Comment by see on The Proper Use of Humility · 2017-01-02T21:43:34.282Z · LW · GW

Of course simplicity is not the same thing as fitting the evidence. You only even start comparing simplicity after you have multiple hypotheses that actually fit the evidence. Then, and only then, can you properly apply Occam's Razor. The hypotheses "Always comes up heads" and "always comes up tails" and "always lands on the edge" are all already on the reject pile when you're trying to figure out the best theory for the existence of the "HTTHHT" sequence, and thus none of them get any points at all for being simple.

Indeed, if you've only got one hypothesis that fits, it's still too soon to apply Occam's Razor, except informally as a heuristic to encourage you to invent another hypothesis because your existing one looks excessively complicated. Only after you've got more than one hypothesis that fits the "HTTHHT" sequence can you actually use any formalization of Occam's Razor to judge between those hypotheses.

Comment by see on The Proper Use of Humility · 2017-01-01T07:11:27.114Z · LW · GW

The interactions of three people is more complex than the interactions of one person with himself. But the theory that my house contains three different residents still explains observations of my house much more simply than if you start with the assumption there's only one resident. You accordingly cannot actually use Occam's Razor to disfavor the theory that my house has three residents simply because the interactions of three people with each other are more complex than the interactions of one person with himself. Similarly, adding a cat to the three persons hypothesis actually improves the explanatory power of the model, even though you now have three sets of human-cat interactions added to the model; rejecting the cat on the basis of Occam's Razor is also a failure.

Is a trinity more complex than a unitary godhead? In itself, sure. But if you're trying to do something as notoriously convoluted as, say, theodicy, the question is, does the trinity provide extra explanatory power that reduces the overall complications?

And I strongly doubt anyone is both knowledgeable enough about theodicy and sufficiently rational and unbiased on the unity/trinity question to give a trustworthy answer on the question of which is the actual lesser hypothesis there. Especially since the obvious least hypothesis in theodicy is that there is no God at all and thus nothing to explain.

If you're going to claim that a unitary godhead is favored by Occam's Razor over a trinity, you actually need, among other things, a whole unitary-godhead theodicy. But if you actually worked one out, in order to have a rational opinion on the relative viability of the unitary and trinity theories, I'm going to wonder about your underlying rationality, given you wasted so much time on theodicy.

Comment by see on Your transhuman copy is of questionable value to your meat self. · 2016-01-22T08:54:49.020Z · LW · GW

Why do you attach any value whatsoever to a "consciousness" that cannot think, feel, remember, or respond? Your "consciousness", so defined, is as inanimate as a grain of sand. I don't care about grains of sand as ends-in-themselves, why would you?

Be clear that when you say you are conscious, it cannot be this "consciousness" that motivates the statement, because this "consciousness" cannot respond, so the non-conscious parts of your mind cannot query it for a status check. A simple neural spike would be a response, we could watch it on an fMRI.

Comment by see on Are we failing the ideological Turing test in the case of ISIS? (a crazy ideas thread) · 2016-01-14T03:49:09.851Z · LW · GW

Well, I expect you're failing, yes. It is going to be futile to try to understand the Islamic State without understanding the philosophy of Al-Ghazali, the most influential Muslim scholar since Mohamed, the man accorded the honorific Hujjat al-Islam (Proof of Islam), and his doctrine of occasionalism.

This is going to be particularly hard on this site because the local "rationality" is rooted in the Aristotle-Averroes-Aquinas tradition, where we believe in things like natural laws that can be deduced by observation. And Averroes (Ibn Rushd) was a critic of Al-Ghazali who was exiled to live among Jews for heresy.

Al-Ghazali, in his The Incoherence of the Philosophers, says that there is no such thing a a material efficient cause; the efficient cause of all things is the will of God. When you apply an open flame to cotton, the cotton is burned by God, not by the fire. If God decided in a particular instance to instead have to cotton metamorphose into a VW minibus on the application of flame, that would be no more and no less a miracle than the occasions on which God had the cotton burn. "Allah's hand is not chained"; God might usually work in ways humans can understand, but He is transcendent, and is not required to obey reason.

Internalize this principle of causation, and it becomes clear that one must align one's will with God as best you can and try to please God. All other tactics are futile, because God decides the results of all things. So first and foremost, you align your actions with those of Muhammad and his closest followers, as recorded in the Koran and Hadiths. Since God is usually logical, you then try to be logical in how you do things after aligning yourself with God's will, but never let logic override faith and fidelity to the example of Mohamed.

Comment by see on Resolving the Fermi Paradox: New Directions · 2015-04-19T05:38:11.862Z · LW · GW

Sure they are - given that the placental clade contains most of the extant mammal diversity.

The very issue is that "mammal diversity" is vastly insufficient to make any conclusions about general independent evolutionary trends. The number of potential explanations of the advantages of intelligence derived from features from the recent common evolutionary origin completely overwhelms any evidence for general factors.

