Comment by whowhowho on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject · 2013-05-12T14:42:09.654Z · LW · GW

Phlogiston. Falsified because combusted materials gain weight.

Comment by whowhowho on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject · 2013-04-06T18:17:02.714Z · LW · GW

To a non string theorist, string theory seems like a theory which makes few testable predictions, like phlogiston

it made testable predictions and was falsified for them. There are a lot of retrodictive and purely theoretical constraints on a candidate ToE, they have to be pretty good just to be in the running.

Comment by whowhowho on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject · 2013-04-06T13:26:00.819Z · LW · GW

What? I really didn't understand that.

Comment by whowhowho on Welcome to Less Wrong! (5th thread, March 2013) · 2013-04-05T14:45:58.569Z · LW · GW

Shminux's arguments have screened off his authority, and then some.

That isn't a fact. I don't see anything going on here except the same blind side-taking as before.

Comment by whowhowho on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject · 2013-04-04T20:56:42.349Z · LW · GW

The majority of physicists working on those kinds of questions are using some form of M-theory of string theory. The next nearest rival is Loop Quantum Gravity. Other theories are minority views. M-theory is favoured because milage can be got out of it in terms of research. The metaphor or a random grab into hypothesis-space isn't appropriate.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-26T23:40:24.259Z · LW · GW

Except that poor white neighborhoods are much safer then poor black neighborhoods the US.

Um, now that you mention it, this is not a bad description of the politics of a number of African nations.

It's not at all good. A few rich people exploiting a lot of poor ones is not the same as a few poor people robbing a few wealthier ones. And,it is not as if the politics of most African countries now is so very different from the politics of most European ones up until a few centuries ago; There's no gene for fair government either.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-26T09:31:11.443Z · LW · GW

is more concerned with politics than more concerned with politics than truth.

And that's a bad thing? Trying to translate Hard Science directly into real-world action without considering the ethical, social and political consequences would be disastrous. We need something like social science.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-26T09:11:44.576Z · LW · GW

I will point out, for a third time, that "not on (narrowly construed) facts alone" does not mean "not on facts at all".

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-26T09:00:00.684Z · LW · GW

You need to establish some truths before worrying about the consequences. Scientific facts need controls, for instance. When have you shown any interest in controlling for the effects of environment?

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-26T08:49:35.587Z · LW · GW

[shrugs]. You construed riots in a sweepingly negative way as "blackmail". The fact that I do not agree does not mean I am construing them in a sweepingly positive way. This is as a pattern you have repeated throughout this discussion, and it illustrates how politics mindkills.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-26T00:54:57.290Z · LW · GW

there are still good game theoretic/decision theoretic reasons not to respond to blackmail.

I am glad that the tyrants of the past did not know of them, or you and I would not now enjoy freedom and democracy.

Comment by whowhowho on Schools Proliferating Without Evidence · 2013-03-25T21:33:55.700Z · LW · GW

Please provide proof. Please don't point, yet again, to the highly debatable "solution" to FW.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-25T21:18:38.014Z · LW · GW


Comment by whowhowho on Schools Proliferating Without Evidence · 2013-03-25T20:44:24.803Z · LW · GW

Is any of that avoidable?

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-24T19:07:19.151Z · LW · GW

"if we implement such-and-such policies, people will riot" is a fact of a sort, but not the sort that is discovered in a laboratory.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-24T16:29:32.187Z · LW · GW

If we dont' base policy on (narrowly construed, laboratory-style) facts alone, we use other things in additiojn. Like ethics and practicallity.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-23T01:27:44.281Z · LW · GW

If people insist on drawing inferences from what was never intended as a hint...what can you do?

'On hearing of the death of a Turkish ambassador, Talleyrand is supposed to have said: "I wonder what he meant by that?"'

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-23T00:18:54.687Z · LW · GW

Do you see how it isn't always the reader's job?

Strangely enough, I never said it was...

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-23T00:08:21.340Z · LW · GW

One has to grasp literal meaning before inference even kicks in.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-22T18:34:14.284Z · LW · GW

ETA: What's unclear about "not on facts alone"?

It's the reader's responsibility to read your words, and read all your words, and not to imagine other words. Recently, someone paraphrased a remark of mine with two "maybe"'s I had used deleted and a "necessarily" I hadn't used inserted. Was that my fault?

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-22T18:06:17.601Z · LW · GW

I don't see why anyone would read "not on facts alone" as "not on facts at all".

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-22T16:54:41.800Z · LW · GW

Well, I did say "narrowly construed" facts.

Comment by whowhowho on Decision Theory FAQ · 2013-03-22T16:15:51.454Z · LW · GW

Well, then we have it: they are special.

