Meetup : Baltimore / UMBC Meetup - general discussion 2017-03-26T13:27:51.229Z
Meetup : Baltimore / UMBC Meetup - general discussion 2017-03-12T03:45:53.635Z
Meetup : Baltimore / UMBC Meetup - general discussion 2017-03-03T15:35:02.145Z
Meetup : Baltimore / UMBC Meetup - general discussion 2017-02-24T17:08:38.999Z
Meetup : Baltimore / UMBC Meetup - general discussion 2017-02-17T17:13:55.570Z
Meetup : Baltimore / UMBC Meetup - usefulness and meaning of "truth" 2017-02-09T20:26:17.561Z
Meetup : Baltimore / UMBC Meetup - trying something new! 2017-02-03T00:09:02.730Z
Meetup : Baltimore / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2017-01-27T18:29:18.396Z
Meetup : Baltimore / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2017-01-20T18:26:40.696Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2017-01-13T17:32:41.790Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2017-01-05T13:23:25.957Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2016-12-16T00:55:00.474Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2016-12-09T12:14:19.472Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2016-12-02T17:55:44.578Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2016-11-25T18:53:22.701Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2016-11-18T17:30:10.617Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2016-11-11T13:43:54.509Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2016-11-03T23:56:04.565Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2016-10-28T18:36:23.737Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2016-10-23T00:26:25.104Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2016-10-14T16:39:57.573Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2016-10-07T00:30:40.101Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2016-09-23T13:55:38.686Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup 2016-09-16T14:17:46.442Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area Weekly Meetup 2016-09-09T21:06:06.122Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area Weekly Meetup 2016-09-01T22:56:52.733Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area Weekly Meetup 2016-08-25T17:52:31.684Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area Weekly Meetup 2016-08-18T00:24:28.643Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area Weekly Meetup 2016-08-11T16:47:27.711Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area Weekly Meetup 2016-08-05T16:06:14.954Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area Weekly Meetup 2016-07-28T20:13:30.815Z
Meetup : Baltimore Weekly Meetup 2016-07-22T11:16:06.060Z
Meetup : Baltimore Weekly Meetup 2016-07-15T11:51:29.963Z
Meetup : Baltimore Weekly Meetup 2016-07-06T17:29:51.672Z
Meetup : Baltimore Weekly Meetup 2016-06-30T11:34:09.273Z
Meetup : Baltimore Weekly Meetup 2016-06-23T16:28:43.883Z
Meetup : Baltimore weekly meetup 2016-06-14T23:48:16.464Z
Meetup : Baltimore weekly meetup 2016-06-10T11:16:25.535Z
Meetup : Baltimore / UMBC Weekly Meetup: General Discussion 2016-05-06T18:34:31.609Z
Meetup : Baltimore / UMBC Weekly Meetup: How To Actually Change Your Mind (part 3) 2016-04-28T12:10:35.773Z
Meetup : Baltimore / UMBC Weekly Meetup: How To Actually Change Your Mind (part 2) 2016-04-20T18:05:52.300Z
Meetup : UMBC / Baltimore Weekly Meetup: How To Actually Change Your Mind 2016-04-13T22:50:47.948Z
Meetup : UMBC / Baltimore: Intro to LW / general discussion 2016-04-03T22:03:39.765Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC: Intro to LW and future of the meetup 2016-03-25T19:13:57.552Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area Meetup: Futurology / Open Discussion 2016-02-17T20:24:48.533Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area: Epistemology of Disagreement 2016-01-12T13:33:43.696Z
[LINK] 52 Concepts To Add To Your Cognitive Toolkit 2015-12-31T14:35:43.382Z
Meetup : Baltimore Area Meetup 2015-12-07T16:39:33.676Z
Help with understanding some non-standard-LW philosophy viewpoints 2015-12-02T15:54:12.135Z
Some thoughts on meta-probabilties 2015-09-21T17:23:36.898Z


Comment by iarwain1 on Descriptive Before Normative · 2016-12-05T19:50:26.505Z · LW · GW

Link is messed up.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Jul. 18 - Jul. 24, 2016 · 2016-07-20T13:40:29.578Z · LW · GW

I really like Sean Carroll's The Big Picture as an intro to rationality and naturalism for the general public. It covers pretty much all the topics in RfAItZ, along with several others (esp. physics stuff). It's shorter and a lot less technical than RfAItZ, but it's readable and I thought it does a good job of laying out the basic perspectives.

