Comment by Diadem on Towards cause priotisation estimates for child abuse · 2016-06-23T08:40:43.914Z · LW · GW

Your claim was that child abuse and trauma have barely any influence on adult life. This is clearly an extraordinary claim, that requires evidence to be taken seriously.

Your evidence are three quotations, two of which only contain more links, and the third is about the heritability of divorce, which has nothing to do with your claim.

So in other words you have given zero evidence for your claim. Maybe there is some evidence to be found in one of the many citations you gave, but without knowing which one or what to look for it would take many hours to investigate this. That is not a reasonable burden to place on your readers, given the prior unlikeliness of your initial claim. I'm not saying you should make an airtight case for your claim in a single post, but at the very least you should give us some reason to put in further effort.

Comment by Diadem on Towards cause priotisation estimates for child abuse · 2016-06-21T12:09:23.685Z · LW · GW

There's nothing rational about refusing to believe data you don't like, and linking Eliezer doesn't change that.

It's good to have an absurdity filter. You can't investigate every claim on the internet in great detail, so dismissing the more unbelievable ones out of hand is not a bad strategy. But you need some kind of reason. Either a known bias or untrustworthiness of the author, or knowledge that at least some of the claims made are false. Assuming you don't have some personal beef with the author, I don't see how you can dismiss this post out of hand. The numbers mentioned are quite reasonable and in line with what you find in other sources.

Also, there's nothing wrong with conflating two things that are, in fact, identical. Not all child abuse is equally bad, and an occasional spanking won't greatly harm a child. But it will harm a child. This has been shown often.

Comment by Diadem on Rationality test: Vote for trump · 2016-06-17T08:26:54.630Z · LW · GW

The US federal budget is 3.7 trillion. The president probably can't meaningfully affect the spending of most of that, but his impact is still significant. If I had to ballpark it I'd say a trillion over 4 years seems likely. Plus his long term effect on the nation through laws and regulations.

How many Americans vote? About a hundred million? So the average value of a vote is in the area of $10,000. That is a lot of money. Sure it is much less if you live outside a swingstate, but not by a factor 100k.

Even if your non-swingstate vote was meaningless there is still a tragedy of the commons. If every California Democrat stayed home because the Democrats will win California anyway... they won't. The rational solution to a tragedy of the commons is not to defect.

Comment by Diadem on Collaborative Truth-Seeking · 2016-05-05T16:00:34.141Z · LW · GW

Very droll.

But define winning. In many situations, finding the truth is winning.

For example take global warming. Maybe I'm lobbyist for big oil and for me winning means making sure no one takes global warming seriously. But even then knowing the facts is still in my interest. So if I'm amongst fellow lobbyists who I trust it is in my interest to take an open, truth seeking approach. This will help me identify the strong and weak points in my opponents' arguments. It will help in formulating distractionary strategies. Etc. I will just have to make sure no one records the meeting and then leaks it.

Comment by Diadem on Exercise in rationality: popular quotes, revisited · 2016-04-26T09:46:40.177Z · LW · GW

I think that's somewhat missing the point of a lot of advice like that though. Often advice in the form of proverbs or popular quotes is not meant to be taken literally. It's meant to offer you a new angle from which to look at the problem.

Just because two quotes contradict each other, doesn't mean they can't both be good advice. If you think someone is being too rash, quoting a proverb like "discretion is the better part of valour" can be good advice. But if you think they are being too cautious, the opposite ("nothing ventured, nothing gained") can also be good advice.

Most advice is context dependent.

Comment by Diadem on The map of quantum (big world) immortality · 2016-01-29T11:07:15.223Z · LW · GW

Sure, cryonics would help. But it wouldn't be more than a drop in the ocean. If QI is true, and cryonics is theoretically possible, then 500 years from now there'll be 3 kinds of universes: 1) Universes where I'm dead, either because cryonics didn't pan out (perhaps society collapsed), or because for some reason I wasn't revived. 2) Universes where I'm alive thanks to cryonics and 3) Universes where I'm alive due to quantum fluctuations 'miraculously' keeping me alive.

Clearly the measure of the 3rd kind of universe will be very very small compared to the other two. And since I don't experience the first, that means that subjectively I'm overwhelmingly likely to experience being alive thanks to cryonics. And in most of those universes I'm probably healthy and happy. So that sounds good.

But quantum immortality implies forced immortality forever. No way to escape, no way to permanently shut yourself down once you get bored with life. No way to die even after the heath death of the universe.