For one example, if someone were to demonstrate that intelligence is usually useful for a species of animals where the adults, by a quirk of evolution, have to take active care of their young for an extended time — BOOM. A huge quantity of the "independence" is blown up in favor of a single ancestral cause, the existence of nursing of the young in mammals. And the same happens every other time you can show intelligence specifically helps given an ancestrally-derived feature or is promoted by an ancestrally-derived feature in the whole group. The placental mammals are far, far too alike in life cycle, biochemistry, et cetera for parallel evolution within the group to be good evidence of real evolutionary independence of a trait on a scale of completely separate planetary biome evolutions.

The entire period from the cambrian explosion to now is what - 15% of the history of life?

That's not disingenuity, that's driving home the point. The octopus, separated by that whole stretch of 15%, is a far better case for evolutionary independence of intelligence than puttering around with various branches of the placental mammals — but still not nearly as good as if we had a non-animal example (or even better, a non-eukaryote). Unless and until we have good evidence of the probability of the evolution of animal-analogues, near-ape-level intelligence being (in general) weakly useful for animals (with Cephalopoda, Aves, and Mammalia being the only three classes we know have it or even strongly suspect from the fossil record have ever had it) is hardly strong evidence that near-ape-or-better intelligence is a highly probable feature of life-in-general.

Comment by see on Resolving the Fermi Paradox: New Directions · 2015-04-18T21:11:39.343Z · LW · GW

Er, a few species of placental mammal are hardly "widely separated lineages". Trying to draw conclusions for completely alien biologies by looking at convergent evolution inside a clade with a single common ancestor in the last 2-or-3% of the history of life on Earth is absurd. And the fact that the Placentalia start with an unusually high EQ among vertebrates-as-a-whole make it a particularly unsuitable lineage for estimating the possibilities of independent evolution of high animal intelligence.

Comment by see on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 119 · 2015-03-11T00:18:57.288Z · LW · GW

His explanation on Reddit is that his style is too distinctive to go undetected.

Comment by see on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 116 · 2015-03-06T02:42:16.808Z · LW · GW

She got a Dreadful for dying . . . then Professor Quirrell revived her and re-graded her Troll.

Sshall ssacrifice my fallback weapon, and girl-child sshall gain troll'ss power of regeneration.

Comment by see on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 113 · 2015-03-01T02:46:07.672Z · LW · GW

Quantities and locations matter. Atomic-diameter filaments linking nanogram-level concentrations in the brains of Voldemort and the Death Eaters could discorporate them without killing Harry (at least, not killing him before he could reach the Stone of Transfiguration).

Comment by see on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 113 · 2015-03-01T02:35:07.215Z · LW · GW

The available dates were Monday, March 2nd, or Tuesday, March 3rd; the "12:01 am" did not distinguish which of those dates was meant by "Tuesday, March 2nd" in the slightest, since both possible dates had their own 12:01 am.

This has been subsequently corrected by EY to "Tuesday, March 3rd" (which was the correct day for the 60 hours promised).

Comment by see on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 112 · 2015-02-27T22:04:51.710Z · LW · GW

Regardless of the probability of Voldemort making a stupid mistake, Voldemort was apparently casting the Killing Curse on Hermione, which would be an independent reason to shoot him.

Comment by see on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 110 · 2015-02-25T07:45:22.777Z · LW · GW

The source of the Harry-Voldemort resonance is that Harry was made into a Horcrux of Voldemort. Chapter 108:

The prophecy seemed to hint that if I destroyed all but a remnant of Harry Potter, then our spirits would not be so different, and we could exist in the same world."

"Something went wrong," Harry said. "Something that blew off the top of the Potters' home in Godric's Hollow, gave me the scar on my forehead, and left your burnt body behind."

Professor Quirrell nodded. His hands had slowed in their Potions work. "The resonance in our magic," Professor Quirrell said quietly. "When I had shaped the baby's spirit to be like my own..."

Harry remembered the moment in Azkaban when Professor Quirrell's Killing Curse had collided with his Patronus. The burning, tearing agony in his forehead, like his head had been about to split in half.

"I cannot count how many times I have thought of that night, rehearsing my mistake, thinking of wiser things I should have done," said Professor Quirrell. "I later decided that I should have thrown my wand from my hand and changed into my Animagus form. But that night... that night, I instinctively tried to control the chaotic fluctuations in my magic, even as I felt myself burning up from inside. That was the wrong decision, and I failed. So my body was destroyed, even as I overwrote the infant Harry Potter's mind; either of us destroying all but a remnant of the other.

Comment by see on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 108 · 2015-02-21T05:39:31.537Z · LW · GW

Note that this poll only samples people who care about these threads enough to read them. People who avoid these threads and don't like them cluttering /discussion will not see it.

Comment by see on ... And Everyone Loses Their Minds · 2015-01-20T10:55:02.098Z · LW · GW

Well, there are definitely forms that are irrational, but there's also the perfectly rational factor of having to account for feedback loops.

We don't have to consider that shifting resources from lightning death prevention to terrorism prevention will increase the base rate of lightning strikes; we do have to consider that a shift in the other direction can increase (or perhaps decrease) the base rate of terrorist activity. It is thus inherently hard to compare the expected effect of a dollar of lightning strike prevention against a dollar of terrorism prevention, over and above the uncertainties involved in comparing the expected effect of (say) a dollar of lightning strike prevention against a dollar of large asteroid collision protection.

