Quantum cat-stencil interference projection? What is this? 2015-01-14T00:06:56.290Z · score: 5 (8 votes)
[Link] "Upload", a video-conference between a girl and her dead grandfather 2011-07-21T11:47:47.681Z · score: 4 (5 votes)
Request For Article: Many-Worlds Quantum Computing 2009-11-19T23:31:46.859Z · score: 5 (8 votes)
I Changed My Mind Today - Canned Laughter 2009-04-15T23:59:26.897Z · score: 12 (25 votes)


Comment by pre on Quantum cat-stencil interference projection? What is this? · 2015-01-14T10:37:31.711Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, makes some sort of sense this morning at least.

Comment by pre on Quantum cat-stencil interference projection? What is this? · 2015-01-14T02:42:23.244Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That diagram is helpful, certainly.

Comment by pre on Quantum cat-stencil interference projection? What is this? · 2015-01-14T02:38:39.188Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's not that I think many-worlds is 'needed' to explain it, just that whever likely-nonsense intuition I have over the subject is based on that model, so it's best understood by me if it can be expressed in that frame.

Tell me it's a photon that wasn't there and I'll go, "Whut?"

Tell me that the worlds cancel each other out to zero probability and I might, likely falsely, think I grok it.

Comment by pre on Why you should consider buying Bitcoin right now (Jan 2015) if you have high risk tolerance · 2015-01-14T00:40:32.420Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Heh. What's the odds of you having that winning lottery ticket?

50/50! Either I win, or I don't.

Seems like you're mostly saying that price-like things tend to return to an average price, then presenting a lot of evidence on why the price is low and likely to continue to be low, then claiming that it's therefore got to go up, because things return to their average price.

I have some bit-coin. It's still worth more than when I brought it. My best guess, as it was then, is that it'll be worth exactly zero in a decade or two.

Sounded like a lottery-ticket with expected-payout marginally better than the actual betting-odds offered.

Still does.

Lottery tickets don't generally win though, even if the pay out is better than the betting-odds. It's certainly not 50/50.

Comment by pre on 2013 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2013-11-25T16:46:13.445Z · score: 23 (23 votes) · LW · GW

I took the survey.

The answer to how many minutes I spend here is a bit lower than you might expect, in that my robots scan the RSS feeds and send me interesting stuff so basically it's almost zero, unless you count my robots time somehow.

Comment by pre on Meetup : London Social Meetup (and AskMeAnything about the CFAR workshop) · 2013-10-27T17:56:59.859Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That was pretty good fun.

What I was expecting: Half a dozen nerds boozing it up and shooting the breeze about math and poltiics and self improvement.

What actually happend: More like a classroom full of people, many less nerdy than me, mostly drinking water and eating icecream (apparently I was the only one drinking that awesome Devon 6% cider), chatting about widely variing topics including math and politics and polyphasic sleep and self improvement and fan-fiction and cults and meta self-organizing stuff.

Apparently this was a bigger turnout than usual, but not by the margin I would have assumed from only reading lesswrong etc. I suspect that if the aim is to grow the membership, encouraging everyone who goes to write about it here would be helpful.

Overall good fun, will go again if scheduling allows (which is twice as likely if there's twice as many meets of course)

Adam.. (Now also know as Pie, thanks to poor handwriting skills)

Comment by pre on 2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2012-11-04T20:08:47.780Z · score: 22 (22 votes) · LW · GW

i typed my age then hit return which submitted the form with only one answer. so then i filled it in again. you'll want to ignore that first entry. dinner arrived as i did that so that was a couple of hours ago now. age is 39 if that helps.

Comment by pre on Punctuality - Arriving on Time and Math · 2012-05-04T16:14:33.970Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Bell curves may be the general case, but for the non-car-owning public-transport-using among us the situation is quite different. If a train runs every 20 minutes then being 1 minute late for the train means being 20 minutes late at the destination. Being 1 minute early has no effect on the time arriving at the destination.

It makes the prep-time discontinuous I guess.

Course, in London everyone expects everyone to often be 20 minutes late coz of the damned trains, so maybe it matter less then, heh.

Comment by pre on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-11-02T14:49:35.890Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I counted it, coz I'm mostly just a lurker here anyway. Far too busy!

