The Fable of the Burning Branch 2016-02-08T15:20:03.842Z
[LINK] "Junk" DNA revealed as information processing system? 2012-09-18T05:07:57.726Z
Euclidean - Computer Graphics Breakthrough 2012-04-21T23:54:32.827Z
Several Topics that May or May Not deserve their own Post 2011-11-29T01:59:20.969Z
Convincing my dad to sign up for Alcor: Advice? 2011-09-25T22:01:54.668Z


Comment by EphemeralNight on The Fable of the Burning Branch · 2016-02-09T14:29:58.605Z · LW · GW

Well, first, I'll admit up front that I logged off and metaphorically hid for a day after posting this, so I would not be tempted to engage in a pointless argument in the comments. And yet, I was somehow still too optimistic about what I'd find when I looked.

First point of order, this isn't about me. I've been on this site a while, it should be obvious by now that I have no qualms sharing gooey personal details about myself. So. Stop making it about me. If it was about me, you'd know.

Second point of order, the pronouns assigned to the characters do not matter and I think it says more about you than me that you fixated on that. So. Stop making it about sexism. Perhaps I could have chosen some other combination of genders, but I had hoped that commenters here of all places would be egalitarian enough to see those genders as the placeholders they are.

Third point of order, the parable was never meant to reflect reality. If it seems one-sided, that's because it is. It is meant to reflect a generalized emotional journey that I think is valid for a lot of people, of all sexes and orientations, who are too scared to speak up because they, rightly, expect to get nothing but vitriol for doing so.

Fourthly, if the parable even has a moral, it is about prostitution and modern attitudes towards prostitution and not really anything else. If you think the parable is advocating anything else you don't like, that, again, says more about you than me. I am astounded that I have to explicitly point this out, but there is a difference between not actively helping a person and actively interfering with help reaching a person. So. Stop putting words in my mouth. We should be above that, here.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Consciousness and Sleep · 2016-01-15T05:01:40.258Z · LW · GW

That is actually what I meant. But the way you're phasing it re-introduces confusion on the word "you".

What this means is, neither branch is privileged, neither branch takes precedence, there is no soul that only goes to one or the other, the subjective "you" prior to duplication does have a 50% chance of experiencing either branch. After duplication, there are two people, who are both, objectively, "you", but neither subjectively experiences being in two places at once.

One experiences the destination and subsequent existence, the other experiences a split second of dawning horror and then oblivion. Each time a "you" steps into the badly designed dupli-teleporter, that "you" has a 50% chance of either experience.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Consciousness and Sleep · 2016-01-09T05:02:02.643Z · LW · GW

In this problem, we imagine that you are cloned perfectly in an alternate location and then your body is destroyed.

In which case, "you" have a 50% chance of dying, because your self-continuity forks and one fork is then destroyed. The obvious answer to this dilemma isn't a metaphysical one. It's that this is a stupid way to design a teleporter.

If we instead imagine that you are destroyed and then duplicated perfectly in an alternate location, there is no longer an extra self-continuity branch that terminates. Correct order of operations in the engineering solution is all it takes to solve this problem.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Stupid Questions June 2015 · 2015-05-31T14:30:27.199Z · LW · GW

I think maybe not if you sign them up for cryonic preservation?

I think it may be much more on point to talk about it being unethical to have children pre-singularity, for the inevitable needless suffering that will occur. I do believe that the moment we solve aging, it is a moral imperative to stop having children until we can be assure that we're not bringing new people into existence just to suffer.

I don't think it is unethical to keep having children today, but only so far as it is necessary to actually reach the singularity. I think ethically, we should be trying to minimize the portion of human mind-space that must experience pre-singularity existence, but not to the point of delaying the singularity.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Ephemeral correspondence · 2015-04-28T18:47:30.740Z · LW · GW

Consciousness is the most recent module, and that does mean that. I'm sorry, I thought this was one point that wasn't even in dispute. It was laid out pretty clearly in the Evolution Sequence:

Complex adaptations take a very long time to evolve. First comes allele A, which is advantageous of itself, and requires a thousand generations to fixate in the gene pool. Only then can another allele B, which depends on A, begin rising to fixation. A fur coat is not a strong advantage unless the environment has a statistically reliable tendency to throw cold weather at you. Well, genes form part of the environment of other genes, and if B depends on A, B will not have a strong advantage unless A is reliably present in the genetic environment

Evolutions Are Stupid (But Work Anyway)

Comment by EphemeralNight on Ephemeral correspondence · 2015-04-27T02:19:11.136Z · LW · GW

There is a wrong-note in the reasoning of this post that immediately started niggling at me, but it's subtle and I'm having trouble teasing out the underlying assumption. I want to say that you're taking "The purpose of consciousness is consciousness" as a given, when that is arguably false. Likewise, I want to accuse you of drawing causal arrows from consciousness to other modules of human mind design, which as far as I know is ruled out, evolutionarily speaking.

