Two straw men fighting 2010-08-09T08:53:24.636Z · score: 2 (23 votes)
Another way to look at consciousness 2010-05-20T13:58:04.856Z · score: 1 (10 votes)


Comment by janetk on Open question on the certain 'hot' global issue of importance to FAI · 2012-03-23T08:44:15.553Z · score: -14 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting that this has no comments yet. I do not know why this subject is treated as 'political' or 'controversial'. This group should not be anti-science or 'head in the sand', but it seems to be.

Comment by janetk on People who "don't rationalize"? [Help Rationality Group figure it out] · 2012-03-03T10:53:57.497Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I have a different way to look at this question. (1) introspection is bunk (2) if someone asks us or we ask ourselves why we did something - the answer is a guess, because we have no conscious access to the actual causes of our thoughts and actions (3)we vary in how good we are at guessing and in how honestly they judge themselves and so some people appear to be clearly rationalizing and other appear less so (4) most people are not actually aware that introspection is not direct knowledge but guesswork and so they do not recognize their guesses as guesses but may notice their self-deceptions as deceptions (5) we do not need to know the reasons for our actions unless we judge them as very bad and to be avoided or very good and to be encouraged (6) the appropriate thing in this case is not to ask ourselves why, but to ask ourselves how to change the likelihood of a repeat, up or down. Although we have only guesses about past actions, we can arrange to have some control over future ones (7) the more we know about ourselves, others, our situations, science and so on the better we can answer the how questions.

Comment by janetk on Type 2 as an aggregation of Type 1 processes · 2012-02-13T09:29:07.363Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good, upvoted - your hypothesis is interesting. I tend to think of type 1 as the cognition/pattern recognition/thinking operation and type 2 as a way of sequentially combining type 1 sub-results. The sequentially operation involves working memory and therefore passes through consciousness and is slowed down. As soon as a group of type 1 operations fine-tune themselves to the point of not requiring working memory, they no longer generate type 2 operations.

Comment by janetk on Cargo Cult Language · 2012-02-10T12:23:05.551Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

SaidAchmiz asked for an opinion and I gave an honest one. I may be wrong in the view of some other people but that is still my honest opinion. It is not an overgeneralization as I believe that in all cases, in all situations, at all times the descriptive approach is preferable to the prescriptive one.

Comment by janetk on Cargo Cult Language · 2012-02-06T07:14:38.986Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In all cases 1-6 - descriptive is scientific, productive, interesting while prescriptive is without evidence, harmful and boring.

Comment by janetk on Neurological reality of human thought and decision making; implications for rationalism. · 2012-01-24T12:02:36.180Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

OK, I over reacted. Several others have said that it is acceptable in Main - so be it. I guess it does not bother others as much as it bothers me and I won't comment on corrections in future.

Comment by janetk on Neurological reality of human thought and decision making; implications for rationalism. · 2012-01-23T11:43:53.761Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't anyone think that it is very rude to comment in someone else's language unless it is not understandable - just plain RUDE? If someone wants help with language they can ask. Language is a tool not a weapon.

Comment by janetk on The Protagonist Problem · 2011-10-23T17:05:56.888Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Voting up and waiting for your next installment. (dtz weird text still there)

Comment by janetk on A Problem with Abbreviations and Acronyms · 2011-08-14T10:11:27.931Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Why not adopt the convention used in many types of writing? The first time the term is used in a text, it is written in full and its abbreviation or acronym is put after it in brackets. After that the short form is used.

Comment by janetk on Locating emotions · 2011-07-28T10:15:02.119Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for the link - very illuminating.

Comment by janetk on Conceptual Analysis and Moral Theory · 2011-05-16T10:11:36.704Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would like to see some enlargement on the concept of definition. It is usually treated as a simple concept: A means B or C or D; which one depending on Z. But when we try to pin down C for instance, we find that it has a lot of baggage - emotional, framing, stylistic etc. So does B and D. And in no case is the baggage of any of them the same as the baggage of A. None of - defining terms or tabooing words or coining new words - really works all that well in the real world, although they of course help. Do you see a way around this fuzziness?

