An account of what I believe to be inconsistent behavior on the part of our editor 2009-12-17T01:33:15.694Z


Comment by PeterS on Asking Precise Questions · 2011-01-09T07:43:09.039Z · LW · GW

Can the question given in this post be formulated precisely?

If so, nix everything but the precise description of the answer-box's behavior and ask for a program which simulates such a device.

If not, ... then I choose to interpret it in such a way that I can ask for the above anyway.

Comment by PeterS on Cryptographic Boxes for Unfriendly AI · 2010-12-18T20:48:34.120Z · LW · GW

The OP framed the scenario in terms of directing the AI to design a FAI, but the technique is more general. It's possibly safe for all problems with a verifiable solution.

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 6 · 2010-12-11T00:01:56.101Z · LW · GW

Good idea. But this effectively makes failing to "go quietly" punishable by death.

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 6 · 2010-12-10T23:35:09.943Z · LW · GW

In some attacks it's okay to hold of on proposing solutions. In others, it's not. Presumably, there actually are some bad people in Azkaban, and not just, say, people responsible for an accidental death. Before Harry destroys the prison, he needs to think carefully about what is to become of these people.

What's required of a maximum security wizard prison? You clearly need to subdue any magical powers which would allow the prisoners to revolt or escape. At a minimum then, confiscate wands and put up anti-Disapparition charms. This might not be enough, as in canon it's possible to perform magic without a wand. Voldemort was able to terrorize the other orphans by "hand-to-hand" magical means before he had even been introduced to wand-based magic! So what else can you do? You could Somnium prisoners for the duration of their sentence, but this seems both inhumane and ineffective as a means of punishment (if that's actually a goal of imprisonment).

We don't really know enough to say to what degree it's possible to subdue a wizard's magical powers without bringing in the Dementors. If Dementors are just a reification of the fear of death, perhaps you could terrorize the prisoners in some manner as to achieve a similar effect. This would be unacceptable from Harry's point of view. In canon, we see that some people's magical abilities diminish due to heartbreak (Tonks and possibly Tom Riddle's mother). It might be possible to exploit this phenomenon somehow, but then again it could fail to work on psychopathic prisoners.

Given what we don't know, it's possible that all solutions to this problem are inhumane (i.e. the only way to suppress magical ability is by trauma). We don't live in the HP:MoR universe, so we can't do much research on the possibilities, but Harry should!

EDIT: The thought occurred that you could transfigure the prisoners into Muggles. Could be possible, but only for short periods of time (and may require at least a 1-1 ratio of guards to prisoners).

Comment by PeterS on Utility is unintuitive · 2010-12-09T09:09:22.258Z · LW · GW

Transitivity? In The Lifespan Dilemma, Eliezer presents a sequence (L_n) in which we are convinced L_n { L_(n+1) throughout, but for which we'd prefer even L_0 to L_n for some large but finite n.

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 5 · 2010-11-11T00:47:03.370Z · LW · GW

Chapters 55-58 seemed to me to contained very little content. At least not much that was fun/interesting. What content they had was superfluous and repetitive. The only real obstacle for Harry were the Dementors*, and he seemed to defeat them trivially. At the end of Ch. 54, suspense was high, but (at least from my perspective) it really fizzled out.

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 5 · 2010-11-07T18:20:22.177Z · LW · GW

They're finally out of there. Let us never speak of these chapters again!

Comment by PeterS on The Curve of Capability · 2010-11-05T10:39:43.923Z · LW · GW

Strong recursion: Software designs new software to design newer software; money begets money begets more money. Think of the foom as compound interest on intelligence.

Suppose A designs B, which then designs C. Why does it follow that C is more capable than B (logically, disregarding any hardware advances made between B and C)? Alternatively, why couldn't A have designed C initially?

Comment by PeterS on Rationality Quotes: November 2010 · 2010-11-05T10:27:48.423Z · LW · GW

Oh... I in no way endorse the above argument! Pierre-Simon Laplace's, a century or so after Newton, gave a naturalistic model of how the Solar System could have developed. "Rationality quotes" is not only about sharing words of wisdom, but also words of folly.

