Comment by blackhumor on I'd like to talk to some LGBT LWers. · 2012-01-04T00:42:17.434Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The analogy doesn't work. It is unconditionally bad to point a gun at someone -- "every gun is loaded" as the saying goes -- so you still violated protocol even if it's unloaded. In contrast, propositioning someone in an elevator retroactively becomes okay merely on the basis that you're not part of the rabble.

Wait, what? The analogy works exactly; you're just assuming a priori that the bit you think doesn't fit actually doesn't fit. The analogy logically goes that if it's wrong to point a gun at someone regardless of whether you think it's loaded because it might be anyway and that would be Very Bad, it's also wrong to proposition women in elevators regardless of whether you think they'll accept because the situation where they don't would be Very Bad.

I don't know how you missed this; you seem to me to have pointed yourself directly to this conclusion and then walked past it.

Comment by blackhumor on The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom · 2011-07-25T14:42:08.933Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A murder is a serious crime. Guede clearly had to break into the house to commit the murder, so he also committed a burglary by your definition.

Which would mean there's no evidence that the burglary was staged, because that would mean that in addition to the burglary that Guede committed, ANOTHER burglary must have been staged by someone else. Which would usually be instantly eliminated by Occam's Razor unless there's a significant amount of evidence of two separate burglaries.

Comment by blackhumor on Influence = Manipulation · 2011-07-20T15:11:21.892Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is it exactly. But let's be rigorous:

  1. "I am trying to get you to get a doctorate by holding back marriage." Still works.
  2. No goal (that I can see), therefore nothing.
  3. No goal (that I can see), therefore nothing.
  4. No goal, therefore nothing (assuming I interpret 5 to mean that 4 is NOT with intent).
  5. "I am teasing you to get you to have sex with me." This probably will not work, but partly because it interrupts the flirting rather than because she knows that the flirting is going on. Depends on how severe the teasing is, really.
  6. "I am teasing you to get you to have sex with me." This probably will not work either, same reason as 5.
  7. Assuming no ulterior motives, "I am trying to get you to become a teacher by this encouragement" Still works.
  8. "I am trying to get you to become a lawyer by this encouragement" Okay, here's an error; it's clearly not that I can tell you what I'm doing that's necessary. Or at least, not alone.

So, with the corrections suggested by doing this, the distinction should be:

If the target having full knowledge of what you're doing doesn't affect whether it works, it's influence. If the target having full knowledge of what you're doing does affect whether it works, it's manipulation.

Or, to get at why one is immoral and the other isn't, if there's deception involved it's manipulation. If there isn't it's influence.

Comment by blackhumor on Transsexuals and otherkin · 2011-07-17T11:52:46.166Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect that you're vastly underestimating how similar people are.

My guess is that people's guesses will be essentially random, except possibly for the trolls (because they're trying, and so will be portraying caricatures of the opposite sex instead of actual people).

I know that I personally have never so far been able to tell men from women over a purely text channel without having been told explicitly, which I assume would be off limits. Though now I think of it that's not entirely true; I would guess from lesswrong demographics that you, Armok, are male. ('course, if you happened to be female that would prove my point nicely.)

Comment by blackhumor on Rational vs. Scientific Ev-Psych · 2011-07-17T10:23:13.780Z · score: 1 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Also, though Wikipedia is not an entirely reliable source, it contradicts your claim that "men hunt women gather" is a human universal. Though it's more common than not, there are a few hunter-gatherer tribes where women help men track animals, or where men also gather sometimes, and at least one tribe where women also kill the animals.

Not that you're likely to read this, of course, since you posted the OP years ago, but I just thought I should further point out that your theory is very improbable.

Comment by blackhumor on Tolerate Tolerance · 2011-07-02T12:54:06.346Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

H*st*r! H*st*r! H*st*r!

Comment by blackhumor on You Be the Jury: Survey on a Current Event · 2011-04-05T04:05:21.061Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW


  1. False
  2. True
  3. True

Why am I giving (most of) these in boolean terms rather than probabilities? Bayesian probabilities aren't useful in cases where the most probable scenario for (AK guilty) is something like "Two of the perpetrators were secretly ninjas". There really is no rational way to convict someone for leaving no forensic evidence in a room whatsoever.