Comment by iarwain1 on General-Purpose Questions Thread · 2016-06-19T17:15:35.302Z · LW · GW

Try 80,000 Hours' guide, especially here.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open Thread May 9 - May 15 2016 · 2016-05-13T14:25:24.936Z · LW · GW

In our world, classical mechanics (Newton + Maxwell and their logical implications) holds for most everyday experiences at slow speeds (relative to the speed of light) and at scales larger than the atomic realm.*

Question: Is this necessarily true for every possible world that matches our macroscopic physical observations? Is it possible to construct an alternative set of physical laws such that the world would function exactly as our world does on a macroscopic, everyday level, but that would violate Newton's laws or Maxwell's laws or thermodynamics or the like? Again, I'm not talking about violating those laws in extreme cases (close to the speed of light, tiny scales) where these laws don't really apply even in our world. I'm talking about a world where even the everyday approximate equations of physics, as expressed in classical mechanics, do not apply.

Said another way: If you messed with Newton's equations or Maxwell's equations or thermodynamics even a little bit, would the world necessarily function differently in such a way that we could tell that you'd messed with the laws? Would it function so differently as to be unrecognizable?

Or said yet another way: Do our macroscopic experiences entail that the equations of classical mechanics are at least a very good approximation of the underlying physics?

I'd especially appreciate sources / references / links to further reading.

[*Leaving aside the types of modern technology which bring quantum mechanical effects into the everyday observable world.]

Comment by iarwain1 on Open Thread April 11 - April 17, 2016 · 2016-04-17T18:59:45.232Z · LW · GW

Check out 80,000 Hours. For finances in particular see their career review for trading in quantitative hedge funds.

Comment by iarwain1 on Lesswrong 2016 Survey · 2016-03-28T23:09:37.375Z · LW · GW

Took survey. Didn't answer all the questions because I suspend judgment on a lot of issues and there was no "I have no idea" option. Some questions did have an "I don't have a strong opinion" option, but I felt a lot more of them should also have that option.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open Thread, January 11-17, 2016 · 2016-01-14T22:54:53.613Z · LW · GW

I'm more interested more in epistemic rationality concepts rather than practical life advice, although good practical advice is always useful.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open Thread, January 11-17, 2016 · 2016-01-14T18:35:52.541Z · LW · GW

I'm an undergrad going for a major in statistics and minors in computer science and philosophy. I also read a lot of philosophy and cognitive science on the side. I don't have the patience to read through all of the LW sequences. Which LW sequences / articles do you think are important for me to read that I won't get from school or philosophy reading?

Comment by iarwain1 on Open Thread, January 4-10, 2016 · 2016-01-11T21:32:52.688Z · LW · GW

So probability of either Trump or Cruz is 100%?

Comment by iarwain1 on Open Thread, January 4-10, 2016 · 2016-01-07T22:23:26.127Z · LW · GW

It's open source. Right now I only know very basic Python, but I'm taking a CS course this coming semester and I'm going for a minor in CS. How hard do you think it would be to add in other distributions, bounded values, etc.?

Comment by iarwain1 on Open Thread, January 4-10, 2016 · 2016-01-07T14:27:14.906Z · LW · GW

Link: Introducing Guesstimate, a Spreadsheet for Things That Aren’t Certain

How useful do you think this actually is?

Comment by iarwain1 on [LINK] 52 Concepts To Add To Your Cognitive Toolkit · 2016-01-01T00:26:54.755Z · LW · GW


Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Dec. 21 - Dec. 27, 2015 · 2015-12-24T20:11:35.574Z · LW · GW

So it sounds like you're only disagreeing with the OP in degree. You agree with the OP that a lot of scientists should be learning more about cognitive biases, better statistics, epistemology, etc., just as we are trying to do on LW. You're just pointing out (I think) that the "informed laymen" of LW should have some humility because (a) in many cases (esp. for top scientists?) the scientists have indeed learned lots of rationality-relevant subject matter, perhaps more than most of us on LW, (b) domain expertise is usually more important than generic rationality, and (c) top scientists are very well educated and very smart.

