Comment by susanbrennan on The curse of identity · 2012-08-06T12:29:06.042Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for the clarification, and my apologies to Will. I do have some questions, but writing a full post from the smartphone I am currently using would be tedious. I'll wait until I get to a proper computer.

Comment by susanbrennan on The curse of identity · 2012-08-06T11:10:08.049Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

otherwise you stand a decent chance of ending up in hell.

Comments like this are better for creating atheists, as opposed to converting them.

Comment by susanbrennan on 37 Ways That Words Can Be Wrong · 2012-07-30T13:25:55.549Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That's the point.

Comment by susanbrennan on Purchase Fuzzies and Utilons Separately · 2012-07-18T21:48:14.852Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's a very different framework from util maximization, but I find it's much more satisfying and useful

And if it wasn't more satisfying and useful, would you still follow it?

Comment by susanbrennan on Thoughts on moral intuitions · 2012-07-18T14:09:24.828Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Bang on! Brown ("Divided we fall") is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you. I regret having only one up-vote to give you.

Comment by susanbrennan on Thoughts on moral intuitions · 2012-07-18T11:54:26.269Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I remember coming across this paper during my PhD, and it provides a somewhat game theoretic analysis of in-group out-group bias, which is still fairly easy to follow. The paper is mainly about the implications for conflict resolution, as the authors are lecturers in business an law, so it should be of interest to those seeking to improve their rationality (particularly where keeping ones cool in arguments is involved), which is why we are here after all.

I've been thinking about doing my first mainspace post for LessWrong soon. Perhaps I could use it to address this. Unfortunately I've forgotten a very famous social psychology experiment wherein one group (group A) was allowed to dictate their preferred wage difference between their group and and another group (group B). They chose the option which gave them the least in an absolute sense because the option gave them more than group B by comparison. They were divided according to profession. It's a very famous experiment, so I'm sure someone here will know it.

Comment by susanbrennan on Bargaining and Auctions · 2012-07-15T21:45:00.298Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Is this the post you were thinking of?

EDIT: Never mind. I'm pretty sure Gwern got the right one.

Comment by susanbrennan on An Intuitive Explanation of Solomonoff Induction · 2012-07-15T16:13:09.940Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The placebo effect strikes me as a decent enough explanation.

Comment by susanbrennan on Rationality Quotes May 2012 · 2012-05-12T21:36:13.702Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

even Turkey did NOT require some particular ruthlessness to modernize.

Could you explain the meaning of this sentence please. I'm not sure I have grasped it correctly. To me it sounds like that you are saying that there was no ruthlessness involved in Atatürk's modernizing reforms. I assume that's not the case, right?

Comment by susanbrennan on A sense of logic · 2012-05-12T21:29:21.684Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is my favorite response so far.

Comment by susanbrennan on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-04T20:52:25.183Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Math can, and in the case of QM, must use infinities and 0-dimensional particles which can not exist in reality.

I'm a little confused by this objection to say the least. Could you express your views on the following topics in mathematics, particularly when they are used for real world applications, whether it be physics, computer science or engineering?

  1. The use of the "null vector" in linear algebra

  2. Limits approaching 0 in calculus

  3. Generalizing the rules of 3 dimensional space to represent 4 dimensional space

  4. Complex numbers and their various applications, particularly if you think we shouldn't use the square root of negative one if it has no identifiable physical properties

Comment by susanbrennan on Rationality Quotes May 2012 · 2012-05-04T09:50:47.355Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For an intelligent and persuasive person it may be a rational (as in: maximizing their utility, such as status or money) choice to produce fashionable nonsense.

True. I guess it's just that the consequences of such actions can often lead to a large amount of negative utility according to my own utility function, which I like to think of as more universalist than egoist. But people who are selfish, rational and intelligent can, of course, cause severe problems (according to the utility functions of others at least). This, I gather, is fairly well understood. That's probably why those characteristics describe the greater proportion of Hollywood villains.

