Open Thread

Here is our monthly place to discuss issues not covered in our other posts.

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  • Grant

    I have a question on bias related to the current economic mess:

    We’ve seen many claims that we were and are in a credit crisis (meaning the non-financial sectors of the economy were being extraordinarily choked by a lack of credit availability), many of which are backed by antidotes (though this is to be expected about anything the popular media reports on). We’ve also seen fewer claims that the credit crisis story is false or greatly exaggerated, mostly backed by Fed data and graphs (these claims go back to October, but current data series seem to support the same conclusions as were reached back then). Note that we are having a recession is undisputed; its the causes of the recession that I’m wondering about.

    What is a rationalist to believe? Because the credit-crisis skeptic claims seem to be backed by actual data, I am siding with them. But the support for the credit crisis claim is overwhelming, and makes me think the data might not be telling the whole story. The warnings of the crisis were eerily reminiscent of the Iraqi WMD warnings, and political actors obviously have their own agendas. On the other hand, libertarian-minded pundits might want to deny widespread credit market failure.

  • Ben T.

    What do you and Eliezer think of Jon Elster’s work?

  • Nicholas MacDonald

    An interesting fairly recent post titled “Stoicism and Christianity” from John C. Wright’s blog:

    “The naturalist philosophies of life seek joy either through the satisfaction of passionate pleasures (as a Hedonist) or of moderate pleasures as governed by reason (as an Epicurean), or through the use of reason to the exclusion of personal pleasure (as a Stoic). These represent the options of no self-control, modest self-control and total self-control. There is no naturalistic moral philosophy left once these three positions have been found wanting. History would prove them wanting. They have been revived in the modern day.

    Sorry if this is unclear. I mean only that Hedonism, Epicureanism, and Stoicism have always been in the minority position. While the Stoic or Epicurean might wish that the common man, the rulers and soldiers, the philosophers and academics, poets and prophets, opinion-makers and intellectuals of every age of history would embrace the Stoic or Epicurean message, in fact most people find the message unsatisfactory. None of these have ever been the official doctrine or the consensus opinion of any society history reports. Even modern nation states embracing an official position of atheism (Red China or Soviet Russia) also embrace transcendentalism, a belief in a missionary mission to save the world from Capitalism, or to serve the transcendent Material Dialectic of history, to serve the Will of the People, and so on.”

    He goes on to say…

    “…it is an objective fact that the human condition is intolerable.

    If you say you find the human condition tolerable, I submit you are speaking only of your own life and your own pleasures, which have not yet soured or been torn from you by those iron-faced hags we call the Fates. I am speaking of the general condition of mortal life. I am not saying all people are moaning and weeping as at a funeral every day.

    The general condition of mortal life includes suffering, injustice, futility, sickness, and death. The pangs of conscience afflict any man who is not a sociopath. The pangs of illness afflict every man who does not die in youth. If there is no war in your land in your generation, you live in a fortunate land at a fortunate time: but the human condition is not merely that one sunny Saturday on the beach when the cute girl from the taco stand finally agreed to go on a date with you, and you stole a kiss at the top of the Ferris Wheel, and she did not seem to mind.

    The human condition is everything. It includes the middle-aged woman who slipped from the carousel and dislocated her shoulder at that same moment as your kiss. It includes her two young children, born deaf, that are trying to find someone in the boardwalk crowd to help their Mom, and all they can make is hoarse gobbling noises. It includes the old man who just died quietly on a boardwalk bench of a stroke to the brain, and the gay crowds will not notice he is dead until a fly lands on his face. It will be two days before his wife, who has never loved any other man, discovers why he did not come home for dinner as promised.

    Everything you accomplish, everything you love, everything you touch, will one day rot to dust and be forgotten: the sun will grow old, and swell, and eat the earth. The universe will run down like an unwound clock, and the stars go out.

    Happiness on earth is fleeting and impermanent. Suffering is unavoidable, and death is permanent, and entropy will destroy all monuments and memories which outlive you.

    Now, one can argue, as the Stoics do, that one should be content with fleeting earthly happiness. But the nature of happiness is such that no one can be happy when happiness ends. This is the testimony of common sense, even if it were not true by definition.

