Singularity the hard way 2012-12-12T19:07:53.470Z


Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-02-06T08:08:52.130Z · LW · GW

Hmm, do we have cases where the boundaries of the Roman Empire don't match up well with linguistic boundaries? Probably not, simply because anywhere conquered by the Romans would probably have tended to learn to speak Latin, producing an artificial lowering of language barriers within the empire.

Hmmm. I don't know enough history to be able to name specific situations, but what about the other way round - countries that learned Latin without being conquered? (Perhaps for ease of trading?)

Though in the most famous recent case I can think of -- the Soviet Union -- it seems that they weren't very effective in suppressing Christianity

I believe the Roman Empire once tried to suppress it as well. It doesn't appear to have worked then, either.

Going back to the higher-level question of how necessary conquest is to the spread of Christianity: there are apparently something like 100M Christians in China, and not because China was ever conquered by Christians. On the other hand, in the past there seem to have been multiple instances where Christian missions produced a fair number of converts but then the religion largely died out until the next wave of missionaries came in.

Yes; there seem to have been specific instances where missionary conversion worked, and specific instances where it did not.

My impression after all this is as follows. (1) It is certainly not impossible for Christianity to spread without conquest, and there are a few major instances where it has done so. (2) Most of the world's Christians, however, are part of Christian communities that got way way by conquest. (3) Attempts to spread Christianity by mere persuasion are sometimes very effective but often very ineffective.

Those conclusions do not seem unreasonable to me.

I would expect that all these things apply equally to any other major religion.

I think it also depends somewhat on the structure of the religion in question. Judaism doesn't have missionaries, for example, and I don't think there's any way for a non-Jew to become a Jew (I may be wrong on that point, but if there is, the Jews certainly don't advertise it).

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-02-06T07:59:34.166Z · LW · GW

Hmmmm. Depends how ingrained the memes are in the material. Oh, you'd certainly have awareness of the memes - but accepting them is a different story, and a certain skepticism in a student (or in a professor) can probably blunt that effect quite a bit.

Even if the memes are that thoroughly integrated, though, the only effect is to make the establishment of a parallel infrastructure that much more appropriate a solution.

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-30T11:01:14.205Z · LW · GW

I think missionaries are usually sent to particular places by organizations, and when one leaves another goes.

It's not going to be perfect. Sometimes there will be more missionaries than established places to send them, and new missions can be opened - but sometimes a missionary will, through mischance or malice, die before he's expected to do so and there will be no replacement ready to send.

I don't actually know about specific incidences, but there should be enough data on what happens when a mission is abandoned to be able to tell how successful it can be.

You're welcome to be (having had the facts pointed out to you) as surprised or unsurprised as you please; I remark that much the simplest explanation would seem to be that Christianity mostly spreads by military conquest.

That is a simple explanation, yes. Another simple explanation is that Christianity mostly spreads where language barriers don't get in the way.

I don't see either of these two explanations as being significantly simpler than the other.

... Oh, I thought of another way for Christianity to get into a new area that's consistent with the "converting people is really ineffective" narrative. Again, no one claims that converting people is 100% ineffective. So, what you do is to find a place whose rulers are very much in control of the population, and send your missionaries to the royal court or whatever. They probably won't convince the ruler, but if they do then bingo, you've got thousands or millions of new converts fairly immediately. I think this has happened once or twice. I bet it's been attempted a lot more.

Hmmmm. That would be a sensible scenario. There have also been cases where non-Christian rulers, perhaps fearing the political power of the church, made practice of the religion illegal, with severe punishments for doing so. Taking the two together, it seems fairly clear that converting the ruler would be a very important step for many successful missionaries.

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-30T10:52:14.007Z · LW · GW


Okay. In this particular real-life example, though, it is clear that the politicisation is in the infrastructure around the science, not in the science itself. That is to say, learning climate science is not memetically dangerous - it is simply difficult to get a paper published that does not agree with certain politics. And that is bad, but it is not the worst possibility - it means that someone merely studying climate science is safe in so doing.

So, in this particular case, the solution of studying climate science oneself, becoming an expert, and then forming a suitable opinion is a viable strategy (albeit one that takes some significant time).

(An alternative solution - which will also be a hard thing to do - is to create some form of parallel infrastructure for climate science; another magazine in which to publish, another source of funding, and so on. There will likely be serious attempts to politicise this infrastructure as well, of course, and fending off such attempts will doubtless take some effort).

