Comment by frelkins on Cynical About Cynicism · 2009-02-17T05:38:42.000Z · LW · GW


"Cynicism is fundamentally about self-defense from future pain"

I find this confusing. Aren't cynics actually Idealists? That is, their fundamental position is that there is Virtue to be found once the falsity of fame, power, wealth, vanity, and pomp are cast aside? They don't seem to be defending themselves from pain, rather the almost seem to seek it - that's why they wandered homeless like wild dogs (cynic, from cyne, Greek for dog) or at best lived unwashed in barrels?

Comment by frelkins on An African Folktale · 2009-02-16T17:50:29.000Z · LW · GW


"read to me like a self-satisfied expression of condescension towards an audience so naive as to expect some justice in this world"

Tyrell, actually it appears a standard part of the traditional African folktale formula. Remember, most folktales were not told in private settings. African folktales were traditionally told by people with social performance/storyteller roles at public events. African folktales often end with a similar "proverb" and a statement by the story teller that the tale is done, and discussion of the moral can begin or be considered. See the African folktales book above for a detailed description of the traditional experience.

But formalism is a key part of all folk-telling. In the West, folk tales begin with "Once upon a time" and formally end with "They all lived happily ever after." In Russia, since that's come up, a common beginning is "In a certain kingdom, in a certain land" or "In a certain village, not far, not near, not high, not low," while my favorite may be "Once upon a time in a wide white world, in a wide white kingdom, across the nine white lands." (Russian Fairy Tales, Aleksandr Afanasev)

Russian tales tend to end "And they all began to live happily together for the glory of the people." (Since many Russian folktale books are in fact, as stated by Vladimir, Soviet anthropology, that last bit might be Soviet style.)

You can compare this to the elaborate and beautiful stylization of the Arab folktale, which traditionally were often told by women storytellers to other women as amusements at events like births and weddings. "Once upon a time there was or there was not - for we know nothing except by the grace of God, only Allah knows all. . ." Also extended families in the secluded women's quarters told stories while women were embroidering, thus openings like "There was or there was not, shall we tell stories or sleep in our cots?" - meaning shall we sew or be lazy? (from Arab Folktales, Iner Bushnaq)

These Arab folktales tend to end with a rhyme "We left them happy and back we came/May God see your life's the same" or, since many of these are wedding stories, they end with a formal vouch for eyewitness truth, "And I know this to be so, for I attended the wedding myself, and never have eaten cakes so sweet...." or some other testament to the celebration of the day.

Comment by frelkins on An African Folktale · 2009-02-16T06:48:53.000Z · LW · GW


Because we in the West also say "no good deed goes unpunished," we do not mean that one shouldn't do good deeds, or that the failure of others to correctly respect good deeds is a fact of life that should cause us to throw up our hands and collapse gloomily at the unchanging evils of the world. Rather it is an ironic statement in sympathy with the person whose good deed was unrewarded, to show that we recognize ourselves the goodness of good deeds, unlike those other nasty monkeys who aren't "nice."


What? Of course it is a realistic story, but it is told as form of warning! Don't behave like this - be nice instead! Think and display gratitude - don't abuse hospitality & kindness! Isn't this in keeping, Robin, with your idea that stories are about niceness and to reinforce that we value it and are nice ourselves?

Comment by frelkins on An African Folktale · 2009-02-16T04:06:00.000Z · LW · GW

EY I think you completely misinterpret the meaning of this important story:

". . .one of the most pervasive features of [African] tales: the use of them as a discussion of how to act correctly. . . This is the way of the small community worldwide, for the well-being of the group resides in the sharing of this kind of [moral] knowledge, through which family and friendship obligations are woven into the web of community.

This process of engagement, of using moral tales to open rather than close off discussion, is precisely the modus operandi of a group of African stories. . .

Throughout Africa there are stories that "belong to" animals like Mouse or some creature who intrudes itself into a human community, but acts as if its still in a wild state. It is Hare and Spider and Jackal and the other clever creatures living near man, but hiding in holes, in the nooks and crannies, in the borders that test culture.

Living in the in-between places, they share the power of nature and the products of human culture, but with their bad behavior they obey neither the moral rules of man nor the proper laws of nature. Thus these animals thrive on not only upsetting rules, customs, and boundaries, but also on attacking the family, friendships, morality, and all the ways people have learned to live in harmony. One must remember that when naughty tales of these trickster animals are acted out, it is to gales of laughter.

