Posts

The dark arts: Examples from the Harris-Adams conversation 2017-07-20T23:42:03.562Z · score: 17 (16 votes)
The Semiotic Fallacy 2017-02-21T04:50:07.469Z · score: 19 (20 votes)
A great articulation of why people find it hard to adopt a naturalistic worldview 2017-01-31T21:08:25.166Z · score: 1 (2 votes)
The Maze of Moral Relativism 2017-01-27T19:29:56.813Z · score: 2 (3 votes)
Triple or nothing paradox 2017-01-05T21:10:44.132Z · score: 1 (2 votes)
What steep learning curve do you wish you'd climbed sooner? 2014-09-04T00:03:33.664Z · score: 13 (14 votes)
Regret, Hindsight Bias and First-Person Experience 2014-04-20T02:10:56.128Z · score: 8 (11 votes)
A capabilities approach to personal development 2014-03-21T11:03:18.683Z · score: 10 (13 votes)
Shoulds can be changed to Cans 2014-03-15T09:05:18.916Z · score: 4 (22 votes)
Beware Trivial Fears 2014-02-04T05:40:25.958Z · score: 37 (42 votes)
Physics grad student: how to build employability in programming & finance 2014-01-08T19:36:39.463Z · score: 8 (11 votes)
[LINK] Up Vs Down is the new Left vs Right 2013-12-23T15:33:00.840Z · score: -2 (16 votes)
[LINK] A Turing test for free will 2013-10-14T06:41:42.449Z · score: 3 (6 votes)
Why aren't there more forum-blogs like LW? 2013-09-27T07:28:09.092Z · score: 11 (18 votes)
Dealing with Administrative Stress 2013-07-01T04:40:08.242Z · score: 17 (22 votes)
Grad Student Advice Repository 2013-04-14T09:28:39.349Z · score: 10 (11 votes)
Is suicide high-status? 2013-02-12T09:41:19.788Z · score: 9 (45 votes)
Michael Vassar's Edge contribution: summary 2013-01-19T03:44:01.123Z · score: 15 (18 votes)
Heuristic: How does it sound in a movie? 2012-10-28T01:30:55.252Z · score: 9 (12 votes)
What are the boundaries? 2012-07-26T08:15:00.618Z · score: 0 (17 votes)
Not all signalling/status behaviors are bad 2012-03-25T10:06:39.795Z · score: 6 (10 votes)
Epistemic security: example from experimental physics 2012-02-17T00:48:29.934Z · score: 3 (8 votes)
Politicians' family as signalling 2012-01-21T09:31:49.034Z · score: 11 (15 votes)

Comments

Comment by stabilizer on The dark arts: Examples from the Harris-Adams conversation · 2017-07-25T21:43:47.230Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You're right: it was probably wrong of me to ask people to only find errors in his reasoning. It is indeed an invitation to fall under the spell of confirmation bias. It would've been better to also ask people to find places where he makes good arguments.

Where I disagree with you is the claim that attacking someone's epistemological method is necessarily the same as attacking the positions they hold. (Though, I agree with you that it might be interpreted that way.) In a different comment, I try to make it clear that my goal was not necessarily to attack particular positions that Adams holds (though I disagree with him on many positions), but to point out the methods that he uses that might be persuasive to some folks, but ought not to be persuasive, because these methods are not truth-seeking.

Adams uses several techniques (listed in the post) that could be used to argue for any position—even one that I wholeheartedly agree with. I suspect that in such a case I might not be quite so enthusiastic to point out the flaws in the reasoning. But as someone trying to be more truth-seeking, I ought to be sensitive to bad argumentation in those cases as well.

