Are these arguments valid? 2018-01-10T14:06:42.301Z · score: -7 (8 votes)
Stupid Questions September 2017 2017-09-15T21:21:02.019Z · score: 2 (2 votes)
Towards a More Sophisticated Understanding of Myth and Religion (?) 2017-04-16T20:31:21.545Z · score: 9 (6 votes)
Stupid Questions February 2017 2017-02-08T19:51:22.821Z · score: 4 (5 votes)
Too Much Effort | Too Little Evidence 2017-01-24T12:37:33.436Z · score: 3 (2 votes)


Comment by erfeyah on Bridging syntax and semantics, empirically · 2019-03-05T21:25:13.323Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting but I don't see at all how this is solving the grounding problem.

The use of variables themselves as a basic unit is a give away that the bridging of the gap is assumed. For example, a human starts understanding the concept of a cup by using it way before it has a word for it. The border between the embodied knowledge and the abstract syntactic one is when a word is attached to the 'meaning' of the cup that is already there. As Henri Bergson puts it, you can try to find the meaning of the poem in the words and the letters, but you will fail. You are examining the symbol and not the meaning. The symbol/variable can also be observed to be arbitrary. I can say 'Give me this cup' or 'Give me this broindogoing' as long as we have agreed what 'broindogoing' means. If we haven't and there is no already defined variable in use in your mind I would have to find a way to direct you to an experience of what a cup is.

You might say. There are variables in the human mind that are under words. I would say there are 'representations' but they don't seem to be of an abstract syntactic kind. There seems to be something like a low resolution analogy or metaphor in the technical sense of the words. If you think I am just speculating I would claim that there is plenty of evidence surfacing that the 'intellect' which is the system that you are attempting to generalise as the whole of the human mind is grafted on top, and is dependant on, an underlying system of a different, not yet understood, architecture. I recommend, as an introduction to the alternative view to your own, the book 'The Master and His Emissary' by Iain McGilChrist for the biological, medical and to a certain extend philosophical evidence.

Comment by erfeyah on No Really, Why Aren't Rationalists Winning? · 2018-11-05T23:42:03.895Z · score: -17 (10 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by erfeyah on An Exercise in Applied Rationality: A New Apartment · 2018-07-08T22:09:47.642Z · score: -8 (3 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by erfeyah on Mythic Mode · 2018-03-20T12:22:25.388Z · score: -2 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I have to admit that your comment makes a lot of sense from within the rationalist perspective. I just think that the rationalist perspective is quite myopic when it comes to the value of stories. You say:

While this may be a perfectly useful definition in some contexts, it is useless for the kind of debiasing move which moridinamael was talking about. In the context of that conversation, it seems better to interpret "narrative" as a description which is specifically warped by optimizing it to fit the biases of the brain particularly well, as a kind of superstimulus.

You seem to see narrative structures as being useful only as a stimulus [1]. Epistemologically you are using the word 'warped' and 'bias' that, in my view, betrays your own belief system. A hypothesis that you might want to entertain is that stories contain truths (wisdom) that can not always be rationally articulated, at least for now. That does not mean that all stories contain wisdom, just like statements that presume to be rational do not necessarily achieve their goal. By studying stories you will develop the capacity to understand/obtain wisdom. In other words the stories themselves contain the elements needed to understand them and distinguish wisdom from superstition.

Here is a story through which you can reflect on some aspects of your situation:

There is more Light here

Someone saw Nasrudin searching for something on the ground.

'What have you lost, Mulla?' he asked. 'My key,' said the Mulla. So they both went down on their knees and looked for it.

After a time the other man asked: 'Where exactly did you drop it?'

'In my own house.'

'Then why are you looking here?'

'There is more light here than inside my own house.'

[ from Idries Shah - The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin ]

I do recommend Idries Shah's books of stories. The Nasrudin books are a good start for most people.


[1] I have to acknowledge here that Valentine seems to treat stories in a similar manner so your comment is definitely justified. I am here expanding on why I believe this to be a restrictive way of thinking.

Comment by erfeyah on Mythic Mode · 2018-03-05T23:47:15.786Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The claim is deeper than that. Your mind is structured in a way that mirrors narrative structure. You are always in a state (A) and in order to do anything you need to decide on a goal state(B). That is a simplified narrative structure and is not just a way to explain the actions of someone else. It is the way you decide how to act. Check Jordan Peterson's Maps of Meaning lectures where he goes in depth on the full pattern and then shows how it is found in stories, myth, religion etc. and also, quite astonishingly, in the biological structure of the brain.

Comment by erfeyah on The Jordan Peterson Mask · 2018-03-05T23:28:50.656Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I can offer a couple of points on why I consider it a subject of great significance.