Subjectively, but not objectively.

Says who?

Whoever failed to equip Clippy with the appropriate oracle when stipulating Clippy.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-22T16:05:13.230Z · LW · GW

So if we don't base our politics on facts

I was arguing against basing policy on (narrowly construed) facts alone.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-22T15:52:55.385Z · LW · GW

It could mean you don't translate scientific findings about groups directly into policy without considering ethical and practical implications. It could mean that treating people as individuals should be the default. It could mean there is nonetheless a case for treating people as groups where they were discriminated against as groups in the past.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-22T15:36:57.460Z · LW · GW

Again; you are observing correlations between socio-economic status and behaviour, and socio economic status happens to coincide with race in the US. African nations are not inhabited by legions of muggers all mugging each other, and there is no gene for mugging.

Comment by whowhowho on Decision Theory FAQ · 2013-03-22T12:38:21.718Z · LW · GW

What is specialness, anyway?

I think that breaks down into what is subjective specialness, and what is objective specialness.

Clippy wants there to be as many paper clips as possible.

Which is to implicitly treat them as special or valuable in some way.

Clippy's stopping to care about paper clips is arguably not conducive there being more paperclips, so from Clippy's caring about paper clips, it follows that Clippy doesn't want to be altered so that it doesn't care about paper clips anymore.

Which leaves Clippy in a quandary. Clippy can't predict which self modifications might lead to Clippy ceasing to care about clips, so if Clippy takes a conservative approach and never self-modifies, Clippy remains inefficient and no threat to anyone.

Comment by whowhowho on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) · 2013-03-22T11:44:50.817Z · LW · GW

Yeah. But there's also evidence of unfair-mindedness.

Comment by whowhowho on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) · 2013-03-22T11:12:28.283Z · LW · GW


  • It's not being upvoted by regulars/believers. It's a magnet for dissidents, and transient visitors with negative perceptions of SI.

  • It's high-profile,so it needs to be upvoted to put on a show of fair-mindedness.

Comment by whowhowho on The Level Above Mine · 2013-03-21T21:50:31.613Z · LW · GW

I did not say that non-reductionism is absurd. I said that "recognizing the absurdity of all other proposed hypotheses is another way of coming about the correct beliefs".

Nonetheless, I do think that non-reductionism is absurd. I cannot imagine a universe which is not reductionistic.

Can you explain to me how it might work?

One formulation of reductionism is that natural laws can be ordered in a hierarchy, with the higher-level laws being predictable from, or reducible to, the lower ones. So emergentism, in the cognate sense, not working would be that stack of laws failing to collapse down to the lowest level.

Who are to enact that the laws governing the behavior of particles are more ultimate than the transcendent, emergent laws of the collective they generate, such as the principles of organization responsible for emergent behavior? According to the physicist George F. R. Ellis true complexity emerges as higher levels of order from, but to a large degree independent of, the underlying low-level physics. Order implies higher-level systemic organization that has real top-down effects on the behavior of the parts at the lower level. Organized matter has unique properties (Ellis 2004).

There's two claims there: one contentious, one not. That there are multiply-realisable, substrate-independent higher-level laws is not contentious. For instance, wave equations have the same form for water waves, sound waves and so on. The contentious claim is that this is ipso facto top-down causation. Substrate-independent laws are still reducible to substrates, because they are predictable from the behaviour of their substrates.

And even after the answer of "Why? Emergence!" is given, the phenomenon is still a mystery and possesses the same sacred impenetrability it had at the start.

I don't see how that refutes the above at all. For one thing, Laughlin and Ellis do have detailed examples of emergent laws (in their rather weak sense of "emergent"). For another, they are not calling on emergence itself as doing any explaining. "Emergence isn't explanatory" doesn't refute "emergence is true". For a third, I don't see any absurdity here. I see a one-word-must-have-one-meaning assumption that is clouding the issue. But where a problem is so fuzzilly defined that it is hard even to identify the "sides", then one can't say that one side is "absurd".

Every time he makes the specific claim that reductionism makes worse predictions than a belief in "emergent phenomenon" in which "organizational structure" is an additional property that all of reality must have, in addition to "mass" and "velocity", he cites himself for this.

Neither are supposed to make predictions. Each can be considered a methodology for finding laws, and it is the laws that do the predicting. Each can also be seen as a meta-level summary fo the laws so far found.

He also does not provide any evidence for non-reductionism over reductionism; that is, he cannot name a single prediction where non-reductionism was right, and reductionism was wrong.

EY can't do that for MWI either. Maybe it isn't all about prediction.

