Comment by Doug_S. on The Pascal's Wager Fallacy Fallacy · 2009-03-18T23:10:31.000Z · LW · GW

vroman: Two words - rollover jackpots.

Comment by Doug_S. on The Pascal's Wager Fallacy Fallacy · 2009-03-18T21:48:20.000Z · LW · GW

What if we phrase a Pascal's Wager-like problem like this:

If every winner of a certain lottery receives $300 million, a ticket costs $1, the chances of winning are 1 in 250 million, and you can only buy one ticket, would you buy that ticket?

There's a positive expected value in dollars, but 1 in 250 million is basically not gonna happen (to you, at least).

Comment by Doug_S. on Markets are Anti-Inductive · 2009-02-27T04:38:10.000Z · LW · GW

It can be defined by the net present value of the future dividends of the stock. Alternately, it can be determined by the per-share liquidation value of the company's assets (after creditors are paid).

So if the stock does not pay dividends, and never will, and the corporation's assets equal its liabilities, and always will, then the appropriate value of the stock is, in fact, zero? (Well, there are voting rights, but still...)

Comment by Doug_S. on Markets are Anti-Inductive · 2009-02-26T05:39:50.000Z · LW · GW

Doug: Sony loses money on every PS3, so it would be bad news if people bought them for FF and bought few other games; I don't know how plausible that is.

Yeah, that would probably be bad, too; a PS3 sold that doesn't generate much additional revenue is just a straight loss. On the other hand, once you've already decided to get the system because of the blockbuster title that you Need To Have, non-blockbuster games for the system become more attractive than they were before, so the pattern of "very few games" over the entire lifetime of the system isn't really all that likely. In the short run, though, it could definitely be an issue. Personally, I currently have only two PS3 games: Disgaea 3, and Metal Gear Solid 4. I expect to get more eventually, but not for a while.

Comment by Doug_S. on Markets are Anti-Inductive · 2009-02-26T05:18:00.000Z · LW · GW

Once upon a time, I thought I saw some important news that should have affected a company's stock price, as it would have led to significantly decreased demand for one of the company's flagship products.

I looked at the stock price, and after the trade show in which the announcement was made, the value of the stock had, to my great surprise, actually increased.

That company was Sony. The announcement was that Final Fantasy XIII would no longer be a Playstation 3 exclusive; its English version would also be released for the Xbox 360. As a game player, I knew that Final Fantasy was a game series that was popular enough to drive sales of whatever console it was available for, regardless of its other merits. However, this announcement meant that many people who might have bought a Playstation 3 would no longer do so. As the original Playstation and the Playstation 2 were one of Sony's largest revenue sources, further bad news regarding the the Playstation 3's future should have negatively affected its stock price. Why didn't it?

I came up with three guesses:

1) Average stock traders don't know as much as I do about the video game market. This is possible, but "Hey, Sony just lost its exclusive Killer App!" should be something that anyone actually paying attention should notice - stock traders aren't that stupid, are they? 2) Sony is a huge conglomerate. It sells so many other products that bad news in one area either just didn't matter (nobody expected the Playstation 3 to sell as many units as its earlier versions, for the simple reason that it was much more expensive) or it was outweighed by good news about other markets, such as digital cameras. 3) There is some other explanation, which I have not yet thought of.

Comment by Doug_S. on Markets are Anti-Inductive · 2009-02-26T04:41:57.000Z · LW · GW

But clearly that person does not likewise think that the price of OB is going to go way up, because if she did, why would she sell it to you now, at the current price?

Maybe she needs to increase liquidity for some reason? For example, the IRS wants payment in cash, not stock. Additionally, she might want to use the resources for immediate consumption rather than for investments; she might want to use the cash to take a vacation, or pay medical bills. There are all sorts of reasons why someone might want to sell a stock, even if they think it will go up.

(Myself, I sort of suspect that, if a stock doesn't pay dividends, it's mostly worthless. To quote some guy with a blog:

If you put your Mickey Mantle rookie card on your desk, and a share of your favorite non-dividend paying stock next to it, and let it sit there for 20 years. After 20 years you would still just have two pieces of paper sitting on your desk.)