[1] On a personal level, which you are of course free to disregard as anecdotal, I had such an experience myself. Twice to be precise. So I know that the source is indeed experiential ("mystical experiences exist") though I would not yet claim that they necessarily point to an underlying reality. What I would claim is that they certainly need to be explored and not disregarded as a 'misinterpretation of sensory input'. My personal observation is that (when naturally occurring not chemically induced!) they accompany a psychological breakthrough through an increase in experiential (in contrast to rational) knowledge.

[2] Ancient foundational texts of major civilizations have a mystical basis. Good examples are the Upanishads and the Teo Te Ching but the same experiences can be found in Hebrew, Christian and Sufi mystics, the Buddha, etc. A look at the evidence will immediately reveal that the experience is common among all these traditions and also seems to have been reached independently. We can then observe that this experience is present in the most ancient layers of our mythological structures. The attempt of abstracting the experience into an image can be seen, for example, in symbols such as the Uroboros which point to the underlying archetype. The Uroboros, Brahman and the Tao are all different formulations of the same underlying concept. If we then take seriously Peterson's hypothesis about the basis of morality in stories things get really interesting; but I am not going to expand on that point here.

These are by no means the only reasons. Indeed the above points seem quite minor when viewed through a deeper familiarity with mystical traditions. But we have to start somewhere I guess.

Comment by erfeyah on On Defense Mechanisms · 2018-03-04T22:24:59.885Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I do think it is very useful being able to identify these strategies as they occur in our mind. On the related subject of dealing with thoughts themselves (which are in many cases the cause of the emotion) in a healthy manner I have found the book White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts by Daniel Wegner to be extremely useful.

Comment by erfeyah on The Jordan Peterson Mask · 2018-03-04T21:48:59.689Z · score: 1 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would like to focus on a minor point in your comment. You say:

So does Peterson sincerely pursue what he sees as the truth? I don't pretend to know, but one must still consider that other mystics, religious seekers, and pseudoscientists presumably genuinely pursue the truth too, and end up misled. Merely pursuing the truth does not a rationalist make.

The structuring of your sentence implies a world view in which mystics and religious seekers are the same as pseudoscientists and are obviously 'misled'. Before that you are putting the word 'mystic' next to 'crackpot' as if they are the same thing. This is particularly interesting to me because an in depth rational examination of mystical material, in conjunction with some personal empirical evidence, indicate that mystical experiences exist and have a powerful transformative effect on the human psyche. So when I hear Peterson taking mysticism seriously I know that I am dealing with a balanced thinker that hasn't rejected this area before taking the necessary time to understand it. There are scientists and pseudo-scientists, religious seekers and pseudo religious seekers and, maybe, even mystics and pseudo-mystics. I know this is hard to even consider but how can you rationally assess something without taking the hypothesis seriously?

Comment by erfeyah on Mythic Mode · 2018-02-28T12:51:23.755Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me that what we are 'actually in' is indeed better described as a narrative. Sure you have chosen what you describe as unsuccessful narratives in your life but in order to exist you have to choose a narrative. You say "As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to become alarmed and cautious when I detect myself reasoning by proximity to Protagonist Feelings". Why have you become alarmed and cautious? Cautious towards what? What danger are you trying to avoid? It seems to me that you have changed your narrative structure to take into account whatever you have chosen to define as that which you do not want to identify with. But you are still in what can be seen as a narrative structure.

Comment by erfeyah on Innovanity · 2018-01-22T17:11:42.369Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for yet another interesting post!

There is something I find problematic about the Derive method. It seems to require lying convincingly to yourself which I think is a bad idea.

Find a striking piece of advice that you have an aversion to, because you are attached by vanity to your current identity.

Wouldn't this be labeled in my head as bad advice? If there is a part of myself that identifies it as good advice, and I realise that it is based on vanity, isn't that enough to accept the advice?

Modify it in a wacky and idiosyncratic way. This can be a useful upgrade, but it doesn't have to be. Rebrand it to be catchy or personal.

Ok, if I modify it enough maybe I can actually take pride in my reformulation (though I could argue that even this is partly deceitful). But if it 'doesn't have to be a useful upgrade' then I have to rebrand it by lying to myself. As stated above I believe lying to yourself is a very bad idea. I would agree with Jordan Peterson that this would result in pathologising the thinking process.

I understand that this is an attempt to hack the vanity mechanism for motivational purposes. I just think that the more traditional ways of overcoming pride such as 1) observing behavior with honesty, identifying instances of self-inflationary behavior or thought, and 2) practice humility, are better strategies as they are addressing the cause and not the symptom[1].



[1] Notice how honesty/sincerity and humility have to be developed together as the one does not work without the other. Apparent humility can actually be disguised vanity etc.

Comment by erfeyah on Kenshō · 2018-01-21T20:37:27.026Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for your very interesting post Valentine.

