A Christmas topic: I have thoughts regarding Chanukah and need logic help from Atheists 2010-12-25T14:24:40.784Z · score: 0 (5 votes)
What do you mean by rationalism? 2010-12-16T19:27:11.084Z · score: 2 (7 votes)


Comment by marius on The Baby-Eating Aliens (1/8) · 2011-11-30T10:50:59.028Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There is enough food for all starving human children. The existence of starving children has much more to do with corruption than with production.

Comment by marius on Rationality Quotes November 2011 · 2011-11-29T21:31:10.645Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No, but the people who believed in the Greek deities also typically believed those deities were heavily invested in immediate mortal conflicts and highly sensitive to slights. Those Greeks would have expected some protection for the bird or retaliation against Meshullam. Seeing none would provide evidence that the bird was not a favorite of any of their deities.

Comment by marius on LW Philosophers versus Analytics · 2011-11-29T18:45:57.787Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Each question will at least be held at 2 to 1 odds amongst professional philosophers, i.e., if more than 2/3s of professional philosophers agree, we won't bother. So as to not waste our time with small fish."

This is cheating, of course. You are comparing group A to group B on questions specifically selected for their difficulty to group B. Instead, it would be more fair to find open problems in fields that haven't received much attention from professional academic philosophers.

Comment by marius on Model Uncertainty, Pascalian Reasoning and Utilitarianism · 2011-06-14T16:11:58.389Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The person need not even be self-serving. All people respond to incentives, and since publishing popular results is rewarding (in fame; often financially as well) the creators of novel arguments will become more likely to believe those arguments.

Comment by marius on Rationality Quotes: June 2011 · 2011-06-14T15:54:46.701Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Nietzsche can't know what the Superman will look like - nobody can. But he provides a great deal of assistance: he is extremely insightful about what people are doing today (well, late 1800s, but still applicable), how that tricks us into behaving and believing in certain ways, and what that means.

But he wrote these insights as poetry. If you wanted an argument spelled out logically or a methodology of scientific inquiry, you picked the wrong philosopher.

Comment by marius on Your Evolved Intuitions · 2011-05-09T16:14:05.857Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The first two are excellent examples. Thanks!

Comment by marius on Your Evolved Intuitions · 2011-05-05T21:23:16.243Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If Buller is to be believed that's another postdiction. The sort of studies I want to see would compare two groups who aren't known to be distinct. An example: Group A and B evolved in different environments and should display some difference in behavior. They have different rates of intron fragments G and H Now look at apparently-homogenous group X, who do not believe they have A or B ancestry. Compare X with intron G to X with intron H and find the predicted behavior difference.
Do we have studies at that level?

Comment by marius on Your Evolved Intuitions · 2011-05-05T20:56:49.160Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Buller claims that the statistics come from police reports and that the police had previously been trained to look for stepparents as a source of child abuse. If so, 1 this was well known by nonpsychologists and 2 the magnitude of the effect may be overstated. Is there a problem with this critique?

Comment by marius on Your Evolved Intuitions · 2011-05-05T18:14:31.752Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, update my cache: you listed 7 bold postdictions; please list some bold predictions.

Its true that not all science is prospective, but you need to at least avoid looking at the data when making hypotheses you will then test against that data. Often we divide a data set to do this. Its much easier to do this with quantitative hypotheses than qualitative ones.

Comment by marius on Your Evolved Intuitions · 2011-05-05T17:30:14.709Z · score: 9 (15 votes) · LW · GW

It is cheating to make predictions that are actually postdictions. To test hypotheses we have to look at questions for which we don't have information and then test those questions by gathering new information. A lot of the "evolutionary psychology" are really "Just So" stories without this kind of hypothesis testing.