Comment by pre on The self-unfooling problem · 2011-10-11T15:24:17.077Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Heh, this is pretty much how I live my life really. Coins go in the obvious coin place coz if I put 'em anywhere else I'll never remember where I put 'em.

See also: Proper Pocket Discipline. Everything that goes in pockets has an assigned pocket. No more searching for lighters! No more worry about keys scratching phone screens.

My books are in alphabetical order these days.

I suspect having a system for these things will also leave you better off if/when you go senile. If you've always looked in the same place for your coins for 60 years it'll be more ingraned.

Comment by pre on [Link] "Upload", a video-conference between a girl and her dead grandfather · 2011-07-22T07:12:25.396Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, ish. Certainly no interface between uploaded consciousness and the (still very crude) motor-control and perception systems of such androids.

Comment by pre on [Link] "Upload", a video-conference between a girl and her dead grandfather · 2011-07-21T21:33:19.897Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's the vPre. It's the virtual version of me that looks after my websites and things. An early attempt to "upload" myself as it goes. He lives at my homepage, and mostly just recites my twitter stream, with a search function. :)

Comment by pre on [Link] "Upload", a video-conference between a girl and her dead grandfather · 2011-07-21T19:37:23.879Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW


Didn't there used to be plenty of people who said blacks people don't have souls, for instance? The whole concept is so nebulous as to be practically meaningless.

One of the later scripts talks about him inventing that android-body type machine, or at least helping develop it.

Comment by pre on Discussion: Ideas for a Lesswrongian anticipation Sci-Fi set in 2060 · 2011-07-14T11:09:21.526Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Um, yeah, you're probably right. Won't be around to reply/baby-sit it from now till after the weekend though. Maybe I'll do it Tuesday.

Comment by pre on Discussion: Ideas for a Lesswrongian anticipation Sci-Fi set in 2060 · 2011-07-13T09:26:36.136Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I remember reading about an experiment in which they did exactly that: change the text on a computer screen during eye sucades, when the eyes aren't processing data, IE while you're "Not looking". Which reminded me of trying to read in dreams, certainly.

I once had a lucid dream in which I decided to see how good my latent memory was by picking up a book from my self in the dream and reading the first line to see, when I woke, if I'd got it right. But it was just nonsense babble which, as you point out, kept changing. Oh well.

Comment by pre on Discussion: Ideas for a Lesswrongian anticipation Sci-Fi set in 2060 · 2011-07-12T15:50:41.616Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW


Yeah, you should have heard the sound before Danny cleaned it up ;) I should buy better equipment probably.

I think showing that the Uploads still react emotionally is going to be an important part of any work which features 'em, especially if they're "smart" people, otherwise it can look like uploading turns you into a Spock-Bot. Mostly I was just trying to keep the dialog tight. My natural writing is way too verbose for a five minute video, perhaps I overcompensated there a little.

Comment by pre on Discussion: Ideas for a Lesswrongian anticipation Sci-Fi set in 2060 · 2011-07-12T14:44:50.535Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Having access to information and actually having assimilated it are two entirely different things.

Indeed, this is what I was talking about with the Cyc project, just having the information isn't enough, it needs to be integrated, to have meaning.

Still, it seems many of my pub conversations are already changing with wireless mobile internet access as what would have been a large discussion about whether or not something was real, or what it did, or when it was, can be quickly checked by a source both people would agree is better than anyone physically present.

Which also points to ways conversation in general changes. Just coz you aren't there, doesn't mean you can't be consulted immediately. In Farscape, the characters would be conversing with each other even when remote, without having to have an obvious comms device or think to turn it on or all. Just shout at 'em and they hear, wherever they are, whatever they're doing.

You're talking to some resurrected dude about his grandson, and suddenly grandson is there in the conversation saying hello from the beach where he's lazing with a cocktail.

I always thought that looked fun, but given the rants I get from people wondering why I'd bother to log into a website to show 'em pictures of a beach holiday while I "should be off having fun" perhaps there'd be social pressure to keep conversation local.

Dunno. Look forward to finding out how it'll all pan out anyway :)

Comment by pre on Discussion: Ideas for a Lesswrongian anticipation Sci-Fi set in 2060 · 2011-07-12T11:04:40.261Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sounds fun. I made a little video last month about what Hanson calls "Ems" that's supposed to grow into a bigger discussion on the political and social consequences. I call 'em "Uploads" though.