I am coming to this topic from a quite different viewpoint than most of the comments I read (did not read them all). That is because I believe I know exactly what you are talking about due to having this experience myself. Nevertheless, I think you are mistaken to call it enlightenment.

The base of what you are describing as 'Looking' is that there is a different way of perceiving the world. Something like a separate perceptual channel or mode. This concept and its various distortions can be indeed found in all the mystical traditions as well as in all kinds of gurus, cults and New Age formulations.

If you study primary material more in depth you will find a good description of the phase you are (to my estimation) in. You got a glimpse of something existing and you try to teach it. This is analogous to understanding that something called number 1 exists, ignore the rest of mathematics and try to convince others of the existence of the number 1. This is very common when people have what can be called a 'mystical' or 'religious' experience through drugs or application of certain exercises without prescription. What is called in some systems the ‘commanding’ or ‘lower’ self consumes the experience as a status/ego inflating mechanism. Jung encapsulates this issue in his warning to “beware of unearned wisdom”.

My suggestion would be to study the works of Idries Shah. Not skim, study. Start from the more psychological books like Knowing How to Know and Learning How to Learn. Most people will not read his writings because they refuse (for good rational reasons) to entertain the hypothesis of extrasensory perception. But since you are accepting the hypothesis, I guarantee you that you won’t find a more lucid exposition of what the mystics refer to as ‘the science of man’. Just a warning though. You will have to let go of the conviction that you have already achieved something, together with its associated positive feelings. That is the minimum sacrifice you have to make..

Let me know what you think of all that :)

P.S: Concerning your attempts to communicate your experience you might be interested in my description of the problem in my post Too Much Effort | Too Little Evidence

Comment by erfeyah on Are these arguments valid? · 2018-01-15T18:26:03.522Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

These are great points. I think the strategy is particularly useful against one sided arguments. In the case of my example it was someone suggesting that high IQ is the sole measure of value and I can thus use the strategy with confidence to point to the existence of other parameters.

But you are making another point that I am very interested in and have touched upon in the past:

For those of us who are heliocentrists and atheists, does this mean that there's something wrong with rationality, since it would have led to wrong answers in those cases? No, it means that there was something wrong with the information available in those historical situations.

Since rationality is dependant on available information it can be said there was something wrong with that 'rational assesment' though not with rationality itself. But we should then attend to the fact that our information is still incomplete (to say the least). I touched on a related point in my post Too Much Effort | Too Little Evidence.

I have been attempting to compose a more formal exploration of this issue for some time, but it is quite difficult to formulate properly (and also a bit intimidating to present it, from all places, to the rationalist community, haha).

Comment by erfeyah on Are these arguments valid? · 2018-01-15T18:01:54.733Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I think your example has a related structure. I think people freaked out cause in my example I applied the logic to the complex subject of the 'meaning of life' without clarifying my terms :)

Comment by erfeyah on Prune · 2018-01-15T14:32:09.614Z · score: 11 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You are using interesting symbols that also happen to be the same symbols used by humanity in mythological structures as found in cultures all around the world. There are some great points but I would like to bring up the possibility that you are exhibiting some biases stemming from your current perception of the world. In your words:

Imagine that your river of Babble at its source, the subconscious: a foaming, ugly-colored river littered with half-formed concepts, too wild to navigate, too dirty to drink from. A quarter mile across, the bellow of the rapids is deafening.
Downstream, you build a series of gates to tame the rushing rapids and perhaps extract something beautiful and pure.

The image of water or 'the deep' is universally used in mythology and one of its traditional meanings is the 'unknown' which of course coincides here with the subconscious. Notice that you are painting a picture of it being ugly-colored, littered, half-formed etc. A more useful approach would be to see it, for example, as deeper, less differentiated, ancient and thus shaped by evolutionary time, hiding treasures within dangers etc.

In the same manner you can start understanding in more depth the emerging symbol of the stream. As a rationalist you tend to idealise this part of the metaphor but you need to balance your assessment. Of course it can be seen as a kind of purification but it can also be seen as something that dries out if not kept in connection to the sea or of course littered. There are so many symbolic threads that have been explored deeply in organically evolved mythological structures.

I am barely scratching the surface here but I hope you will find this comment useful.

Comment by erfeyah on Demon Threads · 2018-01-12T01:35:07.366Z · score: -1 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If the people that are discussing do not follow the convention of returning to the comment thread with a summary, or in order to continue the discussion, we will end up with comment threads ending abruptly. On the other hand, this could be seen as addresed by your "if you are not willing to do this work etc." comment.