Comment by Doug_S. on Formative Youth · 2009-02-25T14:56:32.000Z · LW · GW

I've heard (secondhand) stories about people being inspired to enter technical fields because of the television program Square One.

Comment by Doug_S. on On Not Having an Advance Abyssal Plan · 2009-02-23T23:19:09.000Z · LW · GW

What if, realistically, your plan turns out to be "Do nothing of consequence, and let my successor deal with the mess?" You probably don't want to actually tell people that, even if that's the way the incentives turn out. (For example, my father works for a company that recently fired its CEO, after some decisions he made turned out to be disastrous. Unfortunately, according to the CEO's contract, they had to give him a huge severance package if they fired him. Ergo: the company is screwed, but he isn't.)

Comment by Doug_S. on Good Idealistic Books are Rare · 2009-02-19T21:07:18.000Z · LW · GW

I wonder... are the works of Karl Marx idealistic, cynical, or both?

Comment by Doug_S. on Against Maturity · 2009-02-19T21:01:04.000Z · LW · GW

Regarding Judiasm: my father had a similar experience as a child. He assumed that the Hebrew passages he was given must have been great and profound because, well, they came from God. When he finally did read a translation, he was annoyed because they were the kind of stupid banalities that any idiot could have thought up. (My father is an atheist.)

Comment by Doug_S. on An African Folktale · 2009-02-16T21:12:42.000Z · LW · GW

See also Family Unfriendly Aesop, Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism

Comment by Doug_S. on An African Folktale · 2009-02-16T21:08:53.000Z · LW · GW

I suspect that the folktale I posted isn't representative of Russian folkore; I had a hard time tracking it to its source (Aleksandr Afanasev), and, yes, it doesn't seem to be reprinted very often. Other Russian folktales I read in the process of looking for this one usually have happier endings in which justice is indeed served.

Comment by Doug_S. on An African Folktale · 2009-02-16T08:54:44.000Z · LW · GW

I'm also not so sure that this folktale wouldn't be at home alongside Aesop's fables.

Incidentally, Russia, too, has a tradition of similarly horrible folktales. This is a variation on one of them:

Old Favors are Soon Forgotten

Running from the hunters, a wolf came across a peasant and asked the man to hide him in his bag. The man agreed, and when the hunters asked him if he'd seen the wolf, he said no. Once they were gone, the peasant let the wolf out of his bag. The wolf said, "Thank you for hiding me. And now I will devour you." The man cried, "Wait! I just saved your life." And the wolf said, "Old favors are soon forgotten."

The peasant despaired, knowing he couldn't escape the wolf, but in desperation begged the wolf to walk with him down the path and ask the next three people they met if old favors were soon forgotten. If they agreed, the peasant promised he would submit and let the wolf devour him.

They came across an old dog first, and asked him if old favors were soon forgotten. The dog thought a moment, then said, "I worked hard for my master for twenty years, jumping at his every command, and protecting his family. However, once I became too old to work, he drove me out of his house. Yes, old favors are soon forgotten."

The wolf smiled unpleasantly, but the peasant reminded him that there were two more people to ask. Next, they met an old swayback horse on the path, and asked her if old favors were soon forgotten. She thought a moment, and answered, "I carried my master for twenty long years, bearing his weight gladly and serving him well. But when I got too old to carry him further, he drove me out into the world to die. Yes, old favors are soon forgotten."

The wolf capered with joy and licked his chops, but the peasant led him on down the path until they came to a fox. When they asked her if old favors were soon forgotten, she frowned and thought hard. Finally, she asked how they came to ask the question, and they told her how the peasant had hid the wolf in his bag. She shook her head. "I don't believe that large wolf fit in your small bag." And, though they swore it was true, she would not accept their word until the wolf climbed into the bag to prove it. Then she ordered the peasant to quickly tie up the bag and beat it with his stick. He gave the trapped wolf a good drubbing, then swung his stick around, hitting the fox in the head and killing her, saying, "Old favors are soon forgotten."

