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Comment by protagoras on Stupidity as a mental illness · 2017-02-14T01:33:07.968Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hmmm, thanks, but that research doesn't seem to make any effort to distinguish people with diagnosable dementia conditions from those without, and does mention that the rates can be quite different for different people, so I can't tell whether there's anything about it which contradicts what I thought I remembered encountering in other research.

Comment by protagoras on Stupidity as a mental illness · 2017-02-13T02:25:22.783Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm curious about your claim that at 60-70 years old people start rapidly becoming stupider for reason we don't know. I thought that I recalled reading that while the various forms of dementia become immensely more common with age, those who are fortunate enough to avoid any of them experience relatively little cognitive decline. Unless you mean only to say that our present understanding of Alzheimer's and the other less common dementia disorders is relatively limited, so you're counting that as a reason we don't know (it is certainly something we don't know how to fix, so you win on that point).

Comment by protagoras on Three consistent positions for computationalists · 2016-12-08T04:15:52.827Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It certainly becomes stranger when you drop a word. But either way, strangeness is rarely evidence of very much.

Comment by protagoras on Three consistent positions for computationalists · 2016-12-01T18:23:10.180Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I suppose I am denying that they are just appearances.

Comment by protagoras on Cross-Cultural maps and Asch's Conformity Experiment · 2016-03-09T04:29:29.469Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The research indicates that most people's responses to any social science result is "that's what I would have expected," although that doesn't actually seem to be true; you can get them to say they expected conflicting results. Have there really been no studies of when people say they think studies are surprising, comparing the results to what people actually predicted beforehand (I know Milgram informally surveyed what people expected before his study, but I don't think he did any rigorous analysis of expectations)? Perhaps people are as inaccurate in reporting what they find surprising as they are in reporting what they expected. It would certainly be interesting to know!

Comment by protagoras on Investment Strategy · 2016-01-22T03:07:31.256Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Over the course of a month? The reasons you give for thinking these stocks might go up aren't things that would reliably manifest in such a short time frame, and the market generally has been down recently. I don't think what you've described here is evidence of much of anything. Probably you're no good at active investing, because the evidence seems to suggest that nobody is (the winners are just the ones who get lucky), but the reason to think that is because of the general evidence for that, not because of your personal experience over the past month.

Comment by protagoras on Estimate the Cost of Immortality · 2015-12-15T22:43:42.863Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A lot of biological research is inherently slow, because you have to wait to observe effects on slow processes in living things. Probably the only way to get rapid research progress on immortality is with vastly superior computer models running on vastly superior computers substituting for as much as possible of the slow observing what really goes on in humans research. Though there would probably still be a lot of slow observing what goes on in humans going on in the course of testing the computer models for accuracy. Anyway, making more powerful computers, and making better computer models of biochemistry, are already areas that get huge amounts of research spending. It seems likely that still more spending would encounter diminishing returns, such that no amount of concerted effort would further speed things up very dramatically (certainly not to the level you're asking for). Though you might get the impression around here that everyone who isn't a rationalist is a death lover, in fact most people want to live longer, including very rich people, and so a lot of money gets spent on pursuing that goal; lack of progress has a lot more to do with it being hard than with lack of effort.

Comment by protagoras on Philosophy professors fail on basic philosophy problems · 2015-07-15T20:23:01.459Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I was under the impression that the research into biases by people like Kahneman and Tversky generally found that eliminating them was incredibly hard, and that expertise, and even familiarity with the biases in question generally didn't help at all. So this is not a particularly surprising result; what would be more interesting is if they had found anything that actually does reduce the effect of the biases.