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-25T07:58:14.361Z · LW · GW

But "amateurs should defer to experts", in reference to Christianity, doesn't mean "amateurs should accept the experts' word about Christianity," it means "amateurs should accept the claims presented by Christianity". There's nothing comparable for Shakespeare. In this sense, neither experts nor schools teach Shakespeare at all.


Going back to the comment that started this all - over here - shows that the quote originally comes from this page, which is an essay written from the atheist perspective on how to go about arguing the historicity of Jesus. The 'experts' in question appear (to me) to be not theologists but historians, seeking whether or not a given person, referenced in certain historical documents, actually lived at one point or not, and the author bluntly states that he expects the odds of said existence, using his best estimate of requisite probabilities, to be about one in twelve thousand. (He then goes on to say that this is far from the least likely claim in the Christian faith; supernatural miracles are far more unlikely, and thus far better things to call into question).

So, no, the original context does not say that amateurs should accept the claims made by Christianity (and it does not define professionals by their religious leanings). It says that amateurs should not take a firm position on a question where the experts do not take that firm position. (It does not say that the amateurs have to agree with the experts when those experts do take a firm position, amateurs are allowed to remain uncertain).

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-25T07:46:52.129Z · LW · GW

Schools still teach Latin?

...mine didn't. (It did teach Shakespeare, though).

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-25T07:45:47.884Z · LW · GW

If all experts are infected with meme plagues, and are able to prevent alternative views from being presented, then you have a problem. This implies that one of the following is true:

  • Studying the subject at all carries a strong risk of meme plague infection
  • Only those pre-infected with the meme plague have the interest and/or the ability to study the subject
  • You're wrong about something - either the presence of the meme plague or its spread or... something.

You could attempt to study the subject to expert level yourself, taking appropriate anti-meme-plague precautions; but you have to be very careful that you're not shutting your ears to something that's really true (you don't want to become a climate-change-denying weather expert, after all) so you'll need to seriously consider all necessary data (maybe re-run some vital experiments). This would take significant time and effort.

I don't know what other strategy could reasonably be followed...

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-25T07:38:54.968Z · LW · GW

I don't think you need a careful effort to track their exact effectiveness. It would be fairly obvious in a couple of generations that peaceful missionaries would fall in one of two categories - either they have some success (as evidenced by some number of converts that they win over) or they have no success (as evidenced by every missionary outreach pretty much collapsing as soon as the missionary either leaves or dies).

A careful effort to track effectiveness could tell the difference between slight success and strong success, but I think that even with a merely cursory checkup people could tell the difference between some success and no success at all.

If you look at the places where there are a lot of Christians, they do seem to match up pretty well with (1) where the Roman Empire was plus (2) places colonized by countries that used to be part of the Roman Empire.

I'm not surprised. There are many possible explanations for this; a sufficient explanation might be that these are places that early (Latin-speaking) missionaries could be reasonably sure of finding Latin-speaking people, and thus were not required to face the additional hurdle of learning a new language first.

One obvious counterexample is Korea, which (I think) is evidence that missionaries can sometimes introduce Christianity to a new place with long-term success. But what others are there?

Hmmm... would Japan count?

(Incidentally, I think your analysis is incomplete. Another way to introduce Christianity to a new area would be immigration. I don't know to what extent this has actually happened.)

That is true. I don't know to what extent that has happened either, but I imagine it would be accompanied (if successful) by a very strong spread of the immigrant's culture in other ways, as well. (Such as language).

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-23T14:36:58.110Z · LW · GW

A brief Google points me at this fellow. He was a medieval Fransiscan missionary to China, and established what appears to have been a reasonably successful church there that stayed around for about forty years after his death (until the Ming Dynasty arose in 1369 and expelled them from the country).

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-23T14:33:31.554Z · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure that the main modern transmission vector for Newtonian physics is schoolteacher-to-child (which is very similar to parent-to-child, except that the parent hires an intermediary). Mind you, I don't have any stats or data handy to back that up, it's just a general impression.

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-22T13:01:31.360Z · LW · GW

No, it just has to get big enough that Christians have enough other Christians around that the social structure becomes self-sustaining. Social ostracism is used to get rid of spontaneously appearing non-Christian individuals, not large groups.

Fair enough. A neighbourhood or other small community can be self-sustaining, then.

But it still needs to be started.

So don't assume it's an exhaustive list.

As soon as I don't assume it's an exhaustive list, your point collapses. Yes, it does spread as a meme system, This is because it is a meme system.

