Gauging of interest: LW stock picking? 2013-01-01T06:36:12.132Z
Consciousness of simulations & uploads: a reductio 2010-08-21T20:02:20.067Z
A Challenge for LessWrong 2010-06-29T23:47:39.284Z
Rationality & Criminal Law: Some Questions 2010-06-20T07:42:43.674Z
The scourge of perverse-mindedness 2010-03-21T07:08:28.304Z


Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes November 2014 · 2014-11-05T17:54:13.526Z · LW · GW


Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-10-01T21:31:36.143Z · LW · GW

I think Clifford was wrong to say the shipowner was sincere in his belief. In the situation he describes, the belief is insincere - indeed such situations define what I think "insincere belief" ought to mean.

what are you going to do about, basically, stupid people who quite sincerely do not anticipate the consequences of their actions?

Good question. Ought implies can, so in extreme cases I'd consider that to diminish their culpability. For less extreme cases - heh, I had never thought about it before, but I think the "reasonable man" standard is implicitly IQ-normalized. :)

That would be a posterior, not a prior.


Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-10-01T18:55:55.845Z · LW · GW

completely ignoring the actual outcome seems iffy to me

That's because we live in a world where people's inner states are not apparent, perhaps not even to themselves. So we revert to (a) what would a reasonable person believe, (b) what actually happened. The latter is unfortunate in that it condemns many who are merely morally unlucky and acquits many who are merely morally lucky, but that's life. The actual bad outcomes serve as "blameable moments". What can I say - it's not great, but better than speculating on other people's psychological states.

In a world where mental states could be subpoenaed, Clifford would have both a correct and an actionable theory of the ethics of belief; as it is I think it correct but not entirely actionable.

I don't know what a "genuine extrapolated prior" is.

That which would be arrived at by a reasonable person (not necessarily a Bayesian calculator, but somebody not actually self-deceptive) updating on the same evidence.

A related issue is sincerity; Clifford says the shipowner is sincere in his beliefs, but I tend to think in such cases there is usually a belief/alief mismatch.

I love this passage from Clifford and I can't believe it wasn't posted here before. By the way, William James mounted a critique of Clifford's views in an address you can read here; I encourage you to do so as James presents some cases that are interesting to think about if you (like me) largely agree with Clifford.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-09-29T13:39:56.040Z · LW · GW

Yay for personal finance, boo for ethics, which is liable to become a mere bully pulpit for teachers' own views.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-09-24T13:24:38.926Z · LW · GW

Possible that they understood the question, but hearing it in a foreign language meant cognitive strain, which meant they were already working in System 2. That's my read anyway.

Given to totally fluent second-language speakers, I bet the effect vanishes.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-09-18T13:32:05.038Z · LW · GW

I don't really get this. It seems like both types of prediction matter quite a bit.

The only way I can interpret it that makes sense to me is something like:

Thinking really hard about the infinity of things that might happen this week is an unproductive way to generate predictions, because the hypothesis space is too large and you're just going to excessively privilege some salient hypothesis.

Is he giving advice about making correct predictions given that you just randomly feel like predicting stuff? Or is he giving advice about how to predict things you actually care about?

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-09-17T20:50:24.947Z · LW · GW

If traditional marriage is a sparrow, then marriage with no-fault divorce is a penguin, and 5 college kids sharing a house is a centipede. Type specimen, non-type specimen, wrong category.

Social expectations are mutable, yes - what of it? Do you think it's desirable or inevitable that marriage just become a fancy historical legal term for income splitting on one's tax return? Do you think sharing a house in college is going to be, or ought to be, hallowed and encouraged?

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-09-17T19:46:47.179Z · LW · GW

This framing is marginally saner, but the weird panicky eschatology of pop-environmentalism is still present. Apparently the author thinks that using up too many resources, or perhaps global warming, currently represent human extinction level threats?

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-09-17T19:38:59.477Z · LW · GW

To my mind, the giving of tax breaks etc. to married folks occurs because (rightly or wrongly) politicians have wanted to encourage marriage.

I agree that in principle there is nothing wrong with 3 single moms or 5 college students forming some sort of domestic partnership contract, but why give them the tax breaks? Do college kids living with each other instead of separately create some sort of social benefit that "we" the people might want to encourage? Why not just treat this like any other contract?

Apart from this, I think the social aspect of marriage is being neglected. Marriage for most people is not primarily about joint tax filing, but rather about publicly making a commitment to each other, and to their community, to follow certain norms in their relationship (e.g., monogamy; the specific norms vary by community). This is necessary because the community "thinks" pair bonding and childrearing are important/sacred/weighty things. In other words, "married" is a sort of honorific.

