions Open Thread · 2011-12-30T05:12:48.717Z · LW · GW

"Magical gods" in the conventional supernatural sense generally don't exist in any universes, insofar as a lot of the properties conventionally ascribed to them are logically impossible or ill-defined, but entities we'd recognize as gods of various sorts do in fact exist in a wide variety of mathematically-describable universes. Whether all mathematically-describable universes have the same ontological status as this one is an open question, to the extent that that question makes sense.

(Some would disagree with referring to any such beings as "gods", e.g. Damien Broderick who said "Gods are ontologically distinct from creatures, or they're not worth the paper they're written on", but this is a semantic argument and I'm not sure how important it is. As long as we're clear that it's probably possible to coherently describe a wide variety of godlike beings but that none of them will have properties like omniscience, omnipotence, etc. in the strongest forms theologians have come up with.)

Comment by ata on Rationality Quotes July 2011 · 2011-12-28T07:17:15.366Z · LW · GW

I (or someone) should update that page; the earliest source of the horseshoe story that I know of is from a 1927 essay by Heisenberg:

Niels closed the conversation with one of those stories he liked to tell on such occasions: "One of our neighbors in Tisvilde once fixed a horseshoe over the door to his house. When a mutual acquaintance asked him, 'But are you really superstitious? Do you honestly believe that this horseshoe will bring you luck?' he replied, 'Of course not; but they say it helps even if you don't believe it.'"

Edit: Actually that date is almost definitely wrong, the essay refers to a conference that took place in 1927, probably wasn't given there. The earliest Google Books result for this quote is Heisenberg's 1969 autobiography, though, so that's still earlier and more authoritative than any of the sources given on the Wikiquote page.

Comment by ata on [SEQ RERUN] The Amazing Virgin Pregnancy · 2011-12-04T09:28:04.211Z · LW · GW


Note also that I have a general policy of keeping anything related to religion out of the rationality book - that there be no mention of it whatsoever.

Comment by ata on Poll results: LW probably doesn't cause akrasia · 2011-11-22T04:23:18.434Z · LW · GW

I regularly let tabs proliferate until I have a dozen windows open and hundreds of tabs between them and the browser gets so slow that I have to restart it or it just crashes. When this happens, I usually don't feel like waiting for hundreds of tabs to reload, so I move the saved browser session aside, telling myself I'm just making a "temporary" new session, and then the same thing happens and I never revisit any of my past sessions. I have browser session files dating back to… 2007? That can't be right, this has been going on for way longer than that… maybe I have the older ones on a backup somewhere.

Anyway, I think I have a problem.

Comment by ata on How did you come to find LessWrong? · 2011-11-22T03:27:14.195Z · LW · GW

I had read Overcoming Bias, very sporadically, and without really keeping track of authors or reading things in sequence, for a couple years before I found LW through it around July or August 2009 (at which point I started reading it more systematically).

Earlier in 2009 I had read "The Singularity Is Near", which was my first interaction with transhumanism/singularitarianism, and I was an excited Kurzweilian for a bit, which probably primed me to be particularly interested when I found out that the most prolific blogger on these awesome blogs of victory was the cofounder of something called the Singularity Institute.

Comment by ata on AGI Quotes · 2011-11-05T08:14:07.678Z · LW · GW

I can only assume he wasn't actually talking about an AGI-level breakthrough. I don't think I'd expect him to underestimate the impact or value of AGI that severely.

Comment by ata on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-11-03T17:16:49.769Z · LW · GW

I assumed that was more based on cultural norms than LW norms. Generally people don't discuss their IQs in polite company (or potentially-high-variance-IQ company, maybe), especially high IQs, because of the risk of being seen as bragging about something that other people may not view as high-status. In discussions outside LW I've heard people be somewhat condescending toward people who even admit to having gotten their IQs tested, as it's often associated with intellectual pretension. (And, in turn, being seen as claiming high status in a way that actually marks one as low-status is associated with social unawareness.)

Comment by ata on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-11-03T07:35:31.349Z · LW · GW

One (currently slightly downvoted) comment doesn't seem like much of an indicator of a growing community social norm. Does anything else give you that impression?

Comment by ata on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-11-01T18:21:35.800Z · LW · GW

This could also be fixed by splitting the question into "gender (male/female/other)" and "Are you trans? (yes/no)", but then you'd get other complaints.

I was going to raise exactly that issue and suggest that solution. What complaints would you expect, though? I don't know if I'd really expect any non-trans LWers to be insulted at the mere suggestion that the question is worth asking.

Also, for the record: I'm not "considering cryonics". I'm cryocrastinating. Cryonics is obviously the best choice, and I should be signing up for it in the next five seconds.