Comment by Doug_S. on (Moral) Truth in Fiction? · 2009-02-09T19:40:14.000Z · LW · GW

Comment by Doug_S. on Epilogue: Atonement (8/8) · 2009-02-09T05:28:00.000Z · LW · GW

The story specifically asks a question that none of the commenters have addressed yet.

"So," the Lord Pilot finally said. "What kind of asset retains its value in a market with nine minutes to live?"

My answer: Music.

If your world is going to end in nine minutes, you might as well play some music while you wait for the inevitable.

Short story collections, perhaps? If you've never read, say, "The Last Question", it would be your last chance. (And if you're reading this now, and you haven't read "The Last Question" yet, then something has gone seriously wrong in your life.)

Comment by Doug_S. on Circular Altruism · 2009-02-08T15:55:00.000Z · LW · GW


See the follow-up here.

(If a dust speck is zero, you could substitute "stubbed toe".)

Incidentally, my own answer to the torture vs. dust specks question was to bite the other bullet and say that, given any two different intensities of suffering, there is a sufficiently long finite duration of the greater intensity such that I'd pick a Nearly Infinite duration of the lesser degree over it. In other words, yeah, I'd condemn a Nearly Infinite number of people to 50 years of slightly less bad torture to spare a large enough finite group from 50 years of slightly worse torture.

In real life, I consider myself lucky that questions like that one are only hypothetical.

Comment by Doug_S. on Normal Ending: Last Tears (6/8) · 2009-02-05T06:04:50.000Z · LW · GW

"But I'm having trouble figuring out the superhappys. I can think of a story with rational and emotional protagonists, a plot device relating to a 'charged particle', and the story is centered around a solar explosion (or risk of one). That story happens to involve 3 alien genders (rational, emotional, parental) who merge together to produce offspring."

The story you're thinking of is The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov, the middle section of which stars the aliens you describe.

Comment by Doug_S. on Three Worlds Decide (5/8) · 2009-02-04T00:23:00.000Z · LW · GW

Another question:

Do the Super Happies already know where the human worlds are (from the Net dump), or are they planning on following the human ship back home?

Comment by Doug_S. on Three Worlds Decide (5/8) · 2009-02-03T20:16:00.000Z · LW · GW

The Super Happies hate pain, and seeing others in pain causes them to experience pain. Humans tolerate pain better than the Super Happies do. This gives the humans a weapon to use against them, or at least negotiating leverage. They can threaten to hurt themselves unless the Super Happies give them a better deal.

(So, in order to unlock the True Ending, do we have to come up with a way for the humans to "win" and get what they want, alien utility functions be damned, or should we take the aliens' preferences into account too?)

Comment by Doug_S. on Interlude with the Confessor (4/8) · 2009-02-03T18:43:40.000Z · LW · GW

Beer on the job at software companies?

I'm shocked, too, and I'm almost old enough to have worked at one of those places...

Comment by Doug_S. on War and/or Peace (2/8) · 2009-02-01T07:29:11.000Z · LW · GW

I am somewhat more disturbed by the suffering of the eaten babies than by the baby-eating itself. I don't like the baby-eating but I could tolerate it by chalking it up to Bizarre Alien Biology or whatever, but it should be possible to euthanize the babies before they are eaten, or whatever. Basically, I hate pain more than I hate death.

Consider the typical human reaction to the treatment of food animals in factory farms...

Comment by Doug_S. on War and/or Peace (2/8) · 2009-01-31T10:03:02.000Z · LW · GW

Are they referring to the anime or Visual Novel of Fate/stay night?

Comment by Doug_S. on Three Worlds Collide (0/8) · 2009-01-31T06:09:40.000Z · LW · GW

Three worlds collide?

As of part 1, we've seen two...

Comment by Doug_S. on The Baby-Eating Aliens (1/8) · 2009-01-31T06:08:28.000Z · LW · GW

I think I remember reading once that ant colonies do, in fact, produce worker ants that "cheat" and attempt to reproduce, while other ants enforce the "cooperative" status quo.