No matter how good the few trillion years before that will be, the end result will be floating around as an isolated mind in an empty universe, kept alive by random quantum fluctuations in an increasingly small measure of all universes that will nevertheless always have subjective measure of 1, for literally ever.

Now personally I don't think QI is very likely. In fact I consider it extremely unlikely. All I'm saying is that if it were true, that'd be a nightmare.

Comment by Diadem on The map of quantum (big world) immortality · 2016-01-28T15:44:47.161Z · LW · GW

The problem with Quantum Immortality is that it is a pretty horrible scenario. That's not an argument against it being true of course, but it's an argument for hoping it's not true.

Let's assume QI is true. If I walk under a bus tomorrow, I won't experience universes where I die, so I'll only experience miraculously surviving the accident. That sounds good.

But here's where the nightmare starts. Dying is not a binary process. There'll be many more universes where I survive with serious injuries then universes where I survive without injury. Eventually I'll grow old. There'll be some universes where by random quantum fluctuations that miraculously never happens, but in the overwhelming majority of them I'll grow old and weak. And then I won't die. In fact I wouldn't even be able to die if I wanted to. I could decide to commit suicide, but I'll only ever experience those universes where for some reason I chose not to go through with it (or something prevented me from going through with it).

It's the ultimate horror scenario. Forced immortality, but without youth or health.

If QI is true having kids would be the ultimate crime. If QI is true the only ethical course of action would be to pour all humanity's resources into developing an ASI and program it to sterilize the universe. That won't end the nightmare, there'll always be universes where we fail to build such an ASI, but at least it will reduce the measure of suffering.

Comment by Diadem on Rationality Quotes Thread January 2016 · 2016-01-28T15:21:35.271Z · LW · GW

Downvoted. I personally agree that username2's idea is naive, but it seems sincerely held, and making fun of it instead of explaining its problems is dickish.

Comment by Diadem on Voiceofra is banned · 2015-12-24T12:14:46.498Z · LW · GW

Wait? is 'LessWrong' not an admin account? I always assumed it was, but this thread implies otherwise.

I think it's an extremely bad idea to allow an ordinary user to name themselves after the site. You're basically inpersonating an admin!

Comment by Diadem on Open thread, Nov. 09 - Nov. 15, 2015 · 2015-11-09T11:49:14.444Z · LW · GW

When I was a little kid we used to make blackberry jam. You can just pick wild blackberries in some places, which is quite a lot of work, but hey, you're out in nature, it's fun, and it's free. Looking back I think it was mostly my parents picking berries while my sisters and I were running around and playing in the forest and eating half the berries our parents picked.

The recipe for making jam is indeed just berries, water and sugar. We used a large pot though, not a frying pan. Just cook and steer until it's done. Pour the jam into a jar while it's still hot, and screw the lit on. As the jam cools it'll create a slight underpressure in the jar, helping preserve the jam and tightening the lit even further.

Sealed properly it can stay good for a long time. One year we kind of overdid things (my sisters and I were a bit older, and actually starting helping instead of 'helping') and ended up with over 300 jars of blackberry jam. They were still good 10 years later.

Self-made jam tastes much better than store-bought jam. Whether that is because it actually tastes better, or because your brain just thinks it tastes better because you made it yourself, I don't know. But it doesn't matter, the end result is the same.

Comment by Diadem on LINK: An example of the Pink Flamingo, the obvious-yet-overlooked cousin of the Black Swan · 2015-11-07T01:57:25.178Z · LW · GW

Would't it be more accurate to use a geometric mean here, instead of an arithmic one?

An arithmic mean really obscures low predictions.

Comment by Diadem on [Link] Study: no big filter, we're just too early · 2015-10-21T15:00:43.016Z · LW · GW

The article is unclear in its terms. At the top is says "92 percent of the Universe's habitable planets have yet to be born" and at the bottom it says "Earth is in the first 8 percent". Those two statements can only both be true if no habitable planets were formed between the formation of the earth and now (which is, of course, not the case). If the former is correct, earth might be significantly higher than top 8%.

I still don't see how this escapees the Fermi paradox though. Even if we're top 1%, that still means there must be great, great many potential alien civilizations out there. A factor 100 isn't going to significantly affect that conclusion.

Comment by Diadem on The Trolley Problem and Reversibility · 2015-10-01T10:57:10.919Z · LW · GW

It seems to me that there is an important difference between 'flipping the switch' and 'flipping the switch back', which is the intent of the action.

