Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes July 2016 · 2016-07-09T21:39:45.861Z · LW · GW

How about "You're so cute when you're angry."?

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes Thread February 2016 · 2016-02-21T04:07:24.104Z · LW · GW

"its not like he gets bonus points when he croaks for how much is in his bank account." is a valuable quote in its own right

Comment by soreff on Rationality quotes: March 2010 · 2015-10-07T04:16:56.008Z · LW · GW

Venerating a corpse does it no good, and vilifying it does it no harm.

(I suppose I should add a qualifier - I mean either a non-cryonically suspended legal corpse, or an information-theoretically-dead corpse. That covers the case if one were to extend "venerate" to include include maintaining-in-cryonic-suspension)

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes Thread September 2015 · 2015-10-02T03:49:04.699Z · LW · GW

obligatory xkcd response:

Comment by soreff on Zombies: The Movie · 2015-08-24T00:44:04.057Z · LW · GW

Would David Chambers have written "A P-zombie in Carcosa"?

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes Thread August 2015 · 2015-08-20T05:15:43.293Z · LW · GW

Not necessarily: a straightforward steelmanning would re-define "anything in this world" as "anything in this world I can get by paying an appropriate price (not necessarily in money)".

Even with that restriction, the quote would still be false. In terms of things priced financially, there are lots of objects which cost more than many peoples' lifetime earnings (and good luck trying to raise those earnings by a large multiplier). In terms of things priced in terms of time or effort - there are limits on those too. If, for instance, a nonagenarian enrolled in a Ph.D. program which typically took a decade to complete - they might earn their degree, but the odds are against it.

Comment by soreff on Human Evil and Muddled Thinking · 2015-08-05T04:04:47.610Z · LW · GW

If the only thing in favour of an idea is how wonderful the world would be if everyone followed it, it's a bad idea.

Almost entirely agreed. The one class of exceptions are cases where a single standard avoids some severe problem with a mix. "Elbonia will switch from driving on the left to driving on the right. The change will be made gradually."

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes Thread June 2015 · 2015-07-06T04:05:51.969Z · LW · GW

More importantly, I'm disputing that it makes sense to judge by the numbers today.

It certainly isn't a perfect measure - but it seems like a decent one. I'd suggest correcting for some measure of how common the technology is. If there was something that only 10% of people have, but those 10% are getting killed at the same fraction per year as automobile drivers, I'd think it is still notable, though it wouldn't precisely meet gwern's criteria. If there were a technology which much less than 10% of the population has, then I'd be skeptical that it was unrestricted, at least in practice.

Frankly, there aren't very many technologies added over that period (besides the various flavors of electronic computation/communications/entertainment) that have that been so widely available. Microwave ovens - and I don't see many accidents from them. Perhaps home power tools? Forbes cites 37,000 emergency room visits per year from power nailers. They count another 37,000 from riding lawnmowers, but less than 100 killed.

Comment by soreff on Beyond Statistics 101 · 2015-06-29T03:32:05.887Z · LW · GW

I haven't tracked down the specific evidence - but muons are comparatively easy: They live long enough to leave tracks in particle detectors with known magnetic fields. That gives you the charge-to-mass ratio. Given that charge looks quantized (Milliken oil drop experiment and umpteen repetitions), and there are other pieces of evidence from the particle tracks of muon decay (and the electrons from that decay again leave tracks, and the angles are visible even if the neutrinos aren't) - I'd be surprised if the muon mass wasn't pretty solid.

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes Thread May 2015 · 2015-05-03T21:33:54.218Z · LW · GW

Though if we take "efficacy" to the include the social effects (say, persuading one's co-religionists to assist after a loss that prompted the prayer), the universality looks quite plausible... Perhaps in the environment of evolutionary adaptation, hunter-gatherer bands were small enough that all prayer was effectively public, and this always applied, while private prayer might be a recent maladaptive generalization?

Comment by soreff on Selling Nonapples · 2015-03-31T04:30:20.070Z · LW · GW

Here's another link, which points to quite a body of research:

Comment by soreff on Circular Altruism · 2015-03-28T16:45:57.827Z · LW · GW

Whenever one bends down to pick up a dropped penny, one has more than a 1/Googolplex chance of a slip-and-fall accident which would leave one suffering for 50 years.