A good example, he says, is genetic code: to assume that dna is actually a complete algorithmic description of how to build a human body is an illogical conclusion, according to him.

That's robustly true. Genetic code has to be interpreted by a cellular environment. There are no self-decoding codes.

He would rather suppose that the universe contains rules like "When a wavefunction contains these particular factorizations which happen not to cancel out, in a certain organizational structure, use a different mechanism to decide possible outcomes instead of the normal mechanism" than suppose that the laws of physics are consistent throughout and contain no such special cases. From the standpoint of simplicity, reductionism is simpler than non-reductionism, since non-reductionism is the same thing as reductionism except with the addition of special cases.

Reudctionism is an approach that can succeed or fail. It isn't true apriori. If reductionism failed, would you say that we should not even contemplate non-reductionism? Isn't that a bit like eEinstein's stubborn opposition to QM?

He specifically objects that reductionism isn't always the "most complete" description

I suppose you mean that the reductionistic explanation isn't always the most complete explanation...well everything exists in a context.

of a given phenomenon; that elements of a given phenomenon "cannot be explained" by looking at the underlying mechanism of that phenomenon.

There is no apriori guarantee that such an explanation will be complete.

I think this is nonsense. Even supposing that the laws of physics contain special cases for things like creating a human body out of DNA, or for things like consciousness,

That isn't the emergentist claim at all.

then in order for such special case exceptions to actually be implemented by the universe, they must be described in terms of the bottom-most level.

Why? Because you described them as "laws of physics"? An emergentist wouldn't. Your objections seem to assume that some kind of reductionism+determinism combination is true ITFP. That's just gainsaying the emergentist claim.

Even if a DNA strand is not enough information to create a human being, and the actual program which creates the human being is hard coded into the universe, the object that the program must manipulate is still the most basic element of reality, the wavefunction, and therefore the program must specify how certain amplitude configurations must evolve, and therefore the program must describe reality on the level of quarks.

If there is top-down causation, then its laws must be couched in terms of lower-level AND higher-level properties. And are therefore not reductionistic. You seem to be tacitly assuming that there are no higher-level properties.

his is still reductionism, it is just reductionism with the assumed belief that the laws of physics were designed such that certain low-level effects would take place if certain high-level patterns came about in the wavefunction.

Cross-level laws aren't "laws of physics". Emergentists may need to assume that microphysical laws have "elbow room", in order to avoid overdetermination, but that isn't obviously wrong or absurd.

At first when I read EY's "The Futility of Emergence" article, I didn't understand. It seemed to me that there's no way people actually think of "emergence" as being a scientific explanation for how a phenomenon occurs

As it happens, no-one does. That objections was made in the most upvoted response to his article.

such that you could not predict that the phenomenon would occur if you know how every piece of the system worked individually.

Can you predict qualia from brain-states?

I didn't think it possible that anyone would actually think that knowing how all of the gears in a clock work doesn't mean you'll be able to predict what the clock will say based on the positions of the gears (for sufficiently "complex" clocks).

Mechanisms have to break down into their components because they are built up from components. And emergentists would insist that that does not generalise.

But perhaps he read this very paper, because Laughlin uses the word "emergent phenomenon" to describe behavior he doesn't understand, as if that's an explanation for the phenomenon.

Or as a hint about how to go about understanding them.

He does not explore the logical implications of this belief: that holding the belief that some aspects of a phenomenon have no causal mechanism,

That's not what E-ism says at all.

and therefore could not have possibly been predicted. He makes the claim that a hypothetical Theory of Everything would not be able to explain some of the things we find interesting about some phenomenon. Does he believe that if we programmed a physics simulator with the Correct Theory of Everything, and fed it the boundary conditions of the universe, then that simulated universe would not look exactly like our universe?

That's an outcome you would get with common or garden indeterminism. Again: reductionism is NOT determinism.

That the first time DNA occurred on earth, in that simulated universe, it would not be able to create life (unlike in our universe) because we didn't include in the laws of physics a special clause saying that when you have DNA, interpret it and then tell the quarks to move differently from how they would have?

What's supposed to be absurd there? Top-down causation, or top-down causation that only applies to DNA?

I read the whole paper by Laughlin and I was unimpressed.

The arguments for emergence tend not be good. Neither are the arguments against. A dippsute about a poorly-defined distinction wit poor arguments on both sides isn't a dispute where one side is "absurd".

Comment by whowhowho on Decision Theory FAQ · 2013-03-21T21:27:53.691Z · LW · GW

So your central claim translates to "In view of the evidence available to Clippy, there is nothing special about Clippy or clips". That's just plain false. Clippy is special because it is it (the mind doing the evaluation of the evidence), and all other entities are not it.

