Comment by pontifex on Basics of Animal Reinforcement · 2011-07-10T00:41:14.405Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Todd Becker has a good summary of tips & tricks gleaned from behaviorists:

Comment by pontifex on Brains more complicated than previously thought · 2011-02-21T18:39:36.762Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Heh! Funny, I was just reading the bit in Anslie's Breakdown of Will where he discusses the function of beliefs as mobilizing one's motivations, and now feel obliged to be more tolerant of beliefs that I suspect are confused or mistaken but which motivate activities I endorse -- in this case, "running the experiment", as you say. So I guess I don't disagree. :) Thanks for the thoughtful response!

Comment by pontifex on Brains more complicated than previously thought · 2011-02-21T16:54:43.615Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I use it because I think it an accurate descriptor; what would you propose instead?

I'm guessing the presumption here is that "article of faith" is a pejorative. It's not: it refers to anything taken as true despite not being demonstrable. We lean on these all the time and that's okay, but it's useful to acknowledge when this is the case.

Comment by pontifex on Brains more complicated than previously thought · 2011-02-21T16:46:42.238Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(1) The computations performed by a natural brain can be implemented in a software artificial brain, and (2) those computations are the only aspect of a natural brain I care about.

This is precisely what I was fishing for, thank you.

If brains are physical systems, and physics as we know it involves noncomputable processes (c.f. the comment below about CTD), then it follows that brains are doing noncomputable stuff. The question is then whether that noncomputable stuff is necessary to aspects of experience that we should care about, presuming that this conversation is ultimately about uploads. And the simple answer is that we don't know.

I've got enough theoretical and practical experience with physics, computers and nervous systems to have noticed the muddles that conspicuously creep in when I try to make these three topics interface, and am a little mystified whenever it seems like other smart people don't notice them. I suspect a big part of it is just getting a little too happy with metaphors like "brain = computer" without paying close attention to the ways in which these things are dis-analogous.

Comment by pontifex on Brains more complicated than previously thought · 2011-02-20T13:19:53.291Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"an artificial brain can be implemented in software"

I have never understood what underlies this article of faith, and I know more about all the relevant technical disciplines than your average overeducated schmuck. Could you indulge my incomprehension by explaining it to me as though I just fell off the turnip truck?

Comment by pontifex on A rationalist's guide to psychoactive drugs · 2011-02-10T23:35:27.819Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As an added bonus, theanine appears to boost the immune system.

Not sure that's merely a "bonus": there's a lot of literature suggesting a link between immune system activity and affective states, and if we take the somatic marker hypothesis seriously this is likely where the real action is.