Comment by protagoras on Open thread, Dec. 22 - Dec. 28, 2014 · 2014-12-25T20:07:14.397Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It is almost completely uncontroversial that meaning is not determined by the conscious intentions of individual speakers (the "Humpty Dumpty" theory is false). More sophisticated theories of meaning note that people want their words to mean the same as what other people mean by them (as otherwise they are useless for communication). So, bare minimum, knowing what a word means requires looking at a community of language users, not just one speaker. But there are more complications; people want to use their words to mean the same as what experts intend more than they want to use their words to mean the same as what the ignorant intend. Partly that may be just to make coordination easier, but probably an even bigger motive is that people want their words to pick out useful and important categories, and of course experts are more likely to have latched on to those. A relatively uncontroversial extension of this is that meaning needn't precisely match the intentions of any current language speaker or group of language speakers; if the intentions of speakers would point to one category, but there's a very similar, mostly overlapping, but much more useful and important category, the correct account of the meaning is probably that it refers to the more useful and important category, even if none of the speakers know enough to pick out that category. That's why words for "fish" in languages whose origins predate any detailed biological knowledge of whales nonetheless probably shouldn't be thought to have ever included whales in their reference.

So, people can use words without anybody knowing exactly what they mean. And figuring out what they mean can be a useful exercise, as it requires learning more about what you're dealing with; it isn't just a matter of making an arbitrary decision. All that being said, I admit to having some skepticism about some of the words my fellow philosophers use; I suspect in a number of cases there are no ideal, unambiguous meanings to be uncovered (indeed, there are probably cases where they don't mean anything at all, as the Logical Positivists sometimes argued).

Comment by protagoras on November 2014 Media Thread · 2014-11-05T15:56:01.575Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I thought it got off to a great start, dragged a bit in the middle (too many standard anime extremely long battles), but had a decent ending.

Comment by protagoras on question: the 40 hour work week vs Silicon Valley? · 2014-10-26T00:29:50.513Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Because those countries also have lower labor costs, so executives can report that they're saving money on labor costs and their company's stock will go up. More cynically, international operations require more management (to keep on top of shipping issues and deal with different government circumstances in the different countries where operations are going on), and the managers who make such decisions may approve of an outcome where more is spent on management and less on labor. Most of the research I've heard of suggests that it is not because such relocations are overall more profitable; that's very rarely the case.

Comment by protagoras on Rationality Quotes October 2014 · 2014-10-05T03:02:20.577Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed. A more plausible alternative strategy for Germany would be to forget the invading Belgium plan, fight defensively on the western front, and concentrate their efforts against Russia at the beginning. Britain didn't enter the war until the violation of Belgian neutrality. Admittedly, over time French diplomats might have found some other way to get Britain into the war, but Britain was at least initially unenthusiastic about getting involved, so I think Miller is on the right track in thinking Germany's best hope was to look for ways to keep Britain out indefinitely.

Comment by protagoras on Friendliness in Natural Intelligences · 2014-09-19T15:53:55.325Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Socrates initially offered as an alternative punishment that he be given free meals for the rest of his life; he never suggested that he should be paid money, though that's a quibble. More importantly, the final proposal he made (under pressure from his friends) was that he (well, his friends) pay a whopping huge fine. This may have partly backfired because it also reminded people that he had rich and unpopular friends, but it was a substantial penalty. Though you are right that exile would have been more likely to be acceptable to the jury, especially as you are also correct that he never promised to behave differently in the future (which exile, unlike a fine, would have made irrelevant).

Comment by protagoras on Friendliness in Natural Intelligences · 2014-09-19T03:25:43.733Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Neither Plato nor Xenophon describe Socrates as someone who fails to acknowledge the gods that the city acknowledges. Even in Plato, any criticism of the traditional Greek religion is veiled, while in Xenophon Socrates' religious views are completely orthodox.

On why Socrates didn't choose exile, what Plato has Socrates say in Crito makes it sound like he thought fleeing would be harming the city. But I'm not sure that Socrates really makes a compelling case for why fleeing is bad anywhere in Plato's account. In Xenophon's version of the trial, Socrates also seems to think that a 70 year old only has a few more years of declining health left anyway, so it's silly to go to any effort for such a meager "reward."

Comment by protagoras on Link: How Community Feedback Shapes User Behavior · 2014-09-18T01:27:41.534Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm torn. There are definitely differences between the way Less Wrong operates and the situation the article describes, but that's always going to be the case. It would be nice to see more studies, of course, examining how the details of the system matter, but no such seem to be available. Absent that it kind of seems like special pleading to say "we do things slightly differently, so obviously it won't apply to us." On the other hand, only one study is rather weak evidence, and the differences do exist, even if we don't have any actual evidence that they matter. I really don't know if it makes sense to consider changing our system in light of this.