Is that correct?

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Dec. 21 - Dec. 27, 2015 · 2015-12-24T18:58:51.798Z · LW · GW

In many cases I'd agree it's pretty crazy, especially if you're trying to go up against top scientists.

On the other hand, I've seen plenty of scientists and philosophers claim that their peers (or they themselves) could benefit from learning more about things like cognitive biases, statistics fallacies, philosophy of science, etc. I've even seen experts claim that a lot of their peers make elementary mistakes in these areas. So it's not that crazy to think that by studying these subjects you can have some advantages over some scientists, at least in some respects.

Of course that doesn't mean you can be sure that you have the advantage. As I said, probably in most cases domain expertise is more important.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Dec. 21 - Dec. 27, 2015 · 2015-12-24T15:00:20.880Z · LW · GW

I still haven't figured out what you have against Bayesian epistemology. It's not like this is some sort of LW invention - it's pretty standard in a lot of philosophical and scientific circles, and I've seen plenty of philosophers and scientists who call themselves Bayesians.

Solomonoff induction is one of those ideas that keeps circulating here, for reasons that escape me.

My understanding is that Solomonoff induction is usually appealed to as one of the more promising candidates for a formalization of Bayesian epistemology that uses objective and specifically Occamian priors. I haven't heard Solomonoff promoted as much outside LW, but other similar proposals do get thrown around by a lot of philosophers.

Bayesian methods didn't save Jaynes from being terminally confused about causality and the Bell inequalities.

Of course Bayesianism isn't a cure-all by itself, and I don't think that's controversial. It's just that it seems useful in many fundamental issues of epistemology. But in any given domain outside of epistemology (such as causation or quantum mechanics), domain-relevant expertise is almost certainly more important. The question is more whether domain expertise plus Bayesianism is at all helpful, and I'd imagine it depends on the specific field. Certainly for fundamental physics it appears that Bayesianism is often viewed as at least somewhat useful (based on the conference linked by the OP and by a lot of other things I've seen quoted from professional physicists).

Comment by iarwain1 on LessWrong 2.0 · 2015-12-14T01:00:57.458Z · LW · GW

and the funding

A Kickstarter, perhaps?

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, December 7-13, 2015 · 2015-12-09T21:26:43.554Z · LW · GW

Not sure what you mean by this. I actually posted the meeting for the Baltimore area myself.

The Baltimore and Washington DC meetups do show up if I click on "Nearest Meetups", just that they appear in the 5th and 8th spots. That list appears to be sorted first by date and then alphabetically. The San Antonio meetup appears at the #4 slot, and the Durham meetup does not appear at all.

Basically the "nearest" part of nearest meetups seems to be completely broken.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, December 7-13, 2015 · 2015-12-09T16:56:58.304Z · LW · GW

I'm from Baltimore, MD. We have a Baltimore meetup coming up Jan 3 and a Washington DC meetup this Sun Dec 13. So why do the two meetups listed in my "Nearest Meetups" sidebar include only a meetup in San Antonio for Dec 13 and a meetup in Durham NC for Sep 17 2026 (!)?

Comment by iarwain1 on Starting University Advice Repository · 2015-12-06T15:31:13.626Z · LW · GW

On the science of how to learn: Make It Stick.

Comment by iarwain1 on Making My Peace with Belief · 2015-12-03T22:22:01.064Z · LW · GW

See this article (full article available from sidebar), which argues that although conventional wisdom gives religion the advantage here, the reality may not be so clear-cut.

Comment by iarwain1 on Help with understanding some non-standard-LW philosophy viewpoints · 2015-12-02T18:51:23.638Z · LW · GW

The point isn't that you don't do either.

Sorry, don't know what you mean to say here. Could you rephrase?

Your post is mainly talking about world in a non-probabilistic way.

Could you elaborate on what you mean?