Comment by stabilizer on Can anyone refute these arguments that we live on the interior of a hollow Earth? · 2017-07-24T18:41:41.440Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Stars become invisible at high altitudes because the Earth becomes very bright compared to the stars. This happens because when you are higher up, you see more of the sunlight reflected by the Earth. This happens because at higher altitudes more of the Earth is visible to you. Thus, your eyes or your cameras cannot distinguish the relatively dim light of the stars. The sky still appears black because there is no atmosphere to make the light scatter and give you feeling of being light outside that you experience on the surface of the Earth. You can see the stars if you are on the night side, you have good cameras, and you set the focal point to the sky.

I'll get to the equinox thing later.

Comment by stabilizer on Can anyone refute these arguments that we live on the interior of a hollow Earth? · 2017-07-24T18:20:32.227Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks. You're right. I mis-interpreted their experiment as written. I'll try to read it again to see what's going on and see if it's explicable.

Comment by stabilizer on Can anyone refute these arguments that we live on the interior of a hollow Earth? · 2017-07-24T03:56:09.614Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sure. His arguments look pretty easy to refute using some basic physics and some Google searches. Let me know if you find any other argument of his that you find particularly compelling and I'll take a crack at it.

Comment by stabilizer on How long has civilisation been going? · 2017-07-22T17:21:59.482Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You might want to correct: "And we forget so easily that 50 lifetimes ago we were nothing."

Comment by stabilizer on How long has civilisation been going? · 2017-07-22T07:42:05.491Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Umm... 12000/25 is 480. Not 48. All the other numbers in the discrete human lifetimes section should be multiplied by ten. Not as impressive as you might've thought. Still, kinda impressive I suppose.

Comment by stabilizer on Can anyone refute these arguments that we live on the interior of a hollow Earth? · 2017-07-22T05:04:03.912Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have time to refute each of arguments, because there're too many. But consider number 5 in your list. He describes a laser experiment that he claims cannot be accounted for on the current picture of the Earth. But if you think it through, it is perfectly well accounted for.

Here's the version of the experiment performed by the two Polish guys on a lake. They place two stakes 2km apart. The stakes have lasers attached to them at 30 cm height from the surface of the water. They measure the height above the surface of the point at which the laser beams meet and find it to be 39-40cm above the surface of the water.

Wild Heretic claims, on the basis of this diagram, that on the convex Earth theory (i.e., the widely accepted theory) one should expect the height from the water at the point where the lasers meet to be smaller that the height at which the lasers are mounted. But Wild Heretic's diagram misrepresents the state of affairs. Here is a better representation I drew and associated calculations that I did, which show that the convex Earth theory correctly predicts that the laser beams would meet approximately 38cm above the surface, which is very close to the observed 39-40cm.

EDIT: As dogiv points out below, I mis-interpreted the experiment. So the argument above is not a refutation of the experiment as described.

Comment by stabilizer on The dark arts: Examples from the Harris-Adams conversation · 2017-07-21T19:55:12.822Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A general point: I fear Adams attributes positions and beliefs and intentions to Trump which, from Trump's actions and public statements, are not justifiably attributable to Trump.

Comment by stabilizer on The dark arts: Examples from the Harris-Adams conversation · 2017-07-21T19:43:53.660Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't necessarily disagree with all Dark Arts practitioners. By a Dark Arts practitioner, I just mean someone who uses rhetorical techniques to win debate points, without particular regard for the truth. What they're defending may or may not be true.

In the case of Scott Adams, in my view, most of what he is defending is false. But that's a different debate. In this post, I just wanted to highlight the techniques he uses. I try not take a particular position with respect to his claims; I probably don't succeed.

I'm neither a moral relativist nor an epistemological relativist. I suspect you probably reject epistemological relativism—i.e., you probably believe there are statements (e.g., 2+2=4) that are unambiguously true or false.

Not being a moral relativist does not mean I believe there is a giant stone block with the One True Morality on it. Indeed, the existence of such a stone block is a poor account of the nature of morality for the reasons highlighted by Socrates in the Euthyphro. The nature of morality is a contentious issue, and I won't pretend to be an expert. But having heard several arguments, I think moral relativism is untenable, mainly because it's an unlivable thesis. Sometimes you just need to say something is straightforwardly wrong: e.g., if you torture an innocent person for hours to alleviate your boredom. Here is an argument I'm convinced by.

