Posts

Epistemological Braces 2018-06-12T22:01:17.651Z · score: 1 (4 votes)
Glide #1.5: New Criticism and Rationality 2018-06-07T00:36:52.111Z · score: 10 (5 votes)
Epistemological Weight Class 2018-05-30T23:43:40.519Z · score: 4 (4 votes)
Glide #1: Learning Rationality from Absurdity 2018-05-23T18:18:01.465Z · score: 22 (7 votes)
Glide Meditations: A Statement of Intent 2018-05-22T07:48:08.648Z · score: 21 (6 votes)

Comments

Comment by musicmage4114 on Sleeping Beauty Not Resolved · 2018-06-20T21:28:03.448Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I understand that you do not assume Beauty's experiences are identical on Monday and Tuesday. Rather, my understanding is that you assume that "the set of things it is possible for Beauty to experience on Monday" is identical to "the set of things it is possible for Beauty to experience on Tuesday". Is my understanding incorrect?

Comment by musicmage4114 on Sleeping Beauty Not Resolved · 2018-06-20T03:15:26.552Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I raised this objection on Ksvanhorn's initial post, though it came rather late, so I'm not sure if anyone saw it. You'll have to forgive me in advance, as most of this math is beyond my current level of familiarity.

In the original post, Ksvanhorn states:

The statement of the problem implies that the distributions for PM and PT, conditional on H being false, are identical, but not necessarily independent.

My understanding is that Neal's solution assumes that the sets of possible experience streams for Sleeping Beauty before answering the question are identical on both Monday and Tuesday. Furthermore, this "stream of experiences" includes events of arbitrarily small significance (one example given was the movement of a fly on the wall).

If my understanding is correct (and given that I don't understand most of the math involved, it's certainly possible that it's not), it seems to be trivial to disprove this assumption. Through the course of the experiment, time passes. Sleeping Beauty ages. If something as insignificant as a fly on the wall or a change in heart rate is relevant enough to be included in these calculations, then Sleeping Beauty's aging over the course of two should also be.

She cannot be two days older on Monday, and she cannot be one day older on Tuesday. All of her internal bodily functions proceed as normal. Her fingernails grow. Her hair grows. Any kind of wound condition that required healing will have progressed. Does she eat? Go to the bathroom? If we can condition on a nebulous "everything" that can include basically insignificant differences in experience, I can think of any number of much less insignificant differences that are affected by the passage of time, and thus cannot be identical on both Monday and Tuesday.

Comment by musicmage4114 on On the Chatham House Rule · 2018-06-14T00:32:29.947Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I feel like you might be appealing to consequences here a bit. Whether or not it is tractable in theory to follow the rule as an absolute (that is, to the letter) is a different problem from whether or not people will actually choose to do so.

It seems that Scott is more concerned about finding a formulation that can be followed to the letter in theory, while at the same time he has already conceded that most people will not choose to do so regardless of the formulation (and will thus follow the spirit instead).

Comment by musicmage4114 on Epistemological Braces · 2018-06-13T03:08:45.283Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You make a good point. I didn't sufficiently define what good or "honorable" debate looks like, so that's a massive hole in my reasoning. Thanks for bringing that up!

Comment by musicmage4114 on Glide #1.5: New Criticism and Rationality · 2018-06-12T03:43:11.307Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I very much appreciate your feedback, thank you!

I'm completely in agreement with you as to your proposed structure of article-writing, and in thinking about future pieces, I've visualized them in exactly those terms. As it happens, I actually did exactly that for this piece, since it grew from a separate piece that was getting very off-topic.

That said, my Glide Meditations aren't really meant to be a "cohesive" body of work in the sense that they build off of each other to reach a final conclusion. They're more like individual reading responses similar to something you'd write for a class, more a stream-of-consciousness than anything else, and they're mostly intended to track my own progress in processing what I read, rather than being directly aimed at providing fresh insight (though it'd be nice if they accomplished both!). I realize that's probably not what most people are looking for here, particularly from someone without an otherwise representative body of work, so I'll just have to accept that.

Thank you again for taking the time to comment, especially since negative feedback can so often be either mean-spirited (which yours certainly was not) or worse, unsaid, which doesn't help anyone. I appreciate you taking the time!

Comment by musicmage4114 on The Case Against Education: Why Do Employers Tolerate It? · 2018-06-12T03:05:12.690Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think it might be helpful to taboo the term "standardized employees" here, because I strongly suspect that you and cousin_it are defining the term differently.

cousin_it seems to be suggesting that education tends to produce people who have a similar skillset or body of knowledge. This is what having a degree implies; that one has attained a certain level of knowledge that an educational institution has deemed acceptable to qualify for receiving the degree. This is part of the reason why employers look for various degree levels, as the level of degree implies a certain level of knowledge necessary for the job that the employer will not need to take the time to impart themselves.