Needless to say, society does not think 5 college students sharing a house is an important/sacred/weighty thing that needs to be honoured.

This thick layer of social expectations is totally absent for the kind of arm's-length domestic partnership contract you propose, which makes me wonder why anybody would either want to call it marriage or frame it as being an alternative to marriage.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-09-12T19:56:40.746Z · LW · GW

Just to clarify, you figure the optimal relationship pattern (in the absence of societal expectations, economic benefits, and I guess childrearing) is serial monogamy? (Maybe the monogamy is assuming too much as well?)

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-09-12T18:28:43.651Z · LW · GW

What if he wanted to make them stay in love?

Comment by simplicio on Calibrating your probability estimates of world events: Russia vs Ukraine, 6 months later. · 2014-09-11T22:46:08.224Z · LW · GW

East Europeans wanted into NATO for protection both from Communism and from Russian domination simpliciter. The latter consideration has not fundamentally changed.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-09-10T20:22:10.289Z · LW · GW

Bracket neoreaction for the time being. I get that you disagree with HBD positions, but do you literally have trouble comprehending their meaning?

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes February 2014 · 2014-02-27T14:41:11.030Z · LW · GW

If most people have stolen something (have they?) it seems more likely to be out of carelessness than out of irresistible temptation. If you asked me to go 5 years without stealing anything, no problem. I promise I'll never try a raisin from the bulk bin, or use vidtomp3, again.

No sex, talking, or spicy food for 5 years? Even if I could form the intention to do that, I'll fail miserably. It's not a reasonable thing to expect oneself to do.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes February 2014 · 2014-02-25T23:18:39.936Z · LW · GW

Missing context, I think.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes February 2014 · 2014-02-25T15:30:02.443Z · LW · GW

It could be, if you subscribe to a weaker version of Kant's "ought implies can" that says (roughly) "ought implies psychologically feasible".

The basic thought here is that moral principles are suspect if they are SO difficult to follow that practically everybody is just always drowning in akrasia & hypocrisy. Think of a moral code that forbids talking, sex, and non-bland food for everyone - it's not physically impossible for humans to follow such a code, so it doesn't violate Kant's original dictum, but it's just not reasonable to expect it to happen in practice.

So I could see an argument that says that asking all humans to be monogamous is like asking them to take a lifelong vow of silence. I don't buy that argument & I actually think monogamy is important, but the logical structure makes sense to me.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes February 2014 · 2014-02-21T19:21:12.896Z · LW · GW

Right, but I think the spirit of the Krugman quote is that complication may be unavoidable, but shouldn't be made into a goal or a badge of honour the way the theorist did. Also that complicatedness is ceteris paribus weak evidence of incorrectness, because of the logic I stated earlier.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes February 2014 · 2014-02-19T23:27:51.646Z · LW · GW

This is basically just a rewarming of Socrates in the Meno, I guess? Only really works for mathematics & like subjects.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes February 2014 · 2014-02-19T23:25:17.917Z · LW · GW

big inferential distances usually --> long chain of reasoning --> at least one step is more likely to be wrong

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes October 2013 · 2014-01-22T15:24:13.039Z · LW · GW

In Henry V, Shakespeare has the Duke of Exeter say:

Therefore in fierce tempest is he coming,

In thunder and in earthquake, like a Jove,

That if requiring fail, he will compel;

And bids you, in the bowels of the Lord,

Deliver up the crown; and to take mercy

On the poor souls for whom this hungry war

Opens his vasty jaws...

So it seems to have been a fairly common idiom in 17th C English.

Comment by simplicio on 2013 Survey Results · 2014-01-21T15:02:23.772Z · LW · GW

Em, I don't actually like those odds all that much, thanks!

Comment by simplicio on 2013 Survey Results · 2014-01-20T23:29:14.492Z · LW · GW

Your choice of twin primes as an example is kind of odd; implicitly, we are discussing the cluster of ideas that are controversial in some ideological sense.

To be clear, I agree that ideas often spread for reasons other than their truth. I agree that because of this, if you are careful, you can use the history of religion as ancillary evidence against theism.

But in general, you have to be really, really careful not to use "memetic effects" as just another excuse to stop listening to people (LessWrong's main danger is that it is full of such excuses). Sometimes true ideas spread for bad reasons. Sometimes what looks like a bad reason appears so because of your own ideology.

I'm not saying become a theist, or read huge treatises on theology. I'm saying give theism the 5 minutes of serious consideration (e.g., listening to a smart proponent) owed a belief held by a very large fraction of the planet.