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes Thread March 2015 · 2015-03-07T03:59:01.050Z · LW · GW

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes January 2015 · 2015-01-03T06:38:51.430Z · LW · GW

Not to endorse the view, but criticism of specifically the middle class is not novel: (from a comment on Paul Fussell's Class):

Quoting Lord Melbourne, he notes: "The higher and lower classes, there's some good in them, but the middle classes are all affectation and conceit and pretense and concealment."

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes December 2014 · 2014-12-13T06:58:16.801Z · LW · GW

What happens twice probably happens more than twice: are there other notable expressions of this idea?


there's only one way to spell a word right, and lots of ways to spell it wrong.

Usually agreed, on both counts. But: color/colour (and other US/UK pairs...)

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes December 2014 · 2014-12-07T05:26:53.731Z · LW · GW

But is it only a human behavior? I'd think anything with cached thoughts/results/computations would be similarly vulnerable.

Comment by soreff on A Cost- Benefit Analysis of Immunizing Healthy Adults Against Influenza · 2014-11-24T01:23:39.395Z · LW · GW

The pain from the needle during the injection lasts just a few seconds, but the muscle pain at the injection site is noticeable for hours. That said, I'd rate it as much lower than eric3 rated it. For me, this is one of those situations where having the explanation for a sensation in hand, and knowing that it is self-limiting and harmless, makes a large difference. I'd be quite concerned if I had a pain of identical magnitude but with no explanation for what caused it.

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes November 2014 · 2014-11-23T01:16:40.564Z · LW · GW

"soon" can vary quite a bit, depending on what is false. Following the link, I'm skeptical of "From the study of that single pebble you could see the laws of physics and all they imply." Specifically, I'm skeptical that one can deduce the parts of the laws of physics that matter under extreme conditions (general relativity, physics at Plank-scale energies) by examining the behavior of matter under benchtop conditions, at achievable levels of accuracy. The motivation for building instruments like the LHC in the first place is that they allow probing parts of physical laws which would otherwise produce exceeding small effects or exceedingly rare phenomena.

Comment by soreff on Lifestyle interventions to increase longevity · 2014-10-25T07:06:54.550Z · LW · GW

for potassium, would potassium-40 be considered the bad kind? :)

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes October 2014 · 2014-10-04T06:37:46.858Z · LW · GW

Will the CDC handle Ebola like FEMA handled Katrina?

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-09-15T00:44:11.711Z · LW · GW

Or that the interval between X and Y is spacelike, and neither is in the other's forward light cone... :)

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-09-06T05:07:45.274Z · LW · GW

Agreed. I think what Lanier should have said that a perception of magic is a subset of things one doesn't understand, rather than claiming that they are equal. Bugs that I am currently hunting but haven't nailed down are things I don't understand, but they certainly don't seem magical.

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-09-06T04:28:51.472Z · LW · GW

Was the context one where Waterhouse was proving a conditional, "if axioms A, B, C, then theorem Z", or one where where he was trying to establish Z as a truth about the world, and therefore also had the burden of showing that axioms A, B, C were supported by experimental evidence?

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-23T19:34:19.631Z · LW · GW

One of the parts of "liquid water is wet" is that a droplet of it will spread out on many common surfaces - salt, paper, cotton, etc. Yes, it is a bit tricky to unpack what is meant by"wet" - perhaps some other properties, like not withstanding shear are also folded in - but I don't think that it is just a tautology, with "wet" being defined as the set of properties that liquid water has.

Re the catch/count/mark/release/recapture/count puzzle - the degree to which that is feasible depends on how well one can do (reasonably) unbiased sampling. I'm skeptical that that will work well with the set of testable statements that one is automatically certain of.

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-23T17:47:42.053Z · LW · GW

Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded.

There is a very large amount of stuff that one is automatically certain of that is correct, though trivial, data like "liquid water is wet". I'm not sure how one would even practically quantify an analysis of what fraction of the statements one is certain of are or are not true. Even if one could efficiently test them, how would one list them (in the current state of science - tracing a full human neural network (and then converting its beliefs into a list of testable statements) is beyond our current capabilities).

