Should effective altruists care about the US gov't shutdown and can we do anything? 2013-10-01T20:24:46.864Z
[Link] Sparrows may be vulnerable to sunk-cost-like effects 2013-07-21T22:12:34.534Z


Comment by Ishaan on The tech left behind · 2019-03-16T13:32:49.906Z · LW · GW

There's a large class of viable pharmaceuticals which don't see the light of day because their unpatentability causes companies not to fund the clinical trials which would be necessary to clear regulatory approval.

Comment by Ishaan on Open thread, Nov. 7 - Nov. 13, 2016 · 2016-11-10T20:29:54.599Z · LW · GW

Is there any 80,000/CFAR statement on Trump or are you just talking about the personal writings of individual people who happen to work in these organizations?

(Also, did you consistently think it was wrong for them to fervently espouse the AI-as-existential risk narrative?)

Comment by Ishaan on Open Thread, Aug. 8 - Aug 14. 2016 · 2016-08-17T22:23:05.129Z · LW · GW

Perhaps that's also a reason, but the role of insulin / leptin resistance in causing hunger pangs (contractions of the stomach) in situations when additional food is not actually required is pretty well established.

Comment by Ishaan on Open Thread, Aug. 8 - Aug 14. 2016 · 2016-08-17T18:15:21.171Z · LW · GW

You're missing the fact that tightly controlled feedback mechanisms govern appetite. That's what allows maintaining weight in the real world. Magically add 20lbs (or an apple a day) to a healthy person and they'll feel correspondingly less hungry.

impact on how much calories people spend simply moving their own bodies

Actually, it's mostly going to be the metabolism of the tissue (extra fat tissue needs flood flow, temperature regulation, energy for cellular processes etc too), and that can be significant, although not as much as hunger regulation.

Comment by Ishaan on Rationality when Insulated from Evidence · 2016-07-03T16:54:14.151Z · LW · GW

Yes, that is the ideal, and it's true that the three consequences you mention are positive consequences (Assuming more effort makes you more likely to arrive at correct answers, which it usually does although I imagine there are diminishing returns past a certain point - you might notice a lot of very smart people putting a lot of effort into politics and still disagreeing.)

The thing is you must weigh information-gathering and evaluation concerning GMOs against every other possible action you could take with those resources.

Let's focus on the goal which most plausibly requires understanding GMO

for my personal health and safety

Well, let me tell you how i went about researching my personal health and safety:

I researched which foods to eat in general (My conclusions - eat mostly vegetables, meat (try for organ meats and fish), fruits with an overall high fat, low carbohydrate macro-nutrient ratio, avoid vegetable/seed oil, grains. So, in one word, paleolithic. These conclusions are very controversial and I suspect I put in way more effort into researching it than was rationally justified.)

I researched the best way to exercise and learned the techniques (Conclusions: You need to run occasionally and you need to fain flexibility and technique for basic barbell exercises: squat, row, bench, overhead press, etc. I am pretty happy about the time I invested into researching these.)

I've put moderate effort into researching basic pesticide avoidance (there are lists of highest pesticide foods you can avoid buying), ethical meat sourcing, and ecologically sustainable fish sourcing. Ultimately I've put very little effort into this relative to the first two.)

I've skimmed for potentially helpful supplements (Conclusions: Fish oil, Vit D, Vit K2magnesium (ZMA, don't use MgO it's not bioavailable. I probably spent too much time on this.)

GMOs are pretty far down on this list of things which I think are probably important. I haven't really gotten to them yet.

Do you see where the prioritization issue comes in here? And that's when your personal health is the main goal. The chance that GMO is high on the priority list in the genre of public dietary health, is in my mind, pretty minuscule. If you narrow your specialization to "regulatory mechanisms concerning food", then it'll be worth studying GMOs as one of the branches in your knowledge tree, but probably not before you've studied broad stuff about regulatory mechanisms first. (as I understand it, GMOs are not a monolithic thing so it's more interesting to study start with general stuff about how innovations in food are handled, etc).

You don't necessarily need to agree with me about prioritization, but you should spend some time thinking about prioritization.