Another 'morally good' definition for your list is 'that which will not make the doer feel guilty or shameful in future'. It is no better than the others but quite different.

Comment by janetk on David Marr on two types of information-processing problems · 2011-04-14T08:36:05.930Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I hope there are soon some comments to this question. What do AI people think of the analysis - Marr's and nhamann? Is the history accurate? This there a reason for ignoring?

Comment by janetk on Separate morality from free will · 2011-04-09T04:18:05.834Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I have been pointed at those pieces before. I read them originally and I have re-read them not long ago. Nothing in them changes my conviction (1) that it is dangerous to communication to use the term 'free will' in any sense other than freedom from causality, (2) I do not accept a non-material brain/mind nor a non-causal thought process. Also I believe that (3) using the phrase 'determinism' in any sense other that the ability to predict is dangerous to communication, and (4) we cannot predict in any effective way the processes of our own brain/minds. Therefore free will vs determinism is not a productive argument. Both concepts are flawed. In the end, we make decisions and we are (usually) responsible for them in a moral-ethical-legal sense. And those decision are neither the result of free will or of determinism. You can believe in magical free will or redefine the phrase to avoid the magic - but I decline to do either.

Comment by janetk on Separate morality from free will · 2011-04-08T07:29:35.956Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Right on. Free will is nonsense but morality is important. I see moral questions as questions that do not have a clear cut answer that can be found be consulting some rules (religious or not). We have to figure out what is the right thing to do. And we will be judged by how well we do it.

Comment by janetk on Brains more complicated than previously thought · 2011-02-21T08:54:32.741Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Tordmor has commented on my attitude - sorry I did not mean to sound so put out. The reason for the 'near future' was because the discussion was about 'upload' and so I assumed we talking about our lifetimes which in the context seemed the near furture (about the next 50 years). Making an approximate emulation of some simple invertebrate brain is certainly on the cards. But an accurate emulation of a particular person's brain is a different ballpark entirely.

I never know exactly what people mean when they say emulation or simulation or model. How much is the idea to mimic how the brain does something? To 'upload' someone, the receiving computer would need some sort of mapping to the physical brain of that person. This is a very tall order.

Thanks for the link to the Roadmap which I will be reading it.

Comment by janetk on Brains more complicated than previously thought · 2011-02-20T10:10:55.435Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you honestly believe that an artificial brain can be built purely in software in the near future? And if it could how would it be accurate enough to be some particular person's brain rather than a generic one? And if it was someone's brain could the world afford to do this for more than one or two person's at a time? I am not at all convinced of 'uploads'.

Comment by janetk on Brains more complicated than previously thought · 2011-02-19T09:35:53.650Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am a bit surprised if this is surprising - is it not obvious that electric fields will affect neuron activity. Whether a neuron fires depends on the voltage across its membrane (at a point in a particular region at the base of the axon and, it seems, down the axon). The electric field around the neuron will affect this voltage difference as in good old-fashioned electrical theory. This is important for synchrony in firing (as in the brain waves) and that is important for marking synapses between neurons that have fired simultaneously for chemical changes. etc. etc. etc. Fields are not to be thought of as a little side effect. What is more interesting is what the fields do to glial cells and their communication which is (I believe) carried out with calcium ions but very affected by electrical fields. The synapses live in an environment created by the surrounding glia. The brain cannot be reduced to a bunch of on-off switches.

Comment by janetk on Brains more complicated than previously thought · 2011-02-19T08:41:07.850Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I figure when we have built an artificial kidney that works as well as a kidney, and an artificial heart that works as well as a heart, and an artificial pancreas that works as well as a pancreas - then it will be reasonable to know whether an artificial brain is a reasonable goal.