Comment by stabilizer on Sam Harris and Scott Adams debate Trump: a model rationalist disagreement · 2017-07-20T23:55:11.478Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wanted to comment here, but the comment became so long that I decided to make it a separate article.

Comment by stabilizer on The Semiotic Fallacy · 2017-02-21T23:53:56.149Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If they appeal to unforeseen connections in the future, then at least one could plausibly reason consequentially for or against it. E.g., you could ask whether the results they discover will remain undiscovered if they don't discover it? Or you could try to calculate what the probability is that a given paper has deep connections down the road by looking at the historical record; calculate the value of these connections; and then ask if the expected utility is really significantly increased by funding more work?

A semiotic-type fallacy occurs when they simply say that we do mathematics because it symbolizes human actualization.

(Sometimes they might say they do mathematics because it is intrinsically worthwhile. That is true. But then the relevant question is whether it is worth funding using public money.)

Comment by stabilizer on The Semiotic Fallacy · 2017-02-21T07:47:21.365Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You're right. Making the decision to put down the rebellion might indeed be the right one. My goal is not to say what the correct decision is, but instead to point out that making the decision purely on the semiotics of the situation is fallacious.

In other words, it is at least plausible that the cost of putting down the rebellion is more than the benefit of increased respect in international diplomacy. The right way to make the judgement is to weigh these costs against the benefits. But often, people and institutions and countries make decisions based purely on the symbolic meaning of their actions without explicitly accounting for whether these symbolic acts have consequential backing.

Comment by stabilizer on The Maze of Moral Relativism · 2017-02-11T19:59:18.786Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that any disagreement might come down to what we mean by moral claims.

I don't know Boghossian's own particular commitments, but baseline moral realism is a fairly weak claim without any metaphysics of where these facts come from. I quote from the Stanford Encyclopedia:

Moral realism is not a particular substantive moral view nor does it carry a distinctive metaphysical commitment over and above the commitment that comes with thinking moral claims can be true or false and some are true.

A simple interpretation that I can think of: when you say that you prefer that people do X, typically, you also prefer that other people prefer that people do X. This, you could take as sufficient to say "People ought to do X". (This has the flavor the Kantian categorical imperative. Essentially, I'm proposing a sufficient condition for something to be a moral claim, namely, that it be desired to be universalized. But I don't want to claim that this a necessary condition.)

At any rate, whether the above definition stands or falls, you can see that it doesn't have any metaphysical commitment to some free-floating, human-independent (to be be distinguished from mind-independent) facts embedded in the fabric of the universe. Hopefully, there are other ways of parsing moral claims in such ways so that the metaphysics isn't too demanding.

Comment by stabilizer on The Maze of Moral Relativism · 2017-02-10T18:01:51.627Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Right. Unfortunately, we don't really have any other means of obtaining moral knowledge other than via argument, intuition, and experience. Perhaps your point is that we should emphasize intuition less and argument+experience more.

Comment by stabilizer on The Maze of Moral Relativism · 2017-02-08T00:20:03.242Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, I don't know if you and Boghossian really disagree here. I think Boghossian is trying to argue that your normative preferences arise from your opinions about what the moral facts are. So I think he'd say:

IEPB: "People ought to do X" is your preference because you are assuming "People ought to do X" is a moral fact. It's a different issue whether your assumption is true or false, or justified or unjustified, but the assumption is being made nevertheless.

For example, when you exhort IEPB to not make mediocre philosophy arguments, and say that that's your preference, it's because you are assuming that the claim, "philosophy professors ought not to make mediocre philosophy arguments", is in fact, true.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes January - March 2017 · 2017-02-06T19:55:25.513Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

True listening requires giving up the prerogative of your own mental model. You have to allow them to set the rules of engagement, no matter how bizarre, so that they let their guard down and realize you are not a threat, because you have no intention of blaming them for anything. The way they set these rules will reveal their assumptions and constraints, which thoughts and actions are open to them. If you can tell an authentic story that speaks to these assumptions, you can break through, because stories speak to emotions expressed in the body, which fortunately refuses to go along with even our most well-reasoned rationalizations.