I suppose I ascribe a relatively high weight to "understand things" in my utility function

Of course, we all do. But there is a whole world of things, so, which things, and why? Information due to purely Intrinsic interest is malleable

Comment by Ishaan on Open thread, June 20 - June 26, 2016 · 2016-06-30T23:12:47.942Z · LW · GW


Comment by Ishaan on Open thread, June 20 - June 26, 2016 · 2016-06-30T23:09:51.068Z · LW · GW

We don't want "are you rich, do you smoke" because the selection effect (we are rich because we were born upper middle class, and we're not powerful because powerful people have better things to do than explore the internet until they land on odd forums).

Otherwise the value of an idea is judged by the types of people who happen to stumble upon them.

What we want is "After being exposed to the ideas, did you get richer", "did you quite smoking", etc. Before after.

why aren't they leveraging their high IQs

IQ is just another selection effect confound to control for. Priors say there is absolutely no way rationality training will alter your IQ (and besides the IQ data is mostly from standardized test scores taken in high school anyhow) If high IQ people land up here that just means high IQ people crawl the internet more and stick around more.

Comment by Ishaan on Rationality when Insulated from Evidence · 2016-06-30T20:40:27.685Z · LW · GW

First: check whether the issue is really important: With some exceptions (voting correctly, believing the correct afterlife and not getting sent to hell) If you aren't in a position to interact with the evidence it's probably not something you meaningfully have control over. (Most things for which it is important for you to personally understand have measurable consequences to you. Why do you need the right answer to the GMO question, what would you even do with the right answer?).


-Figure out exactly what the claims really are and try not to conflate different claims (GMOs will do what, exactly?)

-Consider the possibility that the entire premise is silly ("Is God one or trinity?" "Is she a witch?") and the "consensus" is just wrong and the debate is insane. Generate some plausible third options.

-Check if the two hypotheses seem by your perception to be of roughly equal parsimony, internal logical consistency, and compliance with known evidence, and also check the third options you generated.

-Ask the basic "so, what evidence would you need to tell the difference" questions.

-all the things you mentioned (weigh expert opinions, eliminate bad arguments, eliminate experts who use bad arguments)

-look for concrete predictable things in that area, and adjacent to that area which differ according to the two hypotheses.

-If it's a political issue, try to find out what people who might plausibly be expertish in the area yet don't seem to be invested in debating the issue think about it.

-check what known superforcasters in the field think (people who have a track record of successful predictions in that area). Superforecasters need not actually be loudly engaging with the issue, just ask.

-check if people who have different types of knowledge tend to say different things (e.g. economists vs. sociologists)

-What sorts of knowledge would you need to have to answer the question vs. what sorts of knowledge do the experts in question actually have? (You might think medical doctors are qualified to talk about the effectiveness and safety of various treatments, for example, but they aren't. You want a medical researcher for that. The only difference between a medical doctor and a witch doctor is that one was trained by a curriculum developed by medical researchers and the other wasn't.)

-check for founder effects or cultural effects biasing beliefs (Again, economists vs sociologists. Also, if theologians believe in god at higher rate than biologists it might not be because of different knowledge)

What else? I mean it's a big question, you've asked after a fairly big chunk of "rationality" there.

Comment by Ishaan on Procedural Knowledge Gaps · 2015-10-20T03:59:20.890Z · LW · GW

Do you have an opinion concerning whether this is better characterized as "non-response to the benefits of exercise due to pathology" vs. "immunity to the harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle"?

Basically, is being a non-responder good or bad? Eyeballing that graph it does look like untrained non-responders might be a bit fitter than responders - but of course the first thing we should assume is ceiling effect.

(And of course there's many 3rd options - orchid/dandelion trade offs and such)

Comment by Ishaan on Why people want to die · 2015-09-02T18:53:04.175Z · LW · GW


(By the way, I never was suggesting that religion caused people to not desire earthly longevity. I was saying that the fact that nearly all human religions often feature immorality suggest that nearly all humans find it difficult to understand and accept true-death and wish for immortality on some level.

Furthermore I was saying that if someone happily believes in an afterlife, we should probably count them as desiring immortality even if they claim to desire an earthly death. I'm disagreeing with the idea that we should take claims of wishing to die at face value - I think that most who would turn down an eternal life (assuming good health, companionship, purpose, and so on) are either mistaken about what they prefer, or mistaken about the universe.