That's more immediate-future rather than fifty years hence though. The script for later episodes talks more about their having failed to make any kind of AI work properly other than by scanning and uploading though, how learning facts is not the same as understanding with digs at the Cyc project.

If you're setting something further future I'd think a lot about exactly how this whole internet thing is going to be affecting social change over the next fifty years. Everyone's presumably connected wirelessly all the time, google and the wikipedia closer to everyone's brain than merely "at their fingertips". How does conversation change when everyone know everything there is to know about everything?

Comment by pre on Sequences in Alternative Formats · 2010-12-04T23:59:36.627Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wicked. I was just thinking about writing a script to scrape 'em and stick 'em on my phone for those tube journeys when I haven't got a book with me.

Been using the Harry Potter fan-fic for that but seem to be about to run out of it.

Thanks to all those who have already done it for me :)

Comment by pre on A survey of anti-cryonics writing · 2010-02-12T23:44:32.398Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Heard back from the guy I emailed. Sounds like the meeting next month is mostly for folks who are signed up already, with more policy and practice stuff than enrolment and talk about the actual process.

I've asked him if he'll either do a Q&A here on exactly what UK folks would have to do, or else suggest someone who will.

Seems like it'd be a lot of effort to trek up to Sheffield for just the answers to some questions.

Hopefully he'll say yes :)

Comment by pre on A survey of anti-cryonics writing · 2010-02-08T18:41:58.156Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I can't help on finding stuff written on cryo though I'm afraid. That's the topics it'd have to address to have much meaning to me: Whether or not the distribution of those proteins in the cell membrane are stored or destroyed. It might still not work even if it saves those things, but if it doesn't save those things it's not got a chance.

There's some kinda cryonics UK meeting next month which I'd half planned to think about going to. Will give it more thought when I get back from a work-trip next week.

{EDIT: Actually, I'll email 'em now and see what the score is]

Comment by pre on A survey of anti-cryonics writing · 2010-02-08T17:43:13.998Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm a long way from being an expert neuroscientist, but as far as I can tell the mechanism under which neural change happens essentially involves a few physical changes:

1) Myelination - the Myelin coating over the Axon of a neuron grows, making the Axon conduct it's signal more powerfully and quickly

2) Change in number and distribution of neurotransmitter receptors in the dendrites of the neuron. Obviously the more of them you have, the more likely the neuron is to fire in the presence of the transmitter which fits that receptor.

3) Change in the number and distribution of vesicles which release neurotransmitters in the Axon Terminal. When the neuron fires, the vesticles in it's Axon terminal's release their load of neurotransmitters. Again, the more of them you have the stronger the signal to make the neuron the other side of the synapse fire.

4) The actual path the Axon's and Dentrites take, snaking from one cell to the next. Litterally the 'wiring'.

There may well be other changes to the neural structure which change the way it behaves, but these seem to be the major mechanisms. Interestingly, a neuron firing tends not only to release neurotrasmitters from it's vesticles, but also to change the structure of the neuron, make it grow more receptors etc

So does Cryonics actually preserve these things?

I'm not in a position to tell. If the cell walls were really being burst, then no, I doubt that the number and distribution of vesticles and receptors would be preserved since those things are built into the cell walls. My impression was that proper cryopreservation did indeed store the cells intact though.

If the cells are stored intact, including the position of the receptors and releasors in the cell walls at each end of every branch of the axons in the neurons, then I think this seems likely to be where the brain's long-term state is stored.

There'll doubtless also be short-term memories which are just feedback loops of signals travelling around the brain. They'll be lost, I would think, just as they were lost in my brother when he spent a few weeks in a coma and remembered nothing until the day before he got beaten up.

Course, I'm nowhere near qualified to really judge either. All I've done is read a bit.

I signed up for the Alcor UK mail-list at the beginning of the year. It's pretty much silent though. As far as I can tell, shipping your dead body to the US is the only way it's really gonna work. I fear that makes it much less viable here than there.

Comment by pre on Request For Article: Many-Worlds Quantum Computing · 2009-11-20T21:24:53.143Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks folks, sounds like the entire point of quantum computing is to avoid the kinda differences in interpretation that Copenhagen/MWI are concerned with, so my suspicion that a MW computational image would help is mistaken. Which is good, read around some Quantum Algorithms a bit. Have a better grasp of how that actually works than the terrible "explore all possibilities and pick the best" line that seems to come up so much.