Comment by marius on Phoenix Less Wrong Meetup- Saturday, 5-7-11, 5pm · 2011-05-05T16:01:10.766Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Its true that there are no universal preferences, but ability is about as universal as you can get. The deaf community doesn't prefer deafness to hearing, they just like having a community. If they genuinely preferred deafness to hearing they'd advocate destroying their hearing infants' eardrums... but in fact they find that idea abhorrent. The existence of transabled has nothing to do with preferences, only with identity. The only major groups that prefer disability to ability are the practitioners of female genital mutilation... and their attitudes toward sexuality are pretty disordered.

I certainly agree that its important to avoid treating the disabled as having lower value as people but I don't see how calling situations lame makes me devalue lame people and see them as a disability rather than as a person. I also don't know what that has to do with sidewalk ramps. Surely that has more to do with efficient resourse allocation vs a desire to increase inclusivity... I don't think the proper balance is obvious at all.

Now I certainly agree its important to value disabled people just like abled

Comment by marius on The Amazing Virgin Pregnancy · 2011-05-03T22:52:09.814Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Our culture certainly does like to slap around those whose arguments are inconsistent... to the point that I suspect more consistent moral codes are consistent because the arguer is striving for consistency over truth than because they've discovered moral truths that happen to be consistent. We may have reached the point where consistent moral codes deserve more skepticism than inconsistent ones.

Comment by marius on Phoenix Less Wrong Meetup- Saturday, 5-7-11, 5pm · 2011-05-03T21:50:44.944Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think there is a connotation that one is supplying the person for ulterior/underhanded motives. I would ply a politician with hookers to get a law changed, or ply a source with alcohol so that I can ask him questions with less resistance... but plying customers with apples in exchange for fair market value just sounds weird.

Comment by marius on Phoenix Less Wrong Meetup- Saturday, 5-7-11, 5pm · 2011-05-03T21:24:10.393Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why did you lose ply?

Comment by marius on Bayesians vs. Barbarians · 2011-05-03T21:12:52.464Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If only the users of Curves graduated to regular gyms more frequently...

Comment by marius on Bayesians vs. Barbarians · 2011-05-03T21:03:57.648Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The study (which needs significant followup to create usable results) could have a number of interpretations, including:

*conclusions not fully supported by the data

*obesity leads to less enjoyment of motion

*obesity leads to fewer social opportunities to engage in sports

*low socio-economic status leads to obesity and to inactivity (due to insufficient access to parks, to parents who force you out of the house, etc).

*People don't record their activity levels every day, so their estimates are colored more by measurable factors (body weight) than by unmeasurable ones (how much they actually moved).

I'd hesitate to read too much into this study.

Comment by marius on Phoenix Less Wrong Meetup- Saturday, 5-7-11, 5pm · 2011-05-03T20:58:03.125Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

While this doesn't fully justify the use of words like "lame", "blindly," or "retarded" to refer to actions, they are in a different class than using words like "gay" or "N-----". People are ableist, and that's not about to change on account of language. No matter what verbal habits you get into, you're going to prefer to be able to walk rather than hobble, to see rather than to not see, etc.

In contrast, sexual orientation and skin pigmentation are not inherently sources of value. Considering gay an equally good situation to straight, or dark skin pigmentation an equally good situation to light skin pigmentation is very reasonable. If we avoid calling bad events "gay", we can more easily achieve equality there.

Comment by marius on What is Metaethics? · 2011-05-02T19:43:08.383Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

He may not want to fall off the cliff, but the jolt reaction occurs before he is able to analyze it

I suspect it's a matter of degree rather than either-or. People sleeping on the edges of cliffs are much less likely to jot when startled than people sleeping on soft beds, but not 0% likely. The interplay between your biases and your reason is highly complex.

Would you agree then, that the contents of that set of habits is contingent upon what makes you and those around you happy?

Yes; absolutely. I suspect that a coherent definition of morality that isn't contingent on those will have to reference a deity.

Comment by marius on What is Metaethics? · 2011-05-01T17:47:42.050Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What I do not understand is when people use the words "right" or "wrong" independently of any agent's preferences

Assuming Amanojack explained your position correctly, then there aren't just people fulfilling their preferences. There are people doing all kinds of things that fulfill or fail to fulfill their preferences - and, not entirely coincidentally, which bring happiness and grief to themselves or others. So then a common reasonable definition of morality (that doesn't involve the word preferences) is that set of habits that are most likely to bring long-term happiness to oneself and those around one.

