Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Kurzweil's predictions: good accuracy, poor self-calibration · 2013-01-22T20:47:41.304Z · LW · GW

Having been a TA at two universities in two different states, I can assure you that considering university students would increase the prevalence of small laptops & tablets, not decrease it. Although not literally true, it is perfectly true in the colloquial sense that everyone has them.

Restricting the sample to just the students I've taught (several hundred, probably less than a thousand), I'd view prediction 20 as mostly true in all but the most literal sense. (For instance, I find the difference between touch interfaces with fingers vs those with a stylus to be irrelevant to the spirit of overall truth of the prediction.)

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Good transhumanist fiction? · 2012-10-18T02:02:50.528Z · LW · GW

I'll second Schismatrix and emphasize that it has a particular focus on whether it's better to extend human life by purely organic/biological means or to use mechanical/technological enhancements.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Could evolution have selected for moral realism? · 2012-09-30T20:30:08.369Z · LW · GW

"Turning a person into paperclips is wrong" is an ethical proposition that is Eliezer-true and Human-true and >Paperclipper-false, and Eliezer's "subjunctive objective" view is that we should just call that "true".

Despite the fact that we might have a bias toward the Human-[x] subset of moral claims, it's important to understand that such a theory does not itself favor one over the other.

It would be like a utilitarian taking into account only his family's moral weights in any calculations, so that a moral position might be Family-true but Strangers-false. It's perfectly coherent to restrict the theory to a subset of its domain (and speaking of domains, it's a bit vacuous to talk of paperclip morality, at least to the best of my knowledge of the extent of their feelings...), but that isn't really what the theory as a whole is about.

So if we as a species were considering assimilation, and the moral evaluation of this came up Human-false but Borg-true, the theory (in principle) is perfectly well equipped to decide which would ultimately be the greater good for all parties involved. It's not simply false just because it's Human-false. (I say this, but I'm unfamiliar with Eliezer's position. If he's biased toward Human-[x] statements, I'd have to disagree.)

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Could evolution have selected for moral realism? · 2012-09-30T20:18:24.121Z · LW · GW

You seem to be overlooking the fact that facts involving contextual language are facts nonetheless.

The "fact" that Obama is president is only social truth. Obama is president because we decided he is. If no one >thought Obama was president, he wouldn't be president anymore.

There is a counterfactual sense in which this holds some weight. I'm not saying agree with your claim, but I would at least have to give it more consideration before I knew what to conclude.

But that simply isn't the case (& it's a fact that it isn't, of course). Obama's (present) presidency is not contested, and it is a fact that he is President of the United States.

You could try to argue against admitting facts involving any vagueness of language, but you would run into two problems: this is more an issue with language than an issue with facts; and you have already admitted facts about other things.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on [Poll] Less Wrong and Mainstream Philosophy: How Different are We? · 2012-09-29T02:49:41.832Z · LW · GW

Unless you buy into Kant's synthetic a priori arguments, that's really all analytic means. Of course, in practice it's far more interesting & complicated, and it even leads to the kind of applications that have made secure internet commerce possible, not to mention the computers we use to do that.

At least, on some days I think that's what 'analytic' means. Maybe.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on [Poll] Less Wrong and Mainstream Philosophy: How Different are We? · 2012-09-27T07:24:07.401Z · LW · GW

I like the idea of pulling some language from logic and saying we have "bound will," not "free will."

This may well be compatibilism as intended by its defenders, but that isn't the impression I've ever had from their papers.

I would [very] roughly describe bound will with the following two claims: My will is free from Susie's will. Neither Susie's will nor my will is free from physical causes.

Notice that such a term doesn't care whether the universe is strictly deterministic or merely stochastic.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on [Poll] Less Wrong and Mainstream Philosophy: How Different are We? · 2012-09-27T07:17:56.780Z · LW · GW

I think I'm more comfortable with the negation of Platonism than with the positive claim of nominalism, but I suppose in this context we have 'nominalism' = '~Platonism'.

Whether what is usually meant by 'nominalism' is the same is as unclear to me as I am uncomfortable with the idea of making a positive claim about it.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on [Poll] Less Wrong and Mainstream Philosophy: How Different are We? · 2012-09-27T07:15:02.003Z · LW · GW

This depends a great deal on both which branch of philosophy we're talking about & who is evaluating that particular branch's usefulness.

For example, I find developments in logics, philosophy of science, & general epistemology to be of great interest, and I perceive all three topics to be advancing (listed in order of priority as that goes) as the years go by. I'm sure others feel differently.

It would be hard to get past the fact that, especially between the different branches of philosophy, there is a great deal of "philosophy of language" that is or must be done just to get at what anyone's talking about. But that is, to some extent, true of any field with a technical language.

So I guess all four answers make sense in some sense.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on [Poll] Less Wrong and Mainstream Philosophy: How Different are We? · 2012-09-27T07:05:45.356Z · LW · GW

I probably should have voted for "Other," but I voted for "Lean toward: yes" because I still outright agree in certain contexts.

Quine's Two Dogmas is certainly enough to make me doubt the usefulness of the analytic/synthetic distinction as regards ordinary language, but for formal languages, this is not the case. It's also not clear to me whether it's impossible to construct a language (for communication) clear enough to make sense of analytic/synthetic distinctions.

This is one of those wonderfully agnostic positions that philosophy often leaves me with.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012) · 2012-09-16T03:32:54.531Z · LW · GW

It helps that generally (ie unless you're at Princeton/Cambridge/etc) the faculty at a given school will have come from much stronger schools than the grad students there, and similarly for undergrads/grads. And by "helps" I mean that it helps maintain the effect while explaining it, not that it helps the students any.

As far as the range of a recursive function goes, isn't that the very definition of a recursive set?

I'm definitely enjoying Fixing Frege. This is the third Burgess book I've read (Computability & Logic and Philosophical Logic being the other two), and when it's just him doing the writing, he's definitely one of the clearest expositors of logic I've ever read.

Apparently, he also gets chalk all over his shirt when he lectures, but I've never seen this first-hand.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-16T03:24:48.316Z · LW · GW

That's like saying the standard choice of branch cut for the complex logarithm is arbitrary.


When you complexify, things get messier. My point is that making a generalization is possible (though it's probably best to sum over integers with 0 \leq arg(z) < \pi, as you pointed out), which is the only claim I'm interested in disputing. Whether it's nice to look at is irrelevant to whether it's functional enough to be punnable.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-14T23:05:16.406Z · LW · GW

You can still find divisors for Gaussian integers. If x, y, and xy are all Gaussian integers, which will be trivially fulfilled for any x when y=1, then x, y both divide xy.

You can then generalize the \sigma function by summing over all the divisors of z and dividing by |z|.

The resulting number \sigma(z) lies in C (or maybe Q + iQ), not just Q, but it's perfectly well defined.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on The raw-experience dogma: Dissolving the “qualia” problem · 2012-09-14T22:53:44.141Z · LW · GW

On the common sense view that qualia are the kolors generated by our minds, which do so based on sensory input about the colors in the world, it makes sense that color-to-kolor conversion (if you will) should be imperfect even among people with properly functioning sight.

Its possible my writing wasn't clear enough to convey this point (or that you were objecting to CCC, not me), but I was getting at the idea that we probably do experience slightly different kolors. It was never my intention to be philosophically "rigorous" about that, just to raise the point.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on The raw-experience dogma: Dissolving the “qualia” problem · 2012-09-14T12:30:41.557Z · LW · GW

I'm not just talking about behavior. The kinds of things involved in experiencing a program involve subjective qualities, like whether Counter-Strike is more fun than Day of Defeat, which maybe can't be learned just from reading the code.

It's possible the analogy is actually flawed, and one is contained in its underlying components while the other is not, but I don't understand how they differ if they do, or why they should.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on The raw-experience dogma: Dissolving the “qualia” problem · 2012-09-14T11:57:31.084Z · LW · GW

If you are a superscientist, there is nothing you can learn from running a programme that you cannot get from >examining the code.

If you believe this, then you must similarly think that Mary will learn nothing about the qualia associated with colors if she already understands everything about the physics underlying them.

In case I haven't driven the point home with enough clarity (for example, I did read the link the first time you posted it), I am claiming that there is something to experiencing the program/novel/world inasmuch as there is something to experiencing colors in the world. Whether that something is a subset of the code/words/physics or something additional is the whole point of the problem of qualia.

And no, I don't have a clear idea what a satisfying answer might look like.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012) · 2012-09-14T11:45:41.037Z · LW · GW

You'd have to explain what the rand function is, since that is apparently an un-Google-able term unless you want Ayn Rand (I don't), the C++ random return function, or something called the RAND corporation.

The second question is due to compactness.

I'm the kind of person who reads things like Fixing Frege for fun after prelims are over.

Edit: Oh, & I don't mean to be rude, but I probably wouldn't call anyone a working mathematician/logician unless they were actively doing research either in a post-doc/tenure position or in industry (eg at Microsoft).

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on The raw-experience dogma: Dissolving the “qualia” problem · 2012-09-14T11:27:34.495Z · LW · GW

It's possible I already had & that you're misunderstanding what my examples are about: the difference between the physical/digital/abstract structure underlying something & the actual experience it produces (eg qualia for perceptions of physical things, or pictures for geometric definitions, etc).

I maintain that the difference between code & a running program (or at least our experience of a running program) is almost exactly analogous to the difference between physical matter & our perception of it. The underlying structure is digital, not physical, and has physical means of delivery to our senses, but the major differences end there.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on The raw-experience dogma: Dissolving the “qualia” problem · 2012-09-14T11:11:36.297Z · LW · GW

It's just another cool problem about colors.

As far as Mary's Room goes, you might similarly argue that you could have all of the data belonging to Pixar's next movie, which you haven't seen yet, without having any knowledge of what it looks like or what it's about. Or that you can't understand a program without compiling it & running it.

I'm not entirely sure how much credibility I lend to that. There are some very abstract things (fairly simple, yes) which I can intuit without prior experience, and there are many complicated things which I can predict due to a great deal of prior experience (eg landscapes described in novels).

But I mostly raised it as another interesting problem with a proposed [partial] solution.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on The raw-experience dogma: Dissolving the “qualia” problem · 2012-09-14T11:05:13.972Z · LW · GW

I wouldn't predict the existence of self-replicating molecules either. In fact, I'm not sure I'm in a position to predict anything at all about physical phenomena without appealing to empirical knowledge I've gathered from this particular physical world.

It's a pickle, all right.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on The raw-experience dogma: Dissolving the “qualia” problem · 2012-09-14T11:01:26.314Z · LW · GW

You'll notice that the next few sentences of my post address this same idea for fully functional members of different species. But it doesn't technically refute the claim for qualia, only that we're not all equally responsive to the same stimuli.

It is, for example, technically possible (in the broadest sense) that color-blind people experience the same qualia we do, but they are unable to act on them, much in the same way that a friend with ADD might experience the same auditory stimuli I do, but then is too distracted to actually notice or make sense of it.

I note, however, that the physical differences in color-blindness (or different species' eyes) are enough reason to lend little credibility to this idea.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Rationality Quotes September 2012 · 2012-09-14T10:53:57.836Z · LW · GW

The well-ordering principle doesn't really have any effect on canonical orderings, like that induced by the traditional less-than relation on the real numbers.

This doesn't affect the truth of your claim, but I do think that DanArmak's point was quite separate from the language he chose. He might instead have worded it as having no real solution, so that any solution must be not-real.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on The raw-experience dogma: Dissolving the “qualia” problem · 2012-09-14T10:15:09.966Z · LW · GW

There are two traditional problems associated with colors. One is the sort that pseudo-philosophical douchebags take to: "Dude, what if no one really sees the same colors?" The other was very popular in the heyday of classical analytic philosophy: how can we say that Red is Not-Blue analytically if they are empirical & presumably a posteriori data?

Let's assume for the sake of getting to the real argument that consciousness arises from physical matter in a manner uncontroversial for the materialist. Granting this, why do we all see the same colors, if we do?

The short answer is that we probably don't. I don't even see with the same level of clarity that someone with 20/20 vision does, at least not without the help of my glasses, which themselves introduce a level of optical distortion not significant to my brain's processing but certainly significant in a [small] geometric sense.

A quicker way to get at the fact that we probably don't see quite the same way is to point out that dogs' eyes aren't responsive to certain colors which most human eyes can distinguish quite easily. This leads directly to the point that there is probably enough biological variation (& physical deterioration over someone's lifetime) that we don't end up with quite the same picture of the world, even though it's evidently close enough that we all get along all right.

This also leads to the strongest argument (for empirical scientists anyhow) that we do all see roughly the same thing: we've got pretty much the same sensory organs & brains to process what is roughly the same data. It seems reasonable to expect that most members of a given species should experience roughly the same picture of the world.

So much for the first problem, at least in brief & from a pragmatic point of view. The skeptical philosopher must admit that this is a silly problem to demand a decisive answer to.

As for the problem of distinguishing between colors analytically, of determining a priori the truth of empirical statements, a mathematical concept is quite helpful, particularly if we're willing to grant that colors are induced by a spectrum of wavelengths which the eye can perceive. But even if we don't grant that last fact, introducing the notion of a partition suffices to distinguish the perceived colors (or qualia) inasmuch as it also divides up the spectrum of wavelengths which induce those colors.

Note that this doesn't help us escape the fact that we require experience to learn of the various colors & the fact that they form a partition, but that isn't the crux of the problem to begin with. In the same way that we can learn what a round table is & deduce that it is a table analytically, once we become acquainted with the colors & their structure---that is, once we understand the abstract rules governing partitions---we can make analytic claims based only on that structure we understand, and not requiring any further empirical data, or really even the empirical components of the original data.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on The raw-experience dogma: Dissolving the “qualia” problem · 2012-09-14T09:50:17.747Z · LW · GW

I don't see how colors in particular are a problem for materialism any more than consciousness itself is. I certainly fail to see how it's equivalent to the problem of evil for theists of the "God is good" bent.

Could you explain in a bit more detail how the problem of evil parallels this? And I mean excruciating detail, if possible, because I really haven't a clue what you're getting at.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Math is Subjunctively Objective · 2012-09-11T21:59:20.775Z · LW · GW

This is only true to a point. In some sense, yes, the real numbers are the only complete & [canonically] totally-ordered field, up to isomorphism; but this last part is a bit of a snag for the language being used here, since the tools used to develop the real numbers in those different ways are certainly created as much as language & software are created.

You could cling to the idea that even these things are merely "discovered," but eventually you'd find yourself talking about the Platonic ideal of the wobbly, scratched up table in the neighbors' house, and how the carpenter originally discovered the Form of this particular table.

This is more a criticism of the English words for invention, creation, discovery, & the like; but then, philosophy of math that gets too far afield from actually doing logic is basically just philosophy of language.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Math is Subjunctively Objective · 2012-09-11T21:45:12.901Z · LW · GW

Why not call the set of all sets of actual objects with cardinality 3, "three", the set of all sets of physical objects with >cardinality 2, "two", and the set of all sets of physical objects with cardinality 5, "five"?

Because that's how naive class theory works, not how consistent formal mathematics works.

The closest thing to a canonical approach these days is to start from what you have, nothing, and call that the first set. Then you make sets from those sets in a very restrictive, axiomatic way. Variants get as exotic as the surreal numbers, but the running theme is to avoid defining sets by intension unless you're quantifying over a known domain.

For the record, I don't think any of these things "exist" in any meaningful sense. We can do mathematics with inconsistent systems just as well, if less usefully. The law of non-contradiction is something I don't see how to get past (ie I can't comprehend such a thing), and there is nothing much else distinguishing the consistent systems as being anything other than collections of statements to the effect that this & that follow if we grant these or those axioms. (Fortunately, it's more interesting than that at the higher levels.)

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Polyhacking · 2012-09-11T09:18:40.367Z · LW · GW

I would probably self-modify to be asexual if it wasn't for current societal norms and modes of reproduction. I >could get much more out of my limited lifespan if I didn't waste so much time with matters related to it. I'd rather >do some math, or read more books or do some research or just explore and have fun in a virtual world.

Speaking as the asexual reading/mathing/coding type, might I suggest that after the first several years, or at least if your sexuality finally started picking up again, you'd go back to relationships & realize why they're all the rage? (It's also more an orientation than a lifestyle.)

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Polyhacking · 2012-09-11T08:20:49.436Z · LW · GW

I've been making my way through this whole thread & haven't seen a few of the responses I would have made, so I'll just leave them here for posterity.

Also, I haven't tried the quote syntax yet, so we'll see if this works cleanly...

A partner stating he or she would rather not be with me than be with just me indicates that I am not particularly >significant. Not special to him or her. Replaceable, pretty easily, considering how doable it is to not live like a >swinger (the other side of poly, emotional & intellectual connection = good friends, no line-crossing necessary).

I enjoy feeling like I am more important to my partner than anyone/anything else. I am under the impression that >this is normal in humans, and that it feeds the default human tendency toward monogamy. Do you not enjoy this / >prefer this to being one-of-many?

There are a few things I would say here.

First, how does this really differ from monogamous relationships, other than in frequency? People get broken up with, neglected, and otherwise treated in bad ways in both kinds of relationships, not just the polyamorous ones.

If anything, I'd think that being dumped & seeing your ex with another partner would be far worse alone than with other people who still care. Or on the more trivial side, if my partner prefers to do something without me one night, I can't call another partner to do something if I'm monogamous, because I don't have one! (Which isn't to say that I'm not cheating, the possibility of which seems like a huge mark against monogamy, at least if we're just going to sit here & ask what could go wrong, and how badly.)

This is all to say that I feel just as replaceable & vulnerable in monogamous relationships as I do in polyamorous relationships.

But what about feeling special when you're not unique to your role (at a given time)?

I think the analogy (sometimes not an analogy at all) of friendships is better than the one about mothers loving their children that I'm seeing thrown around here. It also illustrates the point that some people do come up short. Some people are not the best friend of anyone, just as some people might not be a poly-primary for anyone, and who probably wouldn't have the easiest time finding a meaningful monogamous life partner either.

But let's assume things go well in your love life & friendships. Just because I have other friends doesn't mean I'm incapable of being exclusive best friends with just one person, or that that person can't change over time. (This is, in fact, something I have had more success in with friendships than with monogamous relationships, despite fewer social expectations to guide it.) This is where the analogy to monogamy ends, but the analogy to polyamory goes all the way down.

At times in life, I've been fortunate to have whole little groups of very close friends, each of whom I would describe as best friends & each with different or similar merits. I never thought any of them less than special to me, nor did it even occur to me that I should, since they were important in my life. (And similar to polyamory but dissimilar to monogamy, nothing kept these friendships together past their due date, which isn't to say that all of them have ended either.) I like to think that my friends got the same feeling from me, but certainly they made me feel special, lack of exclusivity & all.

I won't spell out the rest of the friend/poly analogy, since it's similar down through the other levels of closeness, but I will point out the one major thing I think it overlooks.

None of this can address the fact that monogamous people place a great deal of value on sexual exclusivity in a way that makes sex itself special. This is a fundamental difference which I think has something in common with orientation, though it seems more malleable than that. If you're poly, chances are you don't feel special because of the act of sex itself so much as the person sharing it with you. I don't mean to diminish the former, or to say that the latter isn't important to monogamous people, because it is; but I would say that there's a marked difference in emphasis, at least from my experience. (A better writer could get at this more accurately.) The point, anyhow, is that in switching to polyamory, I found that the sources of my feeling special were distinct from what they had been. Not better or worse, just different. So as far as feeling special goes, I can't say that I'm actually inspired to feel special by exclusivity, but there are other equally valid ways that I do.

And one last point not directly in reply to jmed's post. Jealousy is a common problem often brought up, and rightly so. It's destructive, powerful, involuntary, and difficult to manage, not unlike anger. I find it both interesting & odd that anger management is common, yet jealousy management is not.

With anger, there's a widespread public consciousness that it's possible (if difficult) to learn to move past it, even if that doesn't mean we're perfect at that; that there are plenty of programs & groups out there to help people do this; and that social expectations are so high in this regard that public outbursts of anger are hardly tolerated.

As for jealousy, there are small bubbles of consciousness (fortunately with a great deal of overlap with poly communities!) about similar control over one's emotions, insofar as possible, but it doesn't seem to be something many people work on, nor are they expected to do so. It is in this regard, and this only, that I view polyamory as preferable to monogamy, and not merely alternative to it. A cultural change would make it a moot point, but for now poly people seem to do a better job with it because, one, they're forced to, and two, they get more practice.

Hopefully someone reading through this thread a year from now will get to this post & think "Aha! I was just wondering why no one brought that up." Or maybe I'll be the only one who stirs up old news.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Polyhacking · 2012-09-11T06:53:03.543Z · LW · GW

I lived in a co-op for several years & found myself in the midst of a poly community (quite separately) at the same time. I would almost be surprised if people didn't treat their closest friends & lovers like their family in such interconnected communities. To say so comes naturally when you feel that way, which we did/do. It's just the family you chose, not the family you were born into.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012) · 2012-09-11T01:04:32.800Z · LW · GW

I say if you need an explicit computation with nonintegral coefficients, you shouldn't be working in that area anyway.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012) · 2012-09-11T00:57:54.198Z · LW · GW

I'm primarily interested in number theory, but I have a great deal of interest in analysis generally (more pure analytic things than anything numerical), which originally developed since it arises from set theory quite directly. I regret that I have never had direct access to a working logician.

I wouldn't say that I have a research area yet, but I expect it will be in either algebraic number theory or PDE. I guess I'm in a rather small group of people who can say that with a straight face, since they're on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Comment by Spinning_Sandwich on Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012) · 2012-09-10T23:08:03.762Z · LW · GW

Howdy, I'm a math grad student.

I discovered Less Wrong late last night when a friend linked to a post about enjoying "mere" reality, which is a position I've held for quite some time. That post led me to a couple posts about polyamory and Bayesianism, which were both quite interesting, and I say this as someone familiar with each topic.

Although I've read bits & pieces of Harry Potter & the Methods of Rationality, it wasn't until I browsed through this thread that I realized it was assembled here.

I will freely admit that I tend to be a bit skeptical of enthusiastic science fans (not a stick in the mud, but annoyed with giddy atheism run amok, say, or with the glorification of pop science; maybe it's best summarized by this comic: ), but I expect that any such cynical voices are either welcome here or are dismissed with such irony as to be amusing.

The fact that I went to the trouble to join & post should be evidence enough to say I like much of what I've seen. :)