[LINK] Charlie Stross: Federov's Rapture 2011-07-01T17:18:15.710Z · score: 2 (5 votes)


Comment by jfm on The bias shield · 2012-01-05T14:51:29.621Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This explanation seems quite likely to account for some of the positive ratings from O'Reilly fans, but does it really do anything to account for the vehemence of reactions to negative ratings?

Comment by jfm on Ends Don't Justify Means (Among Humans) · 2012-01-05T14:24:23.598Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, this made me think precisely of Hare's two-level utilitarianism, with a Friendly AI in place of Hare's Archangel.

Comment by jfm on Review of Doris, 'The Moral Psychology Handbook' (2010) · 2011-06-28T12:34:20.637Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is this a book which would be readable by a layperson with an undergrad intro level of knowledge of psychology, biology, and philosophy? Is it readable in the amount of time available on a typical interlibrary loan?

Comment by jfm on Exclude the supernatural? My worldview is up for grabs. · 2011-06-27T19:12:29.803Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was going to comment along similar lines. Most people probably have a concept of "supernatural" that's defined by a grab-bag of phenomena. If you stop wondering about whether "the supernatural" exists, and whether various allegedly supernatural phenomena (e.g. transubstantiation, ghosts, spoon-bending) exist, and if it happens that they do, how they work, you'll be well on your way to not needing the concept of "supernatural".

Comment by jfm on The Ideological Turing Test · 2011-06-27T18:39:15.820Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is correct. If you want to successfully pose as a Christian, you might be well advised to read a bunch of C. S. Lewis, and then imitate his arguments and style. I say this because I think his books constitute the most accessible body of reasonable-but-still-wrong arguments in favour of Christian orthodoxy. If you can quote him, all the better, because being able to quote C. S. Lewis is a high-status marker among people who have both a self-identity as Christians, and a self-identity as intellectuals.

Comment by jfm on The "Stick Test" - useful tool or just pointless amusement? · 2011-06-24T17:19:31.318Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Jayson_Virissimo's comments show one reason why it's a poor instrument: it doesn't actually address any of the arguments you actually want it to.

Another reason is that it's a "virtual" argumentum ad baculum. Because it doesn't actually address your opponent's arguments, the only reason it gives them to agree with you is to avoid (virtual) punishment. If it actually does get them to concede the argument, it might be useful, but be aware that it's Dark Arts at best.

Comment by jfm on Rational Parenting? · 2011-06-22T17:47:49.442Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, this is precisely the sort of answer that is useful to me. Thank you.

Comment by jfm on Rational Parenting? · 2011-06-21T01:29:03.636Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can you briefly explain to me why taking children seriously is a troll answer?

Comment by jfm on Torture Simulated with Flipbooks · 2011-05-27T15:56:07.428Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It make me think of "Poor little clams, snap, snap, snap".

Comment by jfm on A rationalist's guide to psychoactive drugs · 2011-02-10T14:16:03.735Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have taken ephedrine (in the form of ephedra tea) for nasal decongestion and increased focus. In my experience, it worked about as well for increased focus as caffeine (in the form of coffee) does, but caused more heart racing and jitters.

Comment by jfm on "Manna" by Marshall Brain · 2011-01-28T16:45:27.288Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Eh, her main literary flaws are the Author Filibuster and the use of Strawman Political villains and Mary Sue heroes. The definitive takedown was by Whittaker Chambers in the National Review in 1957.

Of course, other writers surely have written worse books than Atlas Shrugged, and not been so universally slagged, so there may be an anti-halo effect going on. That doesn't change the fact that Atlas Shrugged is terribly written.

Comment by jfm on "Manna" by Marshall Brain · 2011-01-27T14:52:16.744Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's a genre convention of utopian fiction -- take an observer from the mundane world (which may be a crapsack, and plant them in the midst of the wonders of Utopia. For me, given the strong resemblance of the Australia Project to the Culture, it's impossible to imagine that they don't have their equivalent of Contact (and Special Circumstances), but that the narrator never was introduced to them. I lean towards the Author Failure explanation, though I don't think it's actually possible to be less skilled than Ayn Rand.

Comment by jfm on "Bad-for-the-world-ipedia?" · 2011-01-20T21:24:20.410Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This whole line of argument has been debunked in detail.

Comment by jfm on Note on Terminology: "Rationality", not "Rationalism" · 2011-01-19T21:14:39.797Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I intended to post a response to this article, but this response here summarises everything I had intended to say.

Comment by jfm on Rational Repentance · 2011-01-19T20:39:47.625Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I used to participate in such a forum, -- it was composed mainly of exiles from DailyKos. Is this perhaps the same forum you're talking about?

Comment by jfm on Back to the Basics of Rationality · 2011-01-12T18:31:35.948Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is one of the significant advantages of an ebook reader over a web browser (at least the current crop of both products). Firefox is supposed to keep my place in long web pages, but darned if it doesn't forget half the time.

Comment by jfm on Bullying the Integers · 2010-12-15T19:54:28.823Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What about weak key classes (i.e. particular classes of key that can be factorized quickly, possibly by special-purpose algorithms rather than general-purpose ones)? I've turned up several papers on the subject, but I don't really have the maths to understand them, other than the take-home message that key generation is a minefield.