Comment by susanbrennan on Rationality Quotes May 2012 · 2012-05-03T12:58:19.894Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Scientific progress, economic growth and civilization in general are proportional to the number of intelligent people and inversely proportional to the number of not-so-smart people.

That seems a little bit simplistic. How many problems have been caused by smart people attempting to implement plans which seem theoretically sound, but fail catastrophically in practice? The not-so-smart people are not inclined to come up with such plans in the first place. In my view, the people inclined to cause the greatest problems are the smart ones who are certain that they are right, particularly when they have the ability to convince other smart people that they are right, even when the empirical evidence does not seem to support their claims.

While people may not agree with me on this, I find the theory of "rational addiction" within contemporary economics to carry many of the hallmarks of this way of thinking. It is mathematically justified using impressively complex models and selective post-hoc definitions of terms and makes a number of empirically unfalsifiable claims. You would have to be fairly intelligent to be persuaded by the mathematical models in the first place, but that doesn't make it right.

basically, my point is: it is better to have to deal with not-so-smart irrational people than it is to deal with intelligent and persuasive people who are not very rational. The problems caused by the former are lesser in scale.

Comment by susanbrennan on Rationality Quotes April 2012 · 2012-04-29T14:46:20.471Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't one of the implications of Gödel's incompleteness theorem that there will always be unanswerable questions?

Comment by susanbrennan on A sense of logic · 2012-04-28T21:19:22.135Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Since this is LessWrong and there's a strong leaning towards a certain view of normative ethics, I had better ask this before I go any further. Would you consider any form of deontology or virtue ethics to be a "decent moral theory"? It feels like I should check this before commenting any further. I know, for example, that at least one person here (not naming names) has openly said that all non-consequentialist approaches to ethics are "insane".

Comment by susanbrennan on A sense of logic · 2012-04-28T08:55:36.494Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, the only time I responded to one such argument, I rejected the second rather than the first premise. Your way might have been easier. I don't think it would have changed the response though.

He wrote the "socrates is man" syllogism right beside it and challenged me to find an example of someone who is immortal (kind of ignoring the fact that it would only prove a premise in that argument false, and not change the logical validity of that particular argument).

You know, maybe the initial argument isn't the worst I've ever seen. Now that I think about it, the response is probably the worst argument I've ever seen.

Comment by susanbrennan on A sense of logic · 2012-04-28T08:50:01.896Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks. I will have to remember that term in future.

Comment by susanbrennan on A sense of logic · 2012-04-27T22:31:43.461Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You are quite free to do so, unless you pick the definition of law which is exclusively legal, which is the abuse of language that this argument depends on. If you choose a definition of law under which natural laws or mathematical laws can be counted, then the first premise is indeed false (in a materialist framework anyway).

When you change the definition of law to the legal one, the second premise becomes nonsense.

Regardless of which you pick, any reasoned inference which respects the language involved will generally lead to one premise being true and the other false. Essentially, a materialist can arbitrarily decide which is the true premise and which is the false premise (provided a particular definition has not been made clear beforehand).

I don't know if there is a common definition of law which could make both premises false.

Besides, I didn't mention this because it was a good argument. I mentioned it because it is a shockingly bad argument that I have seen people take seriously.

Comment by susanbrennan on A sense of logic · 2012-04-27T20:59:24.032Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is one argument I find particularly irksome...

All laws are constructed by some intelligence

Natural laws are laws

Therefore, natural laws are constructed by some intelligence.

The annoying part is that it is deductively valid if the definition of law is actually the same in both premises. The person making this argument thinks their argument is watertight because of its structure, and will likely not listen to any suggestion that natural laws are not a component of the laws described in the first premise. I can't understand how anyone can fail to see the obvious problem with the argument, whereas the people who tend to make this type of argument fail to see why I am not persuaded by their supposedly "sound logic".