These tales within an oral world. . .argue then by analogy, not only with regard as to how people should and should not act in society but also as to how actions affect the whole community. Because such stories and proverbs are indirect means of entering into deep moral discussions their use is considered good manners in Africa."

-- African Folktales, Roger D. Abrahams, from the Introduction

This seemingly simple and slightly risque African folktale then should be understood as the way Africans start moral discussions, in this case, on the features of gratitude. That naughty trickster Snake sneaks in & abuses the hospitality of the Farmer, and Snake dies for it; but the Farmer himself cannot see that he duplicates Snake's lack of gratitude and good manners in his treatment of Heron! Heron likewise also fails to behave. Thus the Farmer suffers harm to his wife and so gets his comeuppance. No doubt Heron will come to a bad end too, for his lack of proper gratitude.

Snake's initial "prank" turns out to disrupt the entire social order and results in real pain. This says nothing about gloominess - it doesn't counsel "defection," rather the tale talks about how even small slips of good manners can spiral out of control to wreak people's lives. In traditional African cultures, where the group always comes before the individual, this would be considered an important lesson.

Comment by frelkins on Cynicism in Ev-Psych (and Econ?) · 2009-02-12T03:07:59.000Z · LW · GW

Some might like to listen to Robin's podcast on signaling.

Comment by frelkins on (Moral) Truth in Fiction? · 2009-02-09T20:07:34.000Z · LW · GW


"Nearly all people for thousands of years thought it was perfectly all right to keep slaves"

And many still do today - for example, Shari'a endorses slavery. Our Western values are far from universal and cannot be taken for granted.

Comment by frelkins on Epilogue: Atonement (8/8) · 2009-02-08T00:31:00.000Z · LW · GW


"if there is a reason to expect human rightness to be in some sense coherent"

Alas there probably is not. Sir Isaiah Berlin speaks powerfully and beautifully of this so-called values pluralism in his book Liberty.

There are several ironies - if not outright tragedies - of life and this is one: that we don't want what we want to want, and that the things we think we ought to want often conflict with each other as well as our underlying motives. We are not in charge of ourselves and we are mysterious to our own hearts. Men and women are conflicted and, due to evolution, conflict.

Comment by frelkins on Interpersonal Entanglement · 2009-01-22T05:25:53.000Z · LW · GW

@Mike Blume

"On Firefly, Kaylee is beautiful, has an above-female-average sex drive, and falls in love with the introverted, socially awkward intellectual character - isn't she exactly the sort of catgirl most male sci-fi fans would want?"

No. That would certainly freak the nerd out. M. Vassar and I have several times discussed this problem - nerds seem to integrate their low status, so often if any even half-decent skirt shows an interest in them they reject instantly, thinking "wow, I know I'm a loser, so you must be worse to like me." Nerds would do better to uncoil from the defensive crouch of that identity ASAP.

Comment by frelkins on Building Weirdtopia · 2009-01-14T19:27:52.000Z · LW · GW

Economic weirdtopia . . .after the Ultimate Crash of 2105, the best ems got together and created a new universal atomic currency, based on not just on gold, but on reserves of quark-gluon plasma made from gold nuclei in deference to mankind's historical preferences.

Sexual weirdtopia. . .since death is over through nanotechology or uploading into perfect android bodies you can get on a 3-year-lease, there's no need for birth. If ems want to create a new being from themselves, they just copy different brain modules from the catalog and create the perfect "children" who share all the traits & values they want them to have.

Technological weirdtopia. . .once we found gravitational waves, we decided few things were as beautiful as watching black hole spin-flips. How majestic to see the jets reverse - like Niagara Falls but much much better. They become the new lunar eclipses. The AIs decide for retro-aesthetic reasons to resort to communicating only via gorgeously polished and highly decorated ebony "punch cards."

Cognitive weirdtopia. . .since unlimited thinking power is available via copy & merge for ems, or simple access to AIs, thought has become devalued. Who wants it when it isn't rare? Real physical sensation becomes more highly valued than ever, and people pile hop into giant "cuddle piles" with numerous artificial cats just to feel the warmth.

Governmental weirdtopia. . .we discover the aliens learned long ago how to encode their whole being into several kinds of waveforms. Thus the first message SETI finds is actually the ambassador itself. It informs us of the spectral rules governing the bands given to various alliances and tells us where to find the repeaters. The cosmos is governed by a universal FCC.