Comment by PeterS on Rationality Quotes: November 2010 · 2010-11-05T04:13:58.902Z · LW · GW


Comment by PeterS on Rationality Quotes: November 2010 · 2010-11-03T21:51:17.833Z · LW · GW

Isaac Newton's argument for intelligent design:

Were all the planets as swift as Mercury or as slow as Saturn or his satellites; or were the several velocities otherwise much greater or less than they are (as they might have been had they arose from any other cause than their gravities); or had the distances from the centers about which they move been greater or less than they are (as they might have been had they arose from any other cause than their gravities); or had the quantity of matter in the sun or in Saturn, Jupiter, and the earth (and by consequence their gravitating power) been greater or less than it is; the primary planets could not have revolved about the sun nor the secondary ones about Saturn, Jupiter, and the earth, in concentric circles as they do, but would have moved in hyperbolas or parabolas or in ellipses very eccentric. To make this system, therefore, with all its motions, required a cause which understood and compared together the quantities of matter in the several bodies of the sun and planets and the gravitating powers resulting from thence.... And to compare and adjust all these things together in so great a variety of bodies, argues that cause to be, not blind and fortuitous, but very well skilled in mechanics and geometry.

-- Letter to Richard Bentley

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 4 · 2010-11-03T05:51:06.276Z · LW · GW

Why does Quirrell want Harry exposed to Dementors?

At the risk of building this theory on top of another unconfirmed theory... It's been speculated that Quirrell himself is Demented. He doesn't appear so when Voldemort is telepathically controlling him, but when Voldy takes a cigarette break or whatever Quirrell enters zombie mode. Quirrell is just kind of an empty body, zombie-like unless Voldemort is logged in.

Maybe Voldemort wants to control Harry's body in a similar fashion. What the difference is between dementing and then telepathically inhabiting, versus simply using the Imperius Curse... /shrug.

Comment by PeterS on Rationality Quotes: November 2010 · 2010-11-03T05:22:17.134Z · LW · GW

Rule I

We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.

To this purpose the philosophers say that Nature does nothing in vain, and more is in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity, and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.

Rule II

Therefore to the same natural effects we must, as far as possible, assign the same causes.

As to respiration in a man and in a beast; the descent of stones in Europe and in America; the light of our culinary fire and of the sun; the reflection of light in the earth, and in the planets.

Rule III

The qualities of bodies, which admit neither intensification nor remission of degrees, and which are found to belong to all bodies within the reach of our experiments, are to be esteemed the universal qualities of all bodies whatsoever.

For since the qualities of bodies are only known to us by experiments, we are to hold for universal all such as universally agree with experiments; and such as are not liable to diminution can never be quite taken away. We are certainly not to relinquish the evidence for the sake of dreams and vain fictions of our own devising; nor are we to recede from the analogy of Nature, which is wont to be simple, and always consonant to itself. . .

Rule IV

In experimental philosophy we are to look upon propositions inferred by general induction from phenomena as accurately or very nearly true, notwithstanding any contrary hypotheses that may be imagined, till such time as other phenomena occur, by which they may either be made more accurate, or liable to exceptions.

This rule we must follow, that the argument of induction may not be evaded by hypotheses.

Isaac Newton, Philosophiae naturalis: Rules of Reasoning in Philosophy

Comment by PeterS on Learning the foundations of math · 2010-10-31T08:38:33.978Z · LW · GW

Set Theory and the Continuum Hypothesis by Paul Cohen is good, and starts from a pretty low level if I recall, but you'll want experience in formal reasoning before reading through it. Do you have any experience with formal math?

Comment by PeterS on Value Deathism · 2010-10-31T08:15:03.699Z · LW · GW

As Poincaré said, "Every definition implies an axiom, since it asserts the existence of the object defined." You can call a value a "single criterion that doesn't tolerate exceptions and status quo assumptions" -- but it's not clear to me that I even have values, in that sense.

Of course, I will believe in the invisible, provided that it is implied. But why is it, in this case?