Comment by susanbrennan on Polyhacking · 2012-04-27T13:17:04.351Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

every time a male has sex with a female, both of their opposite-sex partners rise by one.

Just to ensure clarity, you meant to say; "every time a male has sex with a new female [partner], their opposite-sex partners rise by one. Correct?

One other thing which could skew the statistics is the fact that people that have had many sexual relationships can die, and the dead are not often counted in statistical surveys, while some of their partners might be.

Comment by susanbrennan on Be Happier · 2012-04-15T18:15:49.623Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You forgot primorial.

Comment by susanbrennan on Be Happier · 2012-04-15T12:02:01.036Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I upvoted your post to a nice round 20. It's a much nicer number than 19 anyway.

Comment by susanbrennan on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-04-14T17:27:17.295Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I can't explain QM very well, but here's a video of "someone that can". I would recommend paying special attention to the speech he gives around 37:00 minutes in about concepts like "wave" and "particle", which we have coined in the macroscopic world and how we should not really apply terms which have mutually exclusive qualities in the macroscopic world to describe the world of fundamental particles.

His answers might still be unsatisfactory to you, but its the best I can offer.

Comment by susanbrennan on Rationality Quotes April 2012 · 2012-04-12T12:29:34.424Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Point taken. In hindsight I also seem to have gotten a bit carried away with the above post. I would, however, hold that there are many social/political/religious groups that have a remarkable tendency to see everyone except themselves as remarkably prejudiced because their worldview is not shared. Nevertheless, continuing down this road is not likely to be very productive.

I vote that we abandon ship and shift our attentions back to topics like rationality techniques, game theory, friendly AI and meta-ethics, where we can think more clearly.

Comment by susanbrennan on Rationality Quotes April 2012 · 2012-04-09T23:36:31.645Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

It is probably a very bad idea for me to make my first post in reply to something that is blatantly political, on a site which quite actively discourages it, but I'm not very rational. You see, I would probably consider myself more of a liberal than a conservative. I have even attended meetings of feminist organizations, which means that I am a very irrational type of bumbling fool. Nevertheless, I assure you that I would indeed question the ethics of putting kittens in blenders. I would also question the effectiveness of putting kittens in blenders as a means to solve sexism. However, I have never seen such a position proposed before and would be rather shocked to be called an "evil sexist", even by radical feminists who I do not tend to agree with, for opposing the practice.

Perhaps everything you say is true. Perhaps there is something in liberals that makes us more tribal than the average human being. I would freely admit to being more irrational than rational most of the time. When someone not of my tribe says something I find horrific, my emotions tend to make me go "damn their entire tribe for only they would think such things", rather than "I disagree with the point this individual is making, though I am sure it is not held by everyone else in his tribe and I am sure there are converse examples of people who have reached the same conclusion in my tribe".

I see that the inferences you have drawn from your experience at a large number of liberal events and a large number of conservative events have led you to the conclusion that "ONLY liberals and those that think like them seem prone to thinking "everyone is full of evil prejudice except my tribe". I would have thought that a statement of such strength, particularly since it uses the word ONLY, would require much more than the anecdotal experiences of one individual in order to justifiably reject the null hypothesis. Perhaps you have done many statistical studies on this that I am unaware of. Perhaps you have assumed knowledge of your studies is common among Less Wrong contributors (and I would admit that the average LW contributor is smarter than me, so it's not too much of a stretch). Indeed, you may have constructed your priors in a completely impartial manner and may indeed be completely justified in assuming the truth of your alternative hypothesis. Nevertheless, I am a little skeptical of the reliability of the methods you used for arriving at the conclusion of attributing this quality to "ONLY liberals and those who think like them",as opposed to "MOSTLY liberals and those who think like them"

