Searle’s Chinese Room and the Meaning of Meaning 2019-08-06T04:09:25.824Z · score: 0 (2 votes)
Occam's Razor: In need of sharpening? 2019-08-01T13:36:09.780Z · score: 2 (4 votes)


Comment by jimdrix_hendri on Occam's Razor: In need of sharpening? · 2019-08-08T21:16:30.770Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have the impression that Solomonoff Induction provides a precise procedure to a very narrow set of problems with little practical applicability elsewhere.

How would you use Solomonoff Induction to choose between the two alternative theories mentioned in the article: one based on Newton's Force Laws, the other based on the principle of least action. (Both theories have the same range of validity and produce the identical results).

Comment by jimdrix_hendri on Occam's Razor: In need of sharpening? · 2019-08-06T01:20:50.015Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

HI Raemon,

I'm gratified to see my humble contribution receive attention, including from you. I'm learning. So thanks.

This is my first independent posting (I've commented before) and I didn't notice it appearing in the front page "latest posts". I understand you are a LW organisor. Can you help me understand the trigger criteria for an article to appear under "latest posts"? Thanks a lot! JH

Comment by jimdrix_hendri on Occam's Razor: In need of sharpening? · 2019-08-03T02:49:25.396Z · score: 0 (3 votes) · LW · GW

hi habryka,

It wasn't my purpose to open a discussion of interpretation of quantum mechanics. I only took this as an example.

My point is something else entirely: scientists have been leaning very heavily on William of Occam for a long while now. But try to pin down what they mean by a the relative complexity of an explanation, and they shrug their shoulders.

It's not even the case that scientists disagree on which metric to apply. (That would just be normal business!) But, as far as I know, no one has made a serious effort to define a metric. Maybe because they can't?

A very unscientific behaviour indeed!

Comment by jimdrix_hendri on Occam's Razor: In need of sharpening? · 2019-08-03T02:41:37.616Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Raemon, I understand your remark. But I've detected another problem. I've dropped the ball by posting my reply to the wrong remark. So, I'm going to have to do some cutting and pasting. Please bear with me.

The EY article really is super long (but interesting) and seems to go all over the place. I'd like to do habryka the courtesy of an answer reasonably promptly. I hope I'm not out of order by asking habryka for guidance about what is on his mind.

Comment by jimdrix_hendri on Occam's Razor: In need of sharpening? · 2019-08-03T02:24:54.408Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The idea of counting postulates is attractive, but it harbours a problem which reminds me of a story. There once was an editor assigned to review an article. The editor was conscientious and raised 15 questions. But his boss thought this was too many and would only permit five questions. Now the editor cared about his points, so he kept them by generous application of the conjunctive: "and".

We could come up formal requirements to avoid anything as crude as the editor's behaviour. But, I think we'd still find that each postulate encapsulates many concepts, and that a fair comparison between competing theories should consider the relative complexity of the concepts as well. So, we are still far away from assigning each theory a numerical complexity score.

A more serious problem is that a postulate count differs from what we usually mean by complexity, which generally reflects in some sense the heterogeneity and volume of considerations that go into applying a theory. Ptolemy's and Newton's model of the solar system give similar results. It's true that Ptolemy's theory is more complex in its expression. But even if its expression were simpler, I'd still label Newton's theory simpler, since the Ptolemaic theory requires many more steps to apply.

Comment by jimdrix_hendri on Occam's Razor: In need of sharpening? · 2019-08-03T02:07:55.348Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Help me out here, habryka.

I've read part way through the article. The first paragraph seemed to be carrying on a continuing conversation (John Searle comes to mind). Then it seemed to change direction abruptly, addressing a problem in mechanism design, namely how to assign payoffs so as to incentivise an agent in a certain game to be honest about his predictions.

These are interesting topics, but I struggle to see the relevance.

EY's article is also very long. I haven't read it to the end. Can you point out where to look or, better, summarise the point you were making?

Thanks a lot!

Comment by jimdrix_hendri on A Technical Explanation of Technical Explanation · 2019-08-03T01:56:45.817Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW · GW

EY writes:

the ordinary or colloquial way of speaking about degrees of belief, where someone might casually say, “I’m 98% certain that canola oil contains more omega-3 fats than olive oil.” What they really mean by this is that they feel 98% certain—there’s something like a little progress bar that measures the strength of the emotion of certainty, and this progress bar is 98% full. And the emotional progress bar probably wouldn’t be exactly 98% full, if we had some way to measure. The word “98%” is just a colloquial way of saying: “I’m almost but not entirely certain.”

I suspect something like this really is what most people have in mind when they speak about degrees of surety. But that is not to deny there is a simple, intuitive way one can interpret such sentences, and it isn't necessary to take a rocky detour to consider hypothetical repetitions of "similarly difficult questions".