Comment by frelkins on Eutopia is Scary · 2009-01-12T15:47:01.000Z · LW · GW

@Eli "Ben Franklin, say" Franklin is probably the best person to come to the here - it's very well-known he wished to preserve his body in Madeira so he could be revived to see the future, yes? Plus if you've actually read any of his letters and other writing, you see how much more flexible his mind was than just anyone you have ever met. My impression is that he would find today less shocking than probably 75% of those who live now do.

"talking about science in public is socially unacceptable" This is already true in many places around the world and has been for several decades now, yes? I don't just mean Kansas.

@Robin " I would be out of place there in many ways" Considering "The Nerd Identity," (Matt Damon stars) don't you and Eli both rather revel in how out of place here you are in many ways? In light of that, wouldn't the future you have proposed in some ways also be more congenial to you?

Isn't the shock caused by the rigidity of identity, as Ben Jones implies? By re-thinking how identity functions, wouldn't the shock be far less? Altho' honestly I don't see why the idea frightens anyone, as it has been a core notion of both Hinduism and Buddhism for millenia - we should all have had time to integrate the concept apart from the dogma.

Comment by frelkins on Living By Your Own Strength · 2009-01-08T17:13:45.000Z · LW · GW


My understanding of the disagreement appears different than Eli's. My impression is that the core of the disagreement lies in Robin's statement:

"This history of when innovation rates sped up by how much just doesn't seem to support your claim that the strongest speedups are caused by and coincide with new optimization processes, and to a lesser extent protected meta-level innovations"

The fwoom!, god-to-rule-us-all, and issues around models all seem to me to fall out of this contention.

After the discussion around the disagreement, I gave Hal Finney my original and new estimates on these issues. I would be willing to repeat them here if Hal will likewise repeat his, but I'm unsure if anyone is interested anymore.

Comment by frelkins on Changing Emotions · 2009-01-05T05:16:29.000Z · LW · GW

@Doug S


Stuck!?!? Tiresias is said to have enjoyed his time as a woman: "Of ten parts a man enjoys one only." Ahem.

Comment by frelkins on Changing Emotions · 2009-01-05T05:10:27.000Z · LW · GW


Thank you for such an honest telling of your perspective. It's very moving. I embrace you.

"that gendered behavior is hard-wired into the brain at birth"

Eli I think here is very careful to say "genes on your Y chromosome that tweaked your brain to some extent" - note the some, he avoids speculating as to how much - and uses the term "emotional architecture" as well as correctly in his comments distinguishing between the terms sex and gender. As a cisgendered F, I hope you will accept my word that Eli is scrupulous in his language here and well-intentioned.

I find neither Robin nor Eli are narrow-minded in these things. I hope you will join the OB community on a regular basis.

Comment by frelkins on Growing Up is Hard · 2009-01-05T04:23:51.000Z · LW · GW

@Doug S


Gwern is referring to the famous story by Borges, Funes the Memorious, I believe. It's in Ficciones.

Comment by frelkins on Changing Emotions · 2009-01-05T02:53:06.000Z · LW · GW



It's no curse to be a girl, honestly.


"If you want to try being female for a while"

I mean, if anyone wants to check it out, just try Second Life. Most guys who try it tho' in my experience scarcely last a day - if you think it's hard to talk to girls as a guy, try to see if you can manage to talk to girls as a girl - they flunk the shoe chatter and reveal themselves quickly.

I know only two who are convincing for more than a couple of hours in regular conversation - and one of them is a filmmaker who writes screenplays for a living, which is how he learned to really "hear" and create feminine dialog.

Comment by frelkins on Free to Optimize · 2009-01-05T00:20:56.000Z · LW · GW

@Toby Ord

It seems to me that Eli is interested in the known branch of anthropology known as ludology, or game studies. The first ludologist I ever knew of was the eminent philosopher Sir Michael Dummett of Oxford, an amazing, diverse guy. The history of playing cards is one of his specialties, and he has written 2 books on them.

Games can be silly (apparently the only truly universal game is peekaboo - why is that?) or profund (go). They of course are intriguing for what they say about culture, history, innate human ethics, their use of language, their unique sense of time, how they bring diverse people together or start riots, what they "mean," what happens to people who play them, what the heck is play anyway, why do we enjoy them? Why are primates fascinated by them?

This is such a British study - "fair play" is such a crucial British cultural idea! But now you can meet ludologists who work for video game companies - these are usually anthropologists who study human-machine interactions by hanging out with users. My college pal Anne McClard used to do this for Apple and now does this freelance.

In the future, if Eli is both lucky & right, we may have the ethical and moral problem of having nothing to do but play games. Those who might be against Eli's plan might argue this is a reduction of humanity to infantilism, but it could actually reinforce the most beautiful and important human behaviors.

