Comment by jasonmcdowell on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-11-03T05:52:03.062Z · LW · GW

I assume you're using software to collect references as you research / write? And then you have the software disgorge your collection of references at the end? What software are you using?

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Why the singularity is hard and won't be happening on schedule · 2011-10-14T01:30:30.532Z · LW · GW

Thanks, I loathe 'tl;dr'.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on New Post version 2 (please read this ONLY if your last name beings with l–z) · 2011-07-28T04:34:56.759Z · LW · GW

me too.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on [Link] Does a Simulation Really Need to Be Run? · 2011-06-23T05:37:33.883Z · LW · GW

My favorite large CGoL object is the MetaPixel. It is a life object implementing a life unit cell, which actually looks like a life unit cell when zoomed out. A copy of it and some meta-simulations come with Golly.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Rationality Quotes: June 2011 · 2011-06-01T21:23:48.701Z · LW · GW

I wish there was no illness, I don't care if an old doctor starves.

Loā Hô, a Taiwanese physician and poet.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on A puzzle on the ASVAB · 2011-05-30T05:37:21.823Z · LW · GW

C is the only answer where the line segment is touching the same spots indicated on the both objects. Point A is on the point of the star, point B is near the little box on the rectangle thing.

The rectangle thing is flipped vertically though (as if in 3D), rather than being rotated in the plane of the 2D drawing.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Link: If you don't already read Bad Science · 2011-05-27T23:20:27.144Z · LW · GW

I don't look at Chinese politics and immediately think rational. I don't see or expect much rationality from Chinese leaders with respect to Taiwan for instance. But why are so many of China's top leaders educated as engineers? I don't know what process they go through to gain political power in China, but it sure seems to lead to different demographics than for US politicians.

One piece of Chinese policy that seems pretty smart/rational is their long term infrastructure projects. Even if keeping the Chinese Communist Party in power is their first priority, long term thinking is a high priority for them. From the news of big infrastructure projects I've read about, China has much clearer thinking on infrastructure than the US.

For the types of policy that aren't tabooed, China is more likely to be able to experiment than the US - if for no other reason than that they don't care about hurting people for the 'greater good' (not necessarily a good thing). Also, they are less accountable to local people for their actions, so "Not in my backyard" is much less of a constraint.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-26T08:42:40.239Z · LW · GW

I enjoyed the story, thanks.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Liars for Jesus · 2011-05-26T06:17:09.888Z · LW · GW

And again, your statement is well reasoned and well justified. I don't disagree with anything you've written in particular. My point was weak, I don't hold it strongly, and I largely only wrote something in order to write something. To form a habit of participation.

Your statements are a perfect example of the epistemic hygiene I wish to cultivate. But the perfect can be the enemy of the good.

You were right, I am reasoning that because they are further from the truth on contemporary issues (in facts, but especially in truth-gathering methods) they are further from the truth (and knowingly lying) about historical issues. I am no expert in US history and of the apparent topics in the book, I have only read at length about Jefferson. Having considered my fallacious reasoning, I see now how my conclusion was unfair. And yet I still doubt I'm wrong.

Gauche Gratuitously Googled Grounds for those that would-be: Would-be-theocrats. The would-be theocrats are a faction of the Christian right in the US, though they are not the largest or the most powerful.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Link: If you don't already read Bad Science · 2011-05-26T03:54:28.565Z · LW · GW

I've wondered how I found Overcoming Bias. I've determined the approximate date I found it from a facebook post I made, but I don't remember how I found it. It could have been from Bad Science.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Link: If you don't already read Bad Science · 2011-05-26T03:41:33.889Z · LW · GW

I think using randomized trials to search for successful policies is more likely to happen in China than in the United States. Large chunks of Chinese policy are not up for discussion, let alone experimentation, but their authoritarian leaders are mostly engineers and can just mandate policy.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Link: If you don't already read Bad Science · 2011-05-26T03:32:36.333Z · LW · GW

I put the randomized-trials-for-policy thing on facebook earlier today. I love that idea. It is one of those obvious-to-me ideas that I once I had it, I couldn't believe that we weren't doing it routinely. As if people weren't thinking or something. You want to know whether something works? Try it and find out.

I had a similar feeling when I found out about homosexuality in ancient greece. When I was a kid: Many cultures are weird about homosexuality? Oh, it must be a new thing. What? It has been a well-known, standard minority fraction of human sexuality for thousands of years?

