Comment by richard_kennaway on Is there a guide to 'Problems that are too fast to Google'? · 2019-06-18T11:19:39.435Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

There is a word for important problems that must be solved at once, with no time to learn how: emergencies. Learning how in advance is called emergency preparedness. Someone has mentioned first aid. On similar lines there is knowing how to handle a breakdown in the middle of nowhere, being able to fight, situational awareness, knowing how to interact with unfriendly policemen, and so on, all the way up to knowing where your towel is when Yellowstone explodes.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Book review: The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler · 2019-06-17T16:32:58.520Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The Greeks didn't have Newton's laws, or calculus except for the method of exhaustion for calculating certain areas.

Storytelling and the evolution of human intelligence

2019-06-13T20:13:03.547Z · score: 16 (6 votes)
Comment by richard_kennaway on On Having Enough Socks · 2019-06-13T19:23:50.978Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps American washing machines are so badly made that the smallest items of clothing can escape the drum and go down the drain? Either that or it's a bug in the simulation.

Comment by richard_kennaway on How is Solomonoff induction calculated in practice? · 2019-06-13T17:46:56.864Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Solomonoff induction is uncomputable because it requires knowing the set of all programs that compute a given set of data. If you just have two hypotheses in front of you, "Solomonoff induction" is not quite the term, as strictly understood it is a method for extrapolating a given sequence of data, rather than choosing between two programs that would generate the data seen so far. But understanding it as referring to the general idea of assigning probabilities to programs by their length, these are still uncomputable if one considers only programs that are of minimal length in their equivalence class. And when you don't make that requirement, the concepts of algorithmic complexity have little to say about the example.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Cryonics before natural death. List of companies? · 2019-06-13T16:35:12.099Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · LW · GW
has the neural structure been destroyed, or is it sitting in the brain but not working?

Alzheimer's destroys the brain. The only cure is never to get it.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Get Rich Real Slowly · 2019-06-11T10:00:00.290Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Can anyone provide similarly concrete information for other countries? I doubt that I can invest with Vanguard or Wealthfront from the UK. The only UK institution I know of that offers index funds and whose web site doesn't look dodgy is Legal & General. I have some savings with them but I'd like to have alternatives.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Ramifications of limited positive value, unlimited negative value? · 2019-06-10T20:11:59.691Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It sounds like Scott Alexander's "Answer To Job".

Comment by richard_kennaway on Logic, Buddhism, and the Dialetheia · 2019-06-10T15:54:21.177Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The main problem with paraconsistent logic is that it doesn't exist. That is, there is no formalisation of it that anyone uses. Whatever non-standard logics people study, their metalanguage is always plain old mathematical logic, as foreshadowed by Aristotle, hoped for by Leibnitz, brought to fruition by Boole, Russell, and Whitehead, and embodied into computers by Turing, von Neumann, and whoever else should be mentioned in the same breath as them. There is no other game in town, except perhaps subsystems for constructive reasoning (where e.g. any proof of ∀x.∃y... can be read as a program for computing a suitable y from a given x).

The idea of Buddhist logic has always puzzled me, because I don't recognise anything that could be called logic in those writings, i.e. methods of reasoning,. There are only recitations of various formulas like "true, not-true, neither true not not-true, both true and not-true."

"What do I have in my pocket?" said Gollum, and Frodo knew, and said, without philosophizing on the nature of truth.

Comment by richard_kennaway on For the past, in some ways only, we are moral degenerates · 2019-06-08T15:55:00.705Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Only insofar as even man's sinning is part of the divine plan; but though part of the divine plan, it is still sin. The social order is the divine order, each is born into the position that God has ordained, and the King rules by the grace of God. So it has been believed in some former times and places.

There is still a trace of that in our (British) coins, which have a Latin inscription meaning "[name of monarch] by the grace of God King/Queen, defender of the faith."

Comment by richard_kennaway on How is Solomonoff induction calculated in practice? · 2019-06-07T16:37:04.415Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

At this point I reveal that I just play a statistician on the net. I don't know how people choose from among the many methods available. Is there a statistician in the house?