Comment by protagoras on What should a friendly AI do, in this situation? · 2014-08-12T20:52:53.310Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that an AI with such amazing knowledge should be unusually good at communicating its justifications effectively (because able to anticipate responses, etc.) I'm of the opinion that this is one of the numerous minor reasons for being skeptical of traditional religions; their supposedly all-knowing gods seem surprisingly bad at conveying messages clearly to humans. But to return to VAuroch's point, in order for the scenario to be "wildly inconsistent," the AI would have to be perfect at communicating such justifications, not merely unusually good. Even such amazing predictive ability does not seem to me sufficient to guarantee perfection.

Comment by protagoras on A Pragmatic Epistemology · 2014-08-05T19:08:26.920Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As I said, I'm sympathetic to pragmatism. But I guess I'd turn the question around, and ask what you think pragmatism will improve. Serious researchers are pretty good at rationalizing how procedures that work fit into their paradigm (or just not thinking about it and using the procedures that work regardless of any conflicting absolutist principles they might have). I'm sure removing the hypocrisy would be of some benefit, but given the history it would also likely be extremely difficult; in what cases do you think it is clear that this would be the best place to apply effort, and why?

Oh, and on reductionism (and to some extent truth absolutism generally), trying to give a unified account of everything requires thoroughly exploring the connections between different realms, and there are definitely tendencies to view realms as much more isolated than they are for purposes of simplification. To take what is admittedly a small scale reductionist project rather than a global reductionist project, there seems to be a strong tendency to sharply separate the physiological from the psychological when looking at behavior, in ways that seem to hinder understanding, not to mention the ability to deal with serious problems. For example, the pointless disputes about drugs for psychological therapy that focus on the bogus question of whether the psychological disorders have a biological base (how could they not, unless perhaps we're Cartesians?) rather than the much more pertinent questions of whether they work and how they compare to alternatives. While reductionist projects that try to fit everything into a single framework are sometimes guilty of ignoring phenomena that are too complicated or insufficiently well understood to fit into the framework, it is equally true that sharply separating projects into distinct categories can drastically underestimate how much influence there is from factors outside a particular narrowly defined sphere.

Comment by protagoras on A Pragmatic Epistemology · 2014-08-05T06:45:25.937Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Pragmatists from Pierce through the positivists to Rorty have agreed with you that the goal is to avoid wasting time on theories of truth and meaning and instead focus on finding practical tools; they've only spoken of theories of truth when they thought there was was no other way to make their points understandable to those too firmly entrenched in the philosophical mainstream (or, even more often, had such theories attributed to them by people who assumed that must be what they were up to despite their explicit disavowals). I'm not saying all of those people agreed with you about everything (the positivists, for example, thought the fact/value distinction was a useful tool, although of course they didn't think it represented any fundamental truth about reality), but I think you greatly exaggerate your originality here. Of course, one might reasonably insist that originality is not as important as whether the theories actually are useful, but while I tend to be in sympathy with the pragmatist tradition, the fact that it has been around for quite a while without seeming to have radically triumphed over all rivals does provide some reason for doubt about the extent of its world-beating potential.

Comment by protagoras on Open thread, August 4 - 10, 2014 · 2014-08-05T00:09:40.198Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Because that ends the discussion. I think a lot of people around here just enjoy debating arguments (certainly I do).

Comment by protagoras on August 2014 Media Thread · 2014-08-04T18:13:13.351Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have time to re-read the whole book to come up with examples, and there is unhelpfully no index in my copy, but checking through the footnotes quickly, I found exactly two references to actual positivists (or close enough); a quick dismissive paragraph on Ernest Nagel's use of probability theory, and a passing reference to Philipp Frank's biography of Einstein. No references to Reichenbach or Hempel or Carnap. The closest he comes is perhaps the (one) reference to Goodman, who was heavily influenced by Carnap, but Kuhn cites Goodman favorably, while apparently being unaware of how positivist-influenced the ideas he was agreeing with were. There's also a citation of Wittgenstein, which seems vaguely favorable but complains about Wittgenstein's lack of development of an idea, which is surely fair enough; I won't mark anyone down for complaining about that problem in Wittgenstein. But I do have to give low marks for talking so much about "the positivist" while citing only one major positivist philosopher of science (Ernest Nagel) and attributing many views to "the positivist" which are far more simplistic than that positivist would ever have endorsed. Also no references to Duhem. Quine doesn't get mentioned until the postscript, although it's quite plausible that the enthusiasm for Kuhn at the time was part of the same broader phenomenon that turned Quine and Putnam and Goodman into huge stars in philosophy around the same time (all three of those were also to varying degrees prone to denial about the extent of their influence from positivism, but at least they were generally better about citing actual positivists when criticizing them).

