Comment by mrcogmor on Open thread, Apr. 17 - Apr. 23, 2017 · 2017-04-23T12:36:05.474Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Nutrition is taught in colleges to so people become qualified to become accredited dieticians. You should be able to find a decent undergrad textbook on Amazon. If you get used and an edition behind the current one it should be cheap as well.

Comment by MrCogmor on [deleted post] 2017-04-18T02:46:45.464Z

You might want to have a look at

Comment by mrcogmor on Against responsibility · 2017-04-11T10:26:03.627Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Rationality means achieving your goals and values efficiently and effectively.

The model of rationality presented on LessWrong usually treats goals and values that are of negative utility to the agent as biases or errors rather than as goals evolved to benefit the group or the genes. That leads to a view of rationality as strictly optimizing selfish goals.

This is a false dichotomy. Just because a value is not of negative utility doesn't mean it is optimized to benefit the genes. Scott Alexander for example is asexual and there are plenty of gay people.

As to old Utilitarianism 1.0, where somebody just declares by fiat that we are all interested in the greatest good for the greatest number of people--that isn't on the table anymore. People don't do that.

GiveWell exists, Peter Singer exists. The Effective Altrusim movement exists. They may not be perfect utilitarians but most rationalists aren't perfect either, neither are most christians and they still exist.

This ended up giving him worse-than-human morality, because he assumes that humans are not actually moral--that humans don't derive utility from helping others. He ended up convincing himself to do the selfish things that he thinks are "in his own best interests" in order to be a good rationalist, even in cases where he didn't really want to be selfish

I finally remembered the Less Wrong meta-ethics sequence which you should read. This in particular.

Comment by mrcogmor on Against responsibility · 2017-04-04T22:20:31.567Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Rational Utilitarianism is the greatest good for the greatest number given the constraints of imperfect information and faulty brains.

Rationality is the art of making better decisions in service to a goal taking into account imperfect information and the constratints of our mental hardware. When applied to utilitarianism you get posts like this Nobody is perfect, evertyhing is commensurable

Rationality plus Utilitarianism plus evolutionary psychology leads to the idea that a rational person is one who satisfies their own goals.

I don't see how this follows. Evolutionary psychology provides some explanations for our intuitions and instincts that the majority of humans share but that doesn't really say anything about morality as Is Cannot Imply Ought. Some quotes from the wiki page on evolutionary psychology.

We are optimized for an "ancestral environment" (often referred to as EEA, for "environment of evolutionary adaptedness") that differs significantly from the environments in which most of us live. In the ancestral environment, calories were the limiting resource, so our tastebuds are built to like sugar and fat.

Evolution's purposes also differ from our own purposes. We are built to deceive ourselves because self-deceivers were more effective liars in ancestral political disputes; and this fact about our underlying brain design doesn't change when we try to make a moral commitment to truth and rationality.

Comment by mrcogmor on Against responsibility · 2017-04-04T11:58:03.562Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It sounds less like he rewrote his natural morality and more like he engaged in a lot of motivated reasoning to justify his selfish behaviour. Rational Utilitarianism is the greatest good for the greatest number given the constraints of imperfect information and faulty brains. The idea that other people don't have worth because they aren't as prosocial as you is not Rational Utilitarianism (especially when you aren't actually prosocial because you don't value other people).

If whoever it is can't feel much sympathy for people in distant countries then that is fine, plenty of people are like that. The good thing about consequentalism is that it doesn't care about why. You could do it for self-esteem, social status, empathy or whatever but you still save lives either way. Declaring yourself a Rational Utilitarian and then not contributing is just a dishonest way of making yourself feel superior. To be a Rational Utilitarian you need to be a rationalist first and that means examining your beliefs even when they are pleasant.

Comment by mrcogmor on Open thread, Mar. 27 - Apr. 02, 2017 · 2017-04-03T06:32:25.617Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've had the experience where I read for a long time and then go talk to people and my voice doesn't work correctly on the first try and is barely audible. I assume it is because my brain got too good at suppressing subvocalization while reading.

Comment by mrcogmor on Tips for writing philosophical texts · 2014-09-02T00:30:52.773Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That was my point. Philosophy uses subjective words in order to confuse meanings. Once you translate it into one of it's objective interpretations it becomes simple. A good example is the concept of free will.

Comment by mrcogmor on Tips for writing philosophical texts · 2014-08-31T23:05:37.683Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Present the complicated problem and then break it down into understandable parts. Much of philosophy is basic but not widely understood because it is obfuscated by multiple meanings and ends up arguing about definitions such as "What is consciousness?". It is helpful to disambiguate these questions by choosing an objective interpretation and then answering that. For example "What is consciousness?" can be defined as "What makes a creature aware of it's environment?" "What process produces thoughts?" "What process produces sensation"?

Comment by mrcogmor on This is why we can't have social science · 2014-07-14T09:38:50.872Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In the second paragraph of the quote the author ignores the whole point of replication efforts. We know that scientific studies may suffer from methodological errors. The whole point of replication studies are to identify methodological errors. If they disagree then you know there is an uncontrolled variable or methodological mistake in one or both of them, further studies and the credibility of the experimenters is then used to determine which result is more likely to be true. If the independent studies agree then it is evidence that they are both correct.

