Posts

Meetup : Less Wrong Melbourne September Dojo: Vagueness 2015-08-24T10:45:01.050Z · score: 1 (2 votes)
Meetup : Tokyo Meetup 2013-02-01T13:57:07.918Z · score: 6 (7 votes)
You can't signal to rubes 2013-01-01T06:40:18.310Z · score: 7 (74 votes)
Coursera Behavioural Neurology Course 2012-06-15T07:53:37.615Z · score: 7 (8 votes)
Meetup : Shanghai Less Wrong Meetup 2012-03-29T10:37:04.015Z · score: 0 (1 votes)
Free Tutoring in Math/Programming 2011-09-29T13:45:19.348Z · score: 70 (73 votes)
Meetup : Shanghai Less Wrong Meetup 2011-08-30T03:07:57.176Z · score: 1 (2 votes)
Shanghai Less Wrong Meetup #2 Wednesday May 11th, 7pm 2011-05-09T09:09:47.801Z · score: 1 (2 votes)
Shanghai Less Wrong Meetup April 30th, 2pm 2011-04-17T11:11:35.144Z · score: 8 (9 votes)
Melbourne Meetup May 6th, 6pm 2011-04-13T08:32:12.059Z · score: 3 (4 votes)
Melbourne Less Wrong Meetup for November 2010-10-15T05:39:18.919Z · score: 7 (8 votes)
Melbourne Less Wrong Meetup 2010-09-20T09:14:08.508Z · score: 8 (9 votes)
Avoiding Failure: Fallacy Finding 2009-07-03T17:59:38.239Z · score: 10 (15 votes)
Mind Control and Me 2009-03-21T17:31:33.340Z · score: 12 (20 votes)

Comments

Comment by patrick on Engaging Intellectual Elites at Less Wrong · 2013-08-17T05:53:02.925Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Point me to where Luke denied that academia has any advantages over LW. If you're going to claim that LW is obviously not "the highest-quality relatively-general-interest forum on the web", it would help your case to provide an obvious counterexample (academic channels themselves are generally not on the web, and LW has some advantages over them, even if the reverse is also true). LW is also not as homogeneous as you appear to believe; plenty of us are academics.

You're straw-manning here. Not conceding isn't the same thing as denying. To not concede something, one just has to omit the concession from one's writing. But this is just quibbling. The real issue is the attitude, or the arrogance, that LW may have with respect to academia. Nobody wants to waste time justifying themselves to a bunch of arrogant amateurs after all.

Anyway, some web channels where academics hang out:

  1. MathOverflow
  2. LambdaTheUltimate
  3. The arXiv
  4. StackExchange
  5. The N-Category Cafe http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/category/
  6. ScienceBlogs

(Cracked.com probably does a better job of being a smart, general interest forum than Less Wrong, it's a great deal more popular at least. But being the highest quality popular forum is a bit like being the smartest termite in the world. Specialized forums are where the elite action is.)

Comment by patrick on Privileging the Question · 2013-04-29T07:52:10.708Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The colloquial definition is "Useless but impressive and flatters my vanity".

The probabilistic definition is "Observable thing X signals quality A means P(A|X) > P(A)".

The economic definition is "Alice signals P to Bob by X if the net cost of X to Alice is outweighed by the benefits of Bob 'believing' A, and X causes Bob to 'believe' A even when Bob takes in to account that Alice wants him to 'believe' A." (note 'believe' A means 'act as if A were true'.)

Comment by patrick on Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013 · 2013-04-18T18:39:10.992Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The definition of limit: "lim x -> a f(x) = c " means for all epsilon > 0, there exists delta > 0 such that for all x, if 0 < |x-a|<delta then |f(x) - c| < epsilon.

The definition of derivative: f'(x) = lim h -> 0 (f(x+h) - f(x))/h

That is, for all epsilon > 0, there exists delta > 0 such that for all h, if 0 < |h| < delta then |(f(x+h) - f(x))/h - f'(x)| < epsilon.

At no point do we divide by 0. h never takes on the value 0.

Comment by patrick on Meetup : Melbourne Social Meetup · 2013-04-17T15:03:42.748Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I will attend. Is it OK if I bring my boyfriend (User:MixedNuts) along via my iPad?

Comment by patrick on Co-Working Collaboration to Combat Akrasia · 2013-03-07T01:00:36.266Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm open to coworking generally.