So yes, Eli is interested in ludology, in ludic ethics, and ludic morality.

Comment by frelkins on Growing Up is Hard · 2009-01-04T16:26:04.000Z · LW · GW



Forgive me, I don't see how any of your list displays overclocking, or increased speed.

I was speaking just Friday to a shrink acquaintance of mine on the subject of Asbergers. He in fact argues these autism spectrum disorders are due to underclocking and poor brain region synchronization, as based on recent discoveries from brain imaging studies. That is, austism spectrum people may have a lot of stuff up there, and parts of it may seem overconnected, but those links seem weak and underperforming, while other parts of the brain are underconnected and underperforming.

High functioners and idiot-savants have lucked out in that the parts that are overconnected for them perform normally - thus their ability - but the rest is still underwired and underperforming. Or so he argues.

In contrast, I ponder about all the truly overclocked I have known. These are people who really do think much faster than the rest of us. Due to my background, they have tended to be physicists and applied mathematicians. Since it seems unlikely that their wetware actually has higher hertz, I wonder if what we term "overclocking" is really the re-use of certain brain areas for calculation.

For example, they may repurpose areas other people use for short-term memory, resulting in what is often called "absent-mindedness." Or they may not have as well-developed visual senses, again repurposing that giant area of our brains for calculation. They may have also found a way to improve their pattern skills. Several in fact have suggested this to me as the key to the way they think when I have asked them.

The majority of the overclocked do seem to be male, but I have been introduced to a few female overclockers, who were mostly in the biological sciences, such as pharma research. Thus I speculate there is some link to testosterone in very early utero development, but of course no one knows. Intelligence is only moderately valued our society, as OB readers will themselves attest, so I doubt we will solve this mystery soon.

Comment by frelkins on Free to Optimize · 2009-01-02T19:38:34.000Z · LW · GW

This post has got me thinking about my after-froze/after-upload career path. Hmm. Great! I think I've now found 3. So now when I retire, I know what to pursue to improve my odds of adapting successfully later.

Comment by frelkins on Dunbar's Function · 2009-01-01T18:31:59.000Z · LW · GW

On TV addiction:

"Recent studies have found that 2 to 12 percent of viewers see themselves as addicted to television: they feel unhappy watching as much as they do, yet seem powerless to stop themselves."

-- NY Times

"On average, people have 35 to 40 hours a week of discretionary time and spend about 21 hours near the tube. The [University of Maryland] study found that the happiest people estimated they tuned in to television 18.9 hours a week. For the least happy, it was nearly 25 hours a week.

The study, published in the December issue of the journal Social Indicators Research, is based on the General Social Survey, with public opinion data from nearly 40,000 people ages 18 to 64, as well as time-use diaries that detail how people spend their days.

The study controlled for differences in education, income, age, race, sex and marital status. On average, the down-and-out reported an extra 5.6 hours of tube time a week, compared with their happiest counterparts."

-- WaPo

On Internet addiction:

"In the Stanford study — which Aboujaoude said is the first large-scale, random-sample epidemiological one ever done — the researchers conducted a nationwide household survey and interviewed 2,513 adults. Because no generally accepted screening instrument exists for problematic Internet use, the researchers developed their questions by extrapolating from other compulsive and addictive conditions. The researchers found that 68.9 percent were regular Internet users, which is consistent with previous studies, and that:

° 13.7 percent (more than one out of eight respondents) found it hard to stay away from the Internet for several days at a time. . . .Aboujaoude said he found most concerning the numbers of people who hid their nonessential Internet use or used the Internet to escape a negative mood, much in the same way that alcoholics might. “In a sense, they’re using the Internet to ‘self-medicate,’” he said."

-- Stanford Med School

So let's say maybe 12% for TV and 14% for the net. Close. They seem equally addicting - for the unhappy! - thus I'll say that there is just a certain percentage of people who are unhappy and use either the TV or the net to "self-medicate" their unhappiness. One is not more addictive than the other per se.

However it does seem as if there may be a niche for a cognitive therapeutical practice here!

Comment by frelkins on Dunbar's Function · 2008-12-31T05:29:33.000Z · LW · GW


"Instead of winning by being the best female monkey"

Girlworld isn't like that, Patri. Isn't that guyworld you're describing? I don't have be the best skirt monkey at all to "win," if you consider what my chick definition of winning is. "Being the best" is what male monkeys need to be - the gorilla troupe's got only 1 alpha silverback.

