Comment by gwern_branwen on The Bottom Line · 2009-04-09T14:43:36.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"For the person who reads and evaluates the arguments, the question is: what would count as evidence about whether the author wrote the conclusion down first or at the end of his analysis? It is noteworthy that most media, such as newspapers or academic journals, appear to do little to communicate such evidence. So either this is hard evidence to obtain, or few readers are interested in it."

I don't think it's either. Consider the many blog postings and informal essays - often on academic topics - which begin or otherwise include a narrative along the lines of 'so I was working on X and I ran into an interesting problem/a strange thought popped up, and I began looking into it...' They're interesting (at least to me), and common.

So I think the reason we don't see it is that A) it looks biased if your Op-ed on, say, the latest bailout goes 'So I was watching Fox News and I heard what those tax-and-spend liberals were planning this time...', so that's incentive to avoid many origin stories; and B) it's seen as too personal and informal. Academic papers are supposed to be dry, timeless, and rigorous. It would be seen as in bad taste if Newton's Principia had opened with an anecdote about a summer day out in the orchard.

Comment by gwern_branwen on Rationality Quotes 26 · 2009-02-15T00:32:23.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If anyone was curious about the Eva/Warhammer one; the exact link is

(I'm reading it through and while I'm much more familiar with Eva than Warhammer, it's definitely better than most fanfiction.)

Comment by gwern_branwen on The Failures of Eld Science · 2009-02-11T15:04:10.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And a quick note to those who think I'm echoing Brennan: I am, here, but my point differs in that I don't think it was a matter of 'training'.

I think if you abducted all the old greats, gave the necessary experimental data, and gave them a few months to produce the new theory before they were dragged out to the shed and shot, then they could do it just as well as these students. It's all about motivation.

It's not a matter of competency at paradigm shifts, if you will; it's accepting that one needs to happen now and you are the one who needs to do it. But there's no normal way to convince a scientific community of this; isn't it true that most new paradigms fail to pan out?

Comment by gwern_branwen on The Failures of Eld Science · 2009-02-11T14:59:52.000Z · score: 16 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Brandon: If we're still discussing possible failures, I'd like to chuck in one of my own.

  • They didn't know that they were looking for a better theory.

The students in this story have the incredible advantage that they are starting from a wrong theory and know this for certain, and not merely suspect or hold as a general philosophy-of-science principle 'there's probably a better theory than the current one'. This gives them several things psychologically: 1) the willingness to scrap painfully won insights and theories in favor of something new and 2) saves them from spending all their time and effort patching up the old theory.

I know in the past when I've tried my hand at problems (logic puzzles come to mind) that I am far more motivated and effective when I am assured that there is in fact a correct answer than when I am unsure the question is even answerable.

Comment by gwern_branwen on The Thing That I Protect · 2009-02-09T17:22:44.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

EJ: It takes a much harder kick to the head to hurt as much as a kick to the balls.

As a martial artist (tae kwon do, specifically), I have been kicked in the head and balls many many times - and I would much rather be kicked in the head than the balls. The strongest kick to the head I've taken hurt a fair bit and made me groggy for an hour; but the strongest kick (which wasn't very) to my balls ruined my entire day.

Comment by gwern_branwen on True Ending: Sacrificial Fire (7/8) · 2009-02-06T03:52:00.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Dan: Obviously part 8 is the 'Weirdtopia' ending!

(I mean, we've had utopia, dystopia, and thus by Eliezer's previous scheme we are due for a weirdtopia ending.)

Comment by gwern_branwen on War and/or Peace (2/8) · 2009-02-01T04:22:03.000Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Kevin: I don't think Eliezer meant to seriously suggest FSN is as good as Hamlet, but rather to continue his theme of 'strange future' (and maybe as part of a background viewpoint that 'one period's high culture is a former period's low pop culture' - which is true of Shakespeare BTW).

That said, I've always felt based on the animes that Tsukihime was Type-Moon's best work, and not FSN.

Comment by gwern_branwen on To Spread Science, Keep It Secret · 2009-01-30T19:21:46.000Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

John: quite right. This actually reminds me of one of the common threads in Michael Crichton's works. From Jurassic Park:

'...Malcolm said. "A karate master does not kill people with his bare hands. He does not lose his temper and kill his wife. The person who kills is the person who has no discipline & no restraint, and who has purchased his power in the form of a Saturday night special. And that is the kind of power that science fosters, and permits. And that is why you think that to build a place like this is simple." "It was simple!", Hammond insisted. 'Then why did it go wrong?"'


'"I will tell you what I am talking about," he said. "Most kinds of power require a substantial sacrifice by whoever wants the power. There is an apprenticeship, a discipline lasting many years. Whatever kind of power you want. President of the company. Black belt in karate. Spiritual guru. Whatever it is you seek, you have to put in the time, the practice, the effort. You must give up a lot to get it. It has to be very important to you. And once you have attained it, it’s your power. It can't be given away: it resides in you. It is literally the result of your discipline.

Now what is interesting about this process is that, by the time someone has acquired the ability to kill with his bare hands, he has also matured to the point where he won't use it unwisely. So that kind of power has a built-in control. The discipline of getting the you so that you won't abuse it. But scientific power is like inherited wealth: attained without discipline. You read what others have done, and you take the next step. You can do it very young. You can make progress very fast."'