You also speak of the irrelevance (in this context) of the fact that these values might not even be feasibly computable. Or, even if we can identify them, there may be no feasible way to preserve them. But you're talking about moral significance. Maybe we differ, but to me there is no moral significance attached to the destruction of an uncomputable preference by a course of events that I can't control.

It might be sad/horrible to live to see such days (if only by definition -- as above, if one can't compute their top-node values then it's possible that one can't compute how horrible it would be), as you say. It also might not. Although I can't speak personally for the values of a Stoic, they might be happy to... well, be happy.

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 4 · 2010-10-28T03:25:35.039Z · LW · GW

Wow... I had imagined that Moody lost his eye in a fight or something -- but it would be way more awesome if he cut it out intentionally, to replace it with an eye more suited for the hunt.

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 4 · 2010-10-27T07:28:41.691Z · LW · GW

Chapter 51 (emphasis added):

As Professor Quirrell stood up from where he'd bent over by the pouch, and put away his wand, his wand happened to point in Harry's direction, and there was a brief crawling sensation on Harry's chest near where the Time-Turner lay, like something creepy had passed very close by without touching him.

Chapter 54:

"Sorry," whispered the eleven-year-old boy, "here," and he held out the wand toward Bahry.

Bahry barely stopped himself from snarling at the traumatized boy who'd just saved his life. Instead he overrode the impulse with a sigh, and just stretched out a hand to take the wand. "Look, son, you're really not supposed to point a wand at -"

The wand's end twisted lightly beneath Bahry's hand just as the boy whispered, "Somnium."

Seems to indicate that Quirrell casted some kind of spell on Harry at that point in Chapter 51.

Anyone have any ideas as to what this is about?

Slowly, slowly, as Professor Quirrell had instructed, the pouch began to float toward Harry, who waited alert for any sign the pouch was opening, in which case Harry was to use the Hover Charm to propel it away from him as fast as possible.

Why does he need to float the pouch about at all? Why not just pick it up?

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 4 · 2010-10-27T07:11:56.006Z · LW · GW

Moody's eye can see through the Invisibility Cloak.

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 4 · 2010-10-27T06:36:18.679Z · LW · GW

Hmm.. it seems clear that the "sense of doom" is important. Possibly even an indicator that one is being imperius'd -- if these theories are correct.

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 4 · 2010-10-27T06:34:40.977Z · LW · GW

Under a certain reading Quirrell actually did get him to stop.

"My lord! You must stop it!" ... "Please, my Lord!"

The words went unheard.

They were far from him, the Dementors in their pit, but Harry knew that they could be destroyed even at this distance if the light blazed bright enough, he knew that Death itself could not face him if he stopped holding back, so he unsealed all the gates inside him and sank the wells of his spell into all the deepest parts of his spirit, all his mind and all his will, and gave over absolutely everything to the spell -

And in the interior of the Sun, an only slightly dimmer shadow moved forward, reaching out an entreating hand.


The sudden sense of doom clashed with Harry's steel determination, dread and uncertainty striving against the bright purpose, nothing else might have reached him but that.

If you had been watching from outside you would have seen the interior of the Sun brightening and dimming...

Brightening and dimming...

...and finally fading, fading, fading into ordinary moonlight that seemed like pitch darkness by contrast.

Within the darkness of that moonlight stood a sallow man with his hand outstretched in entreaty, and the skeleton of a woman, lying upon the floor, a puzzled look upon her face.

Where is that "WRONG. DONT." coming from? Harry's inner dialogue or Quirrell? Note that the sense of doom has been associated with Quirrell's proximity since the start of the mission, and the "man reaching out in entreaty" is Quirrell. So maybe it actually only was by Quirrell's influence that Harry was able to stop.

Anyway, I think the bit about them not being able to cast spells on each other (which is true-ish in canon) is a stronger argument. But other have pointed out how unusual it is that Harry would go along with any of this unless he was either being imperiused or mind-fucked by Quirrell.

