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Comment by kateblu on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-05T02:28:20.023Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(with a smile) Perhaps we need to define definition. True that definitions are based on language. Also true, I believe, that if language is to communicate effectively, it will need commonly understood meanings for specific sounds/symbols. I may "see as red" what you "see as orange". My guess is that we both saw and could differentiate between colors before we knew the commonly accepted terms for them.

Comment by kateblu on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-03T00:57:35.692Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Definition is the basis of language. Without a common understanding of terms, there can be no discussion. Anything that has not been falsified is theory unless it is proven to be true. Without a common understanding of terms, how can we know that a statement has been proven false? Mathematics is the most rigorous language in the sense that there is nearly universal understanding of terms among professional mathematicians, but it is still a language. The answer to your question is unambiguous; if a dog has a set of appendages that we will call "Legs" that consists of four of what we commonly call legs plus one tail, then the number of elements in the set of "Legs" is equal to 5. We could say that the set L = {a,a,a,a,b). Either way, it is simply a matter of definition - not really a 'goofy game'.

Comment by kateblu on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-02T01:19:19.957Z · score: -6 (28 votes) · LW · GW
"If we define a religion to be a system of thought that contains unprovable statements, so it contains an element of faith, then Gödel has taught us that not only is mathematics a religion but it is the only religion able to prove itself to be one."

John Barrow, Pi in the Sky, 1992
Comment by kateblu on How confident should we be? · 2012-01-02T16:34:12.584Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Confidence is a state of mind. It is critical from the standpoint of motivation. Without confidence we would be paralyzed into inaction; we would be unable to turn decisions into structured consequences. We would be constantly "scoping the game plan" and never playing. However, confidence should not play a major role in making decisions. Cold rationality is key in two aspects of the decision process: (a) how important is the decision? (b) if the decision is important, what is the "outside view" ? (per Kahneman) The first decision, IMO, should be handled with an algorithm analogous to triage and requires ascertaining sufficient basic facts to determine what, in fact, is the decision that needs to be made and how long can the decision be deferred. In other words, part of the algorithm might be answering the question, 'what happens if we do nothing?' If the decision appears essentially trivial (i.e., should I buy a new chair and, if yes, should I buy the red chair or the blue), you don't need to get to (b). If a decision is important, you need to use cold rationality.

If I am dealing with a situation where the decision has already been made, I may be able to use learned skills and experience to determine how to act. Then the key question from the standpoint of confidence is whether the situation falls within the scope of my expertise, where I can be confident that my trained 'gut reaction' will be an appropriate response. If it is outside my area of expertise, I have no reason to be confident - although I may act like I am confident if success depends upon others trusting my abilities.

Regardless of how I may need to appear to others, I would never try to kid myself about my abilities. What may be missing in the above question - Should I believe hard that I can accomplish X regardless of the likelihood of success - are the foundational questions: Do I really have to try to accomplish X? Is there a reasonable alternative method that is more likely to be successful? Is there a reasonable alternative outcome Y that will give me the benefits I need from X with a greater chance of success. If the answers are Yes, No, No - then you have to believe in order to win, so throw the "Hail Mary" with total confidence.

Comment by kateblu on Just another day in utopia · 2011-12-25T16:18:17.663Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

True, but you must remember that it is HER adventure. She is the one who hit the "pause" button. Did he have the ability to say "No"? Was there a "pause" button that he could have hit before she did?

Comment by kateblu on Just another day in utopia · 2011-12-24T22:01:40.280Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think he wanted to create his eden without the assistance of machines. Since he has been at it apparently for centuries, he couldn't be totally natural.

Comment by kateblu on Just another day in utopia · 2011-12-24T12:49:55.837Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Magnificent. I gather one has an eternity to figure out his or her version of utopia and that physical death is an option. It's not quite clear to me whether Ishtar exists in manipulated multiverses or as an avatar with her brain in a vat, or ?

Comment by kateblu on [SEQ RERUN] The Fallacy of Gray · 2011-12-23T13:59:15.193Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Along the lines of the 'ambiguity of gray'? Or that something classified as gray can be said to be inherently undefined? To think about anything, it seems that we have to categorize it in some way. The category we choose unless it is a category of that one item, will be a model also used to describe things or concepts that differ in significant ways from the 'it' we are trying to think about. The fallacy of black and white might then be described as confusing the category with the item itself. The fallacy of gray would be a failure to recognize that gray is a non-category used for 'its' we have not yet been able usefully to categorize as properly belonging with other 'its' on one side of the spectrum or the other.

Comment by kateblu on [SEQ RERUN] The Fallacy of Gray · 2011-12-20T02:15:23.279Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thinking about the title of the post: why is gray a fallacy?