Comment by see on ... And Everyone Loses Their Minds · 2015-01-17T23:15:45.823Z · LW · GW

Further, of course, we know that lightning strikes are not controlled by intelligent beings, while terrorist strikes are.

If there's a major multi-fatality lightning strike, it's unlikely to encourage weather phenomena to engage in copycat attacks. Nor will all sorts of counter-lightning measures dissuade clouds from generating static electricity and instead dumping more rain or something.

Comment by see on "incomparable" outcomes--multiple utility functions? · 2014-12-27T20:48:17.614Z · LW · GW

Some people (including me) have made comments along these lines before. There's nothing theoretically wrong with the view that evolutionary history may have created multiple less-than-coordnated utility functions that happen to share one brain.

The consequences have some serious implications, though. If a single human has multiple utility functions, it is highly unlikely (for reasons similar to Arrow's Paradox) that these work out compatibly enough that you can have an organism-wide utility expressed as a real number (as opposed to a hypercomplex number or matrix). And if you have to map utility to a hypercomplex number or matrix, you can't "shut up and multiply", because while 7*3^^^3 is always a really big number, matrix math is a lot more complicated. Utilitarianism becomes mathematically intractable as a result.

Comment by see on 2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2014-12-02T23:55:36.644Z · LW · GW

The contention that "'computer games', as defined by Wikipedia" is "PC games" is, of course, true.

However, did you deliberately intend that people who knew with high confidence Tetris was (by far) the best-selling game played on computers (as computers are defined by Wikipedia) would get caught by not knowing that Wikipedia redirects "computer game" to "PC game" rather than to "video game"?

Comment by see on Can science come to understand consciousness? A problem of philosophical zombies (Yes, I know, P-zombies again.) · 2014-11-18T21:40:42.376Z · LW · GW

1) Conscious beings reasonably often try to predict their own future state or the state of other minds.

2) In order to successfully mimic a conscious being, a p-zombie would have to also engage in this behavior, predicting its own future states and the future states of other minds.

3) In order to predict such future states, it would seem necessary that a p-zombie would have to have at least some ability to model the states of minds, including its own.

Now, before we go any further, how does consciousness differ from having a model of the internal states of one's own mind?

Comment by see on CEV: a utilitarian critique · 2013-01-28T17:57:58.185Z · LW · GW

Constructing an ethics that demands that a chicken act as a moral agent is obviously nonsense; chickens can't and won't act that way. Similarly, constructing an ethics that demands humans value chickens as much as they value their own children is nonsense; humans can't and won't act that way. If you're constructing an ethics for humans follow, you have to start by figuring out humans.

It's not until after you've figured out how much humans should value the interests of chickens that you can determine how much to weigh the interests of chickens in how humans should act. And how much humans should weigh the value of chickens is by necessity determined by what humans are.

Comment by see on CEV: a utilitarian critique · 2013-01-27T19:47:04.440Z · LW · GW

All humans as they currently exist, no. But is there a system of ethics as a whole that humans, even currently disagreeing with some parts of it, would recognize as superior at doing what they really want from an ethical system that they would switch to it? Even in the main? Maybe, indeed, human ethics are so dependent on alleles that vary within the population and chance environmental factors that CEV is impossible. But there's no solid evidence to require assuming that a priori, either.

By analogy, consider the person who in 1900 wanted to put together the ideal human diet. Obviously, the diets in different parts of the world differed from each other extensively, and merely averaging all of them that existed in 1900 would not be particularly conducive to finding an actual ideal diet. The person would have to do all the sorts of research that discovered the roles of various nutrients and micronutrients, et cetera. Indeed, he'd have to learn more than we currently do about them. And he'd have to work out the variations to react to various medical conditions, and he'd have to consider flavor (both innate response pathways and learned ones), et cetera. And then there's the limit of what foods can be grown where, what shipping technologies exist, how to approximate the ideal diet in differing circumstances.

It would be difficult, but eventually you probably could put together a dietary program (including understood variations) that would, indeed, suit humans better than any of the existing diets in 1900, both in nutrition and pleasure. It wouldn't suit sharks at all; it would not be a universal nutrition. But it would be an objectively determined diet just the same.

Comment by see on CEV: a utilitarian critique · 2013-01-27T19:26:47.858Z · LW · GW

What would that mean? How would the chicken learn or follow the ethics? Does it seem even remotely reasonable that social behavior among chickens and social behavior among humans should follow the same rules, given the inherent evolutionary differences in social structure and brain reward pathways?

It might be that CEV is impossible for humans, but there's at least enough basic commonality to give it a chance of being possible.

Comment by see on CEV: a utilitarian critique · 2013-01-27T07:11:57.168Z · LW · GW

Objective? Sure, without being universal.

Human beings are physically/genetically/mentally similar within certain tolerances; this implies there is one system of ethics (within certain tolerances) that is best suited all of us, which could be objectively determined by a thorough and competent enough analysis of humans. The edges of the bell curve on various factors might have certain variances. There might be a multi-modal distribution of fit (bimodal on men and women, for example), too. But, basically, one objective ethics for humans.

