Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Sensual Experience · 2008-12-21T23:17:49.000Z · LW · GW

because creating sexual variety is so much more difficult than sprinkling cinnamon on an apple.

A friend of mine, who shall rename nameless, likened monogamy to eating chocolate cake and nothing else for the rest of your life. . .

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Sensual Experience · 2008-12-21T20:41:09.000Z · LW · GW

Laugh. Your whole body's sense of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing are part of sexual experience, at least good sex. . .

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Hanging Out My Speaker's Shingle · 2008-11-06T00:45:03.000Z · LW · GW

This is off topic, but bestselling author and OB reader and occasional commenter Michael Crichton has died.

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Building Something Smarter · 2008-11-03T12:51:25.000Z · LW · GW


Excellent comments and insight.

The biggest problem with being religious, in the way you have defined, is that your "oughts" start to influence your perception of what "is". We see exactly the same thing happening with traditional religions, with political religions, and here with Singularitarian religion.

The one true worthy action is to perceive the "is" without blurring our vision with the distorting filters of "oughts". This is the true "Way". But, of course, it is not nearly as popular as promising salvation, whether religious or technological.

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Which Parts Are "Me"? · 2008-10-23T00:20:34.000Z · LW · GW

Eliezer, I suspect the coalition in control of your fingers is not as coherent or stable as it appears. Ruling coalitions like to give the impression that they have little effective opposition and are unified without internal dissent, but the truth is usually otherwise.

That comment was quintessentially Hanson, and an observation whose insight gives me much cause to believe that the coalition in control of those fingers has travelled across many a Rubicon. . .

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Which Parts Are "Me"? · 2008-10-23T00:16:00.000Z · LW · GW

I'm a bit dismayed, however, by the obvious emotional response and meanness from someone who prides himself on sharpening the blade of his rationality by testing it against criticism.

Let's be fair. All "someones" operate according to the same basic Darwinian principles, which involve the subsumption of some ideas and rejection of others into a self-concept which then defends "itself" against any perceived threat. And the biggest threat, of course, is the truth that the self is not fundamentally real. When that is clearly seen, the gig is up.

Expecting "someones" to operate according to principles of integrity and truth-seeking is like expecting foxes to babysit chickens without indulging their appetites. Sure, there is an (at first) fun and interesting game of status seeking to be played called "I'm more honest (and smarter BTW) than you". But it's all in the service of covering up the truth about the imagined "I" who is playing that game.

When reality is actually engaged with an approach of genuine inquiry rather than an chest-expanded assumption that the "someone" is well along the "straight and narrow path" and treading "the way", then the "someone" is seen to be insubstantial, unimportant and essentially unreal, and displays of self-importance, pomposity and grandiosity fade away. And many of the activities and goals that seemed oh-so-important to the "someone", are smiled at, and put away on the shelf like the other outgrown toys of childhood.

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Which Parts Are "Me"? · 2008-10-22T20:18:17.000Z · LW · GW

There is no actual "you" in the way that it seems to be. A persistent thought pattern / meme complex got mistaken for a "you" by awareness and, sooner or later, awareness can see through the "you", which is a tremendous relief when it occurs.

As Einstein put it:

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us, "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.

This delusion is a kind of prison for us. . .

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Crisis of Faith · 2008-10-11T14:20:07.000Z · LW · GW

Excellent post, Eliezer. Along with your comments on MR about the financial crisis, definitely good stuff worth reading.

I would submit that, for you, the belief you are unable to question is materialistic reductionism. I would suggest reading Irreducible Mind which will acquaint you with a great deal of evidence that reality is different from the current model of it you hold in your mind. I would suggest that you begin with chapter 3 which presents a vast body of observational and research evidence from medicine that simply doesn't fit into your current belief system. Start with the introduction, read the entire introduction (which is very good and fits with many of the more conceptual posts you have made here about avoiding pitfalls along the path of rationality), and then read chapter 3 about empirical findings of the relationship between mind and body.

