Comment by mfb on The best 15 words · 2013-10-06T14:26:05.836Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm, the whole statement is ' "is false when preceded by its quotation" is false when preceded by its quotation.', and it is not preceded by its quotation.

Comment by mfb on How valuable is it to learn math deeply? · 2013-09-21T12:21:09.037Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If mathematical details matter, they should be specified (or be clear anyway - e.g. you don't define "real numbers" in a physics paper). Physics can need some domain knowledge, but knowledge alone is completely useless - you need the same general reasoning ability as in mathematics to do anything (both for experimental and theoretical physics).

In fact, many physics problems get solved by reducing them to mathematical problems (that is the physics part) and then solving those mathematical problems (still considered as "solving the physical problem", but purely mathematics)

Comment by mfb on How valuable is it to learn math deeply? · 2013-09-06T18:33:00.117Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Add physics to that.

Comment by mfb on How sure are you that brain emulations would be conscious? · 2013-08-24T20:17:38.145Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I guess we can answer question 2 under the condition that the majority of humans falls under the definition of conscious, and we don't require 24/7 consciousness from the brain emulation.

Comment by mfb on How sure are you that brain emulations would be conscious? · 2013-08-24T19:53:08.516Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I cannot imagine how moving sodium and potassium ions could lead to consciousness if moving electrons cannot.

In addition, I think consciousness is a gradual process. There is no single point in the development of a human where it suddenly gets conscious, and in the same way, there was no conscious child of two non-conscious parents.

Comment by mfb on Being Foreign and Being Sane · 2013-05-28T23:05:07.539Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"There are a million reasons to learn a foreign language, but it'd be a very costly way to improve rationality."

It is a "free" side-effect if you belong to the 95% of the world population without English as native language.

Comment by mfb on MetaMed: Evidence-Based Healthcare · 2013-03-23T13:48:25.742Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So much room for improvements in healthcare even without new stuff :).

Comment by mfb on Right for the Wrong Reasons · 2013-01-25T18:09:08.382Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think it arises at the point where you did not even consider the alternative. This is a very subjective thing, of course.

If the probability of the actual outcome was really negligible (with a perfect evaluation by the prediction-maker), this should not influence the evaluation of predictions in a significant way. If the probability was significant, it is likely that the prediction-maker considered it. If not, count it as false.

Comment by mfb on Assessing Kurzweil: the results · 2013-01-22T19:11:25.491Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think (5.) can give a significant difference (together with 1 and 2 - I would not expect so much trouble from 3 and 4). Imagine a series of 4 statements, where the last three basically require the first one. If all 4 are correct, it is easy to check every single statement, giving 4 correct predictions. But if the first one is wrong - and the others have to be wrong as consequence - Kurzweil might count the whole block as one wrong prediction.

For predictions judged by multiple volunteers, it might be interesting to check how much they deviate from each other. This gives some insight how important (1.) to (3.) are. satt looked at that, but I don't know which conclusion we can draw from that.

Comment by mfb on Second-Order Logic: The Controversy · 2013-01-06T14:25:05.578Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That might sound weird, but do we have any evidence that our time follows the standard numbers (or a continuous version of them) only? Is it even possible to get such evidence? Maybe our turing machine (looking for contradictions in PA) stops at -2* - "we" cannot see it, as "we" are on the standard numbers only, experiencing only effects of previous standard numbers.

Comment by mfb on New Year's Prediction Thread (2012) · 2013-01-01T12:45:50.153Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Let's see.

  • No superluminal neutrinos (85%) -> true
  • OPERA measurement error (50%) -> true
  • Higgs boson with local (90%) and global (85%) 5sigma significance (updated to 70% below) -> true
  • No other new particle (75%) -> true
  • Proton-lead-collisions (75%): This is an interesting prediction. The collisions took place, but in september. and LHC plans to collide more in february. As I posted my prediction, such a deviation from the plan was somewhere at "other things I don't even think about", therefore I did not care about a precise definition of "end of 2012". Open to interpretations.

From the other comment with predictions:

  • The discovery of at least one planet with less than 150% of earth's radius within the habitable zone around a main-sequence star will be presented in 2012: 75% (+"with Kepler": 70%) -> wrong
Comment by mfb on Standard and Nonstandard Numbers · 2012-12-21T15:35:26.077Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You should be careful with addition and multiplication - to use them, you would have to define them first, and this is not trivial if you have the natural numbers plus A->B->C->A, infinite chains and so on.

In addition, "group" has a specific mathematical meaning, if you use it for arbitrary sets this is quite confusing.

Comment by mfb on More Cryonics Probability Estimates · 2012-12-17T23:43:53.567Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It would be very interesting to see cryonics for very simple brains of other species. This could determine or narrow down the range of probability for several factors.