This ethics would clearly be unsuited for cats, sharks, bees, or trees. It seems vanishingly unlikely that sapient minds from other evolutions would also be suited for such an ethics, either. So it's not universal, it's not a code God wrote into everything. It's just the best way to be a human . . . as humans exposed to it would in fact judge, because it's fitted to us better than any of our current fumbling attempts.

Comment by see on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 17, chapter 86 · 2012-12-20T05:30:35.846Z · LW · GW

Harry didn't learn, no. But is that an advantage or a disadvantage? To go back to Chapter 76:

"It's strange," Snape said quietly. "I have had two mentors, over the course of my days. Both were extraordinarily perceptive, and neither one ever told me the things I wasn't seeing. It's clear enough why the first said nothing, but the second..." Snape's face tightened. "I suppose I would have to be naive, to ask why he stayed silent."

Now, yes, this separates Snape from Dumbledore. But Dumbledore is not the protagonist. Harry is the protagonist. And what Snape can learn from Harry's actions are:

Harry Potter will tell him the truth; Snape can trust Harry Potter. -or- Harry Potter is a brilliant plotter; so good that even at age eleven he outclasses both Voldemort and Dumbledore with his ability to fake being honest and trustworthy.

If the first is true, Snape can put his trust in Harry, where he cannot trust Voldemort or Dumbledore. In a world where the prophecy clearly declares Harry Potter a power that ranks with Voldemort, isn't the obvious power to align oneself with the one who you can trust? When looking at the future, do you want it dominated by someone who let you wallow in foolishness and pain for their own advantage, or someone who treated you as you would wish to be treated? (Well, it might just mean the boy doesn't have enough guile to win, of course, but that suggests merely not burning your bridges. You're already in the other camp, after all . . .)

If the second is true, the only sensible course is to make oneself as useful to Harry as possible, because Harry is unstoppable.

Comment by see on Any existential risk angles to the US presidential election? · 2012-09-21T01:20:03.687Z · LW · GW

The paper assumes votes are accurately recorded, counted, and reported. Which is known to be false; error rates in vote counts are at least 0.1%, and likely closer to 1%. A perfectly honest close election is an election decided not by actual votes cast, but the random distribution of counting errors. And any election so close is going to be subjected to recounts that simply redistribute the counting errors.

Now, it is theoretically possible your vote might actually tip things in the final recount, right? Despite the fact that who actually won in a close election is unknown and unknowable, your vote is more likely to be accurately counted than not, so it might tip over the decision, right?

Except that's assuming perfect honesty in recording, counting, and reporting, which is ridiculous. What will determine who wins in a close election is whether the margin created by random counting errors is small enough that the people in the best position to commit fraud can tip it the way they prefer.

And, of course, we then ask -- did you actually have a good, reliable of idea how your candidate was going to do in office, and then on top of that how his choices were actually going to translate into effects? Really? So, back in November 2008, what did you predict the September 2012 unemployment rate would be, if Obama won? What did you predict the US budget deficit would be? Did you predict that the average number of deaths of US personnel in Afghanistan per month under Obama would be five times higher than it was under Bush? Did you predict the overthrow of the Libyan government by US air power? Let's be serious; Obama didn't have a very good idea of how his policies would translate into actual effects back on Election Day 2008.

Your vote for a position less powerful than President is more influential, sure, but its actual effect is reduced because the position is less powerful. There might be some point in voting on propositions and initiatives if your state has them, and maybe on very local elections if you've bothered to become informed on them and live in a small enough community.

Comment by see on [LINK] "Junk" DNA revealed as information processing system? · 2012-09-18T10:38:26.513Z · LW · GW

Oh, certainly, you reduce the explanatory power of an explanation, you lower the probability of the explanation being true.

But, well, "parasite DNA" at the fundamental level is assuming Darwinian mutation-and-selection happens among transposons. Which seems quite plausible on its own, even after this, especially since retroviruses can be treated as a special class of retrotransposons.

And now that I'm actually looking at the paper instead of the news, it's not clear how much of this stuff is "functional" because it actually does something like regulation of expression, and how much is "functional" because it's biologically active "parasite DNA".

Mostly, I'd classify this as another case of "no, really, skip the science news, and read settled science instead."

Comment by see on [LINK] "Junk" DNA revealed as information processing system? · 2012-09-18T06:06:33.873Z · LW · GW

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is a really big deal, right?

Mmmm. It's new data, which is important, but it's not new data that particularly upsets any accepted theoretical models.

It was easy to figure out the count of human proteins to human DNA base pairs, and figure out only a small fraction was actually protein coding back in the 1970s. So people started theorizing about all the rest being junk. We knew something of the 97% had to be regulatory in function, and everybody had their own preferred guesses. Those guesses have been steadily moving higher over the last 20 years (at least). Now we (apparently) know it's on the order of 80% that's regulatory, instead of 3% or 10% of 30% or whatever else people were theorizing.

It does suggest true parasite DNA is a lot less common than some thought (especially back in the 1970s). But there's still lots of room in the remaining 17% for parasite DNA, so while the magnitude has been reduced, the underlying theories still have a good chunk of the genome to play in.