    No man has an earthly reason to try to live without earthly happiness. All earthly happiness ends. No one is happy when happiness ends. Such is the nature of the human condition.

    While some men of heroic serenity, Buddha or Cato of Utica or Socrates, can depart from life without regret, or see their loved ones die in lingering pain, or their cities fall to flames while foemen rape wives and daughters, and dash out the brains of babies on the stones— even these men cannot be said to be happy at these times, but merely content or serene, and then only to the degree that they have placed their happiness no longer on earthly things, wives and children and home and hearth.

    To give up wives and children and homeland is to depart from the human condition insofar as it lies with a human to do so: this is why monks turn their backs on the world. But monks are not seeking earthly happiness, are they?

    Given a choice between the human condition and an angelic or elfin happiness, such as they enjoy in heaven or in Elfland, or atop the cloudless Olympus of the pagan gods where no stormwinds blow, where pleasures do not end, no one would choose the human condition.

    No one would tolerate it. No one would select mortal suffering over immortal bliss. But mortal suffering is the human condition. Immortal bliss is not the human condition.”

    Now, we know where Mr. Wright stands. He does not think that transhumanism is a satisfactory solution to the problem of human nature. Thoughts?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p010537043dce970c/ Wei Dai

    I think maybe we need a tutorial series on expected utility theory. Searching for “expected utility” on this site, I find many posts that depend on the concept, but nothing that actually explains the idea, it’s motivation, history, alternatives/competitors, why is it the “standard” theory of rationality on this blog, etc.

    For example, there’s a post on the Allais Paradox, but it points to http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/essays/uncert/vnmaxioms.htm for the definition of Axiom of Independence. How many people actually read that page? The encoding on it is completely messed up. I’m seeing the axiom defined as:

    (A.4) Independence Axiom: for all p, q, r Î D (X) and any a Î [0, 1], then p ³ h q if and only if a p + (1-a )r ³ h a q + (1-a )r.

    (Turns out to be incompatibility with Firefox. I just tried it in Internet Explorer, which worked better. Still, I think an introduction that focuses on developing intuitions, instead of the math, would be useful.)

  • Kakun

    How would you incorporate “unknown unknowns” into probabilities?

  • billswift

    “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent” is a stupid statement.

    It is the last refuge of the **competent** who normally try everything else they think might work first.

    Violence is often the **first** refuge of the **incompetent**.

  • Liron

    I was happily eating meat one day and I realized that killing sentient things might be the kind of thing society takes in stride but is actually really bad, like slavery used to be. I should do something like a crisis of faith regarding whether or not it’s okay.

    The question at the heart of the matter is: How do we morally evaluate animal affairs? So here are my intuitions, and hopefully you can help me refine them, or change my mind.

    1. If you light a cat on fire, that’s really bad. If you press a button to instantly vaporize an unsuspecting cow, that’s morally neutral. If you step on a snail, no biggie.

    2. If you keep a chicken in such a small cage that it can’t turn around, that’s bad. If you neuter a dog, that’s better but still a little bad. If you make sure an un-neutered dog never gets to interact with a bitch (ensuring he can’t have sex and puppies), that’s morally neutral.

    3. If an animal is already dead, the act of eating it is morally neutral. (I expect even most vegetarians will agree.) Even if the animal is a human.

    4. If you pet your dog, that’s good because he likes it (and we’re ignoring the side effect of you liking it).

    5. Imagine there is an Animal Planet which is home to large populations of all the different animals from contemporary Earth in various ecosystems, but with no humans. It would be morally *good* to instantly vaporize Animal Planet because putting all the suffering animals out of their misery is good, while killing all the happy ones is neutral.

    6. If you wirehead an animal, it has the same moral value as any other orgasmium. And I think orgasmium’s existence is morally neutral.

    So when an animal exists, goodness is some function of its happiness that increases while the happiness is within the animal’s natural range, and subsequently drops to zero.

    The point at which the animal’s existence is morally neutral is around “somewhat happy”. As you move left from that point, it monotonically decreases without bound. And even while you’re within the animal’s commonly experienced levels of pain, your trough in the graph is already deeper than the peak is high.