With many exceptions, of course.)

Comment by Ishaan on Why people want to die · 2015-09-02T02:52:52.200Z · LW · GW

Desire to live indefinitely is not that uncommon in the general population in the first place, this is a transhumanist forum so there is a self-selection effect from the outset (LWers beliefs about AI are way weirder than the immortality thing), and almost every single person here has been exposed to explicit arguments for wanting immortality, moreover, in a setting where not wanting immortality is low status. Isn't this kind of like asking why church members are more likely to believe in God?

Comment by Ishaan on Why people want to die · 2015-08-30T18:56:16.758Z · LW · GW

While that might be true, I don't think that people on LW are radically different on that count.

Yes, neither do I. I'm not even personally different on that count. Aside from the forum-specific ideologies, Lesswrongers being unusual is a more extreme case of internet forum users being unusual, which is in turn a more extreme case of extremely literate people being unusual, and so on.

Comment by Ishaan on Why people want to die · 2015-08-29T21:10:58.615Z · LW · GW

Is belief in the supernatural (crystal healing, ghosts, "something higher", that sort of thing) actually lower? I'd be very surprised if this turned out to be a cultural or demographic thing, rather than a human thing. I think that, absent some sort of active cultural intervention preventing it, a psychologically typical human will believe in spirits and magic. I know I would.

I think atheists, being psychologically typical humans, still retain certain implicit beliefs about this sort of thing. Ideas about how our matter goes on to circulate through the ecosystem, or the notion that we're all made of star-stuff and are generally one with the universe, are powerful and comforting to many.

The embrace of impermanence is so often accomplished by manufacturing a different sort of permanence to cling to.

Comment by Ishaan on Why people want to die · 2015-08-29T21:04:24.799Z · LW · GW

Yeah, in general, I'm sure part of it is that humans can't easily conceptualize true death in the first place (but that's even further grounds for not taking them seriously when they say they want to die). Just like part of it is our instinctive animism/anthropomorphism. I certainly don't want to minimize the role of "cognitive illusions" in the whole thing.

But I don't think it's a coincidence that these beliefs depict the universe as fairly utopian - the afterlife often resolves misunderstandings, rebalances moral scales, makes room for further growth... and earthly suffering is generally given higher purpose. Remember - a true human utopia doesn't give its members all they think they desire, or eliminate the sort of suffering which serves a deeper human value, fiction is replete with failed utopias along those lines. Despite all the terrible things, we could be in a utopia right now if only we have sufficiently optimistic beliefs about what happens outside the narrow window of our worldly experiences. Is it a coincidence that religions often have precisely these optimistic beliefs?

Anyway, I doubt you need to get into "what does the mouse expect" to explain that particular result: Very young children also lack the theory of mind to understand that not everyone has the same information as they do. If the mouse had simply left the room and the alligator ate the mouse's friend squirrel, they might say the mouse was sad and angry (not realizing that the mouse was gone from the room and wouldn't know about what the alligator did).


Comment by Ishaan on Why people want to die · 2015-08-29T02:12:09.552Z · LW · GW

I disagree with the idea that the desire to die is normal for humans.

The vast majority of humanity, spanning hunter-gatherers to information economy techies, believe in some form of consciousness which continues after the physical body as passed away. They believe this to the point that, if you disabuse them of this notion, they'll enter a spiritual crisis and begin to feel that life is meaningless. The older people get, the more enthusiastically they believe this.

If the collective fantasy common to our entire species doesn't reflect an extremely powerful human wish to live longer than we currently do, I don't know what does.

When the average person says they want to die at 80, what they really mean that they want to leave this world for another at 80. They don't want to continue things as they are, or re-live their youth - they want to move on to a different sort of existence.

But practically speaking, I think you might be right that getting someone interested in something worldly would encourage them to stay on in this world longer, and in the end that might be better than trying to explain that death means really death (once we actually have the option to stop true death which doesn't seem like a long shot, which realistically we really don't yet).

Comment by Ishaan on Stupid Questions August 2015 · 2015-08-04T02:46:36.447Z · LW · GW

I'd speculate that if you did an identical breeding experiment with octopuses (as in, the breeding criteria of non-aggressively interaction with human hand) you'd breed for curious, bold, or playful octopuses which tend to approach novel stimuli ... but not friendly in the sense of affectionate.