Comment by see on The Yudkowsky Ambition Scale · 2012-09-13T04:49:38.484Z · LW · GW

I think, given how many millions of minds it would have to affect and how much sanity increase it would require, it sounds a lot like 6 in practice. (Unless the approach is "Build a company big enough to buy Google, and then limit comments to people who are sane", in which case, 2.)

Comment by see on Random LW-parodying Statement Generator · 2012-09-11T22:43:34.770Z · LW · GW

Less Wrong is not a cult so long as our meetups don't include any rationalist.

In an Iterated Prisoners' Dilemma, God beats a cult

that which can be destroyed by humanity should be if and only if acausal torture is the art of winning at rationality

timeless sex is the mind-killer

Comment by see on The noncentral fallacy - the worst argument in the world? · 2012-09-02T03:53:38.725Z · LW · GW

There were no indications that the Soviet regime had any inclination of starting a war with Germany, though ti would probably not have joined the Axis either.

The Soviets actually tried to join the Axis in October-November 1940. The sticking point was that the Germans wanted the Soviets to agree to a split in spheres of influence along the Dardanelles and Bosporus, while the Soviets wanted a share of the Balkans.

Throw in things like Basis Nord, the massive amount of war-critical natural resources the Soviets shipped the Nazis 1939-1941, the German shipments of weapon systems (cruisers, aircraft, naval guns) and technical drawings to the Soviets, German diplomatic support for the invasion of Finland . . . well. The Soviets and Germans were awfully cooperative until Barbarossa, even if one stops short of saying they were allied.

Comment by see on Open Thread, September 1-15, 2012 · 2012-09-02T03:34:29.499Z · LW · GW

Most of the Flynn effect seems to occur on the lower end of the IQ spectrum moving upwards. Source. This is highly consistent with education, nutrition and diseases hypotheses, but it is difficult to see how to reconcile this with a sexual selection hypothesis.

It reconciles quite well, actually.

The greater the genetically-determined status differential between a woman's husband and her a potential lover, the more differential advantage to the woman's offspring in replacing the husband's genes with those of a higher-quality male. So the lower the status of the husband, the greater the incentive to replace his genes with another's.

Assuming for a moment IQ is 100% heritable and IQ is linear in advantage, the woman with an IQ of 85 and a husband of IQ 85 will see her kids have an IQ of 85 if she's faithful, and 115 with a lover of 145, for a net advantage to her kids of +30 IQ if she strays. If a woman and her husband are IQ 100, the same lover will raise the IQ +22.5; her kids get less advantage than Mrs. 85. In the case of Mr & Mrs. IQ 115, the advantage is only +15. For Mr & Mrs. IQ 130, the advantage to cheating is only +7.5. For Mr. & Mrs. IQ 145, cheating with a lover of IQ 145 doesn't benefit her kids at all, while for Mr & Mrs. IQ 160, she wants to avoid having kids by a lover of IQ 145.

So, it is precisely the women on the low end that have the greater incentive to cheat "up", which we would expect would result in more cheating, and thus the low end where IQs would increase the most.

Also, the lower status the woman's husband, the easier it is to find a willing lover of higher status, and thus the greater the opportunity to replace the husband's genes with another's. Mrs. 85 can find a lover with IQ 100 more easily than Mrs. 100 can find a lover with IQ 115, even though the both have the same incentive to find a lover of +15 IQ points. Mrs. 115 has even more difficulty finding a lover of IQ 130, and so on.

So, it is precisely the women on the low end that have the greater opportunities to cheat "up", which we would expect would result in more cheating, and thus the low end where IQs would increase the most.

One commonly expected form of common infidelity would be generally with strong males while trying to get a resource rich males to think the children are there's

Assuming monogamous and assortative marriage, there's a serious limit to how high resource/high status a male a woman can marry relative to her own status. Assuming she's already landed the best husband she can manage, it is then in her subsequent interest to acquire the best genes for her kids she can. Insofar as better genes result in higher status, this would translate to favoring high-status males as lovers to produce kids supported by the best-she-can-manage husband. If status correlates better with IQ rather than strength in human societies, well, we'd expect that to select for IQ.

The fraction of the population which engages in infidelity even in urban environments is not that high. Infidelity rates in both genders are around 5-15%, but only about 3% of offspring have parentage that reflects infidelity.

Ahah. My data on this was substantially out-of-date. That is a serious blow to the hypothesis.

(Hmm. Except that in modern welfare states, the government has replaced the husband as supporter on the low end of the socioeconomic ladder, so maybe the effect is now most strongly happening among the children unmarried women, which would cause a drop-off in children of infidelity corresponding to the rise of out-of-wedlock births? Meh.)

I'm not aware of any obvious way to test your hypothesis.

Yeah, me neither.

Comment by see on Open Thread, September 1-15, 2012 · 2012-09-02T01:22:11.202Z · LW · GW

1) Sure. I'm not claiming the Flynn effect is genetic; I'm disputing the common claim that it can't be genetic.

2) Whether the Flynn effect has stopped or not is an area of ongoing dispute; some studies suggest it merely paused for a while. And if it has ended . . . that might merely mark that America's reached the new equilibrium point under urban infidelity conditions.

