Me and Less Wrong

I’ve gotten questions from a couple of different quarters recently about my relationship to the the rationalist community around Less Wrong and related blogs. The one sentence answer is that I consider myself a fellow-traveler and ally of that culture, but not really part of it nor particularly wishing to be.

The rest of this post is a slightly longer development of that answer.

I have aimed since childhood to be what Eliezer Yudkowsky and the LW crowd call a “master-class rationalist”. Eliezer has done some brilliant manifestos and teaching materials towards that end; his The Twelve Virtues of Rationality has become one of my favorite pieces of writing ever. But my history, my major concerns, and my intellectual toolkit are a little different from his, and I’ve been working on trying to think more clearly for many years longer simply because I was born sooner. This produces some differences in style and emphasis.

One major difference is that I learned techniques corresponding to much of the the Less Wrong analytical method from Alfred Korzybski’s discipline of General Semantics, a very long time ago. So, for example, when Eliezer writes of bleggs and rubes … this is old news to any student of GS: humans do abstraction for functional reasons, and all categorization is motivated. Next?

Relative to a typical LW follower, I am much more likely to connect the discipline of rationality to traditional issues in epistemology, the philosophy of mind, and analytical philosophy in general. The LW culture sometimes, to my perception, exhibits patches of enthusiasm and shallowness that would be cured by a bit more knowledge of these fields and historical perspective. This is not a major flaw and it tends to be self-correcting over time, but I notice it.

More generally, my reaction to the LW culture has a touch of “You kids. You’re so cute.” to it. Only that makes it sound like I feel condescending towards them, and I don’t – I tremendously respect the effort and intelligence the “kids” are putting in, even if it sometimes seems a bit naive to someone who was going over similar ground before a good many of them were born.

I think the most revealing thing I can say about my relationship with Eliezer himself is that on the one occasion we’ve been face to face we were completing each others’ sentences within fifteen minutes of first meeting. I believe we have a firm sense of each other as peers and allies, though we’re not in regular contact. We have influenced each other in ways that are not hard for me to identify. I learned from him that it is worthwhile to write short hortatory essays about rationality like Kill the Buddha.

I am not myself particularly concerned with the Friendly AI problem. I think it’s good and necessary that others are working on it, and I’m glad at least one of them is as bright as Eliezer. That makes one less thing for me to worry about.

Some time back I wrote a number of short critiques of various essays by Eliezer. Here it is. It is still representative of what I think are the strengths and weaknesses of the culture around Less Wrong. I will add at this point that the culture feels – perhaps unavoidably – just a touch groupthinky to me. But not dangerously so, and not in my judgment likely to become dangerously so.

For all that I have minor criticisms, they are definitely friendly ones. I am very, very glad that there is a thriving subculture of people trying to learn how to think more clearly. Eliezer gets huge appreciation from me for the effectiveness for which he has made this happen. I feel my best positioning is to stay just a little bit outside it, considered as a social group, and push in the same direction as an ally.

159 thoughts on “Me and Less Wrong

  1. > I am not myself particularly concerned with the Friendly AI problem.

    Any predictions about the future of intelligent computers? The shorter-term scenarios that seem most plausible to me are the “Intelligence explosion” that Yudkowsky talks about (I don’t think it’s very likely, but I’m glad someone’s working on it) and Hanson’s “Ems” (mind uploading, but with the internal mechanisms of the brain remaining mostly opaque to our understanding). Hanson forecasts a future where almost all of the economy is the “Em” economy and meatspace humans are mostly irrelevant (but not exterminated; if we can all agree to follow the same laws, ems don’t have any reason to kill us, unless we do something stupid like try to shut them off).

    I think the more likely scenario is that neither of these happen in my lifetime, because intelligence is just that hard.

    Also, what’s your take on the cryonics thing? Less Wrong talks about this a lot, but I’m pretty sure they’ve drastically overestimated the chance that it will actually work.

  2. >Any predictions about the future of intelligent computers?

    For many purposes, computer “intelligence” is already here. We don’t recognize it as such because it’s specialized – but, if you asked a computer scientist from, say, 1970, whether Google speech recognition is AI he’d answer that of course it is.

    >Also, what’s your take on the cryonics thing?

    Unsure. Don’t have the knowledge base to evaluate. Plan to get frozen anyway.

  3. Just so we’re clear: you and the Less Wrong community are not rationalists in the sense of holding epistemological views like those of Descartes/Spinoza/Leibniz, opposed to empiricism, but in the broader sense that you oppose superstition and dogma, right?

  4. >Just so we’re clear: you and the Less Wrong community are not rationalists in the sense of holding epistemological views like those of Descartes/Spinoza/Leibniz, opposed to empiricism, but in the broader sense that you oppose superstition and dogma, right?

    That is correct.

  5. Thanks. Even Russell called himself a rationalist (!) in a piece that was intended for a general audience (“Am I An Atheist or an Agnostic?”). I suppose he wouldn’t do that in his academic writings! XD

    BTW, according to Wikipedia, today’s your birthday. If that’s true, happy birthday, man! ^_^

  6. >BTW, according to Wikipedia, today’s your birthday. If that’s true, happy birthday, man! ^_^

    It is true. Thanks.

  7. Deism has been around a little longer than us.

    Happy Birthday Eric!

  8. This is my first post on this blog. Thank you for being my guru through my late teenage years. Of Yudkowksy I’ve only read some of his Harry Potter fanfic, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Happy birthday then and such… wish I had something more interesting to say.
    Have you heard any of Hermeto Pascoal’s work? Since our musical tastes tend to match, you might find it as delightful as I did.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ptOJ33u1bQ
    Gloriously off topic indeed. Next time I promise to have some worthwhile argument to make.

  9. Man, that bleggs and rubes essay would’ve come in handy for an argument about atheists I was once in.

    Once again, I wish there was a way to do a semantic search. (“Find me discussions of ‘is’ vs. ‘ought’, including allegorical stories that never use either word.”)

  10. “I feel my best positioning is to stay just a little bit outside it, considered as a social group, and push in the same direction as an ally.”

    I’m not sure; I see two areas where you could make direct, useful contributions :

    1) By applying rationality to areas where’s it not stereotypically deployed, like history or art. Better hurry up though, or Scott Alexander is going to beat you to it!

    2) By using your experience with the open source movement to help the rationalist community coalesce . There is no rationalist Linux anyone can point to yet and say: ‘we did that’.

  11. >Have you heard any of Hermeto Pascoal’s work?

    Iiiiinteresting. So that’s what it sounds like when Brazilians do jazz fusion.

  12. What useful insights has GS made that LW has yet to make? (More generally, how useful would it be to study GS (as well as other programs with the same purpose) and ‘leapfrog’ the time spent rediscovering them?)

    RE: not being Descartes,
    A) Blog post about this very confusion: http://www.slatestarcodex.com2014/11/7/why-i-am-not-rene-descartes/
    B) Skepticism is necessary but insufficient for rationalism

  13. @esr
    > For many purposes, computer “intelligence” is already here. We don’t recognize it as such because it’s specialized

    That is true, however, it also needs to be said that the same is true of human intelligence, it is also here and it is also highly specialized. There are lots of things that computers can do that humans simply can’t, and it would be reasonable to call them intelligent in a way vastly more intelligent than humans.

    As a slightly weak definition of intelligent I’d offer ‘able to synthesize facts and experience and derive conclusions with predictive value.” Computers do this all the time, and in ways that we could not hope to.

    I think I have said this before, but I’d recommend this link if you question that computers are intelligent.

    http://www.cringely.com/2014/04/15/big-data-new-artificial-intelligence/

    BTW, I am not a fan of the Turing test. The Turing test is a test of the ability to appear like a human through communication, it is not by any means a test of intelligence (though intelligence might be a precondition.) Of course being able to appear like and communicate like a human is a useful function for a computer to have, but it is not a measure of intelligence.

    And of course, happy birthday Eric.

  14. >What useful insights has GS made that LW has yet to make?

    Most obviously the body of lore built up around LW is relatively weak in language analysis. They do it, but they don’t do it enough in my opinion.

  15. @Jessica

    That is true, however, it also needs to be said that the same is true of human intelligence, it is also here and it is also highly specialized. There are lots of things that computers can do that humans simply can’t, and it would be reasonable to call them intelligent in a way vastly more intelligent than humans.

    It doesn’t need to be said – it’s not even true. Humans are vastly broader in capabilities than computers. This is simply nonsense. Like saying humans are “highly specialized” relative to ants because ants are really good at digging little tunnels in the ground.

    As a slightly weak definition of intelligent I’d offer ‘able to synthesize facts and experience and derive conclusions with predictive value.” Computers do this all the time, and in ways that we could not hope to.

    Computers – at least present ones – do not “derive conclusions”. They are calculators. If the human element is removed all the “conclusions” disappear completely.

  16. Happy birthday! Time to start counting backwards! Age is just a number! A man is as old as he feels!

    — Rational(ization) Man, aka Less Right

  17. @ Lambert
    >B) Skepticism is necessary but insufficient for rationalism

    You’re right. I should have mentioned cognitive bias in addition to superstition and dogma.

    @ ESR
    Since General Semantics has been discussed in this thread, I’ll ask you a question related to it–and, more generally, to the nature-vs.-nurture debate (in which I’m neutral, due to the insufficiency of my knowledge.)

    You’re notoriously attracted to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and GS. Both, IIUC, presuppose the doctrine of the tabula rasa. (Furthermore, according to Wikipedia, Sapir studied under Boas, and Korzybski claimed his system could change human nature.) Yet you once wrote:

    Actually, my very favorite example of an error cascade revealed by consilience failure isn’t from climatology: it’s the the oceans of bogus theory and wilful misinterpretations of primary data generated by anthropology and sociology to protect the “tabula rasa” premise advanced by Franz Boas and other founders of the field in the early 20th century. Eventually this cascade collided with increasing evidence from biology and cognitive psychology that the human mind is not in fact a “blank slate” or completely general cognitive machine passively accepting acculturation. Steven Pinker’s book The Blank Slate is eloquent about the causes and the huge consequences of this error.