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Torture Simulated with Flipbooks · 2011-05-26T03:20:26.143Z · LW · GW

Other points that tickle my mind:

  1. The uniqueness of a calculation matters. Running the same program twice doesn't give you a new result.

  2. Does cause and effect (and representation of state) really matter that much? (Dust theory). My answer: still confused.

As a whole, a pattern of behavior of matter/energy can be called a calculation when State 1 causes State 2. When this happens, we can at least point to the calculation. With dust, states do not cause other states, and states can have different representations.

Right now (for at least the next minute) I don't think calculations exist. There must be some kind of illusion here. Related stuff: timeless physics, static states, causality, consciousness, memory. Memory is static. Consciousness is dynamic. Flipbook pages are static. Calculations are dynamic.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Torture Simulated with Flipbooks · 2011-05-26T02:57:53.361Z · LW · GW

What you've said makes sense to me, that the flipbooks do not constitute a calculation. However, it feels like there is a fuzzy boundary somewhere nearby, similar to the fuzzy boundary of what constitutes life. Maybe there is a information theory explanation which relates the two.

If the flipbooks contain enough information to continue the calculation then they are the same as a backup. Ok, so a flipbook is a series of closely spaced backups. What constitutes a calculation? I've read about these things, but I've never tried to work it out for myself before.

A backup is a static result of a calculation. Static results are static. They don't count as alive, they don't count as a calculation.

What counts as a calculation? I'm getting stuck. Let's say we do the calculation as a state machine. You have static states that are updated according certain rules. State 1 determines/causes state 2. The calculation is implemented somewhere. So there are patterns of matter/energy that represent the states and represent the arithmetic needed to change states. I guess the calculation is here?

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Torture Simulated with Flipbooks · 2011-05-26T02:00:40.835Z · LW · GW

I'm reminded of a story in Orion's Arm where a super intelligence is simulated with pencil and paper. This depiction isn't a flipbook of course. In the story, a bunch of volunteer baseline human carried out the algorithm of a super intelligence doing the arithmetic by hand on pieces of paper. They did it as a hobby.

After searching for a while, I found the story.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Torture Simulated with Flipbooks · 2011-05-26T01:51:40.838Z · LW · GW

I'd say the torture happened once. Even if you make more flipbooks and it changes the measure of the subjective experience, there is only one unique experience. The experience doesn't know if it happened before.

Once the system is closed, I'd think it is morally same for the experience to be simulated once or many times.

You're no more torturing them again than you are killing them again and again when the flipbook finishes its calculation.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on People who want to save the world · 2011-05-16T00:24:50.583Z · LW · GW

I praise you for your right action. Not only does your action have recursive beauty, but it also, like a socio-volitional whirlpool, a decision-theoretic attractor, guides me by example.

Edit: Ah, so that's what you meant by duplicate.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Liars for Jesus · 2011-05-15T22:23:22.334Z · LW · GW

A rational, appropriately meta, abstract deconstruction of the probable biases, trustworthiness, and relevance of the top post. Pure and clean and correct.

But the opposing sides of the argument aren't equal. The weight of bias isn't symmetrical. One side is much more wrong than the other. The obvious next criticism is 'reversed stupidity isn't intelligence'. Of course we'd like all sides to be less wrong! But the propaganda isn't symmetrical. The would-be theocrats have to distort more to make their case, because the truth isn't on their side.

There probably is value in the book. I doubt it is perfectly clean or fair. But I doubt it is worthless.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-14T21:07:25.325Z · LW · GW

Yes, consciously being friendly is a feature not a bug. There are different types of communities. Read and writing here is high self-selvective and only appeals to certain types of people. There are many other types of people who are compatible with a rational worldview, who are not compatible with Less Wrong. Maybe they need more (literal) hand holding.

I think a big fraction of 'normal people' are compatible with a rational, or 'not obviously insane' culture. But that hypothetical mainstreamed rational culture (not existing now) is not Less Wrong culture. There are pieces missing.

Doing something to spread a more-compatible, more virulent, rational culture doesn't have to water down what has been established here at Less Wrong. This is about eventually Raising The Sanity Waterline, sustainably.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-14T19:15:25.030Z · LW · GW

Said much better and more technically by Kutta above, your writing elsewhere:

driven by positive affect, social reinforcement, fuzzy feelings, motivated cognition, and characterized by a profound lack of truth-seeking.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-14T19:14:29.871Z · LW · GW

For positive reinforcement: I've found your writing on less wrong good enough to be here so far. Reinforced bits: organization, use of emphasis, footnotes, engaging style, neutral tone, not taking incompatibility personally, a focus on sharing compatible, mutually useful knowledge.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-14T19:05:49.568Z · LW · GW

I hope we don't have different views on how to weigh experience. This should be weighed as evidence exactly the same way everything else is: by the odds ratio of it occurring when the hypothesis is true over when it isn't.

