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Tapestries of Gold 2014-04-27T07:23:40.029Z

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Comment by Shane_Patt on Antidote to Pascal's Wager · 2015-09-06T02:28:20.849Z · LW · GW

The goal seems to be to construct a plausible entity such that, if Pascal's Wager is applied to this entity rather than to the Christian deity, it becomes an argument for atheism rather than Christianity—thus refuting the Wager by reductio ad absurdum. The payload is the first two sentences; the rest is just elaboration on the fact that knowledge about Athe would be an infohazard if taken seriously.

Comment by Shane_Patt on 2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2014-10-26T23:31:50.830Z · LW · GW

Taken.

Comment by Shane_Patt on What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong? · 2014-10-17T22:52:40.894Z · LW · GW

You're absolutely right. Anyone who knew about the existence of both books would also be aware of the need to clarify which he meant (unless he was deliberately testing me so he could feel smug at his superior knowledge). The chances he was simply mistaken are still pretty good.

Had I considered that possibility, and rejected it on grounds of low prior, maybe I would have been entitled to a Rationality Cookie; but alas, what actually happened was that I didn't think at all.

Comment by Shane_Patt on What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong? · 2014-10-17T09:15:57.338Z · LW · GW

The belief was minor, but the story is entertaining:

A while ago a guy walked into the bookstore and asked me for a copy of The Art of War—by Machiavelli.

I've developed the habit of being polite when customers are mistaken about details, taking (and often inventing) every possible opportunity to help them save face, so I handed him a copy of Sun Tzu without comment—though you can be sure that internally I was feeling all kinds of smug at the chance to display my superior knowledge of extremely common classic books. He glanced at it and left—mortified, I imagined.

A few months later, I looked it up and discovered that Machiavelli did, in fact, write a treatise called The Art of War.

But that isn't the embarrassing part.

The embarrassing part is that, in the moment I went to check, what I was thinking was not "Hmm, I wonder if I could have been mistaken"; it was "Heh, I wonder if anyone else has made the same mistake as that idiot!" My error was corrected only incidentally—in the course of my efforts to reinforce it.

Comment by Shane_Patt on Tapestries of Gold · 2014-04-28T09:18:08.908Z · LW · GW

what are the ontological determinants of the arrow head positions, i.e, why are the rows where they are?

I would say they aren't. There are many ways—probably an infinite number—to divide the same blue line into rows, depending on the theories and models invoked; the six in my diagrams are just an example. I don't think the row divisions we as a civilization are given to use are privileged in any particular way.

almost anything that can happen at the microstate level will lead to that same description

The same description, yes; but the description isn't the thing. Each microstate is identical with exactly one macrostate and vice versa, could we but perceive it in full; it does often happen that the descriptions of a large set of microstates all lead to a single description of just one macrostate, but this is only a fact about the information we've chosen to omit for our own convenience, not about the reality.

all the important information about the microstate

"Important" is the key word; reality never treats anything as unimportant—only we do. I think the distinction you're making is an epistemic rather than an ontological one.

Comment by Shane_Patt on Tapestries of Gold · 2014-04-28T09:01:33.081Z · LW · GW

Hmm, I don't know that we mean the same thing by "methodological."

When has someone succeeded in producing any effect or predicting any event, specifically by invoking supernatural knowledge?

Comment by Shane_Patt on Tapestries of Gold · 2014-04-28T08:10:27.503Z · LW · GW

Well, what pushed me to write this post—in combination with the sequences here—was David Deutsch's books Fabric of Reality and Beginning of Infinity; I don't know that either is legally available online, I'm afraid.

Comment by Shane_Patt on Tapestries of Gold · 2014-04-27T21:45:07.424Z · LW · GW

I would say: "door" is an element of the map, and could be made from "wood" or "metal," and have or not have a "handle"; but this door beside me right now is an element of the territory, and is made from wood, and does have a handle. The green arrows are map, and directional; the blue line is territory, and not directional. Something I can say about the world doesn't completely determine everything else I can say about the same green strand, but something that exists in the world does completely determine what else exists along the same blue line.

I tried to make what I was getting at clearer in my edit to the OP a few minutes ago.

Comment by Shane_Patt on Tapestries of Gold · 2014-04-27T21:04:48.633Z · LW · GW

No, you're absolutely right; in fact it would seem I was changing it while you were typing this comment! Please see my reply to shminux, who had the same objection.

(Definitely lesson learned here!)

Comment by Shane_Patt on Tapestries of Gold · 2014-04-27T20:26:29.769Z · LW · GW

Examples where supernaturalism is methodologically successful? I would love to hear some!

(Not being sarcastic here; I really would.)

Comment by Shane_Patt on Tapestries of Gold · 2014-04-27T19:55:02.866Z · LW · GW

Adopting naturalism leaves a lot of questions unanswered

Yes, it absolutely does; but then supernaturalism, even if granted, fails to actually answer them. It's the difference between saying "Here are Maxwell's Equations, which tells the angels where to push the electrons" or just, "Here are Maxwell's Equations." (Of course, the other option—having only the angels and not Maxwell's laws—is obsolete; it would make an electronic device a miracle, and each other electronic device a separate and additional miracle.)

whether there can be independent laws at different levels

I would say that the history of science is a history of what seemed like contingent equalities turning out to have been necessary identities all along; that is the character of the Law, as far as we have grasped it.