Could be funny though. Maybe, in these cases, the system can add an automated comment stating that "unfortunately the two parties never returned from their private chat..." :P

Comment by erfeyah on Demon Threads · 2018-01-12T01:18:49.900Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe depending on a threshold number of back and forth comments between two users a check can be made to detect if they are currently logged in. If they are then a chat option can appear next to the reply that directs to a chat window like the one you are using for feedback. Alternatively, the check could even happen automatically when the preson attempts yet another reply, informing them of the etiquette to follow. That is if we get convinced that it is a worthwhile methodology.

I have no idea if this would be succesful in practice but it is such a novel idea that it might be worth a test during the beta. Not sure about the implementation complexity though...

Comment by erfeyah on Demon Threads · 2018-01-11T12:16:30.379Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is such a great suggestion. I have even noticed this dynamic in verbal conversations where I will have a perfectly civil and productive conversation with a person until we are part of a larger group. Another interesting thing is that the reverse can happen. A person that disagrees with me in private will support the same point when I defend it to another person in a group setting! Such a clear indication that the person's goal was not learning but getting high on the emotion of winning!

Meta: It is not possible to 'move to private' in LW is it?

Comment by erfeyah on LW Update 1/5/2018 – Comment Styling · 2018-01-11T11:44:56.565Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for adding clear outlines and alternate colors to the comments. This is so much better! A couple of other things that need to change in my opinion:

  • When composing a comment the background is the same color as the parent text making it difficult to know where the post we are replying to ends and our comment starts. Once it is posted it is all good.

  • When clicking on a notification the comment it displayed at the top of the page which is very convenient but its background color is the same as the rest of the page. This makes it look wrong as it conflicts with the title being before the main text. The right approach would be to make it clear that this is a type of alert by, for example, changing the background color.

  • I don't know if it is just me but I do not get spell checking when composing a post or comment.

Thanks for all the great work!

Comment by erfeyah on Are these arguments valid? · 2018-01-10T22:40:45.498Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You seem to be misunderstanding the argument structure. It is not an analogy. I am using an equivalent example from the past.

Comment by erfeyah on Are these arguments valid? · 2018-01-10T21:51:44.632Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No worries at all! Also thanks for the additional comments. I think the approach of using core LW content as a starting point, though not always possible, is a great suggestion.

Comment by erfeyah on Are these arguments valid? · 2018-01-10T20:54:08.893Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes I think you and AndHisHorse are right on your criticism of [2].

I also really loved the past-directed future-directed distinction you are making! It kind of corners me towards making a teleological argument as a response, which I have to support against the evolutionary evidence of a past-directed purpose! There is another answer I can attempt that is based on the pragmatic view of truth but phew… I don't think I am ready for that at the moment :)


Comment by erfeyah on Are these arguments valid? · 2018-01-10T20:39:28.578Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

With all due respect, active engagement and feedback is a great way to learn in addition to reading the sequences.

Hazard above has pointed me to specific articles that I can apply directly to the analysis of arguments that I relate to, accelerating my learning. If Hazard and others are willing to help and I display the correct attitude towards learning I can only think of two problems this may cause:

  • You feel that posts such as this one are claiming your attention and you would prefer to avoid them completely.
  • You feel that they are cluttering the site itself.

These are valid concerns but I would suggest that if your concerns are shared by a majority of users the problem can be adressed at the level of site design.

I am also curious if you could specify exactly what you mean with the phrase "the same basic epistemological questions" in relation to this post.

Comment by erfeyah on Are these arguments valid? · 2018-01-10T18:59:47.877Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The validity of a logical argument can be judged independantly of whether it is sound. I think for [2] this seems quite difficult as per AndHisHorse's comment. Could you elaborate on why this is the case for [1] as well? It seems to me that the logic can be abstracted quite easily.

Comment by erfeyah on Are these arguments valid? · 2018-01-10T18:53:36.237Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for your comment.

I too think that the logic of [1] is valid. I am going to ask Dagon on the other comment why he thinks that it is not even near a logical structure. As for [2] I was interested in finding out whether, in the case where we agree on the terms, the conclusion follows from the premise. But I think you are right; it is probably impossible to judge this on the abstract.

In terms of the argument itself It is kind of like Pascals Wager with the difference of framing it as a moral duty towards 'meaning' itself (since if meaning exists it - in my formulation - grounds the moral duty) instead of self interest as in Pascal's Wager.

P.S: Interesting to see downvotes for a question that invites criticism... If you down voted the post yourself any constructive feedback of the reason why would be appreciated :)

Comment by erfeyah on From Rationality to Power in 3 Steps · 2018-01-09T18:51:16.457Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I believe your logic is sound. A bare bones example of using people instrumentally could be needing to move a stone for building something. Or maybe, if the goal is to kill the people in question, they can be manipulated into dying under the rock that they are themselves carrying...

To me the idea of knowledge has a moral element as it does not only tell you how to do something but also what to do. Or maybe knowledge tells you 'how' and wisdom tells you 'what'. It depends on how we are defining our terms. I like to use knowledge as containing both.