In the first scenario, your intent is to sacrifice one person to safe many.

In the second scenario, your intent is to undo a previous wrong.

Thus a deontologist may perfectly consistently argue that the first action is wrong (because you are never allowed to treat people only as means, or whatever deontological rule you want to invoke), while the second action is allowed.

Comment by Diadem on [LINK] Deep Learning Machine Teaches Itself Chess in 72 Hours · 2015-09-15T10:50:07.309Z · LW · GW

Straight out of the box, the new machine plays at the same level as the best conventional chess engines, many of which have been fine-tuned over many years. On a human level, it is equivalent to FIDE International Master status, placing it within the top 2.2 percent of tournament chess players. But even with this disadvantage, it is competitive. “Giraffe is able to play at the level of an FIDE International Master on a modern mainstream PC,” says Lai. By comparison, the top engines play at super-Grandmaster level.

That's a pretty hard contradiction right there. The latter quote is probably the correct one. Modern chess engines beat any human player these days, even running on relatively modest hardware. That's assuming full length games. At blitz games computers are much better still, compared to humans, because humans are much more error prone.

So if this neural net is playing at master level it's still much, much weaker than the best computers. From master to grandmaster is a big leap, from grandmaster to world top is another big leap, and the best computers are above even that.

Still interesting of course.

Comment by Diadem on Meta post: Did something go wrong? · 2015-09-01T09:11:21.111Z · LW · GW

O wow.

I've been following Lesswrong for months now, and only because of this post did I found out that there's more posts hidden under 'main' than just the promoted ones. So Thanks Elo!

I now wonder if there are any other hidden site features I don't know about.

I have to say this is not very good design. Why would you hide posts in such a non-obvious way. It's also rather inconsistent. The discussion page opens an overview page of newest posts, while the main page shows only a subset of newest posts, and shows the full content instead of an overview. There is apparently a way to get both main and discussion on a single page (see the links Vaniver and ike posted), but then for some reason the overview page is formatted completely differently.

Comment by Diadem on Why people want to die · 2015-08-25T11:08:43.486Z · LW · GW

Slightly unrelated to the point made above, but there is one particular weird argument that always seems to come up (at least in my circle of friends and acquaintances) when talking about immortality.

I tell someone plan to live forever, and the response is "Not me! That must be terrible! Imagine being forced to watch as everybody you know dies. And what if humanity dies out? You'll be sitting on a barren world for all eternity. Imagine how bored you will get."

I call this the 'cursed with immortality' argument. It is of course utterly ridiculous, but it's surprisingly common. My guess is that people place the idea of 'immortality' firmly in the realm of fairy tales, and in fairy tales the immortal being desperately trying to die is of course a common theme.

People who use this argument aren't stupid. They of course realize that an immortality curse is the stuff of fairy tales, and has nothing to do with science. But that's the point, they don't consider the question to be part of the realm of science.

And so if you ask people about immortality, make sure they take the question seriously first, and consider it in the right context, before assigning any value to their answer.

Comment by Diadem on The Sleeping Beauty problem and transformation invariances · 2015-08-24T14:35:29.560Z · LW · GW

Sleeping Beauty is right not to cancel the bet if she is woken up on not-Wednesday (so Monday or Tuesday, but she does not know which). But this is not the optimal strategy. instead she should she roll a 4-sided die and cancel the bet if she rolls a 1. In other words she should keep the bet with 75% chance.

If she always keeps the bet, her expected payout on Wednesday is 0.5 1.5 - 0.5 1 = 0.25. That is she makes 25 cents per dollar bet, on average. But if she cancels the bet with 25% chance each time she wakes up, her expected win is 0.5 0.75 1.5 - 0.5 0.75 0.75 * 1 = 0.28125. So now she makes 28.125 cents for every dollar bet.

I think this illuminates the apparent paradox too. The fact that she is woken up on a not-Wednesday is extra information. She should lower her confidence in winning the bet, knowing the fact that she has been woken up. And she can use this information to her benefit.

If she always cancels the bet though, she destroys this extra information, since the bet will end up cancelled regardless of whether the coin came up heads or tails.

Comment by Diadem on Robert Aumann on Judaism · 2015-08-24T08:51:34.058Z · LW · GW

Honestly the easiest explanation is just that Aumann is a very muddled thinker when it comes to religion. That's hardly a surprising explanation - muddled thinking is extremely common when it comes to religion. And it doesn't mean that such a person can't otherwise be very rational. I know I'm being blunt here, but I see no reason to look beyond superficial appearances here. Just because a statement is religious doesn't mean it's deep.