To me it looks like the problem is belief in belief of logical positivism.

Again, could you elaborate? I don't see any reason to associate anything I've said with logical positivism.

The fact that you intuition is that you can't prove that you are not a Boltzmann brain, doesn't change that your intuition is that you aren't a Boltzmann brain.

Of course I intuit that I'm not a Boltzmann brain, and of course I act as if I'm not. Not sure where I indicated otherwise. Again, my issue is with taking intuitions far beyond these fundamental we-need-to-start-somewhere levels and using them as strong evidence of truth.

Comment by iarwain1 on Help with understanding some non-standard-LW philosophy viewpoints · 2015-12-02T18:15:41.988Z · LW · GW

So if you are trying to work out which hypothesis is simpler, how do you do that? You use your personal intuition.

I was using Solomonoff Induction as an example of a system that uses Occamian priors. My question was on those who assert that they don't use Occamian priors at all, or for that matter any other type of objective prior. This usually seems to lead either to rejecting Bayesian epistemology in general or to asserting that any arbitrary prior works. I actually have no problem (in theory) rejecting Bayesian epistemology, as long as you still use some sort of probability-based reasoning.

When I referred to "personal intuitions" I meant controversial or arbitrary-sounding personal intuitions, such as "I feel there's a god" or "I feel abortion is immoral" and then using those intuitions not as some sort of evidence but as priors. I get why someone would perhaps use universal intuitions as priors, along the lines of "there exists an external material world", but why use an intuition where you know the next person over likely has a different intuition?

Comment by iarwain1 on Help with understanding some non-standard-LW philosophy viewpoints · 2015-12-02T18:00:21.325Z · LW · GW

Your post has only one instance of naming a probability and that's not 100%.

I meant when philosophers themselves claim they aren't looking at things in a probabilistic way. I actually had this conversation with my philosophy professor. He claimed that although he's comfortable talking about credences and probabilities, he's also comfortable talking about the world in a non-probabilistic way. This was one of those discussions where he didn't understand why I was so confused.

In a similar way you can argue that you don't have any evidence that you aren't a Bolzmann brain and therefore shouldn't act as if you are sure that you aren't. You always have to use thinking tools that aren't perfect.

Understood (I think). My intuitive (!) position is that I'm aware I can't prove (even probabilistically) that I'm not a Boltzmann brain, and I can't prove a bunch of other things. Which either leads me to accept certain very basic things without justification (along the lines of EY's where recursive justification hits bottom, or to just go with a pragmatic view of truth. Personally I'm fine with both of those.

I understand that you have to start somewhere (or else accept that you can't get anywhere in finding objective non-pragmatic truth), but what I have a hard time understanding is when people continue using intuitions far beyond the starting point to make grand metaphysical assertions.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Nov. 23 - Nov. 29, 2015 · 2015-11-24T14:59:18.726Z · LW · GW

Nothing to do with IQ, but with modes of thinking. According to Nisbett, Eastern thinking is more holistic and concrete vs. the Western formal and abstract approach. He says that Easterners often make fewer thinking mistakes when dealing with other people, where a more holistic approach is needed (for example, Easterners are much less prone to the Fundamental Attribution Error). But at the same time they tend to make more thinking mistakes when it comes to thinking about scientific questions, as that often requires formal, abstract thinking. Nisbett also speculates that this is why science developed only in the west even though China was way ahead of the west in (concrete-thinking-based) technological progress.

In general there's very little if any correlation between IQ and rationality. A lot of Keith Stanovich's work is on this.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Nov. 23 - Nov. 29, 2015 · 2015-11-23T20:06:56.096Z · LW · GW

I'm going to guess it's based on some of the East-West thinking differences outlined by Richard Nisbett in The Geography of Thought (I very highly recommend that book, BTW). I don't remember everything in the book, but I remember he had some stuff in there about why easterners are often less interested in, and have a harder time with, the sort of logical/scientific thinking that LW advocates.

Comment by iarwain1 on Deliberate Grad School · 2015-10-26T15:49:39.198Z · LW · GW

Examples of obviously bad ideas: p-zombies, Platonism, Bayesian epistemology (the latter two may require explanation).