Comment by Doug_S. on Rationality Quotes 25 · 2009-01-28T11:22:32.000Z · LW · GW

Shinji and Warhammer40K? So, we've been reduced to quoting fanfiction now? Oh, and can you fix me up with more of the good stuff? ;)

Comment by Doug_S. on Rationality Quotes 24 · 2009-01-24T09:17:55.000Z · LW · GW

Well, we've at least gotten a few people into Earth orbit...

Comment by Doug_S. on Failed Utopia #4-2 · 2009-01-23T04:34:00.000Z · LW · GW

As for what to call the female equivalent of the "verthandi" - well, Edward Cullen of the recent Twilight series was intended by the author to be a blatant female wish fulfillment/idealized boyfriend character, although the stories and character rub an awful lot of people the wrong way.

Comment by Doug_S. on Failed Utopia #4-2 · 2009-01-22T20:44:00.000Z · LW · GW

Roko: Yes. Yes I would.

There are plenty of individual moments in which I would rather get laid than play Magic, but on balance, I find Magic to be a more worthwhile endeavor than I imagine casual sex to be. The feeling I got from this achievement was better and far longer lasting than the feelings I get from masturbation. Furthermore, you can't exactly spend every waking moment having sex, and "getting laid" is not exactly something that is completely impossible in the real world, either.

Also, even though I'm sure that simply interacting with the girl of my dreams in non-sexual ways would, indeed, be a great source of happiness in and of itself, I'd still be frustrated that we couldn't do all the things that I like to do together!

Comment by Doug_S. on Investing for the Long Slump · 2009-01-22T18:18:37.000Z · LW · GW

My brother might know the answer to this. I'll ask him and get back to you.

Slightly off-topic, here's a "fun" financial puzzle for you:

John Smith is in trouble. You see, he has liquid assets worth $500,000. Normally, that wouldn't be a bad thing, but John Smith owes Tony Soprano $1,000,000, and the loan comes due in exactly one year from today. If he doesn't pay up, and in full, Tony is going to have him whacked.

John Smith figures that, in a worst case scenario, he could take his $500,000 to Vegas, bet it all on red on a single roulette wheel spin, and have a nearly 50% chance of paying off his debt. (He'll worry about the IRS after he pays off Tony.)

You're John Smith's broker. Can you come up with a better investment strategy for John Smith and his $500,000?

Comment by Doug_S. on Failed Utopia #4-2 · 2009-01-22T18:06:00.000Z · LW · GW

Although having the girl of my dreams would certainly be nice, I'd soon be pissed off at the lack of all the STUFF that I like and have accumulated. No more getting together with buddies and playing Super Smash Bros (or other video games) for hours? No Internet to surf and discuss politics and such on? No more Magic: the Gathering?

Screw that!

Comment by Doug_S. on Interpersonal Entanglement · 2009-01-22T06:29:52.000Z · LW · GW

Yes, when a character gets a Magical Girlfriend, "I'm not worthy of you!" is one of the most common reactions.

Comment by Doug_S. on Failed Utopia #4-2 · 2009-01-21T19:33:17.000Z · LW · GW

Yes, I got the reference.

It just doesn't seem to be worth commenting on, as it's so tangential to the actual point of the post.

Comment by Doug_S. on Interpersonal Entanglement · 2009-01-20T08:22:14.000Z · LW · GW

Incidentally, which is better, for the losers in the mating game:

A non-sentient lover, or involuntary celibacy?

Comment by Doug_S. on Interpersonal Entanglement · 2009-01-20T08:00:40.000Z · LW · GW

I object to the term "catgirl" for "nonsentient romantic/sex partner". A catgirl is every bit as sentient as Captain Picard. The word you want is "fembot".

Comment by Doug_S. on Seduced by Imagination · 2009-01-16T20:16:44.000Z · LW · GW

My soul got sucked out a long time ago.

[whine] I wanna be a wirehead! Forget eudamonia, I just wanna feel good all the time and not worry about anything! [/whine]

Comment by Doug_S. on Justified Expectation of Pleasant Surprises · 2009-01-15T19:32:27.000Z · LW · GW

AI in strategy games universally ignores fog of war, so there's not even fun of using that as a cover.