My ideal coworker is someone who is funny and interested in maths, physics and computer science. My plan would be to read books like Mathematics Form and Function or The Feynman Lectures on Physics and try to summarize / explain the content. For co working where I shut up, I am working on re-implementing MC-AIXI for my honours thesis.

Please contact me if interested, my email is patrick.robotham2@gmail.com my skype nick is grey_fox26

Comment by patrick on You can't signal to rubes · 2013-01-02T08:06:12.595Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You're accusing me of group selectionism? We might disagree on a point of terminology, but come on, I'm not a completely nutter. Anyway, my point in quoting the wikipedia article is that too much dishonest signalling makes signalling completely pointless ('weakens the integrity of the signalling system'), so for signalling to work you need some way of keeping out the cheats. I'm not proposing anything as daft as "groups without cheats will prosper". Indeed, that's why I was making such a big deal about criterion 4 and cost asymmetry, because the analysis of signalling has to work on an individual basis, including the individuals that might be tempted to cheat.

In my limited imagination, the only way I could think of for keeping out the cheats was having an asymmetric cost structure for honest signalling compared to dishonest signalling. Thus cheating wouldn't be worth it. I now realize this is not the only way. ialdaboth called my attention to Batesian Mimicry, where cheaters are "kept out" simply by the fact that mimics are comparatively rare. Doubtless other ways could be invented.

I think I prefer MagnetoHydroDynamics definition of signalling, and would reserve my criteria for describing costly signalling.

Comment by patrick on You can't signal to rubes · 2013-01-02T05:43:10.878Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No. I think that because lying is common in human society, a credible signal must be costly to liars.

Comment by patrick on You can't signal to rubes · 2013-01-02T05:29:54.394Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well I'm happy to use "costly signalling". I was under the impression that costly signalling was signalling. If it isn't costly, at least for potential fakes, then I'm not sure how it can serve as an explanation for behavior. Why should I signal when the fakes can signal just as easily? What is there to gain? I think at the very least, there has to be some mechanism for keeping out cheats, even if it's rarity. From the wikipedia article on signalling theory:

" If many animals in a group send too many dishonest signals, then their entire signalling system will collapse, leading to much poorer fitness of the group as a whole. Every dishonest signal weakens the integrity of the signalling system, and thus weakens the fitness of the group."

But what am I? Some kind of prescriptivist? Evidently my understanding of the term is a minority, and people far cleverer than I don't use it my way. I'll stick to "costly signal" in future.

“No! I must resolve the muddle” he shouted

The radio said “No, Patrick. You are the muddled one”

And then Patrick was a zombie.

Comment by patrick on You can't signal to rubes · 2013-01-02T05:15:02.455Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A rube is a sucker, someone easily deceived.The slogan means that potential signalling explanations shouldn't assume that the receiver of the signals is stupid.

Comment by patrick on You can't signal to rubes · 2013-01-01T16:51:39.552Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why not? Can't we regard evolutionary signalling as completely analogous to cognitive signalling, just as played by genes over a much longer time scale?

Comment by patrick on You can't signal to rubes · 2013-01-01T16:42:11.460Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That I'm a poor writer! Fixed.

Comment by patrick on You can't signal to rubes · 2013-01-01T16:11:56.059Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I meant the peacock example evolutionarily. I got it from The Selfish Gene.

Comment by patrick on You can't signal to rubes · 2013-01-01T15:47:02.915Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Don't I feel like an idiot. Sorry Katja!

Comment by patrick on You can't signal to rubes · 2013-01-01T10:52:08.244Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree. I think you can use signalling to explain this decision, but I wouldn't say that it's otherwise inexplicable. I guess I was being too cheeky.

Comment by patrick on You can't signal to rubes · 2013-01-01T10:50:55.602Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I do think that cost asymmetry is a defining feature of signalling. To me, signalling is a way of getting around the problem of cheap talk. To me, a "cheap signal" is like an "unenforceable pre-commitment". It defeats the point. (Of course, many people talk about pre-commitments without actually discussing the mechanics of enforcement. I view this as a grievous omission.)

I probably was too absolutist in my criteria, they should probably be read with an invisible "ceteris paribus" attached to them. I'm happy to talk of weak and strong signals.

I want to keep 4. because I make the assumption that the audience does not be deceived. Employers do not wish to hire lazy workers, and it's in every worker's interest to say that they aren't lazy.

Regarding your birthday card example, I'd classify that as a white lie. Your coworker probably doesn't care too much if he's genuinely liked or not. Same thing with Republicanism. We could also call it a "cover story".