All this stuff about non overlapping magisteria is honestly just confused nonsense. There's only one truth. Sure you can approach that truth from different directions, but not if those directions directly contradict each other. Spending a great many pages talking about this just obscures that obvious fact.

And it's all good and beautiful to say that "Religion is very different from science. The main part of religion is not about the way that we model the real world". But I've never met a religious person who said that and then didn't immediately turn around and started applying their religion to the real world. Aumann also does that. In fact in this very interview he literally says that copying software is wrong because his religion says so. So he clearly is modelling the real world based on his religion.

Comment by Diadem on We really need a "cryonics sales pitch" article. · 2015-08-04T13:01:20.855Z · LW · GW

No that one in a billion was meant to be illustrative, not a real estimate of probability. But honestly even if you lower that 5% probability by only 1 or 2 orders of magnitude the proposition already becomes very dubious.

Don't forget that you can also extend your life by spending that money some other way. I think the singularity will probably happen somewhere between 2040 and 2060. So when I'm between 58 and 78 years old. This means I have a good chance to make it even without cryonics. Instead of taking that extra life insurance to pay for cryonics, I could for example also decide to work a few hours a week less, and spend that time on exercise. Not only would that be more enjoyable, it would also probably do more for my chances to reach the singularity.

If you're significantly older now, that particular math may change. But cryonics is still a long shot, and spending so much money still means a significant hit in quality of life.

I'm very curious why you think 5% is a realistic estimate of the probability of cryonics working (actually on the probability of cryonics working for you personally. So some of that probability will have to be spent on you not dying in a way that makes cryonics impossible, or on the cryonics company not going bust, or on there being no unexpected legal obstacles, etc). If you want to sell me on cryonics, this is what you will have to sell me on.

Comment by Diadem on We really need a "cryonics sales pitch" article. · 2015-08-04T11:14:24.642Z · LW · GW

I'd say the most important objection to cryonics is the one you raise last, and only spend 1 line on. As a result your entire list seems rather weak. Because it's not just that cryonics has a low chance of working. If cryonics was free I'd sign up tomorrow, low chance be damned. But it isn't free, it is in fact very expensive.

So let's rephrase your question 12: You have a rare fatal disease. There is a complicated medical procedure that can cure you. The good news is that it is painless and has no side effects. The bad news is that it costs $200,000 and has only a 5% chance of working.

I'd expect many people would still say yes, but also many people would say no.

And a 5% chance of cryonics working seems hopelessly optimistic to me. So let's make that a 0.0000001% chance of working. Suddenly it seems like a pretty lousy deal. Do you think any rational person would still say yes?

Comment by Diadem on LessWrong Diplomacy Game 2015 · 2015-07-25T11:47:03.269Z · LW · GW

Missing your very first turn is a bad sign for future reliability. I don't know about's etiquette, but on the site where I usually play such players are generally booted straight away, and a replacement is sought.

I'm willing to jump in if Germany doesn't show up. I'll be online again later tonight.

Comment by Diadem on LessWrong Diplomacy Game 2015 · 2015-07-25T11:41:38.664Z · LW · GW

Slow reply, but two things:

  • Whether that is game theoretically sound highly depends on the other player's behavior. If it makes other players afraid to stab you for fear of retribution in the next game, then yes, it works. But I think that among experienced diplomacy players, it is more likely to get you excluded from the game entirely. Also people will be less likely to ally with you in the first place if you have a reputation if responding badly to stabs.

  • This kind of behavior is explicitly against the rules in most online diplomacy communities. Because it ruins the fun of the game. Diplomacy as a game works best when everybody is really playing to win with a cut-throat, no holds barred, sell your own mother if needed, kind of style. A player who is meta-gaming is not playing to win for that individual game, so it lowers the experience for that individual game.

(Of course tarnishing someone's reputation, deserved or undeserved, based on actual or made up previous games, is an entirely valid strategy. So long as you play each individual game with the goal of maximizing your performance in that individual game, keeping previous games in mind is perfectly fine.)

Comment by Diadem on LessWrong Diplomacy Game 2015 · 2015-07-21T14:29:40.300Z · LW · GW

Seems like I have missed the fun. Maybe if someone drops out, or otherwise next time. I used to play a lot of diplomacy online, but I haven't in a while. It would be fun to play another game.