This is very important.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-14T18:48:47.429Z · LW · GW

The organizational problems you have written about here are concrete and easily supported. When I read your organizational writing and I come to a place where I need to evaluate if what you're saying is true, the problem is transformed into a question of whether I believe that churches and missionary groups are successful at these things. So far you've been distilling and translating institutional knowledge.

I haven't seen you write about harder issues here. Issues that require weighing competing mental processes, avoiding self-deception, tracing several levels of implication, being careful about what constitutes evidence, etc.

Of your writing elsewhere, it feels like you are snorkeling with fins and a mask. You're staying on the surface in warm water and are checking out the beautiful tropical fish. You can see some of the terrain below you because your mask isn't that foggy, but you don't touch it because that just isn't the activity you're doing. You're not surface diving, or deep water diving, and you're having fun with your current activity.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-14T18:05:49.192Z · LW · GW

Me too. I've even done it before:

I have a facebook friend who writes thoughtfully, seems reasonably clever and cares about deep questions. He is a speaking-in-tongues, deeply religious, Prosperity, Charismatic, Word of Faith, Christian. A few of his interests and landmark-experiences match my own.

I was excited to talk to him because I thought he would be able to teach me something about religious people that 'normal people' couldn't.

I also thought the skeleton of his personality was similar enough to mine that he might have made an 'interesting mistake'. Due to the similarities between us, I wondered if I could also be susceptible to whatever 'wrong turn' his thinking took. I wanted to identify and analyze that 'interesting mistake', so I wouldn't make it, and because I expected it to be weird and interesting.

It turned out his mistake wasn't interesting and I was disappointed.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Ask LessWrong: Design a degree in Rationality. · 2011-05-13T18:30:38.545Z · LW · GW

And psychology courses would include stuff on perception and how it can be tricked, such as optical illusions.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-13T02:40:26.820Z · LW · GW

That's true, and if he answered 'yes', or 'no' we wouldn't know much. But he seems pretty thorough - I'm hoping he'll describe his definition of what 'supernatural' means.

I could have just asked, 'how would you define supernatural', but I felt like seeing how he would respond to the first version. The information I wanted is how he frames the question. :-)

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Building rationalist communities: lessons from the Latter-day Saints · 2011-05-13T01:15:46.212Z · LW · GW

I like to learn more about missionary success rates. That sounds really low.

What happened in South Korea?

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-13T00:12:10.056Z · LW · GW

Yes on this question. Here is his conversion story which someone else posted in a different reply.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-13T00:09:34.222Z · LW · GW

In the story Initiation Ceremony, a character is asked if he 'wants to know'.

In that context, do you want to know? Does knowing motivate you? Are you interested in the 'truth' about the nature of the universe and how it works?

Do you care about reality as opposed to socially constructed 'realities'

I've just started reading your blog which someone linked to.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-13T00:02:20.269Z · LW · GW

Have you attended a meet up in Berkeley (and are you that guy that said he wrote programs to analyze his own genetic SNPs?)

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-12T23:53:30.737Z · LW · GW

Red pill or blue pill?

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-12T23:32:53.801Z · LW · GW


Comment by jasonmcdowell on Holy Books (Or Rationalist Sequences) Don’t Implement Themselves · 2011-05-12T22:49:03.933Z · LW · GW

I'm going to start having kids in a few years. I have my eye of some of the sequenences - such as Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions. I need to find a way to distill this stuff down, so I can teach it to my children.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Holy Books (Or Rationalist Sequences) Don’t Implement Themselves · 2011-05-12T22:26:23.125Z · LW · GW

You said what I'm thinking, only in complete paragraphs. Seriously. I was thinking:

  • his content is good, but I have questions and suspicions.
  • missionaries evolved a bunch of good techniques
  • can these techniques be used without negative side effects?
Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-12T22:08:35.552Z · LW · GW

If Calcsam is willing to spend the time, I'd rather he respond in a detailed "answers" discussion post rather than responding ad-hoc in this thread.