If we have figured out how to compute the weather accurately some weeks into the future - then we might know whether we can compute a much more complex system. If we had the foggiest idea of how the brain actually works - then we might know what level of approximation is good enough.

Don't hold your breath for a personal upload.

Comment by janetk on Settled questions in philosophy · 2011-02-18T12:48:48.507Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I seems to agree with your original list. I would phrase the free will one differently - both free will and determinism are useless concepts because we have no mechanism for contra-causality other than spirit-magic and we cannot predict our decisions even if they are causally produced.

Comment by janetk on Settled questions in philosophy · 2011-02-18T12:25:43.833Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is not a surprise. Who wants to be a philosopher and who wants to be a scientist? Who likes to discuss the questions and who likes to discuss the answers? Who values consensus?

Comment by janetk on post proposal: Attraction and Seduction for Heterosexual Male Rationalists · 2011-02-07T12:15:12.906Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I used to read LW but never commented. Then I had a change of heart when there was a post that in effect invited people to take a more active part. I commented often and even posted but the experience was not a happy one and I have gone back to only reading some items and commenting very rarely. I do not feel welcome nor feel completely rejected. There are a lot of reasons for the alienation in my case and the repeated return to PUA is one of them. But there are many other reason that are more important. In a sense PUA is political. Evolutionary psychology isn't, seduction itself isn't, communication skills aren't. I don't find Jesse Bering's pieces in the ScAm political. It is the treating of women and of sex as a sort of commodity that makes it seem political to me. It doesn't matter how you dress it up nicely - being treated as a commodity is degrading. On the other hand, something that I do not think is political at all but simply scientific, global warming is treated as a sort of taboo political question. Everything else can be discussed but not the biggest danger we face.

Comment by janetk on Procedural Knowledge Gaps · 2011-02-07T11:33:11.125Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I believe there should be a subject in school (and text books to go with it) that goes through all the things that adult citizens should know. I believe this was part of what was called Civics but that is dead or changed to something else. The idea is somewhat dated but it included things like how to vote, how to read a train schedule, that different types of insurance actually were, simple first aid, how to find a book in a library and all sorts of things like that. Today it would be a slightly different list. Somewhere between 10 and 14 seems the ideal age to be interested and learn these sort of things.

Comment by janetk on How do you use the phrase "free will"? · 2011-01-09T06:05:05.014Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW
  1. I do not use the phrase 'free will' except to attack it. And I do not attack 'free will' without at the same time attacking 'determinism' and the outdated fight between them. They are both useless and flawed. When others use the word, I assume they mean a mental process that is non-material and that they therefore still have a dualist ghost in their thinking.
  2. Freewill is an illusion only if you believe in it. If you don't believe in free will (and don't believe in determinism) then you just make decisions.
  3. Why lie to others or yourself? The important thing is how to learn to make good decisions ('mind maintenance' I call it). It is difficult to do this if you still believe in the freewill-vs-determinism idea.
Comment by janetk on In Russian we have the word 'Mirozdanie', which means all that exists · 2011-01-03T07:13:37.568Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I have used 'reality' but sometimes needed to call it 'undifferentiated reality' or to introduce the map-territory metaphor and then refer to the 'territory'. There is a problem with the right word for this in English. I suggest that you use the Russian word after a paragraph explaining its meaning - this would be interesting to your readers, allow you to define the concept you want to use very carefully and avoid any English language philosophical baggage.

Comment by janetk on Christmas · 2010-12-21T07:56:40.661Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I just think it is a good time for a party and has been for a long time at high latitudes. I don't think there is a problem with this. If religious people want to control the party, just ignore them and enjoy Christmas.

Comment by janetk on Christmas · 2010-12-20T09:44:45.997Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

People have been celebrating around the solstice long before Christianity sold the holiday. Most of the Christmassy things: gifts, trees, fires, food, song and so on are left over from pre-Christian holidays. Take back Christmas a have a ball.