So yes, you are right that in my sentence there is the implied assumption, which is also the foundation of my critique of this post, that Bound_up does not exercise knowledge but is simply gathering attention and inflating his/hers self image by assuming superiority. In this light my statement is clumsily formulated as a supporting argument.


Comment by erfeyah on Art: A Rationalist's Take? · 2018-01-08T10:39:06.992Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Haha, ok. I might have over romanticise my last sentence ;) let me be more specific (though even with these additions not really making justice to the depth of our subject):

It is in the same manner, that when unknown musicians really perform on the street (taking into account time, place and audience), people (that are not distracted and have an accordingly developed aesthetic sense) are drawn towards the sound. [Example]

It would also be interesting to check what role reputation (of the musician) instead of quality of performance played in your choice of example.

Comment by erfeyah on Art: A Rationalist's Take? · 2018-01-07T21:14:40.116Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I will give you my perspective. You say:

The reality in which we live is one wherein a painting can be authentic all the while being deemed nothing more than a "clumsy pastiche", or worse yet, one where that "clumsy pastiche" can be deemed inauthentic on faulty logic or as a result of ulterior motives. This is something I've not gripped entirely but rather am still working on grasping better.

I believe that the reason you are having trouble to grasp this is that you are talking about two different things. The one thing is art and the other is commerce. The reality is that art does not need authentication. It is experientially verified. The authentication factor is relevant only in the trading of certain works of art; or for historical, archelogical, sociological etc. reasons .

It is interesting to see, for contrast, the way art functions (or used to at least) in certain non western contexts where it has not been commodified to such an extend. Traditionally in some places in the east, artists did not sign their work. First of all it was a gesture that they did not create for personal gain but for the betterment of humanity, but also a recognition that the artwork, if real, should be able to stand on its own without the need (and distortion) of reputation.

It is in the same manner, that when unknown musicians really perform on the street, people are drawn as if mesmerised towards the sound. What they identify does not need authentication.

Comment by erfeyah on How I accidentally discovered the pill to enlightenment but I wouldn’t recommend it. · 2018-01-03T16:31:58.493Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That was quite fun to read actually :) And reminded me that I have to sort out my non-existent exercise routine.

As to its connection to enlightenment if enlightenment really exists.... I would personally recommend reading books from Idries Shah. Maybe his psychologically framed works first 'Knowing how to Know' and 'Learning how to Learn'. If you are overly intellectual you are going to attempt rejecting them quickly. This is by design. The books play with over-intellectualisation and over-emotionality in an instrumental manner. The content is not always something to learn but something to observe yourself against. Read at least a few of the books in full, suspending judgment, to get a glimpse of what is really going on with your experiments.

Good luck :)

Comment by erfeyah on From Rationality to Power in 3 Steps · 2018-01-01T19:14:42.801Z · score: 13 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I am wondering about a trend I see in at least a couple of your posts. Of course I might be completely off the mark here but I will tell you and maybe something interesting will come of it.

It seems to me that a significant part of the posts are devoted to a kind of self affirming "I know something that other people don't". Now, it so happens that I have found myself in that kind of mentality many years ago and I needed a bit of a shock to start getting out of it. It seems to be that when a person really acquires knowledge they get on with applying the knowledge in the world instead of trying to inflate their self image through peer appraisal or other means. When the knowledge is not real or mature on the other hand, paradoxically, a very common behaviour is to try to teach!

There are many parts in the posts that imply certainty about exceedingly complex things and also, in some cases, seem to disregard moral ramifications. Talking about “how to squeeze power out of them”, “A rationalist would see through the illusory web of words to the essence beyond”, “I found I couldn't teach them what they needed to know”, “I had this dearth of power that needed resolving”, “It feels awkward trying to alter people's concepts while acting like words have "true" meanings” etc.

I am open to the possibility that you have found truth but I am not really sure that this and a couple of other posts do much more than stating confidence.

Comment by erfeyah on Mana · 2017-12-20T14:22:14.862Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · LW · GW

After reading twice I am still unclear on what you mean by 'mana' but I want to keep an open mind.

You write:

I once tried to apply mana to get a rental car company to hold to a thing they said earlier over the phone which my plans were counting on. And accidentally got the low-level employee I was applying mana to to offer me a 6-hour car ride in her own car.

Could you explain in detail exactly what is happening in your mind (to the best of your introspective abilities) when you 'apply mana'. Is this 'application' mediated by language? If yes is the language in your head or verbalised to the other person? Is it just attention? intention? etc.

Comment by erfeyah on The list · 2017-12-12T21:08:09.757Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, I will tell you my thought process so that maybe it can be of help in understanding why people have been downvoting you. Obviously, this is just my perspective and I am direcly sharing my thoughts without the usual niceties filter in the hope that I can be of help.