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Psychic Powers · 2008-09-12T20:10:00.000Z · LW · GW

Hence the complete lack of interest on the part of reductionists in impartially examining the accumulated body of evidence for psi phenomena, rivalled only by the lack of interest of young-earth creationists in impartially examining the accumulated body of evidence from geology and paleontology.

It can't possibly exist, therefore any evidence must be poorly controlled, fake, delusional, etc., thus not we're not interested in hearing about it. . .

"a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest. . ." - Paul Simon, The Boxer

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Excluding the Supernatural · 2008-09-12T17:41:02.000Z · LW · GW

One of the strongest lines of evidence is, indeed, that we have successfully reduced minds. . .

Just what exactly are you referring to here?

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Touching the Old · 2008-07-20T17:19:15.000Z · LW · GW

Memories decay exponentially. This occurs both over time and over number of items to remember.

That is a popular model, but one I find does not match my own experience of memory at all.

Sometimes just a particular smell is able to bring back a memory from decades ago of a small and insignificant happening that I haven't recalled for many years.

Certainly there are some individuals who absolutely do not fit into your characterization, and there is a lot of reason to suspect that the rest of us also can have access to that kind of remembering.

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Touching the Old · 2008-07-20T17:07:33.000Z · LW · GW

I always say I do not, and all evidence suggests this is the case.

Actually there is an enormous amount of evidence that consciousness can sometimes temporarily be disassociated from the body, however this evidence is extremely disconcerting for committed reductionist materialists who therefore dismiss, ignore, and minimize it, and impugn those who research it, and associate it all with people like Shirley MacClain and Deepak Chopra.

I don't personally like the term "soul" as it seems to bring too many assumptions to bear. But for those who are willing to entertain questions instead of assuming they already have the right answers, there is some very interesting data out there. . .

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on The Ultimate Source · 2008-06-15T13:43:03.000Z · LW · GW

No, you have to be the ultimate source of your decisions. If anything else in your past, such as the initial condition of your brain, fully determined your decision, then clearly you did not.

Words like "you" are far more problematic than words like "consciousness" that you eschew.

After all, even a young infant shows unmistakable signs of awareness, while the "I" self-concept doesn't arise until the middle of the toddler stage. The problem with free will is that there is no actual "you" entity to have it. The "you" is simply a conceptual place-holder built up from ideas of an individual body and its sensations.

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Thou Art Physics · 2008-06-06T18:34:39.000Z · LW · GW

In order for you to have free will, there has to be a "you" entity in the first place. . .

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Living in Many Worlds · 2008-06-05T14:26:35.000Z · LW · GW

One person doesn't need to pretend that he doesn't grasp something until a certain critical mass of the "right" people catch up. Correctness isn't up for a vote, and the feeling that it is is nothing more than an artifact of social wiring.

Anyone with a bit of insight and experience with the sociology of group behavior will read OB and see some glaringly obvious "artifacts of social wiring" in the psychology behind many of the postings and comments here.

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Living in Many Worlds · 2008-06-05T04:22:57.000Z · LW · GW

Some commenters have recently expressed disturbance at the thought of constantly splitting into billions of other people, as is the straightforward and UNAVOIDABLE prediction of quantum mechanics.

Please. Generating so many paragraphs here displaying this sort of smug assurance in your own conclusions about highly controversial topics is the exact opposite of "overcoming bias".

I have noticed Robin gently reminding you of this fact; perhaps it is time to pay some attention to him, if not your other critics. . .

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Hand vs. Fingers · 2008-03-30T13:39:01.000Z · LW · GW

As pertains to brains, we have reasonable inferences that the mind is strictly anchored in a physical substance. Among the oldest I'm aware of is Heraclitis' observation that hitting someone in the head causes stupor, confusion, etc, so the mind probably resides there.