Comment by janetk on The Santa deception: how did it affect you? · 2010-12-20T09:38:09.323Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I do not remember believing in Santa or when I stopped. But I do remember the game of everyone pretending there was a Santa and a Tooth Fairy and an Easter Bunny. It was great fun and I had no feeling that I was lied to by my parents or others. When I realized that God was not in this group and I was actually supposed to believe in that being was when my problems with pretense really began. I started to notice how others, by their actions etc., displayed a lack of believe in what they said about God, but they insisted that it was important to believe. End of innocence, now I was being lied to!

Comment by janetk on Some Thoughts Are Too Dangerous For Brains to Think · 2010-12-07T10:05:47.256Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I can think of a number of reasons why monarchs may suffer somewhat less from the 'power corrupts' norm. (1) often educated from childhood to use power wisely (2) often feel their power is legit and therefore less fearful of overthrow (3) tend to get better 'press' than other autocrats so that abuse of power less noticeable (4) often have continuity and structure in their advisors inherited from previous monarch.

Despite this, there have been some pretty nasty monarchs through history - even ones that are thought of as great like Good Queen Bess. However, if I had to live in an autocratic state I would prefer an established monarchy, all others things being equal.

Comment by janetk on The Problem With Trolley Problems · 2010-10-24T09:37:02.263Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I voted up. Post makes good sense to me.

Comment by janetk on Request for rough draft review: Navigating Identityspace · 2010-10-01T12:22:59.727Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

the list of personality axes OkCupid uses.

Ok I get it. I don't really find it convincing but I get it. I can understand the idea of a 'space' made of personality dimensions and I can envisage an idea that someone could link their identity as their area in such a space.

Personality theory seems pretty weak (and boring) to me, a sort of left over from Freud's and other psychoanalytic theories. So I guess I have nothing to add to this discussion.

Comment by janetk on Request for rough draft review: Navigating Identityspace · 2010-10-01T06:11:29.237Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe 'personality'?

What question is personality the answer to?

Comment by janetk on Request for rough draft review: Navigating Identityspace · 2010-10-01T06:06:52.429Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I understand what you mean by space - I think it is a fairly common construct. For example, I think of a biological niche as an area in a multidimensional space. OK. But what on earth is an 'identityspace'? And what does 'angriness' and similar have to do with identity? What would be some actual dimensions of identity and where is any experimental evidence for such dimensions in the context of identity?

Comment by janetk on Request for rough draft review: Navigating Identityspace · 2010-09-30T08:36:46.939Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am lost. This piece appears to be based on a well developed model that I have never encountered in my 71 years. I am well educated and well read in many areas of science and philosophy but can I not follow your argument and find it just jargon from some area that I have never been introduced to. I cannot relate something like 'identityspace' to any thing I know about brains or human behaviour or myself. Why not start with a couple of paragraphs that give the reader an idea of the structure you are going to talk about? It is no use pointing to previous articles as they seem just as incomprehensible.

Comment by janetk on Less Wrong: Open Thread, September 2010 · 2010-09-03T13:35:19.919Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think you may have misunderstood what I was trying to say. Because the group used Bayesian methods, I had assumed that they would not be anti-scientific. I was surprised when it seemed that they were willing to ignore evidence. I have been reassured that many in the group are rational in the everyday sense and not opposed to empiricism. Indeed it is Science AND Bayes.

Comment by janetk on Less Wrong: Open Thread, September 2010 · 2010-09-02T17:40:30.323Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you. That seems clear. I will assume that my antennas were giving me the wrong impression. I can relax/

Comment by janetk on Less Wrong: Open Thread, September 2010 · 2010-09-02T09:09:40.198Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that's how most people here understand "rationalism".