Comment by marius on What is Metaethics? · 2011-05-01T17:46:39.910Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

ok cool, replying to the original post then.

Comment by marius on What is Metaethics? · 2011-05-01T17:07:19.795Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, so if I understand you correctly: It is actually meaningful to ask "what general preferences should I cultivate to get more enjoyment out of life?" If so, you describe two types of preference: the higher-order preference (which I'll call a Preference) to get enjoyment out of life, and the lower-order "preference" (which I'll call a Habit or Current Behavior rather than a preference, to conform to more standard usage) of eating soggy bland french fries if they are sitting in front of you regardless of the likelihood of delicious pizza arriving. So because you prefer to save room for delicious pizza yet have the Habit of eating whatever is nearby and convenient, you can decide to change that Habit. You may do so by changing your behavior today and tomorrow and the day after, eventually forming a new Habit that conforms better to your preference for delicious foods.

Am I describing this appropriately? If so, by the above usage, is morality a matter of Behavior, Habit, or Preference?

Comment by marius on [SEQ RERUN] Politics is the Mind-Killer · 2011-04-30T21:54:24.375Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I wouldn't mind "ask experts who do not post to Wikipedia or write for Britannica" to rate the articles for accuracy, neutrality, etc. I would expect them to call Wikipedia more comprehensive, to call Britannica more neutral, and I have no idea which would be rated more accurate. If they did indeed call the Wikipedia articles more neutral, I'd have to update my understanding of the field.

My experience: I fixed mistakes in two articles, then got thoroughly distressed and stopped participating. I'm an anesthesiologist, as background. The first article was on a painkiller, and I found my changes overwritten by a drug enthusiast who believes/writes that narcotics are non-addictive. I did not push the issue. The second article was on anesthesia, and I linked to a reference document published by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (the premier research organization of anesthesiologists in the US.) A nurse anesthetist editor was very proud of his ability to prevent any documents from the ASA from being linked to on the page while maintaining a link to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, and made it clear that it was his "turf" and that he was highly political. I did persist briefly to see what would happen: he tracked my real identity and threatened me. I immediately lost all interest.

I don't believe Britannica is trying for neutrality per se. I believe it's trying for objectivity, which is related but nonidentical. On many topics wikipedia attempts objectivity as well rather than neutrality (evolution vs intelligent design, for instance).

Comment by marius on [SEQ RERUN] Politics is the Mind-Killer · 2011-04-30T13:39:09.876Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, to compare neutrality we can do one of four things: a: rely on the impressions of people who've used both (survey people who've claimed to have read both) b: trace the prior likelihood of either group of authors being biased on the material they're writing about (the profit motive vs writing about what you're passionate about) c: ask contributors what they've seen done that damages the neutral point of view d: come up with a neutral definition of neutrality.

It sounds like you want to do d: how might we start on such a thing?

Oh, and obviously yeah - "neutral" will depend on your culture. Objectivity might or might not, but neutrality must. So this makes d trickier.

Comment by marius on [SEQ RERUN] Politics is the Mind-Killer · 2011-04-30T13:28:28.097Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I certainly agree with this. I'd just trace it back to Wikipedia's roots - and I suspect that as fewer people are familiar with Britannica, Wikipedia will lose that more and more.

Comment by marius on [SEQ RERUN] Politics is the Mind-Killer · 2011-04-30T03:34:55.917Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Britannica authors, for instance, are Britannica authors first and moneymakers second and opinionated people third or fourth. Wikipedia authors are highly opinionated, and are compromising (which fixes some objectivity problems but is a poor substitute for objectivity or neutrality). So the Britannica author is likely to be less expert than the sum of wikipedia authors but much more neutral.