Unsurprisingly, I have a number of issues with that sentence which are not just political. The set which includes "liberals and those who think like them" is not very well defined. I imagine a liberal thinks more like a conservative than a dog thinks like a liberal or a conservative. Consequently, your set could be defined to include everything within the set "conscious human beings", as conscious human beings are certainly things which tend to think like other human beings. However, it is very clear from context that this is not what you mean. Do libertarians think like liberals? I imagine many libertarians would say "yes, on a lot of things, but not on many other things. On other things, I tend to think like a conservative". but, clearly, your additional qualifier of "those who think like them" was included specify that you were not talking about only liberals. Do socialists think like liberals? I imagine a conservative would often say "yes, they do. They both tend to want more government intervention". Conversely, I think a socialist might say "no, liberals believe in private ownership of the means of production. I believe that system is inherently unjust". The vast majority of anarchists, as the forms of anarchism which have their origins in the labour movement, i.e. those advocating social anarchism are still the most common form of anarchism from a worldwide perspective. These anarchists would in fact see themselves as thinking more like orthodox Marxists than US conservatives. They would differ very strongly over the "statist" notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but would have similar long term ends. This puts the conservative who defines his conservatism as an ideology of "less government" in contrast to liberals and socialists in an odd position. You see, if he is not of a very extreme persuasion and is a believer in western democracy in its current form, it would probably be safe to say that he thinks more like liberals and democratic socialists than he thinks like a revolutionary social anarchist. So, defining who exactly thinks like a liberal, but is not actually a liberal is not an easy task. I believe there is a great deal of literature in linguistics and the philosophy of language dealing with the concept of "like" how difficult it actually is to categorize one thing as beinglike another thing. Trying to define an agent whichthinks like another agent seems, if anything, even more difficult.

Did you perhaps come up with a technical definition of for the set of people defined as "liberal or thinks like a liberal". Did you create questionnaires with a number of propositions associated with the ideology "liberalism" and give them to people in the circles you mentioned, so that you could, to some extent, identify those who were of the set "think like liberals" in non-liberal groups. Perhaps you used a ratio of 13 positive answers to 20 negative answers as a minimum benchmark for those who "think like[ liberals]". Were there questions on these sheets which were similar in form to "if you could stop sexism by putting kittens in a blender, would you put kittens in a blender?" and "in such circumstances, would you treat anyone stopping you from putting kittens in a blender as the enemy?". If people in the "liberals and those who think like them group" did answer positively to both of those questions, I would be fairly surprised.

But maybe you have just let political hyperbole get in the way of presenting a potentially more persuasive argument. There is probably a good case to be made for comparatively stronger tribal sentiments in liberals. After all, individualism is a fundamental part of modern day conservatism, but is no longer considered a key component of liberalism. Now liberals are associated with more collectivist values. Consequently, it would not be surprising if studies showed that liberals had emotionally stronger collectivist tendencies than conservatives. Indeed, I think one could be justified in assuming a prior probability of greater than .5 that more collectivist tendencies would be found in liberals than in conservatives if we use the US definition of those terms.

In conclusion, if you had just said something along the lines of "In my own experience, individuals of a liberal political persuasion tend to have stronger views concerning moral judgment of their opponents. Has anyone else noticed this or am I the only one? If not, are there probable cognitive causes behind this"? At least that would have seemed more rational. It would have seemed more like something that belongs on Less Wrong. Presenting your argument in that form might have spared you some of that negative karma. If emotions were not getting in your way, maybe you would have noticed that your argument would seem out of place on this website, particularly when you decided to capitalize EVIL PREJUDICE. You might also have realized that when your accusation levied at a political group was questioned, you merely resorted to stronger hyperbole involving kittens in blenders. Your argument had become a soldier and you decided that you should try to save it by resorting to an argument that was even more absurd and hyperbolic.

I've looked at some of your previous contributions and you are clearly intelligent, so I don't doubt that you probably had a valid point to make. You just could have made it better. You must have noticed that some of your statements just don't fit the accepted rules of discourse on this site.