Comment by janetk on Less Wrong: Open Thread, September 2010 · 2010-09-02T09:07:18.607Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have a reason of sarcasm? I notice a tendency that seems to me disturbing and I am pointing it out to see if others have noticed it and have opinions, but I am not attacking. I am deciding whether I fit this group or not - hopefully I can feel comfortable in LW.

Comment by janetk on Less Wrong: Open Thread, September 2010 · 2010-09-02T08:56:11.735Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

According to my dictionary: rationalism 1. Philos. the theory that reason is the foundation of certainty in knowledge (opp. empiricism, sensationalism)

This is there as well as: rational 1. of or based on reasoning or reason

So although there are other (more everyday) definitions also listed at later numbers, the opposition to empirical is one of the literal definitions. The Bayesian updating thing is why it took me a long time to notice the other anti-scientific tendency.

Comment by janetk on Less Wrong: Open Thread, September 2010 · 2010-09-02T07:54:27.896Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The penny has just dropped! When I first encountered LessWrong, the word 'Rationality' did not stand out. I interpreted it to mean its everyday meaning of careful, intelligent, sane, informed thought (in keeping with 'avoiding bias'). But I have become more and more uncomfortable with the word because I see it having a more restricted meaning in the LW context. At first, I thought this was an economic definition of the 'rational' behaviour of the selfish and unemotional ideal economic agent. But now I sense an even more disturbing definition: rational as opposed to empirical. As I use scientific evidence as the most important arbiter of what I believe, I would find the anti-empirical idea of 'rational' a big mistake.

Comment by janetk on Consciousness of simulations & uploads: a reductio · 2010-08-24T11:22:28.402Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Personally I have great hopes for Blue Brain. If it figures out how a single cortex unit works ( which they seem to be on the way to). If they can then figure out how to convert that into a chip and put oodles of those clips in the right environment of inputs and interactions with other parts of the brain (thalamus and basal ganglia especially) and then.....

A lot of work but it has a good chance as long as it avoids the step-by-step algorithm trap.

Comment by janetk on Consciousness of simulations & uploads: a reductio · 2010-08-24T10:48:05.226Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes we will have to describe the subjective side of consciousness but the physiology has to come first. As an illustration: if you didn't know the function of the heart or much about its physiology, it would be useless to try and understand it by how it felt. Hence we would have ideas like 'loving with all my heart', 'my heart is not in it' etc. which come from the pre-biology world. Once we know how and why the heart works the way it does, those feeling are seen differently.

I am certainly not a behaviorist and I do think that consciousness is an extremely important function of the brain/mind. We probably can't understand how cognition works without understanding how consciousness works. I just do not think introspection gets us closer to understanding, nor do I think that introspection gives us any direct knowledge of our own minds - 'direct' being the important word.

Comment by janetk on Consciousness of simulations & uploads: a reductio · 2010-08-24T10:30:34.106Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, maybe not that long, but a long, long time to do the 'lot of little steps'. It does not seem the appropriate tool to me. After all, the much slower component parts of a brain do a sort of unit of perception in about a third of a second. I believe that is because it is not done step-wise but something like this: the enormous number of overlapping feedback loops can only stabilize in a sort of 'best fit scenario' and it takes very little time for the whole network to hone in on the final perception. (Vaguely that sort of thing)

Comment by janetk on Consciousness of simulations & uploads: a reductio · 2010-08-23T10:48:48.747Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

with a lot of steps

I guess that is the conversation stopper. We agree that it takes a lot of steps. We disagree on whether the number makes it only possible in principle or not.

Comment by janetk on Consciousness of simulations & uploads: a reductio · 2010-08-23T10:19:47.860Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Allenwang voted up - I don't understand why there was a negative reaction to this.