Comment by see on Open Thread, September 1-15, 2012 · 2012-09-01T21:55:06.981Z · LW · GW

Was reading up on the Flynn effect, and saw the claim it's too fast to reflect evolution. Is that really true? Yes, it's too fast, given the pressures, for what Darwin called natural selection, given the lack of anything coming along and dramatically killing off the less intelligent before they can reproduce. But that's not the only force of evolution; there's also sexual selection.

If it's become easier in the last 150 years for women to have surviving children by high-desirability mates, then we should, in fact, see a proportionate increase in the high-desirability characteristics. And since IQ and socioeconomic status are correlated, and SES is a known high-desirability characteristic, we would expect an increase in IQ accordingly, insofar as IQ is heritable.

And, in fact, there is a change in society that would do that — increasing urbanization. Not only have cities become healthy enough to have non-negative population RNIs for the first time in history, but they've also become the home of the majority of the human species for the first time in history. Studies of infidelity rates show it does, in fact, correlate fairly strongly with urbanization (probably for the logical reasons that increased population density increases opportunities and urban anonymity makes it easier to conceal from a mate).

So, the urbanization of the last 150 years increased successful infidelity. The usual models of sexual selection indicate that successful infidelity by women should result in high SES men having more children. IQ is correlated with high SES. IQ seems to be heritable in large part. And the period where we would expect high SES men to have more kids is matched by an increase in the general population's performance on tests of IQ.

I'm currently operating without good access to scientific journals to see if this has been considered and debunked, or not considered, or considered and put forward. But, at least sitting here just thinking about it without the resources to test it (or even model it effectively mathematically), it seems an increase in the genes that increase IQ as a result of sexual selection could be a plausible explanation of the Flynn Effect.

Comment by see on Smart non-reductionists, philosophical vs. engineering mindsets, and religion · 2012-08-07T16:44:22.196Z · LW · GW

If you define all laws of reality as physics, then sure, there's nothing physics can't explain. But that's, well . . . here, let me tell a fable to explain.

The year 152,036 AD

"Hey, we just got the third-check output from the LMC computer array."

"Yeah? What did it say?"

"The previous two sets were right. We input the known masses of the fundamental particles to five hundred thousand digits, and the known strengths of all seven fundamental forces to the same, arrange them in the form of a vertebrate animal, and run the sim, we do get an almost-perfect simulation. Minus the Lacuna. In fact, we can now say the evidence for the Lacuna has hit fifty-three sigma."

"Damn. Any good news on the eighth force candidates?"

"All of them still cause the Sun to fail to fuse, if we allow them to have any measurable effect on covalently-bonded masses smaller than 0.997312121 milligrams."

"And the collider results completely rule out any of the gauge bosons that fit any of the fifteen proposed models of an eighth force compatible with no effect under a milligram of mass. In fact, they don't show any evidence of any gauge bosons associated with an eighth force, anywhere short of ten quadrillion yottavolts."

"They've said that for the last hundred thousand years, why would you expect a change now?"

"Look, this is nuts. There is no way that physics has a special force just to explain the Lacuna, and has no affect on anything else, and no other way to detect it than the existence of the Lacuna."

"Fifty-three sigma. The universe doesn't care about your incredulity."

"Yeah, but it's stupid. How the hell did we wind up in a universe that requires a special law of physics to explain the Lacuna?"

"Because the Creators chose to add it when they were creating the Universe Simulation."

"Dammit. I still don't believe it. What kind of genius develops a perfectly good set of fundamental laws, implicit in a single equation you can fit on a T-shirt, that creates all the beauty and wonder of the universe, and then sticks on a pointless extraneous natural law to do absolutely nothing but make a handful of vertebrates, of all things, yawn?"

"You have met software engineers, haven't you?"

"I'm going to go get drunk."

Comment by see on Smart non-reductionists, philosophical vs. engineering mindsets, and religion · 2012-08-05T07:54:57.490Z · LW · GW

This is the core of his argument, and it is entirely unfounded.

It's not founded, but neither is it explicitly contradicted.

While nothing in chemistry is known to contradict the laws of physics, we have yet to conclusively show that chemistry can indeed be entirely explained by the laws of physics. It is still possible that there are laws of chemistry that cannot be derived from a complete set of laws of physics correctly and fully applied.

Occam's razor favors the idea that behaviors in chemistry we cannot currently predict directly from physics are results of our not-yet-complete understanding of physics and/or our lack of sufficient computational resources applied to the question. Postulating an additional "level" of rules that can't be derived from physics is not currently necessary to explain features of chemistry tat are not yet reduced to physics. But that's not the same as saying another level is ruled out.

Comment by see on Smart non-reductionists, philosophical vs. engineering mindsets, and religion · 2012-08-04T18:16:43.104Z · LW · GW

Concretizing the abstract is an interesting blog post in that it makes a relatively cogent argument for non-reductionism

Quite the opposite.

When high-level abstractions fail to accurately reflect the actions of high-level objects, this is not in any way a refutation of reductionism. Rather, it is exactly what we would expect if reductionism is correct. If you try to model a billiard ball as a single object, rather than a collection of quarks and electrons, of course it will display behavior that doesn't fit your model. It is accuracy of high-level models that challenges reductionism, not inaccuracy. If you could model the billiard ball (or a human being) as a single object completely and consistently without any error whatsoever, that would be evidence against reductionism, because there would have to be some sort of holistic thing-ness that is hiding the effects of the quark-and-electron level from higher levels.