Re: Good managerness, what you're talking about is not signalling, but Gresham's law. Decisiveness is meant as a proxy for good-managerness. Of course good manager-ness isn't observable, that's why we would tempted to invoke signalling in the first place! "How can I show that I'm a good manager? I know, I'll act decisively!".

I do agree I was being too absolutist, I do not agree that I should modify the theory. It seems to me that once we do that, we're no longer talking about signalling as it was originally conceived. I don't know how to argue for that other than to gesture at the economics literature, which talks about deceitful employees and employers without the werewithal to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Annendum: Katja Grace discusses signalling here and uses "costly signal" and "signal" as synonymous with my version of "signal". (The previous version of this comment falsely attributed it to Robin Hanson, mental note: Always check the byline)

Comment by patrick on You can't signal to rubes · 2013-01-01T09:15:45.740Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Now that you mention it, I think this does occur, although I think most of the judgement is directed at the 'signaller' (or in my language 'panderer') for being vain or duplicitous, although I don't like saying I'm offended by it ("Offense is a sign of a weak and bourgeois mind" says my inner Dali.)

I think that 'pandering' does carry the connotations of how 'signalling' is used, but I'm happy to accept alternatives. One I can think of right away is "appealing to", and I'd be happy to switch from 'pandering' to 'appealing' if you like.

Comment by patrick on You can't signal to rubes · 2013-01-01T08:49:25.790Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I just mean the latter. I think explanations involving pandering can work. The trouble I have with models that postulate stupidity, is that they need people to be stupid in a convenient direction. Stupidity is a much larger target than intelligence after all. I think explanation involving pandering work if you can explain (like you did with the affect hueristic) why these tricks will work on people.

Out of curiosity, what are the connotations of the word "rube" that make you suspicious?

Comment by patrick on Logical Pinpointing · 2012-11-02T05:42:52.345Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. We could have "number expressions" which denote the same number, like "ssss0", "4", "2+2", "2*2". Then the question of well-definedness is whether our method of computing addition gives the same result for each of these different number expressions.

Comment by patrick on Logical Pinpointing · 2012-11-01T23:23:08.253Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Why does 2+2 come out the same way each time?"

Thoughts that seem relevant:

  1. Addition is well defined, that is if x=x' and y=y' then x+y = x'+y'. Not every computable transformation has this property. Consider the non-well-defined function <+> on fractions given by a/b <+> c/d = (a+c)/(b+d) We know that 3/9 = 1/3 and 2/5 = 4/10 but 7/19 != 3/8.

  2. We have the Church-Rosser Theorem http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church%E2%80%93Rosser_theorem as a sort of guarantee (in the lambda calculus) that if I compute one way and you compute another, then we can eventually reach common ground.

  3. If we consider "a logic" to be a set of rules for manipulaing strings, then we can come up with some axioms for classical logic that characterize it uniquely. That is to say, we can logically pinpoint classical logic (say, with the axioms of boolean algebra) just like we can we can logically pinpoint the natural numbers (with the peano axioms).

Comment by patrick on Rationality Quotes October 2012 · 2012-10-06T10:31:21.302Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The belief that one can find out something about real things by speculation alone is one of the most long-lived delusions in human thought. It is the spirit of antiscience which is always trying to lead men away from the study of reality to the spinning of fanciful theories out of their own minds. It is the spirit which every one of us (whether he is engaged in scientific investigation or in deciding how to use his vote in an election) must cast out of his own mind. Mastery of the art of thought is only the beginning of the task of understanding reality. Without the correct facts it can only lead us into error.

-- Robert H. Thouless, Straight and Crooked Thinking

Comment by patrick on The Useful Idea of Truth · 2012-10-02T10:55:33.134Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think there can be any such rule.

Comment by patrick on Elitism isn't necessary for refining rationality. · 2012-10-02T10:30:16.788Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

On the political use, see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_elite

I bring up the political connotations because I don't think Less Wrong is particularly snobbish or exclusionary, and I think there are more flattering reasons why someone might choose to label themselves as "elitist".

Personally, I think the word "elitist" is too politically charged and emotionally laden to be of much use. There are a few different questions that the word lumps in together, I outline them below and my opinion of them.

