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Comment by joshua_fox on LW Update 3/14 – Community, Markdown and More · 2018-03-15T14:25:38.190Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How do we create a group? Please post a URL.

Comment by joshua_fox on Pretending to be Wise · 2009-02-21T20:33:29.000Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"Why does ancient Egypt, which had good records on many other matters, lack any records of Jews having ever been there?"

Of course the words "Jews" isn't used, but it is well-documented that West-Semites lived in Egypt. (They even ruled it for a while as the Hyksos dynasty.) There is also the Mernepthah Stele, with a small mention of "Israel."

Though we do have written records from ancient Egypt, they are nowhere near complete or consistent enough for the absence of evidence to be treated as useful evidence of absence.

Not that I'm claiming to be wise or anything.

Comment by joshua_fox on Against Maturity · 2009-02-19T06:51:46.000Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was being forced to memorize and recite

Without getting into the theological aspects, a good technique as part of learning a second language is memorizing a text, particularly one with a poetic structure (like many prayers), even before it can be fully understood.

We were given a transliteration, but not a translation. I asked what the prayer meant. I was told that I didn't need to know

That is an extremely unusual experience, except as a temporary stage of learning. In most Jewish circles, reading Hebrew in the original script is considered important, and it is believed that one does need to understand what texts mean.

Comment by joshua_fox on Value is Fragile · 2009-01-29T10:39:04.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What about "near-human" morals, like, say, Kzinti: Where the best of all possible words contains hierarchies, duels to the death, and subsentient females; along with exploration, technology, and other human-like activities. Though I find their morality repugnant for humans, I can see that they have the moral "right" to it. Is human morality, then, in some deep sense better than those?

Comment by joshua_fox on Failed Utopia #4-2 · 2009-01-21T16:41:13.000Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Another variation on heaven/hell/man/woman in a closed room: No Exit

Comment by joshua_fox on Imaginary Positions · 2008-12-23T20:00:14.000Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Minor point perhaps, but in the field I once studied, diachronic linguistics, people always want to know what the oldest language is, and no amount of explanation will convince them that there question is off-base.

Comment by joshua_fox on Chaotic Inversion · 2008-11-30T09:00:21.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Among the positive values of school, matriculation exams, college, grad school, the tenure system, and the career-track rat-race: In some cases they help motivate and bring out the best in people; even smart, creative people sometimes need that sort of external motivation.

(See also James Miller above.)

Comment by joshua_fox on The Weighted Majority Algorithm · 2008-11-13T21:04:42.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer, can you mathematically characterize those environments where randomization can help. Presumably these are the "much more intelligent than you, and out to get you" environments, but I'd like to see that characterized a bit better.

Comment by joshua_fox on Make an Extraordinary Effort · 2008-10-07T19:25:18.000Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

> "You should go to college and get a Master's degree and get a doctorate and publish a lot of papers on ordinary things -

scientists and investors won't listen to you otherwise." Even assuming that I tested out of the bachelor's degree... You can "test out of" every step to the ladder, and go straight to post-doc/professor equivalent by publishing multiple well-respected papers (and not necessarily on ordinary things) in top journals.

Comment by joshua_fox on My Naturalistic Awakening · 2008-09-25T13:07:27.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So do you now think that engineers can create a "Completely Alien Mind Design"? Do you have a feasible CAMD yourself?

I don't know if Eliezer2002 invented this reply on his own, or if he read it somewhere else. What about the concept of "optimization process"? Did you come to that idea yourself, or read about it elsewhere?

Comment by joshua_fox on My Naturalistic Awakening · 2008-09-25T11:03:00.000Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I've been stupid.

More generally, I'd like to see Overcoming Bias bloggers writing more about their current biases, either ones they struggle against, though not always successfully; or ones they have decided to surrender to.

Comment by joshua_fox on Brief Break · 2008-08-31T20:27:22.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

SIAI has a ... mixed attitude towards AIXI

That's the right attitude to have in general: Encourage good work, but be prepared to criticize it as well.