I offer this:

The "executive process" as you call it is part of the world-modeler. It is the world-modeling module that evolved in response to a very unique world-modeling challenge. There is a critical difference between sky-color and insult-vs-complement that you seem to be glossing over. A given wavelength of light always has the same properties. A given array of posture, facial expression, tone, etc. does not always map directly to the same social reality.

We can't chose to see a smile on a scowling face any more than we can chose to see a green sky, but unlike the sky, the same facial expression can mean vastly different things depending on context, because the causes underlying any given expression depends on a thing that is just as complicated as you are.

The "executive process" is how evolution solved the entirely new problem of adding other world-modelers to the world-model and that's what it does. If it is glitchy and unreliable, well, it is still very new. The very first functional wing to evolve probably wasn't all that good at producing lift, either.

Comment by EphemeralNight on The "supernatural" category · 2015-04-17T23:41:24.395Z · LW · GW

I think there is a strict and useful definition of "supernatural" to be had, that suitably reduces the concept.

Take the game of life as an example. In the cell grid, the rules governing individual cells are the laws of physics. Those rules completely define natural phenomenon in that universe. It seems clear to me, then, that the definition of supernatural phenomenon points to operations on patterns of cells, IE, anything that edits the outputs of the natural rules.

For example, "Any live cell with two or three live neighbors lives on to the next generation." is natural, while "If glider for x iterations, then pulsar" is supernatural.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Stupid Questions April 2015 · 2015-04-06T12:47:10.995Z · LW · GW

I think you may have misunderstood. I'm talking about my router, which is a separate device from my modem. I have never observed the router rebooting to fix a problem, and have on several occasions observed the reboot to cause a problem. I just want to know if there is something nonobvious going on that will cause problems if the router does not reboot once a week, keeping in mind that it is a separate device from the cable modem.

Comment by EphemeralNight on How has lesswrong changed your life? · 2015-04-06T11:05:44.580Z · LW · GW

I've gone from rock-bottom self-esteem and hopeless crying, to... rock-bottom self-esteem and StepfordSmiling. LessWrong has helped me become much less self-centered by providing the skills to quantify exactly how I am not, in fact, worth anything to anyone, and am, in fact, entitled to nothing.

I talk about transhumanism and cryonics instead of nihilism and suicide.

I went from feeling like I'm always in hostile territory waiting to die, to feeling like I'm always out in the cold looking in on something beautiful that will never include me.

I get much less enjoyment and relaxation from my passtimes because I've internalized the fact that escapism isn't.

It took an hour to compose this post instead of ten minutes, because I have a more realistic expectation of the results.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Stupid Questions April 2015 · 2015-04-06T06:59:05.603Z · LW · GW

Okay, so I have a "self-healing" router that ostensibly reboots itself once a week to "allow channel switching" and to "promote network health", and given that this seems to NOT mess up my internet access in one of several ways every tuesday morning only MOST of the time, it has been causing me stress absurdly out of proportion with the actual danger (of being without internet access/my ONLY link to the outside world, for a short time).

So, my question is, what the HECK does "channel switching" or "promoting network health" even mean, and is it actually important enough that I shouldn't just flat out disable my router's "self-healing" feature?

Comment by EphemeralNight on Open thread, Mar. 16 - Mar. 22, 2015 · 2015-03-20T18:05:23.092Z · LW · GW

I have a random physics question:

A solid sphere, in ordinary atmosphere, with a magical heating element at one pole and a magical refrigeration element at the other. If the sphere itself is stationary and at room temperature; one pole is super-cooled while the opposite pole is super-heated. (Edit: Assume the axis connecting the poles is horizontal.)

What effect does this have on air-flow around the sphere? Does it move? If so, in which direction?