Comment by marius on How hard do we really want to sell cryonics? · 2011-04-29T22:15:39.429Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Cryonics is a field where raising awareness is genuinely beneficial to the believers- not just to the administrators of related organizations. Being frozen and then revived requires (inter alia): a dedication to proper freezing maintenance, a method of revivification, a willingness to spend resources to revive you in particular, and experience in curing/reviving humans. If cryonics falls out of favor for any period of time, the dedication to proper freezing maintenance is likely to suffer. The more people that are frozen, the more avidly entrepreneurs will seek to invent methods of revivification, and the more experience physicians will have in treating the newly-revived. If you do not have a plan in place to ensure that you will actually be revived once it becomes possible, you may at least hope that people you've convinced to be frozen may remember you.

Comment by marius on [SEQ RERUN] Politics is the Mind-Killer · 2011-04-29T22:01:12.326Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How is that different from standard encyclopedia practice? It at least initially appears that it's one of the few things standard encyclopedias do better than wikipedia.

Comment by marius on Is Kiryas Joel an Unhappy Place? · 2011-04-29T21:24:49.058Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't mean to overstate the reliability of suicide rates for happiness. A variety of factors may influence them. However, there are reasons to believe they correlate with happiness.

What is a good measure of happiness? Virtually all measures are deeply flawed, but the most reliable is probably: Intra-observer self-report in situations when signalling is unlikely. People are probably decent at knowing when they were happier or less happy within their own lives. Inter-observer reports are far harder to justify.

People report being happier when they live in places with adequate sunshine; inadequate sunshine correlates with increased suicide rates. People report being happier when they are not facing loss of job, public humiliation, divorce, and a number of other events; these events correlate with increase suicide rates. People report being happier when mental illness symptoms are reduced (particularly depression); people with mental illness (particularly depression) have a higher suicide rate.

Obviously, suicide rates are not a perfect proxy for happiness... but I cannot find a more reliable easily-measured statistic.

Comment by marius on Is Kiryas Joel an Unhappy Place? · 2011-04-29T20:33:18.723Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Surely suicide rate is a much more trustworthy marker for (un)happiness than "numerical response to a survey question". So it is our previous flimsy understandings of what areas are happy (based only on the highly suspect methodology of surveys) that is wiped out by the new data regarding suicide rates.

As gwern points out, divorce is a poor marker; suicide remains a useful marker because it is nearly-univerally forbidden.

Comment by marius on Extremely Important Cell Phone Feature Missing · 2011-04-29T10:01:49.013Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Satellite phones can currently be purchased by individuals or towns, and yet even the most affluent towns that fear being attacked don't appear to be purchasing them. A nonprofit could be set up to (in increasing order of importance)

  1. Donate satellite phones to more impoverished towns.
  2. Be a centralized location to which emergency messages can be sent.
  3. Actually do something about genocide beyond issuing a press release.

My guess is that 3. is the sticking point - that a satellite capability on cell phones is actually only helpful to lost Westerners outside the range of a cellular tower, and might be best marketed to hikers.

An even lower cost universal solution might involve green lasers and Morse code, though various governments will object.

Comment by marius on What are the leftover questions of metaethics? · 2011-04-29T02:54:56.087Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What does it mean for modus ponens to "do worse" than something? It might "do badly" in virtue of there not being any relevant statements of the form "A" and "if A then B" lying around. That would hardly make MP "fallacious" though. It might be that by deducing "B" from "A" and "if A then B" we thereby deduce something false. But then either "A" or "if A then B" must have been false (or at least non-true), and it hardly counts against MP that it loses reliability when applied to non-true premises.

Well, look at the Problem of Identity. I start with an apple or a boat, and I brush molecules off the apple or replace the boards on the boat, and end up with something other than an apple or a boat. This shouldn't be a problem, except that I've got a big Modus Ponens chain (this is an apple; an apple with a molecule removed is still an apple) that fails when the chain gets long enough. To fix my problem, I've got to:

a. Say actually, there are almost no apples in the world. Modus Ponens rarely applies to the real world because almost no premises are perfectly true. When someone asks "is this delicious-looking fruit an apple", I have to say "Dunno, probably not."

b. Say actually, there are apples, and an apple missing a molecule remains an apple, and Modus Ponens works except in rare corner cases. And experience/tradition/etc can help us know where those corner cases are, so we can avoid mistakenly applying Modus Ponens when it will lead from correct premises to incorrect conclusions.