The price of such effective action is we have to be willing to give up the petty payoffs we cherish in our arguments with each other: not only the blaming but the cynicism, the martyrdom, the self-righteous indignation, the outrage, the winning, the making others lose, the being right, the making others wrong.

And after all that, you may still fail to convince them to your point of view. Are you willing to not win in order to keep the conversation going?

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes January - March 2017 · 2017-02-04T22:01:09.918Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The intuitive standard for rational decision-making is carefully considering all available options and taking the best one. At first glance, computers look like the paragons of this approach, grinding their way through complex computations for as long as it takes to get perfect answers. But as we've seen, that is an outdated picture of what computers do: it's a luxury afforded by an easy problem. In the hard cases, the best algorithms are all about doing what makes the most sense in the least amount of time, which by no means involves giving careful consideration to every factor and pursuing every computation to the end. Life is just too complicated for that.

In almost every domain we've considered, we have seen how the more real-world factors we include—whether it's having incomplete information when interviewing job applicants, dealing with a changing world when trying to resolve the explore/exploit dilemma, or having certain tasks depend on others when we're trying to get things done—the more likely we are to end up in a situation where finding the perfect solution takes unreasonably long. And indeed, people are almost always confronting what computer science regards as the hard cases. Up against such hard cases, effective algorithms make assumptions, show a bias toward simpler solutions, trade off the costs of error against the costs of delay, and take chances.

These aren't the concessions we make when we can't be rational. They're what being rational means.

  • Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths, Algorithms to Live By
Comment by stabilizer on Why is the surprisingly popular answer correct? · 2017-02-03T20:42:48.506Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If the question, "Which interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct?" is posed to physicists, my guess is that the surprisingly popular opinion would be: the Everett interpretation, which in my opinion – and I consider myself a mild expert in the foundations of QM – is the correct one.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes January - March 2017 · 2017-02-03T04:09:33.263Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In the United States, constructivist views of knowledge are closely linked to such progressive movements as post-colonialism and multiculturalism because they supply the philosophical resources with which to protect oppressed cultures from the charge of holding false or unjustified views.

Even on purely political grounds, however, it is difficult to understand how this could have come to seem a good application of constructivist thought: for if the powerful can’t criticize the oppressed, because the central epistemological categories are inexorably tied to particular perspectives, it also follows that the oppressed can’t criticize the powerful.

Comment by stabilizer on A great articulation of why people find it hard to adopt a naturalistic worldview · 2017-02-01T02:02:46.967Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Just to be clear: In the section you refer to, he is only pointing out that there is a tension between physics's view of time and the intuitive, everyday view of time. He summarizes the view of some continental philosophers who say that this tension means physical laws are wrong. He never claims that he, personally, believes that therefore physical laws are wrong.

Indeed, he notes that physicists have always countered that they can explain, using their theories, why we have the intuitions that we have about time. And actually, David Albert is just such a physicist (turned philosopher). He's spent a large chunk of his career trying to explain how intuitive conceptions of time can be obtained from fundamental physics's conception of time.

Comment by stabilizer on The Maze of Moral Relativism · 2017-01-31T21:14:57.083Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think you and the article's author really have a disagreement here. Notice that the author is not trying to tell you what the correct moral facts are. He'd be happy to accept that many proposed moral facts are actually false. He is simply trying to show that whenever we make moral judgements, we are implicitly assuming the existence of some moral facts – erroneous though they might be.

Comment by stabilizer on The Maze of Moral Relativism · 2017-01-31T19:30:32.434Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Your view is consistent with the article's. The assumption that one ought to improve the well-being of humans would be a moral fact. The fact that emotional system 1 acquired noisy and approximate knowledge of moral facts would simply mean that evolution can acquire knowledge of moral facts. This is unproblematic: compare, for example, how evolutionarily evolved humans can obtain knowledge of mathematical facts.