Comment by EphemeralNight on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, January 2015, chapter 103 · 2015-02-03T16:56:51.262Z · LW · GW

That just means that the spell inventor doesn't need to know anything about or implement natural language processing. To get magical primitives like ontologically basic mental parts you still have to have complex and fully reducible algorithms running over the base physics outputs somewhere even if that somewhere is "parallel to or between frames of the simulation".

Comment by EphemeralNight on Stupid Questions December 2014 · 2014-12-12T03:26:22.354Z · LW · GW

I sometimes have a similar experience, and when I do, it is almost always simply an effect of my own standards of competence being higher than those around me.

Imagine, some sort of problem arises in the presence of a small group. The members of that group look at each other, and whoever signals the most confidence gets first crack at the problem. But this more-confident person then does not reveal any knowledge or skill that the others do not possess, because said confidence was entirely do to higher willingness to potentially make the problem worse through trial and error.

So, in this scenario, feeling less competent does not mean you are less competent; it means you are more risk-adverse. Do you have a generalized paralyzing fear of making the problem worse? If so, welcome to the club. If not, nevermind.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2014-07-31T07:05:39.413Z · LW · GW

I'm wondering if this is the kind of confusion that can be cleared up by tabooing the right words.

I believe it can be taken as obvious that the image in the muslim woman's head upon hearing the phrase "monkey's transformed into humans" isn't at all similar to the image in the mind of someone who understands evolution, as even to my ear it comes across as, at best, misleading.

Thus my response would be more along the lines of:

I don't believe monkeys can change into humans. I believe that both monkeys and humans belong to a larger category of creatures called apes, and it seems very suspicious to me that if a hypothetical omnipotent being created humans in His image, that the image would be just another species of ape rather than anything unique.

With greater time and preparation, I don't think it would be too hard to demonstrate how a human body and a chimp body are almost the same machine, just shaped a little different. In the 'explain in twenty minutes' scenario, I think the critical insight is scope insensitivity. It is legitimately difficult to imagine the number of generations involved. You'd have to describe a family tree, point out how the less distance up you need to go to find a common ancestor, the more similar any two individuals will look, and then... zoom out, massively.

Even if your non-evolutionist then believes that family tree will eventually lead back to Adam and Eve or whoever, rather than connecting to the animal kindgom once you go far enough back, it moves the competing suppositions out of the realm of absurdity and creates an actual disagreement rather than merely a confusion.

It is hard to argue that magic was not involved in the origin of the human species when the other person cannot conceive of the possibility that humans could even exist or function without magic being involved. And that is not a trivial thing. Even many of today's educated people, who pay lip-service to the idea that humans are biology and nothing else, still believe in souls-and-elanvital-by-another-name. There are modern martial arts that still believe in Ki. You can't trip over your own feet without stumbling on "science" fiction that treats sentient thought as something ontologically fundamental. Likewise, "science" fiction where things like age can be disconnected from people and moved around. And just try to ask the Worm fandom what the difference between telepathy and precise telekinesis acting on the brain, is.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Open thread, July 21-27, 2014 · 2014-07-25T01:34:28.184Z · LW · GW

There are a lot of games that can be played with a standard deck of playing cards, but it has occurred to me that I've never heard of a skill-based strategy game that minimizes luck-of-the-draw, meant for ordinary playing cards.

So, I tried my hand at inventing such a game.

Unfortunately, I have no practical way to play-test it, so I'm putting it out there for other people to try.

Suggestions on a name for the game are welcome. I have considered and dismissed "Card Chess" as derivative and inaccurate.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Open thread, 7-14 July 2014 · 2014-07-11T20:37:15.165Z · LW · GW

Question for anyone who knows:

I've been getting "cannot connect to the real..." error messages in Google Chrome when trying to access several websites, which I gather has something to do with invalid certificates. I would like to know if going to Settings > Advanced > Manage Certificates and simply Removing everything under every tab will a) fix the problem and b) not break anything else. If not, then I would like to know what will.

Comment by EphemeralNight on What are you working on? January 2014 · 2014-01-03T00:54:15.271Z · LW · GW

Earlier last year, I set out to write a crossover fanfiction, that crossed something popular over with something completely original that nobody had ever heard of before, to see where my writing skills stood when it came to introducing an unfamiliar setting.