Edit: Removed doubled word

Comment by mfb on A definition of wireheading · 2012-11-28T14:02:18.500Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I also wonder if some failures of human rationality could be counted as a weak form of wireheading. Self-serving biases, confirmation bias and rationalization in response to cognitive dissonance all create counterfeit utility by generating perceptual distortions.

I think those are good examples how human brains build (weak) delusion boxes. They are strong enough to increase happiness (which might improve the overall performance of the brain?), but weak enough to allow the human to achieve survival and reproduction in a more or less rational way.

Comment by mfb on LW Women- Minimizing the Inferential Distance · 2012-11-25T16:22:29.979Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The DM could let the elves attack during plowing. Should be a strong incentive to get into a fight.

Comment by mfb on Overconfident Pessimism · 2012-11-24T19:45:01.726Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think this will die soon, similar to many other obscure types of "medicine". Proper medical treatments can fail, and in that case many are looking for alternatives. Add some "$person was treated with §method and $symptom went away!"-"confirmations", and you have a market for that.

Comment by mfb on Causal Reference · 2012-10-26T16:06:21.515Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Bit modifications are part of the process of computation. I wouldn't say they are "affected by" that (they depend causally on the input which started the process of computation, however). In a similar way, individual humans are not affected by the concept of "mankind" for all of them.

Comment by mfb on Causal Reference · 2012-10-25T15:12:00.802Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I think the question "does consciousness affect neurons?" is as meaningful as "does the process of computation in a computer affect bits?".

Comment by mfb on Causal Reference · 2012-10-25T15:10:45.082Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The Standard Model of particle physics with MWI is time-symmetric (to be precise: CPT symmetric) and conserves information. If you define the precise state at one point in time, you can calculate the unique past which lead to that state and the unique future which will evolve from that state. Note that for general states, "past" and "future" are arbitrary definitions.

Comment by mfb on Dealing with the high quantity of scientific error in medicine · 2012-10-24T13:28:41.691Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Papers I read are mainly physics papers, especially particle physics. Not replicated results there are so rare that they often get significant attention in the community (Blog article) or even mainstream media (OPERA neutrino speed measurement).

The usual study&publication process for a new particle detector looks like that:

  • identify particles flying through the detector (known for >50 years)
  • find the decays of frequent short-living particles (known for >30 years), use them as calibration
  • look for other known particles and compare their masses and decays with the existing values
  • look for known decay modes of those particles and related properties, compare them with existing values and improve them by a significant factor
  • find new things

Completely new measurements are just a small fraction of the studies - most results confirm earlier experiments and improve the precision.

Comment by mfb on Dealing with the high quantity of scientific error in medicine · 2012-10-20T12:35:58.109Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If something applies to white horses only, I would write "white horses" instead of "horses". Otherwise it might suggest (at least to some readers) that it applies to many, most or even all horses. It is not wrong, but it can be misleading.

Comment by mfb on Dealing with the high quantity of scientific error in medicine · 2012-10-20T00:59:00.519Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why do you write "Flaws in mainstream science", if you mean specific parts of science only?

Some other mainstream areas have replication rates of more than 95%.

Comment by mfb on Causal Diagrams and Causal Models · 2012-10-15T19:41:24.928Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting article, thanks.

I agree with the general concept. I would be a bit more careful in the conclusions, however:
No visible correlation does not mean no causation - it is just a strong hint. In the specific example, the hint comes from a single parameter - the lack of significant correlation between internet & overweight when both exercise categories are added; together with the significant correlation of internet usage with the other two parameters.

With the proposed diagram, I get:
p(not Internet)=.859
p(not Overweight)=.791

p(Ex|Int & Ov)=.10
p(Ex|Int & no OV)=.62
p(Ex|no Int & Ov)=.27
p(Ex|no Int & no Ov)=.85

This model has 6 free parameters - the insignificant correlation between overweight and internet is the only constraint. It is true that other models have to be more complex to explain data, but we know that our world is not a small toy simulation - there are causal connections everywhere, the question is just "are they negligible or not?".

Comment by mfb on Raising the forecasting waterline (part 1) · 2012-10-14T21:17:00.229Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I can still make 100000 lottery predictions, and get a good score. I look for a system which you cannot trick in that way. Ok, for each prediction, you can subtract the average score from your score. That should work. Assuming that all other predictions are rational, too, you get an expectation of 0 difference in the lottery predictions.

I've only been making the forecast well-specified

I think "impact here (10% confidence), no impact at that place (90% confidence)" is quite specific. It is a binary event.

Comment by mfb on Raising the forecasting waterline (part 1) · 2012-10-13T13:38:46.177Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

To calculate the Brier score, you used >your< assumption that meteorites have a 1 in a million chance to hit a specfic area. What about events without a natural way to get those assumptions?