Maybe he's referring to Comte or Mach? But I saw no references to them at all, and criticizing 19th century figures in 1962 doesn't sound very revolutionary. The most charitable I can be is that there may have been some confused historians of science employing some positivist ideas without understanding them (I don't know much about history of science in Kuhn's time), and Kuhn's "positivist" may be an assembly of such characters. But that's just speculation. It still seems to me that Kuhn is part of the depressing philosophical tradition of ignoring and misrepresenting previous philosophers in order to appear more original and insightful.

Which is not to say that the book is worthless. I do find the idea of a paradigm very fruitful, and it seems a lot of scientific progress involves the discovery of new ways of making observations, and these are issues that perhaps hadn't gotten sufficient emphasis prior to Kuhn. But a lot of the radical claims that he is most famous for are either not as radical or original as he claimed, or not as well supported by his examples as his very slick writing might lead one to believe, or both.

Comment by protagoras on August 2014 Media Thread · 2014-08-04T05:33:29.918Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Kuhn certainly knew physics better than he knew philosophy. The frequently mentioned "positivist" in his narrative is entirely made of straw. He discusses a lot of interesting ideas, and he wrote better than many people who had discussed similar ideas previously, but most of the ideas had been discussed previously, sometimes extensively; he was apparently simply not very aware of the previous literature in the philosophy of science.

Comment by protagoras on [Question] Adoption and twin studies confounders · 2014-07-12T02:31:32.518Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The biggest problem is that twins raised apart are actually pretty rare, so almost any study of them goes to desperate lengths to just get enough of them for the study. This often involves fudging what they're willing to accept as "raised apart" to a degree no unbiased observer would be comfortable with, just to get sufficient numbers.

Comment by protagoras on Self-Congratulatory Rationalism · 2014-07-06T00:49:58.598Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Also, from the same background, it is striking to me that a lot of the criticisms Less Wrong people make of philosophers are the same as the criticisms philosophers make of one another. I can't really think of a case where Less Wrong stakes out positions that are almost universally rejected by mainstream philosophers. And not just because philosophers disagree so much, though that's also true, of course; it seems rather that Less Wrong people greatly exaggerate how different they are and how much they disagree with the philosophical mainstream, to the extent that any such thing exists (again, a respect in which their behavior resembles how philosophers treat one another).

Comment by protagoras on [moderator action] Eugine_Nier is now banned for mass downvote harassment · 2014-07-04T01:15:13.945Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure I was also a victim, if a rather recent and relatively small scale one, and I'm glad to see something was done. However much I told myself it wasn't really important, that karma's a horribly noisy measure, with a few slightly funny comments gaining me the majority of my karma while my most thoughtful contributions usually only gathered a handful, the block downvoting really did make me feel disinclined to post new comments. Banning seems like an extreme measure, and I guess I can see where people who think there should have been warnings are coming from, but I'm actually kind of surprised that it was all or nearly all one person, and given the amount of distress it seems to have caused, I think we can do without a person like that around here, even if he did sometimes contribute good comments.

Comment by protagoras on The representational fallacy · 2014-06-25T20:59:07.753Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The reviews are fairly critical. Anything in the book that struck you as particularly compelling? What do you think about the discussion of the A vs. B theory debate, or was there another issue you thought she discussed in a particularly interesting way?