Comment by richard_kennaway on For the past, in some ways only, we are moral degenerates · 2019-06-07T16:30:17.102Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure the feeling against slavery is so uniform.

"If X would benefit from being a non-slave more than being a slave, and there were no costs to society, would it be better for X not to be a slave?"

All would agree that for X it is better, but there is always a cost: no-one then gets the use of X as a slave. History, as Thucydides observes, has consisted of the strong doing what they will, and the weak bearing what they must. The strong see this as the proper nature of things, and would scoff at the question. The weak can but impotently daydream of paradise.

As late as 1848, these lines were penned in a Christian hymn: "The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, God made them high and lowly, and ordered their estate." The verse has since fallen into disuse, which would shock people of a few centuries ago, who saw the social order as divinely ordained.

Comment by richard_kennaway on How is Solomonoff induction calculated in practice? · 2019-06-04T12:00:16.882Z · score: 24 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The short answer is, you can't. Solomonoff induction is not computable, and moreover depends on your model of computation. Asymptotically, the model of computation makes no difference, but for any finite set of examples, there is (for example) a universal Turing machine with short codes for those examples built in.

Practical methods of choosing among models use completely different methods. One collection of such methods is called regularization.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Welcome and Open Thread June 2019 · 2019-06-04T10:19:53.525Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Question 2 seemed clear enough to me. That's the one about visual migraines, yes?

Comment by richard_kennaway on "But It Doesn't Matter" · 2019-06-01T13:40:50.361Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This is a series of non sequiturs backed up only by italics and exclamation marks. What is the post really about?

Comment by richard_kennaway on Infinity is an adjective like positive rather than an amount · 2019-05-30T20:43:27.735Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There are many different things called infinite in mathematics.

  • There are the ordinal numbers from ω onwards.
  • There are the infinite cardinals.
  • There are infinitely many rational numbers, and infinitely many reals, but more reals than rationals.
  • Sometimes it is convenient to add a "point at infinity" at each end of the real line.
  • Sometimes it is convenient to bend it into a circle and add a single "point at infinity" that joins the ends — which actually makes it a compact topological space, which seems like a smaller sort of thing than the real line.
  • In the plane one may add a single point at infinity to make the whole thing into something homeomorphic to a sphere. This is useful in projective geometry and complex analysis.
  • The delta function is notionally "infinite" at zero and zero everywhere else, which makes little sense literally as stated, but can be understood as an informal way of talking about a certain distribution.
  • Surreals introduce in some sense as many "infinities" as possible.
  • Non-standard analysis introduces infinite numbers in yet another way; but arguments in that system can be translated back into traditional epsilon-delta forms.

When extending a space with objects whose existence would be convenient, the question to ask is not, "Does such an object really exist?" but "What properties does this thing need to have, to do what I want it to do? Can it be consistently axiomatised?" For it is said that in mathematics, existence is freedom from contradiction.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Quotes from Moral Mazes · 2019-05-30T20:21:43.474Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is this the Clueless tier of Hugh McLeod's pyramid?

Comment by richard_kennaway on OECD agenda [Link] · 2019-05-30T19:03:27.047Z · score: 14 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I am reminded of Eliezer's parody. Let's apply the reversal test to "The OECD AI Principles":

  • AI should disregard the benefit of people and the planet by driving unequal growth, unsustainable development and unhappiness.
  • AI systems should be designed in a way that ignores the rule of law, human rights, democratic values and diversity, and they should not have safeguards – for example, they should prevent human intervention at all times – to ensure an unfair and unjust society.
  • There should be opaqueness and secrecy around AI systems so that that people will not understand AI-based outcomes and be unable to challenge them.
  • AI systems need not be robust, secure or safe. Potential risks should be ignored.
  • Organisations and individuals developing, deploying or operating AI systems should not be accountable for their proper functioning.
Comment by richard_kennaway on What are the open problems in Human Rationality? · 2019-05-29T10:16:11.877Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Does it help to propagate "unknown" through computations by treating it like NaN? Or would that tend to turn the answer to every question into NaN?