Not quite true; Advance Wars: Days of Ruin has the AI dutifully obey the Fog of War limitations. However, the AI is pretty easy to beat anyway, so it doesn't matter.

Comment by Doug_S. on Building Weirdtopia · 2009-01-13T04:49:29.000Z · LW · GW

Stranger in a Strange Land may have been an attempt to describe a Weirdtopia.

Comment by Doug_S. on Eutopia is Scary · 2009-01-12T10:26:41.000Z · LW · GW

Heh. A GameFAQs-style FAQ/Walkthrough for real life. What should I do with something like that?

Well, I actually am pretty much stuck right now, so the first thing I do is get myself out of my current jam (regarding employment and finances and such). Then I see if there is any section that covers vague general advice that seems relatively safe, and read that. Finally, I go lock it away in a safe deposit box at a bank and try to avoid using it again except in an emergency.

Taking the analogy a little too far, my game player ethics tells me that I should avoid looking up, say, future stock market returns or winning lottery numbers, because that would be cheating. Ideally, I'd simply want to use it to avoid blunders rather than to munchkin my way through all of life's puzzles and quests. (Did I just verb "munchkin"?)

On the other hand, it might be worthwhile to ctrl-F "cure for cancer" simply because, well, some things are worth doing a little cheating for. (Is there anything one can do in the physical world that could count as an exploit? Heck, if anything can be an exploit, the human brain sure seems like one, considering that humans have literally taken over the world in what, on the time scale of evolution, is like the blink of an eye.)

Comment by Doug_S. on Eutopia is Scary · 2009-01-12T08:22:53.000Z · LW · GW

postulating that talking about science in public is socially unacceptable, for the same reason that you don't tell someone aiming to see a movie whether the hero dies at the end. ... I started thinking that, well, maybe it really would be a good idea to get rid of all the textbooks, all they do is take the fun out of science.

Maybe they should exist, but shouldn't be thought of and written like textbooks. Maybe they should be like video game walkthroughs. You use them when you're stuck, as a last resort. Or, you just go dive right in, because you want to play optimally and make sure that you explore everything.

Of course, it's kind of hard to make learning many sciences into an experience that is like exploring a video game, because most people don't have the equipment on hand to, say, recreate the experiment that led Rutherford to hypothesize the existence of the atomic nucleus. On the other hand, you could make mathematics into a much more game-like experience, by simply presenting progressively harder problems and challenging students to come up with methods to solve them.

You may or may not be aware that mathematics in the Middle Ages was a highly competitive endeavor, with new problem-solving techniques, such as the general solution to the cubic equation, being carefully guarded trade secrets that mathematicians would use to challenge and one-up one another other.

Comment by Doug_S. on Eutopia is Scary · 2009-01-12T08:01:56.000Z · LW · GW

The "corny pun" in this case being "Bayesian Conspiracy"?

Comment by Doug_S. on Serious Stories · 2009-01-09T09:05:52.000Z · LW · GW
In one sense, it's clear that we do not want to live the sort of lives that are depicted in most stories that human authors have written so far. Think of the truly great stories, the ones that have become legendary for being the very best of the best of their genre: The Iliad, Romeo and Juliet, The Godfather, Watchmen, Planescape: Torment, the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or that ending in Tsukihime. Is there a single story on the list that isn't tragic?

In many stories, things go horribly wrong and characters hurt, badly, but in the end, things end up much better than they started. As you say later, it's often more about the striving than the suffering. Currently, The Shawshank Redemption is sitting at the top of the IMDB Top 250 Movies list. Is that a tragic story? It does have a happy ending, after all.

Incidentally, my favorite movies to watch over and over tend to be comedies. Are Blazing Saddles, Airplane!, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail capital-G Great? How about the works of Gilbert and Sullivan? Mark Twain wrote comedies, and Don Quixote is a comedy, too!

I suspect that comedies tend to be more culture-specific than tragedies; things that were hilarious 300 years ago might just get yawns and blank stares today. On the other hand, some comedies do stand the test of time, they're just a bit less common. Lysistrata is over 2000 years old and it hasn't stopped being funny yet, and Don Quixote outlasted the entire genre of stories it was making fun of.

