Comment by lg on Penguicon & Blook · 2008-03-13T19:34:57.000Z · LW · GW

I'm guessing that merely having written similar material will not stop you from publishing, but it seems like a grey area and I am not an expert. I'd ask an agent or a publisher directly about the whole situation, and I'd do it sooner rather than later, because I'd hate to see any effort wasted.

Comment by lg on Penguicon & Blook · 2008-03-13T18:42:15.000Z · LW · GW

My wife is an author with an MFA in Creative Writing, and advanced degrees in math, who has published both fiction and math textbooks, so I vicariously know a lot about publishing. The potential problem that exists with your otherwise reasonable plan is that many (all?) publishers will balk at pre published material. You're talking about material that's here, in ebooks, and on lulu, before it ever passes over the publisher's desk -- that could be a big problem, you need to look into it.

Comment by lg on Leave a Line of Retreat · 2008-02-26T14:47:36.000Z · LW · GW

There's a common literary technique used in most storytelling in which the author writes alternating "up" and "down" scenes -- it provides pacing and context; it also allows us time to digest the "up" scenes.

It seems to me that the technique is appropriate here -- it might be worth making a goal for yourself to write a mathy post, then to follow up with a post on the same topic but without any math in it at all, except maybe references to the previous post. That would be an interesting exercise for you, I think. It's supposed to accessible work -- how accessible can you make it? Can you write about these mathy topics without numbers?

I don't know, but if you never try to do impossible things...

Comment by lg on Where to Draw the Boundary? · 2008-02-22T14:51:00.000Z · LW · GW

"You can't judge the usefulness of a definition without specifying what you want it to be useful for."

This was going to be my point:

"Once upon a time it was thought that the word "fish" included dolphins. Now you could play the oh-so-clever arguer, and say, "The list: {Salmon, guppies, sharks, dolphins, trout} is just a list - you can't say that a list is wrong. I can prove in set theory that this list exists. So my definition of fish, which is simply this extensional list, cannot possibly be 'wrong' as you claim."

Or you could stop playing nitwit games and admit that dolphins don't belong on the fish list."

I totally see your point, but I think it's worth exploring why the "nitwit" set is plausible, and why you feel the best defense against a cheeky definition is is an ad hom.

In this instance, I think the answer is that you're drawing the boundary line for one reason, and they are being twitty and drawing the boundary line arbitrarily just because they think the rules of logic allow them to do so with impunity (ad hom away).

However, I can think of a legitimate reason to draw the boundary in the nitwit way: what if I want a label whose members are all creatures that live in water and use fins to propel themselves? That's a legitimate category, but it certainly isn't a boundary appropriate for the word "fish," which has taxonomical implications, as well as physiological implications more complex than "has fins."

It may be worth pointing out to the nitwit that he's drawn a logically valid boundary, but it's not the territory you're talking about. Allow him his Fishoids, but steer the conversation back to creatures who have gills and lay eggs. Ideally you can get away with convincing the nitwit to re label HIS category so you can use the real fish label to avoid confusion, but in the interests of continuing a productive conversation, you might consider relabeling the boundary you mean to something neutral ("Gill Creatures"), that your opponent won't be so comfortable changing arbitrarily.

Comment by lg on Typicality and Asymmetrical Similarity · 2008-02-08T14:16:00.000Z · LW · GW

Cal, the whole point of the post is to introduce the idea of the prototype model versus Aristotelian model of cognition. The stated purpose of the blog is to be at least 50% accessible to the public, and the posts are headed toward amalgamation into a popular book, not a technical book. The point wasn't to rigorously support or defend the prototype model as such -- I would imagine that that has been done in many other places (maybe Eli could post some sources for your research). The point here was to expose it to a larger audience.

In the light of the larger audience, the bird prototype doesn't have to be defined with any particular level of technical accuracy -- robins versus ducks is true a priori; it's accessible to an average reader. It would hurt the overall work to beat that horse, because it's not aimed at a professional, it's not a dissertation, it's an explanation aimed at the lowest common denominator.

My point is that you're missing the point here, Cal. Rip apart falsity here, by all means, but don't think you're the only reader who realizes that it's perfectly plausible that a robin could spread a disease to a duck but not visa versa -- I realize that, and I bet most of the people who read the post also realized that, but it's ridiculous to think that a statistically significant proportion of the population, randomly selected to answer a question like that, would have any knowledge of the specific disease pathways between robins and ducks that would skew the results in any given way. Even if by some magical coincidence, enough people even realized there COULD be different pathways, there is no reason to expect that knowledge to skew the results toward one bird over another, without further explanation. Clearly there is a bias at work. If you don't think the evidence points toward the bias Eli was talking about, then explain why and offer a different hypothesis.

You keep saying we're blind to the errors and biases written here, but I think you don't realize that everyone sees most of what you post, but we choose not to post it, because we don't want to be pedantic. We're trying to digest the meat of the information, and we understand who the intended audience is.

Comment by lg on Typicality and Asymmetrical Similarity · 2008-02-07T21:17:41.000Z · LW · GW

Lee, you're confusing the map with the territory, to borrow Eli's phrasing. Percentages are just a convenient way to label the ratio, or difference, between values, but they are not precisely the difference, just an arbitrary representation.

Comment by lg on Typicality and Asymmetrical Similarity · 2008-02-07T14:37:54.000Z · LW · GW

They can moderate comments, but Cal occasionally makes a (cantankerously phrased) good point, so I doubt that they will.

Comment by lg on OB Meetup: Millbrae, Thu 21 Feb, 7pm · 2008-02-01T14:25:36.000Z · LW · GW

I wish, but I'm not in the Bay Area until the summer probably. Maybe next time!

