The Case For Free Will or Why LessWrong must commit to self determination 2014-04-07T12:07:18.537Z · score: -18 (24 votes)
Asteroids and spaceships are kinetic bombs and how to prevent catastrophe 2013-02-25T23:33:54.331Z · score: 6 (8 votes)
Seeking advice on using evolutionary methods to solve the 3-body problem 2012-08-08T23:43:44.054Z · score: -4 (11 votes)


Comment by troshen on Post ridiculous munchkin ideas! · 2013-07-03T21:54:30.063Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would also be interested in hearing more about your take on financial planning.

Comment by troshen on Rationality is Systematized Winning · 2013-04-13T18:57:37.266Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure if it's better, but here's one that works well. Similar to the phrase, "Physician, heal thyself!" another way to say rationalists should win is to say, "Rationalist, improve thyself!"

If you aren't actually improving yourself and the world around you, then you aren't using the tools of rationality correctly. And it follows that to improve the world around you, you first have to be in a position to do so by doing the same to yourself.

Comment by troshen on Need some psychology advice · 2013-03-06T15:26:16.135Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If It seemed like I meant he should ditch her and move on, I apologize.

My main point was basically "what would future me say to past me when I felt that way?" And that most definitely is "Don't worry, it'll work out." Because that's the best advice of all.

It'll either work out positively in which case you'll have a good relationship, or it'll work out negatively in which case you'll have some good memories and some hard lessons learned for next time. And if you can think of those let downs as one more layer of thicker skin to help you not worry about them, you'll be better off.

I know it doesn't seem that way now, but there really is nothing to worry about.

Comment by troshen on Need some psychology advice · 2013-02-28T00:12:57.403Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

From personal experience the best advice is to date a lot and get hurt a lot and build up a thick enough skin to where you don't care anymore about the rejections.

Worrying about the rejection will only make rejection more likely.

Act as if you are a confident person, then other people think you are confident, and you'll become more confident. While of course actually trying to do things to actually become more capable too, since that improves your confidence as well.

The other ideas here also are good techniques too, but what I found is that when I had been burned enough to stop caring about rejection was when I suddenly became successful at dating. The main thing that had changed was not worrying about it.

Comment by troshen on A brief history of ethically concerned scientists · 2013-02-25T23:43:36.957Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think we're heading off-topic with this one, and I'd like to continue the discussion and focus it on space, not just whether to reveal or keep secrets.

So I started this thread:

Comment by troshen on A brief history of ethically concerned scientists · 2013-02-25T22:49:57.512Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is a good discussion of the trade-offs that should be considered when deciding to reveal or keep secret new, dangerous technologies.

Comment by troshen on A brief history of ethically concerned scientists · 2013-02-25T22:39:27.995Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"So anyone interested making war less lethal would be well advised to focus on spreading tolerant ideologies rather than worrying about weapon technology."

This is actually one of the major purposes that Christians have had in doing missionary work - to spread tolerance and reduce violence. I assume it's happened in other religions too. For example, the rules of chivalry in the middle ages were an attempt to moderate the violence and abuses of the warriors.

Comment by troshen on A brief history of ethically concerned scientists · 2013-02-25T22:16:12.444Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is an extremely important point. Historically it might take a long time, if ever, for someone else to come to a similar discovery that you just made. For example, Leonardo's submarines. But that was when only a tiny fraction of humanity devoted time to experiments. His decision to hide his invention kicked the can of secret attacks by submarines many years down the road and may have saved many lives. (I'm not so sure - leaders who wanted wars I'm sure found other secret plots and strategems, but at least he exercised his agency to not be the father of them)

But things are different now. You can be practically guaranteed that if you are working on something, someone else in the world is working on it too, or will be soon. Being at a certain place and time in your industry puts you in a position to see the possible next steps, and you aren't alone.

If you see something dangerous that others don't, the best bet is to talk about it. More minds thinking and talking about it from multiple different perspectives have the best chance to solve it.

Communication is a great, helpful key to survival. I think we had it when the U.S. and the Soviets didn't annihilate the world when the U.S. policy was Mutual Assured Destruction. And I think we didn't have it in the U.S. Civil War and in WWI, when combat technology had raced ahead of the knowledge and training of the generals of those wars, and that led to shocking massacres unintended by either side.

An example other than unfriendly AI is asteroid mining and serious space travel in general. Right now we have the dangers from asteroids. But the ability to controllably move mass in orbit would inevitably become one of the most powerful weapons ever seen. Unless people make a conscious choice not to use it for that. Although I've wanted to write fiction stories about it and work on it, I've actually hesitated for the simple fact that I think it's inevitable that it will become a weapon.

This post makes me confident. The action most likely to lead to humanity's growth and survival is to talk about it openly. First because we're already vulnerable to asteroids and can't do anything about it. And second because talking about it raises awareness of the problem so that more people can focus on solving it.

I really think that avoiding nuclear war is an example. When I was a teenager everyone just assumed we'd all die in a nuclear war someday. Eventually through a deliberate war or an accident or a skynet-style-terminator incident civilization as a whole would be gone. And eventually that fear just evaporated. I think it's because we as a culture kept talking about it so much and not leaving it up to only a few monarchic leaders.