For more on this, I recommend this Stanford Encyclopedia article; especially Section 4.

Comment by stabilizer on Triple or nothing paradox · 2017-01-13T21:22:06.308Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for this clear and useful answer!

Comment by stabilizer on Triple or nothing paradox · 2017-01-05T21:31:44.628Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! It looks very related, and is perhaps exactly the same. I hadn't heard about it till now. The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy has a good article on this with different possible resolutions.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes October 2014 · 2014-10-08T07:43:34.060Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. Good examples: Hegel --> Marx --> Soviet Union/China. Hegel --> Husserl --> Heidegger <---> Nazism.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes October 2014 · 2014-10-03T22:24:12.604Z · score: 21 (25 votes) · LW · GW

The version of Windows following 8.1 will be Windows 10, not Windows 9. Apparently this is because Microsoft knows that a lot of software naively looks at the first digit of the version number, concluding that it must be Windows 95 or Windows 98 if it starts with 9.

Many think this is stupid. They say that Microsoft should call the next version Windows 9, and if somebody’s dumb code breaks, it’s their own fault.

People who think that way aren’t billionaires. Microsoft got where it is, in part, because they have enough business savvy to take responsibility for problems that are not their fault but that would be perceived as being their fault.

-John D. Cook

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes October 2014 · 2014-10-03T21:57:45.630Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think he's implicitly restricting himself to philosophy. A "grand mistake" in philosophy has little ill effects.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes October 2014 · 2014-10-03T19:48:47.932Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The chief trick to making good mistakes is not hide them -- especially not from yourself. Instead of turning away in denial when you make a mistake, you should become a connoisseur of your own mistakes, turning them over in your mind as if they were works of art, which in a way they are. The fundamental reaction to any mistake ought to be this: "Well, I won't do that again!" Natural selection doesn't actually think this thought; it just wipes out the goofers before they can reproduce; natural selection won't do that again, at least not as often. Animals that can learn -- learn not to make that noise, touch that wire, eat that food -- have something with a similar selective force in their brains. We human beings carry matters to a much more swift and efficient level. We can actually think that thought, reflecting on what we have just done: "Well, I won't do that again!" And when we reflect, we confront directly the problem that must be solved by any mistake-maker: what, exactly, is that? What was it about what I just did that got me into all this trouble? The trick is to take advantage of the particular details of the mess you've made, so that your next attempt will be informed by it and not just another blind stab in the dark.... The natural human reaction to making a mistake is embarrassment and anger (we are never angrier than when are angry at ourselves), and you to work hard to overcome these emotional reactions. Try to acquire the weird practice of savoring your mistakes, delighting in uncovering the strange quirks that led you astray. Then once you have sucked out all the goodness to be gained from having made them, you can cheerfully set them behind you, and go on to the next big opportunity. But that this not enough; you should actively seek out opportunities to make grand mistakes; just so you can recover from them.

-Daniel Dennett, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking

Comment by stabilizer on [Link] Forty Days · 2014-09-29T21:33:57.133Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I wish I could give you another upvote for introducing me to the concept of déformation professionnelle.

Comment by stabilizer on The Future of Humanity Institute could make use of your money · 2014-09-23T20:30:02.835Z · score: 24 (26 votes) · LW · GW

$30 donated. It may become quasi-regular, monthly.

Thanks for letting us know. I wanted to donate to x-risk, but I didn't really want to give to MIRI (even though I like their goals and the people) because I worry that MIRI's approach is too narrow. FHI's broader approach, I feel, is more appropriate given our current ignorance about the vast possible varieties of existential threats.

Comment by stabilizer on Open thread, 18-24 August 2014 · 2014-08-19T05:47:24.853Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Snowden revelations causes people to reduce sensitive Google searches. (HT: Yvain)

I must say that I called it.