Two remarks though.

One: Like I said, I haven't played diplomacy online for a while, so this information might be outdated, but I think is a much better platform than In my experience is a more mature site, with a more mature audience. Webdiplomacy also doesn't allow illegal orders, which in my opinion is completely against the spirit of the game (It's probably somewhat friendlier to new players, but at the cost of denying them the full experience of the game).

Two: Demanding a 90% reliability is WAY too low. An in-game year will require entering orders between 2 and 5 times, say 3 on average. That's 30 deadlines in a 10-year game. With 90% reliability each player will have only 5% chance of not missing any deadlines. Now keep in mind that there are 7 players, and that a single missed deadline by any of the players can potentially ruin a good game, and it becomes a certainty that your game WILL BE RUINED by this if you demand only 90% reliability.

A much higher level of commitment from all players is required to have a fun game.

Comment by Diadem on Astronomy, space exploration and the Great Filter · 2015-04-24T15:11:28.264Z · LW · GW

Well yes. I wasn't claiming that "why is there suffering" is a new question. Just that I haven't seen it applied to the simulation hypothesis before (if it has been discussed before, I'd be interested in links).

And religion can't really answer this question. All they can do is dodge it with non-answers like "God's ways are unknowable". Non-answers like that become even more unsatisfactory when you replace 'God' with 'future humans'.

Comment by Diadem on Astronomy, space exploration and the Great Filter · 2015-04-24T14:52:47.741Z · LW · GW

For me, one of the strongest arguments against the simulation hypothesis is one I haven't seen other make yet. I'm curious what people here think of it.

My problem with the idea of us living in a simulation is that it would be breathtakingly cruel. If we live in a simulation, that means that all the suffering in the world is there on purpose. Our descendants in the far future are purposefully subjecting conscious entities to the worst forms of torture, for their own entertainment. I can't imagine an advanced humanity that would allow something so blatantly immoral.

Of course, this problem largely goes away if you posit that the simulation contains only a small number of conscious entities (possibly 1), and that all other humans just exist as background NPCs, whose conciousness is faked. Presumably all the really bad stuff would only happen to NPCs. That would also significantly reduce the computational power required for a simulation. If I'm the only real person in the world, only things I'm looking at directly would have to be simulated in any sort of detail. Entire continents could be largely fictional.

That explanation is a bit too solipsistic for my taste though. It also raises the question of why I'm not a billionaire playboy. If the entire world is just an advanced computer game in which I'm the player, why is my life so ordinary?

Comment by Diadem on [FINAL CHAPTER] Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 122 · 2015-03-14T21:25:57.134Z · LW · GW

I nteresting ending. I liked it.

Before I was hoping for more action. I wanted Hermione to take down Azkaban. I wanted to see here reaction to the whole story. I wanted to learn more about the source of magic and the mirror.

But this ending is fitting somehow.

And you know. Writing up those final parts could be an interesting community effort. Doubtless we'll see lots of meta-fan-fictions emerge the coming days.

Comment by Diadem on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 119 · 2015-03-10T22:29:49.842Z · LW · GW

Excellent chapter! The last few were a bit short, but this one more than made up for it!

I really hadn't seen the twist with Dumbledore coming. I am really, really, really glad that Dumbledore turns out to be sane after all. I really liked Eliezer's take on Dumbledore. I was convinced he was much saner than most people believed, but I couldn't figure out what game he was playing either.

The reference to Harry's pet rock was brilliant. This story clearly has been planned out long in advance.

Comment by Diadem on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 117 · 2015-03-08T20:50:18.389Z · LW · GW

Honestly I think even the wand thing is way overblown.

In story, there was only a few minute or so between the making of the unbreakable vow (which did require Harry to have his wand) and Harry using it to kill the Death Eaters. Voldemort makes the "You have 1 minute to tell me your secrets or you die" offer immediately after the vow, after all.

Voldemort could have reasoned that he wanted to kill Harry as quickly as possible. Forcing him to drop his wand would have taken time. It also would have shown weakness in front of the Death Eaters. And Voldemort probably couldn't imagine anything Harry could have done. He's way too young for any really dangerous magic, despite his skill. Voldemort doesn't know about nano-wires and all that stuff. It's probably unimaginable for him that so little magic could have such a big effect.