Could you provide that explanation?

Comment by iarwain1 on [Link]: KIC 8462852, aka WTF star, "the most mysterious star in our galaxy", ETI candidate, etc. · 2015-10-20T17:14:29.142Z · LW · GW

Can you put in an "I'd just like to see the results" option?

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Oct. 19 - Oct. 25, 2015 · 2015-10-19T14:05:42.153Z · LW · GW

What makes a good primary care physician and how do I go about finding one?

Comment by iarwain1 on Stupid questions thread, October 2015 · 2015-10-15T15:41:22.201Z · LW · GW

Is it still somewhat controversial? Meaning, are there respected physicists who think that conscious observers do magically cause things to happen?

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Oct. 12 - Oct. 18, 2015 · 2015-10-14T23:31:15.229Z · LW · GW

Thanks! Ok, so now a more detailed question:

As I said, I'd like to do formal epistemology. I'm an undergrad right now, and I need to decide on my major. If that's about all the formal stuff I'll need then there are a bunch of different majors that include that, and the question becomes which additional courses could help with formal epistemology or related disciplines.

Here's what I've come up with so far:

  • Choice 1: Applied Statistics. This allows several electives in other subjects, so I could do e.g. a minor in CS with only one or two extra course requirements.
  • Choice 2: Mathematical Statistics. Less electives in other subjects, more electives in math/stats. I could still probably do a CS minor along with it if I wanted.
  • Choice 3: Math degree, possibly with a stats focus.
  • Choice 4: Some other degree (e.g., CS, economics) and just make sure to get the probability theory in at some point.

I'm anyway doing a minor in philosophy, which includes at least some logic.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Oct. 12 - Oct. 18, 2015 · 2015-10-14T22:38:38.336Z · LW · GW

That's it?

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Oct. 12 - Oct. 18, 2015 · 2015-10-14T19:50:42.737Z · LW · GW

What areas of mathematics do I need to learn if I want to specialize in formal epistemology?

Comment by iarwain1 on Stupid questions thread, October 2015 · 2015-10-14T01:00:29.480Z · LW · GW

I'm having a hard time understanding the following article, from Ben Levenstein at FHI on the epistemology of disagreement. I know it's a bit long but it seems pretty important and I want to make sure I understand it correctly. It's just that I'm having a hard time following the math and formal notation. Can someone summarize it for me? Thanks.

Comment by iarwain1 on Deliberate Grad School · 2015-10-04T21:08:31.317Z · LW · GW

Why do you say Carnegie Mellon? I'm assuming it's because they have the Center for Formal Epistemology and a very nice-looking degree program in Logic, Computation and Methodology. But don't some other universities have comparable programs?

Do you have direct experience with the Carnegie Mellon program? At one point I was seriously considering going there because of the logic & computation degree, and I might still consider it at some point in the future.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Sep. 28 - Oct. 4, 2015 · 2015-10-01T12:21:20.737Z · LW · GW

Ha, somehow missed that comment at the end. On the other hand, Bostrom only says EY named the problem. Did EY also come up with it?

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Sep. 28 - Oct. 4, 2015 · 2015-09-30T15:37:57.736Z · LW · GW

Who came up with Pascal's Mugging? Both EY and Nick Bostrom (pdf) present it as seemingly their own idea.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Sep. 21 - Sep. 27, 2015 · 2015-09-21T22:14:22.967Z · LW · GW

Possibly the most enthusiastic / impressive endorsement I've ever seen for a rationality-type book:

Every country should scrap a year or two of math education and require all citizens to read this book instead.

Jonathan Haidt praising Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking by Richard Nisbett

Anybody read the book? Do you agree with Haidt?

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Sep. 21 - Sep. 27, 2015 · 2015-09-21T17:33:18.239Z · LW · GW

Very interesting paper: Eric Schwitzgebel, 1% Skepticism. What's the probability that some form of radical skepticism is correct? And can that have any practical ramifications?

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread 7th september - 13th september · 2015-09-07T18:38:29.326Z · LW · GW

What's the best way to get free calibration training?