Comment by protagoras on Open Thread, May 19 - 25, 2014 · 2014-05-20T20:16:03.207Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It looks like this has been an unpopular suggestion, but I wouldn't discount motivation completely. A lot of early 20th century economists thought centrally planned economies were a great idea, based on the evidence of how productive various centrally planned war economies had been. Presumably there's some explanation for why central planning works better (or doesn't fail as badly) with war economies compared with peacetime economies, and I've always suspected that people's motivation to help the country in wartime was probably one of the factors.

Comment by protagoras on Common sense quantum mechanics · 2014-05-19T02:51:37.698Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

2 wouldn't surprise me. A non-relativistic universe seems to have hidden incoherence (justifying Einstein's enormous confidence in relativity), so while my physics competence is insufficient to follow any similar QM arguments, it wouldn't shock me if they existed.

Comment by protagoras on Controversy - Healthy or Harmful? · 2014-04-08T14:21:11.090Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am inclined to believe that the more recent controversy may be a factor. It's the first time I've been block downvoted, so I'm inclined to believe that there's been an increase in that kind of activity.

Comment by protagoras on Rationality Quotes April 2014 · 2014-04-03T22:08:28.167Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The Logical Positivists were mostly pretty far left, but they mostly didn't engage in much political advocacy; though this was controversial among members of the movement (Neurath thought they should be more overtly political), most of them seemed to think that helping people think more clearly and make better use of science was a better way to encourage superior outcomes than advocating specific policies. They were also involved in various causes, though; many members of the Vienna Circle were involved in adult education efforts in Vienna, for example. The more I think about it, the more I think it's pretty accurate to say they had a lot in common with the Less Wrong crowd in their approach to politics (though they were almost certainly further left, even taking into account that the surveys suggest Less Wrong itself is further left than many people seem to realize).

Comment by protagoras on Rationality Quotes April 2014 · 2014-04-01T16:29:06.889Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Cool! I've looked for that manifesto on line before, and failed to find it; thanks for the link! Too many people seem to get all of their knowledge of the Vienna Circle and Logical Positivism from its critics. It's good to look at the primary sources. The translation is a little clunky (perhaps too literal), but so much better than not having it available at all.

Comment by protagoras on Stranger Than History · 2014-04-01T14:31:47.442Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You make a lot of assumptions. When I said the grad student population was "racially diverse" I was not trying to give a more impressive sounding name to the fact that it included a decent number of Asians. It did, of course, but it also included plenty of people from Africa, the West Indies, the Middle East, and, well, pretty much everywhere.

Comment by protagoras on Stranger Than History · 2014-04-01T01:13:24.453Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Which I said nothing about. I referred to the undergraduate population (I wasn't an undergrad, but university campuses aren't particularly segregated between grad and undergrad populations). Actually, the grad student population generally was more racially diverse than the undergraduate population (mostly due to lots of international students among the grad students).

Comment by protagoras on Stranger Than History · 2014-03-31T22:43:06.587Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One reason for thinking that a measure of talent is poor might be that it is outperformed by other measures. There may not be genuinely good measures of talent. It does occur some sort of retrospective measure based on results is probably better than what the admissions office uses, but that is surely still not a perfect measure, and is also obviously not a practical option to replace what the admissions office uses (unless someone invents a time machine). Another reason to think a measure of talent is poor, though, and this is probably more applicable here, is that a measure may be considered suspect if there is reason to think it is really measuring something else entirely, perhaps because it correlates suspiciously strongly with factors regarded as independent of talent.

Comment by protagoras on Stranger Than History · 2014-03-30T22:56:56.756Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This would only be true if affirmative action were carried to the point where the percentage of black students in the elite schools exceeded the percentage of blacks in the general population. I don't have the numbers handy, but I did go to grad school at an Ivy, not terribly long ago, and that does not match my recollection of the racial make-up there. The undergraduate ranks seemed to be dominated by rich white kids.

Comment by protagoras on Stranger Than History · 2014-03-30T19:22:43.916Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I wouldn't be surprised if you disagreed with his point, but I'm a little surprised that you just don't understand it. The cutoff you speak of is in the admissions criteria, not in talent (there being no way to measure talent directly). VAuroch is pretty obviously of the opinion that admissions criteria are poor measures of talent, and that in particular minorities are more likely to score poorly on the admissions criteria for reasons other than talent. Again, not surprised if you disagree, but I'm very surprised you couldn't figure out that that was what he meant.