Comment by stabilizer on [LINK] Speed superintelligence? · 2014-08-15T00:09:56.367Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Wait, I think the link is missing.

Comment by stabilizer on [LINK] 2014 Fields Medals and Nevanlinna Prize anounced · 2014-08-14T22:13:55.531Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Nobel Prizes, especially in physiology/medicine and economics, are probably more indicative of social impact (which is what I think Bostrom's colleague meant when he used the word "important").

Comment by stabilizer on [LINK] 2014 Fields Medals and Nevanlinna Prize anounced · 2014-08-13T21:24:35.976Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Wow. I'm in theoretical physics and that quote is like a slap in the face. Not saying it is wrong though.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-11T20:52:21.760Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I dunno, thinking about it in terms of "spiritual system" applying in general, and "spiritual" applying to a specific case does not seem like a conflation, in the same way that "set" and "element of set" are distinct.

Not all things referred to in a spiritual system need be spiritual. For example, a spiritual system could say that drinking is not spiritual -- which is what Islam explicitly says. Indeed, associating the tag "spiritual" or "not spiritual" to different activities is one of the main goals of religions.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-11T19:16:38.623Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You nailed it.

therefore drinking is spiritual.

This is the kind of bullshit logic many religions adopt to get from A to B; where A is something innocuous sounding and B is something that sounds profound. It works because thinking is contaminative. In the above example, there was a simple conflation of the concepts behind the words "spiritual system" and "spiritual." Most people won't pick up on that because the two words sound very similar.

Thus, in getting from A to B via a sequence, C,D,E..., all you have to do is slightly change the meanings of the words (or use similar sounding words) in each step of the argument. By the time you reach B, you can could've proved whatever you wanted.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-06T20:12:27.103Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That one's a misquote. The original is:

Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.

Not exactly a rationality quote, is it? Here is another famous misquote of the same passage.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-06T18:55:12.724Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

While I find Venkatesh Rao to be insightful, his writing can be quite frustrating. He seems to be allergic towards speaking plainly. Here is a possible re-write of the above quote:

Slytherin-adepts use human ideals -- like justice, fairness, equality, talent -- to deceive people. They employ these ideals in rhetoric, often to turn attention away from conflicting evidence.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-06T00:30:15.169Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Well...

Just as eating only what one likes is injurious to health, so studying only what one likes spoils the memory, and what is retained isn't very useful.

-Not Da Vinci

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-04T23:24:33.966Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Most of the time what we do is what we do most of the time.

-Daniel Willingham, Why Don't Students Like School. The point is that, quite often the reason we're doing something is that that's what we're used to doing in that situation.

Note: He attributes the quote to some other psychologists.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-04T04:01:20.208Z · score: 25 (25 votes) · LW · GW

Surgeons finally did upgrade their antiseptic standards at the end of the nineteenth century. But, as is often the case with new ideas, the effort required deeper changes than anyone had anticipated. In their blood-slick, viscera-encrusted black coats, surgeons had seen themselves as warriors doing hemorrhagic battle with little more than their bare hands. A few pioneering Germans, however, seized on the idea of the surgeon as scientist. They traded in their black coats for pristine laboratory whites, refashioned their operating rooms to achieve the exacting sterility of a bacteriological lab, and embraced anatomic precision over speed.

The key message to teach surgeons, it turned out, was not how to stop germs but how to think like a laboratory scientist. Young physicians from America and elsewhere who went to Germany to study with its surgical luminaries became fervent converts to their thinking and their standards. They returned as apostles not only for the use of antiseptic practice (to kill germs) but also for the much more exacting demands of aseptic practice (to prevent germs), such as wearing sterile gloves, gowns, hats, and masks. Proselytizing through their own students and colleagues, they finally spread the ideas worldwide.

