Here is our monthly place to discuss Overcoming Bias topics that have not appeared in recent posts.
Talk about strange bias! In reviewing the medical topics, I came across this post yesterday. Thinking it under-discussed, and under-documented, and since it was in my sub-specialty professional field, I spent three hours putting together a well-documented commentary, hoping to generate more discussion. I'm new to blogs; a participant only since I retired. Who knew there was such a thing as *too much documentation*? Since I learned only recently how to make a hyperlink in a comment, I painstakingly constructed a link to references for each point discussed, as evidence-based writing is want to do. Well, apparently the TypePad software counts the number of hyperlinks in a comment, and if beyond some unmentioned number, screens out the comment as spam. My 3 hours of work is gone, and I have no copy. I can't even re-post it in my own blog. What's an old sex specialist to do?
Fart spray effects moral judgment.
Robin and Eliezer,It seems like you're keeping the open thread beyond an inconvenience barrier for 3 out of 4 weeks?
Extraordinarily good writing and willingness to use simple equations (something rarely seen in American papers) in this piece in an indian newspaper on the genetics of altruism:
I thought this would be a good place to ask this. Does anybody know of a named problem or class of problems where: 1) There is a group of people, each of whom has the ability to, for example, electrically shock the rest of the group without shocking themselves. 2) If nobody presses their shock button, nobody gets shocked. However, 3) Somebody presses their button, 4) prompting others to endlessly retaliate in order to shock the others into NOT pressing their buttons. And each time someone shocks the group, someone else feels they have to have the last word. If the group could simultaneously cooperate, everyone would be fine.
Please, I'm not asking for a solution to the problem, reasons why it isn't a coherent problem, or any other musing on the topic. I'm simply asking if anybody here can point me to a known problem that involves this kind of simulataneous cooperation vs. having the last word. Thanks!
HA, I had to hypothesize about your assumptions to motivate what you were saying. Your life and memories do not just consist of the few moments during which you wondered "am I a Boltzmann brain?", they stretch long before and long after that moment, and so a theory of what you are that only accounts for that moment (and a few others on either side of it) is simply not tenable, unless you have some odd view such as the one I speculatively attributed to you.
But enough. I am going to do something crude and ostentatious and announce a six-month vow of silence, specifically with respect to commenting here, and starting right now. I'll break it if absolutely necessary, but meanwhile I'll rely on the good old social emotions to make me think twice about breaking it. The basic reason is that despite all the intelligence gathered here, the final court of appeal in all matters is invariably some form of mathematical naturalism, and since that cannot be the final word on the nature of reality, that establishes a limit to how deep the discussions will ever go. Whenever "metaphysical" concepts like time, consciousness, existence come up, the instinct is to define them in terms which will allow questions about them to be answered by existing bodies of theory, and in general that requires that they be defined away, or "ontologically flattened" as I sometimes put it. Of course such an approach is not unique to this blog; it's symptomatic of where scientific culture in general is at. We know how to think rigorously about some things, we don't know how to think rigorously about others, and so the second sort of thing is either shoehorned into the form of the first, or it's denied away entirely. The path forward must involve returning to raw experience and rethinking the mathematical-physical ontology from the ground up, in a way that denies nothing that's actually there. So, goodbye until January 2009, I guess!
We shouldn't waste resources worrying about the possibility that we'll be dead in a minute, because there's nothing we can do about it. We (I, really) won't "fluctuate" out of existence, but instead would be brains in vacuum, with no ability to manipulate the environment and no negentropy to exploit. Not brains, really, something even smaller, but minimally capable of supporting an experience.
I was recently contemplating Eliezer Yudkowsky's conception of mindspace (where human minds are a very small portion of all possible minds), and its practical application in a future cybernetic/bioengineered/AI inundated society.
An unfortunate quality of the dialectic surrounding the future of intelligence is its almost single-minded focus on power. While, this is an understandable fixation considering the benefits of power, and its relation to the much awaited milestone of human-level AI, it overlooks the lessons that both nature and history have to teach: evolution teaches us that it’s not the strongest/biggest/fastest/(insert here)est that survives, but the best adapted to a specific niche, and all the successful practical applications in AI have been in very specific niches.
We are on the brink of an intelligence explosion, but not one where only processing power will take center stage. The coming paradigm shift will instead be analogous to the Cambrian explosion, where diversity joins power.
The mastery of intelligence will allow its artificers to shape it to fit any need or want. But what needs, what wants? How will people adapt? How will society adapt? Will society adapt?
Since my knowledge of sociology and psychology is limited, I will leave this seed of a thought to grow in more fertile minds.
Douglas, I don't follow the logic "If we're BB then our memories are fake and we'll instantly fluctuate out of existence, therefore we should believe that we're not BB."
Maybe the idea of dating the Open Threads should be abandoned - and they should simply be numbered instead - preferably in the subject line.
Gwern,I think you're answering a different question, namely, what to do if you think people are frauds. The difficult question is deciding if people are frauds. I'm can't address it, either, but I want to address something else in josh's question: he seems to be conflating several beliefs. The critics' praise of Pollock should increase our belief that Pollock is good, but it should have very little effect on our ability to appreciate him.
Bolzmann:If we're BB, we're instant toast (and all our memories are fake), so we shouldn't worry about that possibility. But discarding cosmologies that predict BB pretty much throws them all out. Sometimes you just have to accept that your best current guess has serious problems.
HA, it seems you are adopting the view that your personal history consists of a set of independently existing, instantaneous mind states connected by some form of consistency but not by causality; they possess a logical order by virtue of accumulation of memories, say, but physically they may be scattered all over the multiverse. If you believe that, then it's true that persistence counts for nothing, because it's just the illusion of persistence. I am assuming that the experience of persistence requires the actual persistence of something.
"it seems you are adopting the view", "If you believe that".
I'm not trying to adopt views or believe things. I'm trying to understand what the heck is going on.
"your personal history consists of a set of independently existing, instantaneous mind states connected by some form of consistency but not by causality; they possess a logical order by virtue of accumulation of memories, say, but physically they may be scattered all over the multiverse."
No, I thought the Boltzmann brain you initially mentioned could fluctuate into existence with memories (call them fake or instantaneous if you like) fluctuating into existence with it and inside of it. That's not a statement about "instantaneous mind states connected by some form of consistency but not by causality ... scattered all over the multiverse".
I feel like in the last couple of posts you've been reaching to strawmanify the Boltzmann brain concept. I'm interested in the strongest version of the theory.
(I'm enjoying Mitchell's answers and the Boltzmann Brain discussion.)
It would be nice if I had a way to communicate with Z. M. Davis without that communication cluttering up this here blog. Will he contact me please?
Josh: my approach is to find someone who is acknowledged as part of the 'suspect' group, but is seen as not hewing to its beliefs. This works on the theory that in this sort of subjective matter, the truth will be somewhere in the middle.
An example of what I mean. Take modern literature. It is in a similar situation as modern art (but not so bad). What I do is look at Harold Bloom - an acknowledged literature expert, who also is a great supporter of the classics/Western Canon and a disliker of much 'modern' & 'post-modern' stuff - says. If he says Cormac McCarthy is a great author, and the rest of the literary establishment is saying the same thing*, then I can guess I'm going to like _Blood Meridian_ (or at least acknowledge its quality).
Now, this obviously isn't a good strategy in all areas (I certainly wouldn't want to split the difference when it comes to evolution), but I find it works well enough in the humanities.
* This is actually a nice example because Bloom was saying good things about McCarthy long before this recent spate of movies and publicity.