So I'm changing my outlook and plans based on this post and this comment. I plan to talk about and promote asteroid mining and write short stories about terrorists dropping asteroids on cities. To talk about it it is better in the long run.

Comment by troshen on Firewalling the Optimal from the Rational · 2012-10-12T00:04:40.919Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

V_V and Vaniver both make really good points, but the fact is that the U.S was not built to be completely rationalist, and people in general are not rationalists.

It's a communal set of rules for a people and a place that's designed to give the members the most freedom while still ensuring stability and order. And it has a really good track record of success in doing that.

I agree that it's not an optimal solution in a future, ideally rationalist world. But it's not a tool for teaching children to think for themselves. It's a tool to get them to follow the social rules. And I'll tell you, children want their own way and DO NOT want to follow rules. And if you let them have their way all the time you WILL spoil them. There's a time to teach rules-following (especially rules that protect liberties and freedoms) and a time to teach mistrust of authority and rules-breaking.

What other device would you propose for a future, ideally rationalist world? I'm not being fecetious here. I'm curious. Spawned by the Wierdtopia idea, can you think of a better solution?

I personally think of it as like teaching an apprentice. Apprentices weren't taught the why's. They were taught the how's. As a journeyman and a master you discovered the why's. Kids are apprentice citizens.

Comment by troshen on Firewalling the Optimal from the Rational · 2012-10-11T23:46:55.404Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is actually has been a problem with real-life examples. I've read that the oaths in NAZI Germany were specifically to Hitler himself, and that many members of the military felt bound by their oaths to obey orders, even when it was clear the orders shouldn't be obeyed. I think the critical danger is in giving oaths to an individual (any of which have a very real chance of being corrupted by power, unless they take action to prevent it).

I see the difference that the U.S. pledge of alliegence is to the republic and it's symbol, the flag. The saving factors to prevent abuses of power are:

The focus on alliegence to the nation as a whole, including all it's members, it's leaders, and it's ideals.

The "with liberty and justice for all" line, which is the guarantee of what the State offers in return. The U.S. has to be worthy of the alliegence.

The extreme other war example is the U.S Civil War, where many military officers left the army to join the Confederacy. They formed ranks and marched right out of West Point because they opposed the U.S. leadership. And the soldiers who stayed let them go, knowing they were going to help the seceding states fight. Even if they disagreed, it was felt the honorable thing to do was to let them go.

This idea shows up specifically in our military training and culture in the definition of lawful orders. The military culture and legal rules define your duty to obey all lawful orders from your chain of command, up to the President. So that if you feel that an order is unlawful it's actually your duty to disobey. Now, of course, that carries with it all the weight of being the first one to be the opposition, so it's no guarantee to prevent abuses of power, but it does exist.

I gues my point is that the danger is in making oaths to a person.

I agree that it's a form of indoctrination for children. But as long as the trade of alliegence and freedom it describes is a true and real one, I think it's a good thing to keep those principles in their minds.

Comment by troshen on Natural Laws Are Descriptions, not Rules · 2012-10-06T00:05:36.320Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I completely agree with you that an accurate answer to a student is "I don't know"

But teaching in general, and PhD's in particular are specifically trainined never to say that. I mean look at how much effort they have to put into proving that they DO know. Oral examinations are NOT a place to say "I don't know." Just in general smart people don't like to say it, and authority figures don't like to say it. But I've heard it said that the one thing a PhD will never say is "I don't know"

A great story about that from the opposit direction is one about astronaut John Young. Apparently he would ask instructors question after question until he reached "I don't know" and if he never got to it you would never gain his trust.

Is it important? Yes.

Should teachers say it? Absolutely.

Is it one of the hardest things for people to say? Oh yes. I mean, even my kids teachers never say it. I've met with my son's teachers a lot over the years, and I ask tons of detailed questions. It's really, really hard to get them, or any authority figure to say "I don't know."

I tell my kids lots of things. They ask me all kinds of questions and I give them all the info I've got to give. They're like me and keep asking more and asking more. I did that so much growing up (and still do!) that I annoyed the heck out of people with my questions. So I'm generous when my kids do it and don't get frustrated and keep giving the next answer I've got. Eventually I get to "I don't know." I've started saying things like "That's one of the mysterious scientists are still trying to figure out" because I've said "I don't know" so much that it's gotten monotonous.

My point is that it's not surprising to me that a questioning student gets frustrating answers from frustrated college professors. Even if the best answer in a perfect world should have been "I don't know."

Comment by troshen on Natural Laws Are Descriptions, not Rules · 2012-10-05T22:44:30.191Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

True, but college professors are often not expert teachers. I agree that ideally all teachers should be experts at understanding what the student is asking, but they often aren't. Having a PhD means you have great depth of knowledge in your subject, but teaching skills only have to be acceptable, not stellar. And this question is an uncommon and challenging one. It doesn't surprise me that he got answers that he personally felt didn't answer the question. In one of the other splinter conversations that came out of this post someone told me that the answer to the question in relativity is an actual true unknown. Which means no average college professor would be expected to be able to answer.

