Comment by phane on Attention Lurkers: Please say hi · 2010-04-20T05:17:07.711Z · LW · GW

Hi there.

I used to comment once in a while, but I find myself less and less interested in the topics of conversation around here. For a short while, people were going on a lot about dating (wtf?) and then more recently there's been a fair amount of what is essentially self-help for the scientifically inclined. I dunno, I guess I was just more into thought experiments and Yudkowsky posts.

Comment by phane on Better thinking through experiential games · 2009-10-25T07:45:10.331Z · LW · GW

These kinds of games just remind me of this Monty Python skit. There's no rules by which to play, so you're just trying to guess what the author is thinking.

Comment by phane on "What Is Wrong With Our Thoughts" · 2009-05-17T11:56:17.732Z · LW · GW

I don't like this paper. It's wholly scathing for no reason other than to justify ignoring all of philosophy. Some philosophy is valuable and some is not, and of his 40 statements about three, I'd say 6 of them are claims I would take seriously and would hear arguments for, were I interested in the nature of three.

Generally, continental philosophy is trash, but I wouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Comment by phane on "Open-Mindedness" - the video · 2009-05-15T04:38:30.037Z · LW · GW

From what anecdotal evidence I have, I'd say it doesn't have much to do with argument. People who discard their religious beliefs do so after feeling emotional alienation. The antagonistic context of a "my side versus their side" debate isn't amenable to that.

It's one thing to be told some (presumably good) reason to reject the God hypothesis. It's another to be honestly forced to reconcile it with events in your life story. Maybe they just don't "feel it" anymore; God's presence in their life isn't what it used to be. Or maybe they're forced to wrestle with the problem of evil, because something bad happened to a loved one. Maybe they have a spiritual-but-secular experience that makes it seem like the whole God idea is small-minded. Whatever the case, it takes a kind of emotional punch and not just a line of reasoning.

At least, that's what I would think.

Comment by phane on "Open-Mindedness" - the video · 2009-05-14T08:07:05.761Z · LW · GW

I'll take your word for it.

My intuition would be that nobody jumps the fence as a result of these sorts of things. They were either the sort who would have agreed with the conclusion without any argument anyway, or they will do mental gymnastics of all kinds in order to avoid believing the conclusion. But, having never really been religious, I'm probably wrong about that.

Comment by phane on "Open-Mindedness" - the video · 2009-05-14T06:22:46.384Z · LW · GW

QualiaSoup has some great videos, although many of them are in the excessively tired "trying to convince Christians that their religion isn't right" genre.

edit: Perhaps that's not the best name for the genre; it's more a kind of rational argumentation against ideas floating around the Christian memeosphere. But I'm still skeptical that it does very much good.

Comment by phane on Epistemic vs. Instrumental Rationality: Case of the Leaky Agent · 2009-05-08T00:32:42.507Z · LW · GW

I often find that there's not any satisfactory way to calibrate my expectations for things like this anyway. I was once emailed by someone who wanted to buy a domain name from me. He refused to give an offer, asking me to provide a price. I found it impossible to gauge what it was actually worth to me, or what I thought it would be worth to him, so I said I wouldn't sell it unless he made an offer. I never heard from him again.

So, sure. My future self can be convinced of a new minimum, for all I care. I apparently hold my ideas about this very lightly anyway. I'm not even sure he'd (I'd) be "wrong," even if I currently think of it as a lie.

Comment by phane on Beware Trivial Inconveniences · 2009-05-07T14:09:27.134Z · LW · GW

I don't think "Not sending in your $200 rebate" and "not writing in an article to Overcomingbias" are the same phenomena at all.

It's not that people who are now writing all these LW posts felt like it was too much of a hassle to send an email to Overcomingbias; it's that deliberately and unusually sticking your neck out to contribute has a different social connotation than simply participating in the expected community behavior.

Contributing to Overcomingbias is like getting on stage: walking up to the stage is a socially loaded act in and of itself. "Hey, everyone, I'm going to stand out here and say something." Lesswrong, since the entire site is built around community posting, practically invites you to post as you please. There's nothing out of the ordinary about it. How could there be? The tools to do so are right there, embedded into the infrastructure of the site. It must be expected for me to do that!