Let's use another example:

Assume that I predict that neither Obama nor Romney will be elected with 95% confidence. If that prediction becomes true, it is amazing and indicates a high predictive power (especially if I make multiple similar predictions and most of them become true).

Assume that I predict that either Obama or Romney will be elected with 95% confidence. If that prediction becomes true, it is not surprising.

Where is the difference? The second event is expected by others. How can we quantify "difference to expectations of others" and include it in the score? Maybe with an additional weight - weight each prediction with the difference from the expectations of others (as mean of the log ratio or something like that).

Comment by mfb on Raising the forecasting waterline (part 1) · 2012-10-12T19:29:43.178Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting, thanks, but not exactly what I looked for. As an example, take a simplified lottery: 1 number is drawn out of 10. I can predict "number X will have a probability of 10%" 100 times in a row - this is correct, and will give a good score in all scoring rules. However, those predictions are not interesting.

If I make 100 predictions "a meteorite will hit position X tomorrow (10% confidence)" and 10% of them are correct, those predictions are very interesting - you would expect that I have some additional knowledge (for example, observed an approaching asteroid).

The difference between the examples is the quality of the predictions: Everybody can get correct (unbiased) 10%-predictions for the lottery, but getting enough evidence to make correct 10%-probabilities for asteroid impacts is hard - most predictions for those positions will be way lower.

Comment by mfb on The Bias You Didn't Expect · 2012-10-12T19:09:26.838Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

brazil84 stated that there are just two options, so let's stick to that example first.

"[rifle] no bullet will be find in or around the person's body 0.01% of the time" is contradictory evidence against the rifle (and for the handgun). But "[handgun] no bullet will be find in or around the person's body 0.001% of the time" is even stronger evidence against the handgun (and for the rifle). In total, we have some evidence for the rifle.

Now let's add a .001%-probability that it was not a gunshot wound - in this case, the probability to find no bullet is (close to) 100%. Rifle gets an initial probability of 60% and handgun gets 40% (+ rounding error).

So let's update: No gunshot: 0.001 -> 0.001 Rifle: 60 -> 0.006 Handgun: 40 -> 0.0004

Of course, the probability that one of those 3 happened has to be 1 (counting all guns as "handgun" or "rifle"), so let's convert that back to probabilities: 0.001+0.006+0.0004 = 0.0074 No gunshot: 0.001/0.0074=13.5% Rifle: 0.006/0.0074=81.1% Handgun: 0.0004/0.0074=5.4%

The rifle and handgun numbers increased the probability of a rifle shot, as the probability for "no gunshot" was very small. All numbers are our estimates, of course.

Comment by mfb on The Bias You Didn't Expect · 2012-10-10T22:24:23.358Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If either X or Y has to be true, you cannot have 20% for X and 35% for Y. The remaining 45% would be a contradiction (Neither X nor Y, but "X or Y"). While you can work with those numbers (20 and 35), they are not probabilities any more - they are relative probabilities.

It is very unlikely that the murderer won in the lottery. However, if a suspect did win in the lottery, this does not reduce the probability that he is guilty - he has the same (low) probability as all others.

Comment by mfb on Raising the forecasting waterline (part 1) · 2012-10-10T12:46:03.498Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That reminds me of a question about judging predictions: Is there any established method to say "x made n predictions, was underconfident / calibrated properly / overconfident and the quality of the predictions was z"? Assuming the predictions are given as "x will happen (y% confidence)".

It is easy to make 1000 unbiased predictions about lottery drawings, but this does not mean you are good in making predictions.

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes October 2012 · 2012-10-10T10:37:24.261Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, I was a bit unprecise. "You need texts without size limit" would be correct. The issue is: Your memory (and probably lifetime) is finite. Even if you convert the whole observable universe to your extended memory.

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes October 2012 · 2012-10-09T17:13:41.658Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

To get an infinite set of texts with a finite set of characters, you need texts of infinite length. I think it is similar for dreams - the set of possible experiences is finite, and dreams have a finite sequence of experiences.

The pool of possible dreams is so large that we will never hit any limit - and even if (which would require experienced lifetimes of 10^whatever years), we would have forgotten earlier dreams long ago.

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes October 2012 · 2012-10-04T18:06:25.101Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Daydreaming? I think we should not take "dream" to literal here.

"Infinite" is problematic, indeed. I think there is just a finite number of dreams of finite length.

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-10-03T22:40:40.494Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I did not call anything "true moral dilemma".

Most dilemmas are situations where similar-looking moral guidelines lead to different decisions, or situations where common moral rules are inconsistent or not well-defined. In those cases, it is hard to decide whether the moral system prefers one action or the other, or does not care.

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-30T17:37:25.997Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The tricky task is to distinguish between those 3 cases - and to find general rules which can do this in every situation in a unique way, and represent your concept of morality at the same time.