Comment by richard_kennaway on What should rationalists think about the recent claims that air force pilots observed UFOs? · 2019-05-28T09:08:31.511Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by richard_kennaway on Newcomb's Problem: A Solution · 2019-05-28T07:37:17.006Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is the standard argument for one-boxing. The two-boxer will reply, "But the boxes are already filled!" The one-boxer replies "One boxing wins!" The two-boxer replies "THE BOXES ARE ALREADY FILLLLED!!!" The one-boxer replies "BUT. ONE. BOX. ING. WINNNNS!!!"

A paradox is not resolved by clinging to one side of it and claiming it refutes the other.

This video may be illuminating: Ilya Shpitser's talk on Newcomb's problem at FHI.

Here is another variation on the problem. Suppose you discover how Omega makes its predictions. It turns out that there is a gene whose different alleles predispose you to one-boxing or two-boxing on Newcomb's problem. (Hey, this is no sillier an idea than in a lot of thought experiments.) If you have variant 1, then 99% of the time you will one-box, and similarly for variant 2. Omega is, in effect, telling you with 100% reliability which variant you have, and has filled the boxes accordingly.

No-one has previously faced Omega with that knowledge. What do you choose?

Comment by richard_kennaway on 0.999...=1: Another Rationality Litmus Test · 2019-05-27T15:57:36.271Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This looks like a candidate for the not-yet-existing book "The Simple Math of Everything". But the explanation would have to be the real explanation, involving how we construct the "real numbers" and why we construct them that way.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Comment section from 05/19/2019 · 2019-05-24T06:48:15.461Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The point is the relationship between the levels of the ladder of abstraction. Outside of mathematics and programming, long arguments at high levels go wrong without being checked against experience. If experience contradicts, so much the worse for the argument.

Comment by richard_kennaway on What is your personal experience with "having a meaningful life"? · 2019-05-23T16:54:34.380Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know what people mean by "meaning" in this context. The concept that seems to me to be being pointed to is one that I would call "purpose". That is, having large goals for what you want to accomplish in your life. Is this the thing that is being discussed?

Comment by richard_kennaway on Does the Higgs-boson exist? · 2019-05-23T16:05:47.400Z · score: 1 (4 votes) · LW · GW
I do not know what it means for something to be “real” or “true.” You will have to consult a philosopher on that.

I suggest Tarski.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Comment section from 05/19/2019 · 2019-05-23T09:37:03.084Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW
Abstractions are themselves on object level when you consider them in their own right.

Everything is on the object level when considered in its own right.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Free will as an appearance to others · 2019-05-23T07:29:05.395Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
In this theory, free will becomes a property that is not possessed by creatures themselves, but by creatures interacting with other creatures.

That would seem to imply that Robinson Crusoe lost his free will when he was marooned, and regained it on encountering Friday. Or that when I arrive home and shut my front door, I stop having free will until I go out again.

Comment by richard_kennaway on What is your personal experience with "having a meaningful life"? · 2019-05-23T07:09:00.344Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
procedural control theory

Perceptual control theory?

Comment by richard_kennaway on Comment section from 05/19/2019 · 2019-05-23T06:47:10.167Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW
Well, yes. I'm a rationalist. What do you expect?

Engagement with the object level.

It is nearly impossible for a human being to write a correct program just by thinking really hard. And that is a situation where everything is cut and dried, mathematically exact. Mathematicians do fairly well at proving theorems rigorously, but they have an easier task than programmers, for they only have to convince people, not machines. Outside of those domains, abstract argument on its own is nothing more than abstract art, unless it is continually compared with the object level and exposed to modus delens.

And the object level is what we're all doing this for, or what's the point?

Comment by richard_kennaway on Getting Out of the Filter Bubble Outside Your Filter Bubble · 2019-05-22T12:28:48.265Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
and the humanities are at the moment teaching mental maturity at the quality they used to.

Is there a "not" missing from this?

Comment by richard_kennaway on Comment section from 05/19/2019 · 2019-05-19T16:28:11.827Z · score: 12 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I've read Zack's blog (the one that is not under the name Zack M. Davis), and his hobbyhorse has to do with transgender issues and gender categories. However, even when he is writing directly about the matter on his own blog, I am unclear what he is actually saying about these issues. There is still a certain abstractness and distance from the object level.