Question 1. Should this site be hostile towards new members? (No)

Question 2. Should this site praise intelligence and rationality? (Yes)

Question 3. What privileges should those regarded as particularly rational receive? (No formal privileges)

Question 4. How concerned should we be with trying to preserve the current culture? (Somewhat, but not to the extent of making people feel small)

Comment by patrick on Elitism isn't necessary for refining rationality. · 2012-09-20T09:18:45.947Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The word "elitist" has political connotations. It is often used in right wing political discourse as a slur against liberals. For example the phrase "intellectual elite" is used a great deal in this article defending Sarah Palin. Some of these upvotes may be made by people who interpret "do you think elitism is bad" as asking "Do you hate university professors and would you vote for Sarah Palin?"

Comment by patrick on Meetup : Melbourne social meetup · 2012-09-16T00:14:28.747Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Call me (Patrick Robotham) at 0425 733 371

Comment by patrick on The noncentral fallacy - the worst argument in the world? · 2012-08-31T22:12:55.014Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The philosophers beat you to it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accident_%28fallacy%29

Comment by patrick on What is moral foundation theory good for? · 2012-08-28T19:09:37.984Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

To give a flattering explanation for such activity (I cringe at the thought of being thought as far right) I can only think of the value placed by this community on tolerance of ideas. As Paul Graham says " If a statement is false, that's the worst thing you can say about it. You don't need to say that it's heretical. And if it isn't false, it shouldn't be suppressed." You could interpret people quoting reactionaries like Moldbug as an attempt to shock people and show how tolerant they are by seriously entertaining the ideas. The closest analogue I can think of is Salvador Dali saying he admires Hitler in the movie "Surrealissimo". Link to Dali here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SM9E9O9tEHs

Comment by patrick on Let's be friendly to our allies · 2012-08-15T13:05:36.486Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Advertisements can offer useful things. The free CDs given out by AOL can be erased and used to store data. Less Wrong is not a place to get "generous invitations", it's a place to read information and arguments to do with rationality. An invitation to a black tie dinner is a thoughtful gesture, but asking "What the heck is this doing on Less Wrong"? is an appropriate response to such a gesture.

Comment by patrick on Open Problems Related to Solomonoff Induction · 2012-06-17T11:54:49.759Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I take your point re: length vs speed. The theorem that I think justifies calling Kolmogorov Complexity objective is this:

"If K1 and K2 are the complexity functions relative to description languages L1 and L2, then there is a constant c (which depends only on the languages L1 and L2) such that |K1(s) - K2(s)| <= c for all strings s."

(To see why this is true, note that you can write a compiler for L2 in L1 and vice versa)

I don't see why code modelling symmetric laws should be longer than code modelling asymmetric laws (I'd expect the reverse; more symmetries means more ways to compress.) Nor why 3 spatial dimensions (or 10 if you ask string theorists) is the minimum number of spatial dimensions compatible with intelligent life.

The whole point of Solomonoff induction is that the priors of a theory are not arbitrary. They are determined by the complexity of the theory, then you use Bayes rule on all theories to do induction.

Comment by patrick on Open Problems Related to Solomonoff Induction · 2012-06-16T17:02:38.841Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

All universal Turing machines can simulate each other with logarithmic slowdown. Saying that the parameter means that complexity "subjective" is like saying the time complexity of Quicksort is "subjective" because the algorithm doesn't specify which programming language to implement it in.

Comment by patrick on Let's all learn stats! · 2012-06-12T15:34:21.086Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I'll be providing support in ##patrickclass on freenode.

Comment by patrick on [Link] Nerds are nuts · 2012-06-08T13:57:45.632Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Which notes of Orwell's are you referring to? Orwell has seen tyranny and cruelty since boarding school. I really can't see him succumbing to wistful nostalgia.

Comment by patrick on Meetup : Melbourne social meetup · 2012-02-14T02:31:06.511Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'll be coming

Comment by patrick on Rationality quotes January 2012 · 2012-01-26T12:49:42.016Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It doesn't matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.

-- Deng Xioaping

Comment by patrick on Rationality quotes January 2012 · 2012-01-23T17:11:30.241Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Ninety per cent of most magic merely consists of knowing one extra fact.

Terry Pratchett

Comment by patrick on Spend Money on Ergonomics · 2011-12-25T20:20:56.789Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

The problem isn't really lacking citations (after all, Yudkowsky's posts generally don't have many citations). The problem is saying "The evidence for X is overwhelming", while failing to provide any evidence of X. It's effectively saying "take my word for it".

Comment by patrick on Compressing Reality to Math · 2011-12-16T06:09:03.901Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Voted up for the maths and clear exposition.