    My question is: how do you reconcile your empirically-grounded psychological nativism with your enthusiasm for the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and GS?

  18. Less Wrong sounds a lot like Sextus Empiricus enhanced with Karl Popper.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sextus_Empiricus

    I would apply both on your mistaken believe of how an “error cascade” works. A little empirical evidence would work wonders.

    @Jorge Dujan
    In general, those who are attached to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis tend to make ludicrous claims that have been disproven (as by Popper) time and again. Actually, I have yet to see a single case where the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis lead to a correct prediction.

    If you want to know why, use it on color names.

  19. ESR what is your opinion on this:

    “”””””””
    PLEASE HELP SPREAD THIS NEWS Anonymous 12/05/14(Fri)02:47:14 No.39664517

    My friend Zemir Begic was murdered by an angry black mob in St Louis. He lived in Arizona for a short time before moving to St Louis. His friends here in Arizona are outraged and demand justice. Our attempts to get this information out to news outlets has gone on deaf ears.

    Zemir’s family has received witness statements along with statements from another victim who went through that intersection right before he did. The other victim was hit in the neck by a member of the black mob and narrowly escaped death. He is adamantly claiming that the blacks were shouting anti-white remarks and claiming to be out to kill white people.

    St Louis police and media is repeatedly claiming that race was not a factor which we know is not true.

    This scum pictured is Robert Mitchell, a 17 year old piece of shit who turned himself into police after news broke that Zemir died at the scene. There were at least a dozen others who have not been apprehended. This Robert Mitchell was likely sent to police and betrayed by his other friends who participated in Zemir’s murder.

    There was another victim that the media is ignoring.
    There was a clear race related incentive behind the murder that the media is ignoring.

    A shot in the dark here.
    Please forward this information along to anyone who you think can help.
    Nobody wants to get justice for Zemir and nobody wants to report the truth.

    I never thought I would personally be affected by this but here I am.
    “”””””””

  20. @Winter

    Less Wrong sounds a lot like Sextus Empiricus enhanced with Karl Popper.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sextus_Empiricus

    I would apply both on your mistaken believe of how an “error cascade” works. A little empirical evidence would work wonders.

    Having read Outlines of Pyrrhonism I’m puzzled by this comparison. Please elaborate on the relationship between Sextus and LW.. Even more intrigued to know what the connection between Popper and Sextus is – how would one “enhance” Sextus with Popper?

  21. >My question is: how do you reconcile your empirically-grounded psychological nativism with your enthusiasm for the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and GS?

    Actually GS does not, in my understanding, depend on the tabula rasa premise at all. It doesn’t matter to a GS practitioner why we form inappropriate semantic reactions, fail to be conscious of abstracting etc. These problems could be cultural baggage or the result of innate cognitive biases; it matters not. What matters is what we can do to fix them.

    Korzybski wasn’t some sort of perfect oracle with an infallible take on everything. He could be seriously wrong, and sometimes was – he was a socialist, too. This subtracts no value from his system of methodological skepticism and language analysis, which is validated by its results.

    Similarly for Sapir’s link to Boas. I mean, so what? Either some version of Sapir-Whorf can be confirmed in observed human behavior or it cannot. Sapir’s intellectual pedigree is not relevant to the question; the most in can do is weakly influence our prior expectation as to whether experience will confirm.

  22. @Roger Philips
    “Having read Outlines of Pyrrhonism I’m puzzled by this comparison.”

    I was referring to the translation by Julia Annas and Jonathan BarnesSextus Empiricus: Outlines of Scepticism
    http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/philosophy/philosophy-texts/sextus-empiricus-outlines-scepticism-2nd-edition

    Then there are the works of Popper, quite a number of them. But we can stick to his work on empirical evidence and falsification (The logic of scientific discovery).
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Popper#Bibliography

    @Roger Philips
    “Even more intrigued to know what the connection between Popper and Sextus is – how would one “enhance” Sextus with Popper?”

    As far as I remember, Sextus is silent on how to obtain (empirical) truth. That part was only really tackled by Popper. The link to Less Wrong given handles both aspects, believe and empirical evidence, it seems. So, “enhance” might not be the right word, maybe “synthesis”?.

    The twelve Virtues from the link are about removing false believes (second virtue “That which can be destroyed by the truth should be”), which relates to Popper and getting rid of unnecessary believes (seventh virtue) aka Scepticism. Furthermore, there is a lot about dogma and empiricism, all things handled by Sextus and Popper.

  23. @Winter

    As far as I remember, Sextus is silent on how to obtain (empirical) truth. That part was only really tackled by Popper. The link to Less Wrong given handles both aspects, believe and empirical evidence, it seems. So, “enhance” might not be the right word, maybe “synthesis”?.

    So what is the synthesis? The synthesis of Sextus’ nothing with Popper’s something?

    The twelve Virtues from the link are about removing false believes (second virtue “That which can be destroyed by the truth should be”), which relates to Popper and getting rid of unnecessary believes (seventh virtue) aka Scepticism. Furthermore, there is a lot about dogma and empiricism, all things handled by Sextus and Popper.

    I’m not in any way confused about the link between Popper and LW. The shared stupidity is perfectly apparent. I’m confused as to the link between Sextus and LW as well as that between Sextus and Popper. The seventh virtue has nothing to do with Sextus’ philosophy at all. And what is the connection that allows Sextus and Popper to be synthesized? That they happened to talk about some of the same topics?

    Frankly, the linked article is embarrassing. How can someone try on this subject without having read any real philosophy? They even pepper in a bunch of shitty Eastern wank to try to give it a spiritual dimension. This seems to be the standard escape hatch for “Englishmen” trying their hand at this sort of thing (our host being no exception). If you want to contribute to philosophy, perhaps you should study the “state-of-the-art” first?

  24. @Roger Philips
    “So what is the synthesis? The synthesis of Sextus’ nothing with Popper’s something?”

    I am at a loss what you mean here. Sextus and Popper are philosophers. Their idea are widely studied. I happen to agree that they are worth studying, but in a historical context and for themselves. Whether you agree or not is not relevant.

    @Roger Philips
    “Frankly, the linked article is embarrassing. How can someone try on this subject without having read any real philosophy? ”

    So what is your beef with this?

    I really do not see much value in LW. Just some mumbo jumbo that relates to the popular writings about Popper and what is still known about Sextus. I was just pointing out that this LW movement can trace its heritage to these two philosophies, whether they realize it or not.

  25. At first, I thought the Sequences were remarkably leisurely, but I’ve since come to believe that the slow introduction of ideas makes people more likely to be convinced by them. I haven’t studied how Eliezer uses redundancy, variation, and playfulness to get ideas across, but it would probably be worthwhile.

    Jorge Dujan: ” but in the broader sense that you [LW] oppose superstition and dogma, right?”

    That’s incomplete– the idea at LW is to have accurate beliefs so as to be able to take action effectively.

    In re Sapir-Worf and/ the blank slate: I find Sapir-Worf very plausible in a mild form. Language influences thought, but doesn’t control thought. People’s biology sets limits on what people can think, but there’s plenty of room within those limits for language to have an effect.

    Winter, what do you think of Effective Altruism? It’s pretty popular at LW.

  26. >I was just pointing out that this LW movement can trace its heritage to these two philosophies, whether they realize it or not.

    No. Popper was mostly a popularizer of thinking done better and earlier by C.S. Peirce, the earliest pragmatists, and the Vienna Circle. The LW culture has its roots there rather than in Popper, though this connection is probably not well understood by anyone in the LW crowd except Eliezer himself. The Twelve Virtues of Rationality has one obvious call-out to General Semantics in it, so it is clear that Yudkowsky has been exposed to GS, though I don’t think he fully groks the discipline.

    As for Sextus Empiricus, I don’t see that at all. There’s a resemblance, but I don’t think it is genetic – it’s that all versions of systematic skepticism pretty much have to end up resembling each other.

    You are unwise to write off what the LW people are doing without studying it much more closely. Eliezer often takes what I consider unnecessarily circuitous routes to correct conclusions, but some of his insights are genuinely novel. One very important one is his unification of the fallibilist critique of inductive reasoning with Bayesian decision theory.

  27. @esr
    “You are unwise to write off what the LW people are doing without studying it much more closely.”

    Could be right, I have not looked into it. However, the “Twelve Virtues” link is not very convincing, so that put me off. On your other remarks on their roots. I’ll take your word for it as I only wrote what the “Twelve Virtues” looked like to me.

    @Nancy
    “I find Sapir-Worf very plausible in a mild form.”

    I use the common formulation: “The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects the ways in which its respective speakers conceptualize their world, i.e. their world view, or otherwise influences their cognitive processes”.

    The whole thesis is more or less based on the assumption that the Mental Language (language of thought, not a real language though) is like the language in which the person communicates. This is wrong.

    I have yet to see an empirical study that can show any convincing evidence for the Sapir-Worf thesis. For instance, studies of people using a language that did not have “words” or “constructs” to describe synchrony or chronology (e.g., no yesterday, tomorrow, before etc) were perfectly able to describe chronological sequences to each other. And you are very well able to describe the subtle differences between the red of Bordeaux wine, blood, and a sunset even though English has no words for them. (as I just did)

    @Nancy
    “Winter, what do you think of Effective Altruism? It’s pretty popular at LW.”

    From a glance, sounds worthwhile. I will have a look.

  28. @Roger Phillips
    > It doesn’t need to be said – it’s not even true. Humans are vastly broader in capabilities than computers.

    Only if you measure capabilities from a human perspective, which is shockingly narrow minded of you Roger. The range of things humans can do is certainly large, but the range of things computers can do is also extremely large, and there is a small intersection. Computers cannot effectively use human language, but humans have specialized hardware for that. Humans can’t draw highly detailed pictures of dynamic battlefield scenes sixty times a second, but computers can, because they also have specialized hardware. Most humans can barely multiply two, two digit numbers in their heads, in many respects the capabilities of the human brain are rather pathetic. Personally I find the shortcomings of mine rather frustrating.