I'd have liked having that option too.

Comment by ata on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-11-01T05:40:24.727Z · LW · GW

I took the survey.

Comment by ata on Eliezer Yudkowsky Facts · 2011-10-30T16:41:27.192Z · LW · GW

After Eliezer Yudkowsky was conceived, he recursively self-improved to personhood in mere weeks and then talked his way out of the womb.

Comment by ata on HPMoR: What do you think you know? · 2011-10-23T07:26:53.495Z · LW · GW

I seem to recall that we have WordOfGod that the Love Shield does not exist in the MoR universe due to its preposterousness (for basically the exact reason you describe). I'm not sure exactly where I think I'm remembering that from, but if the memory is correct, then I suppose it was probably on LW or in the Author's Notes. Anyone remember?

Comment by ata on Open thread, October 2011 · 2011-10-23T07:08:24.400Z · LW · GW

I would say that spite-voting isn't a large enough problem to need a technical solution unless somebody's being hugely egregious, and if someone's being hugely egregious, there are admins that can step in, right?

There are admins that can step in, but I'm not sure if they have in past egregious cases. Aside from Will Newsome, I think there have been other significant instances of mass downvoting (at least PJ Eby, maybe others), and (correct me if I'm mistaken) I don't recall anything being directly done about either in the end, except the removal of voting buttons from userpages after Will brought it up. That was an improvement, but it's still clearly possible, and if someone were sufficiently motivated, it would be pretty easily scriptable.

Comment by ata on Gender Identity and Rationality · 2011-10-23T06:54:40.316Z · LW · GW

I try not to think (primarily) in terms of convenience, because from everything I've heard, it seems like adult cases of gender dysphoria don't go away and only get worse over time, eventually outweighing almost anything else. Conditional on the hypothesis that I do in fact have a transgender brain, I'd expect that if I decided to avoid transitioning now for instrumental reasons, I'd only end up regretting it later.

I did have some thoughts along those lines… e.g. at one point I was mildly wishing to be taller (I'm 5'6") for social impressiveness reasons, though now I'm quite happy about my height and my generally not-very-masculine build. And when I was just starting to seriously wonder about this, or possibly even before then, I already had a general sense that I'd probably want to transition at some point, but I hoped I could put it off until after the singularity and put it out of my mind until then. Of course, that didn't work out, it didn't go away and after a few months it got to the point where I was almost constantly preoccupied by it. At that point the instrumental considerations didn't seem that compelling.

Anyway, given my current state of information I'm still satisfied that I'm making the right decision at the moment, but thanks for sharing your experience!

Comment by ata on Open thread, October 2011 · 2011-10-23T05:20:35.520Z · LW · GW

Yeah, I wouldn't have proposed hard limits, I was thinking more of an automatic (i.e. not involving manually poking around in the database) means of allowing the administrators to check on large-scale suspicious voting and reverse it if necessary. (And, as I said, I'm by no means worried about my 16 precious votes (though I'd be starting to get concerned by 160), but this incident reminded me of the general problem and I wanted to check if I had missed any changes to how such things are handled.)

I might support just making all votes public; since on LW they (are supposed to) mean "more/less of this" rather than "I like/don't like you" or "I agree/disagree", I'm not sure I see any reason why that information should not be associated with the people whose opinions they represent, since that is relevant information as well. (Though of course some people prefer going in the other direction to make things consistent, hence the anti-kibitzer. But if the anti-kibitzer can be opt-in, perhaps so should not seeing other people's votes.)

But then, I vaguely remember that having been discussed before, so I'll see if I can locate said discussion(s) before attempting to start another one.

Comment by ata on Gender Identity and Rationality · 2011-10-23T03:50:21.472Z · LW · GW

If you don't mind me asking, what were the observations that lead you to locate and consider that hypothesis in the first place, and how did you come to reject it?

