Comment by Mario on Post ridiculous munchkin ideas! · 2013-05-16T02:17:30.353Z · LW · GW

I can't believe that this is something people talk about. I've had a group of people in my head for years, complete with the mindscape the reddit FAQ talks about. I just thought I was a little bit crazy; it's nice to see that there's a name for it.

I can't imagine having to deal with just one though. I started with four, which seemed like a good idea when I was eleven, and I found that distracting enough. Having only one sounds like being locked in a small room with only one companion -- I'd rather be in solitary. I kept creating more regardless, and I finally ended up with sixteen (many of those only half-formed, to be fair), before I figured out how to get them to talk amongst themselves and leave me alone. Most are still there (a few seem to have disappeared), I just stay out of that room.

My advice would be to avoid doing this at all, but if you do, create at least two, and give them a nice room (or set of rooms) to stay in with a defined exit. You'll thank me later.

Comment by Mario on Optimal Employment · 2011-02-12T06:10:56.551Z · LW · GW

Sorry this is so late, but I honestly completely forgot about this after I wrote it, so I never came back to see what transpired.

Anyway, I'm aware of how the marginal propensity to consume affects tax incidence, but in this case, where payroll taxes apply to every employee at every business, the only choices involved are whether to work and whether to hire, and companies have far more leeway in that decision. You can avoid the fizzlesprot tax by consuming an untaxed equivalent or finding a different, fizzlesprotless sexual fetish. You can only avoid a payroll tax by being unemployed; in practice, I don't think there is such a thing as one's marginal job. By contrast, employers look at the tax as part of the cost of hiring an additional employee, and simply won't hire the marginal worker if his or her cost is above the expected benefit. I can't imagine a situation where any significant portion of a payroll tax (as opposed to the corporate income tax) falls on the employer, so I didn't bring it up.

Comment by Mario on Optimal Employment · 2011-02-01T18:09:28.480Z · LW · GW

I need to quibble with the "compulsory retirement savings" point. Realistically, any amount that the government forces the employer to contribute as a condition to hire you is money that would have otherwise been given to you as wages. There is no way to increase someone's value by fiat, so it's misleading to suggest that you somehow gain from the tax (apart from the social value of the retirement scheme). Also, the US SS withholding is 12.4% of income, as half of it is paid by the employer before the employee sees the funds but, as discussed, both halves are really paid by employees through lower wages (7.65% (x2) would include Medicare taxes, which I don't think you should include without including all of Australia's other taxes that contribute to their Medicare, like GST and tariffs).

Comment by Mario on You Be the Jury: Survey on a Current Event · 2009-12-09T23:02:30.712Z · LW · GW

I was unfamiliar with the case. After checking out both links for quite some time, but prior to reading the comments, I estimated:

  1. 80% (Knox)
  2. 60% (Sollecito)
  3. 95% (Guede)
  4. 90% (confidence in coincidence)

After reading the comments, I was a little surprised that the consensus seems to be decidedly against Knox's guilt. The simplest explanation is that I'm just not a very good rationalist, but I don't find that very satisfying. The four parts of the story that I felt were inconsistent with Knox being innocent were:

  1. Knox's initial account of the night. I tend to believe confessions; it's a weakness of mine. With the exception of the wrong black man being implicated, I think the major thrust of it was true. Complete innocence would mean that the entire account was made up, which seems hard to believe, even if under heavy police questioning.
  2. The bra was removed after Kercher's death. Would Guede have done that? I think that evidence is much more consistent with someone cleaning up after the fact.
  3. The body was covered. This is inconsistent with the actions of a rapist/murderer, but very much what you would expect of someone who had a close relationship with the deceased.
  4. Knox did not flush the toilet. She says that she noticed that the toilet contained a deposit, yet she walked away without flushing. Why?

I'm not sure what role Knox had in Kurcher's murder, but I feel very confident that she (and likely, but not necessarily, Sollecito) knew about the murder long before the police were called, and moved to cover it up. I can't see that as anything other than a sign of guilt, unless my understanding of the evidence itself is wrong (which is certainly possible). I can understand if some feel the need for the motive to make sense to find in favor of guilt, but according to Knox's initial account, she was stoned at the time -- which lowers my personal threshold for the expectation of rational action.

Comment by Mario on Open Thread: December 2009 · 2009-12-05T20:33:14.270Z · LW · GW

I'm looking for a particular fallacy or bias that I can't find on any list.

Specifically, this is when people say "one more can't hurt;" like a person throwing an extra piece of garbage on an already littered sidewalk, a gambler who has lost nearly everything deciding to bet away the rest, a person in bad health continuing the behavior that caused the problem, etc. I can think of dozens of examples, but I can't find a name. I would expect it to be called the "Lost Cause Fallacy" or the "Fallacy of Futility" or something, but neither seems to be recognized anywhere. Does this have a standard name that I don't know, or is it so obvious that no one ever bothered to name it?