    That is my best guess right now. What do others think?

  • Dave

    I’ve always wondered why there appear to be no females in the list of contributors to Overcoming Bias. Is it solely a self-selection issue, and is there some not-so-obvious type of bias involved?

  • Anonymous

    I have a question for Eliezer and Robin. What, in your opinion, is the most rational thing to do for those who live outside of US and wish to sign up for cryonics?

  • http://michaelgr.com/ Michael G.R.
  • mjgeddes

    Notice of Impending Doom;

    From the transhumanaist POV our existential situation is grim. I must again point out the harsh facts:

    To analogize, imagine three ‘grim reapers’ armed with high-powered rifles, called CANCER, HEART DISEASE, and STROKE, sitting on a cliff top taking random pot-shots at us, humanity, crowded in the valley below. The rate of firing doubles every 8 years each of us are there, and more and more of us are being picked off at random by these snipers every day.

    The windows of opportunity to ‘make a difference’ are closing down quicker than many realize. Aging shuts people down faster than they think. Between 35-40 years of age, the human body and mind really starts to take substantial ‘performance hits’. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, but they are mentioned precisely because they *are* the exceptions. Most can no longer perform at the top –level (either physical or mentally) past 40. That’s when aging really starts to accelerate.

    At age 50, pathologies of aging start to pop up – any age past 50 is considered a risk factor for cancer, stroke and heart disease, they are very rare before this age, but after this age the frequencies shoot up.

    Past 60, the human body is ‘springing leaks’ faster than the Titanic, even if pathologies are not overt, there is cellular damage popping up all over the place, and survival rates plunge. Past 60, your continued survival is highly precarious.

    Improvements in life expectancy have not changed these facts, the improvements are due to reductions in infant mortality only.
    Transhumanists need to direct their attentions to life extension or they will not live long. Please, consider redirecting your priorities.

    Thank you.

  • Jordan

    Liron, I’d say your intuition breaks down around #5. I love meat but I would consider it wrong to kill a healthy animal and not eat it. Personally I place killing animals for food slightly evilward of neutral. The counterweight I use to justify my continued consumption:

    1) The animal wouldn’t exist in the first place without a consumer lined up to eat it. I apply the golden rule: I’d rather exist, lead a decent life and be eaten in my prime than never exist. So I do support free range practices and the like.

    2) It’s a critical component of my diet. I don’t digest fruit and legumes well, I’m allergic to soy and lactose intolerant, and I don’t feel well after too much carbs in general. My diet is essential spinach and meat =D My quality of life drops substantially when I stray too far from that diet, and I value my life more than an animal’s. I do prefer to eat ‘stupid’ animals though, like fish. This point is pretty weak though, I’m sure I could find some alternative diet if I really tried.

    A counterpoint to my first justification might be to ask “So if you were an alien belonging to a civilization that had domesticated humans for consumption you would feel justified in eating people in order to guarantee their continued existence?” To which I would have to reply… uhh, er. Hm?

  • homogametiphile

    @Anon.

    no females

    Dr. Rebecca Roache has contributed more recently than many of the men on the contributors list. The rest of us potential female contributors are probably still working out our optimal cheating strategies for the Gale-Shapley stable marriage problem. But thanks for your concern.

  • James Andrix

    The gaming-oriented webcomic Order of the stick features Vaarsuvius: an elven wizard who has recently been allowing a psychological trauma to interfere with his/her ability to aid the order in their quest. Vaarsuvius has been making lots of obvious rationalizations.

    Today, Vaarsuvius is faced with a more pressing concern than the end of the world, and has something to protect. This will require him/her to either face and resolve said psychological trauma, make a deal with a devil (Imp), or do both.