Comment by kateblu on [SEQ RERUN] The Fallacy of Gray · 2011-12-17T15:49:36.771Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I mean all bias. My working definition of bias is the set of assumptions we more or less rely on for most of our daily activity. In most of what I do, I don't have time or it's not worth the energy to scrutinize all the underlying assumptions that shape my reactions. But I can develop methodologies to identify when I need to be more critical of my assumptions and think before I act. I can also, I hope, learn to be a better analytical thinker and problem solver.

Comment by kateblu on [SEQ RERUN] The Fallacy of Gray · 2011-12-17T14:37:56.505Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Putting it another way: bias cannot be eliminated since it provides the mental structure used by the brain to organize data. Bias can be described as the operating system built by the brain as it functions. From what I have read, certain responses are hardwired, so to speak, into our brains by selective adaptation. We each have to have a point of view, a place where the individual receives initial limited sets of data, and a system to turn the data into thoughts, measurements, reactions or opinions. As we learn to recognize our biases and how they can lead us to serious errors in our interpretation of data, we hope to be able to make better decisions. I think most people registered on this website would agree that the goal of better decisions is both worthy and possible.

Looking at this statement from a different point of view, all measurements are seemingly on a continuum that regresses to some theoretical limit depending upon how finely grained is your measuring rod. My understanding of modern realism is that the absolute or limit – be it infinity or the concept of a point particle or perfectly black – does exist in some independent real world. Does the lead statement refer to our perceptions of black and white or does it refute the possibility of perfectly black or white in an independent real world? On another level, does the possibility of perfectly black or white in an independent real world even matter? Most people agree that at some point on the spectrum, gray can usefully be called black. Shouldn’t the focus of our moral judgment be aimed at the shifting line dividing more black from more white?

Comment by kateblu on Bostrom, "Existential Risk Prevention as the Most Important Task for Humanity" (Dec. 2011) · 2011-12-11T14:26:37.855Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I started reading "Existential Risk Prevention" and ended up in an article by Bostrom titled "Existential Risk". I will read both. One of the existential risks classified as a "Bang" is 4.3 We’re living in a simulation and it gets shut down:

"A case can be made that the hypothesis that we are living in a computer simulation should be given a significant probability [27]. The basic idea behind this so-called “Simulation argument” is that vast amounts of computing power may become available in the future (see e.g. [28,29]), and that it could be used, among other things, to run large numbers of fine-grained simulations of past human civilizations. Under some not-too-implausible assumptions, the result can be that almost all minds like ours are simulated minds, and that we should therefore assign a significant probability to being such computer-emulated minds rather than the (subjectively indistinguishable) minds of originally evolved creatures. And if we are, we suffer the risk that the simulation may be shut down at any time. A decision to terminate our simulation may be prompted by our actions or by exogenous factors."

A brief comment on this statement since it appears to be a real and present danger in the minds of many people: That God will destroy the earth is an existential threat perceived by adherents of a number of religions. The risk is managed by engaging in specified rituals or actions enabling the perception of the likelihood of the threat coming to fruition to be manipulated by those in power or seeking power. Related concepts are that God will not destroy or permit the destruction of ALL humans or that God will not permit the destruction of God’s creation. The first cedes enormous power to those who are perceived as holding the keys to salvation; the second is a rationalization for doing nothing.

Back to reading. Thank you for sharing this link.

Comment by kateblu on Rationality Quotes December 2011 · 2011-12-09T03:42:02.261Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

"If a theory has a lot of parameters, you adjust their values to fit a lot of data, and your theory is not really predicting those things, just accommodating them. Scientists use words like “curve fitting” and “fudge factors” to describe that sort of activity. On the other hand, if a theory has just a few parameters but applies to a lot of data, it has real power. You can use a small subset of the measurements to fix the parameters; then all other measurements are uniquely predicted. " Frank Wilczek

Comment by kateblu on Rationality Quotes December 2011 · 2011-12-09T03:27:31.322Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I held off reading this series (my children being in their 30s and having no grandchildren) until several months ago when I realized that just because I didn't watch television or go to many movies, I should not be totally left out of modern culture. And so I started the first year. I could not put these books down and more or less inhaled all seven as fast as I could. What an excellent choice of quotations for this thread.

Comment by kateblu on Rationality Quotes December 2011 · 2011-12-07T12:44:45.796Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Seeing how individual decisions are rational within the bounds of the information available does not provide an excuse for narrow-minded behavior. It provides an understanding of why that behavior arises. Within the bounds of what a person in that part of the system can see and know, the behavior is reasonable. Taking out one individual from a position of bounded rationality and putting in another person is not likely to make much difference. Blaming the individual rarely helps create a more desirable outcome. – Donella H Meadows

Comment by kateblu on Rationality Quotes December 2011 · 2011-12-07T03:14:55.119Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is 48 a statistically significant sample? Seriously, I do not take this quotation as factually correct. I am intrigued by the idea of logic set against imagination as I don't view them as necessarily opposing attributes. I am also amused at the idea of dividing the world into (a) poets and other creative artists and (b) chess players, mathematicians and cashiers. When I am amused I like to share - and I thought that was the point of this particular thread.