Comment by Doug_S. on Growing Up is Hard · 2009-01-05T06:31:31.000Z · LW · GW

Oh, about the photographic memory. I'm not sure exactly where I heard it first, but my high school history teacher supported it with a personal anecdote: she once had a student who had what seemed to be a photographic memory, and would frequently answer questions on quizzes with lengthy, direct quotes from the textbook on completely irrelevant subjects.

Anyway, for whatever reason, the brain has a capacity to ignore and forget details it considers unimportant; as one Cesare Mondadori puts it, "maximal memory" and "optimal memory" are not synonymous.

Comment by Doug_S. on Changing Emotions · 2009-01-05T06:09:38.000Z · LW · GW

frelkins: Well, Ranma isn't Tiresias. The Ranma 1/2 manga was written by a woman, if that changes anything.

Here's a little bit of silliness. Inquest Gamer magazine once ran a poll asking people to choose between various (silly) options of which horrible fate they would prefer to endure. One was a choice between "Randomly change the Magic rules each time you create a killer deck" and "Randomly change your gender each time you go to sleep." "Gender" won by a large margin.

Comment by Doug_S. on Changing Emotions · 2009-01-05T04:52:08.000Z · LW · GW

"give you a vagina-shaped penis, more or less"

Nitpick: You'd end up with a clitoris-shaped penis, and a vagina-shaped scrotum. I know this because I've read about sexual anatomy and embryonic development on the Internet. The bit of flesh that turns into the penis in a male fetus develops into the clitoris in a female, and the closest male equivalent to the vagina is the scrotum.

Incidentally, simply "wearing a female body like a suit of clothing" and letting the brain react to the different hormones, body shape, etc., with its natural plasticity might be close enough to what people mean, anyway.

(Oh, and Ranma still considers himself male even during those times when he happens to be stuck in a female body for a while.)

Comment by Doug_S. on Growing Up is Hard · 2009-01-05T04:07:22.000Z · LW · GW

"Doug S.: do you have any links to that? As described, it sounds like you're plagiarizing Borges..."

Huh? Links to what?

/me is confused

Comment by Doug_S. on Growing Up is Hard · 2009-01-04T19:17:59.000Z · LW · GW
(4) Some children learn to read before they are 2.5 years old. From what I know all of these early readers turn out to be autistic.

I'm a living counterexample to this, as I learned to read at basically the same time that I picked up spoken language. I might have slight tendencies toward behavior consistent with autism, but I'm well within the range of "healthy" human variation, at least where the autistic spectrum is concerned. (My mental illnesses tend to run in other directions.)

Comment by Doug_S. on Growing Up is Hard · 2009-01-04T05:36:48.000Z · LW · GW

Incidentally, a not very well known drawback to "photographic memory" is that people with photographic memories have trouble fitting what they remember into context; their memories tend to end up as disconnected trivia that they don't quite understand the significance of.

Comment by Doug_S. on Growing Up is Hard · 2009-01-04T04:15:57.000Z · LW · GW

Well, one earlier limit on the evolution of the human brain is one that most definitely no longer applies to future human augmentation: the skull of a human baby needs to be able to pass through the birth canal without killing the mother, and it just barely does so. Humans have more difficult births than most other animals (at least, that's the impression I get). Today, we can perform Cesarean deliveries in relative safely, so that gives at least one "freebie" when it comes to improving on the work of the blind idiot god.

Comment by Doug_S. on Free to Optimize · 2009-01-02T02:59:29.000Z · LW · GW

"So one possible way of helping - which may or may not be the best way of helping - would be the gift of a world that works on improved rules, where the rules are stable and understandable enough that people can manipulate them and optimize their own futures together."

For some reason, I'm reminded of Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft, and other games...

Comment by Doug_S. on Dunbar's Function · 2008-12-31T07:48:30.000Z · LW · GW

When I discuss politics, it's almost always primarily for the entertainment value. It's like reading about quantum physics, or how to play better chess.