    Humans can synthesize lots of visual data into higher level abstractions, however, computers can synthesize large amounts of data of other kinds. For example, it is very common in retail for computers to synthesize vast amounts of data to derive conclusions about product placement that are extremely effective. Moreover, as pointed out in the article I linked to, these conclusions are derived by methodologies that humans are not even capable of understanding, except in fairly abstract ways, never mind reproducing.

    The plain fact is that human brains are highly specialized to the tasks that evolution has designed them for. Perhaps not digging tunnels in the ground, but the basics for sure: eating, reproducing, raising offspring and so forth. Our philosophical capacities are extremely limited, our knowledge synthesization capabilities powerful in a very narrow channel, but pathetic outside of that channel, our arithmetic capabilities worse the Charles Babbage’s simplest mechanisms, our ability to understand things reasonably good in certain common scenarios that we encounter, but dreadful as soon as we get outside of the commonplace.

    An example of this is large numbers. Most people really have no concept of what a trillion means, except in the most literal sense. When we read that the US national debt is 18 trillion dollars, it doesn’t sound all that much more that 18 billion dollars, these numbers are so far out our our experience we have very limited capabilities to grok them.

    > Computers – at least present ones – do not “derive conclusions”. They are calculators. If the human element is removed all the “conclusions” disappear completely.

    That doesn’t mean anything at all. Computers derive conclusions all the time. Of course humans designed computers and ultimately they are designed to serve us, and so consequently the end user benefit is always a human. However, computers derive conclusions all the time and apply them without any human intervention. At the simplest level, how the packets of data on this blog get from me to you is entirely decided by computer without any human intervention (or not much anyway.) At a more complex level, computers decide inventory levels in huge retail networks based on massive amounts of data such as shopping patterns, time of year, weather, economic measures and so forth.

    To say a computer is just a calculator is just as true as saying that a human brain is just a calculator, or that a human brain is just a pattern matching machine. All true statements, but there is no magic in the human brain, it is just a different type of computer designed for special purposes, with some highly specialized hardware attached.

    Which is to say, Roger, get over yourself, you’re not so special.

  29. You’re not old until you start asking for the senior discount.

    Actually Jewish law takes this seriously. I forget for what legal purpose it’s necessary to define the term “old woman”, but the definition the Talmud gives is “any woman whose friends call her old to her face, and she doesn’t protest”.

  30. @ Nancy Lebovitz
    Thanks for bringing the practical aspect of rationality to my attention. It is indeed important, probably more so than the theoretical one(s).

    @ Winter
    >In general, those who are attached to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis tend to make ludicrous claims that have been disproven (as by Popper) time and again.

    I’m not sure I understand the part about Popper. Do you mean Popper himself disproved those claims, or that they were disproven by following Popper’s criterion of falsifiability?

    @ ESR
    Thanks for clarifying. BTW, I wasn’t attacking General Semantics (and I wouldn’t do so by means of minor points). In fact, what I’ve read about it–including Wikipedia’s article and an article by Korzybski himself–gave me the impression that it’s useful, if a bit too idiosyncratic for my taste. Guess I’ll stick to conventional analytic philosophy for now.
    I have two more questions somewhat related to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (I’ll cut down for a while, I promise! :P):

    1 – Would you say it’s possible to test that hypothesis by learning Lojban?
    2 – And since you’ve mentioned language analysis: Lakoff seems pretty Sapir-Whorfian. Would you recommend Metaphors We Live By? (Maybe you prefer Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things, but that one seems unavailable in Spanish.)

  31. >1 – Would you say it’s possible to test that hypothesis by learning Lojban?

    I don’t know. It may be. I understand that this is a goal, but I have trouble imagining an experimental design that would go the whole way from having Lojban as a tool to pinning Sapir-Whorf effects down for examination.

    By the way, since I may not have been explicit about this, a main reason I take Sapir-Whorf seriously is that I have spoken multiple languages and I think I have experienced Whorfian drag myself. Recently I read the lyrics of Edith Piaf’s Je ne regrette rien and to understand them I had to think about the French in French (which was hard work because my French is rusty). There are nuances there that don’t translate into English at all well – her use of a reflexive impersonal pronoun, for example, is badly misrendered by translating it into passive voice of the associated verb in the way English translations normally do.

    >2 – And since you’ve mentioned language analysis: Lakoff seems pretty Sapir-Whorfian. Would you recommend Metaphors We Live By? (Maybe you prefer Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things

    I actually do prefer “Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things”; I think it’s brilliant.

  32. > One very important one is his unification of the fallibilist critique of inductive reasoning with Bayesian decision theory.

    To be fair, I think Yudkowsky borrowed a lot from Jaynes, and maybe a little from Pearl. The problem is, all of it kind of gloms together in my head; I have a lot of trouble remembering who to credit properly.

  33. @Jessica

    Only if you measure capabilities from a human perspective, which is shockingly narrow minded of you Roger. The range of things humans can do is certainly large, but the range of things computers can do is also extremely large, and there is a small intersection. Computers cannot effectively use human language, but humans have specialized hardware for that. Humans can’t draw highly detailed pictures of dynamic battlefield scenes sixty times a second, but computers can, because they also have specialized hardware. Most humans can barely multiply two, two digit numbers in their heads, in many respects the capabilities of the human brain are rather pathetic. Personally I find the shortcomings of mine rather frustrating.

    Lots of words, but nothing to do with what I said – or even “intelligence”. An ant can build an ant colony. So what? It’s hilarious that all you can come back to is statistical analysis and number crunching – which were invented by humans, not machines. And yes, I am well aware that you, deep down, find yourself mentally inadequate – in fact, this drives a lot of the pure drivel you usually respond to me with.

    Humans can synthesize lots of visual data into higher level abstractions, however, computers can synthesize large amounts of data of other kinds. For example, it is very common in retail for computers to synthesize vast amounts of data to derive conclusions about product placement that are extremely effective. Moreover, as pointed out in the article I linked to, these conclusions are derived by methodologies that humans are not even capable of understanding, except in fairly abstract ways, never mind reproducing.

    Information processing is a prerequisite for intelligence, but it is not intelligence. I would like – just once – for you to respond with something other than an n-gram “tone” argument. You haven’t answered the accusation that you confuse the sword for the swordsman. A sword has no will. Neither does a computer.

    The plain fact is that human brains are highly specialized to the tasks that evolution has designed them for. Perhaps not digging tunnels in the ground, but the basics for sure: eating, reproducing, raising offspring and so forth. Our philosophical capacities are extremely limited, our knowledge synthesization capabilities powerful in a very narrow channel, but pathetic outside of that channel, our arithmetic capabilities worse the Charles Babbage’s simplest mechanisms, our ability to understand things reasonably good in certain common scenarios that we encounter, but dreadful as soon as we get outside of the commonplace.

    Sorry but this is laughable bullshit. What philosophy has a computer produced? What has a computer ever even done on its own? The answer is fucking nothing! There is simply no animal “broader” than man. What exactly is “commonplace” about advanced philosophy and mathematics? And your argument: the mathematician etc requires an electronic slave to do some mindless heavy lifting, therefore he is a “specialist”. lol? Do you even know what the word “specialisation” means? You can’t specialise in broadness.

    An example of this is large numbers. Most people really have no concept of what a trillion means, except in the most literal sense. When we read that the US national debt is 18 trillion dollars, it doesn’t sound all that much more that 18 billion dollars, these numbers are so far out our our experience we have very limited capabilities to grok them.

    So your idea of “breadth” is to take an existing concept and increase the magnitude to an extraordinary amount. Never mind spirituality, art, emotion, introspection etc. BIG NUMBERZ lol. This is nothing short of gibberish. It’s true that few people are equipped to deal with the “big picture” – but computers are even LESS equipped.

    That doesn’t mean anything at all. Computers derive conclusions all the time. Of course humans designed computers and ultimately they are designed to serve us, and so consequently the end user benefit is always a human. However, computers derive conclusions all the time and apply them without any human intervention.

    It does mean something – you are just insufficiently educated to grasp it. And the response is so full of errors I don’t know where to begin. Computers don’t always benefit humans – in some cases they cause harm. And the fact that they benefit humans alone and not computers has nothing to do with the fact that we designed them. No computer produces any result without “human intervention”, nor would it even MEAN ANYTHING without human observation. Even if an alien species, or even an alien MACHINE species came to Earth and assigned meaning to computer outputs it would only do so by BEING HUMAN. And current computers are nowhere near exhibiting this property.

    At the simplest level, how the packets of data on this blog get from me to you is entirely decided by computer without any human intervention (or not much anyway.) At a more complex level, computers decide inventory levels in huge retail networks based on massive amounts of data such as shopping patterns, time of year, weather, economic measures and so forth.

    At the “simplest level” computers make no decisions at all, since it’s a deterministic process. It’s only at the “most complex level” that computers APPEAR to make decisions – as a function of our own ignorance! A computer no more “decides” to make these calculations than a cow “decides” to produce meat for its owner. This is like talking to a 5 year old.

    To say a computer is just a calculator is just as true as saying that a human brain is just a calculator, or that a human brain is just a pattern matching machine. All true statements, but there is no magic in the human brain, it is just a different type of computer designed for special purposes, with some highly specialized hardware attached.

    Again, nothing short of GIBBERISH. Are you aware that these problems are not new? That to understand them you have to study philosophy? Who is the controlling WILL behind a person? Who “designed” the human brain? This is so illiterate it’s like trying to explain semiconductor physics to a 5 year old. That you would suggest that I’m talking about “magic” just illustrates your gross misunderstandings of the problem.

  34. >To be fair, I think Yudkowsky borrowed a lot from Jaynes, and maybe a little from Pearl. The problem is, all of it kind of gloms together in my head; I have a lot of trouble remembering who to credit properly.