I have to admit here though that I peeked at your article before posting this. And incidentally, predicted what it would say pretty damn well. (AK not guilty with a probability that reduces to 0, with the other two probabilities also expressible in boolean terms, and on the whole contradictory of the opinion of the jury)

I also have to admit I skipped straight to Wikipedia after reading your article, and found mostly that the facts you gave were correct and thus your argument was sound. My prior probability for any of them being guilty was very low however; around 10%ish. Jury decisions are pretty worthless before an appeal.

Comment by blackhumor on The Skeptic's Trilemma · 2011-03-17T00:50:21.886Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think the entire story of Exodus from Egypt is more likely to be (mostly) fiction than based on a real event.

As Eliezer himself said in that post, the Egyptians were "known for their obsessive record-keeping". If anything remotely comparable to the Ten Plagues or the Exodus happened in Egypt, they ought to have recorded it. That they didn't is very strong evidence that nothing happened.

Comment by blackhumor on Rational vs. Scientific Ev-Psych · 2011-01-31T03:15:55.204Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Same general counterargument as the other people who've posted:

1) If this anecdote is all you have to base your theory on, you have essentially no more chance of being right than I would be making up random theories in quantum mechanics.

2) If you say "I think men can find jars easier because male hunter-gatherers hunted", you are likely some random crank who has just enough experience in the field to think of the idea. Once you suggest a method to test it, you prove that you are familiar enough with the idea and with the rest of the field to know what would prove it which elevates you from "some random crank" to "guy with a strange idea".

Comment by blackhumor on Asch's Conformity Experiment · 2010-11-02T01:36:10.968Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see why you think that 3 extra people, no matter if they're honest or not, amount to any significant amount of evidence when you can see the diagram yourself.

Sure, maybe they're good enough if you can't see the diagram; 3 people thinking the same thing doesn't often happen when they're wrong. But when they are wrong, when you can see that they are wrong, then it doesn't matter how many of them there are.

Also: certainly the odds aren't high that you're right if we're talking totally random odds about a proposition where the evidence is totally ambiguous. But since there is a diagram, the odds then shift to either the very low probability "My eyesight has suddenly become horrible in this one instance and no others" combined with the high probability "3/4 people are right about a seemingly easy problem", versus the low probability "3/4 people are wrong about a seemingly easy problem", versus the high probability "My eyesight is working fine".

I don't know the actual numbers for this, but it seems likely the the probability of your eyesight suddenly malfunctioning in strange and specific ways is worse then the probability of 3 other people getting an easy problem wrong. Remember, they can have whatever long-standing problems with their eyesight or perception or whatever anyone cares to make up. Or you could just take the results of Asch's experiment as a prior and say that they're not that much more impressive than 1 person going first.

(All this of course changes if they can explain why C is a better answer; if they have a good logical reason for it despite how odd it seems, it's probably true. But until then, you have to rely on your own good logical reason for B being a better answer.)

Comment by blackhumor on The Futility of Emergence · 2010-10-17T22:39:35.339Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"(anyone here know what possible cosmological consequences "Dark Energy" or "Dark Matter" have)"

Ok, this is the point where I started to question your logic (incidentally, apology for the tangent).

I agree that Dark Matter and Dark Energy feel like epicycles and phlogiston. HOWEVER, they also feel like that or felt like that at one point to all actual physicists.

Therefore, if you claim that they do not exist, you must both know what the standard answer to that question is (for if there is no standard answer science would have abandoned those concepts long ago), and also why it is wrong, or in short you must know more about physics than every physicist on earth.

That is not quite so hard to do as it seems on first glance; Einstein did it. Maxwell did it. Planck did it. But it is important to realize that the chance that every scientist on Earth is wrong about thing X is significantly greater than the chance you just don't understand thing X.

Comment by blackhumor on Sayeth the Girl · 2010-06-03T04:01:33.921Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

And even ignoring that, "English was like this" is no reason for it to continue to be like that if the alternative is perfectly understandable. Languages change all the time for all kinds of reasons; we don't use the complex system of verb tenses from Old English, or hither, thither and wither, or yon and yonder, (etc.), so why should we feel obligated to use its pronouns? (side note: which were not the same as modern English pronouns; "you" used to be a second person plural object only, it was thee and thou singular and ye and you plural.)

But yes, "man" used to be gender neutral, and for most of the history of English "they" was the gender neutral third person singular.

Comment by BlackHumor on [deleted post] 2010-05-18T02:16:16.430Z

I have to say for myself mostly two, with criticism of the underlying assumption of one that tends to negate three as well. So, uh, all of them. Still mostly two though:

All people are so similar to each other it should be trivial to understand them with any real effort. The differences between men and women on average are tiny compared to differences between individuals, which are themselves tiny compared to the massive similarities between all human beings.