It's not that they're asocial, I think they sometimes lay eggs cooperatively and obviously seek each other out for mating... but primarily octopuses see others of their species as predators or prey. (I mean, cats do eat each other but only in bounded contexts, like infanticide, not hunting.)

Comment by Ishaan on Stupid Questions August 2015 · 2015-08-02T17:28:16.860Z · LW · GW

Your culture is bounded by lexography, not geography

and it simultaneously attracts and bestows the various qualities that it has defined as "intelligence".

Comment by Ishaan on Wear a Helmet While Driving a Car · 2015-08-01T22:37:42.276Z · LW · GW

Bulletproof vests have anecdotally saved police officers from car accidents as well.

Seems like the sort of thing you might successfully convince new teen drivers to do despite the weird factor (since they're the highest risk demographic).

Edit: If the hats aren't extremely uncomfortable, might also be good fall protection for the elderly...

Comment by Ishaan on Experiences in applying "The Biodeterminist's Guide to Parenting" · 2015-07-30T18:32:24.337Z · LW · GW

Of course, I live on the great lakes and my family eats a lots of fish... It probably doesn't matter for me but not sure what to feed my little sister now, especially considering what you said about half-life. Attempts at guidelines keep waving around "moderation" in response to mixed messages from research, but even if by coincidence the effects are ∩ shaped and not linear I doubt vague ideas about moderation are going to hit approximately optimal.

Cross fingers and hope the good list is accurate, I guess?

Comment by Ishaan on Experiences in applying "The Biodeterminist's Guide to Parenting" · 2015-07-20T16:24:07.479Z · LW · GW

Blah. My current fish information factored in mercury but not PCB. I've been thinking atlantic salmon was fine. Now googling "PCB mercury". Is the first result pretty much accurate or is there more to the story? (And any estimates for the magnitude of effect / whether it is worth worrying about?)

Comment by Ishaan on Effective Altruism from XYZ perspective · 2015-07-10T22:45:39.298Z · LW · GW

A.i. Can anyone seriously oppose effective altruism in principle? I find it difficult to imagine someone supporting ineffective altruism. Surely, we should let our charity be guided by evidence, randomized experiments, hard thinking about tradeoffs, etc etc.

I emphatically don't, but yes, one can. The quantitative/reductionist attitude you've outlined here biases us towards easily measurable causes.

Some examples of difficult to measure causes include: 1) All forms of funding-hungry research, scientific or otherwise 2) most x-risks, including this forum's favorite AI risk 3) causes which claim to influence social, economic, military, and political matters in complex but possiblyhigh impact ways 4) (Typically local and community-driven) causes which do good via subtle virtuous cycles, human connections, and various other intangibles

Comment by Ishaan on Effective Altruism from XYZ perspective · 2015-07-09T07:03:18.389Z · LW · GW

Effective Altruism says that all humans have roughly equal intrinsic value and takes necessary steps to gather evidence and quantify the degree to which humans are helped.

Short, but pretty much summarizes the entirety of the appeal for me. Is there even a name for the two perspectives contained in that sentence?

Comment by Ishaan on The Pre-Historical Fallacy · 2015-07-06T22:13:57.435Z · LW · GW

The way that I've phrased this outside of lesswrong (where people don't typically know what priors are) is: "In the absence of empirical data, things which are evolutionarily novel should be treated as guilty until evidence proves them innocent, whereas things which are evolutionarily familiar should be treated as innocent until evidence proves them guilty."

"Prior" captures the connotation that this is only a provisionary belief until more evidence surfaces in one neat word.

Comment by Ishaan on The Pre-Historical Fallacy · 2015-07-06T14:38:09.019Z · LW · GW

I understand that what you're really complaining about is that some people are overconfident in their speculations (which is a fine and good thing to complain about) but the way you've phrased that objection here is a general counterargument against pretty much any statement that doesn't fall within mathematics, including all heuristics, priors, educated guesses, and parsimony intself.

(And the literal meaning of "I know nothing about this but here's my pontification" is very similar to "I have no evidence, but here is my prior assumption". You're just rewording it so it's a low status thing.)