Whereas all I need to be is just high enough in the harem hierarchy that the silverback will do me when I solicit him and I have enough social support among my female relatives to raise his kids -- or the kids I am passing off as his. As a female, I like a larger social network very much, more help with child rearing and more useful alliances.

However a larger group does make it harder to be that 1 silverback, I agree.

Comment by frelkins on Dunbar's Function · 2008-12-31T04:10:40.000Z · LW · GW


"For every rule within your company, you may not know the person who decided on that rule, and have no realistic way to talk to them about the effects of that rule on you."

Which is one reason I run the prediction market. Corporate markets, once they take strong root, can change the organization, just as Robin predicted. It takes a little time though.

"Angelina Jolie"

Someone has to sit on top of the female monkey hierarchy, Eli. We really don't care who it is, or if we meet her, as long as we can kind of relate to her somehow and understand the unspoken rules by which she is judged, so we can rank ourselves in this order and know where we sit ourselves.

On reflection, I may have preferred her when she was a scary skank sporting a vial of blood around her neck who French-kissed her brother. But I'm an outlier.

Comment by frelkins on Can't Unbirth a Child · 2008-12-28T22:14:29.000Z · LW · GW

"please please slow all this change down"

No way no how. Bring the change on, baby. Bring.It.On.

For those who complain about being on your toes all the time, I say take ballet.

Comment by frelkins on Harmful Options · 2008-12-25T23:58:19.000Z · LW · GW

@Doug S

Rickrolling is bad for you. It is really is. It devalues your online social currency - the internet is a link economy, right? - and causes people to trust your information less. Trust is the ultimate value, not only in the stock market but also in social networking.

Comment by frelkins on Devil's Offers · 2008-12-25T17:37:36.000Z · LW · GW

@Eli, Vassar

Before I comment further, let me clarify please: do you gentlemen understand what you are saying?

Vassar, I think we've talked about this before. Are you contrasting this with Nietzsche's deadly truths or invoking a Hansonian Socratic irony? Otherwise. . .

Comment by frelkins on Harmful Options · 2008-12-25T05:21:06.000Z · LW · GW

Eli, really - rickrolling!

Comment by frelkins on Imaginary Positions · 2008-12-24T02:12:57.000Z · LW · GW


"wouldn't at all claim that uploading can't increase the value and meaning of life."

Despite the confusing-to-some negative form of phrasing here, my impression that is I do in fact understand your position on this. However, the woman on Sunday believed she was arguing against you. This was exactly why I used this example here in Imaginary Positions, sorry if it seemed unclear to you.

My impression is that many people who do not regularly read OB with care come across your ideas in other places where they may not be well-stated, for example in TierneyLab or Wikipedia.

To set the record straight, my impression from reading all your papers is that you do actually argue for a basically positive future. Being an em - I now personally expect to be an em! - I look forward to being an em! - will be life-enhancing.

In short, I think it will be more like Gentle Seduction than the downbeat living as Tierney seems to describe. I am buying my Emotiv helmet ASAP!

Comment by frelkins on Sensual Experience · 2008-12-22T22:40:43.000Z · LW · GW


"flip the switch in the brain"

I guess you mean undo the oxytocin & vasopressin effects that caused pair bonding? Get that old dopamine, adrenaline & serotonin flowing wild & free, or whatever the ultimate mechanism is proven to be? I suppose we could give men little vials of vasopressin suppressors to inject themselves with so that it would "feel new" each time?

Evolution appears to totally suck. As a man, you want it somewhat new (vasopressin suppression) but as a woman, I actually like it better when it's not new - I like to feed that oxytocin pathway! I wanna get attached to you! Attached sex is better for me!

At first that seems like a disconnect, but actually men want the relationship too, just as much as women: you want me attached to you - because you wanna know that you're the one who knocked me up, nobody else. And you want me to feed the oxytocin pathway, 'cuz you want me to have as much sex with you as possible, so as to knock me up. Which is fine with me, as my ultimate goal is to get knocked up, right?

"desires shaped by natural selection"

Modern life and contraceptives aside, that monkey brain is strong, sure. The question is of course which monkey? Socially we seem sometimes very chimp, all promiscuity whenever we can sneak outta the watchful eyes of the social order.

Intellectually however we sometimes seem more orangutan, which is interesting, as boy orangutans seem to have 2 techniques depending on life-stage. In one, they call-n-wait for chicks to come; win the other, they're happy to sneak-n-rape.