    And I don’t think the historical forensics would be a good ground for critique anyway. Yudkowsky is like Korzybski, who borrowed heavily from the analytic philosophy of his day. Even if they’re both mainly synthesists of ideas originated by others, they performed a valuable service by making these ideas actionable. The move from academic analysis to a prescription, a methodology one can apply day by day to think more clearly, is not a trivial one.

  35. @Winter

    I am at a loss what you mean here. Sextus and Popper are philosophers. Their idea are widely studied. I happen to agree that they are worth studying, but in a historical context and for themselves. Whether you agree or not is not relevant.

    No.. you said LW was a synthesis of Sextus and Popper. Sextus didn’t say anything about rationality. His “skepticism” has nothing to do with LW. So what is the synthesis? Of nothing and something? Which is equivalent to just the something..?

    So what is your beef with this?

    That every virtue listed is dumb. I mean, it’s better than what most people come with “out of the box” but it is well behind the “state of the art”. Englishmen, Americans should stay away from philosophy. They are terrible at it – in large part because they feel they can ignore thousands of years of work when dealing with problems that require Earth-crushing genius to solve.

    I really do not see much value in LW. Just some mumbo jumbo that relates to the popular writings about Popper and what is still known about Sextus. I was just pointing out that this LW movement can trace its heritage to these two philosophies, whether they realize it or not.

    What the fuck are you talking about? There is no connection between Sextus and LW. There is no connection between Sextus and Popper. Show me the connection or perhaps stop repeating this.

  36. >By the way, since I may not have been explicit about this, a main reason I take Sapir-Whorf seriously is that I have spoken multiple languages and I think I have experienced Whorfian drag myself.

    Oh, don’t worry: you had been explicit about it. :)

    If you’re wondering how I know so many old posts despite having discovered your blog just a couple of years ago, here’s the explanation: it quickly grabbed my interest; so in addition to keeping track of new entries as you submitted them, I started searching A&D for stuff that interested me (could be pretty much anything from Wesnoth to Wittgenstein) and reading the old entries that turned up, and usually some of their comments as well. I liked some OPs and comments so much that I read them several times, which allows me to recall and cite them when we discuss the subjects they’re about.
    Dunno if my story is normal among A&D commenters or not, but there it is.

    >The move from academic analysis to a prescription, a methodology one can apply day by day to think more clearly, is not a trivial one.

    Amen, brother.

  37. @Roger Phillips
    >You haven’t answered the accusation that you confuse the sword for the swordsman. A sword has no will. Neither does a computer.

    “Free will” is just another word for magic. Free will is just an emergent property from the complexity of our information processing capacity. Anybody who has programmed a computer is familiar with this concept when computers seem to produce behavior all on their own. Of course such behavior is generally considered bad, much as an African slave taking his own initiative was considered bad, and such errant computer behavior is traceable to specific deterministic mechanisms, but human will is also traceable to specific deterministic mechanisms too, with some exceptions due to some random effects at the quantum mechanical scale. Of course it is complex and hard, perhaps even impossible to follow that deterministic pattern, but part of the reason for that is simply that the human brain is an evolved mush, and a computer is a carefully designed tool, made with determinism, debugging and traceability as a specific design goal.

    Unless of course you believe in some non material cause of course, for which I am not aware of any supporting evidence.

    So if your view is that the difference between the swordsman and the sword is some random quantum mechanical events then you may be right, but it is hardly what most people are thinking about when you say free will.

    > Sorry but this is laughable bullshit. What philosophy has a computer produced?

    None, but why does that matter, philosophy is a human centric goal. And I might add that the vast majority of philosophy is utter “the emperor has no clothes” nonsense.

    > What has a computer ever even done on its own?

    Press the power button on your laptop, it starts up all on its own and does a whole bunch of stuff. But, you tell me, it was programmed by a human to do that. But so what? Where do you think human behaviors come from? They are either programmed in by other humans, or built in by genetics. That, along with the sensory inputs the human receives, and no doubt also with some of the randomness above, produces all human behavior. To me, that sounds a lot like your laptop.

    Oh, and of course a human has an on button, it is called conception, and the button is pressed by mom and dad.

    So as with most of these “the emperor has no clothes” philosophy debates, whether a computer is intelligent or not depends on what you mean by intelligent. If you mean capable of producing artifacts that have traditionally been considered the product of intelligence then the answer is a resounding yes. If you mean intelligent enough to commune with Jesus, or pour forth Aquinas, or have an understanding of the human condition, then perhaps not.

    If a computer replaces a task that previously we acknowledged requires intelligence, and it produces the same or better results, then it seems to me fair to call the computer “intelligent” irrespective of the underlying mechanisms.

    I’ll leave the rest for now.

  38. > What has a computer ever even done on its own?

    Well, about a year ago, I got a computer to do this (Yeah, I know the graphics are lame. I was working on a deadline): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjmBwBRiNt8

    It’s 3 virtual sheep dogs, herding a bunch of sheep. But not a single line of code was written to tell the dogs how to herd the sheep. Instead, “populations” of random abstract syntax trees of lisp code were generated – mini-programs that told the dogs how to move. (Sheep are dumb, and always run away from the dogs and clump with each other.) The best performing ASTs were copied and randomly mutated over a few thousand simulated generations.

    Oh, and by the way, the initial configuration of sheep in that video? That was random too, and not from the same distribution that the algorithm was trained on. The herding code generalizes to other configurations, albeit, not perfectly.

    >computers make no decisions at all, since it’s a deterministic process.

    Genetic algorithms are non-deterministic. (Makes testing them a pain in the ass, too.)

    > No computer produces any result without “human intervention”, nor would it even MEAN ANYTHING without human observation.

    You’ve just driven straight into the territory of unfalsifiability. And, out of curiosity, If all humans died, but Vulcans happened to exist, would the universe now be void of meaning? (I’d ask for what you mean by “meaning” but that sounds too meta.)

    > Who “designed” the human brain?

    About 4 billion years of evolution.

  39. @Joshua Brulé

    It’s 3 virtual sheep dogs, herding a bunch of sheep. But not a single line of code was written to tell the dogs how to herd the sheep. Instead, “populations” of random abstract syntax trees of lisp code were generated – mini-programs that told the dogs how to move. (Sheep are dumb, and always run away from the dogs and clump with each other.) The best performing ASTs were copied and randomly mutated over a few thousand simulated generations.

    You told the computer EXACTLY how to herd the sheep. An instruction to do something random is an instruction. Jesus. Please desist from this conversation as I can only educate one ape at a time.

    Genetic algorithms are non-deterministic. (Makes testing them a pain in the ass, too.)

    Yes, but that has nothing to do with what I was talking about. Is there a single person on this forum with basic reading comprehension? Hint: your computer doesn’t execute “algorithms”. It is a deterministic process at the lowest level – which is what was being discussed, not “genetic algorithms”.

  40. @Jessica

    “Free will” is just another word for magic. Free will is just an emergent property from the complexity of our information processing capacity. Anybody who has programmed a computer is familiar with this concept when computers seem to produce behavior all on their own. Of course such behavior is generally considered bad, much as an African slave taking his own initiative was considered bad, and such errant computer behavior is traceable to specific deterministic mechanisms, but human will is also traceable to specific deterministic mechanisms too, with some exceptions due to some random effects at the quantum mechanical scale. Of course it is complex and hard, perhaps even impossible to follow that deterministic pattern, but part of the reason for that is simply that the human brain is an evolved mush, and a computer is a carefully designed tool, made with determinism, debugging and traceability as a specific design goal.

    Right out of the gate you have no clue what I’m even talking about. I didn’t say “free will”. You just GUESSED that based on the fact that you’ve heard “free will” crop up in philosophical debates. This has nothing to do with free will at all. In the end computers can have a will – but not for any of the laughable reasons you give, and not any CURRENT computer. I know that, as an American, it is very hard for you to pick up some books and educate yourself, but I have bad news for you: you do not know better than history’s greatest philosophers.

    Unless of course you believe in some non material cause of course, for which I am not aware of any supporting evidence.

    “Unless of course”. There are no “of courses” on your end of the conversation because every sentence is GOBBLEDYGOOK.

    So if your view is that the difference between the swordsman and the sword is some random quantum mechanical events then you may be right, but it is hardly what most people are thinking about when you say free will.

    Again with the “free will”. At no point did I say “free will”. You are an uneducated American dolt who probably only knows about “free will” from The Matrix, and therefore whenever the word “will” is said you jump into some retarded Slashdot-level loltheories that you formulated while chewing beef jerky and tobacco. I’m not going to respond to a response that has nothing to do with what I said. For fuck’s sake READ what’s said, and if you don’t understand EVERY FUCKING WORD THAT IS WRITTEN then ASK FOR CLARIFICATION.

    None, but why does that matter, philosophy is a human centric goal. And I might add that the vast majority of philosophy is utter “the emperor has no clothes” nonsense.

    Because every fucking thing we have in the world worth having is “human centric”. Or.. let’s do things your way and let the computers run things. From now on, NO action unless a computer prompts it first. In fact, no more input into computers at all (unless a computer COMMANDS you to do so). DERP OOPZ I JUST EXTERMINATED DA HOOMAN WACE. And you are in no position to evaluate “the vast majority of philosophy” because you are an uneducated American dolt. The lack of self-awareness here BOGGLES the mind.

    Press the power button on your laptop, it starts up all on its own and does a whole bunch of stuff. But, you tell me, it was programmed by a human to do that. But so what? Where do you think human behaviors come from? They are either programmed in by other humans, or built in by genetics. That, along with the sensory inputs the human receives, and no doubt also with some of the randomness above, produces all human behavior. To me, that sounds a lot like your laptop.