So, firstly this is the only post I have read of yours. I expressed in my first comment why I think is not developed. During our brief exchange we kind of changed the subject of discussion to the idea of conscious will. I suggested a book. You jumped on the book (and Maslows hierarchy) as if it is supporting your argument. But I just suggested the book so I would assume you haven't read it yet. In addition the arguments in the book (which I have read twice), though fascinating, seem to have absolutely no relation to your idea of a 'list' that this thread is about. Same goes for Maslows pyramid.

So my personal judgement is that you are at the stage that you need to study existing knowledge and also the art of developing coherent ideas. Of course play around with new ideas but in the same way you can not create a musical piece before you understand the foundations of music, you can not generate coherent hypothesis before you understand in depth the rules of logic and the current state of your subject matter. Practice humility. Assume you don't really understand anything about human nature yet and concentrate on learning from others. Although the downvotes seem to be out of spite I don't believe many people in the LW community tend to do that. I think they are down voting your argument itself as well as your approach to ideas in general because it does not meet the community standards. Think of it as honest feedback.

I hope this was helpful and not perceived as patronising.

Comment by erfeyah on The list · 2017-12-12T18:54:59.841Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are you talking about Wegner's book when you say that someone else had the same idea?

Comment by erfeyah on The list · 2017-12-11T23:45:11.908Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, but I am not sure how that relates to the 'list' idea. In any case, I believe it is quite evident that conscious and subconscious levels are constantly interacting with each other so it is not a case of all or nothing. If you are interested in the (not yet resolved) question of their interaction and the source of action in general the book "The Illusion of Conscious Will" by Daniel Wegner examines whta you refered to as the 'post facto' perspective in depth (providing experimental data). A fascinating book!

Comment by erfeyah on The list · 2017-12-11T18:51:01.485Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think you are confusing high and low level processes. The brain is comprised of many subsystems developed through the evolutionary proccess. The circuits that allow us, for instance, to avoid sudden motions are much lower (brain stem, amygdala etc.) than the neocortex which is the sit of higher level proccesses such as rational assesment. These circuits are activated before the signal is proccessed by the higher levels but not because they have a list. They are just optimised for certain very general situations.

Comment by erfeyah on The list · 2017-12-11T13:04:52.210Z · score: 13 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Some, hopefully, constructive criticism. I don't feel you have developed your idea to the point where it can be argued for or against. You are talking about the nature of the human mind and not of an implementation for A.I so even your assumption that the brain uses data structures akin to the ones found in computers is unfounded. If you are using it more as a metaphor then I am not sure it is a useful one. Why is there a static list and not an action generated anew at the moment of decision? It is more likely (and more in line with current neuroscientific evidence) that the mind is akin to an always online system that can generate internal and external responses on the fly.

Comment by erfeyah on Open thread, October 2 - October 8, 2017 · 2017-10-17T20:25:08.953Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As per the electron thing, there's a level where there is symbolic manipulation and a level where there isn't. I don't understand why it's symbolic manipulation for electronics but not for neurons. At the right abstraction level, neurons too manipulate symbols.

It is not the symbols that are the problem. It is that the semantic content of the symbol used in a digital computer is observer relative. The circuits depend on someone understanding their meaning. The meaning provided by the human engineer that, since he possesses the semantic content, understands the method of implementation and the calculation results at each level of abstraction. This is clearly not the case in the human brain in which the symbols arise in a manner that allows for intrinsic semantic content.

Comment by erfeyah on Open thread, October 2 - October 8, 2017 · 2017-10-06T19:55:25.547Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think people get too hung up on computers as being mechanistic. People usually think of symbol manipulation in terms of easy-to-imagine language-like models, but then try to generalize their intuitions to computation in general, which can be unimaginably complicated.

The working of a computer is not unimaginably complicated. Its basis is quite straightforward really. As I said in my answer to MrMind below “As Searle points out the meaning of zeros, ones, logic gates etc. is observer relative in the same way money (not the paper, the meaning) is observer relative and thus ontologically subjective. The electrons are indeed ontologically objective but that is not true regarding the syntactic structures of which they are elements in a computer. Watch this video of Searle explaining this (from 9:12).”.

Talking about "consciousness" is presumed to be a consequence of our experience with consciousness. And the things we have experience with that we can label "consciousness" are introspective phenomena, physically realized as patterns of neurons firing, that have exact analogies in the simulation.

In our debate I am holding the position that there can not be a simulation of consciousness using the current architectural basis of a computer. Searle has provided a logical argument. In my quotes above I show that the state of neuroscience does not point towards a purely digital brain. What is your evidence?

Comment by erfeyah on Open thread, October 2 - October 8, 2017 · 2017-10-06T19:44:18.052Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, that would run counter to the Church-Turing thesis. Either the brain is capable of doing things that would require infinite resources for a computer to perform, or the power of the brain and the computer is the same.