He calls AIXI "brain-malfunction-causing." I don't think he says that AIXI is a malfunction itself!

Comment by joshua_fox on The Gift We Give To Tomorrow · 2008-07-17T18:41:40.000Z · score: -2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

@Nick Tarleton "but if it is [arguing for something], it's arguing for the propagation of those parts of our psychology we really want to keep."

For many or most humans, to the extent that current religion is imperfect, the enhancement of spirituality is perhaps the most important goal for humanity. Of course, various groups do have variations on what they mean by religion, but worship of a god is very common

I wonder, then, if Eliezer's explanation/argument could be applied just as well to the preservation and encouragement of worship of the divine, though it would not fit well with the atheism advocated in his other articles.

Comment by joshua_fox on The Gift We Give To Tomorrow · 2008-07-17T09:38:53.000Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

If you replace "love" in this article with "theistic spirituality" -- another aspect of the human psychology which many, if not most, humans consider deeply important and beautiful -- and likewise replace mutatis mutandis other parts of the dialog, would it not just as well argue for the propagation of religion to our descendants?

Comment by joshua_fox on When Science Can't Help · 2008-05-15T08:10:06.000Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer wrote "This isn't the whole story..., but it will do for a start", and in the referenced post: "This I will not describe, for it would be a long tale and complicated. I ... knew not the teachings of Tversky and Kahneman."

I've seen tantalizing hints of this "long tale," but I'd love to see the whole story, even in summary. If nothing else, it would be quite in place in a blog on Overcoming Bias.

Comment by joshua_fox on Reductionism · 2008-03-16T08:34:30.000Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yet something in the real world makes it tractable to create the "map" -- to find those hidden class variables which enable Naive Bayes.

Comment by joshua_fox on Probability is in the Mind · 2008-03-12T17:27:00.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'd like to understand: Are frequentist "probability" and subjective "probability" simply two different concepts, to be distinguished carefully? Or is there some true debate here?

I think that Jaynes shows a derivation follownig Bayesian principles of the frequentist probability from the subjective probability. I'd love to see one of Eliezer's lucid explanations on that.

Comment by joshua_fox on Cultish Countercultishness · 2007-12-30T16:23:21.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The real fear is not that Singularitarianism is a cult, but that it is pseudo-science (with certain practical consequences), like ESP, Velikovskianism, or certain false nutritional beliefs.

A commonly proposed solution is to look at the evidence with a scientific (Bayesian?) mindset, but most of us are woefully unqualified to judge most scientific fields without an intensive study that we are not about to engage in.

Comment by joshua_fox on Argument Screens Off Authority · 2007-12-16T14:47:07.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Great stuff as always. Enhanced diagrams (beyond the simple ASCII ones), with clear labels, and even inline explanations, on nodes and edges, would make the Bayesian explanations much clearer.

Comment by joshua_fox on Affective Death Spirals · 2007-12-02T20:45:10.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've always thought it was silly to call great football players "heroes." But in fact, people can be heroes (in the sense of role models) in one area of life and not in others. You can admire and be inspired by a role model's athleticism, intellectual honesty, kindness, etc. even though these are not usually found all together in one person.

Comment by joshua_fox on Superhero Bias · 2007-12-01T22:19:52.000Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Part of the attraction of superheroes is their alpha male status: The warm glow we feel from power that protects us, the more the better. This is not quite the same thing as the halo effect.

Comment by joshua_fox on Lost Purposes · 2007-11-25T14:53:26.000Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

As always, well put. However, "Maybe you realized it was all madness, but I bet you did it anyway. You didn't have a choice, right?" Many students do have a terribly mercenary attitude. But a good number do voluntary study topics with no evident financial incentive.

"...I didn't need to know what the words meant, it would work anyway." That was a stupid thing for them to say. However, a common approach in these circumstances, similar but crucially different is "you don't need to know what the words mean now, just read them over and over as you gradually develop your understanding -- it's a good way to learn."