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 4 · 2010-10-26T18:03:14.418Z · LW · GW

The business with Snake-Quirrell whispering instructions to Harry might suggest the Imperius Curse. In Rowling's book #4, Moody casts the curse on students and that's just what it's like -- verbal commands that are followed without question (unless you're trained in resisting the curse). Bellatrix doesn't seem to notice that Harrymort is talking to his snake. Perhaps Voldemort was known to do this all the time, but it could be because the instructions were being issued directly to Harry's brain.

But the fact that they can't cast magic on each other is a big obstacle for this theory. Of course, a key point in these chapters is that it's possible to control somebody without ever Imperiusing them.

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 4 · 2010-10-25T20:51:00.514Z · LW · GW

I think there's two things going on here. The first is that Harry is psychologically in fantasy-mode during these chapters, and the second is Harry's self-esteem issues regarding his own intelligence.

"You are about to invite me to join a secret organization full of interesting people like yourself," said Harry, "one of whose goals is to reform or overthrow the government of magical Britain, and yes, I'm in."

Fantasy-mode: Harry is being recruited by a secret group of highly interesting rebels. They fight against the stupid, evil, corrupt government of Magical Britain. Their cause and methods are righteous beyond question (otherwise Harry would ask a few, instead of immediately inducting himself).

Quirrell believes Magical Britain must be ruled under the dictatorship of a powerful leader, as we learned in chapters 34-35 (whereas Harry believes in democracy). So what kind of secret rebel organization is he likely to be a member of? It doesn't matter. Harry is in fantasy-mode -- he could be in a secret organization of interesting people whose goal it is to change the world!

Fantasy-mode is completely obvious throughout these chapters, especially at the start of 52.

Self-esteem issues: This thing with Quirrell being able to make "amazing deductions from scanty evidence" has been brought up before. Quirrell has also told him things like "You should have figured this out", "you're childish", and sometimes it even seems like Quirrell is testing Harry's intelligence. This is making Harry insecure, and even desperate now. He's thinking a week in advance of how he'll answer Quirrell's questions, rather than suffer the humility of having not already deduced and fully understood the secret plan by the time he was asked.

Quirrell is playing Harry on at least these levels: "save the world" fantasy, and "you are not as intelligent as I" subtle cues. These weaknesses of Harry are apparent in a lot of previous chapters. Since these are established vulnerabilities, it's plausible that Quirrell can successfully exploit them without Harry knowing.

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 4 · 2010-10-25T03:11:56.130Z · LW · GW

/shrug if so then there goes that theory. I had thought Parseltongue was just rare. Didn't realize you needed to be one of Slytherin's heirs (or get in through a loophole like HP).

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 4 · 2010-10-17T05:05:43.722Z · LW · GW

In canon you can look at it indirectly (e.g. through a camera lens, or a reflection). You get injured, but not dead. Maybe if you look at it through your Snake Animagus eyes, you'll be okay.

It seems to be required that the Heir be a Parseltongue. It's not a stretch to require that the Heir also be a Snake Animagus -- after all, there are many more people who can speak snake than become snake. In canon, Harry wasn't the Heir but could still access the chamber -- apparently any Parseltongue could have. In MoR, that would mean any Parseltongue could have accessed all of Slytherin's secrets. But only the Heir of Slytherin can access the chamber (according to legend?). Therefore Parseltongue is not sufficient to gain access (if the legend is true).

"Sslytherin not sstupid. Ssnake Animaguss not ssame as Parsselmouth. Would be huge flaw in sscheme."

-- Chapter 49

I venture that the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets responds to Snake Animagus Parseltongue but not Common Parseltongue.

Comment by PeterS on The Irrationality Game · 2010-10-04T01:09:26.445Z · LW · GW

That emoticon isn't fooling anyone.

Comment by PeterS on Less Wrong Should Confront Wrongness Wherever it Appears · 2010-09-26T21:52:34.314Z · LW · GW

How many, over the decades, have fallen under "likely to succeed"? e.g. according to scientists/"experts", investors, project leaders, etc. Whose estimate gets used, anyway?