The fic is titled Forever After Earth, and as of today is over a hundred thousand words long and has gotten mostly positive reviews. I think I've learned a few things about how to get important details across without bogging down the narrative, from where reviewers were confused or outright wrong about something I thought I had clearly established.

It has also been a good exercise in recognizing Magic By Another Name, weeding out Separate Magisteria, and Asking the Right Question.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Effective Altruism and Cryonics, Contest Results · 2013-11-23T16:18:18.420Z · LW · GW

Place your fingers on your pulse and feel your heartbeat. If you're sitting at rest, every beat you feel is accompanied, somewhere in the world, by two or three people running to the end of the time nature allotted and being annihilated forever.

Short term solution is exactly that. People are dying RIGHT NOW. And cryonics is a way to potentially save those lives RIGHT NOW.

The following is merely my own intuition and guess, but... I suspect that the future will look back on this era, see that we had cryonics and CHOSE not to use it, and condemn current funeral practices as systematic murder.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Happiness and Productivity. Living Alone. Living with Friends. Living with Family. · 2013-11-23T16:03:57.889Z · LW · GW

I'm trying to answer this, but I can't help feeling like is overly arbitrary. I've lived with family, but which family? I've lived alone, but how alone? I might have lived with friends, or not, how do you define "friend"? What about living situations that are not covered by those categories, such as living with a lover, or living with coworkers?

This question seems meaningless to me without a lot more specificity.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Better Rationality Through Lucid Dreaming · 2013-10-20T00:44:52.880Z · LW · GW

I've had some success of my own with lucid dreaming. Relatively speaking.

The problem I have is that I dream so rarely that it is almost impossible to develop habits. I still manage to go lucid about half the time I do dream, and manage to go lucid without inadvertently waking myself up about half again of those times.

I don't know if lucid dreaming has improved my rationality, but I do think that my rationality helps with the "oh, this is silly and must be a dream" reflex. There is correlation, but it is not obvious in which direction there is causation, if there is at all.

The hardest part in my experience is actually staying asleep once I go lucid. I have to very deliberately pay attention to the physicality of myself and my immediate surroundings in the dream, while ignoring any signals from my real body, or the dream will evaporate in seconds.

For me, the key to manipulating a dream was figuring out that dreams, even lucid dreams, don't seem to run on willpower. I can will something to happen with all my might, and nothing will happen. Rather than wielding willpower, I have to wield expectation. If I expect to see something, I will. There is an exception to this that I don't have an explanation for, though: I'm telekinetic in my dreams. All my dreams, no matter what they're about, whether they're lucid or not. You'd think this would make it easy to check if I'm dreaming, but I'm just so used to it that half the time it doesn't register as strange.

Does anyone know possible causes for rarely-dreaming-at-all?

Comment by EphemeralNight on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-09-03T05:00:23.043Z · LW · GW

There are many many more submissive/masochistic men in the world than there are dominant/sadistic women, so if you are a woman who feels a strong temptation to command men and inflict pain on them, and you want a large harem of men serving your every need, it will suffice to state this fact anywhere on the Internet and you will have fifty applications by the next morning.

More like, twenty sincere applications, ten trolls, five misogynists who think they can tame you, five socially inept introverts who aren't into being a sub but will put up with it in exchange for sex because they can't safely and legally employ a prostitute, and ten confused responses from guys who are either submissive or masochistic but not both.

Most of the personal-finance-advice industry is parasitic and/or self-deluded, and it's generally agreed on by economic theory and experimental measurement that an index fund will deliver the best returns you can get without huge amounts of effort.

This is sorely lacking in leads to information on how to actually choose and acquire an index fund.

(In my own case, I wouldn't mind advice to that effect. I have a large sum in savings (about $12,000), but no income or employment prospects due to an undocumented disability. What sort of index fund should I pursue?)

If you are smart and underemployed, you can very quickly check to see if you are a natural computer programmer by pulling up a page of Python source code and seeing whether it looks like it makes natural sense, and if this is the case you can teach yourself to program very quickly and get a much higher-paying job even without formal credentials.

Where are all of these alleged jobs that pay well for competence in Python?

Comment by EphemeralNight on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-09-03T04:39:27.871Z · LW · GW

But having sex with unattractive people does usually “require you to go significantly out of your way or put you at risk of significant harm”, so you don't need a special case for that.

