Posts

Please recommend some audiobooks 2014-10-10T13:34:35.953Z · score: 8 (8 votes)
Hangman as analogy for Natural Selection 2012-10-05T12:02:26.775Z · score: 0 (5 votes)
Becoming a gene machine - what should change? 2012-08-01T13:06:17.003Z · score: 0 (7 votes)

Comments

Comment by delta on Please recommend some audiobooks · 2014-10-13T09:52:14.890Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Blimey that's extensive, thanks a lot, I'll take a look.

Comment by delta on Please recommend some audiobooks · 2014-10-13T09:33:43.644Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting, thanks for the recommendation. I've been thinking I should look what other services are available and come across some streaming and rental services too, though as I like listening while walking out and about streaming may not be as great an option.

Comment by delta on Please recommend some audiobooks · 2014-10-10T14:05:49.814Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting, I'll have a look at that one and maybe add it to the wishlist if it's a bit pricey.

Yeah, it would be good to go over some of the sequences again, it's been a while since I read them and I know I missed a few.

I listen to the odd podcast if an interesting-sounding one pops up in the Dawkins foundation facebook feed but I don't listen to any on a regular basis. Should probably look into them.

Thanks for the suggestions.

Comment by delta on Please recommend some audiobooks · 2014-10-10T14:04:19.561Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, I've already read HPMOR but might think about the spoken version. Might help clarify some of the examples I never quite understood to hear someone else speaking them. It's kind of odd how different the same work can feel when you read it the first time compare to when you read it again or hear it read by someone else.

Speaking of re-reading I really must re-read Worm one of these days, that was great, and maybe try Wildbow's new Pact story.

Comment by delta on Mere Messiahs · 2012-11-22T11:33:46.275Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say the same applies to Catholics' aggrandisement of the Virgin Mary. Catholics are supposed to try to emulate someone whose virtue was so great before she was even conceived that she was born free from original sin (something no-one else can claim according to the appaling original sin doctrine). She then receives messages from god, bears his child (becoming both virgin and mother, a combination of virtuous states no-one else can achieve) and is bodily claimed into heaven. Isn't a human being who actually struggles with temptation, someone who overcomes actual weaknesses and flaws a better and more useful role model and example than this super-powered, divine intervention-fuelled juggernaut of unmatchable virtue? What can those seeking how to be good learn from someone to whom the mere notion of being bad is completely alien?

Comment by delta on Beyond the Reach of God · 2012-11-22T11:03:11.509Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sounds good, I'll look forward to it.

Comment by delta on Hangman as analogy for Natural Selection · 2012-10-05T14:36:25.015Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the feedback. I think you're right that a key omission here is failing to note that each step must be useful in itself, and provide a non-negligable boost to chances of survival on its own. It also implies a greater sense of purpose than exists in nature (there's no mind aiming for things, just more resilient creatures surviving).

I realise the model has many flaws and omits wider context such as competition, but I'm still tempted by the appeal of using such a common situation as the analogy. Talk of guessing passwords or rolling dice does make excellent analogies, but if you want to engage someone it helps to talk about something closer to their personal experience, and I imagine most people played hangman on a board or margin at some point at school.

Comment by delta on Hangman as analogy for Natural Selection · 2012-10-05T12:13:19.934Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

On a similar subject, the boardgame Guess Who is a perfect illustration of the point in Burdensome Details. Each additional claim about Person X (do they wear glasses? are they blond?) leads you to knock down some possibilities.

Comment by delta on Seduced by Imagination · 2012-09-14T12:09:54.831Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Very interesting article, and a real "ouch" moment for me when I realised that all my escapism growing up had exactly this effect. By becoming engaged with fictional worlds through films, books and games you can start to disengage with the world, finding nothing so interesting and vibrant in it (this is a particular risk if you are young and haven't found activities and people you value in reality yet). The scary thing was when I was realised the characters in my books felt more real than people in reality. If you have trouble connecting with people books offer ready-made connections that can distract you from getting the social skills you need to form meaningful relationships in real life.

To an extent I think I am still prey to this, so does anyone have advice on ways to balance your escapist pleasures so you can still enjoy them without losing the vibrancy of real life?