Comment by iarwain1 on Rational approach to finding life partners · 2015-08-23T17:00:51.028Z · LW · GW

I find that the Orthodox Jewish system seems to work quite well, at least for religious most people I know. I grew up and married in that system, and I've never "dated" in the normal Western sense, so I have no idea how the system compares or might be applicable in the "normal" world.

[Note: There isn't really one Orthodox Judaism system. Different communities have very different systems, ranging from basically arranged marriages in many Hassidic communities, to almost-normal Western dating in Modern Orthodox communities. I grew up in what's called the "yeshivish" or Lithuanian community, and that's the system about which I said it seems to work pretty well. Even in the yeshivish community there are different ways of doing it, but this is the way they usually do it where I come from.]

Basically, the most important parts of the system the way I see it are:

  • Before the first date there's a lot of research done by both parties. Usually someone who knows both sides recommends the match, and then there are a lot of phone calls made to "references" provided by both sides. At this stage both sides are usually looking for a basic personality match as well as compatible goals and world outlook.
  • Both sides usually have a checklist (sometimes just in their minds, but often on paper) of what they're looking for, and dating is primarily geared towards (a) making sure there's a good personality match, and (b) checking things off on the checklist.
  • Ideally both sides have someone older and more experienced they can discuss their concerns with.
  • If any concerns are raised during the dating process, then yet more research is called for.
  • A romantic feeling is great, and if it's not there after a few dates then that's a warning sign (but not fatal - powerful love often develops later), but it's actually not necessary for the first few dates.
  • Scheduling dates very close together is often not advised, since it doesn't allow enough time for both parties to reflect on what they learned and what they should be looking for next.

Basically, the process of looking for a life partner becomes comparable to the process of taking on a business partner. References need to be called and background checks need to be made. You need to establish a level of trust, shared goals, shared basic approach, etc. You need to make sure there's a good personality match.

No idea if that'll help anybody, but for the religious people I know it seems to usually lead to stable, happy marriages. And when it doesn't it's often because not enough research was done initially, or they didn't date long enough to really be certain that they got what they wanted.

Comment by iarwain1 on Robert Aumann on Judaism · 2015-08-23T15:01:01.737Z · LW · GW

Thanks to everybody who responded. I read all the comments and did some more thinking. I also found this PDF (Hebrew) of a speech he gave on the subject. Here's my summary of what I think he means, more or less:

Scientific statements are models of physical reality, but they're the map and not the territory. Religious statements are also models, but they're primarily maps of one's personal version of an aesthetic / emotional / moral system of "reality" rather than physical reality. If to experience the beauty of Judaism that means using a model that views the world as having been created in 6 days, that's perfectly fine because it's only a model in our mind anyway and it doesn't have to conform to physical reality.

Stated in other words: I think he's appealing to the idea of separate magisteria, but he's extending it way beyond saying that religion deals with values while science deals with reality. He's saying that even the statements of fact, like young earth creationism, are a separate magisteria from scientific statements of reality. That's sort of compartmentalization, although it's more similar to suspension of disbelief. But ultimately I think it's more of a combination of all of those concepts.

But the upshot seems to be that he doesn't think religious "facts" correspond to external physical reality. As he says, many religious people wouldn't agree with him on this. Having grown up as an Orthodox Jew myself, I'd say this is an extreme understatement. Most Ultra-Orthodox Jews (I'm not so sure about Modern Orthodox, since I didn't grow up in that community), and most of the rabbis he looks up to, would probably consider such a statement to be complete heresy.

I'm also curious if Aumann puts the entire concept of God into this alternative personal "map of reality" that doesn't really correspond to "physical" reality. Does he think there is a God that really (in quasi-physical terms) created the world and/or guides the world and/or answers prayers and/or rewards and punishes people in heaven / hell?

Comment by iarwain1 on Rationality Compendium: Principle 1 - A rational agent, given its capabilities and the situation it is in, is one that thinks and acts optimally · 2015-08-23T13:50:30.798Z · LW · GW

This is fantastic! Keep 'em coming!