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-17T00:25:06.026Z · LW · GW

Agreed. If nothing else, in a bargaining process, keeping the maximum/minimum price that one would accept private during the negotiation doesn't fit into either category.

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes July 2014 · 2014-08-03T19:28:24.286Z · LW · GW

The empirical evidence that is in the link from Gunnar_Zarncke's post is:

And throughout the book's description of these events, there was one constant:

All of the white people who joined Indian tribes loved it and refused to go back to white civilization. All the Indians who joined white civilization hated it and did everything they could to go back to their previous tribal lives.

This is not just from introspection.

Comment by soreff on New organization - Future of Life Institute (FLI) · 2014-06-14T23:15:13.246Z · LW · GW

Can one use the backwards-E existence symbol as one of the letters?

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes June 2014 · 2014-06-03T04:36:45.997Z · LW · GW

And what is the probability that one of them is a Prior?

Comment by soreff on Policy Debates Should Not Appear One-Sided · 2014-04-26T19:39:25.446Z · LW · GW

Concern about sociopaths applies to both business and government:

One paper examining a sizable sample of business folk found that percentage of sociopaths in the corporate world is 3.5 times higher than in the general population. Another study of 346 white-collar workers found that the percentage of corporate sociopaths increased as you go up the corporate ladder. That’s consistent with the reasons why politicians tend to be sociopaths: corporate leaders have lots of power over others and arguably even less need for empathy and conscience than politicians.

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes April 2014 · 2014-04-05T17:57:57.851Z · LW · GW

Interesting question. I'm a programmer who works in EDA software, including using transistor-level simulations, and I use surprisingly little math. Knowing the idea of a derivative (and how noisy numerical approximations to them can be!) is important - but it is really rare for me to actually compute one. It is reasonably common to run into a piece of code that reverses the transformation done by another pieces of code, but that is about it. The core algorithms of the simulators involves sophisticated math - but that is stable and encapsulated, so it is mostly a black box. As a citizen, statistics are potentially useful, but mostly just at the level of: This article quotes an X% change in something with N patients, does it look like N was large enough that this could possibly be statistically significant? But usually the problem with such studies in the the systematic errors, which are essentially impossible for a casual examination to find.

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes March 2014 · 2014-03-02T05:48:08.279Z · LW · GW

I don't know, but it sounds similar to "It's smarter to be lucky than it's lucky to be smart."

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes September 2013 · 2013-09-07T21:35:06.945Z · LW · GW

suggest that those with the power to wield nuclear weapons have in fact been more morally responsible than we give them credit.

Perhaps. Alternatively, when faced with a similarly-armed opponent, even our habitually bloody rulers can be detered by the prospect of being personally burned to death with nuclear fire.

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes May 2013 · 2013-05-05T16:59:52.700Z · LW · GW

And with 542 survivals, assuming Poisson statistics, the one-sigma bounds are around +-4% of that. I'll believe Spock most significant figure, but not the other three. :-)

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes March 2013 · 2013-03-02T22:30:05.930Z · LW · GW

Maxwell's equations fit in roughly 40 characters.

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes February 2013 · 2013-02-23T23:48:49.320Z · LW · GW

In particular if the success of something you opposed seemed inevitable, you'd still oppose it.

Oppose in the sense of "actively work to stop it" or oppose in the sense of, "if asked about it, note that one dislikes it"? I dislike the increase of surveillance over the decades but look: Sensors get cheaper year by year. Computation gets cheaper year by year. I'm not happy to see more surveillance, but I see it as so close to inevitable, due to the dropping costs of the enabling technologies, that actively opposing it is a waste of time and effort.

To put it another way: In the original C.S.Lewis quote, Lewis includes in his own list of questions that he wants asked: "Is it possible?" I view most of the questions that Lewis disapproves of as just being ways of asking whether recent historical evidence make something look possible or impossible in the near future. In my view, usually, claims of historical inevitability are overstated, but, occasionally (as in the cheaper sensors example), I think there are situations where a fairly solid case for at least likely trends can be made.

