Comment by Tom3 on On Not Having an Advance Abyssal Plan · 2009-02-24T12:37:39.000Z · LW · GW


Isn't there a bias something like: "If something actually happens, then people believe that it was foreseeable before it happened."?

Hindsight Bias and, to an extent, Taleb's Narrative Fallacy. This whole topic is quite Talebian. How do we plan for disasters we can't foresee? As Robin says,

There is a vast space of possible things that can go wrong, so each plan will have to cover a pretty wide range of scenarios.

While there might be a very wide range of causes for disasters, the possible effects are likely to be fewer. A government can plan for a crisis by making a shortlist of bad things and planning how to limit their effect, and can deal with the underlying cause on-the-fly. By analogy to emergency medicine, deal with easy-to-see life-threatening symptoms first and figure out the underlying cause later when the patient is stablised. In financial disaster planning, decide how to deal with known knowns like high unemployment, high interest rates, inflation and so on beforehand then figure out how to deal with the failing banks as you go along.

Comment by Tom3 on Wise Pretensions v.0 · 2009-02-20T18:14:06.000Z · LW · GW

I think Robin has won this argument. Removing rhetorical flourishes makes the post easier to criticise in the comments section. You shouldn't be deliberately trying to make your statements more or less persuasive, just say what you want to say as clear as you can and let other contributors thrash it out in the comments. That is probably part of Robin's point about the importance of academic style: it makes peer-review easier.

Comment by Tom3 on She has joined the Conspiracy · 2009-01-13T21:03:16.000Z · LW · GW

"I am 87% confident you will burst into flames"

Ah, at last a practical application of the observation that bayesians cannot agree to disagree.

Comment by Tom3 on Eutopia is Scary · 2009-01-12T16:08:51.000Z · LW · GW

Virtual environments create possibilities for shock. The ability to torture a (non-sentient) simulated version of someone you hate, or engage in sexual activities that would be illegal in the real world come to mind.

Also what if, given the opportunity to live forever in eutopia, most minds freely choose the hardscrapple frontier? Even if the chances of death are significant?

Thom Blake:

I don't find this surprising at all, other than that it occurred to a consequentialist. Being a virtue ethicist and something of a Romantic, it seems to me that the best world will be one of great and terrible events, where a person has the chance to be truly and tragically heroic.

Every life a work of art! That sounds like my kind of future.

Comment by Tom3 on Underconstrained Abstractions · 2008-12-05T15:57:50.000Z · LW · GW

Well... first of all, the notion that "ideas are generated by combining other ideas N at a time" is not exactly an amazing AI theory; it is an economist looking at, essentially, the whole problem of AI, and trying to solve it in 5 seconds or less. It's not as if any experiment was performed to actually watch ideas recombining. Try to build an AI around this theory and you will find out in very short order how useless it is as an account of where ideas come from...

But more importantly, if the only proposition you actually use in your theory is that there are more ideas than people to exploit them, then this is the only proposition that can even be partially verified by testing your theory.

This is a good idea though. Why doesn't someone combine economics and AI theory? You could build one of those agent-based computer simulations where each agent is an entrepreneur searching the (greatly simplified) space of possible products and trading the results with other agents. Then you could tweak parameters of one of the agents' intelligences and see what sort of circumstances lead to explosive growth and what ones lead to flatlining.

Comment by Tom3 on Whither OB? · 2008-11-18T18:06:45.000Z · LW · GW

And obviously we're not looking for software that lets our users throw sheep at one another. The Internet already offers enough ways to waste time, thank you. More like - how people can find each other geographically and meet up

This is an interesting idea, since local groups of rationalists raise the possibility of Overcoming Bias becoming a political project. We've discussed the fact that institutional irrationality causes resources to be misallocated and lives to be lost, so why don't we aim to make more people aware of that fact? Evidence Based Medicine has already been a triumph, so why not try Evidence Based Everything? As far as I'm aware there is no organisation dedicated to encouraging bayesianism in national and corporate governance, why don't we form one?


It's impossible for me to imagine a tiered system that wouldn't degenerate into a status competition. Can you think of examples of one that hasn't?

Anonymous BBSs avoid the problem of status-seeking commentors - overcomingbiaschan!

Comment by Tom3 on Three Fallacies of Teleology · 2008-08-26T13:05:06.000Z · LW · GW

The third fallacy of teleology is to commit the Mind Projection Fallacy with respect to telos, supposing it to be an inherent property of an object or system. Indeed, one does this every time one speaks of the purpose of an event, rather than speaking of some particular agent desiring the consequences of that event.