Let's not forget that forcing Harry to drop his wand first is not a proposition without any risk either. Voldemort wanted secrets Harry had. If he had demanded that Harry drop his wand, and Harry had refused, he would have been forced to kill him without learning any of his secrets. It's very likely that Voldemort considered this a significant risk.

And let's not forget that Voldemort is far from perfect. People keep saying "He always plays at one lever higher". But the source of that statement was Voldemort himself! He's obviously quite full of himself, but he's definitely not without flaws. He makes quite a lot of mistakes throughout the story. He nearly died in Azkaban due to his own stupidity (casting a kill curse at an innocent in full view of a vital ally whom you know is absolutely against that in every way).

Comment by Diadem on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 114 + chapter 115 · 2015-03-03T18:42:02.386Z · LW · GW

Well done Eliezer!

I have read lots and lots of 'partial transfiguration' solutions over the past few days. I didn't really like them, they seemed artificial, unrealistic.

But somehow when you told the solution, it didn't feel artificial at all. It felt like it made sense. And I really liked the way Harry stalled for time as well. A few very nice tricks there.

I'm not sure why Harry went through all the trouble of covering up his involvement though. Is there a reason he doesn't want to to take the credit? Is he afraid it will give away the secret of partial transfiguration? Or perhaps he doesn't want Draco to know he, presumably, killed Lucius? I guess we'll find out tomorrow ;)

Comment by Diadem on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 113 · 2015-03-01T17:48:18.350Z · LW · GW

One bit of information that I haven't seen anyone bring up before, is about the original prophecy (the Harry vs. Voldemort one).

Voldemort claims it is already fulfilled. But in an earlier chapter Snape claims that as the one for whom the original prophecy was meant, he will know when it is fulfilled, and it hasn't yet. So assuming Snape isn't either lying or mistaken (and Dumbledore is also present, bringing down the chance of Snape being mistaken), then that particular prophecy is still in effect.

Snape makes another very important claim in that passage. He claims that the 'Power the dark lord knows not' is not just a power that the Dark Lord doesn't know, but one he can't know. He explicitly rules out Harry's knowledge of muggle science as this power.

As far as I can tell, this pretty much leaves 3 candidates for "Power the dark lord knows not"

  • Love, as per canon. Unlikely since it hasn't been brought up, and unlike in canon probably doesn't have any special powers.
  • Partial transfiguration. Not sure thought if this is a power that the dark lord can't learn. Presumable if he studied muggle science enough, he'd be able to learn it
  • The patronus 2.0 & dementor scaring ability. This is absolutely a power Voldemort will never be able to learn, and thus in my book the best candidate. Assuming of course Snape isn't full of shit.

I don't see any immediate way to translate this bit of information into an action to escape Harry's predicament. But hopefully others can do something with this. It's probably relevant, and nobody seems to be talking about it. Especially since the prophecy implies that 'the power the dark lord knows not' is key to defeating him.

Comment by Diadem on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 112 · 2015-02-26T21:24:51.840Z · LW · GW

Looking back, I think I could have written that more clearly.

People were complaining about the mirror, and the Riddle-curse, being deus ex machina. I'm saying they weren't, because they weren't moving the plot forward. Take them out and the overall plot remains the same. That doesn't mean those scenes served no purpose in the story.

The Riddle-curse scene in particular I thought was very good. When I was reading chapter 111, when Harry got his wand back, I got all excited. I kept thinking perhaps Harry had a chance after all. I did of course wonder why Voldemort let him keep his wand, and figured there might be a deeper reason, but seeing Harry with a wand still makes you hope. And then suddenly Harry is given an opening ... and it turns out to have been all Voldemort's plan all along, and Harry is even more thoroughly beaten then he already was before.

That serves an important function in the story. It drives home how bad Harry's situation is. It drives home that there will be no easy outs, that Voldemort really is very, very smart, and isn't going to make any easily exploitable errors. Basically, the scene is setting the background, and building up suspense, for the final confrontation.

It's perfectly fine for a scene like that to have no foreshadowing. It doesn't need foreshadowing. Nobody sane will think: "Harry totally would have won without that plot twist!".

I'd also like to point out that unexpected things were kind of expected to happen. We already knew Voldemort was playing a vastly more complex game than just "I want to grab power" or "I want to kill Harry". And we also already knew that there were unknown traps guardian the stone.

Comment by Diadem on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 112 · 2015-02-26T16:29:16.361Z · LW · GW

I disagree that the writing has deteriorated.

