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Comment by henry_v on Complexity and Intelligence · 2008-11-05T04:41:37.000Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

@ Wei. Thanks for the response. I will look at the refs but haven't yet done so. I'm skeptical about whether they'll change my mind on the subject, but I'll take a look.

It seems to me that the belief in pure determinism is axiomatic (I'm not even sure what it means to be a Bayesian in a purely deterministic system!), so most of this discussion appears to be pure conjecture. I'm not sure that it has any meaningful application.

Comment by henry_v on Complexity and Intelligence · 2008-11-04T22:22:26.000Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer and Nick: I don't think "Kolmogorov complexity" and "Mandelbrot set" actually answers what I was trying to understand.

Both of those concepts seem completely apt for describing perfectly deterministic systems. But, in describing the "complexity" of the universe even in something as simple as the "pattern of stars that exists" one would still have to take into account potential non-deterministic factors such as human behavior. Unless you are a strict determinist, you have to allow for the potential for a sufficiently advanced human (or non-human) intelligence to eradicate a particular star, or even a galaxy, or to produce an artificial black hole that alters the pattern of stars.

How are these factors accounted for in a "500 bit" code? Or, are you saying that you are a strict determinist?

Comment by henry_v on Complexity and Intelligence · 2008-11-03T21:25:59.000Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Then the "Kolmogorov complexity" of that entire universe - throughout all of space and all of time, from the Big Bang to whatever end, and all the life forms that ever evolved on Earth and all the decoherent branches of Earth and all the life-bearing planets anywhere, and all the intelligences that ever devised galactic civilizations, and all the art and all the technology and every machine ever built by those civilizations...would be 500 bits."

I must be missing something... what exactly do you mean by the phrase "the 'complexity' of that entire universe... would be 500 bits."

I would think the "complexity of the universe" would include the location of every bit of matter at all times, among other things. So, maybe I just don't understand what you mean by the "complexity of" something.

Also, I'm not sure whether you believe that all human behavior is purely deterministic in the most extreme sense. Or, do you think people can actually make their own decisions, i.e., "free will"? Obviously, if someone can turn either left or right at any given time, then that decision is still not explained (in any predictive sense) by the laws of physics.

Wouldn't the 500 bits have to include understanding all psychological/economic behavior?

Comment by henry_v on Ends Don't Justify Means (Among Humans) · 2008-10-15T21:22:41.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

@Roko. You mention "maximizing the greater good" as if that is not part of a deontological ethic.

Comment by henry_v on Ends Don't Justify Means (Among Humans) · 2008-10-15T21:15:37.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

@Zuban. I'm familiar with the contrivances used to force the responder into a binary choice. I just think that the contrivances are where the real questions are. Why am I in that situation? Was my behavior beyond reproach up to that point? Could I have averted this earlier? Is it someone else's evil action that is a threat? I think in most situations, the moral answer is rather clear, because there are always more choices. E.g., ask the fat man to jump. or do nothing and let him make his own choice, as I could only have averted it by committing murder. or even jump with him.

With the lever: who has put me in the position of having a lever? did they tie up the five people?

Someone tells me that if I shoot my wife, they will spare my daughter, otherwise he'll shoot both of them. What's the right choice? I won't murder, thus I have only one (moral) choice (if I believe him, and if I can think of a reductionist reason to have any morality, which I can't). The other man's choice is his own.

Comment by henry_v on Ends Don't Justify Means (Among Humans) · 2008-10-15T18:27:09.000Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've always thought the "moral" answer to the question was "I wouldn't push the innocent in front of the train; I'd jump in front of the train myself."

Comment by henry_v on Fake Justification · 2007-11-01T11:17:26.000Z · score: 0 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"Easy enough if you're not a Christian, " .

Eliezer, you've really begun to go far afield from your desire to "overcome bias". An atheist can have a neutral reading of the Bible? A Jew? A Muslim?

"Superior literary work" is itself an opinion. How can opinions be separated from bias? It's their very definition. Or, do you think some opinions are "more equal" than others. How do you choose paint colors for your bathroom?

I've lost a great deal of respect for you in this post, because you're expressing your opinions in the guise of rationality.

Comment by henry_v on We Don't Really Want Your Participation · 2007-09-11T20:56:37.000Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Not "might" but would be considered condescending."

By whom?

I considered not using that example but decided to anyway. Whether it would be considered condescending depends on the audience. You feel that way for instance, but I know women who would not consider it so.

How the meeting got started is not particularly relevant (IMHO). Suppose three males were assigned the task, for instance. In any case, I'm willing to go on record by suggesting that there are real differences in the way that women and men approach certain topics, based in part on physiology, and in part on different cultural experiences (see "Black like Me").

The primary point being that the inviters were not looking for "a female perspective" but "a perspective from a female---who may in all expectation see things differently than we do".

Comment by henry_v on We Don't Really Want Your Participation · 2007-09-11T13:13:15.000Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"What I would find patronizing is someone thrusting a painting at me and saying "Say something mathematical!" I think it is equally patronizing to ask an artist to saying something artistic about the Singularity or a poet to say something poetic about math."

It seems to me that the original invitation was for artists to participate in the discussion. To me this isn't absurd at all. No one was asking them (as far as I can tell) to "say something artistic." Rather, there was a recognition that those who self-identify as artists may have a different perspective, whether that perspective itself can be considered "artistic" in its own right or not.