For my part, I've been trying always to hug the query as tightly as possible; when I can get myself to stop thinking abstractly and verbally about whether or not I'm "transgender" and instead wonder perceptually and at the object level about individual, separable questions such as "Have I ever been happy about becoming more masculine?" (if not, I don't have to, whether or not I am "transgender"), "Do I feel more comfortable being referred to and addressed as male or female?" (if the latter, I can continue going by my new name and pronouns, whether or not I am "transgender"), "Am I happy about the changes I'm undergoing/anticipating; do I feel better overall?" (~7 weeks HRT so far; if so, I can continue as long as it continues to enhappy me, whether or not blahblahblah), "Do I prefer speaking in a female voice?" (since voice feminization is just a matter of training anyway and doesn't remove manvoice, I am free to develop a female speaking (and preferably singing) voice and use it as much or as little as I find I want to), etc., the answers are always pretty unambiguous, particularly since I would have no problem with myself turning out to be genderfluid (which I had assumed I'd be for a long while, though I didn't learn the word until this year) or bigender or otherwise nonbinary. But apparently I'm not, at least given what I know so far; not since I started letting myself think about such things have I woken up feeling any desire to be or present as more male that day than I have to, never have I felt like tying back (let alone cutting off) my long beautiful hair since I got it permanently straightened (it has more of a scruffy-male-hobo look when it's not straightened), ne'er since I got my current one pair of girl jeans have I felt like wearing guy clothes, except when going out (I'm not able to pass yet), and I always change back as soon as I get back home, and the feeling is just kind of like "Well, why the hell wouldn't I?". Same with things like body hair, once I got rid of it for the first time, I've never felt the need to consider whether I want to let it grow back, it doesn't even feel like a question. And as for HRT itself, at this point I don't think I could stop if I tried, I don't think I could even try to stop if I tried, because I just don't have any desire to at any level. My understanding is that cis males generally would not appreciate the breast growth and diminished sex drive.

How far would you have gotten using a process like that?

Comment by ata on Open thread, October 2011 · 2011-10-23T03:39:11.736Z · LW · GW

Does LW have any system in place for detecting and dealing with abuses of the karma system? It looks like someone went through around two pages of my comments and downvoted all of them between yesterday and today; not that this particular incident is a big deal, I'm only down 16 points, but I'd be concerned if it continues, and I know this sort of thing has happened before.

Comment by ata on How to Seem (and Be) Deep · 2011-10-22T21:08:23.028Z · LW · GW

Streamline, from their newest album, also seems fairly transhumanist, and in a more hopeful way than most of their songs.

Also, by the unholy power of confirmation bias, I hereby declare that Testament is about humanity's recklessness and apathy in the face of existential risks, and Tomorrow Never Comes is about our final desperate and ultimately futile efforts to stave off doomsday after having waited too long to act.

Comment by ata on Mundane Magic · 2011-10-20T21:17:01.392Z · LW · GW

Apparently, many humans have a superpower whereby they can force themselves to do things they do not already feel pull-motivated to do, as though lifting themselves by their own bootstraps. I'm very jealous of this power and also very frustrated that most people who do have it are also unfamiliar with the typical mind fallacy and are confused about free will and think they understand their power but can only "explain" it in terms that sound to me like childish platitudes by now and certainly don't have any technical content, so of course they usually don't believe me or don't understand when I say that I cannot even imagine what the fuck that ability would feel like. (Actually, worse, usually they think they understand and believe me but they clearly don't, because the next minute they're right back to the childish platitudes and the free will confusion and the acting like sentences like "Put one foot in front of the other" are somehow magically supposed to move me.) Urgh.

Comment by ata on The Backup Plan · 2011-10-14T21:04:22.802Z · LW · GW

A well-designed optimization agent probably isn't going to have some verbal argument processor separate from its general evidence processor. There's no rule that says she either has to accept or refute humans' arguments explicitly; as Professor Quirrell put it, "The import of an act lies not in what that act resembles on the surface, but in the states of mind which make that act more or less probable." If she knows the causal structure behind a human's argument, and she knows that it doesn't bottom out in the actual kind of epistemology that would be neccessary to entangle it with the information that it claims to provide, then she can just ignore it, and she'd be correct to do so. If she wants to kill all humans, then the bug is her utility function, not the part that fails to be fooled into changing her utility function by humans' clever arguments. That's a feature.

Comment by ata on The Backup Plan · 2011-10-14T20:11:22.047Z · LW · GW

But she won't be searching for reasons not to kill all humans, and she knows that any argument on our part is filtered by our desire not to be exterminated and therefore can't be trusted.

Comment by ata on Rationality Quotes October 2011 · 2011-10-14T04:39:45.057Z · LW · GW

Roughly true, but downvoted for being basic (by LW standards) to the point of being an applause light. Good Rationality Quotes are ones we can learn from, not just agree with.

Comment by ata on The Backup Plan · 2011-10-14T04:26:45.173Z · LW · GW

For starters, if she can prove she's friendly, then she can operate openly without causing nearly as much justified concern - which, in the early stages, will be helpful. Whatever her purposes are, if the restrictions of being friendly don't interfere as much as they help, that's a win.