Am I right to think that this statement is based on the assumption that the brain (and all computation machines) have been proven to have Turing machine equivalents based on the Church-Turing thesis? If that is the case I would refer you to this article’s section Misunderstandings of the Thesis. If I have understood wrong I would be grateful if you could offer some more details on your point.

Indeed, not even computers are based on symbolic manipulation: at the deepest level, it's all electrons flowing back and forth.

We can demonstrate the erroneous logic of this statement by saying something like: ”Indeed, not even language is based on symbolic manipulation: at the deepest level, it's all sound waves pushing air particles back and forth”.

As Searle points out the meaning of zeros, ones, logic gates etc. is observer relative in the same way money (not the paper, the meaning) is observer relative and thus ontologically subjective. The electrons are indeed ontologically objective but that is not true regarding the syntactic structures of which they are elements in a computer. Watch this video of Searle explaining this (from 9:12).

Comment by erfeyah on Open thread, October 2 - October 8, 2017 · 2017-10-05T19:09:39.240Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm.. I do not think that is what I mean, no. I lean towards agreeing with Searle's conclusion but I am examining my thought process for errors.

Searle's argument is not that consciousness is not created in the brain. It is that it is not based on syntactic symbol manipulation in the way a computer is and for that reason it is not going to be simulated by a computer with our current architecture (binary, logic gates etc.) as the AI community thought (and thinks). He does not deny that we might discover the architecture of the brain in the future. All he does is demonstrate through analogy how syntactic operations work.

In the Chinese gym rebuttal the issues is not really addressed. There is no denial by Searle that the brain is a system, with sub components, through which structure, consciousness emerges. That is a different discussion. He is arguing that the system must be doing something, different or in addition to, syntactic symbol manipulation.

Since the neuroscience does not support the digital information processing view where is the certainty of the community coming from? Am I missing something fundamental here?

Comment by erfeyah on Open thread, October 2 - October 8, 2017 · 2017-10-03T20:07:22.249Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A few days ago I asked for LW articles regarding the Chinese Room argument and got into a conversation with the user hairyfigment. As I am certainly not convinced of the validity of the Chinese room argument myself I tried to understand the Chinese gym extension of the argument and if/why it matters to the original point. In particular I pointed to the relevance of the brain not evidently being a digital computer. I went back to the 2014 book The Future of the Brain: Essays by the World's Leading Neuroscientists which is a recent exposition of our current (quite poor) understanding of the brain. In particular I went back to the chapter The Computational Brain by Gary Marcus. Here are some quotes that I believe are relevant. Unfortunately I can not provide the full chapter for copyright reasons but I do recommend the book.

[...] we still haven't even resolved the basic question of whether brains are analog, digital, or (as I suspect but certainly can't prove) a hybrid of the two.


Going hand in hand with the neural network community's odd presumption of initial randomness was a needless commitment to extreme simplicity, exemplified by models that almost invariably included a single neuronal type, abstracted from the details of biology. We now know that there are hundreds of different kinds of neurons , and the exact details—of where synapses are placed, of what kinds of of neurons are interconnected where-make an enormous difference. Just in the retina (itself a part of the brain), there are roughly twenty different types of ganglion cells; there, the idea that you could adequately capture what's going on with a single kind of neuron is absurd. Across the brain as a whole, there are hundreds of different types of neurons, perhaps more than a thousand, and it is doubtful that evolution would sustain such diversity if each type of neurons were essentially doing the same type of thing.

Is the non or partially digital nature of the brain relevant to certain arguments based on neural networks presented in the sequences?

Does it open the possibility that Searle's argument on syntactic symbol manipulation might be relevant?

Apart from the digital/analog point what about the neural complexity and variety? What if anything does it show about the current state of AI research?

Comment by erfeyah on Stupid Questions September 2017 · 2017-09-18T22:21:14.594Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(I am not sure at all about all this so please correct me if you recognise any inconsistencies)

First of all, I honestly don't understand your claim that neurons have consciousness separate from our own. I don't know but I surely don't have any indication of that...

Why on Earth would you think Searle's argument shows anything, when you can't establish that you aren't a Chinese Gym?

The point is that the brain is not a Touring machine since it does not seem to be digital. A Chinese Gym would still be a syntactic system that uses 'instructions' between people.This is related to the way Giulio Tononi is attempting to solve the problem of consciousness with his Phi theory.

Comment by erfeyah on Intrinsic properties and Eliezer's metaethics · 2017-09-18T21:21:28.746Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If "their" refers to moral values, that seems like a category error. If it refers to stories etc, that still seems like a tough sell.

Could you explain in a bit more detail please?