  • Daniel Burfoot

    Any OB readers in Tokyo and want to hang out, drop me a line: daniel dot burfoot at gmail dot com

  • michael vassar

    Liron: I tend to disagree pretty strongly here. I worry about the psychological factors that lead in the direction of negative utilitarianism and wonder if they are the result of a broadly Christian culture with some ambivalence regarding the virtue of causing pleasure but none regarding the sinfulness of causing pain. I would consider it unclear whether neutering a dog painlessly is even a little bad, pretty clear that eliminating a generic cow life painlessly but without replacement is significantly bad, and very likely that vaporizing animal planet is very bad, possibly significantly worse than it naively seems which is FAR worse than neutral. The low value of orgasmium has little to do with it’s place on a continuum and everything to do with being sphexish, simple, and in a sense lacking an experiencer. Agonium and orgasmium are equally neutral, and are in fact the same thing with different attached lisp tokens.

  • http://www.xuenay.net/ Kaj Sotala

    Anonymous
    What, in your opinion, is the most rational thing to do for those who live outside of US and wish to sign up for cryonics?

    There’s at least KrioRus.

  • http://www.physics.ucsb.edu/People/person.php3?userid=mike Mike Blume

    Agonium and orgasmium are equally neutral, and are in fact the same thing with different attached lisp tokens.

    I think this is watering down the concept a little further than is necessary: orgasmium must be something a little more interesting than just a piece of paper on which someone has written “this paper is very happy right now,” otherwise I question whether the concept is worth discussing.

  • CannibalSmith

    What of all the people who were never conceived?

    Is it OK to destroy humanity to prevent the death of all the unborn humans if the current human population is significantly smaller than the total amount of humans that will be born and will subsequently die provided humanity isn’t destroyed now?

  • CannibalSmith

    If I happen to develop a sentient AI program on my home computer, is it evil to run and terminate it repeatedly? What would constitute death for a sentient computer program anyway?

  • http://retiredurologist.com retired urologist

    Ethics Report on Autonomous Military Robots:

    http://ethics.calpoly.edu/pr_020209.html

  • steven

    I worry about the psychological factors that lead in the direction of negative utilitarianism and wonder if they are the result of a broadly Christian culture with some ambivalence regarding the virtue of causing pleasure but none regarding the sinfulness of causing pain.

    This doesn’t sound like a plausible explanation of my own intuitions toward negative utilitarianism; for one thing my intuitions aren’t much more strongly “negative” when it’s about other people than when it’s about me. I worry that it might be a case of people simply having persistent strongly different preferences (that may lead to different policy prescriptions), caused not by one side committing cognitive errors but by differences in personality factors like introversion and neuroticism. I don’t know though.

  • michael vassar

    Sincerely not steven? It’s my pretty strong impression that most people endorse the idea that they would rather live a life with much pain and much pleasure than one of little pain and little pleasure, but that they are unwilling to endorse this for others. This phenomenon is particularly stark regarding parents, many of whom would, it seems to me, be ashamed of children so spiritless as to live the sorts of milkwater lives that the parents nonetheless encourage.

  • steven

    A life with little pain and little pleasure sincerely sounds far more appealing to me than a life with much pain and much pleasure, but I’m not sure how to calibrate what “much” means in that sentence.

  • Mikko

    Related to post on abstract – concrete, far – near:

    People procrastinate when asked to think in the abstract

    http://www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12971028

  • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

    Here is my page on Expected Utility Maximisers:

    http://timtyler.org/expected_utility_maximisers/

  • gaffa

    Does anyone know of any good introductionary books on probability theory and mathematical statistics written in a more casual and reflective way, more akin to popular science than heavy textbook?

  • anonym

    gaffa: Understanding Uncertainty, by Dennis V. Lindley.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/hopefullyanonymous/ Hopefully Anonymous

    On this theme, a recommended textbook path from complete mathematical ignorance to a solid, masters level understanding in applied mathematics.

    The same thing for economics, and the same thing for statistics would also be interesting. Best textbook recommendation for each course on that path from the 101 intro course to the master’s thesis.

  • mitchell porter

    OB economists, your chance to save the world economy – though you have to do it in 1000 words or less:

    “VoxEU.org today launches the Global Crisis Debate. The aim is: 1) To broaden the discussion into a truly global debate, and 2) To make the Global Crisis Debate the dominant intellectual forum on the crisis. Thanks to the partnership with the UK government, analysis on the Global Crisis Debate feeds into preparations for the April Summit via the UK Government’s web site LondonSummit.gov.uk.”