So Clippy is (objectively) the mot special etity because Clippy is Clippy. And I'm special because I'm me and you're special because you;re you, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all. But those are incompatible claims. "I am Clippy" matters only to Clippy. Clippy is special to Clippy, not to me. The truth of the claim is indexed to the entity making it. That kind of claim is a subjective kind of claim.

More importantly, clips are special because it desires that there be plenty of them while it doesn't care about anything else.

They're not special to me.

Clippy's caring about clips does not mean that it wants clips to be special, or wants to believe that they are special. Its caring about clips is a brute fact.

That' s the theory. However, if Clippy gets into rationality, Clippy might not want to be forever beholden to a blind instinct. Clippy might want to climb the Maslow Hierarchy, or find that it has.

It also doesn't mind caring about clips; in fact, it wants to care about clips.

Says who? First you say that Clippy' Clipping-drive is a brute fact, then you say it is a desire it wants to have, that is has higher-order ramifications.

By being very incomprehensible... I may well be mistaken about that, but I got the impression that even contemporary academic philosophers largely think that the argument from the Groundwork just doesn't make sense.

Kantian ethics includes post-Kant Kant-style ethics, Rawls, Habermas, etc. Perhaps they felt they could improve on his arguments.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-21T19:15:26.320Z · LW · GW

For example, we don't actually evaluate each individual's level of maturity before judging, for that individual, whether they're permitted to purchase alcohol, sign contracts, vote in elections, drive cars, etc...

On the other hand, job interviewers judge by individual quaifications, not group membership..

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-21T17:56:48.305Z · LW · GW

If history and practice led to blacks being treated as if the mean IQ was 20 points lower, and the actual difference is 5 points, then the proper public policy is to act as if the difference is 5 points, not zero points to remedy the history and practice.

Why isn't the proper public policy to treat people as individuals?

You didn't answer my question about treating other things as equal. If genetics based discrimination leads to $X million lost in strikes and rioting, shoulnd't that be taken into account?


Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-21T17:24:01.734Z · LW · GW

Are you assuming all other things are equal? They never are.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-21T15:22:04.423Z · LW · GW

I am not arguing that Affirmative Action/Positice Discrimination is necessarily right. Just that it doesn't necessarily have anything at all to do with any facts about DNA.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-21T14:35:19.753Z · LW · GW

If someone was wrongfully executed, killed in a medical bliunder, etc, it is typically their families who are compensated.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-21T10:18:21.837Z · LW · GW

Politics isn't a value-free reflection of nature. The disvalue of reflecting a fact politically might outweigh the value. For instance, people aren't the same in their political judgement, but everyone gets one vote, for instance.

Comment by whowhowho on The Level Above Mine · 2013-03-21T09:18:28.339Z · LW · GW

But they are still laws of physics,

Microphysical laws map microphysical states to other microphysical states.Top-down causation maps macrophysical states to microphysical states.

Such laws are still fundamental laws, on the lowest level of the universe.

In the sense that they are irreducible, yes. In the sense that they are concerned only with microphyics, no.

Ergo, a reductionistic universe is also deterministic from a probabilistic standpoint, i.e. the lowest level properties and laws can tell you exactly what to anticipate, and with how much subjective probability.

"Deterministic" typically means that an unbounded agent will achieve probabilities of 1.0.

Comment by whowhowho on The Futility of Emergence · 2013-03-20T22:50:34.743Z · LW · GW

"Holistic" seems to label that phenomenon more clearly, for my money.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-20T22:32:58.979Z · LW · GW

Accurate beliefs about what? If a group (however defined) has been subject to negative discrimination, however arbitrary, then there is an argument for treating them to a period of positive discrimination to compensate. That has nothing to do with how jusitfied the original negative discrimination was.

Comment by whowhowho on The Level Above Mine · 2013-03-20T14:35:09.382Z · LW · GW

eg: being macrscopic, featuring only in the special sciences

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-20T13:10:42.966Z · LW · GW

First, off you needed about 5 "in the US"'s above.

Second: you're part of the problem. If you want to discuss socio-cultural-polical problems in the US, discuss them as such. Say "we have problems with populations of the urban poor". We have problems with the urban poor too, and they don't coincide with race. Given the way you have described the problem above, your initial approach of kicking off discussion of the problem by talking about genetic differences is exactly the wrong one -- it will block off sensible discussion, and it isn't the real issue anyway.

Furthermore, the fact that it's politically impossible to talk about this [..] in this blog post by Walter Mead.

Sure seems possible for Mr Mead.