Comment by phane on Hardened Problems Make Brittle Models · 2009-05-07T13:30:24.674Z · LW · GW

If you pose someone the Monty Hall Problem, and their response is "It doesn't matter whether I switch doors or not! They're going to move the prize so that I don't end up getting it anyway!" Do you think they've understood the point of the exercise?

Comment by phane on Introduction Thread: May 2009 · 2009-05-06T11:11:40.205Z · LW · GW

Hi everybody. I'm a student who keeps changing fields. I have background in philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, and statistics. I grew up with a passion for knowledge, and independently rejected religion for naturalism at an early age, so I guess being a rationalist just came naturally. I'm a transhumanist; to be more precise, I think we'll have smarter-than-human cyborgs/bioborgs/uploads by about 2070, and I'd like to become one. I'm also optimistic about nanotechnology and the continued advancement of computing machinery.

I found Overcomingbias months ago after coming across Robin Hanson's talk about intelligent machines and the economy. The more I read of his work, the more it struck me that Robin is a very smart and admirable person, so I stuck around. Of course, this meant I read a lot of Eliezer's stuff as well, which I found I wrestled with a lot more (not to say I disagree with him all the time, just that his perspective is often quite different).

I'm interested in most of the topics that get thrown around in this community, although I profess to feeling that I don't have much to add in many cases. I'll see if I can't maintain a bit of activity, though. Nice meeting you all.

Comment by phane on Essay-Question Poll: Dietary Choices · 2009-05-05T18:59:56.666Z · LW · GW
  1. I try to cut down on the meat of mammals. The few times it's come up, I've refused to eat octopus.

  2. I find that if I eat beef without concern, I start eating it all the damn time. Like, multiple times a day. So, partly out of concern for my health, and partly out of a personal-bordering-on-ethical decision.

  3. Not very strictly at all. I'll eat what I feel like, although I make a mild conscious effort.

  4. I don't know that I'll have children, but if I do, they can eat what they please. Not that it'll be on the dinner table very often if it's not my thing.

  5. I think that's sort of rude. My mother is a vegetarian and so are many of my friends, and I don't like it when they proselytise to me.

  6. There's nothing I outright avoid that I especially need to eat for health reasons.

  7. I think there's something a little disingenuous about ethical vegetarianism. I don't believe for a minute that our global food industry causes less suffering to animals due to vegetarians, and our society and culture treat animals pretty poorly whether we're eating them or not. It seems to me like a form of 'signaling', as the lingo around here goes. But, the signal it seems to send is "I disapprove of your lifestyle, meat-eater, so feel free to ask me annoying questions about why I think you're evil."

  8. I only started thinking about my worrying meat-eating habits maybe three years ago. I've taken the issue semi-seriously ever since, although there was a time when I'd explicitly tell people my intentions not to eat beef; these days I don't bother.

  9. I never liked pork anyway, so that was pretty easy to give up. I still gravitate towards beef when presented with a menu, and I like it as much as I ever did. I have eaten cephalopod a couple of times, and I don't think I'll miss it significantly.

  10. Hanging around so many vegetarians, I end up eating vegetarian a lot, and it's not bad. I could manage a vegetarian life, if I were committed to it.

Comment by phane on Return of the Survey · 2009-05-05T14:26:02.386Z · LW · GW

I took your survey, it was interesting. I'm still a little skeptical that my thoughts on various propositions take the form of probabilities in the first place. It seems absolutist to say there's zero chance of supernatural beings, but "ontologically basic mental entities" fit so poorly into my worldview that you might as well have said "What is the probability that you are wrong about everything?" So, I said zero, although I wouldn't ascribe such absolute confidence to myself if asked in some other way, I think. Similarly, your questions about God again pointed to this 'basic mental entity' idea, so I said zero again, although I'm sort of up in the air about the existence of beings beyond the scope of physical reality. It could all be a simulation, after all, and not necessarily of the same kind of universe as the simulator's.

Comment by phane on Whining-Based Communities · 2009-04-30T23:45:37.605Z · LW · GW

"And if we can't win, it means we weren't such good rationalists as we thought, and ought to try something different the next time around."

This attitude, that somehow, every single obstacle to success or happiness is solved by rationality, is a mistake, I think. People are not in control of the amount of opportunity they have, and i don't think being supremely rational is a sure way to triumph. Victims of slavery and car crashes are extreme examples, but I think there's more subtle situations in which no reasoned plan of action can straightforwardly help you "win."