Here you're talking about Euclidean geometry as an empirical theory of space (or perhaps space-time), as opposed to Euclidean geometry as a branch of mathematics

Well, Euclidean geometry is extremely interesting because it works relatively well as a theory of space, without actually relying on empirical data.

Users of a language have to agree on the meanings of primitive words like 'and', 'if', 'then', or else they're just 'playing a different game'.

I hope that logic (like Euclidean geometry) is actually telling us something about the world, not just about the words/rules we started with. If modus ponens is purely a linguistic trick rather than a method of increasing our knowledge, then it's as useful as chess. I think it's far more useful, and lets us obtain better approximations of the actual world.

Comment by marius on What are the leftover questions of metaethics? · 2011-04-28T20:44:21.230Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think the village girl in New York example can actually be understood a step farther. She doesn't just need to look at the dresses - the catalogs in her village show what they look like and cost. She also needs to see what people in New York actually dress like, and how the dresses work for them on the street.

Just so, many people have presented ethical dilemmas that are not part of our everyday experiences. If we have a useful morality core, then it (like most other senses or heuristics) is useful only in the areas in which it's been trained. The village girl needs the street experience in NYC to make good purchases. So the two arbitrary sequences would have to be similar enough to the intuiter's actual experiences to be accurately compared to one another.

Comment by marius on What are the leftover questions of metaethics? · 2011-04-28T19:02:52.353Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You are certainly at least partly right. But:

After all, "contraband" methods of persuasion are rarely punished

Contraband methods of persuasion are weakly punished, here and elsewhere, by means of public humiliation along with repudiation of the point trying to be made. Some people go so far as to give fallacious defenses of positions they hate (on anonymous forums) in order to weaken support for those positions. Interestingly, the contexts where we think logic is most important (like this site) are much less tolerant of fallacies than the contexts where we think logic is less important (politics or family dinner). So while I'd love to dismiss that cynical explanation, I can't quite so easily.

People often have conflicting intuitions, but there seems to be some hierarchy which tells which intuitions are more basic and thus to be preferred.

Actually, there is indeed such a hierarchy in moral reasoning, and it has been better studied/elucidated (by Kohlberg, Rest, et al) than logical reasoning has.

Comment by marius on Avoiding Factual Muggings · 2011-04-28T18:48:37.074Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The whole point of the tiger/rock parable is that the testing has all been done in environments devoid of tigers.

Similarly, the mugger-avoidance strategies I could offer to User:perturbation are all 100% effective since I've never been mugged... but I have no idea whether the opposite strategy would have been equally effective.

Comment by marius on What are the leftover questions of metaethics? · 2011-04-28T15:10:12.729Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

All my answers to this are flawed. My best is: It's like Euclidean geometry: humans (and other species) are constructed in a way that Euclidean geometry fits fairly well. The formalized rules of Euclidean geometry match spacial reality even better than what we've evolved, so we prefer them... but they're similar enough to what we've evolved that we accept them rather than alternate geometries. Euclidean geometry isn't right - reality is more complex than any system of geometry - but the combination of "works well enough", "improves on our evolved heuristic", and "matches our evolved heuristic well enough" combine to give it a privileged place. Just so, that system of formal logic works well enough, improves on our evolved reasoning heuristics, and yet matches those heuristics well enough... so we give formal logic a privileged place. The privilege is sufficient that many believe logic is the basis of Truth, that many theists believe that even angels or deities cannot be both A and not-A, and that people who use fallacies to convince others of truths are frequently considered to be liars. This does not sufficiently satisfy me.