Comment by delta on Beyond the Reach of God · 2012-09-12T09:34:58.715Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I realise it is over a year later but can I ask how it went, or whether anyone has advice for someone in a similar position? I felt similar existential terror when reading The Selfish Gene and realising on one level I'm just a machine that will someday break down, leaving nothing behind. How do you respond to something like that? I get that you need to strike a balance between being sufficiently aware of your fragility and mortality to drive yourself to do things that matter (ideally supporting measures that will reduce said human fragility) but not so much you obsess over it and become depressed, but it can seem a pretty tricky balance to strike, especially if you are temperamentally inclined towards obsessiveness, negativity and akrasia.

Comment by delta on Beyond the Reach of God · 2012-09-11T16:04:03.452Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Cameron just made a homeopathy advocate Health Secretary. Maybe the problem was Britain not being broken enough...

Comment by delta on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-06T12:58:37.228Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have said "always" given that acting ability is required to signal a belief you don't hold, but I do think what I suggest is the ideal. I think someone who trained themselves to do what I suggest, by studying people skills and so forth, would do better as they'd get the social benefits of conformity and without the disadvantages of false beliefs clouding predictions (though admittedly the time investment of learning these skills would have to be considered).

Short version: I think this is possible with training and would make you "win" more often, and thus it's what a rationalist would do (unless the cost of training proved prohibitive, of which I'm doubtful since these skills are very transferable).

I'm not sure what you meant by the magisteria remark, but I get the impression that advocating spiritual/long-term beliefs to less stringent standards than short term ones isn't generally seen as a good thing (see Eliezer's "Outside the Laboratory" post among others).

Comment by delta on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2012-09-06T09:41:00.406Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Really enjoyed the article, and thanks for the link to the nerds article. I think it is easy to underestimate how big an effect this has. When growing up my mother was always incredibly helpful with schoolwork, but because she focussed on the negative, stating mistakes directly rather than praising the good first and then carefully broaching the subject, she came across as very harsh and demanding. Despite the best possible motives her delivery made me less happy and made me more resistent to suggestions and mutinous.

Unfortunately I think I've fallen into the same trap (I wrote a comment on my sister's blog which rather upset her because I didn't follow the advice here) so thanks for flagging this and pointing me to some reading material.

Comment by delta on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-05T16:04:25.362Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The character was just asked whether they would wish to conquer the world if given a wish-granting machine (and are saying no, they already have what they want and value). The way I understood the quote was that when people talk about ruling the world they really just want to control and protect the things they value around them. It made me think that "the world" isn't really a concept that people can easily grasp in the abstract, they need to look at the smaller scale to give them context.

I think "I want to protect humanity" or "I want to save the world" carry more weight and are easier to follow through on if you come at them from the angle of "I want to protect people like the people around me I love" or "I want to save the place where people like my friends and family live".

Comment by delta on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-05T13:45:55.814Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

“The world is just a word for the things you value around you, right? That’s something I’ve had since I was born. If you tell me to rule such a world, I already rule it.” – Tohsaka Rin (Fate: stay night) on not taking over the world.

I think it is having a small core of things and people you value that keeps you grounded and healthy. Our "Something to Protect" if you like. Without that investment and connection to things that matter it's easy to lose your way.

Comment by delta on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-05T13:09:15.759Z · score: 45 (47 votes) · LW · GW

“A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ‘merely relative,’ is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.” ― Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey

Comment by delta on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-05T12:44:36.614Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think the quote reflects reality (humans aren't naturally rational so their beliefs are conditioned by circumstance), but is better seen as an observation than a recommendation. The best approach should always be to hold maximally accurate beliefs yourself, even if you choose to signal different ones as the situation demands. That way you can gain the social benefits of professing a false belief without letting it warp or distort your predictions.

Comment by delta on Generalizing From One Example · 2012-08-30T14:03:37.969Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

These differences of thought-process are fascinating, suggesting some attributes of a person's mental landscape can be completely different from our own. Unfortunately this makes it very difficult to properly empathise with people in very different mental states. I know someone who is anorexic and it is incredibly easy to fail to grasp the difficulties and think "just eat something" because their problem is entirely removed from my experiences. This happens despite the fact I know driven, productive people would say the same about my extreme akrasia and procrastination issues.