Comment by jfm on Anthropologists and "science": dark side epistemology? · 2010-12-13T14:22:30.942Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

After following this a bit more, and looking at some of the mailing list threads behind the scenes (threads in reaction to the change, not leading up to the change), it's pretty clear that what's going on on both sides is group identity signaling. The "pro-science" side is not really any more committed to empirical evidence or analytical rigor than the other (which I'd loosely identify as postmodernist).

Comment by jfm on Unpacking the Concept of "Blackmail" · 2010-12-10T18:38:36.911Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed, we have this account of the etymology from George MacDonald Fraser's The Steel Bonnets:

Deprived of the protection of law, neglected by his superiors, and too weak to resist his despoilers, the ordinary man's only course was the payment of blackmail. This practice is probably as old as time, but the expression itself was coined on the Borders, and meant something different from blackmail today. Its literal meaning is "black rent" --- in other words, illegal rent -- and its exact modern equivalence is the protection racket.

Blackmail was paid by the tenant or farmer to a "superior" who might be a powerful reiver, or even an outlaw, and in return the reiver not only left him alone, but was also obliged to protect him from other raiders and to recover his goods if they were carried off.

Note that he does consider the modern meaning to be more specialized.

Comment by jfm on Anthropologists and "science": dark side epistemology? · 2010-12-10T13:43:52.564Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think it counts as dark side epistemology. As one of the anthropologists opposing the change was quoted in the Psychology Today article as saying, it's more a matter of cultural anthropology coming to see itself as a kind of esoteric journalism than a rejection of empirical data as such. It's also part of an ongoing intradisciplinary conflict between cultural anthropology and the other three fields of anthropology: archaeology, biological anthropology, and linguistics. The Chronicle of Higher Education article is a little clearer and less polemical than the PT blog cited, though the author has his own credibility problems.

It's entirely possible that the end result will be the Society for Anthropological Sciences seceding, and the AAA won't be the professional association for anthropologists anymore. It's already the case that archaeologists and biological anthropologists rarely attend the AAA annual meetings.

Comment by jfm on Intelligence Amplification Open Thread · 2010-12-08T16:10:02.571Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I often find myself getting drowsy while driving. The most effective thing I know of to do about this is to eat sunflower seeds (in the shell). I suspect this would also work during lectures.

Comment by jfm on Help Request: How to maintain focus when emotionally overwhelmed · 2010-12-08T15:51:35.939Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm dealing with this currently due to mild ongoing sleep-dep. A couple of suggestions. For putting the anxious/panicky emotions into context, I'm going to recommend daily meditation. You might start with Understanding vipassana meditation on this site. For focusing on tasks -- this is the hardest for me. The Pomodoro Technique works for me -- for a while, before it stops working. But it does help me get over productivity slumps from time to time.

Comment by jfm on The Self-Reinforcing Binary · 2010-11-23T18:43:54.537Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You'd probably be well-served by having a look at Claude Levi-Strauss's "The Raw and the Cooked", which looks at quite a lot of binary oppositions (raw/cooked; nature/culture; female/male) in quite a few traditional societies, and how various binary oppositions get tied to the gender binary.

Comment by jfm on Stanford historian on the singularity · 2010-11-09T12:42:31.311Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder whether a continual rear-guard action forestalling collapse would be considered "business as usual" or not. I suspect yes, and that someone sufficiently cynical would say this is what is already happening.

I can imagine alternatives that can't be considered either singularity, collapse, or business-as-usual -- a resource-based economy, for example -- but I don't consider them any more likely than either of the first two. Political trends strongly support collapse.

Comment by jfm on Anthropic principles agree on bigger future filters · 2010-11-04T14:00:31.069Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The novel Toolmaker Koan by John McLoughlin doesn't just feature dinosaurs on the moon, it features a dinosaur generation-ship held in the outer solar system by an alien machine intelligence. A ripping good yarn, and a meditation on the Fermi Paradox.

Comment by jfm on Rationality Quotes: November 2010 · 2010-11-03T14:38:59.530Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW
  1. Natural justice is a pledge of reciprocal benefit, to prevent one man from harming or being harmed by another.

  2. Those animals which are incapable of making binding agreements with one another not to inflict nor suffer harm are without either justice or injustice; and likewise for those peoples who either could not or would not form binding agreements not to inflict nor suffer harm.

  3. There never was such a thing as absolute justice, but only agreements made in mutual dealings among men in whatever places at various times providing against the infliction or suffering of harm.

~ Epicurus, Principal Doctrines

Comment by jfm on Irrational Upvotes · 2010-11-01T15:38:34.708Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I generally don't trust karma systems on discussion/comment sites, period. They seem to tend over time to get subverted into one of several different failure modes:

  • Enforcement of group-think
  • Status games unrelated to site/discussion content
  • Mechanical manipulation of karma thresholds for the lulz ^W ^W trolling purposes

I was going to mention examples of each from other sites, but decided that that wasn't very useful, because it would require familiarity with those sites, and possibly inspire quibbling over particular cases. I haven't been around Less Wrong long enough to observe how well it works here.