-Atul Gawande

Comment by stabilizer on MIRI 2014 Summer Matching Challenge and one-off opportunity to donate *for free* · 2014-08-03T20:54:30.293Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So I did read that line. I understood that you need to make it interact with Facebook in order to get 1000 STR back after donating it to MIRI. What I didn't understand was that you also need to make it interact with Facebook in order to get the free 6000 STR that you get for signing up -- as claimed on MIRI's Facebook page.

What confuses me is that cryptocurrencies are supposed to support anonymity. Facebook is the anti-thesis of anonymity.

Comment by stabilizer on MIRI 2014 Summer Matching Challenge and one-off opportunity to donate *for free* · 2014-08-03T20:24:49.867Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In order to receive the free Stellar, you need to have a Facebook account. That sucks, because I don't. And I don't want to join Facebook.

Comment by stabilizer on Open thread, July 28 - August 3, 2014 · 2014-07-30T23:55:03.801Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

A lot of people are pointing out that perhaps it wasn't very wise for you to engage with such commenters. I mostly agree. But I also partially disagree. The negative effects of you commenting there, of course, are very clear. But, there are positive effects as well.

The outside world---i.e. outside the rationalist community and academia---shouldn't get too isolated from us. While many people made stupid comments, I'm sure that there were many more people who looked at your argument and went, "Huh. Guess I didn't think of that," or at least registered some discomfort with their currently held worldview. Of course, none of them would've commented.

Also, I'm sure your way of argumentation appealed to many people, and they'll be on the lookout for this kind of argumentation in the future. Maybe one of them will eventually stumble upon LW. By looking at the quality of argumentation was also how I selected which blogs to follow. I tried (and often failed) to avoid those blogs that employed rhetoric and emotional manipulation. One of the good blogs eventually linked to LW.

Thus, while the cost to you was probably great and perhaps wasn't worth the effort, I don't think it was entirely fruitless.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes July 2014 · 2014-07-27T17:25:42.565Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What pragmatist said.

Basically the approach of Sebens and Carroll is to show that if observers are present, then they will see outcomes following the Born rule.

In that sense it seems that observers here are no more problematic than the observers of special relativity, where there are claims like if you use clocks to measure time in a moving frame, then you will see time slowing down relative to mine.

Comment by stabilizer on Open thread, July 21-27, 2014 · 2014-07-24T18:01:23.963Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If someone from MIRI is reading this: Having the upper-limit of the donation progress-bar truncate in the middle of the blue box is confusing. It makes one feel that you've reached $200K, and that you have to go the rest of the distance of the blue box to actually reach your goal.

I suggest moving <# of Donors> to below the progress-bar (as opposed to where it currently is, which is to the right of the progress bar) and scaling the progress-bar to fit the width of box.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes July 2014 · 2014-07-20T23:14:36.457Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In other words, use the emotional power of doubt to counteract the bias induced by the emotional power of your desire for that theory to be true.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes July 2014 · 2014-07-18T18:50:03.702Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I find the attempt to save a falsely accused man to be much more morally admirable than the attempt to save a justly accused man. Indeed, the fact that child molestation is considered very morally repugnant and carries huge legal and social costs is part of the reason why I feel that any attempt to protect a man from false accusations of child molestation to be very admirable.

To answer your question, I didn't expect (at least, not till now) people's judgement of guilt to be distorted so much by the moral repugnance of the alleged crime. If indeed people do distort this much, I should carefully rethink my understanding of moral intuitions.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes July 2014 · 2014-07-18T06:55:26.536Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Why do I find these reactions highly counter-intuitive? That is, I would never have predicted that this is what people would say.

Comment by stabilizer on Rationality Quotes July 2014 · 2014-07-17T00:35:25.157Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

While Nietzsche writes it beautifully, perhaps the simplified, layman version would be:

"If you insist on refusing social obligations and violating social norms, then life becomes very hard: you will be lonely and your conscience will bother you a lot. If you fail---i.e. the pain of being outcast exceeds the benefits of independence---then no one will give a damn."

(The last part is almost tautological; if you're lonely, then most people don't care about you. The exception might be when one writes one's experiences down, as Nietzsche probably did.)