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 3 · 2010-09-06T22:10:15.687Z · LW · GW

True, I didn't look at it that way. It seems more likely that that's correct -- "Why those exact five?" -- but why would Quirrell find it so amusing?

edit: Maybe Voldemort has already hidden his Horcruxes in just those manners -- we already suspect that he launched one into space. In that case the riddle may be -- given that Harry and Voldemort think in precisely the same way, how can Voldemort think of a hiding place that Harry wouldn't think of himself?

edit2: It's out of character for them to come naturally to Harry, but not to Voldemort. Voldemort is into that kind of superstitious ambiance -- e.g. he wanted precisely 7 Horcruxes, because it's a lucky number. Harry is part Voldemort, so that's why they slipped into his subconscious.

*shrug* maybe I'm grasping at straws.

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 3 · 2010-09-06T21:56:43.224Z · LW · GW

Anyone have any guesses as to what Quirrell's game is?

Quirrell is operating on a level that I surely don't understand. The only theory I can think of that's neither preposterous nor disappointing is that Quirrell is protecting Horcrux!Harry.

In light of the recent exchange where Quirrell asks Harry how he would hide something:

Tell me, Mr. Potter, if you wanted to lose something where no one would ever find it again, where would you put it?"

... "Well," said Harry, "besides trying to get it into the molten core of the planet, you could bury it in solid rock a kilometer underground in a randomly selected location - maybe teleport it in, if there's some way to do that blindly, or drill a hole and repair the hole afterward; the important thing would be not to leave any traces leading there, so it's just an anonymous cubic meter somewhere in the Earth's crust. You could drop it into the Mariana Trench, that's the deepest depth of ocean on the planet - or just pick some random other ocean trench, to make it less obvious. If you could make it bouyant and invisible, then you could throw it into the stratosphere. Or ideally you would launch it into space, with a cloak against detection, and a randomly fluctuating acceleration factor that would take it out of the Solar System. And afterward, of course, you'd Obliviate yourself, so even you didn't know exactly where it was."

The Defense Professor was laughing, and it sounded even odder than his smile.

... "All excellent suggestions," said Professor Quirrell. "But tell me, Mr. Potter, why those exact five?"

"Huh?" said Harry. "They just seemed like the obvious sorts of ideas."

"Oh?" said Professor Quirrell. "But there is an interesting pattern to them, you see. One might say it sounds like something of a riddle."

Assume that Quirrell was asking where he could hide a Horcrux. It's funny because all those options leave Horcrux!Harry dead. The riddle is thus:

  • Voldemort must hide his Horcruxes in a place where his mortal enemy, Harry Potter, will never be able to find them.
  • Harry Potter is one of Voldemort's Horcruxes.

Any takers?

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 3 · 2010-09-06T20:42:23.727Z · LW · GW

I drew the analogy that it's like the term "deadly weapon". Fists can be deadly, but they are not called deadly weapons. Hitting someone in the head with your fist is not guaranteed to kill them. Likewise you can drop a shipping container on someone -- and I'm sure this would earn you a life sentence -- but Winguardium Leviosa is not itself a deadly (Unforgivable) spell, as an arbitrary cast of the spell is not guaranteed to kill.

It's still a bit arbitrary. To my knowledge, using a love potion is not Unforgivable -- though it's clearly magical coercion and serves only such a purpose as that.

Comment by PeterS on Open Thread, August 2010 · 2010-08-29T03:57:13.188Z · LW · GW

I agree that those rates are hard to determine. I am also weary of "AI FOOM is a certainty" type statements, and appeals to the nebulous "powers that all computers inherently have".

Comment by PeterS on Open Thread, August 2010 · 2010-08-26T20:30:42.213Z · LW · GW

Your last point was persuasive... though I still have some uneasiness about accepting that k pulls of the trigger, for arbitrary k, still gives the player nothing.

Would it be within the first AGI's capabilities to immediately effect my destruction before I am able to update on its existence -- provided that (a) it is developed by the private sector and not e.g. some special access DoD program, and (b) ETAs up to "sometime this century" are accurate? I think not, though I admit to being fairly uncertain.

I acknowledge that this line of reasoning presented in my original comment was not of high caliber -- though I still dispute Tiiba's claim regarding an AI advanced enough to scrape by in conversation with a 5 year old, as well as that distributive capabilities are the greatest power at play here.