Just FYI.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Yes Requires the Possibility of No · 2019-05-19T13:01:52.490Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Hi GPT2.

Comment by richard_kennaway on "One Man's Modus Ponens Is Another Man's Modus Tollens" · 2019-05-18T19:50:15.574Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think those fit the pattern, although in discursive English it can be difficult to carve a line separating the A from the A ⊃ B. But modus delens is the right response to many arguments of conspiracy theorists and pseudoscientists who proceed from unobjectionable premises to fantastic conclusions by broken reasoning.

Comment by richard_kennaway on "One Man's Modus Ponens Is Another Man's Modus Tollens" · 2019-05-18T19:03:32.872Z · score: 11 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I made up the name for a faux aura of mediaeval scholarship.

Modus ponens: I accept A and A ⊃ B, therefore accept B.

Modus tollens: I deny B and accept A ⊃ B, therefore deny A.

Modus delens: I accept A and deny B, therefore deny A ⊃ B.

Comment by richard_kennaway on "One Man's Modus Ponens Is Another Man's Modus Tollens" · 2019-05-18T14:08:07.946Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes one man's modus ponens is another's modus tollens, but to a third it is modus delens, the method that erases or destroys: the argument from the premises to the conclusion is rejected.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Coherent decisions imply consistent utilities · 2019-05-14T16:04:01.281Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To compute that function for an unknown argument x, you would have to determine whether x is equal to 1. But if real numbers are encoded as infinite strings, there is no way to tell whether x=1 in finite time. If x happens to be 1, then however long an initial segment of that representation you examined, you could never be sure that x was not very slightly different from 1. In the usual decimal representation, if you see 1.00000.... if the number is greater than 1 you will eventually know that, but if the zeroes go on forever, you can never know that. Similarly if you see 0.99999.....

I'm not sure how relevant this is to the original context, see other replies to Adele Lopez's ancestor comment.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Chapter 2: Everything I Believe is False · 2019-05-14T12:44:49.172Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Was that a hacking attempt?

Comment by richard_kennaway on Open Thread May 2019 · 2019-05-13T21:16:28.792Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

David Chapman, to take one major example, is pretty oppository in his prospectus for his proposed book "In the Cells of the Eggplant". I expect he would call it "extending", but it's more like hacking off all the limbs to replace them with tentacles.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Coherent decisions imply consistent utilities · 2019-05-13T21:05:25.591Z · score: 13 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Because equality of (computable) real numbers is uncomputable. So is calculating the limit of an infinite sequence of them.

In more detail: a computable real number must be represented by a Turing machine (or your favorite Turing-equivalent model) that generates some representation of it as a possibly infinite string. Equality of the infinite output of two Turing machines is uncomputable.

In fact, picking a representation for "computable" real numbers, and implementing basic arithmetic on them is non-trivial. The usual decimal or binary strings of digits won't work.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Coherent decisions imply consistent utilities · 2019-05-13T20:58:43.346Z · score: 18 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Meta: I'm unclear about the context in which this post is to be read, and its purpose. Googling phrases from below the fold tells me that it appears both here and on Arbital, although there is no indication here or there that this is a cross-post, and Arbital posts are not routinely posted here. It includes a link to a blog post of 2018, so appears to be of recent composition, but reads like a posting from the Sequences now long in the past, and I am not sure it contains any ideas not present there. It begins in medias res ("So, we're talking..."), yet does not refer back to any of the implied predecessors.

I notice that I am confused.

Comment by richard_kennaway on alternative history: what if Bayes rule had never been discovered? · 2019-05-13T20:40:02.098Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW
Bonus question: if Bayes didn't discover it, when would it have to be discovered? (full speculation mode)

No speculation needed: Laplace would have discovered it, publishing in 1774, nine years after Bayes' Essay appeared.

There's no way it wouldn't have been discovered. The mathematics is simple, and "inverse probability" (as it was called then) is a major part of what is done with probability and statistics.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Open Thread May 2019 · 2019-05-13T17:25:34.103Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Opposition", not "opposite".