As far as asking questions that deliberately lead the students the wrong way, I only think that's acceptable if you VERY SOON tell them why, and what the real circumstance is. If you're trying to teach people to challenge assumptions, yes, I agree, it's a very valuable tool.

Thanks for the comment. I was fascinated by the question he had, and still am.

Comment by troshen on Natural Laws Are Descriptions, not Rules · 2012-08-13T20:39:36.720Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe I don't.

I think I do. I think I have a general, summarized, understangin of how gravity works. I would say I have a starting point of knowledge, and If I ever need to get more specific to solve specific problems, I know where to go research the details, and then run experiements to solve a specific problem. Or to challege the Fake Explanations.

I'm not set on Relativity, for example, and I don't accept it as some kind of gospel. I love thories that try to poke holes in Reltivity. The day I posted this I read about several that tried and were demonstratably worse at predicting reality that Relitivity.

As far as I can tell my mental map of the universe works pretty well, but I'm ok to revise it if that turns out not to be true.

I'm putting this out there to clarify my understanding and get comments on it, so I accept your comment, but how would YOU phrase your answer to the question of how gravity works, in a better, non-Fake-Explanation way?

Or, alternatively, how would you rewrite my answer in a better, non-Fake-Explanation way?

Because if you mean that I need to send up my own Gravity Probe B to verify frame-dragging before I can help other students try to understand gravity, you're out of luck. I'm planning on trusting teir results. (although I have to admit to being a bit disappointed when they confirmed Einstein instead of challenging him! )

Comment by troshen on Natural Laws Are Descriptions, not Rules · 2012-08-08T23:50:09.822Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW


I wouldn't be able to answer using Newtonian gravity, I've never seen the theory explained (that I remember). I see more reading in my near future.

I obviously don't understand the words "dissipative force" in the same way you do. I thought I had that part down too. I thought it means that the energy you are concerned about is getting changed into energy not useful to you, like "waste" heat. So then friction would be dissipative. Please point me in a direction to learn more.

Comment by troshen on Natural Laws Are Descriptions, not Rules · 2012-08-08T23:19:11.680Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not a physicist, but I am an engineer interested in things like this. I've wondered this kind of question too.

After a bit of online research, I think I understand it well enough to explain it. Since DaFranker, EY, and shiminux all seem to know, I'd like to run this by you and get your edits.

Question: "Where the frak does gravity get its power source?" Answer: "It's not really a source like a battery or a motor. What you're seeing is the changing of energy from one kind to another. The fact that masses curve space creates a way for the positions of potential energy to be changed into the motions of kinetic energy. Since it's not a dissipative force like friction there's no need to keep "pushing power into the system" like with a car's motor or an airplane's jet. Just like a spacecraft only needs to fire rockets at the beginning and the end to change direction and doesn't need to keep engines going all the time to stay moving. Oh, wait, you weren't talking about the equations of power, right? If that was it I'll need to go read up some more."

Upvotes! I've had the space travel and the gravity pieces of the puzzle for a long time. A special thanks to shminux for mentioning potential and disipative forces. That's how I was prompted to come to an answer.

Also, this really seems like a question that needs to be dissolved. I think it's based on a misunderstanding and not a real problem. That may be why professors have a hard time explaining it - there isn't a power source for gravity in the sense that was being asked.

Comment by troshen on I Was Not Almost Wrong But I Was Almost Right: Close-Call Counterfactuals and Bias · 2012-03-08T17:45:35.412Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Made the post more interesting to read.

Comment by troshen on My summary of Eliezer's position on free will · 2012-03-01T17:04:12.058Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Although I see what you're saying, I still disagree. I don't think that we are just inside the algorithm feeling it happen, making us not knowing the outcome and only being observers.

I definitely have a decision loop and input into the process in my own mind. Even if it's only from outside the loop: Dang, I made a bad decision that time. I'll make a better one next time, and then doing it.

And until I take physical outward action the decision algorithm isn't finished. So people can be paralyzed by indecision by competing priorities that have closely similar weights to them. Or they can ignore and not take any choice and move on to other activities that render the previous choice algorithm nebulous and never finished.

I would like to give a more detailed refutation of the idea that our minds have deterministic algorithms. Until you take action it's undetermined, and I think there's choice there. But I don't have the background or the language.

Can anyone suggest further reading?

Comment by troshen on My summary of Eliezer's position on free will · 2012-03-01T16:09:18.831Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This seems to be a much better description of what's going on in my mind when I make a decision. I disagree with Solvent that we have a determnistic alhorithm that has a single outcome.

What we have are conflicting priorities. In the case of running over the squirrel they could be, for example:

Being angry enough to want to hurt something weaker than yourself Not wanting to jerk the steering wheel or brake abruptly while driving, for safety, when a squirrel runs out into the road in front of your car. Wanting to protect animal life.

Other than by experience, you don't know which priority has the greatest weight. Say "Wanting to protect animal life" turns out to have the greatest weight. Then you hit the brakes.

Comment by troshen on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-11-08T17:42:05.137Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for putting together the survey. It prompted me to do a couple things, including start posting here.

I was about 100 years off with Newton. Dang it!