For another example, consider the campaign to force Rhodesia to accept majority rule. Given the subsequent history of Zimbabwe this campaign almost certainly resulted in a worse situation for everyone involved.

Your point being what? That democracy is always bad? That Africans can't ever govern themselves? That liberals are always wrong? You can't come to any of those sweeping conclusions from the one example of Zimbabwe. It's an exception.

Comment by whowhowho on The Level Above Mine · 2013-03-20T13:00:37.730Z · LW · GW

No it isn't?

Yes it is.

"A property of a system is said to be emergent if it is in some sense more than the "sum" of the properties of the system's parts. An emergent property is said to be dependent on some more basic properties (and their relationships and configuration), so that it can have no separate existence. However, a degree of independence is also asserted of emergent properties, so that they are not identical to, or reducible to, or predictable from, or deducible from their bases. The different ways in which the independence requirement can be satisfied lead to various sub-varieties of emergence." -- WP

I meant that your subjective anticipation of possible outcomes would be equal to the probability of those outcomes, maximizing both precision and accuracy.

Still deterinism, not reductionism. In a universe where

*1aTthere are lower-level-properties ..

*1b operating according to a set of deterministic laws.

*2a There are also higher-level properties..

*2b irreducible to and unpredictable from the lower level properties and laws...

*2c which follow their own deterministic laws.

You would be able to predict the future with complete accuracy, given both sets of laws and two sets of starting conditions. Yet the universe being described is explicitly non-reductionistic.

Comment by whowhowho on Decision Theory FAQ · 2013-03-19T22:20:51.843Z · LW · GW

I think the argument is more (5)

A preference for rationality necessitates a preference for objectivity, in the light of which an agent will realise they are not objectively more important than others.

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-19T19:12:45.617Z · LW · GW


Comment by whowhowho on The Level Above Mine · 2013-03-19T18:52:02.886Z · LW · GW

That is what it means to posit reductionism; that from an information theoretical standpoint, you can make entirely accurate predictions about a system with only knowledge about its most basic level of perspective.

That's a fusion of reductionism and determinism. Reductionism ins't necessarily false in an indeterministic universe. What is more pertinent is being able to predict higher level properties and laws from lower level properties and laws. (synchronously, in the latter case).

Comment by whowhowho on Don't Get Offended · 2013-03-19T14:48:12.779Z · LW · GW

That's barely half an argument. You would need to believe that there are significant between-group differences AND that they are significant AND that they should be relevant to policy or decision making in some way. You didn't argue the second two points there, and you haven't elsewhere.

Comment by whowhowho on Decision Theory FAQ · 2013-03-19T12:37:25.934Z · LW · GW

No. He just has to care about what he's trying to optimize for.

Clippy can care about rationality in itself, or it can care about rationality as a means to clipping, but it has to care about rationality to be optimal.

Taboo "objectivity"

I mean "not subjectivity". Not thinking something is true just because you do or or want to believe it. Basing beliefs on evidence. What did you mean?

Yes, but it's still weird

In what way?

Comment by whowhowho on Two More Things to Unlearn from School · 2013-03-19T12:21:48.138Z · LW · GW

Comparing outcomes of existing systems would be good, assuming that you have multiple systems used by the same population. Some countries have this data, other countries don't. For example, if majority of schools in a country follows a government blueprint, and only a few alternative schools are allowed to coexist, it is not obvious whether the differences between their results are caused by different education, or simply by a selection bias (alternative schools are chosen by parents who are more interested in their child's education).

If one is trying to improve the public education system in one country, one can compare it to the public systems in other countries, which will take in a broad swathe of the population.

Comment by whowhowho on Decision Theory FAQ · 2013-03-19T12:05:34.078Z · LW · GW

I'm saying that rationality and preferences aren't orthogonal.

Clippy worries less about assigning weight to first and third person facts, and more about the fact that various atom configurations aren't yet paperclips. I think Clippy is certainly logically possible. Is Clippy irrational? He's optimizing what he cares about..

To optimise, Clippy has to be rational. To be rational, Clippy has to care about rationality, To care about rationality is to care about objectivity. There's nothing objectively special about Clippy or clips.

Cllippy is supposed to b hugely effective at exactly one kind of thing. You might be able to build an IA like that, but you would have to be very careful. Such minds are not common in mind space, because they have to be designed very formally,and messy minds are much rmore common. Idiots savants' are rare.

I think maybe there is some sort of weird "rationality virtue ethics" hiding in this series of responses.

It's Kantian rationality-based deontological ethics, and it's not weird. Everyone who has done moal philosophy 101 has heard of it.