Comment by PeterS on Open Thread, August 2010 · 2010-08-26T09:37:59.904Z · LW · GW

The fact that it hasn't happened yet is not evidence against its happening if you cannot survive its happening. If you cannot survive its happening, then the fact that it has not happened in the last 50 years is not just weaker evidence than it would otherwise be -- it is not evidence at all, and your probability that it will happen now, after 50 years, should be the same as your probability would have been at 0 years.

Do you take the Fermi paradox seriously, or is the probability of your being destroyed by a galactic civilization, assuming that one exists, low enough? The evidential gap w.r.t. ET civilization spans billions of years -- but this is not evidence at all according to the above.

Neither do I believe in the coming of an imminent nuclear winter, though (a) it would leave me dead and (b) I nevertheless take the absence of such a disaster over the preceeding decades to be nontrivial evidence that its not on its way.

Say you're playing Russian Roulette with a 6-round revolver which either has 1 or 0 live rounds in it. Pull the trigger 4 times -- every time you end up still alive. According to what you have said, your probability estimates for either

  • there being a single round in the revolver or
  • the revolver being unloaded

should be the same as before you had played any rounds at all. Imagine pulling the trigger 5 times and still being alive -- is there a 50/50 chance that the gun is loaded?

I find the technique you're suggesting interesting, but I don't employ it.

(Drawing an analogy with protein folding does not count as "looking inside".)

Tiiba suggested that distributive capability is the most important of the "powers inherent to all computers". Protein folding simulation was an illustrative example of a cutting edge distributed computing endeavor, which is still greatly underpowered in terms of what AGI needs to milk out of it to live up to FOOMy claims. He wants to catch all the fish in the sea with a large net, and I am telling him that we only have a net big enough for a few hundred fish.

edit: It occurred to me that I have written with a somewhat interrogative tone and many examples. My apologies.

Comment by PeterS on Open Thread, August 2010 · 2010-08-26T08:02:32.690Z · LW · GW

For one -- it hasn't already happened. And there is no public research suggesting that it is much closer to happening now than it has ever been. The first claims of impending human-level AGI were made ~50 years ago. Much money and research has been exhausted since then, but it hasn't happened yet. AGI researchers have lost a lot of credibility because of this. Basically, extraordinary claims have been made many times. None have panned out to the generality with which they are made.

You yourself just made an extraordinary claim! Do you have a 5 year old at hand? Because there are some pretty "clever" conversation bots out there nowadays...

With regards to:

the most important such inherent power is the one that makes Folding@home work so well - the ability to simply copy the algorithm into more hardware, if all else fails, and have the copies cooperate on a problem.

Games abound on LessWrong involving AIs which can simulate entire people -- and even AIs which can simulate a billion billion billion .... billion billion people simultaneously! Folding@home is the most powerful cluster on this planet at the moment, and it can simulate protein folding over an interval of about 1.5 milliseconds (according to wikipedia). So, as I said, very big claims are casually made by AGI folk, even in passing and in the face of all reason and appreciation for the short-term ETAs with which they make these claims (~20-70 years... and note that it was ~20-70 years ETA about 50 years ago as well).

I believe AGI is probably possible to construct, but not that it will be as easy and FOOMy as enthusiasts have always been wont to suggest.

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 2 · 2010-08-25T01:00:54.310Z · LW · GW

Harry learns things that only Dumbledore would have known.

Does he? It certainly seems possible that Harry is just filling in the blanks himself. I just went back and re-read it. Consider:

"Explain," said Harry.
"But you already know," said Dumbledore. . .
"But if Voldemort used the Killing Curse," Harry started again, "and nobody died for me this time -- how can I be alive?"
"I think you know," said Dumbledore. "Think back. . ."

The information that Dumbledore actually does provide to Harry is either inconclusive or insubstantial -- e.g. Harry asks about the peculiar behavior of his wand, and Dumbledore says he cannot but guess. Harry asks where they are, Dumbledore cannot answer and says that they are where ever Harry thinks they are. Harry asks about the Deathly Hallows:

"Real, and dangerous, and a lure for fools," said Dumbledore. "And I was such a fool But you know, don't you? I have no secrets from you anymore. You know."
. . .
So you'd given up looking for the Hallows when you saw the Cloak?"
"Oh yes," said Dumbledore faintly. . . "You know what happened. You know."