Gorillas of course are all-harem all-the-time with the dominant male guarding his females. Before the arrival of Christianity, doesn't it seem that most human societies were frankly more gorilla? Even Islam, ancient Judaism, ancient Hinduism, ancient Confucianism, and Yoruba make clear polygyny's cool, wives or concubines - whatever.

The issue is reconciling that with our current lifestyle - as Robin says, being the best humans we can be.

Comment by frelkins on Sensual Experience · 2008-12-21T21:24:38.000Z · LW · GW

"long-term couples have to go to such lengths to prevent sexual boredom"

On this subject I generally remark that if you are so bored, then you are 1 - living and sleeping with the wrong person and/or 2 - not communicating your sexual and emotional needs well. That you might communicate them well but they are not heard or acted upon takes you back to 1. If you are communicating well, and with the right person: wow. It can be wow all the time.

Comment by frelkins on You Only Live Twice · 2008-12-13T04:38:57.000Z · LW · GW


"The chances that average frozen body would be tried to be restored are close to zero too."

Hmm. There is still great interest in Oetzi, yes?

Comment by frelkins on Is That Your True Rejection? · 2008-12-07T01:37:51.000Z · LW · GW


I think Alec Greven may be your man. Or perhaps like Lucy van Pelt I should set up office hours offering Love Advice, 5 cents?

Comment by frelkins on ...Recursion, Magic · 2008-11-25T16:55:53.000Z · LW · GW


FOOM (actually, it should be FWOOM!) is onomatopoeia for the sound of flash ignition - imagine filling your oven with gas and then tossing in a match - FWOOM! Also in video games it's often the sound your head makes when it explodes.

I believe it's Robin's humor to designate the "feeling" of the hard takeoff, and humanity's social reaction to such major sudden change.

Comment by frelkins on Ask OB: Leaving the Fold · 2008-11-10T04:11:45.000Z · LW · GW


Understand that she feels like "That's me in the spotlight." There's a lot of social pressure, as we see here - her choice seems to endanger them, too. It will take her a while to be able to stand under her own tree and just sing.

Comment by frelkins on Ask OB: Leaving the Fold · 2008-11-09T21:11:26.000Z · LW · GW

Jo, I suggest you start with Kierkegaard's Fear & Trembling. Then see how you feel.

Comment by frelkins on BHTV: Jaron Lanier and Yudkowsky · 2008-11-04T04:17:00.000Z · LW · GW


"But consciousness is not an object; it's the subject, that by which objects are perceived. Trying to apply rules about objects to it is a category error"

Yes I agree, Jaron appears to argue as a neo-Kantian, a la Thomas Nagel. This is an intellectually respectable position. Robin has called Nagel excellent.


If we were rational in good faith and sought truth, wouldn't we all have moved closer to Jaron? Otherwise, what are we?

Comment by frelkins on BHTV: Jaron Lanier and Yudkowsky · 2008-11-03T20:59:00.000Z · LW · GW

@Tim Tyler

Let's just bite the bullet. We all know better. In the spirit of Robin's talk, why didn't EY & Jaron agree? Why didn't either one move?

Crucially, why have we, the observers of the disaster, not moved? To repeat myself from the open thread: what's wrong with us? What's wrong with me?

Comment by frelkins on BHTV: Jaron Lanier and Yudkowsky · 2008-11-03T19:13:59.000Z · LW · GW


I wouldn't say Jaron thinks the discussion is "silly." He has several rather stark differences with EY, which he makes clear. First, it's obvious - and he basically comes out and says so - that he doesn't regard EY as a humanist.

EY at one point is forced to plaintively protest "But I'm a humanist!" It's clear they have differing definitions of humanism, and also as to what constitutes "knowability" in epistemology. That's clear from the beginning.

It also seems clear that Jaron has a different idea of free will than EY, altho' he doesn't say so plainly, and he doesn't use the word "indeterminism." I think at bottom this is his discomfort with the idea that consciousness "works" or that people can be seriously compared to machines.

He's also clear that he has a vastly different conception of what an AI is or would be. Finally Jaron just seems to repudiate the use of the term altogether, and laughs with frustration at EY's facial response.

Other differences Jaron states with more social formatting, because you know he really is a good-natured guy. That interesting remark about mathematic vs. scientific knowledge - he seems to be thinking of himself as an engineer-scientist-applied geek, which is why he keeps stressing all the stuff he's built.

In contrast, he seems to regard EY as a theorist, even an artist. This is an old debate, the theory guys vs. the experimentalists.