Still leaves me a bit at a loss with these quantum effects in photosynthesis though:

We have obtained the first direct evidence that remarkably long-lived wavelike electronic quantum coherence plays an important part in energy transfer processes during photosynthesis,” said Graham Fleming, the principal investigator for the study. “This wavelike characteristic can explain the extreme efficiency of the energy transfer because it enables the system to simultaneously sample all the potential energy pathways and choose the most efficient one.”

Seems likely that line about "simultaneously sampling all the potential energy pathways and choosing the most efficient one" is just as misleading as the similar line in explaining how to quantumly factor a number.

Humm. Oh well. Can't expect to clear up all my confusion in one day. It's Friday Night, I should go find something fun to do.

Comment by pre on Request For Article: Many-Worlds Quantum Computing · 2009-11-20T20:09:45.017Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. Sounds like you're saying that the entire process of quantum computation aims to keep the system coherent, and so avoid splitting the universe. Which make sense. They tell me the difficulty, in an engineering sense, is to stop the system de-cohering.

Is that remotely accurate?

Comment by pre on Request For Article: Many-Worlds Quantum Computing · 2009-11-20T19:43:50.272Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Saying that a quantum algorithm is "simultaneously sampling all possibilities and choosing the best one" has always been, I've found, a strange way of putting it,

Indeed, misleading and annoyingly common and the kinda thing that's always encouraging my more cosmic hippy friends down blind alleys. I'm hoping to find a better way, it seemed to me that MWI might have done that.

Maybe it doesn't, I'm certainly not an expert, hard for me to tell without being able to read a good one :)

This is better, certainly:

A quantum algorithm such as Grover's algorithm simply works by changing the probability amplitudes ... in such a way that the probability of the desired answer is much higher than the probability of any other answer.

Not far off my assumptions in the original request which is always encouraging.

Comment by pre on Request For Article: Many-Worlds Quantum Computing · 2009-11-20T09:06:59.837Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Vague grasp of what the maths is supposed to do, without ever having actually worked through most of it. More than just SA and Eleizer, but mostly pretty much around that level.

The trouble with the explore-and-prune way of describing these things is it automatically makes people fall into speculation on what's doing the choosing, how maybe 'consciousness' is picking the 'best' of the results and shaping the universe.

Understand enough to know it ain't that, and that the maths tells us the probabilities of the outcomes, there's no 3rd party 'picking' the one most advantageous to 'em.

But it's hard to get people to understand that without a good intuitive picture of what's really going on, just seemed to me that the problem was probably the 'collapse-like' system which everyone seems to fall back on when trying to produce this intuitive picture.

Personally I should probably work through the maths at some point. It's on the list. The list is long though and I have a goddamned job so I never seem to get proper time for stuff.

Not sure that having done that would help to convince people who certainly won't be working through the numbers that there's no special consciousness effect going on though.

Comment by pre on The Lifespan Dilemma · 2009-09-11T16:05:20.800Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Oh no! Does just mentioning the problem cause people to notice dust-specs that would have otherwise gone unnoticed? If we ask 3^^^3 people the question are we in fact causing more trouble than torturing a man for 50 years?

If you ask one person and expect them to ask the advice of two others, who do the same in turn....

Seems best to stay quiet!


Comment by pre on London Rationalist Meetups bikeshed painting thread · 2009-06-11T16:30:42.629Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, I think it shall be one of the best End Of The World Shows we've ever done. And this is at least number twelve :)

For anyone who's never done it, I thoroughly recommend climbing on a soap-box in silly clothes and ranting a load of nonsense at speakers corner like you're an insane nutcase. Liberating for it to be so obvious for a change.

Comment by pre on London Rationalist Meetups bikeshed painting thread · 2009-06-11T07:48:30.630Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One, probably not very useful, possibility is of course to turn up at the Subgenius party I'm running. It'll be loud and noisy and not particularly rational (after all, most of the point is to highlight irrationality by mocking and exaggerating it), but fun and weird.

Personally I'm far too busy to meet anywhere else before that though. And indeed, I'll be busy all night long at the show too, up on stage for five minutes out of every hour introducing the acts etc.

Still. You're all invited anyway.