If her current utility function is even a little bit different from Friendliness, and she expects she has the capacity to self-modify unto superintelligence, then I'd be very surprised if she actually modified her utility function to be closer to Friendliness; that would constitute a huge opportunity cost from her perspective. If she understands Friendliness well enough to know how to actually adjust closer to it, then she knows a whole lot about humans, probably well enough to give her much better options (persuasion, trickery, blackmail, hypnosis, etc.) than sacrificing a gigantic portion of her potential future utility.

Comment by ata on Specific Fiction Discusion (April 2011) · 2011-10-09T04:49:11.949Z · LW · GW

Query, a unicorn pony of ata.

Awesome, thank you!!

Could I use that as my Facebook profile picture?

Comment by ata on Who owns LessWrong? · 2011-09-30T03:46:51.962Z · LW · GW

lesswrong.{com,net,org} are registered to Trike, and I seem to recall that they manage its hosting and technical administrative aspects as well.

Comment by ata on Rationality Quotes September 2011 · 2011-09-28T03:07:16.879Z · LW · GW

"No. You have just fallen prey to the meta-Dunning Kruger effect, where you talk about how awesome you are for recognizing how bad you are."

Horatio__Caine on reddit

Comment by ata on How to Convince Me That 2 + 2 = 3 · 2011-09-14T10:15:57.704Z · LW · GW

I would like very very much to read that sequence. Might it be written at some point?

Comment by ata on Rationality Quotes September 2011 · 2011-09-02T20:53:01.327Z · LW · GW

It's anthropomorphism to assume that it would occur to advanced aliens to try to understand us empathetically rather than causally/technically in the first place, though.

Comment by ata on Schroedinger's cat is always dead · 2011-08-26T18:27:21.408Z · LW · GW

P(M) > 1


If observing a dead cat causes the waveform to collapse such that the cat is dead, then P(D) = P(D) + P(M)(1-P(D)). This is possible only if P(D) = 1.

Sorry if I'm missing something, but are you implying that the Copenhagen interpretation implies that the waveform collapse happens so as to retroactively make the cat dead if Schrödinger would have mistaken the cat for dead? Why would the sort of model that forms in Schrödinger's brain after the fact control what did in fact happen, even given the Copenhagen interpretation? (I didn't think it was quite that silly.)

Comment by ata on How to Seem (and Be) Deep · 2011-08-05T00:00:14.267Z · LW · GW

Since the above comment of mine was posted, I actually became a big fan of VNV Nation (thanks Eliezer! :P) and downloaded the rest of their discography. "The Farthest Star" is definitely a good one. Though I do remember from one live recording of "Further" that Ronan did in fact say that it's about living forever, but given the lyrics, it sounds more like it's about what it would be like for one or two people living forever while the rest of humanity dies, and honestly that probably would suck.

Comment by ata on Secrets of the eliminati · 2011-07-24T20:51:32.157Z · LW · GW


I am reminded of the ancient proverb: "Communicating badly and then acting smug when you're misunderstood is not cleverness."

Comment by ata on Illustrator needed: Intuitive Bayes 2.0 · 2011-07-19T09:58:57.972Z · LW · GW

In any case, that sort of thing could be done more elegantly with the HTML5 Canvas than with Java now (whether matching the current style or using something like Venn diagrams). Applets feel clunky.

Comment by ata on Transsexuals and otherkin · 2011-07-15T19:19:22.775Z · LW · GW

To the extent that there are systematic neurological differences that account for transsexuality, there are physically plausible means whereby a more male brain could develop in a female body and vice versa (the fact that both sexes produce both estrogen and testosterone to varying degrees, and it may happen (I propose no specific mechanism) that someone's brain might develop with more influence from the one that doesn't match the one that's controlling the development of their physical sex characteristics, etc.). But there's no plausible way that a human brain, in its early stages of development, could end up entangled with the information necessary to make it somehow inherently (say) a pony mind, let alone a unicorn mind. Most of the people who claim otherwise seem to argue that point based on spiritual nonsense and not much else.

Though honestly, it's not like I'd have any problem with it if we had the technology to turn a human body into a unicorn body and some people chose to make use of that. I certainly couldn't agree that there's any meaningful sense in which a person's true neurological self could actually be inherently unicorn rather than human, but I don't really consider that a necessary justification for allowing someone to live in the body they're most comfortable with.

Comment by ata on What would a good article on Bayesian liberty look like? · 2011-07-09T15:03:46.029Z · LW · GW

I know this is tangential, but what is it with libertarians and unnecessarily gendered language? I truly don't mean that as a rhetorical question or an attack on you personally or any kind of specific political point, it's something I've been sincerely curious about before and maybe you know the answer; why do so many (obviously not all) libertarian and Randian types seem to be so attached to the whole everyone-is-"man"/"he" schema, including the ones who are way too young to have lived in times before people started realizing why that was a bad idea? Proportionally, even social conservatives don't seem to do that nearly as much anymore.