Yes and when I hit my radio with a rock it might stop working, change the station, if I rip out transistors it might make the sound distorted, etc. That really doesn't prove that the song is stored inside the radio, does it?

If you are interested in reality instead of just fitting in with current intellectual fashion, you really need to step outside the echo chamber sometime and engage with the best arguments against your current positions, not simply flail against strawmen.

And a special point for commentor Richard above -- you have an interesting and mostly thoughtful blog and you do a good job pointing out some reasons why eliminative materialism is a problematic belief. But then you stumble badly by claiming that only the only sane non-reductionist position is that mind arises from the brain. Claiming that people with different ideas than you must be insane is a position that has often been expressed in the history of intellectual discussion, but almost never by those on the correct side of a debate. . .

Anyway, I won't debate this point here any further because this blog is not interested in examining its philosophical biases towards materialism. I only wanted to point out an interesting reference book to those readers here not already utterly convinced that their beliefs are correct and their opponents not sane -- I know there are lurkers here that fit that description. . .

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on If You Demand Magic, Magic Won't Help · 2008-03-22T21:54:20.000Z · LW · GW

Matthew C., commenting here on OB, seems very excited about an informally specified "theory" by Rupert Sheldrake which "explains" such non-explanation-demanding phenomena as protein folding and snowflake symmetry.

Actually Eliezer I'm much more excited to be in nature doing landscape photography, spending time with my family, seeing if I can make money trading stocks, and chatting about the nondual nature of reality, among other things.

I'm become totally and completely uninterested in arguing with people who refuse to acquaint themselves with the evidence for things and then rail against them ex cathedra from the dogmas of "official science". The only reason I responded to your previous post on reductionism was TGGP kindly informed me of it and your mention of my query from last year, and I thought it only fair to point your readers to some relevant material.


Matthew C.

Comment by Matthew_C.2 on Reductionism · 2008-03-17T23:19:16.000Z · LW · GW

Interesting to see all this fervent and unquestioning faith in reductionism here. No surprise.

However, reductionism is incapable of explaining the real world.

Consider protein folding. A good rough approximation model of a protein is a string with a hundred magnets tied to it.

Now throw the string up into the air.

The notion that the string would immediately fold into a precise shape every time you throw it, is the same as the notion that a protein would fold into a precise shape, very quickly, every time you make it. And yet that is what proteins do. And we have no reductionistic explanation that fits the facts.

There are billions of very close to minimum-energy configurations for each protein sequence based on the electrochemical forces between the amino acids in the chain and hydrophilic / hydrophobic considerations. And yet only one of them is chosen, often in a few microseconds. This is totally inexplicable based on a reductionistic analysis. We CANNOT predict protein conformation based on the physical and chemical properties of the amino acid chains.

All of the protein folding software uses the folding behavior of known proteins and sub-domains of known proteins (such as α-helices and β-sheets) to attempt to guess protein structures, and even then there are many solutions to the equations (in a "successful" analysis the actual tertiary structure will match one of the possible structures that the software came up with, but not any of the others, and reductionism is at a complete loss why). Rupert Sheldrake suggests an answer based on an evolving set of holonic structures where each more complex level includes the behaviors of its constituent holons, yet also includes additional properties basically "chosen" by the universe through a repetition and reinforcement of habits.

Even with supposedly "well known" phenomena like snowflake crystallization the reductionist explanation simply fails to ring true. Why in a probabalistic structure like a very well-formed snowflake is there so much symmetry between arms (and most especially the mirror symmetry on each arm) between areas that are millions or billions of atoms away from each other? The "contact mechanics" explanation simply doesn't wash. Snowflake branches are very obviously probabalistic structures, so the "changing growing conditions of the snowflake" explanation simply doesn't wash, since probabalistic structures ought not show such high amounts of symmetry unless some kind of resonance is occurring between the arms and reflections of arms in the snowflake.

Unquestioning reductionism blinds people to some very simple observations about the world. . .