Comment by pre on The ideas you're not ready to post · 2009-04-20T13:35:33.885Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, so we're just using techniques which win without being sneaky? Isn't 'sneaky' a good, winning strategy?

Rationality's enemies are certainly using these techniques. Should we not study them, if only with a view to finding an antidote?

Comment by pre on The ideas you're not ready to post · 2009-04-20T10:03:15.187Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

memetic engineering

The art of manipulating the media, especially news, and public opinion. Sometimes known as "spin-doctoring" I guess, but I think the memetic paradigm is probably a more useful one to attack it from.

I'd love to understand that better than I do. Understanding it properly would certainly help with evangelism.

I fear that very few people really do grok it though, certainly I wouldn't be capable of writing much relevant about it yet.

Comment by pre on Spreading the word? · 2009-04-20T09:45:59.774Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That's almost exactly the phrase I used when I pointed this place out to my friends. I added one word though: "I've joined another cult." I said.

I find that if I talk as though all my groups of friends are cults of various kinds that it takes the "You're in a cult" wind out of their sails.

"Yes, I'm in lots of cults, including this one here with you in it too."

Don't think any of the members of my other cults have wondered in this direction yet though.

Comment by pre on I Changed My Mind Today - Canned Laughter · 2009-04-16T16:25:13.429Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

No need to remove it, just don't put a mic on the crowd.

My suspicion would be that the actors would appear to be reacting to something which didn't exist, and that it'd be even worse than no audience at all.

We'd have to do some experiments to check though.

Comment by pre on The uniquely awful example of theism · 2009-04-10T00:42:11.578Z · score: 18 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Anyone got any other examples of things just about everyone here has seen the folly of, even though they're widespread among otherwise-smart people

The idiocy of the drug war tends to be my own favourite example.

The so-called terrorism threat? I did a count the other day on how many civil liberties had been removed by the terrorists vs those removed by the government.

Nationalism in general?

I guess you'd claim that things like forwarding chain letters, belief in homoeopathy or healing crystals or orgone guns, the 'nature is good' fallacy and whatnot aren't common enough.

Comment by pre on [deleted post] 2009-04-09T22:55:35.827Z

Seems that talking about favourite games that you think really judge how to judge nothing but skill is good, and apparently we should be talking about things which others may not have experienced so I thought I'd waffle on about Dip for a bit.

It's a great game. I wish I didn't have a job or something so I had time to play again really.

Comment by pre on Mandatory Secret Identities · 2009-04-09T00:01:13.499Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The first thing that comes to mind is maybe she's able to teach students how to practice more in their youth than she did.

That'd work at least.

Comment by pre on Real-Life Anthropic Weirdness · 2009-04-05T23:07:27.267Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

So if you find you ARE that friend, presumably you'd have no fear of stepping in front of that gun barrel yourself for a few million flips right afterwards. I mean it's pretty convincing proof. Then you get to see the confusion in each other's face!

Though you're both more likely to end up mopping your friend's blood of the floor.

On the whole, I think a good friend probably doesn't let a friend test the Quantum Theory of Immortality.

Comment by pre on Akrasia, hyperbolic discounting, and picoeconomics · 2009-03-30T22:54:16.747Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"why certain ideas are communicated only indirectly for good reasons" by Pre.

Rather than use an obscure example like Zen, we'll use a fairly simple idea: Learning how to catch a ball.

Now I can directly explain to you how a ball is caught. I can describe the simultaneous ballistic equations that govern the flight of the ball, instruct you on how to alter your idea of where the ball will land based on Bayesian reasoning given certain priors and measured weather conditions.

These things are almost certainly needed if you're gonna program a computer to catch a ball.

If you're gonna teach a human to catch a ball though, you're just going to have to throw a lot of balls at them and tell 'em to keep theirs eyes on it.

I suspect most Zen koans are just poor jokes, but if there's a point to 'em it's the same as the point of throwing those balls at a student catcher.

Just to get you to practice thinking in that way. Because you, as a human, will become better at the things you practice.

If the thing you are practising is spouting existential bullshit this may or may not be a good idea. ;)

Comment by pre on Church vs. Taskforce · 2009-03-29T01:32:15.305Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I quite like the idea of infiltrating some religion and taking over. I doubt the christian ones would be the best bet, but it's a nice plan. One of the newer religions may be more corruptible.