"..classroom time is now spent on preparing for tests..." Is there a better way of teaching, as proven by high-quality studies? (There may well be, but the question must be asked before dismissing the test-based approach.)

Comment by joshua_fox on Terminal Values and Instrumental Values · 2007-11-15T17:48:22.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Peter de Blanc

No. What other sorts of terminal values [other than moral] did you have in mind?

Well, one could have a terminal value of making themselves happy at all costs, without any regard for whether it harms others. A sadist could have the terminal value of causing pain to others. I wouldn't call those moral. I'm interested in a succinct differentiation between moral and other terminal values.

Comment by joshua_fox on Terminal Values and Instrumental Values · 2007-11-15T16:18:57.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Peter de Blanc "Huh? Considering only oneself is less general than considering everything."

Certainly. But can you give a succinct way of distinguishing moral terminal values from other terminal values?

Comment by joshua_fox on Terminal Values and Instrumental Values · 2007-11-15T12:11:44.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What is the difference between moral terminal values and terminal values in general? At first glance, the former considers other beings, whereas the latter may only consider oneself -- can someone make this more precise?

Comment by joshua_fox on Explainers Shoot High. Aim Low! · 2007-10-24T07:03:25.000Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In teaching or lecturing, I notice my own tendency, which I have since tried to correct, to avoid going over anything I had known for a long time and only mention the latest tidbit I'd learned. I attributed that to my own desire to avoid boredom and seek out important new insights. Also, through the well-known cognitive bias of projecting one's own mental state on others, I was subconsciously trying not to bore the students.

Comment by joshua_fox on The Crackpot Offer · 2007-09-08T19:10:39.000Z · score: 11 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I was not displaying ... any ... virtue

Most math teachers would be delighted if a student was able to understand Cantor's proof, think critically enough to search for a counter-proof, think creatively enough to describe a counter-proof (and based on different mathematical constructs at that), even though the proof was wrong at some critical steps.

This would be quite an achievement even for those who do not go on to the crucial last step of thinking self-critically enough to find the mistake in that "proof."

Comment by joshua_fox on Availability · 2007-09-06T10:17:43.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The following does not invalidate the argument in the posting, but:

Subjects thought that accidents caused about as many deaths as disease

I want to eliminate aging and death as much as anyone, but I would say that many deaths from disease in old age should be filed under "old age" rather than "disease." I wonder how the statistics work out if we look at it that way. (Or maybe Lichtenstein et al did so already.)

Comment by joshua_fox on Failing to Learn from History · 2007-09-01T20:45:36.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps this explains Hofstadter's puzzled reply to the Singularity, as for example at his 2006 Singularity Summit lecture. Although his thinking into the meaning of thought are surely insightful, it seems tinged at the end with a sense of that intelligence and the Singularity are Mysterious Phenomenon in the sense described above.

(However, it can sometimes hard to distinguish whether a speakeris saying "X is a Mysterious Phenomenon (in the sense above)," "X is something that I don't understand for now," and "I understand X, and so am filled with a sense of wonder.")

Comment by joshua_fox on Guessing the Teacher's Password · 2007-08-22T08:09:11.000Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

90% of anything is crud, including schools and perhaps the scholarly motivation of most students, but the better schools don’t teach the better students by rote learning.

The magic words, as you point out at the bottom of your essay, are helpful for getting one’s thoughts into the right part of science. Most people would have a train of thought that is not quite as reflective as what you described, something a bit more confused like:

  • "Heat conduction?"
  • Something to do with heat spreading out from hot to cold.
  • This is strange. The near side should be hotter.
  • Well, maybe the plate’s made of some weird material or something.

The teacher is posing a trick question, by requiring thought outside physics and in the area of teacherly psychology. This is a good way of reminding the students that all areas of science are connected. But good science works by creating models which are simplifications of the world. In a physics class, the model focuses on physics and not human psychology. Too many trick questions, and students will never learn the laws of thermodynamics, as they spend their brainpower trying to outwit the teacher.