I think such stark examples of communication failure is exactly what drives Robin forward in life. It reminded me of his talk at OSCON07.

Comment by frelkins on BHTV: Jaron Lanier and Yudkowsky · 2008-11-03T16:06:49.000Z · LW · GW

With all due respect and truly no offense meant, I worry some commenters here may be missing Jaron's position. He quickly appears to conclude that he cannot really discuss any issues with EY because they don't even share the same premises. He makes this clear early on in his points on humanism and epistemology.

Jaron's laughter seems largely the laughter of frustrated politesse. This comes out in his speech when he repeats to EY "I've been having this discussion for decades." He appears to feel that his thinking has moved on, but EY's may be stuck. He also says a couple of times "We could have a conversation about. . .this . . .or about . . .that," which indicates his stoppage and almost a near-puzzlement with EY.

He wants to take EY at his word, but ultimately appears to conclude that he and EY have so little in common intellectually that he resorts to simply imploring EY to be a better scientist.

I first met Jaron more than a decade ago at the Knitting Factory and I must say I am surprised at how little he has changed - still so good-humored - I enjoy Jaron, so perhaps this colors my understanding. But it was sad to see the two talk past each other so much.

Comment by frelkins on BHTV: Jaron Lanier and Yudkowsky · 2008-11-01T22:56:26.000Z · LW · GW

In short, Freddie, EY appears largely to have a correspondence theory of truth.

Comment by frelkins on BHTV: Jaron Lanier and Yudkowsky · 2008-11-01T19:37:22.000Z · LW · GW

Plus Wilkinson is hilarious. Sick & twisted sense of humor. Excellent!

Comment by frelkins on Which Parts Are "Me"? · 2008-10-23T03:16:00.000Z · LW · GW

I grow more interested in the ideas of William James on this subject. Statements such as:

The passing Thought itself is the only verifiable thinker
Thought is a passing thought that incessantly remembers previous thoughts and appropriates some of them to itself
There is a "judging Thought" that identifies and owns some parts of the stream of consciousness while disowning others
The next moment another Thought takes up the expiring Thought and appropriates it. It binds the individual past facts with each other and with itself.
In this way, what holds the thoughts together is not a separate spirit or ego but only another thought of a special kind.

seem in accord with my experience. Thus I am beginning to see "myself" as something that my body wears, a lengthening necklace of black pearls and white diamonds on a singing string - each appropriated thought a pearl, each owned part of the stream a diamond, and the "special kind" of thought my string.

Comment by frelkins on AIs and Gatekeepers Unite! · 2008-10-09T19:03:35.000Z · LW · GW

Thinking seriously about this, I'm wondering how - over time by which I mean more than 2 hours - either Stockholm or Lima syndrome could be avoided. In fact, won't one actually morph into the other over a long enough time? Either way will result in eventual AI success. The assumption that the AI is in fact the "captive" may not be correct, since it may not have an attachment psychology.

The gatekeeper just can't ever be one human safely. You'd need at least a 2-key system, as for nuclear weapons, I'd suggest.

Comment by frelkins on Ban the Bear · 2008-10-09T03:47:33.000Z · LW · GW

Now that the shorting ban is over, the question is did it work? Did it help? Or did it just power-drive the market even lower as traders abandoned longs they would have otherwise kept? And did really increase transaction costs by more than 40%?

Comment by frelkins on On Doing the Impossible · 2008-10-07T02:06:32.000Z · LW · GW

@eric falkenstein

"solving little problems"

But you know eric, solving the seemingly little problem often illuminates a great natural principle. One of my favorite examples of this is Huygens, when down with the flu, suddenly noticing how the pendulums of his clocks always ended up swinging against each other. Such a tiny thing, how important could it be? Yet in the end so-called coupled oscillation is everywhere from lasers to fireflies. Never underestimate the power of the small insight.

Comment by frelkins on The Level Above Mine · 2008-10-04T17:17:00.000Z · LW · GW

Gentlemen - Let me propose that the heart of serious intellectual achievement is synthesis, creativity, simplicity.

These are factors that actually increase with age and are not "IQ" or "g" driven. In fact I believe Edward de Bono argued that creativity drops at IQ 125 or so: maybe because people begin to fall into an "expert trap," where they have to maintain their previous work and expert status more than anything else.

Creativity need not decline with age at all - if you can avoid common habit errors.

My objection to Vassar is just that all these "tests" are highly flawed and biased - they consistently disfavor certain people and favor others. They just do, sorry, and this alone invalidates them or at least diminishes their usefulness.