Comment by see on [SEQ RERUN] Moral Error and Moral Disagreement · 2012-07-31T09:53:32.100Z · LW · GW

Okay. Now take step two—try to show that, in fact, a 'should' really cannot be derived from an 'is'.

"Perpetual motion machines cannot be built" can be demonstrated to be true based on empirically-observable facts. If "'Should' statements cannot be made from 'is' statements" is a true 'is' statement, it will also be possible to show it is true based entirely on empirically-observable facts, right?

The usual mistake people make at this point is to claim that various "shoulds" contradict what "is". But what people think should be is not proof of what is. No matter how hard people believe genies should give wishes, it won't bring them into existence. What people believe morality should say doesn't prove what morality is.

(Unless, of course, you argue that morality is whatever people say it should be. But then you're deriving your should - morality - from what is - what people say.)

Comment by see on [Link] Why prison doesn't work and what to do about it · 2012-07-31T05:00:49.066Z · LW · GW

Nobody has come up with any system of punishment that provably provides deterrence or rehabilitation. When someone does, there will be some point in complaining the existing alternative doesn't. A criterion all alternatives fail is not a basis for a decision.

How about security? Well, yes, prison isn't particularly necessary for rendering corporate fraudsters not a threat, but, how much of the prison population is such? For the ordinary run of thieves and violent criminals, prison does prevent further predation on the populace for the duration of their stays. But would we be safe if they went free? The author claimed only a "small minority" of prisoners are habitual dangers. Well, the rate at which prisoners released in 1994 were re-arrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within 3 years was 67.5%, and the re-conviction rate was 46.9%. That doesn't seem like a "small minority" to me. USDOJ Recidivism of Prisoners Released study

The author mentions that if security were the goal, "people found guilty of attempted murder would go to prison for as long as murderers." Well? The Model Penal Code, in fact, does provide the same punishment for both attempted and successful crimes down the whole list. This is not consistently implemented by the states, but it is a standard that most codifications have been moved toward in the last 50 years.

And when we get to his claim that imprisonment is more severe a punishment than execution, well, certainly the people facing execution seem to fairly consistently prefer extending their prison stays to death. That would seem to be a better indication of the severity from the convict's perspective than the author's imagination.

Comment by see on [SEQ RERUN] Moral Error and Moral Disagreement · 2012-07-29T08:38:16.422Z · LW · GW

'Should' statements cannot be made from 'is' statements.

Do you notice the difficulty in your own statement there?

If I say, "We should derive 'should' statements from 'is' statements", you can't refute my should statement; you can only contradict it. You might try to prove it impossible to derive 'should' from 'is'—but even assuming you succeed, proving an impossibility is by your own statement proving only what is, not what should be.

"Hume's Guillotine" always cuts itself in half first.

Comment by see on What Longevity Research Most Excites You? · 2012-07-16T08:18:49.154Z · LW · GW

Food-grade citric acid (also sold under the name "sour salt", usually shelved with spices) is FDA-classified as GRAS. Looking at Amazon, the Spicy World Citric Acid in the 5-pound bag is $19.23 (free shipping for me, since I have Amazon Prime).

At the ~2g of citric acid metabolizing into ~1g of oxaloacetate you suggest, that translates to a price of $0.05 per three grams of oxaloacetate, or three orders of magnitude cheaper than buying a bottle of 30 100-mg capsules for $49.

Comment by see on Irrationality Game II · 2012-07-04T18:36:07.701Z · LW · GW

Er? What battleships are you claiming were dispersed?

There were quite literally no newer battleships on active duty in the US Navy on December 7th, 1941 than the West Virginia, "outdated class" or no, sunk at Pearl Harbor along with her brand-new CXAM-1 radar. The only newer battleships in commission were the North Carolina and Washington, both of which were not yet on active duty because of delays caused by propeller issues.

Comment by see on Irrationality Game II · 2012-07-04T17:50:10.017Z · LW · GW

I didn't say they wouldn't try to save the carriers. I said they would have hedged their bets by also dispersing some of the battleships. Your 90% confidence in your whole conjunct opinion requires a greater-than-90% confidence in the proposition that while saving the carriers, the people involved, all steeped in battleship supremacy/prestige for decades, would deliberately leave all the battleships vulnerable, rather than disperse even one or two as a hedge.

Also, the U.S. Navy could have commissioned more battleships instead of carriers,

Only in violation of the Washington and First London Naval Treaties. The US Navy could not have built more battleships at the time it started, for example, the Enterprise (1934) under those treaties.

I note that in the period 1937-to-Pearl-Harbor, which is to say subsequent to the 1936 Second London Naval Treaty that allowed it, the US Navy started no fewer than nine new battleships (and got funding authorization for a tenth), which suggests that they still seriously believed in battleships. Otherwise, why not build carriers in their place?

Comment by see on Irrationality Game II · 2012-07-04T05:11:00.571Z · LW · GW

The "and it was not chance" bit? That requires the conspirators be non-human.