Might be helpful to narrow down the objection a little, to explain where precisely you feel people are commonly overreaching?

Comment by Ishaan on The Pre-Historical Fallacy · 2015-07-06T05:18:12.132Z · LW · GW

While this is obviously true and correct, I find it's too often trotted out as a counterargument against (what seems to me to be) sensible claims about how we should, in the absence of evidence, hold a prior that mimicking what we approximate to be the ancestral environment will generally lead to better results. Too often there is unproductive back-and-forth between the "nature!" and the "naturalistic fallacy!" crowds.

it is foolish to therefore refuse to fly because it is unnatural

It's foolish to refuse altogether of course. Yet, as flying is not ancestral to humans (for which we do have "strong evidence"), you should have a prior expectation for risks and drawbacks - which as it turns out are many: air pressure and quality differences, circadian rhythm disruption, etc. While gene therapy isperhaps going a bit far, you should certainly use pressurized cabins and melatonin, and perhaps make a conscious effort to avoid sitting in your seat for longer than 45 minutes at a stretch.

Comment by Ishaan on Stupid Questions July 2015 · 2015-07-06T04:54:49.811Z · LW · GW

Right - and you should avoid relationships where both people aren't on net gaining energy and time.

Extrovert/introvert "recharching" works because extroverts/introverts by definition like social activities/solitude. The general principle here is that people are recharged by spending time in a manner which they find simultaneously comfortable and engaging ("flow"?). An intellectual is recharged by thinking, an artist is recharged by creating, a romantic by romance, etc.

Beyond the obvious foundation of mutual love and affection, a good relationship is somehow creating or enhancing these dimension of life that you are energized by. On top of that it should ideally actually seem to free up time, as cooperating with a partner to tackle things generally cuts down work load, but even if it doesn't, if you've got the mutual love and mutual energizing in place I'd count it as a win.


Comment by Ishaan on Stupid Questions July 2015 · 2015-07-05T01:37:49.106Z · LW · GW

"I want to do a list of things" includes "I want the people around me to perceive me in a certain way" and "I want to perceive myself a certain way"- which is generally a big drive for clothing, adornments, and body-modification in general.

Comment by Ishaan on Open Thread, Jun. 29 - Jul. 5, 2015 · 2015-07-05T01:30:52.510Z · LW · GW

I chose a bad example to illustrate my point. What I wanted to say is that it seems there are plenty of people who say and do absolutely atrocious things and nothing ever happens to them... and then some random well intentioned person wears a t-shirt or makes a joke in poor taste and is eviscerated. My intuition says that it might be a bad strategy for these very minor offenders to back down and submit immediately (which they do presumably because they themselves agree with the steelman of the criticism) rather than going on the offence concerning how they are being treated for a relatively minor indiscretion.

If I were Hunt and a reporter had published a bad joke as though it were a serious comment, I'd be denouncing the reporter for libel. Whereas Hunt just kept digging himself deeper into a hole, apologizing for the comment, and even attempting to defend the comment, rather than attacking the premise of it even being news.

Comment by Ishaan on Open Thread, Jun. 29 - Jul. 5, 2015 · 2015-07-03T16:15:48.875Z · LW · GW

Oh. good catch, didn't read that far. Still though, that's already the fifth political correctness controversy he was in (though one might argue the underlying factor is PC-ness increasing, or something)

Comment by Ishaan on Stupid Questions July 2015 · 2015-07-03T14:10:36.593Z · LW · GW

That's a common trans-exclusionary-radical-feminist argument. Wrong because:

1) Would you feel uncomfortable wearing a swastika? Would that send the right message about you? In India swastika is a holy symbol, not a Nazi symbol, the meaning is arbitrary. "Dress" means "I'm feminine" in our culture. It's part of our language.

Suppose in Atlantis, the mouth-sound "love" happens to mean hate and the mouth sound "hate" happens to mean love. It's still acceptable for an English speaking person to want to mouth-sound "I love you" and not "I hate you" even though the meanings of the mouth-sounds are cultural.

2) Things need not be biological to be okay. Culture-induced preferences are valid. (Though, in this case, I think gender expression is probably biological).