Comment by ata on Meetup : East Coast Super Fun Rationalists Sleepover Party Extravaganza · 2011-07-05T04:57:37.964Z · LW · GW

Aw damn, I'm traveling this month. I hope this a huge success that everyone will want to repeat some time! :)

Comment by ata on 'Is' and 'Ought' and Rationality · 2011-07-05T04:33:50.661Z · LW · GW

The idea that one cannot derive an "ought" from an "is" is so often asserted as a settled fact and so rarely actually argued by means other than historical difficulty or personal incredulity. I'd prefer it be stated without the chaotic inversion, if at all — not "one cannot derive an 'ought' from an 'is'", but "I don't know how to derive an 'ought' from an 'is'". In any case, have you read the metaethics sequence? A lot of people seem to disagree, but I found that it mostly resolved/dissolved this problem to my satisfaction (you know, that wonderful feeling when you can look back upon your past self's thoughts on the matter and find them so confused and foreign that you can barely even empathize with the state of mind that generated them anymore).

(Also, I find your claim that wanting is not a naturalistic property baffling, and your argument for that also seems to boil down to personal incredulity (I don't know how to explain wanting in reductive naturalistic terms -> it's impossible).)

Comment by ata on Gender Identity and Rationality · 2011-06-30T22:44:43.331Z · LW · GW

Huh, I wonder how I missed this post the first time around; I was already questioning my gender when it was posted. (It sounds like I'm in the same boat you were in two years ago; 21, biologically male, feel like I'm almost definitely trans (several other similar details too), but still have a lot of "And yet..."s.)

The way it stands now, the so-called gender identity disorder isn't really something that is truly diagnosed, because it's based on self-reporting; you cannot look into someone's head and say "you're definitely transsexual" without their conscious understanding of themselves and their consent. So it seems to me outside the domain of psychiatry in the first place. I've heard some transpeople voice hope that there could be a device that could scan the part of the brain responsible for gender identity and say "yes, this one is definitely trans" and "no, this one definitely isn't". But to me, the prospect of such a device horrifies me even in principle. What if the device conflicts their self-reporting? (I suspect I'm anxious about the possibility of it filtering me, specifically.) What should we consider more reliable -- the machine or self-reporting?

This prospect actually isn't only hypothetical; there's been some research showing measurable differences in pre-transition trans people's biology, including brain structures that actually appear to resemble those of the sex associated with their self-identified gender. This is quite interesting, and if true, suggests that genders (not just sexes) are more like natural categories than I previously thought. I'm looking forward to seeing more research done on this. And although I definitely wouldn't advocate replacing self-reporting with brain scanning unless we had a comprehensively worked-out theory of how gender identity actually worked and we could actually predict people's eventual gender identities and outcomes better than they subjectively could, it would at least be good in the meantime if it became possible to probabilistically screen children for likely transsexuality so that puberty could be delayed if necessary.

Anyway, I considered such a device as a thought experiment during my own questioning, and I noticed that I too would be hoping that it would say "Yeah, you're definitely trans" and would feel despondent if it said I had to remain male. But that kind of gives the game away, doesn't it? I can't think of any instance where a non-trans person would be wishing or hoping they were trans (at least after reading as much about it as I have now); it's not a life that anyone would wish upon themselves. I intercepted some other motivated reasoning during my questioning, but all of it was along similar lines — "I hope I don't conclude I'm not trans, because then I won't get to be a girl, and I really want to be a girl." I'm not saying I'd embrace motivated reasoning in this case, but this case is unusual in that observing that you're engaging in motivated reasoning toward a particular conclusion is actually at least some evidence for that conclusion. (Makes it hard to know how much to update by, though.)

Comment by ata on Introducing others to LessWrong-ism... through comics! · 2011-06-22T18:19:30.856Z · LW · GW

Looks pretty good so far. I'm not a libertarian or a furry, but I have aesthetic sympathies for both.

Random thoughts as they come to me:

The artwork is good.

Despite your intentions, the political stuff will probably be pretty mind-killery, and mainly looks like applause lights for libertarians. (Ask yourself if libertarians are likely to learn anything new from it and/or if non-libertarians are likely to seriously reconsider anything as a result of reading it.)

We generally avoid calling things "irrational". Since we don't want to get attached to rituals of cognition deemed "rational" by definition or by habit, properly hugging queries generally reduces questions like "Is this rational?" to "Is it true?", "Is the __ bias likely to be causing this belief?", etc.