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Comment by muhd on Epistemic Effort · 2016-11-30T16:59:31.806Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It could be argued that describing the evidence ought to be a significant focus of the body of a post, if you are trying to persuade someone who might not otherwise be persuaded. It's certainly a useful concept though, particularly when you just want to quickly share an idea that you expect will not require significant persuasive effort to be well received (to avoid people being overconfident in your idea).

Comment by muhd on The Least Convenient Possible World · 2016-09-07T20:50:40.679Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

On the other hand, if you think that a contingent fact will get you out of a hard choice, perhaps you will be more likely to find legitimate contingent facts.

Comment by muhd on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-20T23:43:49.743Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Conversely, I can't think of any applications for which tying IQ to race is useful.

If the results of the racial IQ studies are true, then that is very important because it disproves the doctrine of ethnic cognitive equality. Many people, especially in America, have this idea that all ethnic groups must have exactly equal average cognitive ability, and that if one or more ethnic groups perform below average on a test of aptitude, that is taken as strong evidence that the test is invalid and racially biased and thus cannot be used.

For this reason, many aptitude tests are severely restricted in their use since they are considered racist. This in turn would have a negative economic impact if these tests are actually valid, since employers and colleges are forced to use other, less effective means to vet candidates.

Comment by muhd on Philosophical Landmines · 2013-08-16T22:37:02.642Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm confused. Consequentialists do not have access to the actual outcomes when they are making their decisions, so using that as a guideline for making moral decisions is completely unhelpful.

It also seems that your statement that good intentions don't justify the means is false. Consider this counterexample:

I have 2 choices A and B. Option A produces 2 utilons with 50% probability and -1 utilon the rest of the time. Choice B is just 0 utilons with 100% probability.

My expected utility for option A is +0.5 utilons which is greater than the 0 utilons for option B so I choose option A.

Let's say I happen to get the -1 utilon in the coin flip.

At this point, it seems the following three things are true:

  1. I had good intentions
  2. I had a bad actual outcome, compared to what would have happened if I had chosen option (or "means") B
  3. I made the right choice, given the information I had at the time

Therefore, from this example it certainly seems like good intentions do justify the means. But perhaps you meant something else by "good intentions"?

that if you mean well and can convince yourself that the consequences of an action will be good, then that action is right for you and nobody has any business criticizing you for taking it.

Certainly it is bad to delude yourself, but it seems like that is just a case of having the wrong intentions... that is, you should have intended to prevent yourself from becoming deluded in the first place, proceeding carefully and realizing that as a human you are likely to make errors in judgement.

Comment by muhd on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-02T23:44:04.946Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is an interesting point, but let's try a thought experiment to see if it holds up. Consider the following statements you could make about yourself

  1. You are an X-level black belt in a martial art.
  2. Your top bowling score is X.
  3. You can benchpress X amount of weight.
  4. You have an IQ of X.

Where X is some value that is impressive and/or noteworthy. How strong of a negative reaction do you think each of these would get?

Here's what my intuition says:

  1. Probably no negative reaction.
  2. Probably no negative reaction.
  3. Possibly somewhat negative, sounds like bragging.
  4. Strong negative reaction.

Looking for a pattern in the results, I have a theory: it seems like what is most unacceptable is making it sound that you are superior to the other people in the room in an objective sense. The reason martial arts and bowling are acceptable is that skill in those pursuits is not relevant to the other people in the room who do not engage in them. On the other hand, bragging about your weightlifting is somewhat more annoying since it seems like you are saying you are more healthy/fit/muscular than other people in the room--traits which are more broadly valuable.

Claiming high intelligence gets the worst response of all because it is the most absolute and broad claim of superiority one can make, since being intelligent generally makes you better at a broad range of tasks in the modern world, all else being equal. Also, IQ is associated with controversy and suffers from addtional negativity from that -- just like if you say you are for/against abortion. I think Andy may be right that the objective number makes it worse in some way. If you said "I am really smart" that wouldn't be quite as offensive, since it is less objective.

If someone can think of counterexamples to my theory, replies are welcome.

Comment by muhd on Lawful Uncertainty · 2013-08-01T22:17:08.960Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think the behavior we are seeing here may be more a case of loss aversion rather than anything else.

Assuming that red cards must come at some point (true if we are flipping over a limited set of cards with a blue-red ratio of 7 to 3; not sure if that is the setup), the subjects adopt a strategy that gives them the highest likelihood of avoiding failure completely. Predicting blue cards every time requires accepting a certain degree failure right from the outset and is thus unpalatable to the human mind which is loss-averse.

Even if the experiment is designed so that red cards are not guaranteed to come at some point (if, for example, you shuffle after every flip), the subjects may fall prey to gambler's fallacy, which, when combined with their loss-aversion, leads them to adopt the 70-30 strategy.

Comment by muhd on Why I'm Skeptical About Unproven Causes (And You Should Be Too) · 2013-07-29T22:35:07.787Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

These were my thoughts when I read this.

A better analogy might be buying stock in a technology startup which is making a product completely unlike anything on the market now. It is certainly more risky than the sure thing, with lots of potential for losing your investment, but also has a much much higher potential payoff. This is generally the case in any sort of investing, whether it be investing in a charity or in a business -- the higher the risk, the higher the potential gain. The sure stuff generally has plenty of funding already -- the low hanging fruit has already been taken.

That being said, one should be on the lookout for good investing opportunities of both kinds -- charging more (in terms of expected payoff) for the riskier ones but not shunning either completely.

Comment by muhd on Social status & testosterone · 2013-07-20T01:35:08.751Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That link does not talk the effects of estrogen...

Comment by muhd on Meditation, insight, and rationality. (Part 2 of 3) · 2013-07-10T21:43:47.824Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I see nothing there that contradicts what I said, but it does seem most of the links are dead.

Comment by muhd on Meditation, insight, and rationality. (Part 2 of 3) · 2013-07-10T18:50:14.874Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Aren't numbers a human universal?

No. The Pirahã, for example, have no concept of exact numbers, only of smaller and larger amounts.

Comment by muhd on Prisoner's Dilemma (with visible source code) Tournament · 2013-06-25T22:42:10.200Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have any evidence of this? It seems highly unlikely that the proportion of users of any given programming language that could write a parser would differ by an amount that there are more Scheme users who can write a parser than Java/Python users, given the vastly larger number of users of Java and Python.

For what its worth, python includes its own parser in the standard library, so it would probably be better than scheme in that regard, though I might have to agree with you regarding parsing with Java, though there may very well be a module out there for parsing Java as well.

Comment by muhd on Prisoner's Dilemma (with visible source code) Tournament · 2013-06-21T22:18:28.937Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

At best we'd get a lot more people who are excited to participate but loose interest once they realize they have no idea how to write a program to parse the opposing bot.

At worst that is what would happen.

Java and Python are many orders of magnitude more popular than Scheme and if only 10% of the people who get excited about participating actually know how to parse than we would still have much greater numbers.

Comment by muhd on Prisoner's Dilemma (with visible source code) Tournament · 2013-06-21T00:15:59.577Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Same here.

If it were in Java or Python, we could get a whole lot more participants. And more readers who understand the source of the submissions.

Comment by muhd on Discussion for Eliezer Yudkowsky's paper: Timeless Decision Theory · 2013-06-19T22:03:16.215Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think inherent in the problem is the condition that you fully understand what is going on and you know you aren't part of some weird trick.

It's not realistic, but being realistic isn't the point of the problem.