You, on the other hand, seem to be referring to how one acts on the job as the primary meaning of "standardization". Ability to conform is, to a certain degree, a useful trait in most jobs, but it isn't necessarily a trait that is imparted via formal education. Further, one's ability to conform usually has very little to do with one's ability to actually perform the job in question, since lacking the knowledge that forms the basis of the job is not something that can necessarily be covered up by conforming.

Comment by musicmage4114 on Against accusing people of motte and bailey · 2018-06-07T02:04:40.329Z · score: 16 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think this post beautifully (though indirectly) illustrates a few things:

  • the importance of debating only those "in front of you"
  • the importance of separating personal ideas from group ideas
  • the relative futility of debating against or on behalf of a group

In the first example you give, the error in pointing out a motte-and-bailey is that a motte-and-bailey hasn't actually occurred in the context of the conversation. If we bring up the bailey before it has actually been presented as an argument, we imply that we expect the other person to use it, and by extension, that they will argue in bad faith. The appropriate defense then (assuming you're telling the truth) is: "There may be some people who make that argument, but I haven't and I'm not going to, because I don't agree with it. Let's focus on the arguments each of us is actually making, okay?"

Similarly, if we make the argument "You belong to this group, and members of this group often use that statement as a motte, but they assert corresponding bailey X when they think they can get away with it", then we are assuming that the other person's beliefs are perfectly in line with our perception of their group's beliefs. This is also incorrect, and on two levels this time: we don't know that this person believes everything the group believes unless they say so, and we don't know if we have an accurate understanding of what their group believes if we are not part of it (or sometimes even if we are!).

We can take this even farther! Suppose the other person belongs to Group X, whose leadership or designated representative (or group of representatives) maintains a publicly-available platform, manifesto, or statement of purpose that clearly lays out what the group as a whole believes. In that case, we might be able to say we understand what the group believes, but we still can't say for sure what the group member in front of us believes, because they still don't necessarily need to agree with everything the group says (though such incongruity can sometimes open up other avenues of debate). In both of the preceding examples, the appropriate defense would be: "I may be a member of Group X [and Group X might as a whole support argument Y], but there are places where Group X and I disagree, including argument Y. Let's focus on the arguments we each make personally, okay?"

It's also important not to get baited into arguing against something we don't personally believe. Unless we're acting in an official capacity as a member of Group X, I think it's totally okay to refuse to engage when someone brings up the group's platform by saying something like "As a member of Group X, I do have an understanding of why some members use Argument Y, but I don't agree with Argument Y, so I'm not going to defend it."

In other words, I think it's fine to point out a motte-and-bailey, but only when someone has actually used it. It seems like the real issue is people pointing it out when it hasn't happened, as Davide_Zagami has already pointed out.

Comment by musicmage4114 on Toolbox-thinking and Law-thinking · 2018-06-02T02:33:15.476Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It may be that none of my readers need the lecture at this point, but I've learned to be cautious about that sort of thing, so I'll walk through the difference anyways.

One of my favorite literature professors used to tell me that one should always write under the assumption that each piece one writes is the first piece of one's work that the reader has encountered. Not only does this make one's writing more accessible (because odds are there will be someone for whom that is true!), it also helps us to be internally consistent, because we have to summarize our reasoning rather than take shortcuts because we assume our audience already knows.

Not to commit the fallacy of the golden mean or anything, but the two viewpoints are both metatools in the metatoolbox, as it were. You're better off if you can use both in ways that depend on context and circumstance, rather than insisting that only toolbox reasoning is the universally best context-insensitive metaway to think.

I think you're committing the fallacy of the golden mean. "Metatools" are still tools, and "metatoolboxes" are still toolboxes. If I'm understanding you correctly, and your point is "Toolbox thinking and lawful thinking are metatools in metatoolboxes, and should be used accordingly", then you actually are arguing that toolbox reasoning is the universally best context-insensitive metaway to think.

Heck, right at the very beginning of this essay, you described the toolbox way of thinking as "[having] a big bag of tools that you can adapt to context and circumstance", and you used that same wording almost verbatim to state your main argument about metatools and metatoolboxes. So it would appear that you are ultimately arguing in favor of toolbox thinking, yet for some reason saying you're not. Have I misunderstood something somewhere?