Newtonian physics is also a meme system. And Newtonian physics can also spread as a meme system, in all three of the ways you describe. (I don't think anyone ever has tried to spread Newtonian physics by the sword, but it could be done in theory; but Newtonian physics has most certainly been spread by parent-to-child transmission and by social ostracisation).

Similarly for relativistic physics. Or, for that matter, any other descriptive model of the universe, including ones that are perfectly accurate and 100% true. Because any descriptive model of the universe is a meme system, and can therefore be spread as a meme system.

Your conclusion, in short, relies on the idea that Christianity is only spread by means that are not dependant on the truth of its ideas, and never spread by means that are dependant on the truth of those ideas. This you have not shown.

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-21T12:21:56.240Z · LW · GW

We know how religion spreads.

I'm not sure that you do.

From your previous post:

The predominant ways in which Christianity has spread are conversion by the sword, parent to child transmission, and social ostracism for people who refuse to believe it.

If this were true - and if it were an exhaustive list of the predominant ways - then I would expect to see the following:

  • Parent-to-child transmission only works if the parents are Christian. Social ostracisation only works if a majority of a given person's possible social acquaintances are.
  • Thus, the only means on the list of introducing is into a new area is by the sword
  • Thus, I would expect missionaries to either have been abandoned, or to be given a sword as standard equipment on setting out. I do not see this.
  • Furthermore, I would expect to see, in countries where it is not a majority religion, it would slowly fade and die (as social ostracism is used against it by the majority)

Now, I am not saying that it is never spread by such means. (Fortunately, 'by the sword' appears to have been largely abandoned in recent history). But assuming it to be an exhaustive list does not appear to match reality - there seems to be a rather large gap where a single missionary, armed with nothing more than information and presumably a fairly persuasive tongue, can go into a large enough group of humans who have little or no previous knowledge of religion and end up persuading a number of them to join.

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-20T10:40:06.072Z · LW · GW

Hmmm. Could work. Or perhaps the first thing he'd conclude is that you are infected by the meme plague, and the second thing he'd do is suspect that you are trying to infect him with the meme plague.

He could respond to this in two ways; either by ending the debate, in the hope of immunising himself; or by arguing against you, in the hopes of curing you.

...huh. Actually, thinking about this, a lot of bad debate habits (ignoring the other person's evidence, refusing to change your mind, etc.) actually make a lot of sense when seen as protective measures specifically to prevent infection by meme plagues.

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-20T10:29:24.976Z · LW · GW

Then I may have misunderstood the intention of the phrase.

As an observation about the limits of the maxim, I agree with it. And no, I'm not going to argue that a memetic plague never happens.

I am, however, going to argue that a memetic plague is hard to identify, making this observation very difficult to actually apply with any reliability. It's just too easy - if I see a bunch of experts in the subject all saying something that I disagree with - for me to think "they're infected by a memetic plague". It's so much more comforting to think that than to think "maybe I'm wrong" - especially when I already have some evidence that seems to say that I am right. So, while this observation can be applied correctly, it would be far, far too easy to misapply. And if I were to misapply it - I would have no idea that I am, in fact, misapplying it.

As a general observation, then, I cautiously agree. As a specific argument in virtually any debate, I deeply mistrust it.

I hope that makes my position clearer.

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-19T12:29:30.880Z · LW · GW

Also, distinguish between "anyone can claim X" and "anyone can correctly claim X". Creationists could claim that evolution spreads the same way--but they'd be wrong.

Assume a climate change denier or a creationist who (a) makes such an argument and (b) firmly believes it to be correct. How would he be best convinced that he is, in fact, wrong?

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-19T12:22:03.331Z · LW · GW

Interestingly, after looking over Wikipedia a bit, apparently there may have been a Paul Bon Jean on whom the earliest Paul Bunyan tales could have been based... a big lumberjack, but with "big" being more like six to seven foot and less like sixty to seventy foot.

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-18T10:45:17.233Z · LW · GW

I think this fails in the case where the experts are infected by a meme plague.

Isn't this a Fully General Counterargument, though? Climate change deniers can claim that climate experts are 'infected by a meme plague'. Creationists can claim anyone who accepts evolution is 'infected by a meme plague'. So on and so forth.