Comment by simplicio on 2013 Survey Results · 2014-01-20T16:04:57.729Z · LW · GW

There are just too many ways to fool oneself here. I could talk for quite a while about "memetic effects" that make e.g. atheism appeal to (a certain group of) people independent of its truth. Typically one only notices these "memetic effects" in ideas one already disagrees with.

I think for standard outside view reasons, it's better to have an exceptionless norm that anything believed by billions of people is worth taking seriously for at least 5 minutes.

Comment by simplicio on Tell Culture · 2014-01-20T15:32:08.824Z · LW · GW

Good point. But I wonder whether, when two Guess culture variants collide in a heterogeneous society, it's better to (a) switch to Ask culture, or (b) adopt the dominant culture's Guess dialect.

I would suspect the latter, because I think most people feel more at home in an alien status hierarchy than they do in an alien status hierarchy pretending it isn't one (a somewhat uncharitable gloss of Ask culture).

Comment by simplicio on Tell Culture · 2014-01-20T14:31:21.948Z · LW · GW

Guess culture has, I think, been the standard way for humans to hume for many thousands of years. My inclination is to imagine that, therefore, it's probably optimal, at least for typical people.

Am I missing something? Is there some factor that is pushing rules of social etiquette in a bad direction throughout human history?

Comment by simplicio on 2013 Survey Results · 2014-01-20T14:18:35.347Z · LW · GW

When I heard about Yvain's PD contest, I flipped a coin. I vowed that if it came up heads, I would Paypal the winner $200 (on top of their winnings), and if it came up tails I would ask them for the prize money they won.

It came up tails. YOUR MOVE.

(No, not really. But somebody here SHOULD have made such a commitment.)

Comment by simplicio on 2013 Survey Results · 2014-01-20T13:56:56.396Z · LW · GW

Which users could not double-check because they might see the population numbers.

Comment by simplicio on Procedural Knowledge Gaps, part 2 · 2013-12-20T17:15:09.435Z · LW · GW

Regarding motivation for exercise, I find competition & praise is particularly helpful, perhaps especially for those of us of the male persuasion.

Fitocracy is kind of fun and has various challenges. Last summer I did various cycling & running challenges and eventually ended up so motivated that I completed a 100 km ride and a marathon, essentially for fun.

Alternately you could make bets with a friend about some well-defined goal like being able to do 100 pushups at a sitting.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes December 2013 · 2013-12-19T18:18:53.290Z · LW · GW

Sure. Does it make sense for an individual to think about the probability that they (themselves) are a Manchester United fan?

I say it doesn't, really. If you (a) like ManU in some sense, and (b) are willing to call yourself a ManU fan, you are a ManU fan.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes December 2013 · 2013-12-19T16:09:11.186Z · LW · GW

The same purpose as reading Hamlet in the first place; aesthetic enjoyment & intellectual exercise.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes December 2013 · 2013-12-19T15:59:31.426Z · LW · GW

Is cis or trans identity really something that is truth-apt (& therefore in the purview of probability)? It seems to be a combination of self-description of feelings, plus chosen group affiliation.

The self-description of feelings is presumably more or less infallible, and the group affiliation is stipulated by the individual.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes December 2013 · 2013-12-19T15:47:33.416Z · LW · GW

As I was saying to Remontoire, I wholly agree. But (a) precendent is not "Science", unless you want to be very semantically generous, and (b) precedent is one primary method by which the law does its "rationalization", which the OP was attacking.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes December 2013 · 2013-12-19T15:44:09.010Z · LW · GW

To clarify; the use of precedent in engineering is not objectionable (on the contrary, it is quite sensible); it merely runs counter to this popular idea that engineers are forever deciding everything via Science.

You seem to be saying that any engineering precedent must ultimately be based on a scientific model somebody used in the past. Well, maybe... if you're willing to call "we tried it this way and it seemed to work" a scientific model, then okay.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes December 2013 · 2013-12-18T23:42:48.833Z · LW · GW

Especially not in werehouses, no.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes December 2013 · 2013-12-18T23:38:00.659Z · LW · GW

Fair enough, heh. But I wouldn't want to idealize the epistemic purity of engineering. Amusingly in this context, often engineering decisions are based more on precedent than science (has somebody else done things this way?), and it sometimes happens that there is a "bottom line" for which evidence is post hoc deduced (e.g., by relaxing the stringency of assumptions in a model in order to get the "right" answer).

Granted, such rationalizations usually affect risks only at the margin, but still...