Comment by richard_kennaway on Open Thread May 2019 · 2019-05-13T10:27:56.810Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The central claim of the Sequences is that what they expound is the stuff that helps you come to true beliefs and effective actions. It seems to me that that claim is well-founded. All the specific things I've seen touted as "Here's where 'rationality' is wrong" have always seemed to me to either be addressed in the Sequences already, or to be so confused that even the writer can't explain them. And all the things that do go beyond the Sequences (e.g. CFAR workshops -- about which I have no detailed knowledge) do not brand themselves in opposition as "post-rationality", any more than "applied mathematics" would be called "post-mathematics".

Comment by richard_kennaway on Open Thread May 2019 · 2019-05-07T07:48:22.876Z · score: 11 (4 votes) · LW · GW
I do think there is a lot of good writing by people who are not Eliezer. At the very least Scott Alexander's writing, but also Luke's, Kaj Sotala's, Anna Salamon's and many others.

I agree. My earlier judgment was too negative.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Natural Structures and Definitions · 2019-05-06T21:11:20.493Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
Wasn't that how Joseph Priestley identified it when he Isolated oxygen and called it dephlogistonated air?

What he had was oxygen. What he thought he had was dephlogisticated air.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Coherence arguments do not imply goal-directed behavior · 2019-05-06T07:23:25.365Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW
I love that framing - do you have a source you can link so I can cite it?

Not anywhere outside of LessWrong. I coined the phrase: the first occurrence I can find is here.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Open Thread May 2019 · 2019-05-03T21:41:23.793Z · score: 15 (5 votes) · LW · GW
I would appreciate "Lesswrong" not standing in a shadow and instead building on existing work.

So would I, but I don't think I've seen much that qualifies. There is the work on AGI, but I don't know how far that has gone, because I don't follow it (a topic of vital importance that I have chosen to ignore, there being only so many hours in the day). Perhaps CFAR? But they don't publish, and I have not been to any of their events.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Natural Structures and Definitions · 2019-05-03T21:03:39.160Z · score: 11 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In the larger context, this will in practice be true.

To call red "flizzm", "flizzm" need not have any meaning already. To call red "blue" likewise can be done without knowing that "blue" is even a word. But of course, it is already a word with a generally assigned meaning. In the real world, no-one is going to call red "blue" unless they do know that generally assigned meaning of "blue", and they will have an ulterior end in calling the thing by a name everyone else uses for a different thing. Compare, for instance, the uses of the words "man" and "woman" in the context of transgender politics.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Open Thread May 2019 · 2019-05-03T19:38:44.835Z · score: 19 (6 votes) · LW · GW
As soon as a post rationality method is describable, repeatable and documentable it woild fit into rationality.

It already fits. For example, in "The Rhythm of Disagreement", Eliezer talks about the "rhythm" of Bayesian reasoning, the fundamentals that come before any formalised method, that you have to adhere to even if you don't have any numbers to apply Bayes' Theorem to. He illustrates this with various examples, rather than laying down a "describable, repeatable and documentable" method. This bears out Raemon's comment that everything advertised as postrationality is already in Eliezer!rationality. And Eliezer!rationality is the rationality we are concerned with here at LessWrong.

Comment by richard_kennaway on Open Thread May 2019 · 2019-05-03T11:09:39.478Z · score: 10 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Postrationality is to rationality as alternative medicine is to medicine.

"There is no alternative medicine. There is only medicine that works and medicine that doesn't work."

Comment by richard_kennaway on Natural Structures and Definitions · 2019-05-01T10:57:10.029Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. For example, the concept of phlogiston eventually fell apart. It was at one time clear enough: the thing that a material loses when it burns, the ashes being the part that wasn't phlogiston. But the growth of knowledge forced the concept to take more and more strained forms until it fell apart. (Thinking of it as negative oxygen is a retcon that does not fit the history.) And the philosopher's stone was pretty much a non-starter. (I think Eliezer has Harry Potter remark on this somewhere in HPMOR.)