Comment by lg on Allais Malaise · 2008-01-21T14:11:47.000Z · LW · GW

This is interesting. When I read the first post in this series about Allais, I thought it was a bit dense compared to other writing on OB. It occurred to me that you had violated your own rule of aiming very, very low in explaining things.

As it turns out, that post has generated two more posts of re-explanation, and a fair bit of controversy.

When you write that book of yours, you might want to treat these posts as a first draft, and go back to your normal policy of simple explanations 8)

Comment by lg on Absolute Authority · 2008-01-08T14:12:04.000Z · LW · GW

Ian, your God argument doesn't follow:

1) Objects behave in certain, predictable ways 2) God can make objects behave arbitrarily 4) No objects behave arbitrarily 5) There is no God

Hidden argumentation:

3) Therefore, God WILL make things behave arbitrarily

You can't assume that an omnipotent God will behave in any particular way.

Comment by lg on The Fallacy of Gray · 2008-01-07T14:54:02.000Z · LW · GW

Robin, I think people tend to be enthusiastic when an idea they've known on a more or less intuitive level for a long time is laid out eloquently, and in a way they could see relaying to their particular audience. It's a form of relief, maybe.

So it's not so much "I like it because I agree with it," it's more "I like it because I knew it before but I could never explain it that well."

/unscientific guessing

Comment by lg on Cultish Countercultishness · 2007-12-30T01:20:47.000Z · LW · GW

You should ask those people what a cult is. They won't be able to answer, and they may just realize that their question was nonsense to begin with.

Comment by lg on The Litany Against Gurus · 2007-12-19T15:04:34.000Z · LW · GW

Maybe I'll take up the mantle of adversary, Eli, when the circumstances are right. You are far ahead, but I think I can catch up. Who else will do learn and over take, instead of idly chatting?

Comment by lg on Misc Meta · 2007-12-11T16:24:41.000Z · LW · GW

That bay area meetup sounds fun, but I'll only be in town from the 20th to the 26th. I'll look out if you decide to change the time!

Comment by lg on The Robbers Cave Experiment · 2007-12-10T15:25:39.000Z · LW · GW

I've thought that the single best thing that could happen our species is a hostile alien invasion (short of electronic transcendence, that is).

I don't feel this in/out group bias very strongly -- so I think it's possible to eliminate the mentality under certain circumstances. The question becomes, what are those circumstances, and how can they be reliably recreated?

Comment by lg on Lost Purposes · 2007-11-25T23:31:19.000Z · LW · GW

Tibba, when you are in a bar, do you see an attractive person and say to yourself, "I think I'll initiate sexualized body language, so that I can mate with that person, thereby increasing the frequency of my genes in future generations"?

There is another post addressing your incorrect objection, but I can't remember what it's called, maybe someone else can dig it up.

Comment by lg on Truly Part Of You · 2007-11-21T21:09:13.000Z · LW · GW

Very good post -- I think it'd be helpful to have a series of examples of knowledge being regenerated. Then people could really get your idea and use it.

Comment by lg on Evolving to Extinction · 2007-11-16T18:47:12.000Z · LW · GW

Unknown, you're making the assumption that the entity or entities in question will continue to replicate in a fundamentally similar manner to biological organisms, and I think that's a flawed assumption. My person bias is toward believing that an AI would not so much replicate, as envelope. Even if I am wrong, Eliezer's previous points about our concept of intelligence being a very small portion of the space of possible intelligences holds here.

Comment by lg on Evolving to Extinction · 2007-11-16T14:51:32.000Z · LW · GW

Do you think your AI research has implications for this situation? It seems to me that going from our idiot god, toward self-engineering intelligence is a step up by an order of magnitude, so that such a "metaengineer" could, in fact, choose to optimize for species survival, or some other virtue that it chose.

I think the notion of "species" for a superintelligence doesn't really follow because I don't see the idea of "individual" surviving unambiguously in such a scenario, but I think my question still makes some sense: if evolution kills its creations by selecting for short term individual fitness at the expense of the species, do you think the next step of life, having been intelligently designed, will change the nature of that problem entirely?

Comment by lg on Professing and Cheering · 2007-10-31T16:21:47.000Z · LW · GW

I think I can shed some light on her behavior. In the view of religious people in the mystical traditions which paganism tries to emulate (with varying degrees of success, but that's beside the point), the world is vast and beckoning, yet our faculties are barely adequate to scratch the surface.

A mystic, or even a skeptic, sees our thoughts and perceptions of the world as metaphors in themselves, which become more and more deeply abstracted. Our vision and sense of space has a "metaphorical" relationship to the actual, physical reality that we find ourselves in. In the same sense, language and mathematics (math is a subset of language, but I thought it was worth singling out) have a metaphorical relationship to the raw universe.

The point of mysticism is to snap one's consciousness out of the notion that what you experience in day to day living can be trusted, and it calls for the mystic to look more closely at what experience really is: a useful metaphor for what is actually taking place in the universe around us.

So it seems that what this woman was trying to do was at least two "layers" deep. The first, most obvious layer, is that she was emphasizing the ridiculousness of taking the story literally, to force the audience to consider it as a useful metaphor. The deeper message she was conveying by making it clear that what she was saying was not to be taken literally, was a wake up call. It was a call for the audience to think in a fundamentally different way: not only is this creation myth a metaphor representing psychological and physical phenomena, but those phenomena themselves must be examined as metaphors.

She was trying to train the audience members' brains to think mystically. And appropriately enough she did it in an abstract, almost metaphorical sort of way, that the concrete thinkers here totally missed. Biases abound!