Comment by Ishaan on Stupid Questions July 2015 · 2015-07-03T13:57:25.193Z · LW · GW

I wouldn't think about it as "dating" in general. It depends on whom you are dating. I think that if you perceive yourself as expending time and emotional energy, rather than acquiring more free time and more emotional energy, then the answer is "no" for that particular person.

This vaguely applies to any investment, doesn't it?

Comment by Ishaan on Open Thread, Jun. 29 - Jul. 5, 2015 · 2015-07-03T13:34:24.550Z · LW · GW

Second lesson: Do not apologize, resign, and so on because it only causes the public perception to damn you further.

James Watson has said some unambiguously politically incorrect, unkind, bad and mean things. With respect to the public face, he barely even flinches at backlash: no apology, no resignations, and no real personal consequences whatsoever for his statements.

In contrast, Hunt merely made a joke in poor taste. I wish he had stood his ground and denounced the accusers. Luckily other respected figures are coming to his aid, but that doesn't always happen.

Comment by Ishaan on Open Thread, Jun. 8 - Jun. 14, 2015 · 2015-06-08T22:53:22.648Z · LW · GW

I'd recommend using these guided meditations. (Way easier than unguided meditation IMO)

You can use them immediately upon onset of the episode. Use the longer ones. It's a better way to use time compared to curling up in a corner.

Comment by Ishaan on How do humans assign utilities to world states? · 2015-05-31T22:48:31.648Z · LW · GW

So if I understand this correctly, Alice and the Sovereign are identically omniscient, and the Sovereign additionally has some power and influence upon the world that Alice does not. In the case where Alice herself is the sovereign the problem is solved, right? The sovereign just has to figure out what she prefers and do that. The solution then, is to simulate the scenario where Alice has the power to make the decision herself and then match Alice's decision. This solves both 1 and 2.

My short answer to the broader "How do we know what sacks of meat / circuits / whatever prefer" question is "you look at the behavioral output". Here, if Alice can make the decision herself, the decision represents her behavioral output.

(I'm about halfway through writing about how to make this idea more workable without resorting to omniscient things with consistent preferences, if I still like the idea after writing it out I'll cross post it on lw.)

Comment by Ishaan on Brainstorming new senses · 2015-05-21T05:34:48.198Z · LW · GW

This is my favorite one so far, unexpected and very practical. You quite plausibly might upgrade your meta-cognitive ability as these upgraded senses improve your ability to notice.

Noticing your body reacting to getting anxious or being able to detect certain mental processes (mind wandering, confabulation, etc) is something you'd really want on all the time, at every second.

Comment by Ishaan on What Would You Do If You Only Had Six Months To Live? · 2015-05-21T02:00:22.749Z · LW · GW

For "high paying" I guess it depends on how much your earning potential at your current job is. Off the top of my head, there's a few dangerous but very high-paying blue collar jobs - Crab fisherman, oil rig worker, and the like. Working with carcinogens and radiation is also a go, as mentioned elsewhere, though I'm not sure about compensation there. For "social good", Terminally ill patients are at least eligible to volunteer to test drugs for their particular illness.

I'm still in the "spend time with your loved ones and help them come to terms with it" camp though.

Comment by Ishaan on What Would You Do If You Only Had Six Months To Live? · 2015-05-20T15:10:23.787Z · LW · GW

I'm not limiting myself to " high-risk activities that pay well", I'm limiting myself to "legally feasible high risk and helpful services that also pay really well" ;)

The "helpful" is the goal, the rest are instrumental. I think most stuff leading to morally good outcomes is legal. Even illegal stuff which might be good if only it were legal turns out bad simply due to the practical realities of illegal operations.

Comment by Ishaan on What Would You Do If You Only Had Six Months To Live? · 2015-05-20T03:51:38.304Z · LW · GW

Realistically I'd probably wrap up my affairs and prepare my loved ones, but broadly I think the comparative advantage is in performing high-risk services. The first thought that came to mind is volunteering for useful dangerous experiments that need live human subjects, but there's probably a lot of bureaucratic barriers there.

I wonder if there are any legally feasible high risk and helpful services that also pay really well...