An alternate answer, that a believer in absolute morality or logic might like, is that logic actually deserves a higher place than Euclidean geometry. Where geometry can be tested and modified wherever the data support a modification, logic can't. No matter how many times our modus ponens does worse than an Appeal to Tradition or Ad Populum in some area of inquiry, we still don't say "ok, alter the rules of logic for this area of inquiry to make Ad Populum the correct method there and Modus Ponens the fallacious method there", we just question our premises, our methods of detection of answers, etc. So logic is special and is above the empirical method. I am unsatisfied by the above paragraph as well.

A third possibility is that it's not - it's just a code of conduct/signalling. We agree to only use logic to convince one another because it works well, because the use of other methods of persuasion can often be detected and punished, and because the people who can rely on logic rather than on other methods of persuasion are smarter and more trustworthy. In specific instances, logic might not be the best way to learn something or to convince others, but getting caught supporting or using contraband methods will be punished so we all use/support logic unless we're sure we can get away with the contraband. This is an unsatisfying explanation to me as well.

Comment by marius on What are the leftover questions of metaethics? · 2011-04-28T12:46:28.676Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

All we have is factual questions about how people's "morality cores" vary in time and from person to person, how compelling their voices are, finding patterns in their outputs, etc. Can someone explain what problem metaethics is supposed to solve?

If there is a problem worth solving, it has to be related to "how compelling their voices are". In the philosophy of logic, we classify "Modus Ponens" differently from "Appeal to Inappropriate Authority" - and not simply by asking statistically which is more convincing. An empirical discovery that arguments quoting Justin Bieber are highly likely to convince the listener do not move such arguments out of the "fallacy" category. Similarly, if metaethics is worthy of study, it must be able to say that certain arguments are better than others independently of their likelihood to convince the listener, and why.

If you believe that categories like "fallacy" are useless, then logic is just a crude stab at the true science of persuasion. If you believe there is no analogous category in ethics, it's unlikely that you'll find anything worthy of study.

Comment by marius on What is Metaethics? · 2011-04-28T10:24:49.707Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But I want an example of people acting contrary to their preferences, you're giving one of yourself acting according to your current preferences. Hopefully, NMJablonski has an example of a common action that is genuinely contrary to the actor's preferences. Otherwise, the word "preference" simply means "behavior" to him and shouldn't be used by him. He would be able to simplify "the actions I prefer are the actions I perform," or "morality is just behavior", which isn't very interesting to talk about.

Comment by marius on Avoiding Factual Muggings · 2011-04-28T02:55:24.883Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I can sell you a rock that will keep tigers away, for only $250 shipped. I'm carrying one right now, and I've never been attacked by a tiger.

Comment by marius on What is Metaethics? · 2011-04-28T02:47:05.685Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't understand what you mean by preferences when you say "intelligent agents trying to fulfill their preferences". I have met plenty of people who were trying to do things contrary to their preferences. Perhaps before you try (or someone tries for you) to distinguish morality from preferences, it might be helpful to distinguish precisely how preferences and behavior can differ?

Comment by marius on Consequentialism FAQ · 2011-04-28T01:43:31.945Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If this is to be useful, it would have to read "that our intuitions are based on morality".

Comment by marius on Avoiding Factual Muggings · 2011-04-27T19:45:31.969Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

car keys draw no untoward attention, but can ruin someone's day.

Comment by marius on Offense versus harm minimization · 2011-04-18T07:33:55.094Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed, one of the more relevant similarities between pain and offense is that both are warning signs. Pain is a warning that something may damage you, but if you are experiencing pain from nondamaging events, you are better off reinterpreting the stimulus. For instance, walking barefoot on rocky terrain is often interpreted as painful by those who typically walk shod, but after multiple exposures the sensation is processed differently.
Similarly, offense has a component of "things may turn bad" in addition to the signalling described elsewhere in this discussion. The fact that people take offense primarily tells us/them that something is going on; whether that thing is significant, good, or bad requires us to look farther than the fact that offense was taken.