Dumbledore tells Harry of his stint with Grindelwald, but Harry might be piecing together the narrative from what he has learned (Dumbledore again seems to indicate at some times that Harry already knows what happened).

The chapter's ending could go either way:

"Tell me one last thing," said Harry. "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"
"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

This all leads me to consider that chapter very shaky evidence. I'd still say the strongest evidence is the ghosts. Eliezer's explanation is lacking, since in Book 4 a group of travelling ghosts visits Hogwarts from elsewhere beyond the castle (the gang of headless ghosts, entry into which Nearly-Headless-Nick is sadly not quite eligible). Myrtle once left the castle to haunt a wedding. So, in canon, ghosts must be more than just after-images bound to the castle stone. Though there are, of course, other similar explanations. . .

Comment by PeterS on Virtue Ethics for Consequentialists · 2010-06-06T23:52:50.259Z · LW · GW

I'm reminded of why I left the discipline - it's a historico-linguistic claptrap.

All I advocated for was the term's speciation - which, I'll add again, is already present in the dictionary as well as in common usage. I reject the notion that, in order to suggest this, I first need to be a philosopher by trade.

Comment by PeterS on Virtue Ethics for Consequentialists · 2010-06-06T19:09:56.822Z · LW · GW

Regardless of the terms' usages in academia, there is often a distinction in common speech. I disagree that this distinction is irrelevant. Also, having gotten to know several professional philosophers before leaving the field for mathematics, I know that they are not as confused by this distinction (or the public's employment of it) as you suggest, even if they choose not to draw it themselves.

But it's all moot, as

Professional usage, not common usage, is what matters when we're thinking about issues in an academic field.

implies that any usage of ethics in opposition to the study of Aristotle's eudaimonia was at one time as irrelevant/improper as the common usage is now. I think, while that statement might be correct for a technical field's vocabulary, it is not alright to restrict a layman's usage of certain philosophical terms, like ethics, in the same manner.

Comment by PeterS on Virtue Ethics for Consequentialists · 2010-06-04T22:37:16.172Z · LW · GW

I'm extremely skeptical that meditation or prayer can influence the mind to that extent, but I'm very curious.

I am too. On the other hand, monks have immolated themselves, withstood torture etc., over the ages without appearing to suffer anywhere near on the order of what such an experience seems to entail. This man for instance even maintained the lotus position for the duration of the event, and also allegedly remained silent and motionless as well. Counter-examples exist in which self-immolators either clearly died horribly or immediately sought to extinguish themselves, but still...

Comment by PeterS on Virtue Ethics for Consequentialists · 2010-06-04T22:19:24.514Z · LW · GW

I haven't grossly stretched or distorted the everyday usage of these words, so I'm not sure why I deserve to have their dictionary definitions shoved at me (especially since ethics #2 agrees with my usage). In fact I provided examples wherein the use of these words actually differs in common speech. I've tried to convey why I think this subtle difference is interesting. I wouldn't say that I was arguing with the dictionary (although there is a time to do so).

Comment by PeterS on Virtue Ethics for Consequentialists · 2010-06-04T21:41:33.927Z · LW · GW

Wow... hadn't read the original, interesting. Still, that is the Oath as it was 2k years ago, and as such it is no longer part of established medical ethics. I think it's plausible that in fact the abandonment of that section might have been necessary to preserve the profession's legitimacy! As well as nixing the part where the Oath is consecrated by Apollo, etc.

Comment by PeterS on Virtue Ethics for Consequentialists · 2010-06-04T21:31:16.591Z · LW · GW

Oh, sorry, I wasn't clear.