Comment by musicmage4114 on Meta-Honesty: Firming Up Honesty Around Its Edge-Cases · 2018-06-02T00:03:41.275Z · score: 13 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I suddenly have the strangest compulsion to go and summarize the entire Bible in this style... really gave me good laugh. Thank you for this, truly. :)

Comment by musicmage4114 on Meta-Honesty: Firming Up Honesty Around Its Edge-Cases · 2018-06-01T23:59:57.767Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe your point is that "lie" feels like a natural category in a way that "meta-lie" doesn't, so basing your clear bright moral lines around the latter category feels unduly arbitrary?

You've actually hit the nail right on the head and put my thoughts into words I couldn't quite find, thank you.

Any moral code that contains non-absolute rules (in this case, "Don't lie, except when...") will of course require some amount of arbitrariness to distinguish it from the infinite range of other possibilities, but given the amount of difficulty the prohibition on "meta-lies" introduces if you decide to also uphold the prohibition on gathering object-level information, it definitely feels excessively arbitrary.

Really, the whole thing would work just fine if we were to pick just one of those restrictions: either don't gather object-level information (but be free to meta-lie), or don't meta-lie (but be okay with gathering object-level information). Dealing with both is, as far as I'm concerned, intractable to the point of uselessness.

Comment by musicmage4114 on Meta-Honesty: Firming Up Honesty Around Its Edge-Cases · 2018-05-31T22:24:24.826Z · score: 1 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Regarding meta-honesty:

I'm going to flip the usual jargon on its head and say that I "agree connotatively, but disagree denotatively".

Meta-honesty - that is, "honesty about honesty" - is, like many meta-concepts, interesting to think about, but I don't quite understand why it needs to be formulated as some sort of "code". As you've presented it here, this "meta-honesty code" seems largely intractable in normal communication, and comes across as an overly-complicated way of simply refusing to hold up "Do not lie" as a moral absolute.

The primary problem with this whole "code" idea is the prohibition against using meta-honesty to gather object-level information. This is both arbitrary and, I would argue, unnecessary. In the examples you give, the immediate response to someone invoking the "code of meta-honesty" and then asking a question is for the person being questioned to doubt the asker's motives. At this point, the "code" has already broken down, because in questioning the legitimacy of invoking the code, the legitimacy of invoking the code has been called into question, and by extension, the legitimacy of the code itself.

Furthermore, one of the base assumptions of this "code" is that it is morally permissible to lie under certain circumstances. Given that "meta-lies" are just a specific subset of "lies", I don't see how such a moral system could disallow that particular subset of lies and remain internally consistent. Rather than meta-honestly evade questions when you feel you're interrogated, just meta-lie and be done with it.

Personally, I think it's okay to define one's attitude toward honesty as "I don't personally consider 'Do not lie' to be a moral absolute" and leave it at that. If you can at least be honest about what you do and don't consider to be moral imperatives or absolutes, then you're already pretty far ahead of most people.

Regarding the absoluteness of rules:

I feel like you're conflating moral law with societal law, and that you're equivocating between "absolute moral laws" and "societal laws that can be summarized as absolutes, but have many exceptions".

"Do not kill" is absolute if and only if "Do not kill" is absolute. It has no exceptions. It is not the same law as "Do not kill, unless you're a soldier at war". If we start talking about exceptions to absolute law, we are no longer talking about absolute law. We don't "perform" that "Do not kill" is absolute (but secretly know that it isn't), because almost no one thinks that the whole of the law is just that one phrase. Conversely, people like me do perform that "Do not kill" is absolute, because we actually think it's absolute.

It seems like you're using a conception of "law" in which any exceptions to a law are separate from that law, which is how you're arriving at the self-contradictory concept of "exceptions to absolute laws". If instead you include exceptions as part of a given law (which is completely reasonable and done all the time in real life), we both remove that contradiction and can still refer to laws as being "absolute" in whole.

Comment by musicmage4114 on Epistemological Weight Class · 2018-05-31T15:58:16.273Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You're right, I've definitely made the base assumption that the point of debate is to win. But even if you're only debating someone to learn (which I did touch upon briefly when I mentioned "epistemological weight-lifting"), you're probably not going to get much out of it unless you're actually doing your best to present your best arguments and reasoning, that is, acting as if your goal was to win, even if that isn't your actual goal. From that standpoint, debating to learn and debating to win should be mechanically indistinguishable.

And yes, I completely agree that debating people far above my weight class would be an enlightening and exciting experience all on its own!

Comment by musicmage4114 on Epistemological Weight Class · 2018-05-31T00:24:45.616Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's a very good point. I suppose I could have tightened my terminology in that regard, but ultimately it's a (perhaps misguided) base assumption of mine that "Success in debate is primarily determined by the strength of one's evidence", so I'm not sure I would have anticipated that argument even given more time. I frequently forget that "debate" constitutes a skillset all its own.