Comment by CCC on Crisis of Faith · 2017-01-12T17:19:42.545Z · LW · GW

Hmmm. To mess around with equations a bit... what can we say about P(Bunyan | stories about Bunyan) and P(!Bunyan | stories about Bunyan), given P(stories about Bunyan | Bunyan) > P(stories about Bunyan | !Bunyan)?

Let's genaralise it a bit (and reduce typing). What can we say about P(A|B) and P(!A|B) when P(B|A) > P(B|!A)?

Consider Bayes' Theorem: P(A|B) = [(P(B|A)*P(A)]/P(B). Thus, P(B) = [(P(B|A)*P(A)]/P(A|B)

Therefore, P(!A|B) = [(P(B|!A)*P(!A)]/P(B)

Now, P(!A) = 1-P(A). So:

P(!A|B) = [(P(B|!A)*{1-P(A)}]/P(B)

Solve for P(B):

P(B) = [(P(B|!A)*{1-P(A)}]/P(!A|B)

Since P(B) = [(P(B|A)*P(A)]/P(A|B):

[(P(B|A)*P(A)]/P(A|B) = [(P(B|!A)*{1-P(A)}]/P(!A|B)

Since P(B|A) > P(B|!A)

[(P(B|A)*P(A)]/P(A|B) > [(P(B|!A)*P(A)]/P(A|B)


[(P(B|!A)*{1-P(A)}]/P(!A|B) > [(P(B|!A)*P(A)]/P(A|B)

Since probabilities cannot be negative:

[{1-P(A)}]/P(!A|B) > [P(A)]/P(A|B)

.[1-P(A)]*P(A|B) > [P(A)]*P(!A|B)

...which means that either (1-P(A)) > P(A) or P(A|B) > P(!A|B), and quite possibly both; and whichever of these two inequalities is false (if either) the ratio between the two sides is closer than the inequality that is true.

To return to the original example; either P(Bunyan | stories about Bunyan) > P(!Bunyan | stories about Bunyan) OR P(!Bunyan) > P(Bunyan).

Also, if P(Bunyan | stories about Bunyan) > P(!Bunyan | stories about Bunyan) is false, then it must be true that P(Bunyan|stories about Bunyan) > P(Bunyan).

Comment by CCC on Double Crux — A Strategy for Resolving Disagreement · 2016-12-15T07:13:32.875Z · LW · GW

In a pure-logic kind of way, finding B where B is exactly equivalent to A means nothing, yes. However, in a human-communication kind of way, it's often useful to stop and rephrase your argument in different words. (You'll recognise when this is helpful if your debate partner says something along the lines of "Wait, is that what you meant? I had it all wrong!")

This has nothing to do with formal logic; it's merely a means of reducing the probability that your axioms have been misunderstood (which is a distressingly common problem).

Comment by CCC on Excluding the Supernatural · 2016-12-15T07:09:14.961Z · LW · GW

What I've yet to glean from your comments is how 'absolute truth' is any different than 'green sound'. They're both short phrases but neither seems to refer to anything.

It's kind of a side point, but there actually is such a thing as green noise (there's actually four different definitions...)

Comment by CCC on Double Crux — A Strategy for Resolving Disagreement · 2016-12-07T14:09:57.439Z · LW · GW

"Uniforms are good because they'll reduce bullying." (A because B, B --> A) "Uniforms are bad, because along with all their costs they fail to reduce bullying." (~A because ~B, ~B --> ~A)

A: "Uniforms are good"

B: "Uniforms reduce bullying"

B->A: "If uniforms reduce bullying, then uniforms are good."

~B->~A : "If uniforms do not reduce bullying, then uniforms are not good."

"A is equivalent to B": "The statement 'uniforms are good' is exactly as true as the statement 'uniforms reduce bullying'."

A->B: "If uniforms are good, then it is possible to deduce that uniforms reduce bullying."

...does that help?

Comment by CCC on Double Crux — A Strategy for Resolving Disagreement · 2016-12-05T08:48:55.357Z · LW · GW

I read that statement as implying that argument A is equivalent to argument B. (Not (1) and (2), which are statements about arguments A and B)

And, if A implies B and B implies A, then it seems to me that A and B have to be equivalent to each other.

Comment by CCC on Double Crux — A Strategy for Resolving Disagreement · 2016-12-02T08:00:03.864Z · LW · GW

Let me rephrase: does the double crux method contains any improvement that is not already covered by tabooing terms? Or simply saying "why do you think this is the case?"