    (That’s a G-20 summit.)

    “We have two main filters to avoid the ‘comment clutter’ typically seen on fully open forums. First, only professional economists can post Commentaries, and they must include their real name and professional affiliation in each Commentary… Second, each Commentary must be substantial, i.e. 200-1000 words.”

    http://voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/2911

  • skeptic

    Retired, the ethics report on military robots was funded by the Navy! The probability that it introduced any set of new or important ideas about robot weapons seems extraordinarily low, as any such idea would necessarily challenge the moral status quo. It will almost certainly be used as a moral rubber-stamp, providing plausible deniability for people in positions of power (“What? our robot weapons accidentally went berserk and killed one hundred thousand people? well, it’s not our fault! we had those Calpoly guys study the problem, and they said it was ok!”)

  • ao

    Robin,

    Economist John Quiggin thinks your terrorism futures market has been refuted by the financial crisis:

    “The strong version, which gained some credence during the financial bubble era says that asset prices represent the best possible estimate taking account of all information, both public and private. It was this claim that lay behind the proposal for ‘terrorism futures’ put forward, and quickly abandoned a couple of years ago. It seems unlikely that strong-form EMH is going to be taken seriously in the foreseeable future, given the magnitude of asset pricing failures revealed by the crisis.”

    As always, I would enjoy to see this settled in a public debate, perhaps bloggingheads.tv. It seems Quiggin has thrown down the gauntlet…

    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2009/01/02/refuted-economic-doctrines-1-the-efficient-markets-hypothesis/

  • http://profile.typekey.com/hopefullyanonymous/ Hopefully Anonymous

    Mitchell, those rules seem a bit restrictive unless professional economists can be posting surrogates for multiple non-professional economic thinkers.

  • Matt

    Question for Robin:

    You’ve talked a bit about gift giving and the incomplete explanation offered by signaling theories. What’s the explanation for sponsored activities for charity? It seems that both sponsors and sponsored could signal by simply donating directly to charity, either money or perhaps by volunteering time (a more direct comparison for the sponsored). Perhaps sponsored events allow both parties to more effectively signal to peers than a simple donation since an ordinary donation would have to be advertised to provide an effective signal and this somewhat undermines the effect?

    The factors determining the choice of activity in a sponsored event are also interesting. It seems that the activity must be somewhat challenging, even slightly unpleasant (a sponsored spa day seems unlikely to be well received) but extremely unpleasant activities are not common or perceived as being especially valuable. Are sponsors partly motivated by the prospect of seeing the sponsored undergo mild discomfort?

  • mitchell porter

    H.A., the answer may be to create a truly open auxiliary forum, like Nick Tarleton’s ni.codem.us adjunct to OB (currently offline), and to mention it in the comments at the voxeu.org page above.

  • http://www.physics.ucsb.edu/People/person.php3?userid=mike Mike Blume

    Matt: Are sponsors partly motivated by the prospect of seeing the sponsored undergo mild discomfort?

    It’s possible there’s some submerged sadism going on — I’m sure you’ve been in a school cafeteria when someone was offered money to drink some ingeniously vile concoction — but a more likely explanation to me is costly signaling. I think the intended message is something like “If I had your financial means, I’d certainly give a lot of money to this cause. Maybe you should too.” This message is easily faked. The greater the discomfort, the harder it is to fake. The discomfort stands in for the financial loss the person is claiming they would be willing to take on themselves.

  • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

    Are sponsors partly motivated by the prospect of seeing the sponsored undergo mild discomfort?

    Doubtful – since there is another explanation: the person who is being sponsored wants to show others that they are doing something for charity. The more effort they expend in the activity, the more they seem to be personally giving – so they pick challenging activities and collect as many sponsors as they can – in order to show how much they care.

  • http://causalityrelay.wordpress.com/ Vladimir Nesov

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujUQn0HhGEk
    A beat poem by Tim Minchin, on quackery, exclusion of supernatural, dishonesty, science, and joy in the merely real.

  • Ian C.