Comment by musicmage4114 on Understanding is translation · 2018-05-30T21:26:27.960Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, given your explanation, I do understand what you're trying to say, and I don't feel that you've sufficiently made your case. For example, how would your formulation handle tacit knowledge, given that such knowledge is inherently difficult or impossible to translate?

Or, to give a different example: suppose I have a puzzle with four pieces. The puzzle's edges do not form a regular polygon, and each piece is a simple geometric shape, such that the correct orientation of the pieces is ambiguous without already knowing the correct orientation. I have a picture of the completed puzzle which shows how all of the pieces are arranged, and I am tasked with explaining to someone else how to arrange the puzzle. They cannot see the picture, and I cannot see them or their puzzle pieces. If I am unable to explain how to successfully arrange the puzzle to them, does that indicate that I lack some understanding of the puzzle? Surely not, since by having the picture of the correct orientation, I have all of the information there is to know about the puzzle, do I not?

Comment by musicmage4114 on Understanding is translation · 2018-05-30T14:30:11.411Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Please forgive me if I sound obtuse here, but the title of your post is "Understanding is translation", which sounds like you are saying that the two are equivalent. If, in your formulation, the two are equivalent, then "Does someone understand X?" and "Can they translate X to Y?" are equivalent questions.

Comment by musicmage4114 on Understanding is translation · 2018-05-30T00:39:17.080Z · score: 11 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I feel like you've taken a useful insight ("We can help people understand things more easily if we can translate them into a form they're already familiar with") and gone way too far with it, or, at the very least, failed to sufficiently explain your reasoning. You've provided a lot of examples, but the analogy you provided in the first few paragraphs doesn't necessarily work with all of them, so the reader is left to fill in the blanks and guess at what you mean.

A self-taught singer can translate from heard notes to sung notes, but can't translate either to notes on a staff; a self-taught guitarist is missing a different subset of those skills.

What skills? "Music skills"? Knowing how to play a guitar and knowing how sing are both subsets of "music skills", and neither requires the ability to read music, but could you really argue in good faith that someone with an extensive voice performance education doesn't "understand" music just because they don't know how to play a guitar?

You can be good at translating other people's facial expressions to emotional states, but lousy at translating them to pencil sketches; your friend is the opposite; which of you "understands" human faces better?

I do, because I can extract more information from them. I think you would be hard-pressed to convincingly argue that the ability to recreate something in a different medium demonstrates "understanding".

A bilingual person can translate a Japanese sentence with the word "integral" to English, without knowing what integral means.

This is a fairly trivial assertion, and I'm not exactly sure how it contributes to your overall point.

I'd be interested to read more about this in the event you were to flesh out and expand on your thoughts a bit more.

Comment by musicmage4114 on Sleeping Beauty Resolved? · 2018-05-23T19:25:52.532Z · score: 1 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Beauty's physiological state (heart rate, blood glucose level, etc.) will not be identical, and will affect her thoughts at least slightly. Treating these and other differences as random,

Not all of the differences are random, though. Sleeping Beauty will always have aged by one day if awakened on Monday, and by two days if awakened on Tuesday, and even that much aging has distinguishable consequences. Now, I'm not at all familiar with the math involved, but it seems like this solution hinges on "everything" being random. If not everything is random, does this solution still work?

Comment by musicmage4114 on Co-Proofs · 2018-05-23T18:44:43.790Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

While I agree that "co-proofs" as you've described them are interesting, I'm not sure on how useful they are as a concept. While a lack of counter-evidence certainly helps when we want to argue in favor of a hypothesis, if there isn't enough evidence to bring that hypothesis to our attention in the first place, then we're privileging that hypothesis.

To speak to the example you give, while it is true that for any given person, not having an alibi is a co-proof of their involvement in a crime, there are likely vast numbers of people who don't have alibis, so absent additional proof that lets us pick from among those without alibis, the co-proof doesn't really get us anywhere by itself.

Comment by musicmage4114 on Co-Proofs · 2018-05-23T17:20:00.459Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm curious where you draw your writing knowledge from that seems to consider "source of inspiration" to be, at best, superfluous information? I can't say I've encountered such a guideline before. I suppose I could see an argument that such information doesn't belong in a particular type of writing (like formal writing or technical writing), but that would then require this piece to be the specified type of writing, which I anticipate it likely is not.

Personally, I enjoy hearing about people's sources of inspiration, because such a source might also be capable of providing inspiration to me. Thus, "Where did the author come up with this idea?" is certainly a question I could be said to have.

Given that, perhaps you are describing the questions you personally have, rather than those of all readers?