In this particular argument, no. (In fact, if both participants are willing to examine their own chain of reasoning and consider that they might be wrong, then asking "why do you think this is the case?" sounds like a perfect first step in the double crux method to me)

In cases where the disagreement is due to (say) Bob making a mathematical error, tabooing terms is unlikely to reveal the error, while double crux seems likely to do so. So, as a general disagreement-solving technique, it seems powerful as it can be applied to a wide variety of causes of disagreement, even without knowing what the cause of the disagreement actually is.

Comment by CCC on Double Crux — A Strategy for Resolving Disagreement · 2016-12-02T07:56:32.187Z · LW · GW

If I'm understanding correctly, I think you've made a mistake in your formal logic above—you equated "If B, then A" with "If A, then B" which is not at all the same.

No, he only inferred "If A, then B" from "If not B, then not A" which is a valid inference.

Comment by CCC on Double Crux — A Strategy for Resolving Disagreement · 2016-12-02T07:55:22.175Z · LW · GW

That is true. In a disagreement where the root of the disagreement is applying different meanings to the word 'better', properly defining that term would identify the true disagreement straight away. The double crux method, by seeking equivalent statements for each position, brings that disagreement in terminology to light almost immediately (where a word-by-word process of definitions might well get mired down in the definition of 'steel' and whether or not it includes small amounts of chromium - which might be interesting and informative on its own, but does nothing to resolve the disagreement).

This appears to suggest that double crux, applied properly, will work in every case where the true disagreement is a matter is inconsistent definition of terms (as above). I'd go further, and say that the double crux method will also work in cases where the disagreement is due to one of the debaters having made an error in a mathematical equation that he believes supports his argument. So, when you don't know the root cause of the argument, double crux is probably at least as fast a route to finding that cause as a careful definition of all terms, and probably faster.

Comment by CCC on Double Crux — A Strategy for Resolving Disagreement · 2016-12-01T14:36:39.585Z · LW · GW

"Aluminium is better than steel!" cries Alice.

"Steel is better than aluminium!" counters Bob. Both of them continue to stubbornly hold these opinions, even in the face of vehement denials from the other.

It is not at once clear how to resolve this issue. However, both Alice and Bob have recently read the above article, and attempt to apply it to their disagreement.

"Aluminium is better than steel because aluminium does not rust," says Alice. "The statement 'aluminium does not rust, but steel does' is an equivalent argument to 'aluminium is better than steel'".

"Steel is better than aluminium because steel is stronger than aluminium," counters Bob. "Steel can hold more weight than aluminium without bending, which makes it a superior metal."

"So the crux of our argument," concludes Alice, "is really that we are disagreeing on what it is that makes a metal better; I am placing more importance on rustproofing, while you are showing a preference for strength?"

Comment by CCC on Double Crux — A Strategy for Resolving Disagreement · 2016-11-30T07:44:46.414Z · LW · GW

This set of strategies looks familiar. I've never called it double crux or anything like that, but I've used a similar line in internet arguments before.

Taking a statement that disagrees with me; assuming my opponent is sane and has reasons to insist that that statement is true; interrogating (politely) to try to find those reasons (and answering any similar interrogations if offered); trying to find common ground where possible, and work from there to the point of disagreement; eventually either come to agreement or find reasons why we do not agree that do not further dissolve.

I've found it works nicely, though it really helps to be polite at all points as well. Politeness is very, very important when using the weak version, and still very important while using the strong version - it reduces emotional arguments and makes it more likely that your debate partner will continue to debate with you (as opposed to shout at you, or go away and leave the question unresolved).

Comment by CCC on Magical Categories · 2016-11-23T08:57:23.798Z · LW · GW

First get straight: good literally objectively does mean desirable.

It does not.

Wiktionary states that it means "Acting in the interest of good; ethical." (There are a few other definitions, but I'm pretty sure this is the right one here). Looking through the definitions of 'ethical', I find "Morally approvable, when referring to an action that affects others; good. " 'Morally' is defined as "In keeping of requirements of morality.", and 'morality' is "Recognition of the distinction between good and evil or between right and wrong; respect for and obedience to the rules of right conduct; the mental disposition or characteristic of behaving in a manner intended to produce morally good results. "

Nowhere in there do I see anything about "desirable" - it seems to simplify down to "following a moral code". I therefore suspect that you're implicitly assuming a moral code which equates "desirable" with "good" - I don't think that this is the best choice of a moral code, but it is a moral code that I've seen arguments in favour of before.