Comment by janetk on Consciousness of simulations & uploads: a reductio · 2010-08-23T10:11:12.638Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A little group of neurons in the brain stem starts sending a train of signals to the base of the thalamus. The thalamus 'wakes up' and then sends signals to the cortex and the cortex 'wakes up'. Consciousness is now 'on'. Later, the brain stem stops sending the train of signals, the thalamus 'goes to sleep' and the cortex slowly winds down the 'goes to sleep'. Consciousness is now 'off'. Neither on or off was instantaneous or sharply defined. (Dreaming activated the cortex differently at times during sleep but ignore that for now). Descriptions like this (hopefully more detailed and accurate) are the 'facts of the matter' not semantic arguments. Why is it that science is OK for understanding physics and astronomy but not for understanding consciousness?

Comment by janetk on Consciousness of simulations & uploads: a reductio · 2010-08-23T09:36:34.548Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I may not be expressing my self well here. I am try to express what I can and cannot imagine - I do not presume to say that because I cannot imagine something, it is impossible. In fact I believe that it would be possible to simulate the nervous system with digital algorithms in principle, just extremely difficult in practice. So difficult I think that I cannot imagine it happening. It is not the 'software' or the 'digital' that is my block, it is the 'algorithm', the stepwise processes that I am having trouble with. How do you imagine the enormous amount and varied nature of feedback in the brain can be simulated by step-by-step logic? I take it that you can imagine how it could be done - so how?

Comment by janetk on Consciousness of simulations & uploads: a reductio · 2010-08-22T20:02:15.207Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You may be right but my imagination has a problem with it. If there is a way to do analog computing using software in a non step-by-step procedure, then I could imagine a software solution. It is the algorithm that is my problem and not the physical form of the 'ware'.

Comment by janetk on Consciousness of simulations & uploads: a reductio · 2010-08-22T09:23:34.872Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have no doubt in my mind that some time in the future nervous systems with be simulated with all their functions including consciousness. Perhaps not a particular person's nervous system at a particular time, but a somewhat close approximation, a very similar nervous system with consciousness but no magic. However, I definitely doubt that it will be done on a general purpose computer running algorithms. I doubt that step-by-step calculations will be the way that the simulation will be done. Here is why:

1.The brain is massively parallel and complex feedback loops are difficult to calculate (not impossible but difficult). The easiest way to simulate a massively parallel system is to build it in hardware rather than use stepwise software.

2.There are effects of fields to consider – not just electrical and magnetic but also chemical. Like massive numbers of feedback loops, the fields would be difficult to calculate as the same elements that are reacting to the fields are also creating them.

3.There are many critical timing effects in the system and these would have to be duplicated or scaled, another difficulty of calculation.

I believe that it is far simpler to take advantage of the architecture of the brain which appears to have a lot of repetition of small units of a few thousand cells and build good models of these in hardware, including correct timing and ways to simulate fields etc. Then take advantage of the larger (sort of functional) divisions of the brain to construct larger modules. It gets very complicated fairly quickly but not as complicated as stepwise calculations. In essence it resembles the replacement of neurons one at a time with chips but the chips would have to be more more than just fancy logic components as they would have to sense their surroundings as well as communicate with other neurons or chips. The boundaries need to be at the natural joints to make it simpler, but the idea is the same. I can imagine this actually being built and having consciousness. The computer running algorithms or the person with a pencil creating consciousness is a lot harder to imagine (and needs a lot of 'in principles', too many for me).

Comment by janetk on What should I have for dinner? (A case study in decision making) · 2010-08-15T21:09:28.560Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, you are right. Carbohydrates can not be made from fat. Fatty acid are used to supply energy directly and not by being converted to carbohydrate first. Sorry to have been misleading. Thank you for the correction.

Comment by janetk on Taking Ideas Seriously · 2010-08-15T12:35:24.541Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Something I should have said in my previous reply. I agree with the "no current politics" rule. My problem is with what is politics - to some everything is and to some almost nothing is. When a subject is a purely scientific one and the disagreement is about whether there is evidence and how to interpret it, then this is a area for rationality. We should be looking at evidence and evaluating it. That does not involve what I would call politics.