Comment by joshua_fox on The Apocalypse Bet · 2007-08-16T08:55:13.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Someone who believes that a Singularity is likely at, say 2030, might save less for retirement than they otherwise would. I wonder if Singularitarians really do so?

(Some believe that the rich will be the first and only ones to afford the technologies of Transcendence. I don't believe that, but one who did might save up after all.)

Comment by joshua_fox on Religion's Claim to be Non-Disprovable · 2007-08-05T18:28:02.000Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

A peripheral correction:

They found out that, during the supposed time of the Exodus from Egypt, Egypt ruled Canaan. The tribes would have fled to find Pharaoh's armies already at the destination.

When Egypt ruled Canaan, it was through vassal kings and not with large garrisons (although there were occasional Egyptian governors and forts). Egyptian rule was weak, partial, and often broke down completely: There were kings opposed to Egypt, the vassals were not always loyal, and all kings were under attack from each other and from nomads. Some of these nomads may even be connected by name to the "Hebrews." It is not clear that Egypt would have truly "ruled" Canaan at certain dates which could be suggested for the Exodus.

None of this says that the precise Biblical story is true, nor damage your argument significantly, but the historical record does not suggest that flight from Egypt to Canaan would be quite so absurd as suggested here.

Comment by joshua_fox on Two More Things to Unlearn from School · 2007-07-17T01:51:11.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not all schools/universities are as grim as all that. I went to a small liberal arts university where research professors taught small classes, and although it wasn't perfect, the students who wanted to learn critical thought were encouraged by many professors to do so.

trusting authority. Learning critical thinking of great minds is a decent start on developing one's own, and closer than most students will ever get.

"Maybe I'd better ... consult another textbook, they'd fail all the courses they took that quarter."

I did that occasionally, and passed!

with a textbook chapter plus homework to be done every week - the courses are timed for frantic memorization, it's not possible to deeply chew over and leisurely digest knowledge in the same period.

Almost no one would have the mental discipline to use the extra time to digest the knowledge.

And don't put memorization down -- deeper thought needs to complement memorization, but cannot replace it.

A month later they would understand the material far better and remember it much longer - but one month after finals is too late

The ideal approach would have graded work on a course spread out over as long a time as possible: Twice-weekly exercises, weekly quizzes, monthly midterms, semesterly exams, year-end finals, and a summary test at the end of the degree, like many European universities. There would also be papers and reports. All these would have a significant weighting in the final grade.

This would encourage students to continually re-learn the material. Also, tests and other graded work are great ways to learn in themselves -- at least while they are doing them, students are exercising their brains to some extent.

And of course, it would not harm the students' grades, since grades can be made to fall into any curve, high or low as you please, whether or not you make the students re-learn the material.

The main barrier to this proposal is that educators don't want to put the effort into grading.

Eliezer, I hate to raise an ad hominem point, but how do you know what you know about formal schooling?


Comment by joshua_fox on One Life Against the World · 2007-05-20T12:16:11.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What if, as we approach the Singularity, it is provably or near-provably necessary to do unethical things like killing a few people or letting them die to avoid the worst of Singularity outcomes?

(I am not referring here to whether we may create non-Friendly AGI. I am referring to scenarios even before the AGI "takes over.")

Such scenarios seem not impossible, and creates ethical dilemmas along the lines of what Yudkowsky mentions here.

Comment by joshua_fox on The Martial Art of Rationality · 2006-11-23T15:40:26.000Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Why aren't there dojos that teach rationality?

They're called universities. My PhD adviser taught me to think rationally and caught many of the errors in my thinking, including those caused by biases. This eventually allowed me to catch many of my own errors.

No, it wasn't perfect. It was limited to one academic area and was not explicitly aimed at teaching rationality and overcoming biases. (Then again, martial-arts senseis do not teach their skills "explicitly", but by repetition and training.) Moreover, gaining subject-matter expertise took as much of the effort as learning rational thinking processes. But a PhD in a rigorous field from a good university is as close as you'll find to a "color belt" (dare I say "black belt"?) in rationality.