In my experience this (positing a special case when sex is involved even though a special case isn't needed) is a such a general and epidemic problem in modern american culture that most people don't notice they're doing it even when you point it out.

Comment by EphemeralNight on The Super Happy People (3/8) · 2013-08-03T15:26:52.399Z · LW · GW

Well, I actually got the "multiply" pun. That was clear enough. I'm just not getting what prompted the "Ewww..." though.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Quantum Mechanics and Personal Identity · 2013-03-31T23:40:25.342Z · LW · GW

Science does not rule out a notion of personal identity that requires the location of an individual to be a continuous function, which would imply that the copy of me on Mars isn't me, assuming I started on Earth.

You know, the first time I read this sequence post, I thought something similar. But then something clicked.

Yes, if you create a duplicate of me on mars, and then disintegrate the me that's still on earth at some point afterward, that's murder. But I realized that asking if that was killing me was a Wrong Question.

When the process that is me is duplicated, neither copy takes precedence. Both are me in every sense. The me that walks into the transporter has an equal chance of experiencing me-on-earth and me-on-mars after the machine does its thing.

This is counterintuitive, since it seems like the me-on-earth is the original me, but if there's no such thing as "the same atoms" then the very idea that one of the identical mes is the original is physical nonsense. There being no "same atoms" explicitly disallows the me-process that continues in the earth-me-brain to be any more me than the me-process that continues in the mars-me-brain.

This doesn't make it okay to kill earth-me after I step off the transporter pad. Until we know more about how consciousness works, I would suggest that allowing even one neuron to fire post-replication would make destroying earth-me murder. Better to err on the side of caution about something like that.

Fun fact, this applies equally to Uploading as it does to transporter replication. It was actually uploading that I was pondering when this clicked for me.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Building Weirdtopia · 2013-03-01T22:58:44.345Z · LW · GW

The people demand a strict morality police after an era of total acceptance drains all the fun out of it. Everyone is fully expected to both seek out sexual thrills and aid in the swift punishment of anyone who seeks out sexual thrills:

I can imagine this being one of those many MANY things that a handful of people get into but everybody else has no interest in, but for me personally.... AAAAAAAAAHH!

That's pretty much my idea of Hell.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Rationality Quotes February 2013 · 2013-02-07T20:26:48.134Z · LW · GW

/clicks link, watches

... I can barely understand a single word this guy is saying. Is it just me or is the audio in that video really bad? I don't suppose it was transcribed anywhere?

Comment by EphemeralNight on Ugh fields · 2012-10-28T12:56:18.983Z · LW · GW

The first time I read this, a few things came to mind as possible ugh fields in my own mind, such as "borrowing/lending" or "making conversation", but on reflection my behavior isn't consistently ugh on these subjects.

A powerful ugh field I do seem to have, based on observations of my own past behavior, is one of imposition. Courses of action which involve imposing on another person are slow to even occur to me as options, which to my intuition seems more like what an Ugh Field would feel like from the inside, rather than a mere conscious reluctance. Even deliberately contemplating such courses of action seems to trip something in my brain that labels them "hypothetical-only" as if my brain has impose on another filed in the same category as teleport across the country or turn invisible.

I've been aware of various special cases of this Ugh Field in myself in a vague way for a while, but I'm now sure the general thing has been with me as far back as the single-digits even If I can't remember its cause(s). I don't know how to even begin to get rid of this one--my self-hacking skills have proven inadequate. The best I've managed is bending what my brain registers as imposition since I know my filter is set way to high, but have made only small progress. I still find it impossibly difficult to speak to a person who's attention is not already on me, and often catch myself going to ridiculous lengths to avoid making trivial requests. Why does my brain register intentionally drawing a person's attention as imposing on them?

Comment by EphemeralNight on Causal Reference · 2012-10-20T23:27:46.417Z · LW · GW

...doesn't the structure or contents of the uncausing stuff cause me to...


...the uncausing stuff cause me...


Comment by EphemeralNight on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2012-08-27T11:42:12.428Z · LW · GW

Um, wow. Clearly you've pattern-matched to something completely different than the objection I was trying to convey. I'm so not in any way offended by sexual behavior reductionism.