If you can do this, publish it.

Comment by mfb on Less Wrong Polls in Comments · 2012-09-30T17:32:46.776Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think this would be even more interesting as "pick at random, without an external source of randomness". Sure you can get random numbers from, your computer or the seconds on your watch (a nice idee), but those just blur the effect of mind-generated random numbers.

Comment by mfb on The Sin of Underconfidence · 2012-09-29T12:46:24.953Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with that interpretation. The 13636 murders contain:
1676 from strangers 5974 with some relation
*5986 unknown

Based on the known cases only, I get 22% strangers. More than expected, but it might depend on the region, too (US <--> Europe). Based on that table, we can do even better: We can exclude reasons which are known to be unrelated to the specific case, and persons/relations which are known to be innocent (or non-existent). A bit tricky, as the table is "relation murderer -> victim" and not the other direction, but it should be possible.

Comment by mfb on The Sin of Underconfidence · 2012-09-28T22:47:21.317Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting posts.

However, I disagree with your prior by a significant amount. The probability that [person in group] commits a murder within one year is small, but so is the probability that [person in group] is in contact with a victim. I would begin with the event [murder has happened], assign a high probability (like ~90%) to "the murderer knew the victim", and then distribute those 90% among people who knew her (and work with ratios afterwards). I am not familiar enough with the case to do that know, but Amanda would probably get something around 10%, before any evidence or (missing) motive is taken into account.

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-18T16:52:08.221Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That would just cause them to pump chemicals in you head, I think. But it's definitely thinking in the right direction.

As long as I am not aware of that (or do not dislike it)... well, why not. However, MugaSofer is right, the genie has to understand the (future) utility function for that. But if it can alter the future without restrictions, it can change the utility function itself (maybe even to an unbounded one... :D)

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-17T16:49:24.915Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Immortal humans can go horribly wrong, unless "number of dying humans" is really what you want to minimize.

"Increase my utility as much as you can"?

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-15T14:09:41.718Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it is a necessary step to find other fruits.

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-12T19:35:22.188Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

All the world's major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.

Tenzin Gyatso, 14. Dalai Lama

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-12T14:40:35.322Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I underestimated how bad survey questions can be.
"Do you completely agree / mostly agree / mostly disagree / completely disagree with: Miracles still occur as in ancient times" (I shortened the first part a bit, without changing the context)
Seriously, wtf? The question assumes that miracles occured in ancient times. It does not define what "miracle" means at all, and it does not ask if miracles occur at all, it asks for a trend. 79% of the answers were counted as "belief in", I think that those were the first two groups only (but I do not see that in the study).

However, the questions about heaven and hell are fine, and the large amount of "yes" answers (heaven 74%, hell 59%) makes me sad.

Funny numbers:
At least 15% believe that "good" people come to heaven, but "bad" do not come to hell. So where do "bad" people go? To heaven, too?
In the group of age 65+, 74% believe in heaven, but only 71% believe in a life after death. So at least 3% believe that "good" people will live in heaven after death, without living at all.

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-12T14:13:42.810Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I meant "careful with respect to 'admitting that religious claims can be wrong' " - in other words, the same as you.

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-11T13:03:27.477Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Wikiquote (,_14th_Dalai_Lama) quotes this as

My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.

I like that. It is a bit careful, but better than everything else I saw from other religions.

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-04T14:15:56.751Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Most human utility functions give their own happiness more weight than other's. If you take into account that humans increase the happiness of others because it makes themself happy, you could even say that human utility functions only care about the happiness of their corresponding humans - but that is close to a tautology ("the utility function cares about the utility of the agent only").

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-04T13:17:37.001Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Lightning strikes usually do not involve physical impacts - I think "falling from 3-10 meters and getting struck by lightning" would be worse. In addition, the length of the current flow depends on the high voltage system.

Comment by mfb on An Anthropic Principle Fairy Tale · 2012-08-28T12:55:39.174Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In this case: Where is the issue? If the ship survived 10 jumps, it is probably safe to make another one - the same decision could be done on earth, which exists in both relevant cases.

With sufficient intelligence, the robot could calculate a probability of 1-eps that there are robots from earth, even if earth could have developed without a robot-building species. The robot can use its own existence to update probabilities in both cases.

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes August 2012 · 2012-08-06T11:25:04.643Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think life requires a system large and complex enough to produce decoherence between "alive" and "dead" in timescales shorter than required to define "alive" at all.

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes August 2012 · 2012-08-04T22:11:46.534Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

At least not in worlds where he is alive.

Comment by mfb on Rationality Quotes August 2012 · 2012-08-04T22:10:36.923Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you can scan it, maybe you can simulate it? And if you can simulate one, wait some years and you can simulate 1000, probably connected in some way to form a single "thinking system".