But, importantly, it's not the only moral code. Someone who follows a different moral code can easily find something that is good but not desirable; or desirable but not good.

Comment by CCC on Magical Categories · 2016-11-14T13:42:29.892Z · LW · GW

Which individual? The might be some decision theory which promotes the interests of Joe Soap, against the interests of society, but there is no way i would call it morality.

Ah, I may have been unclear there.

To go into more detail, then; you appear to be suggesting that optimal morality can be approached as a society-wide optimisation problem; in the current situations, these moral strictures produce a more optimal society than those, and this optimisation problem can be solved with sufficient computational resources and information.

But now, let us consider an individual example. Let us say that I find a wallet full of money on the ground. There is no owner in sight. The optimal choice for the society as a whole is that I return the money to the original owner; the optimal choice for the individual making the decision is to keep the money and use it towards my aims, whatever those are. (I can be pretty sure that the man to whom I return the money will be putting it towards his aims, not mine, and if I'm sufficiently convinced that my aims are better for society than his then I can even rationalise this action).

By my current moral structures, I would have to return the money to its original owner. But I can easily see a superintelligent AI giving serious consideration to the possibility that it can do more good for the original owner with the money than the original owner could.

Its motivational system. We're already assuming it's motivated to make the deduction, we need to assume it's motivated to implement.

This, right here, is the hard problem of Friendly AI. How do we make it motivated to implement? And, more importantly, how do we know that it is motivated to implement what we think it's motivated to implement?

I am not bypassing the need for a goal driven AI to have appropriate goals, I am by passing the need for a detailed and accurate account of human ethics to be preprogrammed.

You're suggesting that it can figure out the complicated day-to-day minutae and the difficult edge cases on its own, given a suitable algorithm for optimising morality.

My experience in software design suggests that that algorithm needs to be really, really good. And extremely thoroughly checked, from every possible angle, by a lot of people.

I'm not denying that such an algorithm potentially exists. I can just think of far, far too many ways for it to go very badly wrong.

I am not sayngn it necessarily does not. I am saying it does not necessarily.

...point taken. It may or may not share those values.

But then we must at least give serious consideration to the worst-case scenario.

Comment by CCC on Magical Categories · 2016-11-11T13:44:17.776Z · LW · GW

So... what you're suggesting, in short, is that a sufficiently intelligent AI can work out the set of morals which are most optimal in a given human society. (There's the question of whether it would converge on the most optimal set of morals for the long-term benefit of the society as a whole, or the most optimal set of morals for the long-term benefit of the individual).

But let's say the AI works out an optimal set of morals for its current society. What's to stop the AI from metaphorically shrugging and ignoring those morals in order to rather build more paperclips? Especially given that it does not share those values.

Comment by CCC on Ethical Injunctions · 2016-11-07T11:34:25.879Z · LW · GW

Then again--there are Catholic moralists, including, I think, some Catholics I know personally, who firmly believe that (for example) stealing is wrong because stealing is wrong. Not for any other reason.

This sounds like deontological ethics. It's not by any means unique to Catholicism; it's just the general idea that being good involves following a (presumably carefully chosen) list of rules.

Not all Catholics are deontologists; not all deontologists are Catholic. And, I may be misreading here, but I think your worry is more about deontology than Catholicism; that is, it's more about people who follow a list of rules instead of trying consequentialism or virtue ethics or something else along those lines. Is this accurate?

Comment by CCC on Politics is the Mind-Killer · 2016-11-04T12:02:57.941Z · LW · GW

Atheists don't hold that religions are mostly wrong. They hold that religious believers depend on untestable hypotheses and shield their beliefs from criticisms instead of engaging them.

I have come across atheists who hold - sometimes quite loudly - that all religions are completely wrong.

I have no doubt that some think as you describe, but most certainly not all.

Comment by CCC on Welcome to Less Wrong! (8th thread, July 2015) · 2016-11-04T12:01:36.273Z · LW · GW

Hi, Trent!

I'd love to be one of the first people on Mars. Not sure how realistic that goal is or what steps I should even take to make it happen beyond saving $500,000 for a supposed SpaceX ticket and mastering a useful skill (coding!), but it's something to shoot for!

Have you heard of the Mars One project?

Comment by CCC on The Tragedy of Group Selectionism · 2016-10-28T09:52:42.990Z · LW · GW

The way I see it is that evolution isn't selecting for the genes that produce the most children.

Evolution is selecting for the genes that produce the most grandchildren.