People complain a lot about the lack of foreshadowing of the mirror and the "Riddle can't kill Riddle" curse. But I don't think the lack of foreshadowing matters, because both of these things are minor details in the overall story line. Let's start with the "Riddle can't kill Riddle" curse. Voldemort wasn't just not killing Harry because of this curse. After all now that the curse is lifted he still isn't killing Harry. The curse is entirely unneeded to explain his earlier before, or his current behavior. Nor was the curse needed to resolve the current plot. Voldemort was in complete control of the situation all along.

So there's no deus ex machina. It's a sudden unexpected development, yes, but one that doesn't really affect the story. It's purpose was to drive home how utterly defeated Harry is. How he is now completely at the mercy of Voldemort, having no clever tricks or last minute saves. Also it gave us a nice cliffhanger. But you can take out the final lines from 111 and the first few lines from 112 and the story continues exactly as it does now.

The same with the mirror scene were Dumbledore gets defeated. Take it out, have Dumbledore never show up,and the story still continues exactly the same as it does now. Dumbledore is a side character. He needed to be got rid of, so neither Harry nor the reader would expect or hope for Dumbledore to show up at the last minute and save the day, but ultimate he's not important to the story. And Voldie getting rid of Dumbledore with relativele ease is entirely expected anyway. He is established as being much stronger.

Anyway, bottomline: I really like the story so far. Elizier is doing a terrific job of driving home just how utterly screwed Harry is. How completely outplayed and outgunned he is.

I'm really looking forward to the resolution. I have no idea what it is going to be, but I fully expect it to be glorious. I do know it won't be Harry casting "Problemsolvius" or someone showing up casting "Savethedayius". I know this because Elizier went to great length to crush that expectation at every possible avenue.

Of course, my disappointment if I am mistaken and the final solution does some completely unexpected deus ex machina, shall be big indeed.

And for the record: My prediction is still that Voldemort shall not be dead by the end of the story. I give that 80%. Up to a few chapters ago my theory was that Voldemort wanted to team up with Harry to permanently get rid of death, but that seems increasingly less likely.

Comment by Diadem on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 108 · 2015-02-20T23:58:16.046Z · LW · GW

That was absolutely awesome. This story is really very well written. So much exposition, and it just all made perfect sense. And it was even somehow brought back far more in line with the original novel than I thought possible.

And I guess the '"Power the dark lord knows not" really is love, which is kinda awesome.

It's still kind of obvious how to defeat Voldemort though. Simply permanently disable him without killing him. Some magical prison, or a coma, or a permanent transfiguration into a stone. This is in fact so obvious that Voldemort himself should realize it as well. Maybe he just figures he is so far above Harry's power level that he has nothing to fear. Or he has some defenses against even this.

Another way to get rid of him: Destroy all his horcruxes on earth, then kill him. He'll live on on pioneer, but that's fine. You can pick him up again in 10000 years when humanity has progressed far beyond him, and can probably even cure him. Heck that'd even be a nice ending. A epilogue set 10,000 years from now, with Harry recovering the Pioneer 11 and curing Voldemort.

The sequel could then be a Harry / Voldemort slashfic where Harry and a redeemed Voldemort rule the galaxy as father and son.

Comment by Diadem on Optimal eating (or rather, a step in the right direction) · 2015-01-22T16:25:12.019Z · LW · GW

I have really wanted to try MealSquares for a while now, but they are only sold in the US, with no timeline for availability elsewhere. In fact I don't think their site has been updated since I first encountered them a couple of months ago. Does anyone know if they still exist, and if they have plans to ever sell overseas?

Comment by Diadem on How to deal with Santa Claus? · 2014-12-24T14:38:03.227Z · LW · GW

You mean: "Just don't do it by lying to them about not easily verifiable facts" right?

Lying to your kids about certain classes of things is a great game, which, as others have pointed out, adults seem almost hard-wired to play. It's a great way to stimulate a child's inquisitive nature, in a safe and fun way. Adults will often tell their kids tall stories, or make up nonsense explanations for every day phenomenons, or play out fantasies as if they are real (Santa Claus falls in this latter category).

But for this game to work, the things you lie about should be both unimportant and easily verifiable. Lying about something important ("Your mom just died. Haha, I'm joking, she's in the next room") is just dickish, and will probably leave the kid traumatized. But the lie should also be obvious. If the kid neither expects nor suspects the lie, then where is the game? Then you're just lying to your your kid, full stop.