I'm vaguely reminded of The Camel Has Two Humps. Perhaps it's the case that some people naturally have a knack for systemisation, while others are doomed to repeat the mind projection fallacy forever.

Comment by Tom3 on Lawrence Watt-Evans's Fiction · 2008-07-16T00:20:25.000Z · LW · GW

According to Norvig, Holmes is a Bayesian. Though I think it would be cool if there were a mystery story whose sleuth-protagonist made explicit use of stats and probability.

Comment by Tom3 on [deleted post] 2008-06-28T22:44:25.000Z

Angel, I agree that he comes across as a bit arrogant in that thread, but that's just his way. I think he was trying to ask for a list of don't's and you gave him a list of do's, and the ensuing communications breakdown led to this thread. But I think we have an opportunity now to correct this. So a question we might ponder is, what mistakes (not omissions) should be avoided in order to (to some extent) overcome gender bias?

Comment by Tom3 on [deleted post] 2008-06-28T22:25:49.000Z

Robin is a person with privilege denying the humanity of disprivileged people. He's following a pattern that's been >used to justify the rape and abuse of women for thousands of years.

I think it's bad form to imply that Robin wanted to deny the humanity of anyone, let alone justify their rape or abuse. Regardless of whether Robin is a member of a dominant group or not, he is a fallible individual human being, and we should assume in good faith that he honestly wanted to know whether this blog is off-putting to women without jumping to the conclusion that he intended harm, consciously or otherwise. It's unfortunate that the post itself gave offense to some women (and I imagine there were plenty of women who read it who took no offense) but it would be better to ask ourselves how we can do better in the future, rather than make accusations.

Comment by Tom3 on The Quantum Physics Sequence · 2008-06-11T14:06:13.000Z · LW · GW

In the Timeless Physics section:

"The laws of physics are perfectly local; the configuration space is perfectly local."

Aren't the laws global?

Comment by Tom3 on Searching for Bayes-Structure · 2008-02-29T01:02:14.000Z · LW · GW

Eliezer - Bayesian theory is a model. It isn't the universe.


Comment by Tom3 on Words as Hidden Inferences · 2008-02-04T12:52:45.000Z · LW · GW

The tiger, on the other hand, is a committed Platonist.

Comment by Tom3 on Rationality Quotes 2 · 2008-01-18T04:14:25.000Z · LW · GW

"EY, in this post you glibly liken belief in God to superstition. Similarly, I liken your belief in cryonics to other superstitions."

Well, the difference is that cryonics exists even if it doesn't work (yet?). You can see how this changes the nature of the debate.

"To solve this debate let us have Peter McCluskey set up another long-dated prediction market on InTrade that no one will actually bother to trade."


Comment by Tom3 on False Laughter · 2007-12-23T04:42:27.000Z · LW · GW

How many members of a certain demographic group does it take to perform a specified task?

A finite number: one to perform the task and the remainder to act in a manner stereotypical of the group in question.

Comment by Tom3 on Politics and Awful Art · 2007-12-21T04:11:55.000Z · LW · GW

It's such a shame about my failure To have been born within Australia; Because then the rhyme for "Overcoming Bias" Could be found among "The Himalayas".

Comment by Tom3 on Reversed Stupidity Is Not Intelligence · 2007-12-14T05:17:13.000Z · LW · GW

Caledonian is just trying to point out that the keys to rationalism are family values and a literal interpretation of the Bible. I don't know why you all can't see something so obvious.


"It may even be the case that, by that definition, everything is evidence about everything else. And clearly that doesn't match our everyday understanding and use of the term - it doesn't even match our formal understanding and use of the term.

What's missing from the definition that we need, in order to make the definition match our understanding?"


"Given the circumference of Jupiter around its equator, the height of the Statue of Liberty, and the price of tea in China, can you tell me what's sitting atop my computer monitor right now?"


"Do you know what a meta-analysis study is?"


The Bible has the answers, people. This is just further proof that until the 'rationalist' community incorporates insights from the Intelligent Design movement and other members of the irrational community, no further progress can be made in understanding the movement of Charon or whatever. Keep the faith Caledonian. You're a warrior of God.

Comment by Tom3 on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2007-12-06T02:12:05.000Z · LW · GW

You can see the Buzz Aldrin punch on Youtube.

I heard he also roundhouse kicked a holocaust denier through a plate glass window and karate chopped a 9/11 truther in the balls.

Comment by Tom3 on Uncritical Supercriticality · 2007-12-04T18:56:37.000Z · LW · GW


"In the future (if we survive the next century) there will be enough technological progression to create essential Communism (no-one needs to work, everyone will have necessary resources to live incredible lives and so forth)."