There is lots of meta in this thread. I wish for an answers post with the questions he's responding to numbered and quoted. Then we could respond to the response with less clutter.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on [SEQ RERUN] Superstimuli and the Collapse of Western Civilization · 2011-05-12T21:59:47.326Z · LW · GW

I tried to use the broken link when I read the article today. Thanks.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-12T21:48:34.598Z · LW · GW

We can use his definition.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-12T21:38:11.588Z · LW · GW

The beginnings of older religions are lost in myth and so are somewhat protected from scrutiny.

Newer religions like LDS and perhaps Scientology have much more detailed historical information available. For these newer organizations, there are verifiable primary sources for many historical details. The public record (internet accessible) tells a different story than church doctrine on some of these details.

The question: Have you done a due diligence study of the roots and founding of your faith?

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-12T21:30:10.648Z · LW · GW

Do you believe in supernatural things?

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-12T21:27:52.307Z · LW · GW

Yes. But the reason why we should listen to him is self-evident. He has written things that are valuable. If he maintains his interest in the community here, and the quality is good, he could be a value-multiplier. A catalyst. His writing here is the intersecting part of a Venn diagram, his interests overlapping with Less Wrong.

His allusions to his missionary work are provoking an immune response from many here, including me (not that I write much). I think this is why (from a quote thread):

What frightens us most in a madman is his sane conversation. --Anatole France

Comment by jasonmcdowell on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-05-12T21:14:46.285Z · LW · GW

I am especially interested in this question.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on Designing Rationalist Projects · 2011-05-12T07:14:33.353Z · LW · GW

This is an excellent plan. Excellent writing, organization, thought. This is a rally-point for implementation.

It makes me uneasy when I see competent missionaries. I don't know if I have the energy to compete against them.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on [HPMoR] Trailer up · 2011-05-11T04:03:22.569Z · LW · GW

I liked your choice of the complicated freeway image.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on [HPMoR] Celebratory Trailer · 2011-05-09T18:35:32.785Z · LW · GW

Yeah, this.

I think that when you choose the part to quote for the trailer, you should make sure to leave the viewer wanting more. The viewer should be thinking "what's next?" and then go looking for it.

"Bag of element 79," Harry said, and withdrew his hand, empty, from the mokeskin pouch.

Most people would have at least waited to get their wands first.

"Bag of okane," said Harry. The heavy bag of gold popped up into his hand.

Harry withdrew the bag, then plunged it again into the mokeskin pouch. He took out his hand, put it back in, and said, "Bag of tokens of economic exchange." That time his hand came out empty.

Harry Potter had gotten his hands on at least one magical item. Why wait?

"Professor McGonagall," Harry said to the bemused witch strolling beside him, "can you give me two words, one word for gold, and one word for something else that isn't money, in a language that I wouldn't know? But don't tell me which is which."

"Ahava and zahav," said McGonagall. "That's Hebrew, and the other word means love."

"Thank you, Professor. Bag of ahava." Empty.

"Bag of zahav." And it popped up into his hand.

"Zahav is gold?" Harry questioned, and McGonagall nodded.

Harry thought over his collected experimental data. It was only the most crude and preliminary sort of effort, but it was enough to support at least one conclusion:

"Aaaaaaarrrgh this doesn't make any sense!"

The witch beside him lifted a lofty eyebrow. "Problems, Mr. Potter?"

"I just falsified every single hypothesis I had! How can it know that 'bag of 115 Galleons' is okay but not 'bag of 90 plus 25 Galleons'? It can count but it can't add? It can understand nouns, but not noun phrases that mean the same thing? The person who made this probably didn't speak Japanese and I don't speak any Hebrew, so it's not using their knowledge, and it's not using my knowledge -" Harry waved a hand helplessly. "The rules seem sorta consistent but they don't mean anything! I'm not even going to ask how a pouch ends up with voice recognition and natural language understanding when the best Artificial Intelligence programmers can't get the fastest supercomputers to do it after thirty-five years of hard work," Harry gasped for breath, "but what is going on?"

"Magic," said Professor McGonagall. She shrugged.

"That's just a word! Even after you tell me that, I can't make any new predictions! It's exactly like saying 'phlogiston' or 'elan vital' or 'emergence' or 'complexity'!"

Professor McGonagall laughed aloud. "But it is magic, Mr. Potter."

Harry slumped over a little. "With respect, Professor McGonagall, I'm not quite sure you understand what I'm trying to do here."

Comment by jasonmcdowell on [HPMoR] Celebratory Trailer · 2011-05-09T18:28:02.511Z · LW · GW

Here is a really good encapsulated chunk near the beginning of chapter 6:

It has the setup for Harry's background, the basis for what makes this version of Harry different (science), a dramatic challenge, and finally promises of epicness and wry humor.