    So why not just kill yourself? Let’s gas the whole human race out of existence because all natural processes are equal. You simply have no fucking clue what you are talking about. No workable set of values can be constructed out of your retarded ideas (and don’t even THINK of trying to do so – I can feel a whole DIMENSION of stupid opening up on that horizon). The idea that human behavior unfolds according to a set process is not new, and it does not lead to the idiotic conclusions that you’ve drawn. But you would know that if you opened a fucking book instead of trying to convince yourself that you are smarter than you really are. And for the love of God the only people worse at philosophy than the English are women, so please do yourself a favor and READ SOME FUCKING BOOKS. Not everyone has to be a philosopher. You sound like a retarded, autistic robot.

    So as with most of these “the emperor has no clothes” philosophy debates, whether a computer is intelligent or not depends on what you mean by intelligent. If you mean capable of producing artifacts that have traditionally been considered the product of intelligence then the answer is a resounding yes. If you mean intelligent enough to commune with Jesus, or pour forth Aquinas, or have an understanding of the human condition, then perhaps not.

    If a computer replaces a task that previously we acknowledged requires intelligence, and it produces the same or better results, then it seems to me fair to call the computer “intelligent” irrespective of the underlying mechanisms.

    LOL. The only emperor that has no clothes is your INCREDIBLE presumption in talking about things you are nowhere near smart enough to figure out on your own, without any education whatsoever. Nobody cares what is “traditionally” considered intelligence, because – aside from the greatest philosophers – our ancestors gave exactly ZERO thought to this question. Incredibly, you conclude your argument by essentially admitting “well, I didnt really fink about dat intalligance thang too murrch.. so i guess it all ‘pends on what ya means”.

  41. ESR don’t take Sapir-Whorf too seriously, despite your recent Je ne regrette rien reading. Much can be lost in translation. Also, the author and his literary style has a lot of influence. My favorite example is Guy de Maupassant’s The Necklace written in maybe 1870. I’ve read it in English, then the original French, and finally Chinese. Nothing is lost. Try reading an 1870’s British English translation of The Illiad. Snooze-a-ram-a compared to a more contemporary version! No, I haven’t read the original as I don’t know ancient Greek.

    I like reading George Lakoff but that may be because Noam Chomsky is often politically irritating.

    Someone mentioned and misattributed tabula rasa to Franz Boas in the early 20th century. It was John Locke’s idea, over 200 years earlier. That is probably irrelevant though ;O) ESR, you might enjoy this, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/

    Jessica says,

    “When we read that the US national debt is 18 trillion dollars, it doesn’t sound all that much more that 18 billion dollars, these numbers are so far out our our experience we have very limited capabilities to grok them.

    Not true. With an understanding of logarithms, orders of magnitude, scientific notation and/or a semester of college physics, we can understand. Transfinite numbers, Cantor aleph and such is where I hit the wall. Are computers superior in that context? Maybe, I don’t know.

    Roger’s comments seem on target to me in general, especially w.r.t. Jessica’s. About emergent phenomena and AI, Joshua’s riposte to Roger at 22:40:52 is very fine. That is due to his specificity, I think.

    I have trouble with LW because of the cliquish aspect and EY hero worship. It intimidates dissenters, as well as being distasteful. (It reminds me of brogrammer cargo-cult coder blogs and ioerror fans though a lot less extreme!).

  42. Not true. With an understanding of logarithms, orders of magnitude, scientific notation and/or a semester of college physics, we can understand. Transfinite numbers, Cantor aleph and such is where I hit the wall. Are computers superior in that context? Maybe, I don’t know.

    While i don’t disagree with your statement , Scope Insensitivity is a fairly well documented cognitive bias. As to whether computer’s are superior it ultimately comes down to, regardless of computing substrate, what is implemented. However with respect to implementing the computation of “how much would you pay to save N birds?”, i would expect a computer implementation to base the value on N. That is not how humans seem to be implemented (generally speaking).

    I have trouble with LW because of the cliquish aspect and EY hero worship.

    LW is funny in many of the same ways that A&D is. While it’s easy to see a lot of hero worship going on… it’s just as easy to see a lot of anti-host sentiment as well.

  43. (was also going to add…)
    It would not surprise me to find that the cliquish-ness and hero worship bothers EY as well. Perhaps that is why he hasn’t posted there in more than a year. Alternatively he could just be busy with CFAR/MIRI/life.

  44. Utility and value comparisons are always a challenge for we humans, JonCB! You’re right, and I know you are right, “because Kahneman and Tversky” ;) I don’t like relativism. I like benchmarks. Post-modernism scares me. Kahneman manages to write about perception without devolving into Cass Sunstein, the latter of whom makes my skin crawl with dread. I was just reading, only an hour ago, Glenn Beck opining about Karl Popper. Yes, surprise! He said this ~ April 2011:
    “Two of Popper’s most influential teachings concerned the open society and Fallibilism. Fallibilism is the philosophical doctrine that all claims of knowledge could, in principle, be mistaken. (Then again, I could be wrong about that.) The open society basically refers to a test and evaluate approach to social engineering.”

    Is that true? I don’t like the sound of it.

    Thank you for the additional contextual details about EY. You also said, “LW is funny in many of the same ways that A&D…”. Okay, I need to ask. What is A&D? I like reading Overcoming Bias (even though I wonder if nice Robin Hansen is involved in that nudge/ social engineering business).

  45. @JonCB Ha ha! I’m sorry. A&D is here and now. I should have waited to click post. True re LW and A&D, but thankfully, the A&D author and comments are less fussy. I do see some familiar gravatars at both LW and A&Y and also at that satellite(?) LW site, starcodex or star something.

  46. A&D is presumably Armed and Dangerous.

    EY is active on facebook. FB not having a karma system and being harder to search than LW might be easier on his nerves, but this is only a guess.

    Here’s a Sapir-Worf issue. Introspection is generally defined as observing one’s thoughts and possibly emotions (this came up in a facebook discussion– people’s personal definitions converged pretty closely). There is no word that I know of for closely observing one’s sensory experience, or the entanglement between senses, thoughts, and emotions.

  47. I was just reading, only an hour ago, Glenn Beck opining about Karl Popper. Yes, surprise!

    Glenn Beck kind of amuses me really. I think if he didn’t come across as so bat shit paranoid crazy, i’d agree with many of the things he says and at least understand his point of view.

    Okay, I need to ask. What is A&D?

    Sorry, i’m a Developer, and as such i probably use acronyms way too much. “A&D” is “Armed and Dangerous”, the blog we’re commenting on.

  48. Thank you so much, JonCB and Nancy Lebovitz, re A&D = here. I got the name of the EY satellite site wrong. It is actually slatestarcodex.com

    Nancy, I like your button website! I also found my way to that Swarthmore College blog, https://blogs.swarthmore.edu/burke/blog/ I liked it and felt happy. Swarthmore is where I learned about physics, mathematics and many other wonderful things.

  49. @Ellie Kesselman
    “Is that true? I don’t like the sound of it.”

    Beck is first referring to falsification, the principle that all scientific knowledge of the world can fail, ie, it could also be wrong. Mathemathics can never be wrong in this sense. But any theory of the material world can be falsified by empirical means. If not, it is not science. This part is not really controversial nowadays.

    The “open society and its enemies” is a two volume work where Popper fights fascism and communism. He argues against social engineering. Popper was strongly against social engineering, so I do not understand what Beck tries to say here.

  50. >But any theory of the material world can be falsified by empirical means. If not, it is not science. This part is not really controversial nowadays.

    For example, anthropogenic-global-warming theory is falsified by its failure to predict the observed relationship between global average temperature and CO2 levels. People who claim otherwise are not doing science. Curiously, Winter’s willingness to apply the Popperian criterion he explains so concisely vanishes in this instance.

  51. @Roger Phillips
    Thanks for your response, but being an ignorant american ape I am having a hard time finding a signal in all the vitriolic noise Would you mind summarizing your actual point for us all, or at least for me, please?

  52. @Ellie Kesselman
    > Not true. With an understanding of logarithms, … we can understand.

    I didn’t say we couldn’t understand, just that most people don’t.

  53. @Roger
    I’m glad you used so many capital letters. I was worried that you didn’t actually have any argument, but being told to READ SOME FUCKING BOOKS was really a thoughtful insight on the topics at hand here.

    @Ellie
    Slate Star Codex is sort of a spinoff – it’s run by a reasonably prolific commentator named Yvain on LW. Definitely in the same line of thought, but not formally related.

  54. @esr
    “For example, anthropogenic-global-warming theory is falsified by its failure to predict the observed relationship between global average temperature and CO2 levels.”

    Nope.

    The requirement is that you make a definite prediction, e.g., CO2 isolates the atmosphere, therefore a higher level of CO2 leads to higher surface temperatures than without the increase.

    Refuting this would entail showing the surface temperature (actually, stored heat) is not related to the level of CO2.

    What you want, predicting the temperature itself, requires knowledge of (the dynamics of) the surface heat capacity and heat transport. Which each have their own falsifiable contenders.

    As far as is known, the different parts that make up the surface of the earth are still warming up.

    But you can easily falsify this. Just show us the atmosphere and (deep) oceans are not warming up (=storing more heat).

    Picking out a single component, atmospheric mean temperature, is not enough.

  55. Less Wrong aspires to become a large scale movement, and that is a laudable and evolutionarily positive thing. What does it say that it’s audience is miniscule compared to that of rap music? You have to think in order to absorb the knowledge available at LW. Rap music is like a mental version of crack cocaine.

    What happens when a population largely consists of memetically programmed herd animals?

  56. >Picking out a single component, atmospheric mean temperature, is not enough

    You’re squirming. AGW theory has failed the test it set for itself in the IPCC assessment reports. It failed the moment GAT fell out of the 95% error bound for the model sheaf.

    All this talk of hidden heat is ex post facto, a dishonest evasion of that failure.

  57. TomA, rap has been around for a good bit longer than LW. Popular music doesn’t serve the same function as essays.

    Eric, hidden heat doesn’t seem like an illegitimate modification to the theory. Is hidden heat bad physics?