To me, the author of MMSL only seems to care about creating something that looks like an intimate relationship from the outside. And he's other-optimizing; very egregiously so. My revulsion stems from my belief that I wouldn't be any happier living the way he advocates than I am now. I want something that feels like an intimate relationship from the inside, and the sort of relationship he depicts as ideal wouldn't.

That's what I mean by hollow.

I also doubt I could ever feel safe with someone with whom, to use the metaphor, appealing to the elephant is more effective than appealing to the rider, but he seems to live in an isolated bubble where he only interacts with other riders through the intermediary of their elephants, which I would find just as lonely as my current life of no interaction at all.

That's what I mean by dishonest.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2012-08-26T13:56:35.392Z · LW · GW

Married Man Sex Life -- a blog about maintaining attraction in marriage. I recommend reading the older articles (before he published a book) because they seem to have much better signal:noise ratio.

Thanks for actually providing a link. Being told to "just google it" gets frustrating.


I started at the beginning of the archive, the oldest posts, and I am reading them in order. Granted, I have only yet read a handful of posts, but I can't imagine a person who thinks like the author writes having a worthwhile life. What he advocates seems so hollow and dishonest that I've had a steadily growing sense of disgust since I began reading. Frankly, I think I'd rather be alone forever than relate to people in the way he seems to, because I would feel just as alone either way.

This is an example of the "good" version of PUA material?

I am going to continue reading in case there is useful information, despite my disgust, but I haven't seen any yet.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2012-08-23T14:28:10.561Z · LW · GW

I only mentioned that to explain the origin of a false belief. It is not currently a problem for me, just an annoyance.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2012-08-23T14:22:09.403Z · LW · GW

There aren't enough italics in the world to sufficiently emphasize how much whining about being rejected was not the intent of my comment.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2012-08-22T13:36:17.471Z · LW · GW

Have you tried reading PUA-Game material (and then selectively applying the ethical parts of it)?

I might, if I had any idea where to find said material (rather that just people talking about the material), or how to identify the optimal starting point within the material. (Or anyone to apply it to.)

Comment by EphemeralNight on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2012-08-22T10:38:22.700Z · LW · GW

I was paraphrasing based on my understanding of that conversation. Apologies if I misunderstood and inadvertently misrepresented you.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2012-08-22T07:11:09.464Z · LW · GW

Ask someone who knows you and has seen you....

There is no such person.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2012-08-22T06:32:20.995Z · LW · GW

Others are involuntarily celibate; perhaps they can't find or attract suitable mates. This problem can often be solved by learning and practicing social skills.

What ought one do when the problem is not solved by social skills?

I seem to have a tendency to feel extremely inadequate about any skill at which i am not noticeably better than everyone I know about. Due to this quirk of my psychology, I spent a significant portion of my life believing myself to have horrendous social skills. And, for a long time, I attributed my social and sexual failings to that perceived lack of social skill, despite a gradually growing mass of evidence in favor of my social skills being adequate.

(relatively) Recent evidence and experience has now finished falsifying the premise that my social skills are not viable.

Unfortunately, having (a lack of) social skills ruled out as a cause of the problem leaves me, seemingly, without any more low-hanging fruit to pursue. And when even the woman who literally wrote the sequence on self-awareness tells me that she doesn't know why her interest in dating me suddenly evaporated, I begin to... worry, and that feeling of helplessness starts showing up.

(And this doesn't even touch the non-trivial problem of meeting suitable mates, which is obviously a prerequisite to attracting anyone.)

Comment by EphemeralNight on Bayesian Judo · 2012-08-14T02:25:37.478Z · LW · GW

There's a theorem of rationality called Aumann's Agreement Theorem which shows that no two rationalists can agree to disagree. If two people disagree with each other, at least one of them must be doing something wrong.

This seems like one of those things that can be detrimental if taught in isolation.

It may be a good idea to emphasize that only one person in a disagreement doing something wrong is far less likely than both sides in a disagreement doing something wrong.

I can easily imagine someone casually encountering that statement, and taking it to instead mean this:

There's a thing called "Aumann's Agreement Theorem" that says rationalists can't agree to disagree. Therefore if I apply the label "rationalist" to myself, I can use the words "Aumann's Agreement Theorem" to prove that anyone who disagrees with me is wrong.

Comment by EphemeralNight on The Nature of Offense · 2012-07-15T20:38:52.465Z · LW · GW

This was roughly my reaction.