Comment by Ishaan on What Would You Do If You Only Had Six Months To Live? · 2015-05-20T03:47:32.722Z · LW · GW

Japanese pensioners are way ahead of ya!.

Comment by Ishaan on Open Thread, May 18 - May 24, 2015 · 2015-05-19T20:41:58.937Z · LW · GW

It's not intended as a unit of caring - it's a unit of achievement, a display of power, focused on outcomes. Consequences over virtue ethics, utils over fuzzies.

Don't get me wrong, I do see the ugliness in it. I too have deeply held prejudices against materialism and vanity, and the whole thing bites against the egalitarian instinct for giving even more status to the wealthy. But helping people is something worthy of pride, unlike the mercedes or thousand dollar suits or flashy diamonds and similar trifles people use for the same purpose.

My point is, you said they were signalling. I'm not approving of signalling so much as saying, why not signal productively, in a manner that actually does what you've signaled to do?

Comment by Ishaan on Open Thread, May 18 - May 24, 2015 · 2015-05-19T20:17:06.994Z · LW · GW

All interactions involving people involve pushing buttons for outcomes.

Negative-connotation-Manipulation is when you do it in ways that they would not approve of it if they realized exactly what you were doing. The ice bucket challenge for example does exactly what it says on the tin - raise awareness, raise money, have social activity.

Comment by Ishaan on Open Thread, May 18 - May 24, 2015 · 2015-05-19T15:13:34.304Z · LW · GW

Why is it dark? Doesn't it have to be a drawback in order to be dark? (agreed about pretentiousness=signal failure)

Comment by Ishaan on Open Thread, May 18 - May 24, 2015 · 2015-05-19T14:25:29.238Z · LW · GW

I do have a parallel thought process which finds it pretentious, but I ignore it because it also said that the ice bucket was pretentious. And the ice bucket challenge was extremely effective. I think the dislike is just contrarian signalling, and is why our kind can't cooperate. That or some kind of egalitarian instinct against boasting.

Isn't "pretentious" just a negative way to say "signalling"? Of course that idea might not be effective signalling but abstractly, the idea is that EA is well suited for signalling so why isn't it?

I'd consider value in doing a local hospital. Local community strengthening and good feelings is its own thing with its own benefits, and there's a special value in the aid coming from local people who know what's what - as a natural extension of the idea that aid is better coming from parents to children than from distant government to children. I'm talking about the global poverty crowd here.

Comment by Ishaan on Open Thread, May 18 - May 24, 2015 · 2015-05-19T04:36:49.564Z · LW · GW

Frankly who cares? If someone wants to signal, then fine we can work with that. Life saving is an archetypal signal of heroism. Start a trend of wearing necklaces with one bead for each life you saved to remind everyone of the significance of each life and to remind you that you've given back to this world. That would be pretty bad ass, I'd wear it. Imagine you feel sad, then look down and remember you've added more QALYs to this world than your entire natural lifespan, that you've added centuries of smiles. Perhaps too blatant a boast for most people's tastes?

Point is, even if it was all signalling, you could boast more if you knew how to get qalys efficiently. (I saved 2 lives sounds way better than i spent 10000 dollars)

Comment by Ishaan on Open Thread, May 18 - May 24, 2015 · 2015-05-18T16:50:13.138Z · LW · GW

On the topic of popularization, I think the ratio of idealistic people interested in alleviating global poverty to people who are aware of the concept of meta-charities that determine the optimal way to do so is shockingly low.

That seems like one of those "low hanging fruits" - dropping it into casual conversations, mentioning it in high visibility comment threads, and on. There's really no excuse for Kony to be more well known than Givewell.

Comment by Ishaan on On desiring subjective states (post 3 of 3) · 2015-05-15T16:34:46.735Z · LW · GW

Sorry, I didn't mean to suggest that you actually hold that view. What I did mean to suggest is that dualist intuitions have snuck into your ideas without announcing themselves as such to you. (Hence the holy water joke - I was trying to say that I'm being religiously paranoid about avoiding implicit dualism despite how you don't even support that view).

Here, I'll try to be more explicit as to why I think you're implicitly expressing dualism:

Why not just have the organism know the objective facts of survival and reproduction, and be done with it?