It's a fantasy though, not something that I think could actually be orchestrated.

Karma here is pretty simple: You get a point for every upvote, and lose one for every downvote. You automatically upvote your own comments (unless you deliberately cancel it).

So make 20 posts that don't get voted down and you're there.

Comment by pre on Church vs. Taskforce · 2009-03-28T17:02:37.547Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's any number of movements whose adherents have a priority of spreading the word, and right now I can't think of a single such movement I'd want to be associated with.

Innit. Personally I think I get more out of a community with a wide range of views anyway.

Comment by pre on Church vs. Taskforce · 2009-03-28T14:31:23.085Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've never been to a mensa meeting. On the web they seem to do little other than congratulate each other for being so smart. Do they do more when they meet in meatspace?

Comment by pre on Church vs. Taskforce · 2009-03-28T14:30:23.145Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I meant that being a lone rationist doesn't spread rationalism, essentially. If that's the motive, you need to be more accepting of those that aren't in order to move them towards the path.

Comment by pre on Church vs. Taskforce · 2009-03-28T12:30:56.916Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Yes! Community matters. The support and friendship my folks get from their church is so intense, so useful to them, that I stopped trying to talk 'em out of their religion when I understood it. Unless you can replace that, give them that support and encouragement they got when my brother went schizophrenic say, you may well do them a disservice by talking them out of their religion even it if were possible.

Personally I get mine from a few places. The subgenii thing doesn't really work well enough, there's maybe two dozen of us active here in the whole continent. We can do about two get-togethers a year and have to fly in cross continental airplanes to do it. Lucky if half of us turn up at one one event. If you don't also happen to be a heavy drinker you're probably not going to fit in all that well either. The fact it's so focused against something rather than for something can also be tricky. It's deliberately exclusive.

More useful to me is the art community. The four nine one gallery even have a building. Squatted, of course. Nobody involved there has enough money to buy or even rent a building. The entire ethos of the folks who originally squatted that building was to use that previously unused space to encourage community projects. They use it for parties and for yoga classes and for drawing classes and there's a cafe. There's always people moving through, using the space. We'll be using it for this years subgenius party come X-Day. They're some of the most accepting friendly people I know. Having accepting, friendly leaders is surely important.

Another friend is in the process, this week even, of arranging a peppercorn rent with a landlord to move into and renovate a dilapidated building over five years, using it as a community center in the mean time. I expect I'll do what I can to help, but I'm busy and it's quite far from where I live.

Planet Angel aim to have a building, and to use it for similar purposes. We run monthly clubbing events to try and build that community and raise the cash to get a building through official channels rather than squatting. Well over half my friendship circle have come to me though PA over the last seven or eight years. The key to that being anything other than just another night club is the lack of any advertising. Spreading through word of mouth means 'like minded' people are the only people that come. You don't get so much of the idiot trendy clubbing crowd that could destroy the friendly atmosphere. We try to organize bring-the-whole-family events a few times a year too, the night-clubbing thing is pretty restrictive if you really want to build a community.

The thing all these projects (except the subgenii one) have in common, the thing that drives whatever amount of success we're getting, is acceptance though. None of them would work at all if we tried to include only rationalists, only the smart, only the top 5% intellectually. Indeed, they all (including the subgenii thing) include people with weird ideas about reality, people who aren't all that smart, people who'd be bored reading lesswrong in about two minutes flat.

I think this is a good thing too. It's pointless to be a lone rationalist, or an exclusive group. You gotta find some way to preach to the masses, and that's only going to happen if you accept the masses, and give them that community they're after, fill the community hole in their brains that people seem to find particularly hard to fill in big cities.

Yet you also can't afford to grow so quickly that the group-norms are washed away, flooded with the wider society's norms.

It's a tricky problem

Comment by pre on Your Price for Joining · 2009-03-26T20:38:29.721Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Innit. I quite like the sleep deprivation high, but it's not a good state for thinking straight. And I also love sleeping and dreaming.

Comment by pre on The Sacred Mundane · 2009-03-26T20:23:50.023Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, see, figuring things out from first principles, rigorously applying your values, calculating the best option given a multi-dimensional array of preferences in various categories and doing a weighted sum on them to determine an appropriate course is a good thing. People should definitely know how to do that. I'm glad I have whatever basic grasp on the functions involved that I do have.