Maybe I wasn't either... are we actually disagreeing here? Heh.

it would be ethical (in the sense of being a rule of professional conduct) and unethical (in a different sense of the word 'ethical') at the same time. . . [link to some definitions]

I know the word is used in the sense of definitions 1 and 3. What I'm saying is that I think it's more interesting to forget the moral usage altogether, and just stick with saying that ethics is #2, because when you think about it they are very distinct concepts.

Comment by PeterS on Virtue Ethics for Consequentialists · 2010-06-04T21:02:26.286Z · LW · GW

An example of what?

A rule in medical ethics which is not intended to protect/benefit either the practitioner himself or the purpose of his livelihood.

that particular definition just means following established rules of conduct

Doctors established them in order to preserve the legitimacy of their profession. That's my understanding, in any case.

Comment by PeterS on Virtue Ethics for Consequentialists · 2010-06-04T20:40:49.912Z · LW · GW

You can meaningfully say that following the rules of medical ethics is unethical and not to anyone's benefit.

Can you give an example?

Comment by PeterS on Virtue Ethics for Consequentialists · 2010-06-04T20:08:16.683Z · LW · GW

ethics is about "what I should do".

It's interesting to distinguish between ethics and morality in this manner, as in ethics is for the individual's benefit as opposed to morality which is for the benefit of the group as a whole. Which is why people speak of "medical ethics" or "journalistic ethics", as opposed to "medical morality" and "journalistic morality". Morality is considered as some kind of constant normative prescription, whereas ethics is sensitive to subjective dispositions and thus can vary between professions, individuals, etc.

Comment by PeterS on Rationality quotes: June 2010 · 2010-06-02T04:08:19.712Z · LW · GW

If it were truly repeating, you couldn't. Unless you were a KPAXian and the screenwriters wrote it to be so.

Comment by PeterS on Rationality quotes: June 2010 · 2010-06-02T03:58:25.894Z · LW · GW

I know. What's your point?

I was presenting the quote along the lines of UDT, and this.

Comment by PeterS on Rationality quotes: June 2010 · 2010-06-01T20:27:22.652Z · LW · GW

Sufferers must be sustained by a hope so strong that no conflict with reality can smash it - so strong, indeed, that no fulfilment could ever satisfy it...


Comment by PeterS on Rationality quotes: June 2010 · 2010-06-01T20:14:08.727Z · LW · GW

The universe will expand, then it will collapse back on itself, then will expand again. It will repeat this process forever. What you don't you know is that when the universe expands again, everything will be as it is now. Whatever mistakes you make this time around, you will live through on your next pass. Every mistake you make, you will live through again, & again, forever. So my advice to you is to get it right this time around. Because this time is all you have.


(I do not present this as an endorsement of the Big Bounce hypothesis.)

Comment by PeterS on Shock Level 5: Big Worlds and Modal Realism · 2010-05-27T05:13:29.595Z · LW · GW

I've noticed that too. What's odder is that they seem to come and go. I have no evidence, but I swear that sometimes I'll see a link to google in a comment on one day, and the link rendered as /">google in the same comment on another day, etc. Strange.

Comment by PeterS on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread · 2010-05-27T04:09:13.912Z · LW · GW

How do "we"/they actually know Voldemort even used the Killing Curse that night, as opposed to doing some other thing? ie, how is it known that he is the Boy Who Survived the Killing Curse in the first place?

That's a good point... though if I recall, he is just known as The-Boy-Who-Lived. In canon, it's not revealed until book 4 that he is the only one to have ever survived the killing curse, in particular, and it's Znq-Rlr Zbbql who says this (though, in truth, it was Onegl Pebhpu We.). Onegl Pebhpu is a highly loyal Death Eater who had been in contact with Lord Voldemort, so maybe the dark lord just told him? Though it's probably more likely that everyone just assumed Voldemort had used his favorite curse.

What bugs me is how they know that Harry is the first and only person to have ever survived that curse. I mean surely, sometime in the entire history of wizards and witches, somebody has sacrificed themself for a loved one who was then Abracadabra'd (i.e. did just what Lily did). /shrug

edit: Redacted a name.

Comment by PeterS on Open Thread: May 2010, Part 2 · 2010-05-26T05:49:57.360Z · LW · GW

21 chapters later...