The author also argues that replication efforts are biased because they are mostly made by people who disagree with the original study. That seems like a valid point.

Specifying designs in advance is a good idea, though not orignal

Comment by mrcogmor on LW Australia's online hangout results, (short stories about cognitive biases) · 2014-07-14T09:24:31.171Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The Mike story can be considered an example of the halo effect if you assume that Mike can interpret the obtuse language better than Jessica can because of his morality. On the other hand if Jessica interpreted it herself she would probably have gotten the same wrong impression of the law as Mike.

Or it could be that Mike interpreted the law correctly but has a few quirks in his morality that you don't. In which case it is not the case of the halo effect and more of a generalization or heuristic failing in a specific instance.

Tvtropes:Broken pedestal has some good examples of the halo effect.

Comment by mrcogmor on Be comfortable with hypocrisy · 2014-04-23T10:05:36.012Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The point of it wasn't to say that people like meat. The point was that people have or expect akrasia from not eating meat enough that they search Google and ask people on question sites for help.

I used to believe like you that if you believe something is morally good then you would do it. That axiom used to be a corner stone in my model of morality. There was actually a stage in my life where my moral superiority provided most of my self esteem and disobeying it was unthinkable. When I encountered belief in belief I couldn't make sense of it at all. I was further confused that they didn't admit it when I explained how they were being inconsistent.

But besides that I don't think humans evolved to have that kind of consistency . I believe that humans act mostly according to reinforcement. Morality does provide a form of reinforcement in the sense that you feel good when you act morally and worse otherwise, however if there was a sufficient external motivator such as extreme torture then you would eventually give in, perhaps rationalizing the decision.

I would suggest the people who have commented here read this post if they haven't yet because there have been two arguments over definitions here already (first with consistency and then the definition of "genuine belief") and there is a reason that is frowned upon. You should also see Belief in belief for better understanding how people can act contrary to their stated morals and behave in contradictory ways. (It typically comes up a lot with religious people, who don't try to be as moral as they can be despite viewing it as good)

Comment by mrcogmor on Be comfortable with hypocrisy · 2014-04-22T10:24:12.035Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I searched for "I want to be vegan but love meat" It was in google autocomplete and has plenty of results including this Yahoo answers page which explicitly mentions that the poster wants to be a vegetarian for ethical reasons.

Comment by mrcogmor on Be comfortable with hypocrisy · 2014-04-09T04:31:49.022Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think you are confusing logical and behavioral consistency here. The OP meant inconsistent in the logical sense, while you are thinking of behavioral consistency. Another context for consistency is matter, where consistency refers to the viscosity of the material. In each case it refers to how resilient (or resistant to damage) something is.

Comment by mrcogmor on Continuity in Uploading · 2014-01-18T02:37:06.338Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Error isn't implying that the final state is different. Just that the destructive copy process is a form of death and the wired brain process isn't.

I get where he is coming from, a copy is distinct from the original and can have different experiences. In the destructive copy scenario a person is killed and a person is born, In the wired brain scenario the person is not copied they merely change over time and nobody dies.

My view is that if I die to make a upload (which is identical to me except for greater intelligence & other benefits) then I think the gain outweighs the loss.

Comment by mrcogmor on Open Thread for January 17 - 23 2014 · 2014-01-18T01:23:27.961Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Humans would be considered UFAI if they were digitised. Merely consider a button that picks a random human and gives them absolute control. I wouldn't press that button because their is a significant chance that such a person will have goals that significantly differed from my own.

Comment by mrcogmor on Open Thread for January 17 - 23 2014 · 2014-01-18T01:14:14.165Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I thought of this moral dillema

There are two options.

  1. You experience a significant amount of pain, 5 minutes later you completly forget about the experience as if you were never in pain at all.
  2. You experience a slightly less amount of pain then option 1 but you don't forget it.

Which one would you choose?

Comment by mrcogmor on Calculating an expected value · 2014-01-11T08:01:06.507Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You are right in the sense that playing at the casino doesn't give your friend an extra four dollars but since utility is relative it depends on your perspective. Allow me to explain

This demonstrates your view. C is the money lost or gained by playing at the casino.

Pay Parking outcome = -4$, Casino outcome = C

And this demonstrates your friends view

Pay Parking outcome = 0 , Casino outcome = C+4 (It's the same as your view but +4 has been added to both sides)

If you apply a modifier (in this case +4) to all choices then the difference between them stays the same and a perfect utility maximizer will still make the same choice.

Humans are not perfect utility maximizers and so the modifier you apply to outcomes can have a effect on mood. For example a scenario where you have lost 50$ in order to keep $100. A possible view is that you

  • lost $50 (treating what you had before as 0 and setting utilities relative to that).
  • made $50. (treating the -$100 as 0 and setting utilities relative to that)
  • had no benefit (treating the best possible outcome as 0 and setting utilities relative to that)

Each option makes no difference to computer algortithm because it just cares about relative weights. A human however is going to be a lot happier if they view it as a gain instead of a loss.