But it's not actually how human beings think.

Even determining what heuristic you'd use to judge a situation's utility on that multidimensional scale would be a monumental undertaking. It'd take an age.

What actual human beings do is let their subconscious brain do all that tricky heuristic-based summing and weighting and determining which aspects are important and then signal it up to consciousness via a wooly, fuzzy, sometimes vague, often powerful, emotional response.

Data wanted to be human, but he can never be human coz his physiology just wasn't wired that way.

You may determine that you want to be an android, dispassionately calculating every move from first principles and values. But you just ain't wired that way. You won't have time to run a wetware program to emulate it. Not one that doesn't take advantage of your emotions anyway.

God knows how an emotionless person would fair trying to predict or influence another human being's actions.

Better to learn to hear your emotions, to understand the message they're giving you, learn to fine-tune them if they're lying or wrong, than to ignore them.

Comment by pre on Open Thread: March 2009 · 2009-03-26T20:11:14.628Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, so like a badge to put on your profile page.

I did wonder why people joined so many pointless groups.

I think it would likely bring more facebook randoms here. Not really sure what the aims of the place are in that regard. Presumably we DO want to encourage rationality outside our own little clique, so bringing more people here would be good. But presumably we also don't want to drown in trolls and noise and idiots and spam which is what tends to be the final result of that kinda recruitment drive.

Probably should figure out what the plan is for that before you start, effectively, advertising on facebook I reckon.

Comment by pre on The Sacred Mundane · 2009-03-26T19:55:17.792Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But there IS a flavour that you'd enjoy most, it's just that without projecting yourself into that future position and imagining the emotional content of it you can't decide which will be best.

new scientist had an article {subscription needed, mirrored here} which mentions "Elliot", a patient described in Descarte's Error:

Intellectually, Elliott is unimpaired. IQ and memory tests reveal nothing abnormal

. . .

Eventually the researchers trace this myopic indecisiveness to a curious absence of feeling, itself the result of damage to the frontal part of the brain's cortex. Elliott "knows" but cannot "feel". When confronted with pictures of people injured in gory accidents, he knows intellectually that he should feel distressed—but he doesn't actually feel distressed

. . .

Without these emotional changes to guide his thought processes, concludes Damasio, life for Elliott is a hell of indecision. Yes, he can mull over every option ad infinitum; but when it comes to experiencing the subtle internal values and biases of feeling necessary for actually choosing between the options, "gut feelings" or "instincts" are just plain missing. Elliott, in Damasio's own words, is "irrational concerning the larger framework of behaviour".

Too much emotion certainly can make us irrational, but so can too little. You need to know how things will make you feel, in order to rationally chose between alternatives.

Comment by pre on Open Thread: March 2009 · 2009-03-26T19:35:00.126Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Seriously? Why? To encourage the Facebook masses to come here?

  • shudders *
Comment by pre on Your Price for Joining · 2009-03-26T12:13:06.530Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

In the Free Software movement the typical response to these kinds of demands is pretty simple, "There's the code, please do feel free to go fix it!"

Likewise in the hippy anarchist movements if you suggest something like a rally or a sit-in the usual answer is "Sounds good, when are you going to organise it?"

Which I tend to think is pretty much the right answer. If someone can't be bothered to do the things they suggest themselves then I can't really understand why they think they should be able to convince others to do it for them.

The key is to make the cost for getting in there and starting to do those things really low, making the source available to everyone with a simple download, making it simple to contact the whole group and start organizing.

Personally I've helped with and joined loads of different cults and projects, even started one, and found that the key to getting me to do stuff to help at least is to make it both simple to do and obvious how, to ensure that I realize I don't need permission to go do something.

You've said yourself that you were surprised how much of a barrier even having to send an email to OB was compared to having a big "submit your article here" button on Lesswrong,

I have vague plans to take a look at the source code for less-wrong and fix a couple of things that are annoying me, but it won't be till after the Subgenius show I'm organizing at least, when I have a bit more time.

Comment by pre on The Sacred Mundane · 2009-03-25T21:52:34.667Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, then microchips? Writing "IBM" in individual atoms with a scanning electron microscope? Nano-motors for nano-machines? Richard Hammond was on the TV the other week with a probing scanning electron microscope writing his name on a strand of hair. Awesome.