Comment by protagoras on Stranger Than History · 2014-03-30T19:15:47.219Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Mostly the first two. I don't watch much TV news or read many newspapers any more.

Comment by protagoras on Stranger Than History · 2014-03-30T00:33:32.429Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

As far as I can tell, the far left position on sex is that most of the stereotypical sex differences are exaggerated, and most of the genuine differences are more the result of socialization rather than biology. I don't encounter anyone who goes further than that; I've never encountered anyone who would replace either "most" with an "all," or who would replace the "more" with an "entirely," in the case of sex, and I encounter a lot of people who are pretty far left (being fairly far left myself these days). The situation with race is a little different; some people would replace the second "most" with an "all," and the second "more" with an "entirely." But then, the evidence is also different with respect to race. People who think there's just no difference at all in the case of sex I only encounter as straw characters in conservative rants.

Comment by protagoras on Stranger Than History · 2014-03-29T22:40:55.667Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I admit that I encounter people who make a big deal of how edgy and contrarian they are for speaking out about innate differences in the face of the stifling politically correct consensus that race and sex don't matter at all. It's pretty amazing how they seem to be everywhere, given the supposedly universal consensus rejecting and supressing such edgy, contrarian views.

Comment by protagoras on The Unfinished Mystery of the Shangri-La Diet · 2014-03-29T00:17:28.908Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Differences in the rate of absorption can definitely be important to addiction; oral amphetamines are not particularly addictive, but amphetamines taken in other ways that increase absorption rate are very addictive. And the last I checked the research on that, there wasn't much understanding of exactly why the line there is where it is. Perhaps alcohol just works completely differently, but it is also possible that drinking on an empty stomach, or drinking carbonated drinks, doesn't increase absorption enough to make a difference. Or perhaps it does make a difference, but not enough to have turned up in any research yet; this isn't an area where small effects would be easy to detect.

Comment by protagoras on Does religion help cure insanity? · 2014-03-27T20:45:43.890Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure about the usefulness of grouping the kind of vague spirituality and religion mentioned in the first paper with the discussions of meditation in the other papers. As the last paper argues, I also would think it would be worthwhile to distinguish different forms of meditation. My general understanding of the state of the literature was that studies of the benefits of "spirituality and religion" were all over the place (it being an incredibly vague category). I also was under the impression that there have been a lot of studies of meditation specifically, and that it was common for them to find substantial benefits, but that there remained controversy over why, over whether some methods were better than others, and over whether meditation was superior to relaxation exercises. I'm certainly interested in all of that research on meditation myself, but it seems to me to be in a different category from other kinds of "spirituality and religion" research.

Comment by protagoras on Rationalist fiction: a Slice of Life IN HELL · 2014-03-26T12:24:07.136Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, Worm is pretty bleak. I tend to find that a bit overwhelming at times myself; I like the series because of its other strengths (diverse and interesting characters, intelligent plotting, deep and rich setting) with the oppressive tone being a small strike against it for me.

Comment by protagoras on Stranger Than History · 2014-03-24T13:45:32.170Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The modern West treats marriage as being primarily about romantic love, which is an idea not shared by earlier cultures. A culture which does not see romantic love as the essential component of marriage would be unlikely to come up with the idea of gay marriage. There may be some convoluted connection between Christianity and the Western ideal of love-based marriage, but it seems likely that if there were a culture that had the same overriding love-marriage association without any religious objections to homosexuality, that culture would endorse gay marriage.

Comment by protagoras on Less Wrong Study Hall - Year 1 Retrospective · 2014-03-18T13:59:55.938Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Slate Star Codex, Scott Alexander's blog, is a little like this; he tolerates and engages in a lot more political discussion than Less Wrong, but he is a Less Wronger, as are some of those who comment there. The overlap with the Less Wrong community is far from total, and obviously as Scott's personal blog it emphasizes his views, and it also doesn't only only talk about politics (it just doesn't avoid politics the way Less Wrong does), so it's probably not exactly what you're looking for, but it might be close enough for you to find it interesting, if you didn't already know about it. And I guess if there are any other blogs like Scott's with a similarly high level of political discussion, I'm interested in hearing about them myself.