So regarding Santa Claus, the way you lie about him is important. If you tell your kids he's real while making no attempt to hide the fact that he isn't, it'll just be a grand game for your kids. But if you tell them he's real, insist he's real, and go out of your way to keep your kids from discovering the truth, then your game has turned into deception, and your kids probably won't thank you for it later.

Comment by Diadem on Positive Bias: Look Into the Dark · 2014-09-17T20:02:24.060Z · LW · GW

I wonder if this can not be partially explained by people wanting to answer quickly. The teacher says you can make as many guesses as you like, but we still instinctively feel like we do better if we do it faster.

Imagine the same test, but now with the last line reading: "You can make as many guesses as you like, but you get graded on how fast you get the right result". With the rule it is a lot more rational to not spend too much time on verification of your hypothesized rule. I have no idea what the best strategy is, I guess it depends on your priors about the rule-space, but it probably does not involve spending a lot of questions on falsification.

My guess is that many people approach the problem as if it is of the above variety, even though it isn't. So while positive bias no doubt plays a part, I think a desire to answer quickly also factors hugely.

This is testable. Give people a 10 dollar reward for giving the correct answer, and explicitly tell them that the number of guesses does not affect this reward. I hypothesize that the fraction of people getting the correct answer will go up significantly.

(I know this is a very old thread, but this sequence still features prominently on the site, so I have some hopes that people still read this occasionally :P)

Comment by Diadem on Initiation Ceremony · 2014-09-04T23:19:33.560Z · LW · GW


You are right that there is also the scenario that the test givers are lying (which in this case turns out to be the truth). But this is not something Brennan in the story considers, so it can not have affected his decision. So he arrived at the correct answer, but did so by faulty logic. His two errors (not considering one possible scenario, and assigning wrong odds to the two scenarios he does consider) just happen to cancel out. It would certainly be a way to fix this story: Let Brennan first realize that he should trust everybody else over himself, and then realize that the examiner may be lying.

Though there remains a problem. If the conspirators are lying, it is not clear what answer they want. It may be a test to see if he can withstand peer pressure, but it might also be a test to see if he is willing to entertain the notion of being wrong!

Finally, yes, you are absolutely right that holding a believe because others hold it does not constitute proof. So perhaps the most rational answer would be: "My own independent calculation tells me that the answer is 2 in 9, and for the purpose of establishing a consensus opinion on this question, that is my answer. However I do not think that my evidence is enough to shift the consensus opinion away from the answer of 1 in 6, and thus this is what I shall consider the correct answer, despite my own intuition".

Comment by Diadem on Initiation Ceremony · 2014-09-04T20:35:13.974Z · LW · GW

I know this is a very old story, but I have some thoughts on it I wanted to share.

Let me first share an experience that I think everybody who has ever seriously studied math (or any complicated subject) has had. You're working on a difficult math problem, say a complicated differential equation. You are certain your method is correct, but still your answer is wrong. You've checked your work, you've double checked it, you've checked it again. Your calculation seems flawless.. Finally, in desperation, you ask a friend for help. Your friend takes one glance at your work, smiles, and says: "Four times five does not equal twelve"... Oh. Yeah. Right. Good point.

We all make mistakes. Even very skilled people sometimes make elementary mistakes. Brennan in the story is doing a calculation that is very trivial for him, but it is still possible. Even if he can't see a flaw, can't even imagine a flaw, that doesn't mean the odds are zero.

Yes, they are certainly very small. Brennan is saying "The odds of me making a mistake are very small, so I am confident I am correct". But this is the Bayesian Conspiracy, not the Frequentist Conspiracy. Brennan should be asking: "Given that someone has clearly made a mistake, what are the odds of me having made it, instead of every other person in the Conspiracy. The answer is obvious.

Thus, Brennan fails as a Bayesian, and should not be accepted into the Conspiracy.

And I am not merely making a pedantic point here. This is a very important point for the real world as well. Yes, standing up to peer pressure is important, but only when it is rational. Global warning deniers also think they are standing up to peer pressure. Creationists also think they are standing up to peer pressure. And often for the exact same reason that Brennan is doing so, in this story. They thought about the issue themselves, they may even know a thing or two about it, and they really can not see any flaw in their logic, so they stick with it, convinced the odds of them having made a mistake are very small, forgetting about the huge prior.

This is actually my first post on this site. I have read quite a bit, but not everything, so I hope I am not inadvertently saying something that has been discussed before. I couldn't find anything, and I think it's an important point.