The Muggle world had a population of six billion and counting. If you were one in a million, there were twelve of you in New York and a thousand more in China. It was inevitable that the Muggle world would produce some eleven-year-olds who could do calculus - Harry knew he wasn't the only one. He'd met other prodigies in math competitions. In fact he'd been thoroughly trounced by competitors who probably spent literally all day practicing math problems and who'd never read a science-fiction book and who would burn out completely before puberty and never amount to anything in their future lives because they'd just practiced known techniques instead of learning to think creatively. (Harry was something of a sore loser.)

But... in the wizarding world...

Ten Muggle-raised children per year, who'd all ended their Muggle educations at the age of eleven? And McGonagall might be biased, but she had claimed that Hogwarts was the largest and most eminent wizarding school in the world... and it only educated up to the age of seventeen.

Professor McGonagall undoubtedly knew every last detail of how you went about turning into a cat. But she seemed to have literally never heard of the scientific method. To her it was just Muggle magic. And she didn't even seem curious about what secrets might be hiding behind the natural language understanding of the Retrieval Charm.

That left two possibilities, really.

Possibility one: Magic was so incredibly opaque, convoluted, and impenetrable, that even though wizards and witches had tried their best to understand, they'd made little or no progress and eventually given up; and Harry would do no better.


Harry cracked his knuckles in determination, but they only made a quiet sort of clicking sound, rather than echoing ominously off the walls of Diagon Alley.

Possibility two: He'd be taking over the world.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on [HPMoR] Celebratory Trailer · 2011-05-09T18:14:47.653Z · LW · GW

From the very end of Chapter 4:

"That's the spirit! And does a 'mokeskin pouch' do what I think it does?"

"It can't do as much as a trunk," McGonagall said reluctantly, "but a mokeskin pouch with a Retrieval Charm and Undetectable Extension Charm can hold a number of items until they are called forth by the one who emplaced them."

"Yes, I definitely need one of those too. It's like the super beltpack of ultimate awesomeness! Batman's utility belt of holding! Never mind a swiss army knife, you could just carry a whole tool set in there! Or other magic items! Or books! I could have the top three books I was reading on me at all times, and just pull one out anywhere! I'll never have to waste another minute of my life! What do you say, Professor McGonagall? It's in the best of all possible causes."

"Fine. You may add another ten Galleons."

Griphook was favoring Harry with a gaze of frank respect, possibly even outright admiration.

"And a little spending money, like you mentioned earlier. I think I can remember seeing one or two other things I might want to store in that pouch."

"Don't push it, Mr. Potter."

"But oh, Professor McGonagall, why rain on my parade? Surely this is a happy day, when I discover all things wizarding for the first time! Why act the part of the grumpy grownup when instead you could smile and remember your own innocent childhood, watching the look of delight upon my young face as I buy a few toys using an insignificant fraction of the wealth that I earned by defeating the most terrible wizard Britain has ever known, not that I'm accusing you of being ungrateful or anything, but still, what are a few toys compared to that?"

"You," McGonagall growled. There was a look on her face so fearsome and terrible that Harry squeaked and stepped back, knocking over a whole pile of gold coins with a great jingling noise and sprawling backward into a heap of money. Griphook sighed and put a palm over his face. "I would be doing a great service to wizarding Britain, Mr. Potter, and perhaps the entire world, if I locked you in this vault and left you here."

And they left without any more trouble.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on [HPMoR] Celebratory Trailer · 2011-05-09T18:11:28.121Z · LW · GW

The bit in Chapter 4 about taking advantage of the wizarding world's financial system was pretty fun too.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on [HPMoR] Celebratory Trailer · 2011-05-09T18:07:41.416Z · LW · GW

My favorite bits are when we learn about the physics of magic. Hints of how their universe must actually work

Comment by jasonmcdowell on [SEQ RERUN] A Fable of Science and Politics · 2011-04-26T09:34:52.025Z · LW · GW


Only minor drama of course, but it definitely was not a cohesive group. Sometimes I heard the terms "blue badges" or "green badges" used pejoratively to refer to the different groups generically.

Comment by jasonmcdowell on SIAI Fundraising · 2011-04-26T09:29:52.576Z · LW · GW

I like seeing these numbers. Transparency + people organizing the information is great. Seeing this presented here (on Less Wrong) where I am likely to see it makes me more likely to donate. Thanks!