Comment by marius on When is it ever rational to enter a sweepstakes where you may have a 1/10,000 chance of winning? · 2011-04-13T10:50:53.439Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

A neighbor of mine enters every sweepstakes she can find, sending in dozens of applications per day. She wins at least one prize a month, ranging from kitchen gadgets to trips. The listed likelihood of winning is often an underestimate, she says, since some sweepstakes do not receive the number of expected applications. This is a life-defining hobby for her: it takes a significant amount of her time each day to find and enter these contests; most of her stories center around the prizes she's won. Here is an article about a woman in a similar situation:

Comment by marius on Crime and punishment · 2011-04-11T14:02:36.789Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't believe this is quite correct. I think a large number of Americans support (to an extent) the status quo in all areas, and this prevents them from taking prison rape as seriously as other rape. But I've met nobody who'd be willing to pay ten cents to increase the amount of prison rape.

Nor have I seen many people who disfavor execution as being "too easy". I won't say zero on this one, however.

Comment by marius on A Sense That More Is Possible · 2011-04-08T20:24:08.057Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

How so? When scientists perform studies, they can sometimes benefit (money, job, or simply reputation) by inventing data or otherwise skipping steps in their research. At other times, they can benefit by failing to publish a result when they can benefit by refraining to publish. A scientist who is willing to violate certain ethical principles (lying, cheating, etc) is surely more willing to act unethically in publishing (or declining to publish) their studies.

Comment by marius on A Sense That More Is Possible · 2011-04-08T19:53:05.713Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One question that might help you clarify: Fundamentally, is the divide in your head "more interested in taking steps to promote the side effect or in taking steps to avoid it" or "seems to consider the side effect acceptable"?

I think the example of a drunk driver might be an accessible one. Your goal is to get yourself and your car home; your intention is not to hit anyone. In fact, you'd be extremely sad if you hit someone, and would be willing to take some steps to avoid doing so. You drive anyway.

Do you put the risky driving in your intentional category? If you think intentionality means "treats it as a thing to seek rather than to avoid where convenient", the risk is unintentional. If you think intentionality means "seems to consider the side effect acceptable", then the risk is intentional because you weren't willing to sober up, skip drinking, or take a cab.

Comment by marius on A Sense That More Is Possible · 2011-04-08T19:04:05.027Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Just so long as it doesn't involve much real world experimentation. :)

But this is the fundamental problem: you don't want to let the theory in any field get too far ahead of the real world experimentation. If it does, it makes it harder for the people who eventually do good (and ethical) research to have their work integrated properly into the knowledge. And knowledge that is not based on research is likely to be false. So an important question in any field should be "is there some portion of this that can be studied ethically?" If we "develop its instrumental rationality for a while without moralists sticking their noses in", we run the risk of letting theories run wild without sufficient evidence [evo-psych, I'm looking at you] or of relying on unethically-obtained (and therefore less-trustworthy) evidence.

Comment by marius on reply to benelliott about Popper issues · 2011-04-08T17:35:53.296Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But one might work, infernally, by torturing puppies


Comment by marius on Bayesian Epistemology vs Popper · 2011-04-08T17:23:40.980Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

How do you judge: [X|Authority believes X]

Track record of statements/predictions, taking into account the prior likelihood of previous predictions and prior likelihood of current prediction.

Can you provide a link to Yudkowsky or any well known Bayesian advocating appeals to authority?

Are you asking us to justify appeals to authority by using an appeal to authority?

edit per wedrifid

Comment by marius on Bayesian Epistemology vs Popper · 2011-04-08T17:05:13.175Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

An appeal to authority is not logically airtight, and if logic is about mathematical proofs, then it's going to be a fallacy. But an appeal to an appropriate authority gives Bayesians strong evidence, provided that [X|Authority believes X] is sufficiently high. In many fields, authorities have sufficient track records that appeals to authority are good arguments. In other fields, not so much.

Of course, the Appeal to Insufficient Force fallacy is a different story from the Appeal to Inappropriate Authority