(A lot of people seem to take for granted that their mind works mostly the same as the mind of the person they are talking to; all I have to say to that is that the very ability to have a conversation that makes any sense at all is a function of the two of you having a very similar mental structure. You would not have a good time talking to someone who did not have the concept "you", for example.

Given that you can have a conversation with someone, the two of you are sufficiently similar to understand each other with fairly little effort.)

Comment by blackhumor on The Futility of Emergence · 2010-05-18T01:01:07.760Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Answer to your question: Honestly, I should not have included that line about errors in there at all; it doesn't need to be special cased out because most errors are emergent. (Not always; a missing negative somewhere is not emergent. But when you get to the complexity of a video game, most errors that will make it through QA are emergent.)

But also: I actually have thought about this a bit since I wrote this, and I think I can come up with a decent general definition for emergence: (don't worry, I'll get to your question in a moment)

Something is emergent when it is caused by a rule that works similarly to the second law of thermodynamics. (More specifically, the property of the second law that it isn't actually a hard law at all; it's just that when you crunch all the probabilities for all the particles involved, it is vastly more likely that the result will obey the second law then will not.)

Similarly, the ways economies develop aren't hard laws; it would be entirely possible for an economy to develop in such a way that it lets you get a free lunch. It's just that that, considering all the actors involved are out to find and take those free lunches, that you are about (using about very broadly here) as likely to find an actual free lunch as you are to find your foot has suddenly turned into gold.

(Also: I think it's a mistake to point at some finished product of laws of emergence and say it's emergent. "The economy is emergent" is just a short and slightly misleading way to say "The laws that govern an economy are laws of emergence".)

But going back to what this predicts: It predicts mainly that there is something equivalent to atoms in thermodynamics or actors in economics; some small unit of behavior that you can test for. It also predicts (in very complex systems it might not be possible to do any actual math on this, but in theory it predicts) how often the law will fail. (As noted, sometimes all you can say with confidence is "it might fail sometime"; of course if it fails OFTEN it doesn't have enough predictive value to justify keeping around.)

Comment by blackhumor on The Futility of Emergence · 2009-12-03T04:00:07.252Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Most of this is specific to videogames and probably will not be applicable anywhere else:

An emergent property in the context of videogames is one the designers of the game did not intend, [more strictly: yet is not a programming error].

Excluding the possibly, since this example is ambiguous using it:

In the game Super Smash Bros, jumping is not emergent, since the designers programmed it into the game specifically.

Wavedashing [dodging into the ground so that you will be able to move while attacking] (and in fact, every single bit of strategy for every character) is emergent; it's not programmed into the game, it's just that if you put together all the intended rules of the game, wavedashing appears also.

What does "this is emergent" tell you, in this context?

It tells you first of all it's unintentional, which then tells you it has a vastly greater chance of being unbalanced or broken.

Using the stricter definition, it also tells you whatever it is profits the player in some way, because if it did not profit the player in some way it would not have emerged; someone would have found it, not used it or told anyone, and it would just fade away. (But this is only valid for emergent things when they're structured in a certain way. This part can be generalized to, say, the economy, but not, say, to traffic jams, because traffic jams are more tragedy of the commons types of things.)

It also tells you, most importantly, that it is probably not possible to know all the specific causes of this thing and instead to try wide and general causes. (i.e: "World War I happened because of a general attitude among nations that military force was a good way to solve problems." It's possible to say it happened "because Alice thought... and Bob thought... but Carol thought... and Dave thought....", but this is going to be either much less accurate or not worth the effort to make it accurate.)

What does "this is non-emergent" tell you?

There are one or more obvious specific causes that it would not be worth breaking down. (In the case of videogames, the developers, but it also works for cases like "there is a big dent in the front of my car because I crashed it into a tree" [but wait, you say, isn't that also phrasable as "because the force from the tree caused this molecule and this molecule and this molecule to move backwards"? Yes, but it doesn't matter; the only cause is still the force from the tree.])

(Finally, random other example I thought of after reading the Go example:

In chess, the position of the pieces at the beginning of the game is not emergent: there is one cause for that: because it's part of the rules of the game.

The fact that the best first move for white in most cases is pawn to e4 is emergent. Nobody wrote that into the rules of chess; it's just a consequence of the positions of the pieces.)