Comment by Shane_Patt on Tapestries of Gold · 2014-04-27T19:41:45.404Z · LW · GW

That's true, and not something I thought of, since I was focused on ontological rather than statistical asymmetries. Of course, it could turn out to be a temporary condition, once Foomy starts converting its future light-cone to computronium! Also, although most of the bottom levels fail to generate interesting (knowledge-containing) structures, such structures on the higher levels might have the property that—because they squeeze the future—they tend to become present across whole swathes of Everett branches, making them in a full-multiversal sense actually less fragile.

Interesting corollary: one or more levels above morality, in which most moral agents are nonparticipants. I'm not sure where to go with that, so I'm going to just stroke my beard and say "Hmmm" in a wise-sounding way.

Comment by Shane_Patt on Tapestries of Gold · 2014-04-27T19:33:47.688Z · LW · GW

golden threads are the explanations of how a law or model on a lower level of abstraction causes the observations on a higher level

That's a good way of putting it, except that it would be "explains" rather than "causes." I definitely should make it more clear that—because there are actually many more columns than shown in the diagram—a golden thread connects an entire row to the entire row above it, not just one point to one point.

don't really think you could deduce the entire structure of the blue line given by any one point

I wasn't clear there; please see my reply to shminux, who had the same objection.

Comment by Shane_Patt on Tapestries of Gold · 2014-04-27T19:29:46.806Z · LW · GW

This is a highly contentious speculation

Hmm, I see I wasn't clear there at all. That all levels can be deduced from one level is just what Deutsch himself isn't granting—he argues against it! Rather, it (or something like it) is the explanation I usually see people give for why they label the bottom of the blue line as more "fundamental"; my intention was to point out with the next sentence that the complete-deducibility hypothesis doesn't make the blue line directional even if true, because it would allow travel along the line in both directions. I definitely need to rewrite that part. (All that being said, I do think that advances in physics letting people design new chemical processes, and that sort of thing, are strong evidence that far more is possible; I find the hypothesis more plausible than you and Deutsch do.)

together forming "explanations"

It's true the directions of my green arrows are debatable; the reason I went with upward was because the simplest way I could think of to formulate what was happening was just "X explains Y"—"many compounds explain synapse." I agree that in a more zoomed-in view each green arrow would imply a complex up-and-down motion of analysis and synthesis.

it seems to connect towers of abstractions together somehow

Violet lines of causation connect blue lines of territory to each other, not green towers of map. Green towers are connected by red threads, which are (causal) explanation, not causation. I thought this was clear by analogy with the first two diagrams, but you're not the only one, so it looks like I should make it more explicit.

gratuitous use of pathos and evocative imagery

It's a fair cop! But I like it that way. ^_^

Comment by Shane_Patt on Open thread, 21-27 April 2014 · 2014-04-23T05:49:43.380Z · LW · GW

Ah, I see I was unclear. By "is no more to a Tyvar" I meant "is no more significant to a Tyvar" rather than "is no more comprehensible to a Tyvar." Sorry; my fault.

Comment by Shane_Patt on Open thread, 21-27 April 2014 · 2014-04-22T10:32:33.862Z · LW · GW

I would hope you don't know anything about them—they were made up on the spot. ^_^

And yes, I suppose the style here might well have been influenced from more than one place.

Comment by Shane_Patt on Open thread, 21-27 April 2014 · 2014-04-22T10:29:36.280Z · LW · GW

Parochial because he mistook a local property of mindspace for a global one; unimaginative because he never thought of frumfulness when considering what things a mind might value. "Good" is no more to a Tyvar than "frumful" to Clippy or "clipful" to a human.

Comment by Shane_Patt on Open thread, 21-27 April 2014 · 2014-04-21T21:21:27.479Z · LW · GW

A koan:

A monk came to Master Banzen and asked, "What can be said of universal moral law?"

Master Banzen replied, "Among the Tyvari of Arlos, all know that borlitude is highly frumful. For a Human of Earth, is quambling borl forbidden, permissible, laudable or obligatory?"

The monk replied, "Mu."

Master Banzen continued, "Among the Humans of Earth, all know that friendship is highly good. For a Tyvar of Arlos, is making friends forbidden, permissible, laudable or obligatory?"

The monk replied, "Mu," and asked no more.

Qi's Commentary: The monk's failure was one of imagination. His question was not foolish, but it was parochial.

Comment by Shane_Patt on Open Thread April 16 - April 22, 2014 · 2014-04-20T20:00:16.074Z · LW · GW

Don't forget that reversed stupidity is not intelligence; a belief doesn't become wrong simply because it's widely held by Catholics.

Similarly, there's no need to be scared of responding positively to art or other ideas because they originated from a religious perspective; if atheism required us to do that, it would be almost as bleak a worldview as it's accused of being. Adeste Fideles doesn't stop being a beautiful song when you realize its symbols don't have referents. I think of the Christian mythology as one of my primary fantasy influences—like The Lord of the Rings, Discworld, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant or Doctor Who—so, if I find myself reacting emotionally to a Christian meme, I don't have to worry that I'm having a conversion experience (or that God exists and is sneakily trying to win me over!): it's perfectly normal, and lawful, for works of fiction to have emotional impact.