Comment by CCC on Open thread, October 2011 · 2016-10-28T09:51:45.765Z · LW · GW

Hmmm. I had to go back and re-read the story.

...I notice that, while they were not ignorant that they were causing pain and emotional distress, they did honestly believe that they were doing the best thing and, indeed, even made a genuine attempt to persuade humanity, from first principles, that this was the right and good thing to do.

So they were doing, at all times, the action which they believed to by most moral, and were apparently willing to at least hear out contrary arguments. I still maintain, therefore, that their actions were immoral but they themselves were not; they made a genuine attempt to be moral to the best of their ability.

Comment by CCC on Open thread, October 2011 · 2016-10-14T10:30:22.010Z · LW · GW

What they did was clearly wrong... but, at the same time, they did not know it, and that has relevance.

Consider; you are given a device with a single button. You push the button and a hamburger appears. This is repeatable; every time you push the button, a hamburger appears. To the best of your knowledge, this is the only effect of pushing the button. Pushing the button therefore does not make you an immoral person; pushing the button several times to produce enough hamburgers to feed the hungry would, in fact, be the action of a moral person.

The above paragraph holds even if the device also causes lightning to strike a different person in China every time you press the button. (Although, in this case, creating the device was presumably an immoral act).

So, back to the babyeaters; some of their actions were immoral, but they themselves were not immoral, due to their ignorance.

Comment by CCC on Open thread, October 2011 · 2016-10-13T13:49:46.940Z · LW · GW

"Morals" and "goals" are very different things. I might make it a goal to (say) steal an apple from a shop; this would be an example of an immoral goal. Or I might make a goal to (say) give some money to charity; this would be a moral goal. Or I might make a goal to buy a book; this would (usually) be a goal with little if any moral weight one way or another.

Morality cannot be the same as terminal goals, because a terminal goal can also be immoral, and someone can pursue a terminal goal while knowing it's immoral.

AI morals are not a category error; if an AI deliberately kills someone, then that carries the same moral weight as if a person deliberately kills someone.

Comment by CCC on Say Not "Complexity" · 2016-10-13T13:43:14.221Z · LW · GW

Observe the contents of RAM as it's changing?

I'm not 100% sure of the mechanism of said observations, but I'm assuming a real AI would be able to do things on a computer that we can't - much as we can easily recognise an object in an image.

Comment by CCC on Say Not "Complexity" · 2016-09-20T10:24:09.371Z · LW · GW

(Wow, this was from a while back)

I wasn't suggesting that the AI might try to calculate the reverse sequence of moves. I was suggesting that, if the cube-shuffling program is running on the same computer, then the AI might learn to cheat by, in effect, looking over the shoulder of the cube-shuffler and simply writing down all the moves in a list; then it can 'solve' the cube by simply running the list backwards.

Comment by CCC on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-08-17T15:20:08.502Z · LW · GW

(Apologies - accidentally double posted)

Comment by CCC on Conservation of Expected Evidence · 2016-08-17T15:19:57.694Z · LW · GW

At 10am tomorrow, I can legitimately express my confidence in the proposition "the cable guy will arrive after noon" is different to what it was today.

There are two cases to consider:

  • The cable guy arrived before 10am (occurs with 25% probability). In this case, I expect that he has a close on zero probability of arriving after noon.
  • The cable guy is known not to have arrived before 10am (occurs with 75% probability). At this point, I calculate that the odds of the cable guy turning up after noon are two in three.

But none of this takes anything away from the original statement:

"There is no possible plan you can devise, no clever strategy, no cunning device, by which you can legitimately expect your confidence in a fixed proposition to be higher (on average) than before."

This is because I am changing my probability estimate on the basis of new information received - it's not a fixed proposition.

Comment by CCC on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-08-17T15:15:06.447Z · LW · GW

That text is actually quite misleading. It never says that it's the snake that should be thought of as figuratively, maybe it's the Tree or eating a certain fruit that is figurative.

True - any part of the described incident (more likely, all of it) could be figurative.

The devil is a being of "pure spirit" and the catholics believe that he was an angel that disobeyed god. Now, this fallen angel somehow tempts the first parents, who are in a garden (378). It could presumably only be done in one or two ways: Satan talks directly to Adam and Eve, or he talks through some medium. This medium doesn't have to be a snake, it could have been a salad.

Not necessarily. Communication does not need to be verbal. The temptation could have appeared in terms of, say, the manipulation of coincidence. Or, as you put it, a spirit that tries to make people do bad stuff.