I guess the bottom line is that engineering is not just science but also aesthetics, economics, and group coordination. To the extent that those things involve cognitive biases et cetera, engineering does too.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes December 2013 · 2013-12-18T23:28:24.997Z · LW · GW

I think the cleverness is in the violation of Tyson's expectations about how the encounter will go. Ayer went off script and that seems to have nonplussed Tyson.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes December 2013 · 2013-12-04T19:10:18.576Z · LW · GW

Said the engineer to the engineers.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes December 2013 · 2013-12-04T19:08:28.686Z · LW · GW

...added to my large class of “sanity-complete” propositions: propositions defined by the property that if I doubt any one of them, then there’s scarcely any part of the historical record that I shouldn’t doubt.

Maybe nothing, but it's strange that Aaronson identifies "sanity" primarily or significantly with buying into the bulk of the historical record. Does sanity really require being approximately right about history?

Comment by simplicio on 2013 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2013-11-26T14:49:15.158Z · LW · GW

Similar to the "shock doctrine", but that is an explicitly leftist idea so it probably doesn't work to name the generalized phenomenon.

Comment by simplicio on 2013 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2013-11-26T14:42:28.924Z · LW · GW

If I recall rightly, Scott checked the IQ results from last year's survey against SAT data and concluded that they were as expected.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes November 2013 · 2013-11-06T23:46:34.257Z · LW · GW


Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes November 2013 · 2013-11-06T23:40:09.761Z · LW · GW

Rescue by saying

Rationality is only bridled heuristics.


Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes November 2013 · 2013-11-01T20:20:57.395Z · LW · GW

Something about the opposite of Parfit's hitchhiker? Developing a reputation for following through on promises one could renege on.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes October 2013 · 2013-10-17T18:49:13.188Z · LW · GW

I have to confess this sounds creepy to me. I have a strong prior that the one who says something like this is about to do something horrible.

Comment by simplicio on The best 15 words · 2013-10-08T00:53:47.314Z · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure all laws of science and human action contain special exception clauses for Berlusconi.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes October 2013 · 2013-10-07T21:01:44.241Z · LW · GW

That's because the transcriber has done a very poor job of going from speech to text. If you quote somebody, you should delete the Likes and Ums, add commas and periods, etc. (With the added constraint of not knowingly changing meanings.)

I would be highly annoyed if I were transcribed thus.

Comment by simplicio on The best 15 words · 2013-10-07T20:39:42.282Z · LW · GW

IIRC he went farther, suggesting (as one hypothesis among several) that low female representation in STEM fields could be due to lower female IQ variance.

Comment by simplicio on The best 15 words · 2013-10-07T20:00:06.831Z · LW · GW

I've also expressed open-mindedness (though not acceptance) towards the idea that genetically determined behavioral differences could conceivably exist.

That amounts to "human group differences are not ruled out a priori", which is an incredibly low bar. Even SJ Gould, who was enough of a PC policeman to falsify claims of bias against a 19th century biologist who examined cranial capacity, admitted that "equality is not an a priori truth".

If I thought that what happened to Summers was a really common thing, I'd be using an anon handle to even discuss reactionary thought.

It's pretty common for public figures. I don't know who you are, but my guess is you're not a public figure. Hence, your protection (and mine) largely consists in being small fry.

Comment by simplicio on Rationality Quotes October 2013 · 2013-10-07T17:16:59.547Z · LW · GW

I think I more or less agree with Taleb, so I will try to make it more plausible.

  • Doing good is hard (cf Givewell. "Famine? Let's send free food! Oops, we bankrupted local food producers. Oh well, our hearts were in the right place.")
  • Consider the infinite Platonic set of Interventions (in an economy, person... whatever). Throw a dart inside that set - are you more likely to hit a useful intervention, or a useless/harmful one?
  • Further problem: a lot of harmful or useless interventions LOOK useful, or are useful for some parties but very harmful for the rest of us.
  • Further problem: many harmful interventions are harmful on a truly spectacular scale, even - or especially - if they are really popular and seem really beneficial and are totally going to change the world for the better. (Fat tails.)
  • Further problem: humans love power, and a great way to get power is via some grand intervention. The people in charge of such an intervention probably don't have skin in the game, so they aren't incentivized to care very much about REALLY getting it right.

This suggests the HEURISTIC that there is more to be gained from stopping people shooting themselves (or each other) in the foot than there is from promoting people's happiness.

I'm pretty sure Taleb would agree it is only a heuristic, and that bednets are a legitimate counterexample & are in fact pretty great.

Comment by simplicio on The best 15 words · 2013-10-07T16:13:49.264Z · LW · GW

For an example from real life, check out page 9 of this document for a fund my investment advisor wanted me to invest in:

"We got a positive number of pennies almost every day for several years!"

(NB: I'm not making a global judgment about this fund, just about the inherent anti-epistemology of obsessing over day to day "volatility".)