    Would you care to make some climate predictions?

  58. >Eric, hidden heat doesn’t seem like an illegitimate modification to the theory.

    It is, for several reasons. One is that – conveniently – the hidden heat is unmeasurable, being within the error bars of our ability to measure ocean temperatures. The alarmists are trying to retreat from a falsified theory to an unfalsifiable one.

    >Would you care to make some climate predictions?

    I already have. When the insolation crash of 2008 was beginning, I predicted that GAT would follow insolation downwards rather than CO2 levels upwards. That prediction was correct, giving me a better record than the IPCC’s model sheaf.

  59. @ Nancy Lebovitz – “Popular music doesn’t serve the same function as essays.”

    My guess is that rap musicians do what they do because of the monetary reward. Also, the fan base most likely listens to the music because it appeals to them. Regardless, repetition and syncopation of lyrical messages can impact brain neurology and thought patterns.

    My point is that the chaotic messaging of rap music is likely having a much bigger impact on population behavior than the noble aims of LW. However, it would be a fun test if some rapper chose to utilize LW themes in his music. Do you think it would resonate?

  60. @esr
    “All this talk of hidden heat is ex post facto, a dishonest evasion of that failure.”

    You mean, ocean water does not take up heat? Sounds revolutionary. The IPCC predictions are best guesses. They are not directly relevant to the fact wheter or not atmospheric CO2 level are directly related to insolation. You know, a rotating system with a 2km thick layer of salt water, a 10km of air and rather intricate topography. That is expected to be a little complex.

    And temperature are not exactly falling to the levels of your yought, are they.

    But read the latest IPCC, or Science and Nature. The explain this much better than I can.

  61. The complexity of the earth’s oceans and troposphere does not permit the CAGW side to declare “oh, the heat is somewhere” and then shift the burden of proof to the other side. The null hypothesis is that GAT is depending on insolation with the error of measurement of our instruments, which happens to be large. CAGW has to demonstrate GAT depending on CO2 independently of insolation sensitively enough to get outside of that error of measurement, either by showing a variation large enough to get outside of that error, or by reducing the size of the error.

  62. I think Tom and Nancy are arguing about a perceived obstacle which they could instead be turning into an opportunity – well, until Nancy pointed it out. Alternately: find a musician on LW. Shouldn’t be hard.

    Reminds me of those Keynes vs. Hayek rap videos produced by John Papola and Russ Roberts…

  63. @Roger Phillips

    I’m starting to suspect you’re a troll, but just in case it turns out that you’re merely unintelligent and unintelligible:

    > your computer doesn’t execute “algorithms”. It is a deterministic process at the lowest level

    So is the human brain. Unless you believe that there are quantum effects contributing to consciousness, which most neuroscientists who know physics do not since the brain is a warm, wet environment where it’s hard to prevent decoherence. There might be randomness “at the bottom” but it’s swamped out at a larger scale.

    There’s a nice unbroken chain of causality from the first two microbes on earth splitting in half to the evolution of intelligence on earth. You say that “What has a computer ever even done on its own?” to which I gave an example of a stochastic algorithm that produced novel behavior.

    > An instruction to do something random is an instruction.

    By this logic, everything that has ever happened in the universe is the result of the a) the laws of physics, b) the initial conditions in the universe. Unless you want to claim that the universe magically violates the Church-Turing thesis.

    I’m going to simulate the rest of this thread:

    Q. How can a computer be intelligent?
    A. How do I know you’re intelligent?
    Q. But how could a bunch of transistors be intelligent?
    A. How could a bunch of neurons be intelligent?
    Q. So you’re saying there’s no mystery about intelligence?
    A. No, just that the mystery seems no different in the one case than the other.
    Q. But you can’t just evade a mystery by pointing to something else that’s equally mysterious!
    A. Clearly you’re not a theoretical computer scientist.

    Put up a testable prediction, or shut up.

  64. @Joshua Brulé

    I’m starting to suspect you’re a troll, but just in case it turns out that you’re merely unintelligent and unintelligible:

    Hilarious. I’m “unintelligent” and yet you have COMPLETELY MISUNDERSTOOD EVERY FUCKING WORD I HAVE SAID. And then after having it pointed out to you that you haven’t even managed to follow the thread of the discussion, you simply – WITHOUT SO MUCH AS BLINKING – carry on making up more bullshit to try and bury your mistake. WHAT A FUCKING COMPLETE INTELLECTUAL FAILURE.

    So is the human brain. Unless you believe that there are quantum effects contributing to consciousness, which most neuroscientists who know physics do not since the brain is a warm, wet environment where it’s hard to prevent decoherence. There might be randomness “at the bottom” but it’s swamped out at a larger scale.

    And yet, I was not claiming that the brain is nondeterministic at the LOWEST LEVEL. Are you a fucking moron? Here’s how this chain went : First, Jessica said that computers were making “decisions” at the lowest level. Then I pointed out that there are no “decisions” at the lowest level and that rather decisions only APPEAR at the HIGHEST LEVEL. APPEAR. APPEAR. APPEAR. (got that, you chimpanzee? I doubt it). At some point you jump in and interrupt the conversation, like a 5 year old who’s too big for his boots, and start babbling about genetic algorithms. I tell you this has nothing to do with what I said. Then you argue that the brain is deterministic, which has nothing to do with anything. In summary: you aren’t just stupid, but also a SPAMMER who just can’t stop blabbering off at the mouth.

    By this logic, everything that has ever happened in the universe is the result of the a) the laws of physics, b) the initial conditions in the universe. Unless you want to claim that the universe magically violates the Church-Turing thesis.

    It most certainly does not follow from the statement “to give a command to randomness is still a command” that the entire universe is a deterministic process. But let’s digress because it’s hilariously dumb. Apparently, all events in the universe are the result of a series of models built by scientists. Incredible! And apparently finding an exception to the Church-Turing thesis would require MAGIC! lol!

    I’m going to simulate the rest of this thread:

    Until you can learn to read for basic comprehension there will be no “rest” of this thread, only me berating you over and over for being an obnoxious, unthinking animal.

    Put up a testable prediction, or shut up.

    Translation: “I don’t have any idea what you mean, and I wish to save face.”

  65. @Jessica

    Thanks for your response, but being an ignorant american ape I am having a hard time finding a signal in all the vitriolic noise Would you mind summarizing your actual point for us all, or at least for me, please?

    Well, let’s go back to my first post, shall we? Humans are not “specialized”. There is no creature less specialized than the human. Humans can emulate to some degree or another the widest possible range of other animals. The reverse is not true. You seem to have a great deal of trouble apprehending the concept of “specialization”. Every attempt of yours to negate this distinction is “nihilistic” idiocy.

    As for the discussion of whether computers can “draw conclusions”, this will be impossible for you to understand until you read some real philosophy and learn how to think. Essentially everything you’ve said so far boils down to some idiotic false equivalences that if we adopted would lead directly to the extinction of the human race. Luckily, they cannot be adopted, only postured about – which is exactly what you are doing.

  66. @Roger Phillips
    >Until you can learn to read for basic comprehension there will be no “rest” of this thread, only me berating you over and over for being an obnoxious, unthinking animal.

    Well aren’t you just precious. You really do provide us with endless entertainment Roger. My favorite is you called Joshua “obnoxious”. It is a wonder that a person can be so lacking in self awareness as to type that in earnest.

  67. @Jessica

    Well aren’t you just precious. You really do provide us with endless entertainment Roger. My favorite is you called Joshua “obnoxious”. It is a wonder that a person can be so lacking in self awareness as to type that in earnest.

    You’re an idiot. I am WELL AWARE that you find me obnoxious. It even occurred to me to point this distinction out in the previous post, but I gave you the credit of understanding at least this. So I guess I’m not all that smart after all. LOL! Children find adults “obnoxious” as well. So what? You have no idea what you are talking about, and are being taken to task for behaving like a child by someone who does know what he is talking about. Good job illustrating the “can-do” American spirit gone wrong once again. Americans are very good at many things – philosophy is not one of them, precisely because it is not a “can-do” subject where you can jump in with zero education.

    Every word that comes out of your mouth is rationalization of your shortcomings. Every response is a desperate attempt to “find fault” – including this one. As though, even if I were NOT self-aware, that it would somehow cancel out your own lack of self-awareness . That soothing “canceling” is your only objective in conversation, whereas I seek the complete opposite, which is why I am a success intellectually and you have gone nowhere in the whole time I have been reading this forum. And I am highly self-aware (you cannot succeed in thinking without this attribute). In fact, I know more about how you think about me than YOU DO, which is why I can throw out endless correct observations about your thought process, while you can’t even figure out what I am SAYING DIRECTLY. It’s not that I can’t figure out how to “get along”, it’s that I simply don’t care how you feel at all and I am deliberately putting myself in the most precarious possible position – the exact fucking opposite of what you do when thinking and conversing with others. And to reiterate, this is precisely why you will never get anywhere with thinking.

  68. Now that I think about it, rap might be well suited to rationalism– it’s handy for polemics, and “rationality is winning” should be compatible with the self-aggrandizing streak.

    TomA, people rap for fun as well as money.

  69. @Roger Phillips
    > Well, let’s go back to my first post, shall we? Humans are not “specialized”.

    But that is plainly not true even with a very narrow biological definition of specialization. Just to give one very specific example, primates including humans have lost very large numbers of olfactory genes as a result of the development of color vision (or at the very least there is a widely held theory that that is the case.) So humans are losing capabilities in one area while gaining them in another due the evolutionary environmental pressures. Plainly humans have over millions of years adapted directly to their environments.

    Humans can’t, without technology, live in water, or in Antarctica, or in the air, or on thermal vents, or in deserts, or up trees, or in deep caves. We are specialized to a particular environment. We are fortunate that our brains allow us to create technology to stretches our environment.