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes December 2012 · 2012-12-08T21:33:36.755Z · LW · GW

Whether that is good advice or not depends on the evidence already in hand, and the difficulty of the experiment. Will ice survive heating to a million kelvin at standard pressure?

Comment by soreff on A definition of wireheading · 2012-12-02T03:01:28.550Z · LW · GW

Is that descriptive or normative?

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes November 2012 · 2012-11-11T00:08:12.300Z · LW · GW

Not for all aspects of reality. Some require very extreme conditions (like large, complex physics experiments like the LHC) to hit.

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes June 2012 · 2012-06-14T18:54:45.333Z · LW · GW

One of the things that other people do is to build standard parts. If one has an unlimited budget, one can ignore them, and build everything in a project from optimized custom parts. This is rare.

Comment by soreff on "Progress" · 2012-06-04T22:33:41.973Z · LW · GW

And stay there? Or visit it as part of, for instance, a random walk?

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes May 2012 · 2012-05-05T22:58:52.318Z · LW · GW

I'm going to be unfair here - there is a limit to how much specificity one can expect in a brief quote but: In what sense is the difficulty "mathematical in essence", and just how ignorant of how much mathematics are the physiologists in question? Consider a problem where the exact solution of the model equations turns out to be an elliptic integral - but where the practically relevant range is adequately represented by a piecewise linear approximation, or by a handful of terms in a power series. Would ignorance of the elliptic integral be a fatal flaw here?

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes April 2012 · 2012-04-06T17:53:00.890Z · LW · GW

Mostly agreed. If I were to stand on a soapbox and say "light with a wavelength of 523.4371 nm is visible to the human eye", it would fall into the category of an unsubstantiated claim by a single person. But it is implied by the general knowledge that the human visual range is from roughly 400 nm to roughly 700 nm, and that has been confirmed by anyone who has looked at a spectrum with even crude wavelength calibration.

Comment by soreff on Rationality Quotes March 2012 · 2012-03-07T23:54:29.207Z · LW · GW

"Temporarily" can be quite a long time... So when can we expect to probe plank-energy physics solidly enough to really test how quantum gravity works? :)

Comment by soreff on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2012-01-08T23:27:48.348Z · LW · GW

and isn't there, or wasn't there, some Islamic sect where people try to find God by spinning around?


Comment by soreff on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2012-01-08T03:31:42.479Z · LW · GW

Only as a hypothetical possibility. (From such evidence as I've seen I don't think either really exists. And I have seen a fair number of Wiccan ceremonies - which seem like reasonably decent theater, but that's all.) One could construe some biblical passages as predicting some sort of duel - and if one believed those passages, and that interpretation, then the question of whether one side was overstating its chances would be relevant.

Comment by soreff on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2012-01-08T03:03:41.814Z · LW · GW

The difference would be that if worship of Jehovah gets you eternal life in heaven, and worship of Astarte gets you eternal torture and damnation, then you should worship Jehovah and not Astarte. Also, if Astarte knows this, but pretends otherwise, then Astarte's a liar.

Or perhaps neither Jehovah nor Astarte knows now who will dominate in the end, and any promises either makes to any followers are, ahem, over-confident? :-) There was a line I read somewhere about how all generals tell their troops that their side will be victorious...

Comment by soreff on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2012-01-08T02:30:51.045Z · LW · GW

Would a constructor of asynchronous process-level parallel structures be a daemon wrangler?

Comment by soreff on Rationality quotes January 2012 · 2012-01-04T22:00:45.843Z · LW · GW

I apologize. I should have been clearer. I mean that if a group of weapons developers, such as, for instance, the Manhattan Project, discovers certain critical technical data necessary to their weapons, such as, for instance, the critical mass of Pu-239, they will often prefer that these truths not spread to other groups. For as long as they are able to keep this knowledge secret, it is indeed a set of truths that makes this set of weapons designers distinct from other groups.

Comment by soreff on Rationality quotes January 2012 · 2012-01-04T02:56:42.626Z · LW · GW

I think a group could make itself very distinct by believing certain truths and doing certain rationally justified things.

Most groups of weapon developers probably hope to keep their knowledge distinct from that of other groups for as long as they can...