Comment by Mario on Absolute denial for atheists · 2009-07-17T03:38:55.834Z · LW · GW

I have a theory about alcohol consumption; I call people who like (or don't mind) the taste "tongue blind." My theory is that these people have such poor taste receptors that they need an overly strong stimulus to register anything other than bland. Under this theory, I would expect people that like alcohol to also like very spicy food, to put extra salt most things they eat, and to think that vanilla is a synonym for plain.

Comment by Mario on The First Koan: Drinking the Hot Iron Ball · 2009-05-07T21:05:09.682Z · LW · GW

Am I the only one that has always assumed that story was a joke epically misunderstood? If the monk had instead asked, "What is the nature of a dog's path to enlightenment?" I think Joshu would have answered "Rough."

Comment by Mario on The mind-killer · 2009-05-04T19:06:04.796Z · LW · GW

Not unnatural, obviously, but a contaminant to intelligence. Manure is a great fertilizer, but you wash it off before you use the vegetable.

Comment by Mario on The mind-killer · 2009-05-04T02:30:54.470Z · LW · GW

Oh, I don't know that. What would remain of you if you could download your mind into a computer? Who would you be if you were no longer affected by the level of serotonin or adrenaline you are producing, or if pheromones didn't affect you? Once you subtract the biological from the human, I imagine what remains to be pure person. There should be no difference between that person and one who was created intentionally or one that evolved in a different species, beyond their personal experiences (controlling for the effects of their physiology).

I don't have any disagreement with Eliezer's description of how our biology molded our growth, but I see no reason why we should hold on to that biology forever. I could be wrong, however. It may not be possible to be a person without certain biological-like reactions. I can certainly see how this would be the case for people in early learning stages of development, particularly if your goal is to mold that person into a friendly one. Even then, though, I think it would be beneficial to keep those parts to the bare minimum required to function.

Comment by Mario on The mind-killer · 2009-05-03T23:17:45.523Z · LW · GW

I'm just trying to figure out under what circumstances we could consider a completely artificial entity a continuation of our existence. As you pointed out, merely containing our knowledge isn't enough. Human knowledge is a constantly growing edifice, where each generation adds to and build upon the successes of the past. I wouldn't expect an AI to find value in everything we have produced, just as we don't. But if our species were wiped out, I would feel comfortable calling an AI which traveled the universe occasionally writing McCartney- or Lennon-inspired songs "us." That would be survival. (I could even deal with a Ringo Starr AI, in a pinch.)

Comment by Mario on The mind-killer · 2009-05-03T21:45:52.614Z · LW · GW

I don't consider our innate biological tendencies the core of our being. We are an intelligence superimposed on a particular biological creature. It may be difficult to separate the aspects of one from the other (and I don't pretend to be fully able to do so), but I think it's important that we learn which is which so that we can slowly deemphasize and discard the biological in favor of the solely rational.

I'm not interested in what it means to be human, I want to know what it means to be a person. Humanity is just an accident as far as I'm concerned. It might as well have been anything else.

Comment by Mario on The mind-killer · 2009-05-03T21:36:22.746Z · LW · GW

Preferred, absolutely. I just think that the survival of our knowledge is more important than the survival of the species sans knowledge. If we are looking to save the world, I think an AI living on the moon pondering its existence should be a higher priority than a hunter-gatherer tribe stalking wildebeest. The former is our heritage, the latter just looks like us.

Comment by Mario on The mind-killer · 2009-05-03T20:50:21.861Z · LW · GW

OK, I can see that. In that case, maybe a better metric would be the instrumental use of our accumulated knowledge, rather than its mere possession. Living in a library doesn't mean you can read, after all.

Comment by Mario on The mind-killer · 2009-05-03T19:57:25.820Z · LW · GW

The squirrel civilization would be a pretty impressive achievement, granted. The destruction of this particular species (humans) would seemingly be a tremendous loss universally, if intelligence is a rare thing. Nonetheless, I see it as only a certain vessel in which intelligence happened to arise. I see no particular reason why intelligence should be specific to it, or why we should prefer it over other containers should the opportunity present itself. We would share more in common with an intelligent squirrel civilization than a band of gorillas, even though we would share more genetically with the latter. If I were cryogenically frozen and thawed out a million years later by the world-dominating Squirrel Confederacy, I would certainly live with them rather than seek out my closest primate relatives.

EDIT: I want to expand on this slightly. Say our civilization were to be completely destroyed, and a group of humans that had no contact with us were to develop a new civilization of their own concurrent with a squirrel population doing the same on the other side of the world. If that squirrel civilization were to find some piece of our history, say the design schematics of an electric toothbrush, and adopt it as a part of their knowledge, I would say that for all intents and purposes, the squirrels are more "us" than the humans, and we would survive through the former, not the latter.