Comment by gwern_branwen on BHTV: Yudkowsky / Wilkinson · 2009-01-27T15:00:46.000Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ian C.: What are you talking about? There were thousands of terrorist attacks in those 7 years.

Unless you mean in the continental US. In which case Bush's record doesn't compare well to even Clinton's... (2001-1993 = 8)

Comment by gwern_branwen on OB Status Update · 2009-01-27T14:56:03.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

aj: I voted for not for its sound but because it's easier to remember and

Comment by gwern_branwen on In Praise of Boredom · 2009-01-18T20:43:16.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Zaphod: kind of funny, given the many foreign words in English - ennui, weltschmerz, melancholy etc.

Comment by gwern_branwen on Planning Fallacy · 2009-01-17T20:56:33.000Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

1) Procrastinating until the last moment to actually do the work (you have never heard of students doing that, have you?) :-). This is a common reason that no matter how long people are given to complete a task, they do not complete it on time, or do so at the last minute.

David, I think you're kind of missing the point here. The question is whether students could predict their projects' actual completion time; they're not trying to predict project completion time given a hypothetical version of themselves which didn't procrastinate.

If they aren't self-aware enough to know they procrastinate and to take that into account - their predictions are still bad, no matter why they're bad. (And someone on the outside who is told that in the past the students had finished -1 days before the due date will just shrug and say: 'regardless of whether they took so long because of procrastination, or because of Parkinson's law, or because of some other 3rd reason, I have no reason to believe they'll finish early this time.' And they'd be absolutely correct.)

It's like a fellow who predicts he won't fall off a cliff, but falls off anyway. 'If only that cliff hadn't been there, I wouldn't've fallen!' Well, duh. But you still fell.

Comment by gwern_branwen on She has joined the Conspiracy · 2009-01-14T00:24:56.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Tom: I agree. The last Dungeons & Discourse comic merely had Kimiko as a logical positivist.

Comment by gwern_branwen on Serious Stories · 2009-01-09T23:18:13.000Z · score: 14 (13 votes) · LW · GW

TGGP: why are you opposed to the idea that we may want to retain parts of pain?

If we could get rid of the 'painfulness' of pain, and keep the informative part of pain, that'd be ideal. With no pain at all, we're in the situation of someone with nerve damage who might lose a limb to gangrene when she accidentally damages something but doesn't notice it. (Anyone for The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever?)

Painless pain isn't all that strange an idea:

'The second pain pathway is a much more recent scientific discovery. It runs parallel to the sensory pathway, but isn't necessarily rooted in signals from the body. The breakthrough came when neurologists discovered a group of people who, after a brain injury, were no longer bothered by pain. They still felt the pain, and could accurately describe its location and intensity, but didn't seem to mind it at all. The agony wasn't agonizing.

This strange condition - it's known as pain asymbolia - results from damage to a specific subset of brain areas, like the amygdala, insula and anterior cingulate cortex, that are involved in the processing of emotions. As a result, these people are missing the negative feelings that normally accompany our painful sensations. Their muted response to bodily injury demonstrates that it is our feelings about pain - and not the pain sensation itself - that make the experience of pain so awful. Take away the emotion and a stubbed toe isn't so bad.'

Comment by gwern_branwen on Rationality Quotes 22 · 2009-01-07T22:05:13.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Shard: it's a theodicy; specifically, I think it's a divine plan theodicy ( ). (This isn't surprising, given Wolfe's intellectual interests.)

In this blog context, I suppose one could argue, it is a suggestion that it would not necessarily be a bad thing for a superintelligence to simulate humans/sentient-beings in unpleasant or unhappy situations if the dis-utilities of the simulated humans are not merely very much tinier than the utilities the superintelligence gets from the results of the simulation.

Comment by gwern_branwen on Growing Up is Hard · 2009-01-04T19:27:41.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

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

Patri: Yes, I too thought of the Algernon principle when reading Bostrom's paper; I've never seen that exact phrase used in any formal work (although the Red Queen principle is similar), but I know I've seen people reference informally the 'Flowers for Algernon principle' or just 'the Algernon principle'.

Comment by gwern_branwen on Dunbar's Function · 2008-12-31T04:31:55.000Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

'Buller is well known in the community he is attacking for misrepresenting the claims of the literature, ignoring evidence that contradicts his views, and generally engaging in academic malpractice. (He also doesn't understand the most basic principle in evolutionary biology, adaptationism.) Responses to these criticisms, which he has made before, are gathered here:'

Another good link from the SciAm comments is

Comment by gwern_branwen on Rationality Quotes 20 · 2008-12-25T05:30:18.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hm, another Tsukihime quote. I wonder if perhaps Eliezer should one day do A Seed AI programmer's guide to Anime"? :)

Comment by gwern_branwen on Living By Your Own Strength · 2008-12-25T04:56:19.000Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For anyone wondering where the quote is from: Morisato-san is Keiichi Morisato of the anime/manga franchise Oh My Goddess!, and the speaker is Belldandy.