Comment by kateblu on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2011-12-07T02:52:15.700Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have no prior belief as to what this elephant looks like and I am continuously surprised and challenged by the various pieces that have to somehow fit into the overall picture. I don't worry whether my mental construct accords to Reality. I live with the fact that my limited understanding of quarks is probably not how they are understood by a particle physicist. But I am driven to keep learning more and somehow to fit it all together. Commenting helps me to articulate my personal theory of everything. But I need critical feedback from others to help me spot the inconsistencies. to force me not to be lazy, and to point out the gaps in my knowledge.

Comment by kateblu on Rationality Quotes December 2011 · 2011-12-07T02:22:08.392Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My example is local, or personal if you will, to avoid political controversy. As a general matter, I believe that everything one does or does not do will have a consequence that is, in its totality, both unpredictable and unknowable. Nevertheless, we have to make plans based upon the best predictions of which we are capable.

Comment by kateblu on Rationality Quotes December 2011 · 2011-12-06T12:55:58.094Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Responding to the idea of economic predictions:

Regardless of how challenging, we are required to engage constantly in making economic predictions. My boss asks me to do a what I view as a stupid task because (a) I do not perceive the utility or (b) I predict, based upon previous experience, that my boss will, in fact, make no use of my output; and performing this task will occupy time that I believe could be spent more productively. How I respond, whether and how conscientiously I perform this task, requires several economic decisions that are as important to me personally as whether the Federal Reserve decides to increase the fed fund rate. My action will be based upon predictions such as the downside if I don't do it or do a shoddy job; my future with the company; how others perceive my future in the company, how others perceive my boss, my prospects for employment with a different company, .... Many challenging assessments and predictions to make in a short period of time.

If I understand you correctly, Mass-Driver, I agree with you. I believe that competent, risk-based decision analysis is possible and when we employ such analysis, we make less disastrous economic decisions for ourselves and others.

Comment by kateblu on Rationality Quotes December 2011 · 2011-12-06T11:58:32.941Z · score: -4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Poets do not go mad; but chess players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers: but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination. G. K. Chesterton as quoted in John D. Barrow's 'Pi in the Sky'.

Comment by kateblu on Announcing the Quantified Health Prize · 2011-12-04T15:12:41.733Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think the presentation needs to include how to tailor the information for your own personal situation. A person with a mineral deficiency can receive enormous benefits from supplements but a person who does not have such a deficiency may receive no benefit or worse. You don’t need to be a Bayesian to understand that just because a mineral supplement will help a specific individual with a specific individual condition, it does not follow that more of that mineral will provide any benefit for a generic human without that condition or deficiency.

A place to start research might be with the minerals that are generally accepted as being important to maintaining bodily functions and the generally accepted minimum daily requirements of those minerals. In an ideal world, where would we get those minerals? Is that source available to me specifically in my current place and time? Is the availability of that mineral in my body impacted by medication? other foods? levels of physical activity? environmental degradation? my own health status? It seems to me that specific personal circumstances will be a major factor in determining whether supplements are needed. So I would like to read about how to evaluate my personal circumstances relative to my mineral needs as a generic human. That will help me determine whether to supplement specific minerals in my diet. Then I can determine the best way for me, in my circumstances, to ingest more of those minerals.

Being healthy is the goal. If one is healthy, I am not sure that one can become healthier in any abstract sense. I am, fortunately, healthy. In order to maintain my current favorable health status, common sense (not necessarily wrong) tells me to continue my current nutritional regimen – which includes a basic (non-mega) multi-vitamin/mineral supplement taken as a form of insurance since I can’t be certain that it provides any benefit. If I have to take medication for some reason, or if I engage in unusual physical activity or experience unusual life conditions, I try to understand how this will affect my normal balance and I try to compensate for the effect – possibly with nutritional supplements. How can I best compensate? The research described above would be really helpful.

Comment by kateblu on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2011-12-04T03:44:36.051Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Hello. I found this place as a result of reading Yudkowski's intuitive explanation of Bayes Theorem. I think we are like a very large group of blind people each trying to describe the elephant on the basis of the small part we touch. However, if I can aggregate the tactile observations of a large number of us blind people, I might end up with a pretty good idea of what that elephant looks like. That's my goal - to build a coherent and consistent mental picture of that elephant.