Comment by patrick on Rationality Quotes November 2011 · 2011-11-02T01:03:39.671Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Almost anything can be attacked as a failure, but almost anything can be defended as not a significant failure. Politicians do not appreciate the significance of 'significant'.

-- Sir Humphrey Appleby

Comment by patrick on Rationality Quotes October 2011 · 2011-10-05T09:16:34.287Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

(Great delicacy and tact are needed in presenting this idea, if the aim is, as it should be, to bewilder and frighted the opponent. ...)

-- Carl Linderholm, Mathematics Made Difficult

Let me explain why it's not easy to see that 5+4 is not 6.

Earlier, the numbers were defined as

2 = 1+1

3 = 1+2

4 = 1+3

5 = 1+4

6 = 1+5

7 = 1+6

8 = 1+7

9 = 1+8.

Where + is associative.

Consider a "clock" with 3 numbers, 1, 2, 3. x+y means "Start at x and advance y hours".
3

2 -> 1

Then 1+1 = 2 and 2+1 = 3, as per our definitions. Also, 3+1 = 1 (since if you start at the 3 and advance 1 hour, you end up at 1). Thus 4 = 1, 5 = 4+1 so 5 = 1+1 = 2.
So 6 = 5+1 = 5 + 4.

Comment by patrick on Rationality Quotes October 2011 · 2011-10-05T02:38:11.560Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

With a few brackets it is easy enough to see that 5 + 4 is 9. What is not easy to see is that 5 + 4 is not 6.

Carl Linderholm, Mathematics Made Difficult.

Comment by patrick on Free Tutoring in Math/Programming · 2011-09-30T03:48:45.476Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

These are the languages I know. While Clojure is interesting, I haven't had the chance to learn it, and I would feel guilty offering tutoring services in a language I don't actually know how to program in.

That said, if you want to learn Clojure and take advantage of my tutoring services, the closest equivalent is scheme.

Comment by patrick on Free Tutoring in Math/Programming · 2011-09-29T17:28:07.379Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It has the advantage of being more well defined though ;)

Comment by patrick on Rationality Quotes September 2011 · 2011-09-07T10:07:26.804Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Leonard, if you were about to burn or drown or starve I would panic. It would be the least I could do. That's what's happening to people now, and I don't think my duty to panic disappears just because they're not in the room!

-- Raymond Terrific

Comment by patrick on Rationality Quotes September 2011 · 2011-09-05T00:37:46.802Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

On some other subjects people do wish to be deceived. They dislike the operation of correcting the hypothetical data which they have taken as basis. Therefore, when they begin to see looming ahead some such ridiculous result as 2 + 3 = 7, they shrink into themselves and try to find some process of twisting the logic, and tinkering the equation, which will make the answer come out a truism instead of an absurdity; and then they say, “Our hypothetical premiss is most likely true because the conclusion to which it brings us is obviously and indisputably true.” If anyone points out that there seems to be a flaw in the argument, they say, “You cannot expect to get mathematical certainty in this world,” or “You must not push logic too far,” or “Everything is more or less compromise,” and so on.

-- Mary Everest Boole

Comment by patrick on Rationality Quotes September 2011 · 2011-09-04T13:37:22.992Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.

-- HL Mencken

Comment by patrick on Take heed, for it is a trap · 2011-08-14T17:34:55.892Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

P(A) = 2^-K(A).

As for ~A, see: http://lesswrong.com/lw/vs/selling_nonapples/ (The negation of a complex proposition is much vaguer, and hence more probable (and useless))

Comment by patrick on Take heed, for it is a trap · 2011-08-14T15:34:24.934Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The number of possible probability distributions is far larger than the two induced by the belief that P, and the belief that ~P.

Comment by patrick on Take heed, for it is a trap · 2011-08-14T13:00:32.588Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure why you'd assume that the MML of a random proposition is only one bit...

Comment by patrick on Take heed, for it is a trap · 2011-08-14T12:59:02.614Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Three more words then, reductio ad absurdum.

Comment by patrick on Take heed, for it is a trap · 2011-08-14T11:50:33.830Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"Bayesian Bob: ... I meant that in a vacuum we should believe it with 50% certainty..."

No we shouldn't: http://lesswrong.com/lw/jp/occams_razor/

As for proving a negative, I've got two words: Modus Tollens.

Bob does need to go back to math class! ;)

Comment by patrick on Rationality Quotes: June 2011 · 2011-06-07T03:45:19.154Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

If things are nice there is probably a good reason why they are nice: and if you do not know at least one reason for this good fortune, then you still have work to do.

Richard Askey