Comment by Mario on The mind-killer · 2009-05-03T19:49:18.260Z · LW · GW

If I implied that, it was unintentional. All I mean is that I see no reason why we should feel a kinship toward humans as humans, as opposed to any species of people as people. If our civilization were to collapse entirely and had to be rebuilt from scratch, I don't see why the species that is doing the rebuilding is all that important -- they aren't "us" in any real sense. We can die even if humanity survives. By that same token, if the paperclip AI contains none of our accumulated knowledge, we go extinct along with the species. If the AI contains some our of knowledge and a good degree of sentience, I would argue that part of us survives despite the loss of this particular species.

Comment by Mario on The mind-killer · 2009-05-03T18:48:25.732Z · LW · GW

I agree generally, but I think when we talk about wiping out humanity we should include the idea that if we were to lose a significant portion of our accumulated information it would be essentially the same as extinction. I don't see a difference between a stone age tech. group of humans surviving the apocalypse and slowly repopulating the world and a different species (whether dogs, squirrels, or porpoises) doing the same thing.

Comment by Mario on Why Support the Underdog? · 2009-04-05T09:49:30.688Z · LW · GW

I don't think it is necessarily true that merely by joining the faction most likely to win you will share in the spoils of victory. Leaders distribute rewards based on seniority more than support. In a close contest, you would likely be courted heavily by both sides, providing a temporary boost in status, but that would disappear once the conflict is over. You will have not earned the trust of the winner since your allegiance was in doubt. I don't think there is much to gain by joining the larger side late; you'll be on the bottom of society once the dust settles, trusted by neither the winners nor the losers.

In cases like this, I think the operative value evolution would select for is not political success but sexual success. Being one of many followers does nothing to advertise ourselves as desirable mates. On the other hand, bravely fighting a losing battle (as long as you don't die in the process) signals both physical prowess (which you may not get in a lopsided victory) and other desirable traits, like courage. When the battle is over, one can assume that more money and women would be distributed to the new elite, but their children will be yours.

Comment by Mario on 3 Levels of Rationality Verification · 2009-03-15T22:03:17.342Z · LW · GW

True, but I think that would be a problem with any test. I'm just trying to find a way around it since I think that as you add ways to avoid gaming, you both complicate and weaken the test. Perhaps a solution would be to test people without their knowledge, and reveal whether they succeeded or not at a later date.

Comment by Mario on 3 Levels of Rationality Verification · 2009-03-15T18:39:21.855Z · LW · GW

Yes. I wasn't offering that particular formulation as a rationality test, just the idea that you should hide from the testee the nature of the test.

Comment by Mario on 3 Levels of Rationality Verification · 2009-03-15T17:58:55.416Z · LW · GW

I get the feeling that the real problem here is repeatability. It's one thing to design a test for rationality, it's another to design a test that could not be gamed once the particulars are known. Since it probably isn't possible to control the flow of information in that way, the next-best option might be to design a test so that the testing criteria would not be understood except by those who pass.

I'm thinking of a test I heard about years ago. The teacher passes out the test, stressing to the students to read the instructions before beginning. The instructions specify that the answer to every question is C. The actual questions on the test don't matter, of course, but it's a great test of reading comprehension and the ability to follow instructions. Plus, the test is completely repeatable. All of the test questions could leak out, and still only those who deserve to pass would do so. If you are willing to assume that people who pass would not be willing to cheat (unlikely in this test, possible in a rationality test), then you would have an ungameable test.

A rationality test in this model might be one where an impossible task is given, and the correct response would be to not play.

Comment by Mario on Really Extreme Altruism · 2009-03-15T10:58:33.485Z · LW · GW

I think, then, that the harm associated with this man's suicide would have to take into account the rise in premiums he would be forcing on people in similar situations. His death may increase the amount a similar man would have to pay, decreasing the likelihood that he could afford insurance and increasing the harm that man's death would cause his dependents. Over time, those effects could swamp any short-term benefit to the charity.

Comment by Mario on Closet survey #1 · 2009-03-15T10:51:36.625Z · LW · GW

I don't think this qualifies as a belief; it's just something I have noticed.

My dreams are always a collection of images (assembled into a narrative, naturally) of things I thought about precisely once the prior day. Anything I did not think about, or thought about more than a single time, is not included. I like to use this to my advantage to avoid nightmares, but I have also never had a sex dream. The fact that other people seem to have sex dreams is good evidence that my experience is rare or unique, but I have no explanation for it.

Comment by Mario on Is Santa Real? · 2009-03-14T12:57:08.752Z · LW · GW

I stopped lying, to the best of my ability, years ago. I've found, though, that as my lying skills have degraded, I have also partially lost the ability to consider my words before I speak and I have lost the knack for social pablum (although I may never have had that to begin with; tough to say).

When someone asks me how I am, I always answer "same as always." I would like to say that I do it so that I don't need to commit to a position with which I disagree, but the truth is that the words come out before I can figure out the normal, polite response.

Overall, I think that lying is a very valuable skill. Maybe it is like self-defense; something that you hope that you don't have to use, but is always good to have available.