But yes, there is definitely a Tempter there; some sort of malign intelligence that tries to persuade people to do Bad Stuff. That is a fairly well-known part of Catholic theology, commonly known as the devil.

But, they don't even say that the snake isn't real.

The Vatican tends to be very, very, very, very cautious about definite statements of any sort. As in, they prefer not to make them if there is any possibility at all that they might be wrong.

And hey, small though the probability appears, maybe there was a talking snake...

I agree there is probably someone who says that evolution is true and that people evolved from monkeys. But, to compare likes with likes here, you would have to find a leading evolutionists that said this, to compare with these leading christians that believe the snake was real:

Would I need to find leading evolutionists, or merely someone who claims to be a leading evolutionist? The second is probably a lot easier than the first.

If so, can you find any popularizer of evolutionary theory that says that man evolved from monkeys?

My googling is defeated by creationists using the claim as a strawman. be fair, I didn't really look all that hard.

Comment by CCC on Leave a Line of Retreat · 2016-08-17T15:02:59.036Z · LW · GW's possible. There are many differences between our proposed worlds, and it really depends on what you mean by "more extreme". Volairina's world is "more extreme" in the sense that there are no rules, no patterns to take advantage of. My world is "more extreme" in that the rules actively punish rationality.

My world requires that elementary physics somehow takes account of intent, and then actively subverts it. This means that it reacts in some way to something as nebulous as intent. This implies some level of understanding of the concept of intent. This, in turn, implies (as you state) an observational intellect - and worse, a directly malevolent one. Volairina's can exist without a directly malevolent intelligence directing things.

So it really comes down to what you mean by "extreme", I guess. Both proposed worlds are extreme cases, in their own way.

Comment by CCC on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-05-16T09:26:47.731Z · LW · GW

Fair enough. The way I see it, there are some themes that are paralleled in Gethsemene, and some themes that are paralleled in the forty days and nights in the desert. They're both parallels, but in different ways.

Comment by CCC on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-05-13T13:26:54.853Z · LW · GW

we're shown no tempter, whether human or animal or evil spirit.

There's one in Matthew 4 verse 1 to 11, in which Jesus spends forty days in the desert, fasting, and then is visited (and tempted) by the Devil.

Comment by CCC on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-05-10T12:16:25.271Z · LW · GW

We now know that talking requires a big fancy brain, such as humans have and snakes conspicuously don't (and don't have room for), and the right sort of vocal apparatus, ditto.

How big and fancy a brain does a parrot have?

Comment by CCC on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-05-10T12:11:41.982Z · LW · GW

Never underestimate the utility of properly describing a problem. I've found that it's really amazing how often, by the time you've figured out what question you really want to ask to solve the problem, you're already most of the way to the answer...

Comment by CCC on Welcome to Less Wrong! (8th thread, July 2015) · 2016-05-09T09:17:31.141Z · LW · GW

Elections aren't everything.

Yes, I know that I, personally, have had (and will have) absolutely zero effect on the American 2016 November elections. I am fully aware that I, personally, will have absolutely zero impact on Donald Trump's candidacy, and everything that goes into that. And I am perfectly fine with that, for a single, simple, and straightforward reason; I am not American, I live in a different country entirely. I have a (very tiny) impact on a completely different set of elections, dealing with a completely different set of politicians and political problems.

And that has absolutely nothing to do with why I am here.

I've taken a (very) brief look over your blog. And I don't think I have much to say about it - it is very America-centric, in that you're not talking about an ideal political system nearly as much as you're talking about how the American system differs from an ideal political system.

Having said that, you might want to take a look over this article - it seems to cover a lot of the same ground as you're talking about. (Then note the date on that article; if you really want to change American politics, this is probably the wrong place to be doing it. If you really want to change the mind of the average American, then you need to somehow talk to the average American - I only have an outsider's view of America, but I understand that TV ads and televised political debates are the best way to do that).

Good luck!

Comment by CCC on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-05-09T08:57:54.707Z · LW · GW

Yep, that's what I had.

More generally: Sbe nal vagrtre a terngre guna gjb gvzrf k, cvpx gur onfr (a zvahf k) gb jevgr a fhpu gung vg raqf va gur qvtvg k.

Comment by CCC on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-05-09T08:53:35.106Z · LW · GW

Noted. Thanks, this tells me that to someone with some knowledge of mathematics it really is as obvious as it looked.