Comment by EphemeralNight on The scourge of perverse-mindedness · 2012-07-03T11:10:09.851Z · LW · GW

Okay, maybe we need to taboo "excited".

I do see, though, that so long as they think that learning about either the cause of their wonder or the cause of the rainbows will steal the beauty from them, no progress will be made on any front.

This right here is at the crux of my point. I am predicting that, for your average neurotypical, explaining their wonder produces significantly less feeling of stolen beauty than explaining the rainbow. Because, in the former case, you're explaining something mental, whereas in the latter case, you're explaining something mental away.

The rainbow may still be there, but it's status as a Mentally-Caused Thing is not.

Comment by EphemeralNight on Malthusian copying: mass death of unhappy life-loving uploads · 2012-07-03T03:55:53.218Z · LW · GW

the life of the typical animal, and of the typical human in history, were not worth living -- you'd prefer that they had never existed.

When I read this, a part of my brain figuratively started jumping up and down and screaming "False Dichotomy! False Dichotomy!"

Comment by EphemeralNight on The scourge of perverse-mindedness · 2012-06-24T23:45:43.499Z · LW · GW

that even if you know that the rainbows are refraction phenomena, you can still see feel wonder at them

This kind of touches my point You're talking about two separate physical processes here, and I hold that the latter is the only one worth getting excited about. Or, at least the only one worth trying to get laypeople excited about.

Comment by EphemeralNight on The scourge of perverse-mindedness · 2012-06-24T09:52:18.681Z · LW · GW

This may be the wrong tact. As I pointed out above, I think it likely that the problem lies not in the nature of the phenomenon but in the way a person relates to the phenomenon emotionally. Particularly, that for natural accidents like rainbows, most people simply can't relate emotionally to the physics of light refraction, even if they sort of understand it.

So, I think a more effective tact would be to focus on the experience of seeing the rainbow, rather than the rainbow itself, because if a person is focusing on the rainbow itself, then they inevitably will by disappointed by the reductionist explanation supplanting their instinctive sense of there being something ontologically mental behind the rainbow.

Because, however you word it, the rainbow is just a refraction phenomena, but when you look at the rainbow and experience the sight of the rainbow there are lots of really awesome things happening in your own brain that are way more interesting than the rainbow by itself is.

I think trying to assign words like "just" or "wonderful" to physical processes that cause rainbows is an example of the Mind Projection Fallacy. So, let's not try to get people excited about what makes the rainbow. Let's try to get people excited about what makes the enjoyment of seeing one.

Comment by EphemeralNight on The Power of Reinforcement · 2012-06-21T22:23:58.686Z · LW · GW

Is this because of the "damn it, I know I made a mistake, you telling me I did doesn't help!" effect?

No, I react the same way whether I was previously aware of my mistake or not. I only experience that effect when I'm told to do something I am already doing.

A good thought experiment is that if I was making a type of mistake that I couldn't automatically tell I was making on my own, I would prefer it to be pointed out, even if not in a concise detailed fashion–the idea of not knowing that I'm making a mistake is kind of scary. What would your reaction be in that situation?

Pragmatically, we as humans, just barely over the threshold into sapient intelligence, make mistakes we're not aware of constantly. If we didn't, we wouldn't need a superintelligence to fix the world; we'd have already done it ourselves. So finding the concept scary seems kind of pointless.(Sort of like being hydrophobic about the water in one's own body.) However, I would, of course, rather be aware of my mistakes than not.

But none of this is really on the topic, which was that the listed reinforcements don't seem even remotely applicable to humans in a universal way.

Comment by EphemeralNight on The Power of Reinforcement · 2012-06-21T21:43:29.171Z · LW · GW

The reason you should ignore poor performance if you say "No, you're doing it wrong!" you are inadvertently punishing the effort. A better response to a mistake would be to reinforce the effort: "Good effort! You're almost there! Try once more.

I am probably unusual in this regard, but I think I would find both approaches equally aggravating. If someone points out that I've made a mistake, anything other than a concise detailing of exactly how what I did differs from what I was supposed to do, is just going to irritate me. Also, my brain tends to interpret being ignored as a signal that I'm doing correctly.