What does that even mean? How can any system "access objective facts" about anything? All systems containing representations of the outside world must do so via modifications and manipulations of, and interactions between, internal components (hopefully in a manner which interacts with and corresponds to things "external" to the system). Divining the so-called "objective facts" from these internal states is a complicated and always imperfect calculation.

You've framed the subjective/objective dichotomy as "The water may feel very cold, but I know it's 20C". As you said, an error correction is being performed: "Some of my indicators are giving signals ordinarily associated with cold, but given what my other indicators say, I've performed error correction processes and I know it's actually not."

All of which is fine. The "dualist" part is where you imply that it would be in any way possible to arrive at this 20C calculation without sensing internal states, to just know the objective facts of survival and reproduction and be done with it. It's not possible to do that without getting a philosophical zombie.

Take a simple information process, such as a light-switch. Whether or not the circuit is connected "represents" the state of the switch, the behavioral output being the light bulb turning on. The circuit never gets objective facts about the switch, all it gets is the internal state of whether or not it is connected - a "subjective" experience.

Your main point: "I value the fact that my indicators gave me signals ordinarily associated with cold and then I had to go through an error correction process, rather than just immediately know it's 20C", is interesting, good, and correct.

I agree, it can't be irrational to value things - you may put your locus of valued self-identity in your information processes (the combustion), or in your biology itself (the metal), or in your behavioral output (the movement of the vehicle). I'm sympathetic to the view of valuing information processes in addition to behavioral output myself: after all, coma patients are still people if they have various types of brain activity despite comatose behavior.

She might reasonably doubt that the survivor of this process would be...human, in any sense meaningful to her.

But here again, my sense of un-ease with implicit dualism flairs up. It's all well and good to say that the survivor of this process isn't her (she may draw her locus of identity wherever she likes, it need not be her behavior), but if the result of an information process is behaviorally identical to a person, there's something very off about saying that these information processes do not meaningfully contain a person.

I use "person" here in the sense as "one who's stated thoughts and feelings and apparent preferences are morally relevant and should be considered the same way we would ideally consider a natural human.

Of course, it's still not irrational to not value things, and you might actually say that to count as a person you need certain information processes or certain biology - I just think both of those values are wrong. I have a dream that beings are judged not by their algorithm, but by their behavior (additional terms and restrictions apply).

Is that better?

Comment by Ishaan on Stupid Questions May 2015 · 2015-05-15T04:42:33.476Z · LW · GW

mutter mutter something something to do with parsimony/complexity/occam?

Comment by Ishaan on LW should go into mainstream academia ? · 2015-05-14T14:36:36.442Z · LW · GW

I may also simply be unaware of the possibly similar works on this problem too.

Recorded compatibalist conceptions of free will are several centuries older than academia, so I don't think it was ever really a publishable insight. (You got it on your own, I got it on my own, and so have a lot of people throughout history - it's just that not everyone agrees.)

I don't know about the second question...assuming the premise is true, I suppose either they did not try or it wasn't accepted, I'm not sufficiently knowledgeable about academic philosophy to speculate!

Comment by Ishaan on Open Thread, May 11 - May 17, 2015 · 2015-05-13T23:58:11.446Z · LW · GW

But that's because everyone uses glasses, as a matter of course - it's the status quo now. The person who thought "well, and why should we have to walk around squinting all the time when we can just wear these weird contraption on our heads", at a time when people might look at you funny having wearing glass on your face, I think that's pretty transhuman. As is the guy who said "Let's take it further, and put the refractive material directly on our eyeball" back when people would have looked at you real funny if you suggested they put plastic in their eyes are you crazy that sounds so uncomfortable.

Now of course, it's easy to look at these things and say "meh".

Edit: If you look at the history of contact lenses, though, what actually happened is less people saying "let's improve" and more people saying "I wonder how the eye works" and doing weird experiments that probably seemed pointless at the time. Something of a case study against the "basic research isn't useful" argument, I think, not that there are many who espouse that here.

Comment by Ishaan on Open Thread, May 11 - May 17, 2015 · 2015-05-13T21:00:23.968Z · LW · GW

Yes, I bite that bullet: I think "you aught to use tools to do things better" counts as foundational principle of transhuman ideology. It's supposed to be fundamentally about being human.