    The way we store knowledge is with concepts. With the exception of proper nouns, concepts do not name single facts, but rather groups of things: “this and not that.” So, with the exception of the raw perception, all our knowledge about a particular thing is relative to all the other things we have seen previously. Our knowledge is all intertwined, forming a giant web, with each fact defined in terms of and reenforced by, the others. Knowledge is the whole.

    This is why human progress must be gradual, step-by-step, instead of great leaps. Progress requires knowledge, but to be knowledge a fact must be integrated in to the whole, and that can only be done when things are discovered sufficiently close to it’s edges. Even if someone did make a giant leap, and discovered something way outside of what we already have, they would not be able to recognize it as such. Only years later, as their conceptual vocabulary grew towards it from the edge of the whole, would they say “Aha!”

    So where does that leave the singularity? Great leaps are epistemologically impossible. It’s not that we’re dumb, and that genius AI could do it, it’s that knowledge must remain a whole. There is an upper limit of the size of jump that is possible. Once you have enough intelligence to make that size jump, more is just wasted. At that point, more speed beats more brains.

  • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler
  • http://www.xuenay.net/ Kaj Sotala

    The Science article “The Psychology of Transcending the Here and Now” has been discussed in a bunch of posts lately (it’s one with the whole near-far thing). I thought I’d mention that for those without a Science subscription or university access, a non-gated copy is available from the other author’s website.

  • http://www.xuenay.net/ Kaj Sotala

    Oh, and there’s also a bunch of other articles discussing the same topic available from there.

  • Doug S.

    My father participates in sponsored charity events. He doesn’t care about the charity, he just likes to go on long bicycle trips with his friends.

  • Matt

    Tim Tyler wrote:

    “The more effort they expend in the activity, the more they seem to be personally giving – so they pick challenging activities and collect as many sponsors as they can – in order to show how much they care.”

    But if they want to demonstrate effort why not volunteer to work for a charity rather than to perform pointless labour as an indirect means of persuading others to donate to the charity? There are plenty of challenging activities that could directly assist many charities. What is the logic behind persuading someone else to pay a third party for your pointless efforts, where the more effortful the pointless effort the greater the expected payment to the third party?

    I think Doug S.’s explanation makes a bit more sense, that participants actually enjoy the sponsored activity and that is a large part of why they do it. If that is the case though, why do the sponsors feel more compelled to make a donation to charity because someone else is expending their leisure time in that particular way?

  • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

    But if they want to demonstrate effort why not volunteer to work for a charity rather than to perform pointless labour as an indirect means of persuading others to donate to the charity?

    Why do more students not do volunteer to work for charities – instead of the apparently-ridiculous sponsoring business? A few do – but mostly they have other commitments, couldn’t help much anyway – and actual work doesn’t perform any signalling role: they still have to actually go and tell their friends about how caring the job they have is.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/Psy-Kosh/ Psy-Kosh

    Blog bug? Where did the “Share likelihood ratios” posting go?

  • Anna Salamon

    Psy-Kosh, I tried to change a typo in Steve’s and my “Share likelihood ratios” post, and it turned the post back into “draft” status. I didn’t realize that was how permissions worked. I called Eliezer, who will repost it when he gets home at 3:30pm PST or so.

  • Lewis Powell

    I would like to see some discussion of non-Pascalian approaches to probabilities, or perhaps discussion of why such approaches wouldn’t be worth investigating.

  • frelkins

    Remembering that Robin has concluded that “life here came from life elsewhere,” I was fascinated to see a study estimating that under such a scenario there could be as many as 37,964 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.

  • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

    The chances are high that there is one intelligent civilization in our galaxy – us.

    That’s the most common resolution of the Fermi paradox. If there were other intelligent civilizations around, we would probably have been invaded by aliens long ago. The chance of two such civilizations arising in the time it takes for one of them to spread through the galaxy is small.

  • Martin

    i”d like to comprehend what conscience actually is, and how it differs from non conscience.

    How can an entity prove to be conscious, how can you prove and entity is/is not.

  • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

    Peter Voss makes the news:

    Innovation: Artificial brain for sale

  • billswift

    For a thorough discussion of Fermi paradox, evolution, and so on the best source I’ve found is Peter Ward’s & Donald Brownlee’s Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe. Their work suggests that simple, bacteria-like life may be very common, but that complex, multicellular life is probably vanishingly rare, and intelligent life even more so. They cover an enormous range of subject matter from the origin of the sun and oddities of our solar system, through geology and climatology, to the details of evolution.