Comment by EphemeralNight on How confident is your atheism? · 2012-06-15T17:21:49.545Z · LW · GW

I suppose that the existence of something resembling a god is possible if we are actually living in a simulation. Even the christian god would be somewhere in that space of possibilities, though given the space of possibilities, that one specific possibility would still have to have extraordinarily low probability.

But let's say the christian god shows up on our world one day and says "hey all, yup, I'm totally real, now get on your knees and praise me or suffer eternal torment!"

I don't know about anybody else, but my atheism wouldn't so much as wobble. Why? Because I don't see atheism as disbelief in any specific entities. To me, it is the dismissal of the concept of divinity--that you can't have a fundamental authority or something fundamentally moral any more than you can have something that is fundamentally complicated--it is disbelief in the obligation to worship.

Comment by EphemeralNight on People v Paper clips · 2012-05-23T00:00:28.133Z · LW · GW

Is there an inherent value to human (or sentient) life?

"Inherent Value" is an oxymoron. The universe does not assign values to things. Value is a thing which exists only within a mind's Map of the world, and is not a property things can have.

See also: Metaethics.

Comment by EphemeralNight on The scourge of perverse-mindedness · 2012-05-13T16:33:33.923Z · LW · GW

I can only conclude that if I took them to see Seurat’s painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," they would earnestly ask me what on earth the purpose of all the little dots was.

... which we might call the disappointment of explicability. “A rainbow is just light refracting.” “The aurora is only a bunch of protons hitting the earth’s magnetic field.” Rationalists are, sadly, not immune to this nasty little meme.

It occurred to me upon reading this, that perhaps your analogy about the painting is overlooking something important.

In the case of a beautiful painting, if you examine the chain of causality that led to its existence, you will find within that chain, a material system that is the mind and being of the painter. In the case of a rainbow, or an aurora, which, like the painting, is aesthetically pleasing for a human to look upon, the chain of causality that led to its existence does not contain anything resembling our definition of a mind.

In both cases, there exists a real thing, a thing with a reductionist explanation. In both cases a human is likely to be aesthetically pleased by looking at that thing. And, I suspect, in both cases a human's social instincts create a positive emotional response to not just the perceived beauty but to the mind responsible for the existence of said beauty. A human's Map would be marked by that emotional connection, but of course, only in the former case is there actually a mind anywhere in the Territory to correspond to that marking.

It seems possible, even likely, that most of the disappointment you describe, is not in the existence of an explanation, but that the explanation requires the severing of that emotional connection, the erasing from our Map that which is most important to us--other minds. We want to find/meet/see/understand/etc. the mind that caused our feeling of aesthetic pleasure, and hurt when we first understand that there is no mind to find.

That is what I suspect, at least.

Comment by EphemeralNight on How Likely Is Cryonics To Work? · 2012-04-06T19:48:38.670Z · LW · GW

Not really. I think there is a difference betwween your consciousness existing in a branch where the casual chains leading to its destruction merely haven't reached your senses yet, and your brain existing in an unchanging state for a long period of time that would stretch the possible restoration of "you" over all branchings forward from the time of successful preservation.

Your consciousness not "running" at all seems like a very different thing from it merely not knowing which branch(s) it is "running" in.

Comment by EphemeralNight on How Likely Is Cryonics To Work? · 2012-04-05T23:55:55.351Z · LW · GW

If an American signs up for cryonics and pays their ~$300/year, what are their odds of being revived?

This may just be my own intuition running away on me, but it seems like there are two different answers to that question.

In an absolute sense (as in, percentage of everett branches where you are revived from cryonics), the chances are probably pretty slim.

However, in a subjective sense. ("You" experience waking up from cryonics), the chances seem near certain. It's not like you'd be aware of any of the universes where you weren't revived, after all.

Comment by EphemeralNight on The Super Happy People (3/8) · 2012-04-05T23:46:24.499Z · LW · GW

(I believe the term is "Unbirthing".)

And I'm sorry but I'm not seeing it.

They were clearly reacting to something about the implications of the depicted humans reciting multiplication tables. The Xenopsychologist says "I can't even begin to imagine why -" and then cuts off when the whole room suddenly realizes why they're reciting multiplication tables, which is apparently supposed to be both obvious and eww-worthy, but I'm drawing a blank.

What was the part "they" didn't understand, which resulted in porn in which humans recite multiplication tables while, well, multiplying, that also grossed out an entire room?