The inability to imagine minds other than our own may also be why well-meaning people mistake significant differences like homosexuality for something superficial one can just "stop" being (see HaveYouTriedNotBeingAMonster on TV Tropes). They have difficulty with the idea something so different could exist at all.

This disconnect presumably combined with humans' general fear of difference or the unknown must make it considerably more problematic to have thought processes that differ from what is assumed to the norm.

Comment by delta on Generalizing From One Example · 2012-08-30T09:35:45.891Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is something that varies between people. I was very surprised to learn that my sister doesn't even listen to the lyrics of songs, whereas I do and want to learn them so I can sing along (probably very badly, but hey) and get annoyed if I come to a part where I don't know the words. Likewise if I'm fully engaged during a film I can recall almost all of it, even some time later, whereas my sister can't (or perhaps wasn't as engaged in the examples I have in mind).

I'm sure experience helps too though. When I was younger used to listen to songs from anime and memorise the words despite not knowing the language. I probably wouldn't be as good at picking up lyrics if I wasn't as obsessive about knowing them and didn't listen to the same songs a lot.

Comment by delta on Rationality Quotes August 2012 · 2012-08-03T10:41:45.719Z · score: 56 (60 votes) · LW · GW

“Ignorance killed the cat; curiosity was framed!” ― C.J. Cherryh

(not sure if that is who said it originally, but that's the first creditation I found)

Comment by delta on Rationality Quotes August 2012 · 2012-08-03T10:24:51.017Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

The sentiment is correct (diligence may be more important than brilliance) but I think "all amusements and other employments" might be too absolute an imperative for most people to even try to live by. Most people will break down if they try to work too hard for too long, and changes of activity can be very important in keeping people fresh.

Comment by delta on Becoming a gene machine - what should change? · 2012-08-01T15:51:32.812Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I guess this more comes into coming to terms with my own mortality. A full appreciation of your own brevity and insignificance is a bit of a shock to your system (I'm reminded of Douglas Adams's total perspective vortex), and as a pair they feel like such game-changing ideas that they should have a significant effect on my thinking. It feels like a change of such enormity that something is wrong if it doesn't result in a lot of rethinking, hence my coming here to discuss the implications when I realised I was just carrying on as before.

As for animal rights I am inclined to agree and not place a high priorirty on preserving species (you'll be able to clone another before long, right?), but I never really thought out the reasons why before (probably the cynical reason that I can get more out of preserving humans so I put a low price on other causes). Since I never had a clear idea why being less empathic towards animals was okay it felt like the revelation I'm not so different should make reconsider the issue. Again, my concern is it hasn't, that I'm not updating myself.

Comment by delta on Becoming a gene machine - what should change? · 2012-08-01T15:35:09.757Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm aware of that, but since there is no inherent, conceptual difference between us and animals (the soul or right to rule them that religion says we have) it means we have to decide what it means to be valuable rather than just assuming we are and not thinking about it. How intelligent would an animal or machine have to be to have the same value we place on a human?

Comment by delta on An Alien God · 2012-08-01T11:52:39.269Z · score: 4 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I started on The Selfish Gene recently and it is a real revelation. It's going to take a lot of getting used to to think of myself as a "mere" machine to ensure the continuation of my genes. Once humans cease to be special, somehow above and apart from the world that built them you have to start rethinking a lot of your assumptions.

Comment by delta on Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012) · 2012-08-01T11:44:16.424Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hi Guys,

I found out about this place from Methods of Rationality and have been reading the sequences for a few months now. I don't have a background in science or mathematics (just finished reading law at university) so I've yet to get to the details of Bayes but I've been very intrigued by all the sequences on cognitive bias, and this site was the trigger for me becoming interested in the mind-blowing realities of evolution and prompted me finally pulling my finger out and shifting from non-thinking agnosticm to atheism.

I'm still adjusting but I feel this site has already helped start to clean up my thinking, so thanks to everyone for making coming here such a life-changing experience.

David