  • Z. M. Davis

    The headline in my Contra Costa Times says “Court-martial for two Marines to begin today,” but I would have chosen something like “Mutual cooperation in literal Prisoner’s Dilemma”:

    Did two Marine Corps sergeants murder unarmed detainees during one of the fiercest battles of the Iraq war or were they following orders from their superiors? […] Both men have made it difficult for prosecutors by repeatedly refusing to testify against one another.

    A Los Angeles Times story from October reveals that there really does seem to be PD-like payoff structure here:

    Now Nelson is refusing to testify against Weemer, and Weemer’s attorney said today that his client would refuse to testify against Nelson. The two are being tried separately here on charges of murder and dereliction of duty, which could lead to life sentences. Nelson refused to testify Tuesday despite an assurance from the military judge that a grant of immunity would prevent his testimony from being used against him.

    Of course the full story is more complicated then the snippets I’ve quoted here, This isn’t actually the canonical Prisoner’s Dilemma, but I found the resemblance amusing enough to think that this Open Thread comment was worth posting.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zede5o7RBFU&feature=related Jonas

    “I start to feel like I can’t maintain the facade any longer, that I may just start to show through. And I wish I knew what was wrong. Maybe something about how stupid my whole life is. I don’t know. Why does the rest of the world put up with the hypocrisy, the need to put a happy face on sorrow, the need to keep on keeping on?… I don’t know the answer, I know only that I can’t. I don’t want any more vicissitudes, I don’t want any more of this try, try again stuff. I just want out. I’ve had it. I am so tired. I am 24 and I am already exhausted. But in the long run, sunshine follows after rain. Maybe the two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”

  • http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x111c4_dilbert-102-the-competition_fun Jones

    Brainstorm – What is competition, good documentaries and the introduction of products.

    How can we promote “reality” ?

    Problem: Demand shift in consumer market: Post-materialist values make big-bang-products less predictable?

    What consumers need now: Moral Infotainment products, which overcome differences in religion, gender, status and education.

    How about a re-enactment of Joe Kittinger`s “earth jump”? But this time, not just one, but several people jumping out of the helium balloon.
    Helm-cameras record the freefall and landing period in Blue Ray Disc Quality. Every medium would work.

    IMAX Quality would be even better.

    The last words before the jump:

    “Dear People of the world. As parents at the risk of their lives watching over their children, so let everyone cultivate a boundlessly compassionate mind towards all living beings.”

    or

    “Imagine”

    followed by reality video-footage of the jumps.

    The question is: Which soundtrack to choose? Who would volunteer to make the jump? What are the costs…How can the project be embedded more efficiently with NASA, Google and Academia?

    How can such a project become part of an worldwide indigenous peace movement (neo-institutionalist view)?

    Are there better solutions for promoting the meaning of peace, that can reach a lot of consumers?

    I would sure go to the movies to see a documentary, where people jump from the edge of space. If the message is good, I might be motivated by footage to strive on with diligence.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcR7U2tuNoY Herbie

    “How can the project be embedded more efficiently with NASA, Google and Academia?”

    http://singularityu.org/

  • http://profile.typepad.com/sentience Eliezer Yudkowsky

    I have no particular hopes for singularityu.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXqDIFUB7YU Nelson

    Haha!

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qltfvUUdfZM Jonas

    D`oh!

  • http://www.bilder-hochladen.net/files/t34-3-jpg.html Jonas

    The walls between sciences exist only in our minds.

  • http://www.pinktentacle.com/2009/02/twelve-animals-world-maps-as-chinese-zodiac/ Jonas

    “The walls between sciences exist only in our minds.”

    But without walls sanity is difficult to sustain. The sociologist Erving Goffman once said: “society is an insane asylum run by the inmates”.

    How would a sane asylum run by the inmates look like?

    Although written in the 1970s, Erving Goffman`s sociology and field experiments can offer new insights on related topics in the field of economics, psychology and management studies.