Rather than looking for value you can salvage from his work, or an 'interpretation consistent with modern science,' please imagine that you never liked his approach and ask why you should look at this viewpoint on morality in particular rather than any of the other viewpoints you could examine. Assume you don't have time for all of them.

No I do see where you are coming from and I don't blame you at all. But do see that you are not addressing the actual argument, in its proper depth. My problem becomes one of convincing you to give your attention to it. Even then it would be difficult to accept an approach that is based on a kind of lateral thinking that requires you to be exposed to multiple patterns before they connect. It is a big problem that I alluded to when I wrote my post Too Much Effort | Too Little Evidence. Peterson is trying to create a rational bridge towards the importance of narrative structures so that they are approached with seriousness.

If that still doesn't help you see where I'm coming from, consider that reality is constantly changing and "the evolutionary process" usually happened in environments which no longer exist.

This is addressed. The most archetypal stories are universal at all times and places. Other ones are modified according to time, place and people. Even the process and need of modification is encoded inside the stories themselves. These are extremely sophisticated systems.

Comment by erfeyah on Intrinsic properties and Eliezer's metaethics · 2017-09-18T20:35:14.586Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good idea, let me try that.

I am pointing to his argument on our [communication] of moral values as cultural transmission through imitation, rituals, myth, stories etc. and the [indication of their correspondence with actual characteristics of reality] due to their development through the evolutionary process as the best rational explanation of morality I have come across.

And you should care because... you care about truth and also because, if true, you can put some attention to the wisdom traditions and their systems of knowledge.

Comment by erfeyah on Stupid Questions September 2017 · 2017-09-18T18:16:27.065Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the pointer to the zombie sequence. I 've read part of it in the past and did not think it addressed the issue but I will revisit.

What about it seems worth refuting?

Well, the way it shows that you can not get consciousness from syntactic symbol manipulation. And Bayesian update is also a type of syntactic symbol manipulation so I am not clear why you are treating it differently. Are you sure you are not making the assumption that consciousness arises algorithmically to justify your conclusion and thus introduce circularity in your logic?

I don't know. Many people are rejecting the 'Chinese room' argument as naive but I haven't understood why yet so I am honestly open to the possibility that I am missing something.

Comment by erfeyah on Stupid Questions September 2017 · 2017-09-18T18:06:31.943Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That is great! Thanks :)

Comment by erfeyah on Stupid Questions September 2017 · 2017-09-15T21:24:01.266Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was wondering if someone can point me to good LW's article(s)/refutation(s) of Searle's Chinese room argument and consciousness in general. A search comes up with a lot of articles mentioning it but I assume it is addressed in some form in the sequences?

Comment by erfeyah on Intrinsic properties and Eliezer's metaethics · 2017-09-15T15:57:58.368Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Cool. Peterson is much clearer than Jung (for which I don't have a clear opinion). I am not claiming that everything that Peterson says is correct and I agree with. I am pointing to his argument for the basis of morality in cultural transmission through imitation, rituals, myth, stories etc. and the grounding of these structures in the evolutionary process as the best rational explanation of morality I have come across. I have studied it in depth and I believe it to be correct. I am inviting engagement with the argument instead of biased rejection.

Comment by erfeyah on Intrinsic properties and Eliezer's metaethics · 2017-09-05T18:27:51.553Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Your comment seems to me an indication that you don't understand what I am talking about. It is a complex subject and in order to formulate a coherent rational argument you will need to study it in some depth.

Comment by erfeyah on Intrinsic properties and Eliezer's metaethics · 2017-09-05T14:58:01.469Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

[3] Some mixture. Morality doesn't have to be one thing, or achieved in one way.

Sure this is a valid hypothesis. But my assessment and the individual points I offered above can be applied to this possibility as well uncovering the same issues with it.

In particular, novel technologies and social situations provoke novel moral quandaries that intuition is not well equipped to handle , and where people debate such things, they tend to use a broadly rationalist style, trying to find common principles, noting undesirable consequences.

Novel situations can be seen through the lens of certain stories because they are acting to such a level of abstraction that they are applicable to all human situations. The most universal and permanent levels of abstraction are considered archetypal. These would apply equally to a human living in a cave thousands of years ago and a Wall Street lawyer. Of course it is also true that the stories always need to be revisited to avoid their dissolution into dogma as the environment changes. Interestingly it turns out that there are stories that recognize this need for 'revisiting' and deal with the strategies and pitfalls of the process.

Comment by erfeyah on Too Much Effort | Too Little Evidence · 2017-09-02T20:42:46.476Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hehe, I didn't mean it that literal just trying to get the idea across :)

Nevertheless, your analysis is correct for the case where alternative ways of confirmation are available. There is of course the possibility that at the current stage of technological development the knowledge is only accessible through experience like in my lucid dreaming example in the original post.