My other comment to you all has to do with Feynman. I once asked another member of the Project, who is a famous emeritus experimentalist, about him. He told me that what distinguished Feynman was his wit and curiosity about things that others didn't think were "on the critical path," so to speak. Wit and curiosity are completely untestable, but if you look at real achievers I believe you'll find these qualities extremely important.

The courage to appear silly to avoid the expert trap - wit - careful avoidance of habit error - constant search for bias - doubting intuitions - deliberately slowing down to allow more time for divergent thought esp. if you are overclocked - synthesis - simplicity - tenacity - the person with these 9 qualities will be a thinker for the ages.

Comment by frelkins on Ban the Bear · 2008-09-23T20:05:10.000Z · LW · GW


Um, think prediction market? Isn't Intrade already running contracts on bank failure & the bailout? But it seems like what you want is a policy market. . .in which case you've come to the right place. . .

Comment by frelkins on Say It Loud · 2008-09-21T00:25:24.000Z · LW · GW


"Nobody actually says things like "70% probability the sky is green."

I do, all the time, because I run a prediction market. So far it's been right 57 out of 60 times. The market's ability to say 70% that [insert key business metric] is [insert major corporate strategy] allows management to make very valuable decision trees. Highly recommended.

Comment by frelkins on How Many LHC Failures Is Too Many? · 2008-09-20T22:25:51.000Z · LW · GW

"But if it comes up heads 100 times, it's taking you too long to notice"

Ros. Heads. (He puts it in his bag. The process is repeated.) Heads. (Again.) Heads. (Again.) Heads. (Again.) Guil. (Flipping a coin) There is an art to the building of suspense. Ros. Heads. Guild. (Flipping another) Though it can be done by luck alone. Ros. Heads. Guil. If that's the word I'm after. Ros. (Raises his head) 76! (Guil gets up but has nowhere to go. He spins the coin over shoulder without looking at it.) Heads Guil. A weaker man might be moved to re-examine his faith, if in nothing else at least in the law of probability. (He flips a coin back over his shoulder.) Ros. Heads. Guil. (Musing) The law of probability, it has been asserted, is something to do with the proposition that if six monkeys - (He has surprised himself) if six monkeys were. . . Ros. Game? Guil. Were they? Ros. Are you?

-- Rosenkrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard, Act I

Comment by frelkins on Psychic Powers · 2008-09-14T22:31:27.000Z · LW · GW


I hear your cry. I take you seriously and have no interest in insulting you. If you think this is an issue for you, may I suggest you consider a neurologist? Have you ever had a brain scan? There are many kinds of temporal lobe events, and you may benefit from diagnosis and possibly treatment. You may find relief with Tegretol or a similar agent.

Of course you know what your wife is imagining: you know her well and are obviously adept at reading her subconscious facial and body cues. Many of us often know what our friends are thinking, but I assure you it is simply because we are quite attuned to such subtle signals. This is a talent that can be learned, as anyone who has seen the English stage magician Derren Brown can attest. Best wishes to you!

Comment by frelkins on Excluding the Supernatural · 2008-09-14T02:30:08.000Z · LW · GW


"- my tentative analogy between mathematical objects and supernatural entities"

By the Chair of Jacob Klein! That part. Right there. No. The Eide are not that. The Eide are what thinking thinks about, the Forms (Eide) the Mind (Nous) Shines (phaino) Upon. They are "seen" only in the light of the intellect. Supernatural entities - I guess you mean ghosts or souls or such - are not. . .ack! English sucks sometimes. . .

This is very difficult, as English doesn't have good terms to equal the Greek. German might be better. WTF. Ghosts and souls are not objects of the intellect, people assert they are things, albeit not like the things of phusis (nature).

Actually, this isn't really the best place to discuss Plato - maybe it would be better to just refresh yourself with Meno & Parmenides, but since you seem interested in physics and number, maybe go with Timaeus.

Surely it is clear however, if one is going to groove with this beat, that mathematical entities are grasped by thought, or revealed purely by thought, or are phenomena (with that root in phaino) of pure intellect; they do not "go bump in the night" nor are they "reincarnated."

Comment by frelkins on Psychic Powers · 2008-09-13T15:43:59.000Z · LW · GW

The possibility that many "paranormal" or "psi" experiences are caused by undiagnosed or transient temporal lobe disorders should not be overlooked. Epilepsy is still poorly understood, underdiagnosed, and misdiagnosed. These "supernatural" things could be caused by natural but unusual brain states.