What I mean when I say I am 98% sure in the oil question, is that I'd be equally indifferent about accepting either side of the bet about which oil has the greater omega-3 content providing I was given odds 98:2 (assuming risk neutrality).

Comment by jimdrix_hendri on Does it become easier, or harder, for the world to coordinate around not building AGI as time goes on? · 2019-08-01T12:44:57.594Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Hi elityre, and thanks for responding.

I am no certainly no expert, but I do know there is legislation - both national and international - regulating to genetic research. Quick queries to Professor Google delivered two international agreements that appear relevant:

o Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the

o International Declaration on Human Genetic Data

Both are older documents which establish a kind of precedent for a basic framework for how national governments can cooperate to regulate a rapidly changing and critically dangerous technology.

Another place to look would be the evolution of agreements on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; especially in the early years, when the political and technological application of e.g. nuclear weapons was still in flux.

Hope this helps.

Comment by jimdrix_hendri on Does it become easier, or harder, for the world to coordinate around not building AGI as time goes on? · 2019-07-31T14:46:11.536Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · LW · GW

elityre makes a sincere effort to examination of the question from the ground up. But this overlooks the work that's already been done in similar fields. A lot of what has been accomplished with regard to applied genetic research is likely to be transferable, for instance.

More generally, formal methods of safety engineering can provide a useful framework, when adapted flexibly to reflect novel aspects of the question.

Comment by jimdrix_hendri on The Real Rules Have No Exceptions · 2019-07-24T21:32:04.566Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One criterion for a procedure to be objective is that it can be carried out equally by anyone.

A procedure which includes a codicil: "Sometimes, I will step in and overturn the arrangement". Fails on three counts:

1 It fails to explicitly define the criteria for making interventions.

2 Nothing is said about the range of interventions that will be entertained.

3 It does not specify the means by which the type of intervention will be determined.

The name for this is dictat, and is almost always inappropriate and dangerous.

There are other ways of building in flexibility. For instance:

In cases many where the environment (causes) is very unpredictable, it is still possible to establish guidelines with reference to effects.

At the same time, the "rule" can explicitly state criteria for turning off the intervention, thereby reducing the risk that the intervention become a new normal.

Types of interventions can also be limited to a pre-existing list of alternatives, which can be criticised and vetted before the emergency is triggered.

Comment by jimdrix_hendri on Reason isn't magic · 2019-07-24T02:35:05.252Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

We should select comparisons aimed at the getting the best result, not to make things easy on ourselves:

What if the Europeans had thought: "Hmm. The natives are following a procedure we don't understand with regard to casava. Their explanation doesn't make sense according to our own outlook, but it is apparent that they have a lot of experience. It may pay to be prudent rather than disregarding their rituals as superstitions."

Had the Europeans taken this attitude, they may have discovered the toxicity of yucca, experimented with imitating the leaching procedure or, at least, have introduced it slowly, since reliance on a monoculture exposes a population to other risks as well. In either case, wouldn't the Africans likely have been better off?

In case this seems like a special case, consider the impact of the introduction of potatoes to Ireland. As for the long-term, unquantifiable dangers of introducing genetically modified species into the environment on a massive scale; only time will tell.

Comment by jimdrix_hendri on The Real Rules Have No Exceptions · 2019-07-24T02:10:40.656Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A good rule is an objective procedure that can be apply to derive a response to any foreseeable situation.

A look-up table is not a rule, for the same reason that a detailed table of planetary ephemerides is not a substitute for the law of gravity.

Nostalgebrist's suggestion cannot be considered a rule at all. It is not objective.

In the realm of psychology and politics, rules gain legitimacy when they are adhered to over a long period of time and when they are seen to consistently protect against bad outcomes.

There is a case for flexible interpretation, but an agent who abandons rules too frequently, and with slight incentive will eventually lose confidence in his ability to abide by rules. This was only hinted at in the original post, but it is a point worth making explicit.

Comment by jimdrix_hendri on What Cost for Irrationality? · 2015-11-14T16:38:55.699Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The example given for status quo bias is not necessarily indicative of impaired rationality. That are such things as hysteresis effects:

Consider the case of the family subject to frequent power outages. They will learn to adjust. This could be as simple as buying an alternative power source (generator). Or, perhaps they adopt their life to perform activities requiring no power whenever their is an outage. If you have already bought a generator, it might not be worth your while to pay a higher price for a more reliable power supply. Whereas the family accustomed to a stable supply faces capital cost associated with making an adjustment.

Comment by jimdrix_hendri on Break your habits: be more empirical · 2014-06-25T21:17:42.176Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You might be interested to learn that there is a large literature devoted to quantifying this effect: