Luke is doing an AMA on Reddit 2012-08-15T17:38:29.542Z · score: 18 (19 votes)
Merry Newtonmas LW. Have some rationalist music. 2011-12-25T15:41:42.370Z · score: 24 (27 votes)
[LINK] New experiment observes macroscopic quantum entaglement 2011-12-02T04:18:10.872Z · score: 5 (12 votes)
So You've Changed Your Mind 2011-04-28T19:42:15.164Z · score: 60 (77 votes)
META: Meetup Overload 2010-11-03T02:01:43.475Z · score: 19 (20 votes)


Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 108 · 2015-02-21T01:10:31.918Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I wanted it to be an anagram of my name, but that would only have worked if I'd conveniently been given the middle name of 'Marvolo', and then it would have been a stretch. Our actual middle name is Morfin, if you're curious.

Morfin is a Riddle family name, so we can probably rule out Eliezer choosing it for its anagrams. Nevertheless, might as well have some fun:

Tom Morfin Riddle

  • Mini from toddler
  • Firm doom tendril
  • Mind meld for riot
  • Mind for time lord
  • Dirt mod of Merlin
  • MOR died from lint
  • Mr. Flirted in Doom

What else?

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-27T00:21:32.964Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, I missed this, I think you're correct (upvoting you and maltrhin). I suppose that my interpretation is the one EY is trying to trick unobservant readers such as myself into making.

I do still think there's still some wiggle room for that interpretation though: Harry's whole outburst about Trelawney's "He's coming!" prophecy, where he said it couldn't possibly be about him because he's already arrived, would seem to indicate that EY is willing to use prophecies whose proper interpretation is not-quite-literal.

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-25T23:12:15.976Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed, but this prediction could be older than the Hallows and their creators.

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-25T17:05:46.167Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I interpreted this to mean that long ago, there were 3 Peverell brothers, each of which created one of the Hallows. Harry is descended from this family. Note that it doesn't say that "Pevererll's sons" will necessarily be the ones to use their devices to defeat Death, only that the devices are theirs.

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-25T05:00:28.524Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

There had been only one thing Remus Lupin had thought of that might help, after he'd received the owls from Professor McGonagall and that strange man Quirinus Quirrell.

Harry was morally certain that Dumbledore, or both Dumbledore and Mad-Eye Moody, were following them invisibly to see if anyone tried for the bait.

It's seems that McGonagall and Quirrell are responsible for Harry spending the day with Lupin, and that Dumbledore knows exactly what they're doing. It's not entirely clear whether McGonagall and Quirrell knew that Lupin would decide to take Harry to Godric's Hollow, but Quirrell at least could probably guess.

All three of these people knew what Harry would find on his parents' grave. I don't recall McGonagall ever encountering Harry's transhumanist ideas, but Quirrell and Dumbledore would certainly know how Harry would choose to interpret the inscription.

Which makes it look as though one or more of these people might be indirectly trying to encourage Harry's efforts to resurrect Hermione.

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 22, chapter 93 · 2013-07-07T02:29:58.722Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I believe Snape's "Sunk Costs" hangup is also alluded to in Ch 91:

"Do you intend to declare that your life is now a ruin and that there is nothing left for you but vengeance?"

"No. I still have -" The boy cut himself off.

"Then there is very little advice that I can give you," said Severus Snape.

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 21, chapters 91 & 92 · 2013-07-07T02:14:08.721Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I like this theory. But it's worth noting that Moody claimed that Voldemort could legilimens without making eye contact. EY seems pretty big on Conservation of Detail, so there's a good chance that this will turn out to be important. Of course, Conservation of Detail also weighs in favor of this eye-locking episode being important, so I suppose it could go either way.

Or both: perhaps sightless legilimency is handicap-inducing like wandless magic, so eye contact might be required to read a witch as powerful as Minerva.

Comment by spurlock on LW Women: LW Online · 2013-02-21T02:58:43.094Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah you're right. I think part of what I was wondering was whether it does make sense to group those 2 things under one heading, or just how strongly they're correlated.

Now that you mention it, I seem to recall reading on Yvain's blog that he's also hyper-sensitive to negative criticism, so there's another data point for it not being tied all that strongly to gender.

Edit: Aforementioned Yvain blogpost

Comment by spurlock on LW Women: LW Online · 2013-02-19T04:57:51.000Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, if nothing else comes out of this exchange, at least I can now relate to the OP that much better.

Comment by spurlock on LW Women: LW Online · 2013-02-18T17:22:57.701Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The important question is whether this interpretation is true.

Fair point. I think I was using this as a proxy for truth, the same way you might ask "do economists believe X?" instead of "is X true about the economy?". But also I was up late.

Why? All you've shown is that this correlation doesn't fully screen off gender.

True. It is possible that empathic ability is affected by both gender and analytical disposition directly, rather than gender by-way-of analytical disposition. Or more realistically, that empathic ability is affected by analytical-ness as well as other, orthogonal personality traits, and that these might be gender-correlated as well. This interpretation seems messy from a complexity standpoint, but such is the subject matter.

I wonder what other personality traits we'd have to account for before we could explain the gender difference. Also, there's the question of just how much of the difference is left over once we've screened off however much analytical disposition screens off. Again, I'm just hashing out confusion here, not claiming to have solutions.

Comment by spurlock on LW Women: LW Online · 2013-02-18T06:18:46.956Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Can we discuss how LW's lack-of-niceness relates to the topic of men-and-women? I feel a little confused, and this insanely long comment is my attempt to ferret out that confusion.

I expect that most people who come to LW for the first time probably find the community somewhat threatening. The karma system does make you feel like you're being judged, everyone seems extremely smart and meticulous about being right, and there's a whole lot of background knowledge to absorb before you even feel qualified to open your mouth. This is exactly what I experienced when I first came here, so I agree with the OP entirely. But I'm a male, and nothing about this seems to have anything to do with sex or gender. My response to this feeling was to read the sequences, read comments, and become knowledgeable enough (about both rationality and community norms) to participate. The OP doesn't seem to complain that the community is only cold towards women, so if there's a difference here it would seem to be at the level of how this coldness is perceived or reacted to (no, I'm not about to conclude that women are at fault for being overly sensitive).

The sort of obvious, stereotype-driven interpretation here is that women are more emotional than men, or more emotionally sensitive, and will be therefore find LW's coldness to be more off-putting than men will. I dunno if we're doing women a service or disservice by accepting this viewpoint... is it an interpretation that many feminists would approve? It seems to paint a relatively "frail and helpless, need to be protected" picture of women, which makes me think we can do better.

If we try to get more specific than just saying "emotional", Submitter B seems to be implying that women will in general need more positive feedback and "warmth" in order to feel welcome or encouraged when posting online. Or that women tend to be calibrated differently in determining what level of warmth/coldness should be interpreted as hostility. For instance, a comment that the average man would interpret as neutral, the average woman would interpret as slightly aggressive or unwelcoming. This seems at least like a less condescending interpretation than the previous one.

And shouldn't we expect self-selection effects to largely eclipse gender differences here? Reddit seems to be a predominantly male community (probably less so as time goes on and the site grows, but typical-male-bullshit still gets catapulted to the front page of the popular subs constantly). But Reddit doesn't strike me as cold at all. There's a strong sense of community identity, the comment threads are mostly just riffing off of the jokes of other commenters, and lots of warm-fuzzy "thanks for posting this!" and "you sir are a gentleman!" gets posted and upvoted all over. That last example is obviously ironic in this context, but at the same time it does demonstrate that coldness doesn't seem to be much related to maleness, which is the point I'm making

So I'm inclined to attribute LW's coldness not to it's embarrassingly male dominated demographic, but instead to some kind of apparent correlation with interest in x-rationality. To sketch another stereotype, analytical/smart/nerdy people will tend to be more cold and robotic, treating more as machines than as people, and having poor empathic skills.

It doesn't seem like a stretch to say that it will be predominantly "analytical" people who will find LW's subject matter and style of investigation interesting. So the question is how much truth there is to the stereotype that lack-of-warmth will tend to be part of the package.

I'm not sure how much to trust this stereotype. At best it's true as a rule-of-thumb with plenty of exceptions (people with great analytical minds and seemingly natural "people skills" certainly do exist). But if we run with it for a moment, doesn't it seem to screen off gender differences? That is, even if women do tend to lie further towards the "emotional" end of the emotional-analytic spectrum (again, I'm not arguing that this is even a real spectrum, just trying to hash out my confusion), this doesn't matter much because it's only the more analytical women who will give a damn about LW to begin with. The majority of men wouldn't find LW interesting for the same reason (if you think they would, I suspect you've spent too much time in this tiny corner of interest-space).

So one might naively expect that even women are more emotional than men, this difference will mostly have vanished when we shift to the groups "Men Who Like LW Stuff" and "Women Who Like LW Stuff". But apparently this isn't the case, since OP finds (and some commenters agree) that women who are on LW still tend to be more put off by the hostility. So I suppose we should conclude that the correlation between analytical-ness and empathic-shortcoming is bunk. Or possibly that the correlation between "finding LW interesting" and analytical-ness is bunk. But the Reddit example seems to show that the correlation between male-dominated-population and empathic-shortcoming is also bunk. So here I am confused how all this relates.

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 18, chapter 87 · 2012-12-25T05:23:50.139Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hat & Cloak turning out to be McGonagall would be the most mind-bending and awesome plot twist ever. Unfortunately Hat & Cloak isn't a canon character (right? I didn't read the books), so this wouldn't fit EY's hint.

Comment by spurlock on Does My Vote Matter? · 2012-11-06T03:29:19.822Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The irrational meme is the one that says it's worth voting in Erewhon but not in the real world.

This isn't totally clear to me.

Suppose we throw away the business of supporting third parties so that they'll do better next time (which we might as well since it doesn't appear to be part of the Erewhon scenario). I would argue that voting for one of the major parties has roughly the same expected utility both in America and Erewhon, but voting for third parties has a much lower EU in America than in Erewhon.

Suppose polls predict with their typical (pretty good) confidence that 3rd Party Person will get 4% of the votes, while the 1st Party Person and 2nd Party Person will get the remaining 96%. In Erewhon, there is a 4% chance that the 3rd party candidate gets elected. In America... still pretty much zero.

Of course that's just aggregate effect, the voting dilemma is about marginal effect. To make it easier to picture though, let's zoom out and talk adding not 1 more voter, but enough to give Party 3 another 1% of the populace.

In Erewhon, the odds of Party 3 winning have simply increased from 4% to 5%. In America... Party 3 is still looking at pretty much zero chance of winning. The marginal effect is negligible up until at least 20%, and that's assuming that the psychological effects mentioned in the article can be relied on to keep bumping the numbers up. So it seems that we can conclude that voting for a far-trailing 3rd party has a much greater EU in Erewhon than in America.

Please correct me if my math is wrong though, I'm only just now inventing this argument.

Comment by spurlock on Firewalling the Optimal from the Rational · 2012-10-09T20:12:54.711Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This post should really be (also) a part of the Craft and the Community sequence. The insight in conveys seems very relevant and very valuable, and I don't recall it being stated anywhere near as explicitly.

Comment by spurlock on Bayes for Schizophrenics: Reasoning in Delusional Disorders · 2012-08-13T12:37:53.708Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

but it's also impossible to convince him he's Alexander the Great (at least I think so; I don't know if it's ever been tried).

At the very least (pretending that there are no ethical concerns), it seems that you ought to be able to exaggerate a patient's delusions. "We ran some tests, and it turns out that you're Jesus, John Lennon, and George Washington!".

To this same question, I can't help but notice that the brain damage being discussed is right-side brain aka "revolutionary" brain damage. So if it turns out that it isn't possible to get a paranoid patient to switch from FBI to KGB, it might simply be a case of inability to discard hypotheses (it seems like the original delusion, the CIA, wouldn't count because for most of us "the CIA isn't following me" isn't an explicit belief). But then, I am not a neurologist or psychologist, so the pool of data I'm working with is 100% limited to that which has been written about by Yvain on LW :-)

Comment by spurlock on Game Theory As A Dark Art · 2012-07-24T20:33:04.724Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

AFAICT, this is an unfortunately strong argument... Thanks.

I see two solutions to the paradox:

1) Note that auctions are usually played by more than 2 bidders. Even if the first bidder would let you have the pot for $2, the odds that you'll be allowed to have it by everyone decrease sharply as the number of participants increases. So in a real auction (say at least 5 participants), 9% probably is overconfident.

2) If we have a small number of bidders, one would have to find statistics about the distribution of winners on these auctions (10% won by first bid, 12% won on second bid, and so on...). Of course, this strategy only works if your opponents don't know (and won't catch on) that you never bid more than once. But it should work at least for a one-shot auction where you don't publish your strategy in advance.

Out of curiosity, since you argue that joining these auctions as player #2 could very well have positive EU, would you endorse the statement "it is rational to join dollar auctions as the second bidder"? If not, why not?

Comment by spurlock on Game Theory As A Dark Art · 2012-07-24T15:42:01.566Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Is it rational (even straw-man rational) to enter the dollar auction after one person has already entered it? It should be obvious that you'll both happily keep bidding at least up to $20, that you have at best a 50% chance of getting the $20, and that even if you do get it you will almost certainly make a negligible amount of money even if the bidding stays under $20. So after one person has already bid, it seems like the action "enter this auction" has a clearly negative expected utility.

Comment by spurlock on Reply to Holden on The Singularity Institute · 2012-07-13T06:14:40.239Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Just for the sake of feedback, that photo immediately made me laugh. It just seemed so obviously staged. I agree that it's better than "hunched over laptops" though.

Comment by spurlock on When None Dare Urge Restraint, pt. 2 · 2012-05-31T16:09:22.378Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I'm reminded of how people tried to call the 9/11 victims "heroes," apparently because they had the great courage to work in buildings that were targeted in a terrorist attack.

Let's be fair: Almost no one actually said this. It's a large nation and you can generally find at least one example of just about any dumb statement, but this seems like 99% strawman.

I remember a lot of talk about how the rescue workers were heroes, and some discussion about the heroics of specific attack victims (people who e.g. tried to help others escape the building), but labeling the victims as "heroes", while certainly something one could have gotten away with, I don't recall at all.

A quick and dirty google search for "9/11 victims were heroes" without quotes returns a page full of results referring to 'victims' and 'heroes' as separate groups. If you add the quotes you mostly just get people attacking the sentiment, rather than the sentiment itself.

Comment by spurlock on To like each other, sing and dance in synchrony · 2012-04-23T20:27:30.864Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It is.

The tune was what a Muggle would have identified as John Williams's Imperial March, also known as "Darth Vader's Theme"

Chapter 30

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 15, chapter 84 · 2012-04-12T14:10:04.427Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I guess it's just an empirical question where we differ in predictions. Personally I don't think the analogy with public speaking is very strong, because public speaking classes are actually public speaking. People stand up and speak in front of lots of people, that's just what it is.

Upon reflection though, it does seem like there's one way that it might help, which is that it might help you figure out how to go about non-conformity, what exactly you can do or say in such a situation. So even if your mind doesn't buy into the charade, roleplaying with good partners might help you figure out ways to navigate a non-conformity situation. Having those methods worked out in advance might make you less hesitant to speak out in real world situations, but only to the extent that your hesitation is about not knowing what exactly to say or do (as opposed to fear of social punishment, the usual explanation for Asch's results).

What I've always wondered about with Asch's experiment is how much of a difference a small monetary incentive (say, $1 per correct answer) would make. It seems like the experiment is odd in that there is no incentive to give correct answers, but at least a potential or perceived social incentive to give conforming ones. This seems like it would be relevant to our disagreement because it's a question of whether the situation becomes different when something is actually on the line. Unfortunately I can't seem to google up any examples of variations like this.

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 15, chapter 84 · 2012-04-11T17:23:08.261Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know if rehearsals would do any good

Really, this is how I feel. I'd be really surprised if a setup like that actually worked. I'm not sure Harry is supposed to actually believe (with any confidence) that it works for Chaos. Ultimately you know and everyone else knows that it's just a charade, and that really your "nonconforming" is just conforming one level below surface: You stand there and take abuse that you know to be insincere, and then get a pat on the back about it later, just like everyone else did on their turn.

Hopefully CMR has a better exercise in mind. A really good anti-Asch training tool seems like a great thing to have.

You could mock obviously true statements to practice withstanding opposition.

The danger with this seems to be that you'll also be developing skills for attacking correct positions. It's training you to develop tactics for entrenching yourself in incorrect beliefs. Also it seems to lend itself to the view of arguments as status conflicts rather than group truth-investigation (though I suppose we do need to at least practice how to handle arguments with people who do perceive them this way).

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 14, chapter 82 · 2012-04-07T20:53:00.346Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think Dumbledore would risk leaving her as a loose end, what I suspect is that he really did kill her, but only appeared to burn her alive.

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 14, chapter 82 · 2012-04-07T18:12:28.750Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

I'd like to predict that whatever actually happened with Dumbledore and Narcissa, it will turn out to have been foreshadowed by whatever happened in Chapter 17 between Dumbledore and the chicken.

That is, I can't actually figure out whether he seriously burned a chicken alive, made it look like he burned a chicken alive, or that actually is what a Phoenix looks like right before regenerating. But he appeared to set fire to a chicken, and I predict that he used essentially the same move on Narcissa, as suggested by the law of conservation of detail.

I don't think its possible that he just whisked her away with Phoenix-travel, as this apparently doesn't actually look anything like someone burning alive, viewed from the outside. But whatever he did with the chicken at least looked enough like burning to fool Harry:

The chicken's beak opened, but it didn't have time for so much as a single caw before it began to wither and char. The blaze was brief, intense, and entirely self-contained; there was no smell of burning.

Comment by spurlock on SotW: Be Specific · 2012-04-04T03:09:21.763Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think this a good restriction. Consider the fact that Hanlon's Razor is even a thing:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

This suggests that people often mistake stupidity for malice. So given that in these examples, your opponent probably does secretly understand what you're communicating (most of us know deep down how to sharpen a pencil), it might be necessary to have malice/creativity play the part of inferential distance. Otherwise you may learn to anticipate an unrealistically rational audience, one which never comes in with incorrect preconceived ideas, or lacks the necessary technical vocabulary, or seems to practice selective hearing, etc.

In short, original seeing is the exception, not the rule, so the opponent should be at least slightly hostile in his/her interpretations to account for this.

Comment by spurlock on Rationality Quotes April 2012 · 2012-04-02T17:07:46.264Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that the data doesn't really distinguish this explanation from the effect John Maxwell described, mainly I just linked it because the circumstances seemed reminiscent and I thought he might find it interesting. Its worth noting though that these aren't competing explanations: your interpretation focuses on explaining the success of the "effort" group, and the other focuses on the failure of the "intelligence" group.

To help decide which hypothesis accounts for most of the difference, there should really have been a control group that was just told "well done" or something. Whichever group diverged the most from the control, that group would be the one where the choice of praise had the greatest effect.

Comment by spurlock on Rationality Quotes April 2012 · 2012-04-02T15:32:25.954Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting article about a study on this effect:

Dweck’s researchers then gave all the fifth-graders a final round of tests that were engineered to be as easy as the first round. Those who had been praised for their effort significantly improved on their first score—by about 30 percent. Those who’d been told they were smart did worse than they had at the very beginning—by about 20 percent.

Dweck had suspected that praise could backfire, but even she was surprised by the magnitude of the effect. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”

Comment by spurlock on April Fools - Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality Joke Chapter · 2012-04-02T06:06:47.927Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In all seriousness though, should we take this

The Defense Professor - Hat-and-Cloak, Quirrell, Voldemort - raised his wand

As Word of God that Quirrell is H&C? Or just a trick within a trick?

Comment by spurlock on Rationality Quotes April 2012 · 2012-04-02T04:45:14.175Z · score: 21 (27 votes) · LW · GW

"Muad’Dib learned rapidly because his first training was in how to learn. And the first lesson of all was the basic trust that he could learn. It is shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult. Muad‘Dib knew that every experience carries its lesson"

Frank Herbert, Dune

Comment by spurlock on Rationality Quotes April 2012 · 2012-04-02T04:44:28.707Z · score: 14 (22 votes) · LW · GW

“The mind commands the body and it obeys. The mind orders itself and meets resistance. ”

-St Augustine of Hippo

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 13, chapter 81 · 2012-03-30T12:43:27.625Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Mostly good points, but one issue:

Directly eliminated a Light-side witch showing skill at military command and Battle Magic

If Quirrel were worried about this, he could have just not put all the effort into teaching her military command and battle magic (at a level so far beyond what is expected of his position). If light-side heroes like Hermione are something he's worried about, best to just not go around creating them.

Comment by spurlock on New front page · 2012-03-30T04:27:48.211Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

In addition to this, the article "a" should appear either in each brain region, or in the "LW is a..." bit. Currently it appears both in the intro bit and some of the brain regions, which confuses the both the grammar nazi and consistency police in me.

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 13, chapter 81 · 2012-03-28T04:50:24.926Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

+100. Prudence is really more of a Slytherin virtue.

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 13, chapter 81 · 2012-03-28T03:51:04.084Z · score: 22 (22 votes) · LW · GW

If you're Lucius at this point, how the hell do you now update your "Harry is Voldie" hypothesis?

On the one one hand, he just paid 100K galleons to save a mud blood girl. On the other hand, he spooked a dementor. On the other other hand, while that feat may be impressive, it's certainly not anything the Dark Lord had been known to do previously. And is he consprasizing with Dumbledore, or against him?

Probably a very confusing time to be the Lord of Malfoy.

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 13, chapter 81 · 2012-03-28T03:37:20.330Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think Harry's dark side is supposed to be limited to dark solutions, it just happens to be an ultra proficient problem solver. It may have dark tendencies by virtue of being an embedded copy of the mind of Voldemort, but there's no obvious reason it can't be used for good.

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 11 · 2012-03-23T14:55:23.813Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Something about the last paragraph

his eyes looked at the rows of chairs, at every person and every thing within range of his vision, searching for any opportunity it could grasp

Makes me afraid he'll end up stabbing Lucius with the bones of a Hufflepuff.

Comment by spurlock on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 11 · 2012-03-18T06:56:13.888Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Meta: everyone seems to have started using the term "Groundhog's Day Attack" to describe what H&C did to Hermione. While I understand what happened in the story, I've never heard this term before, can't find any relevant looking results by googling, and don't see what the connection could be between brute forcing someone's mind and using a small furry animal to predict the changing of the seasons. Can someone please point me in the right direction here?

Comment by spurlock on I Was Not Almost Wrong But I Was Almost Right: Close-Call Counterfactuals and Bias · 2012-03-06T13:24:22.130Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Liked it, but thought there was a bit too much of it (e.g. the blue-minimizing robot reference). Might be better to leave out details that don't help you illustrate your point, lest the reader get a sense that your example isn't going anywhere.

Comment by spurlock on Eliezer Yudkowsky Facts · 2012-02-27T16:50:51.150Z · score: 38 (36 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer Yudkowsky two-boxes on the Monty Hall problem.

Comment by spurlock on The Substitution Principle · 2012-01-30T18:02:26.343Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The Conjunction Fallacy: ”What's the probability that Linda is a feminist” becomes ”how representative is Linda of my conception of feminists”.

I think this is more precisely an example of the Represenativeness Heuristic, though the point about substitution still stands.

Comment by spurlock on Urges vs. Goals: The analogy to anticipation and belief · 2012-01-25T20:04:15.134Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I can't deny feeling a wave of "Uh oh" when you mention the similarity to Freud... but let's keep in mind "The world's greatest fool may say the Sun is shining..." etc. The idea that there is a difference between our conscious and unconscious selves is hardly a novel observation on this site (Type 1 vs. Type 2 reasoning, the whole nature of cognitive biases, etc.), and the same is true of the difference between our actual current selves and our aspirations/goals ("I want to become stronger"). It does seem like a realistic and useful trichotomy, Freud or no Freud.

And if we need additional levels to describe ourselves more accurately, I certainly have no problem including them as they become necessary :-)

Edit: For anyone who may be interested, I believe the prior discussion roystngr is referring to is also Yvain.

Comment by spurlock on Urges vs. Goals: The analogy to anticipation and belief · 2012-01-25T16:51:56.621Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW
  • Anticipations, what we actually expect to see happen;
  • Professed beliefs, the set of things we tell ourselves we “believe”, based partly on deliberate/verbal thought.

This distinction helps explain how an atheistic rationalist can still get spooked in a haunted house;

I apologize if this seems nitpicky, but the implication seems to be that in Yvain's post he is merely "professing" to not believe in ghosts, but "anticipating" that they exist. I believe the actual point of the post was that Yvain both professes and anticipates the nonexistence of ghosts (hence his willingness to place a bet with the bookie as he flees the mansion), he simply hasn't internalized this anticipation/belief on a gut-level.

Porting this back to Urges vs. Goals, perhaps the analogy shouldn't be "Urges : Anticipations", but instead "Urges : Gut-level Internalizations".

Comment by spurlock on Occam alternatives · 2012-01-25T13:07:21.411Z · score: 21 (21 votes) · LW · GW

The most notable problem with Pascal's Goldpan is that when you calculate the utility of believing a particular hypothesis, you'll find that there is a term in that equation for "is this hypothesis actually true?"

That is, suppose you are considering whether or not to believe that you can fly by leaping off a cliff and flapping your arms. What is the expected utility of holding this belief?

Well, if the belief is correct, there's a large utility to be gained: you can fly, and you're a scientific marvel. But if it's false, you may experience a tremendous disutility in the form of a gruesome death.

The point is that deciding you're just going to believe whatever is most useful doesn't even solve the problem of deciding what to believe. You still need a way of evaluating what is true. It may be that there are situations where one can expect a higher utility for believing something falsely, but as EY has touched on before, if you know you believe falsely, then you don't actually believe. Human psychology does seem to contain an element of Pascal's Goldpan, but that doesn't make it rational (at least not in the sense of "optimal"; it does seem to imply that at some point in our evolution such a system tended to win in some sense).

At present the best we can do seems to be keeping our truth-determining and our utility-maximizing systems mostly separate (though there may be room for improvement on this), and Occam's Razor is one of our tried-and-true principles for the truth-determining part.

Comment by spurlock on [Meta] No LessWrong Blackout? · 2012-01-18T21:53:39.328Z · score: 25 (29 votes) · LW · GW

I applaud the sites that have blacked out and/or put up anti-SOPA messages. SOPA and PIPA are bad news, and the word needs to be spread.

That said, there are 2 very important differences between those actions and the hypothetical LW blackout:

1) The sites that are blacking out are by and large sites that could be directly and severely hurt by the legislation. This is why I consider it okay for Wikipedia to black out about SOPA, but would be furious if the site were to black out because the editors didn't like some piece of immigration reform. They're not simply choosing to use their status as a soapbox, they actually must defeat these bills if they wish to continue existing.

2) The community driven sites that blacked out (including Reddit and Wikipedia) did so only after a serious discussion with their userbase. LW falls into this category, but no such discussion has taken place. Community site = community decision.

So IMO, a LW blackout would be an arbitrary political stance on a non-particularly-related issue, and a total snub to the community since we weren't consulted about it. I wouldn't be too pissed, since SOPA really does need to be stopped, but I would definitely consider it tacky.

Comment by spurlock on The problem with too many rational memes · 2012-01-18T16:21:47.145Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure what you mean here... the church example doesn't seem to be 'related to my personal history' except for the fact that I'm there when it's happening. I never been religious or attended church regularly (though there were a couple of hilariously baffling Sunday school sessions a babysitter once took me too...), so I don't mean to imply that I feel this way because I used to actually be in their shoes, the way e.g. Luke did.

I've had similar feelings in some liberal arts classes: someone would speak, I would perceive their opinion to be either egregiously wrong or vacuous dribble, but I couldn't do anything but groan because of the sort of warm-fuzzy-sharing-non-judgemental atmosphere.

At this point I feel like I'm coming off as an angry, pretentious grouch, so I'd like to add that I never feel this way outside of these very unusual situations, and in general consider myself to be a friendly person who is plenty capable of polite discussion :-)

If your question was just whether I feel this way about settings I haven't personally experienced, I guess the answer is only distantly. I've never, for example, been in a cult, and the strength of my frustration at the idea is limited by my inability and disinclination to imagine it concretely.

If neither of those answers your question, my apologies. I'll be happy to retry if you can clarify.

Comment by spurlock on The problem with too many rational memes · 2012-01-18T05:19:45.910Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I have a similar experience whenever I find myself in a church nowadays (happens sometimes for social reasons), and I can say confidently that it's steadily intensified as I've delved into rationality. As best as I can tell, what really makes me furious isn't the speaking end, but the receiving.

It's some combination of the social setting, the groupthink, and (what I imagine to be) the mentality of the individuals nodding along. When I sort of "put myself in their shoes", it's as though I can feel the biases and motivated cognition and self-deceptive signaling behavior and strawmen arguments and rehearsed evidence by which these people convince themselves of their beliefs (in both the "belief" and "belief in belief" sense), and that is what makes me furious. If I could, even in principle, stand up and cry out in frustration at what nonsense the minister is preaching, and reasonably expect people to notice it was nonsense once it was pointed out, I'd be fine. What I find intolerable is the self-crippling psychological defenses in the audience: you can't help them, because they don't want to be helped, and have gone far, far out of their way to remain beyond the reach of reality.

Unless I'm modeling them very incorrectly. But what little conversation on the subject I've had/heard with them doesn't suggest this is the case.

Anyway, this just resonated with me because of the culture of non-criticism you mentioned Charlie cultivating. It has the same memetic defense structure: we should stand up and cry out against it, but in doing so we only guarantee that we will be shut out or dismissed. It's a very frustrating situation, and perhaps that was a part of what you experienced as well.

Comment by spurlock on The Value (and Danger) of Ritual · 2011-12-30T18:23:29.898Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Less Wrong already has an array of powerful, interesting ideas to support songs and stories

Funny you should mention that.

Comment by spurlock on Merry Newtonmas LW. Have some rationalist music. · 2011-12-28T17:41:24.628Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW


The band name is a result of imagining Doctor Phil turning into a Squid, but deciding to keep his show.

Comment by spurlock on [LINK] New experiment observes macroscopic quantum entaglement · 2011-12-02T05:56:26.610Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for that link. The one I submitted is definitely not perfect, in particular it strongly implies a violation of the No Comminication Theorem.

Comment by spurlock on Living Metaphorically · 2011-11-28T17:42:44.924Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think of Zeno's paradoxes as trying to appeal to the essence of dissolved questions. Sort of like, having decomposed "does the tree make a sound?" into "does it produce vibrations" versus "does it cause auditory experiences", somebody comes along and says "but does it make a SOUND???", emphasizing the word "sound" to appeal to your intuitions and make you feel (incorrectly) that something in reality has yet to be resolved. Here, "motion" plays the part of "sound", after a faulty reduction of "motion" into "series of still-frames".

But if I were to be that guy who comes along and says "sound" until you feel uncomfortable again, I would say "What's to say your arrow doesn't just teleport from one frame to the next, rather than 'move'? Can't your 'change from one frame to the next' also be broken down into a series of frames?"

I wouldn't lose any sleep over it, since you're obviously right and anyone who denies motion is obviously wrong, but that's at least where certain hapless philosophers are coming from.