Comment by iarwain1 on Robert Aumann on Judaism · 2015-08-21T21:10:50.142Z · LW · GW

So can you please explain what he means? I really don't understand in what sense it can be said that "the world is 15 billion years old" and "the world was created by God in six days" can both be literally true. And it doesn't sound like he means the Omphalos argument that the world was created looking old. Rather, it sounds like he's saying that in one sense of "truth" or in one "model of the world" it really is 15 billion years old, and in another sense / model it really is young, and those two truths / models are somehow not contradictory. I just can't seem to wrap my head around how that might make any sense.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Aug. 10 - Aug. 16, 2015 · 2015-08-13T15:29:44.870Z · LW · GW

On the subject of prosociality / wellbeing and religion, a recent article challenges the conventional wisdom by claiming that, depending on the particular situation, atheism might be just as good or even better for prosociality / wellbeing than religion is.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Aug. 10 - Aug. 16, 2015 · 2015-08-13T00:27:05.560Z · LW · GW

She means that you're biased towards the way you were taught vs. alternatives, regardless of the evidence. The example she gives (from G.A. Cohen) is that most Oxford grads tend to accept the analytic / synthetic distinction while most Harvard grads reject it.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Aug. 10 - Aug. 16, 2015 · 2015-08-12T21:27:05.432Z · LW · GW

There's a new article on on potential biases amongst philosophers of religion: Irrelevant influences and philosophical practice: a qualitative study.


To what extent do factors such as upbringing and education shape our philosophical views? And if they do, does this cast doubt on the philosophical results we have obtained? This paper investigates irrelevant influences in philosophy through a qualitative survey on the personal beliefs and attitudes of philosophers of religion. In the light of these findings, I address two questions: an empirical one (whether philosophers of religion are influenced by irrelevant factors in forming their philosophical attitudes), and an epistemological one (whether the influence of irrelevant factors on our philosophical views should worry us). The answer to the empirical question is a confident yes, to the epistemological question, a tentative yes.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open thread, Aug. 03 - Aug. 09, 2015 · 2015-08-04T21:53:25.023Z · LW · GW

The question is, how do I tell (without reading all the literature on the topic) if my argument is naive and the counterarguments that I haven't thought of are successful, or if my argument is valid and the counterarguments are just obfuscating the truth in increasingly complicated ways?

Comment by iarwain1 on Stupid Questions August 2015 · 2015-08-02T18:59:29.938Z · LW · GW

I happen to greatly enjoy Rosemary Sutcliff's historical novels. I'm not an expert on Roman or Anglo-Saxon cultures (that's where most of her novels are set), but as far as I can tell they're pretty accurate. They give a pretty good feel for what it must have actually been like to live back then.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open Thread, Jun. 15 - Jun. 21, 2015 · 2015-06-17T20:08:24.092Z · LW · GW

I've wondered for a while now if we could do a Kickstarter and use the money to hire someone to upgrade the site or to implement some of the suggestions that people have been making.

Comment by iarwain1 on Open Thread, Jun. 15 - Jun. 21, 2015 · 2015-06-17T20:06:00.947Z · LW · GW

I'm trying to figure out what percentage of a balanced investment portfolio should go towards rental real estate, but I'm having a hard time finding reliable sources of advice on this question.

I have a friend who invests in rental real estate, and he says he can give me a guaranteed 10% ROI if I invest $10,000+ with him, or 15% if I invest $100,000+. From looking around online this does indeed appear reasonable - rental real estate often gives much higher returns than this, so it sounds reasonable that he can guarantee a lower rate and then either pocket the remainder (his reward) or pay up the difference out of pocket (his risk). So it sounds like a pretty decent investment as far as I can tell.

But I don't want to put all my financial eggs in one investment basket - I'm not an expert, but I've always heard that diversification and a "balanced portfolio" are the names of the game. My question is approximately what percentage of my assets should I put into rental property investments like this vs. e.g. a Vanguard targeted retirement fund. As I said, I'm having trouble finding reliable sources of advice on this question.

Anybody here know anything on this subject? Anybody know somewhere I could go to find accurate, reliable, and unbiased advice?