    However, I plainly wasn’t talking about biology, I was plainly talking about intellectual capacity, since the context was “are computers intelligent”. Human brains are specifically adapted by evolution to the particular evolutionary niche they adopted millions of years ago. They are smart rather than strong, clever rather than fast, gregarious rather than individually robust. All of these speak to a specific strategy for propagating their genes, a casting off of some capabilities to specialize in others.

    There are certain types of intellectual capabilities that humans don’t need, and many of them they don’t have. For example the ability to draw conclusions about certain large amounts of data. In the past retail companies paid humans lots of money to use their skills and intelligence to ensure that store shelves were properly stocked without carrying excess inventory, and to ensure that since product A would entice the purchase of product B, that they should be placed next to each other on the self. This task that used to require a huge amount of skill, experience, intelligence and practice is now done almost exclusively by computer systems in large retailers. Call it what you will, but it replaced one manifestation of human intelligence.

    > There is no creature less specialized than the human.

    We weren’t talking about creatures Roger, we weren’t even talking about the human creature, but specifically about intelligence.

    > As for the discussion of whether computers can “draw conclusions”, this will be impossible for you to understand until you read some real philosophy and learn how to think.

    “You’re stupid” is not a particularly compelling argument. I believe outside on my encounters with you, the last time I encountered that pithy riposte was in elementary school. Little Davy Wilson, if I remember correctly. He was a stinky nasty boy too. And he wet his pants and had to go to the nurses’ office…

    Nonetheless, if your goal for me is the same as your goal for Joshua, namely to use this forum to toss out insult after insult without really making an argument, then I don’t find the discussion particularly attractive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been fun trading barbs with you, but yours are just mean, at least I try to make it a little funny. Sheesh. Lighten up dude.

  70. @Roger
    I’d be interested in reading a post from you that answers a point without resorting to so much Ad homenim, Appeal to Authority and Non-sequitur that it obscures all.

  71. >READ SOME FUCKING BOOKS
    @Roger Phillips, I apologize for jumping in as an interloper into your conversation, but in my case it would help if you would suggest some of the relevant books you had in mind.

    Your first comment was “Truly Zarathustra’s ‘last men’,” so should I start with _Thus Spoke Zarathustra_, read something else to build up to that, or start in a different area (with what book[s])?

    Thank you.

  72. @Jessica

    But that is plainly not true even with a very narrow biological definition of specialization. Just to give one very specific example, primates including humans have lost very large numbers of olfactory genes as a result of the development of color vision (or at the very least there is a widely held theory that that is the case.) So humans are losing capabilities in one area while gaining them in another due the evolutionary environmental pressures. Plainly humans have over millions of years adapted directly to their environments.

    You have some serious deficits in reading comprehension. From now on, I will not respond to any post from you that doesn’t include a paraphrasing of my argument. We’ll just have to treat this like a classroom exercise for a child because you’re not capable of staying on-task. Do you have ADHD or something? My post addresses this point DIRECTLY. And your reply doesn’t address my response to this particular point. Why do you even bother fucking replying? The whole point is, you make a point, I respond to it, you respond to the point. However, the way you treat these discussion is you make a point, I respond to it, you just reiterate your point without bothering to consider what I said. Do you even know what I said? You couldn’t possibly reply with the above if you’d absorbed my point.

    Humans can’t, without technology, live in water, or in Antarctica, or in the air, or on thermal vents, or in deserts, or up trees, or in deep caves. We are specialized to a particular environment. We are fortunate that our brains allow us to create technology to stretches our environment.

    Humans have NEVER lived without technology. Hell, even the chimpanzees made a start on it. Talking about “humans without technology” is simply an absurd imagining, since the creation of technology is one of the key things differentiating us from other species.

    However, I plainly wasn’t talking about biology, I was plainly talking about intellectual capacity, since the context was “are computers intelligent”. Human brains are specifically adapted by evolution to the particular evolutionary niche they adopted millions of years ago. They are smart rather than strong, clever rather than fast, gregarious rather than individually robust. All of these speak to a specific strategy for propagating their genes, a casting off of some capabilities to specialize in others.

    So fucking what? The fact that humans don’t excel at EVERYTHING is not specialization. Rain Man is more specialized than the average human, regardless of the fact that he is a billion times better at memorizing postcodes, precisely because he has ZERO ability in a wide variety of areas. That’s what SPECIALIZATION MEANS. You just keep saying over and over that “humans aren’t best at everything” which has fucking nothing to do with specialization.

    There are certain types of intellectual capabilities that humans don’t need, and many of them they don’t have. For example the ability to draw conclusions about certain large amounts of data. In the past retail companies paid humans lots of money to use their skills and intelligence to ensure that store shelves were properly stocked without carrying excess inventory, and to ensure that since product A would entice the purchase of product B, that they should be placed next to each other on the self. This task that used to require a huge amount of skill, experience, intelligence and practice is now done almost exclusively by computer systems in large retailers. Call it what you will, but it replaced one manifestation of human intelligence.

    You just can’t get it through your thick fucking skull, can you? The way you use the term “specialized”, it means NOTHING, because it’s impossible for anything – aside from the entire universe – to encompass everything.

    We weren’t talking about creatures Roger, we weren’t even talking about the human creature, but specifically about intelligence.

    What dumb bullshit is this? What is this contributing to the discussion? Humans are – in EVERY RESPECT – the most versatile creatures on Earth. That includes intelligence – and is in fact largely a result of it. So what the fuck is your problem with this statement? It’s like talking to a regular expression!

    “You’re stupid” is not a particularly compelling argument. I believe outside on my encounters with you, the last time I encountered that pithy riposte was in elementary school. Little Davy Wilson, if I remember correctly. He was a stinky nasty boy too. And he wet his pants and had to go to the nurses’ office…

    I said you needed to fucking READ. And you are stupid, precisely because you can’t see that you are way out of your depth and need to do some rudimentary fucking readings before weighing in on questions that have been flogged to death already by people far smarter than you. You apparently can’t even apprehend THIS, this most basic piece of advice, which you would assume would be elementary to anyone living in an advanced civilization, that if you’re going to approach a well-developed subject that you have to research what others have had to say on it instead of just making up stupid bullshit and weakly rationalizing away all the holes that are poked into it.

    Nonetheless, if your goal for me is the same as your goal for Joshua, namely to use this forum to toss out insult after insult without really making an argument, then I don’t find the discussion particularly attractive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been fun trading barbs with you, but yours are just mean, at least I try to make it a little funny. Sheesh. Lighten up dude.

    My goal is ALWAYS to develop myself intellectually. You really are a fucking dunce. What I said to Joshua was that I was GOING TO berate him over and over. At no point did I say that it was my GOAL to do so. It’s just incredible how bad you are at thinking. And I keep showing you had bad you are at interpreting what’s said, and it just never sinks in. Like someone who crashed a plane 20 times and can always rationalize his failure over and over, never once stopping to consider that maybe he’s not as good a pilot as he thought he was. Bravo.

  73. @Tom McKendree

    Thus Spoke Zarathustra is quite hard – in fact, I haven’t gotten around to finishing it. Try starting with The Gay Science.

  74. @ Joshua Brulé
    I liked your herding simulation (not least because I love dogs :D). If you don’t mind me asking, what Lisp dialect and implementation did you use?

  75. > what Lisp dialect and implementation did you use?

    Clojure. I’m not a big fan of hosting on the JVM, but the built-in data structures support is excellent (everything is immutable/persistent by default which gives it a much more “Ocaml/Haskell feel”.)

  76. @Roger Phillips:
    >You really are a fucking dunce.

    I hope you don’t kiss your mother with that mouth. You are an interesting study Roger. I am thinking I should run some metrics on you. I believe currently the ratio of non rude sentences to rude sentences is beginning approaching zero, however, I was thinking I should also estimate the swearword density of your comments, and I am pretty sure the contempt metric is going beyond the capabilities of the English language.

    My hypothesis would be that the swearword density is increasing the further into this thread we go, however, I’d have to go back and analyze the data to be sure. (I don’t doubt you would subject my “feeling that it is getting worse” to utter contemptuous mockery.)

    However, I think to really do a good job on the experiment I need some stimuli to prompt an increasing reaction. So, I figured this would work…

    My theory is that you are one of those people to whom learning did not come naturally. That you had to spend all your time in the library consuming and absorbing other people’s ideas because you found generating your own ideas very difficult. You were probably jealous of all the other people out there having fun, but you felt your introspective self worth came from how much of other people’s knowledge you had acquired. However, all the hours of study, the dust mites, the eyestrain, the back aches, lead you to resent the people out there having a lot of success and having fun at the same time. You felt that the world was just unfair because it rewarded all those flaky people, and wasn’t rewarding your dedicated research. But the truth is, all the research, all the books, all the study, the wall of contemptuous expertise, is simply a cover for your deep insecurities and your unwillingness, your fear, to interact with real people.

    This is most clearly illustrated on the web where you can speak to me in a such a hostile and aggressive way. Were we to meet in person, you would be too much of a pussy to say anything even approaching those things, in fact you would probably be uncomfortable speaking to me at all. Rest assured, there is nothing I have said here that I wouldn’t be perfectly happy to say to you in person.

    So that is my assessment. Let’s see if I can provoke and even higher density of swear words and an even lower rude to non rude sentence ratio. My spreadsheet is ready to measure your response…

  77. @Jessica
    I think you try to much to find reasons for Roger Philips’ verbal outbreaks. I think it it is just the testosterone.

    @Jessica
    “My hypothesis would be that the swearword density is increasing the further into this thread we go,”

    Previous exchanges were dense with insults from the start. I doubt it increases by much during a thread. Maybe the initial comment is an exception.

  78. @Greg
    I think that checklist qualifies regardless of the political leanings of the participants.

  79. Jessica, I feel compelled to point out, hopefully as an appeal to your obvious scientific self, that your experiment here suffers a lack of a proper blind. (Unless perhaps you also suspect that Roger has gone all “deterministic automata” here as well.)

  80. @Paul Brinkley
    > Jessica, I feel compelled to point out, hopefully as an appeal to your obvious scientific self, that your experiment here suffers a lack of a proper blind.