It's not unlike a group of male advertisers sitting around a table considering whether they should solicit a female colleague's perspective on a particular ad campaign. That might be considered condescending, but its equally likely that her opinion may be of value, if not uniquely "feminine" in some way.

Nonetheless, as you suggest, a vague invitation to "participate" won't necessarily generate anything useful.

Comment by henry_v on Radical Honesty · 2007-09-11T11:29:42.000Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Tom Breton---very good discussion.

It reminds me of a panel in which I participated. The panel was celebrating diversity of one sort or another at my institution, and one speaker was a contemporary of MLK. He discussed the need to engage "the other side" in one's debates.

A student from the audience asked, "But what if the other side won't listen?"

"Keep talking!" was the response.

Well, here I really felt like I should jump in, but it would have been rude. In any case, everything I've learned about communication I learned from being married. When we think someone "won't listen" (which is probably not accurate---this seems to occur whenever we think that we're right and the other person is wrong; it has nothing to do with their listening), then we ourselves probably need to do less talking and more listening.

To do this successfully, it requires humility, and, of course, the desire to overcome one's own bias.

Comment by henry_v on Radical Honesty · 2007-09-10T13:13:02.000Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"I wonder what it would be like to have anyone in the world, even a single person, who you could absolutely trust. Or what it would be like for there to be anyone in the world, even a single person, whom you had to tell all your thoughts, without possibility of concealment."

I think Christians have been wondering the same thing for a couple thousand years. Radical honesty and Crocker's Rules aren't exactly new concepts, are they?

Consider Ephesians 4: Speak the truth, but do so in love considering the feelings of others. There's an obnoxious way to be truthful, and a much more fruitful way to be truthful.

"Speak the truth in love" "each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body." "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Comment by henry_v on Anchoring and Adjustment · 2007-09-08T13:14:58.000Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Can some of the anchoring effect can be explained by the use of a kind of implicit confidence interval?

Suppose that I (subconsciously) have an estimate of 20% for the proportion of UN countries that are African. Further suppose that I think a 95% confidence interval ranges from 10% to 30%.

If I start at a high anchor, I will adjust downwards until I'm within the 95% CI, i.e., 30%. If I start at a low anchor, I adjust upwards until I'm within the 95% CI, i.e., 10%. In my head, I may consider 10% and 30% as not statistically different from one another.

I'm not talking about exact statistical inference, but I wonder if this process is part of what's going on in the subject's head.

I have tried a classroom bargaining experiment, where I give random "valuations" to students. I then assign random ownership (so that half the class become sellers). Without knowing what the item is (it's just "some good"), the initial offerers tend to have a disadvantage because they use their own valuations as anchors.

When I change the setup by telling them that "it's a used Toyota," the final bargained prices tend to more closely (but not perfectly) split the surplus.

I'm reminded of a story that my father tells about being in the army and learning to shoot. After missing the target, the instructor told them to use "bold sight adjustments" because shooters tend to be too timid in adjusting their aims. The phrase "bold sight adjustments" became part of our family vocabulary.

Comment by henry_v on "Science" as Curiosity-Stopper · 2007-09-04T11:36:47.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I love this: "studies show we communicate much more ambiguously than we think we do." :D

I also agree with this: "reawaken the delight in a world full of mysteries, which has been sapped by the notion that they are already understood, and therefore, no longer important."

But, I would add that there are mysteries that are understood, and mysteries that are not understood. So, if I'm going to spend my time discovering answers to mysteries, I'm going to choose the less-understood variety, so that I can get published, or the well-understood ones that are practical at the time (how does this #$%! toilet work again?). I, also, have limited time during any given day.

(That doesn't stop me from spending the odd day trying to re-discover why the units for joules should be able to be expressed as distance-squared-mass units; I'm not a physicist.)

Comment by henry_v on "Science" as Curiosity-Stopper · 2007-09-04T03:14:27.000Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I completely disagree with your portrayal of curiosity and curiosity-stoppers. Our curiosity generally has to do with our familiarity (or lack of it!) when encountering a phenomenon.

If I saw you cast a bizarre light that hovered over your book on the train, "Science!" would surely NOT diminish my curiosity, b/c I'd never seen anything like it ever. When I see David Blain (sp?) perform, I am amazed (and curious) about how he does "street magic." Do I think it's magic? Of course not. In fact, I presume that there is a rational scientific explanation to it. But, that does not make me less curious. In fact, I'm curious to know the explanation.

Conversely, when I walk into someone else's house and they flip on a light, I do not stop to be sure that their lights work the same as mine (even though I have no experience with their lights), because the phenomenon is not new to me. I've been a good Bayesian and simply applied my experience with thousands of light switches to this new light switch.

Curiosity is a function of (1) our familiarity with the phenomenon, and (2) the intensity (or magnitude) of the phenomenon (is that a little flame coming from your fingertips or a 100' flare?). It has little to do with Science! or Magic! as curiosity-stoppers.

Comment by henry_v on The Futility of Emergence · 2007-08-27T11:28:05.000Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty ignorant on this, but I always thought that the phrase related to complex outcomes that result from surprisingly simple systems, so that the complexity is "emergent".

One example is chaos. One can have chaotic non-linear dynamic systems and non-chaotic non-linear dynamic systems.

But, again, I could have misunderstood.