Carrier supremacy was hardly an established doctrine, much less proved in battle; orthodox belief since Mahan was that battleships were the most important ships in a fleet. The orthodox method of preserving the US Navy's power would have been to disperse battleships, not carriers. Even if the conspirators were all believers in the importance of carriers, even a minimum of caution would have led them to find an excuse to also save some of the battleships. To believe at 90% confidence that a group of senior naval officials, while engaging in a high-stakes conspiracy, also took a huge un-hedged gamble on an idea that directly contradicted the established naval dogma they were steeped in since they were midshipmen, is ludicrous.

Comment by see on Can anyone explain to me why CDT two-boxes? · 2012-07-02T07:26:46.625Z · LW · GW

Well, Nozick's formulation in 1969, which popularized the problem in philosophy, went ahead and specified that "what you actually decide to do is not part of the explanation of why he made the prediction he made".

Which means smuggling in a theory of unidirectional causality into the very setup itself, which explains how it winds up called "Newcomb's Paradox" instead of Newcomb's Problem.

Comment by see on Can anyone explain to me why CDT two-boxes? · 2012-07-02T06:27:08.259Z · LW · GW

CDT calculates it this way: At the point of decision, either the million-dollar box has a million or it doesn't, and your decision now can't change that. Therefore, if you two-box, you always come out ahead by $1,000 over one-boxing.

Comment by see on How confident is your atheism? · 2012-06-14T21:22:28.304Z · LW · GW

Do you really think there's a 40% chance that one out of the Bahá'í, Christians, Jews, Mandaeans, Muslims, Sikhs, theistic Hindus, or Zoroastrians are right?

Or do you think maybe there's a 5% chance that some form of religion is right, and that there might be a sub-chance of that that theism is right, and then there's a sub-sub-chance of any of the particular living theisms I just listed is right?

Comment by see on Is there math for interplanetary travel vs existential risk? · 2012-06-11T02:32:08.225Z · LW · GW

Ten Cheyenne Mountains are fine—as long as nothing happens to the Earth that would stop the people surviving in them from resuming agriculture on the Earth's surface (whether or not under glass). I'd like there to be humans elsewhere in the solar system that are already growing their own food as a hedge against any of the things, already thought of or not, that can take out a planet but not a solar system.

Comment by see on Is there math for interplanetary travel vs existential risk? · 2012-06-09T09:49:32.703Z · LW · GW

Space habitats more expensive than terraforming Mars? You're having to import large quantities of volatiles in either case, Mars needs more imported per person supported (since you'll be using lots of them in the upper atmosphere where they only provide radiation shielding and pressure, instead of smaller quantities to directly support biologically active processes), Mars outgasses the hydrogen you import thanks to photodisassociation of water molecules, and Mars has half the available solar power of a 1 AU orbit (and while you can possibly power a habitat with nuclear power, good luck using anything but solar for a terraforming project).

Now, if you're dealing with habitats, yes, Mars gives you the advantage that by reasonably good placement you can have all the CHONSP you need for your habitat right at your doorstep, and an atmosphere that unmodified already shields reasonable amounts of radiation on its own, et cetera. Mars habitats will be cheaper than orbitals (or sealed habitats anywhere but Earth). But you were talking terraforming. Orbitals vastly outperform terraforming Mars in cost effectiveness per person supported (and Mars outperforms any other solar system body other than Earth).

Now, fragility. Yes, orbitals are relatively fragile. But they are also more numerous. If an orbital faces an independent one-in-a-hundred chance of a local catastrophic total failure leading to death of all inhabitants in a decade, and Earth faces a one-in-a-trillion chance of a local catastrophic total failure leading to death of all inhabitants in a decade, then ten orbitals are a hundred million times less fragile collectively than Earth despite being ten billion times more fragile individually. When you consider the raw number of orbitals you can make for the cost of terraforming Mars, orbitals as a group vastly outclass terraforming Mars in their ability to avoid existential risk, over all classes of risk where a terraformed Mars would actually reduce existential risk.

Comment by see on Is there math for interplanetary travel vs existential risk? · 2012-06-08T09:42:54.946Z · LW · GW

The old L5 Society would be rather disappointed with your focus on planets. Incremental construction of space habitats would be significantly easier than whole-planet terraforming, and putting the eggs in multiple baskets in multiple orbits is more survivable than any handful-of-planets scenario.

Comment by see on Does rationalism affect your dreams? · 2012-05-27T04:05:55.987Z · LW · GW

I find it rather amazing how many people's dreams, when they describe them, sound basically mundane, like things that could more or less happen in real life.

At least twice as a child, I actually completed homework assignments in dreams. Or at least I thought I'd completed them upon waking.

I wonder if those experiences have something to do with why I react to non-realism with such hostility.

Comment by see on 2 Anthropic Questions · 2012-05-27T00:47:39.718Z · LW · GW

In the second case, the easy answer is, "How often do diseases wipe out other species?" That is, when possible, calibrate possibilities against similar events that don't involve anthropic questions. Our disease model tends to hold quite effectively for animals whose extinction would be harmless or even beneficial from the anthropic perspective.