Comment by protagoras on Rationality Quotes February 2014 · 2014-03-17T03:01:13.186Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hmmm. Your past 30 days karma is positive. Either you're saying it was formerly a lot more positive, or any downvoting isn't having nearly the effect you suggest.

Comment by protagoras on Reference Frames for Expected Value · 2014-03-16T21:11:35.578Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

You come to what is more or less the right consequentialist answer in the end, but it seems to me that your path is needlessly convoluted. Why are we judging past actions? Generally, the reason is to give us insight into and perhaps influence future decisions. So we don't judge the lottery purchase to have been good, because it wouldn't be a good idea to imitate it (we have no way to successfully imitate "buy a winning lottery ticket" behavior, and imitating "buy a lottery ticket" behavior has poor expected utility, and similarly for many broader or narrower classes of similar actions), and so we want to discourage people from imitating it, not encourage them. If we're being good consequentialists, what other means could it possibly be appropriate to use in deciding how to judge other than basing it on the consequences of judging in that way?

Comment by protagoras on Rationality Quotes March 2014 · 2014-03-16T15:42:11.513Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If accepting universals made one not a materialist, that would rule out some of the great Australian materialists, such as David Armstrong. Thus, that would clearly be a non-standard use of the label "materialist." Perhaps there are details of Russell's account of universals which are not shared by Armstrong's which make it anti-materialist, but you don't specify any. I know that Russell's views changed over the years, which of course complicates things, but he certainly didn't believe in spooky souls, and most of the doctrines of his I can think of which seem to be in possible tension with materialism are either susceptible to varying interpretations or matters he changed his mind on at different points or both.

Comment by protagoras on Why are Harvard's alumni so wealthy? · 2014-03-15T20:23:10.509Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

From what I recall reading about Harvard admissions practices, I suspect that the first explanation, "Harvard selects students with higher expected earnings," is the biggest factor. And that a lot of schools try to do the same thing, but students who get accepted to Harvard and some other schools are more likely to choose Harvard, since it's generally regarded as the best.

Comment by protagoras on What are you working on? March / April 2014 · 2014-03-15T17:56:59.225Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Writing a Black Company fanfic. I've been reading a decent amount of fan fiction recently, and enjoying it. I was pretty surprised that there was so little Black Company fanfic out there, as it seemed like a good setting for fan fiction. So I thought I'd do my little bit to correct the deficiency, and get some practice writing fiction. It's here.

Comment by protagoras on Is my view contrarian? · 2014-03-12T22:44:41.058Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Very good diagnosis. While I don't recall where the philosophers of religion came out in this area on the survey, some of the popular arguments for the existence of God seem to rely on a very strong version of mathematical Platonism, a believe that there is a one true logic/mathematics and that strong conclusions about the world can be drawn by the proper employment of that logic (the use of PSR that you mention is a common, but not the only, example of this). Since I reject that kind of One True Logic (I'm a Carnapian, "in logic there are no morals!" guy), I tend to think that any logical proof of the existence of God (or anything else) serves only to establish that you are using a logic which has a built in "God exists" (or whatever) assumption. For example, the simple modal ontological argument which says God possibly exists, God is a necessary being, so by a few simple steps in S5, God exists; if you're using S5, then once you've made one of the assumptions about God, making the other one just amounts to assuming God exists, and so in effect committing yourself to reasoning only about God worlds. Such a logic may have its uses, but it is incapable of reasoning about the possibility that God might or might not exist; for such purposes a neutral logic would be required.

Comment by protagoras on Is my view contrarian? · 2014-03-12T20:28:34.686Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I didn't want to go into detail, because I don't remember all the details and didn't feel like wasting time going and looking it up again, but yes, essentially. The usual form is "if you make these seemingly reasonable assumptions, you get to God, so God!", and usually the assumptions actually didn't look that reasonable to me to begin with, and of course an alternative response to the arguments is always that they provide evidence that the assumptions are much more powerful than they seem and so need much closer examination.