-10 points for confusing means with ends.

From the article:

"[...]there is never an Idea so true that it's wrong to criticize any argument that supports it."

Or make jokes about it? Having a sense of humour ought to be mentioned as a primary piece of equipment in the Bias-Buster's toolkit. It's easy and fun! After all, a defining feature of True Believers is that they lack a sense of irony.

Comment by Tom3 on The Affect Heuristic · 2007-11-27T12:31:36.000Z · LW · GW

Topo, it's a simple unprobabilistic phase inversion topography manifold calculation, I can hardly see how you could fail to understand it.

Comment by Tom3 on Lost Purposes · 2007-11-26T00:09:47.000Z · LW · GW

At Mt. Obaku temple in the Ko district, Yudkowksy-Sensei was approached by an Individualist during morning meditation.

"All of us are ultimately selfish; we care only about our own states of mind. The mother who claims to care about her son's welfare, really wants to believe that her son is doing well - this belief is what makes the mother happy. She helps him for the sake of her own happiness, not his." said the Individualist.

Yudkowsky-Sensei remained sitting on his zafu, and said nothing.

The Individualist continued: "She did it because she valued that choice above others - because of the feeling of importance she attached to that decision."

Yudkowksy-Sensei stood up and walked out of the temple to his car, where he proceeded to open and close the driver-side door several times before saying:

"There is no chocolate at the supermarket."

Comment by Tom3 on Beware of Stephen J. Gould · 2007-11-10T00:04:16.000Z · LW · GW

Kaj: By jingo you may be right. But the question is, if the population of trolls is falling between The Hobbit and LoTR, is this an example of species-level selection? Because I can see that coming in handy. Imagine:

Johnny Creationist: "The Bible says God created the Earth in six days!"

Me: "Well the Lord of The Rings says we evolved by punctuated equilibrium!"

Johnny Creationist: "Damn! Your logic is unassailable! Well, I'm an atheist now."

shake hands

Comment by Tom3 on Fake Morality · 2007-11-09T19:39:22.000Z · LW · GW

Jacob Stein:

"Are religious societies better? Cannibals and Satanists, perhaps not, but it's a tough call. Orthodox Jews, Quakers, Mennonites, probably yes."

Well Jacob it's just such a coincidence that you'd say that, because I am a cannibal satanist! Cool, right?

Anyway, the reason I bring it up is you say that Orthodox Jews and the like have better societies, but you are a jew, aren't you? (There's probably a bias or something there, I dunno). But since I think (to paraphrase Selfreferencing) that we're naturally motivated to seek Satan and that those who are not have been corrupted by sin and rebellion, I would much rather live among fine, upstanding flesh-eating devil-fearing folks like myself.

You see, Satan is the source of good as the south pole is the source of southness. Without him, I would just have to copy the morality of the rest of society or use my own faculties of reason and intuition - but then I wouldn't know that it was good to eat babies and have sex with goats! It hardly bears thinking about. I mean, it's a matter of faith, isn't it? Can't argue with that.

Comment by Tom3 on Beware of Stephen J. Gould · 2007-11-08T03:38:59.000Z · LW · GW

This thread has more trolls than The Lord Of The Rings.

Comment by Tom3 on Congratulations to Paris Hilton · 2007-10-19T23:36:06.000Z · LW · GW

"Congratulations, Paris. I look forward to meeting you someday.

Posted by Eliezer Yudkowsky"

Pffff hahahaha

Comment by Tom3 on No One Can Exempt You From Rationality's Laws · 2007-10-08T10:31:33.000Z · LW · GW

Greatest OB discussion thread ever.

Comment by Tom3 on Recommended Rationalist Reading · 2007-10-01T18:57:00.000Z · LW · GW

Irrationality by Stuart Sutherland is pretty much this blog in book form.

Comment by Tom3 on Making History Available · 2007-08-31T21:45:55.000Z · LW · GW

This is all very zen. Do you have buddhist sympathies, Eliezer?

Comment by Tom3 on Chronophone Motivations · 2007-03-25T13:08:31.000Z · LW · GW

I would say:

"To understand recursion, you must first understand recursion."

Find the meta level in that, Chronophone!

Comment by Tom3 on Archimedes's Chronophone · 2007-03-23T22:44:22.000Z · LW · GW

I would make an argument for the importance of space exploration and colonisation, on the assumption that in Archimedes' time this would be heard as an argument in favour of naval expansion. Since the greeks were seafaring people anyway, Archimedes might be convinced to push for a great greek colonisation program. Who knows? They could reach the far east, or even the americas. The age of global trade might begin two thousand years earlier.