    Hmmh, I take your point Paul. My measurement criteria is pretty objective (though what constitutes a swearword might be subjective, perhaps I could use a defined dictionary for the decision) however the challenge is that I only have one data point, which makes comparisons tough. Also based on Winter’s feedback, it seems likely that the swearword density might might have reached saturation point.

    As a second data point, I’d try pissing you off too to see how you react, but you are just so very nice, and always have something interesting to say, and you seem quite level headed too, so I don’t think I could be successful.

    I am open to ideas on how to improve my experimental design.

  81. @Jessica

    My theory is that you are one of those people to whom learning did not come naturally. That you had to spend all your time in the library consuming and absorbing other people’s ideas because you found generating your own ideas very difficult.

    In fact, I started out “generating my own ideas” – and still do – and was only able to come to philosophy after hard won experience.

    You were probably jealous of all the other people out there having fun, but you felt your introspective self worth came from how much of other people’s knowledge you had acquired. However, all the hours of study, the dust mites, the eyestrain, the back aches, lead you to resent the people out there having a lot of success and having fun at the same time.

    Fact: I have never been able to “study” in the manner you’re suggesting. By nature I have a brutish, practical brain. I spent my youth outdoors riding BMX and playing with matches. And when I discovered the computing addiction, it wasn’t the least bit “unfun”. I don’t resent anybody – even you. In fact, I LOVE you and Winter.

    You felt that the world was just unfair because it rewarded all those flaky people, and wasn’t rewarding your dedicated research. But the truth is, all the research, all the books, all the study, the wall of contemptuous expertise, is simply a cover for your deep insecurities and your unwillingness, your fear, to interact with real people.

    This is the one place all idiots always come back to in psychoanalysis: insecurity. It’s even more likely if the analyzer is a woman, precisely because they are the most insecure. The world is perfectly fair. Every bit of research I have done has been richly rewarded. You don’t seem to understand that making shit up at random will get you nowhere in thinking.

    This is most clearly illustrated on the web where you can speak to me in a such a hostile and aggressive way. Were we to meet in person, you would be too much of a pussy to say anything even approaching those things, in fact you would probably be uncomfortable speaking to me at all. Rest assured, there is nothing I have said here that I wouldn’t be perfectly happy to say to you in person.

    To the contrary, I am just as argumentative in-person, modulo the vastly greater energies it takes to sustain a verbal argument versus a written argument that plays out over a period of days. There would be little or no hostility for a simple reason – you would behave much more respectfully to me in-person. The problem here is that all this is happening on a level you’re not conscious of. For example, you think I have come to you, unprovoked, and been rude to you. In fact, you have been rude to me from the start by ignoring my vastly superior expertise. In-person you would sense, from cues such as tone of voice, that you were stepping out of your place, and dial your shit down very quickly (unless you have Aspergers). But monkey-instincts barely function at all on the Internet, therefore you have to THINK in order to avoid these errors. In summary, you’ve got everything exactly the wrong way round. I swear my fucking head off at you on the Internet because tone of voice, body language because that is the nature of the medium we’re communicating on.

    The fact that you say you’d do everything the same in-person is reflective of your highly-superficial approach to conversation. And if the circumstances called for it I would be perfectly happy to call you a stupid cunt. lol what are you going to do about it? I’ve called out GROUPS of young men in-person – you think I’m going to be scared you? lol. Once again you aren’t just dumb – you don’t even know how dumb you are. I have psychoanalyzed myself to death already – I know what my shortcomings are. All you’re going to achieve by guessing randomly based on the fact that I’m “mean” to you on the Internet is to provide me with amusement.

  82. Jessica,

    I know that Roger is very, very obnoxious and arrogant. However, this sentence is several orders of magnitude more obnoxious and arrogant:

    “And I might add that the vast majority of philosophy is utter “the emperor has no clothes” nonsense.”

    As an example, philosophy encompasses all of natural science, which it birthed centuries ago. You are effectively saying “I, Jessica, am smarter than all the humans who lived before me.” That is some billions of people. At least Roger is only claiming to be smarter than a few people on this thread.

    So I guess that would be at least nine orders of magnitude.

    Yours,
    Tom

  83. @Tom DeGisi
    > As an example, philosophy encompasses all of natural science,

    Well it depends on what you mean by philosophy don’t you think Tom? Sure philosophy could be the study of everything, but in my discussion with Roger we were talking about a rather narrower ideal: things like metaphysics and epistemology. This is evident from Roger’s view that “Americans can’t do it”, which I doubt is true, but I doubt even Roger would deny that Americans can do natural science.

    As to whether the vast majority of philosophy is nonsense, I think that is self evidently true. It is partly Sturgeon’s law, but way more than 90%. Part of it is the nature of philosophy itself which is a fairly soft science. There are certainly some experimental results, but they are rare compared to the libraries full of pontifications from Aristotle to Rand. And I think there are other reasons why philosophy has a very specific “emperors’ new clothes” feeling to it: namely the desperate desire to find meaning and purpose in a universe devoid of intrinsic meaning and purpose. It is one of the reasons why religion is so popular, after all.

    I seem to remember that you are a religious man Tom, but surely you will acknowledge that the vast majority of religion is bogus, if, for no other reason, than that the large majority of them think you are a heretic, a heathen or a Satan worshiper, or something equally dreadful. I am sure that is true irrespective of what particular brand or religion you espouse.

    However, I didn’t say all philosophy is garbage, just huge swaths of it. And you’ll have to acknowledge that Sturgeon’s law, at the very least, applies here.

    So it isn’t that I am smarter than seven billion people, just that I find their arguments deeply unsatisfactory. For most of history people have believed crazy shit like the sun revolves around the earth, of that the disease is caused by an imbalance of humors, or that malicious gremlins bring destruction and chaos, or that the position of the stars on the day you were born affects your life, lot and personality. I that that stuff is all garbage, even though most humans who have ever lived believed stuff along those lines, and even today probably the majority of people believe stuff like that.

    Am I smarter than all those people? Probably not. Just luckier.

  84. @Jessica
    “As to whether the vast majority of philosophy is nonsense, I think that is self evidently true.”

    Depends on where you put the boundaries. Many important aspects of thinking started of a part of philosophy. Logic would be a recent entry. It now resides in Mathematics, but that move is still not complete.

    It seems philosophy has been defined as the Art of Thinking. Especially, clean thinking has to be learned. Empiricism and falsifiability are not concepts that came naturally to people.

    So, I do not agree with you on this.

  85. Reading and very much liking starslatecodex.com makes me want to join that community – can it be possible that a tribe can exist where membership and respect is not based on your opinions, but rather on the methods with which you arrive to those opinions? Could you have an unpopular – even in the given community – opinion and support it with good arguments and get respect for that, instead of the instant hivemind-downvote? (Unlike on Reddit, where my analogy is from.) That sounds truly amazing and an experience I would like to try. It sounds unlikely – the while smart people may find it a good idea to form meta-tribes (based not on opinions but on how people arrive to their opinions), I think pretty much every human instinct goes against it. Imagining a bunch of people where the important thing is no to fly the same flag but that every flag is well made – sounds very, very unusual. And exciting.

  86. Just to play the devils advocate – why does LW, ESR and virtually everybody today take it as their base axiom that observation is the highest truth, that observed phenomena are more real than verbal statements, logic or statements deducted from a priori rules? It is clear that practical problem-solvers think like that because practical problem solving precisely means changing the observable characteristics of things, what is not clear if there is a gap between practical problem-solving and truths as such. Imagine that we resurrect Aquinas or any other important Scholastic. Imagine that he argues all this practical problem-solving really boils down to pleasure and pain. (“Motivated categorization”.) Imagine if he asks why should human truth-seeking rationality, our highest capability, be subordinate to our desire to feel pleasure and avoid pain which every lower animal can feel? Why should the higher faculty serve the lower faculty?

    Now let’s turn it around. Imagine that our rational truth-seeker wants to be purposefully unaffected by pleasure and pain, in order not to make his thinking motivated and biased. Therefore he is entirely uninterested in practical problems. Is there any good reason for him to still stick to observable phenomena and call that the highest truth? Or would he pull a Platonic, anti-empiricist move and discount the whole world of observed phenomena as too fickle and chaotic and ultimately have a lower level of truth than the clear laws of reason and mathemathics, derived from a priori truths?

    Is there a good solution for this kind of epistemological problem? Or is it rather one of those very very basic questions where you have to make a conscious choice regarding what you are interested in, because a prescription cannot be given?

  87. @Roger Philips
    “In fact, you have been rude to me from the start by ignoring my vastly superior expertise. ”

    I stand corrected. Instead of testosterone, this smells more like a manic phase.

  88. >Is there a good solution for this kind of epistemological problem?

    Yes. Reality bites.

    We can only afford the luxury of not putting empiricism first for as long as that choice doesn’t pose us a survival problem. As I have put it elsewhere, we are theory-builders because we are prediction-makers because we are goal-seekers because we are evolved survival machines. Trying to cut reasoning loose from that motivation always leads to grief, and usually sooner than later.

  89. @ESR – you sound a bit too much like Ayn Rand here: sure intelligence evolved for survival, but survival was guaranteed long, long ago. The modern world is not a particularly dangerous environment and most modern intellectual pursuits have little to do with survival. It is safe to say you could have easily not done 95% of your intellectual pursuits and still be alive and healthy. Survival to reasoning is like reproduction to sex: it says where it came from but it does not really say anything about how it is used today. Rather they are offshoots.

    Maybe I am just having a brain fart here, but I cannot see the link between how something that evolved for survival back then is still relevant for a world of safety labels. We tend to be driven by curiosity, doubt, fun or intellectual status-seeking, the vast majority of our intellectual pursuits are not really related to survival.

  90. >Maybe I am just having a brain fart here, but I cannot see the link between how something that evolved for survival back then is still relevant for a world of safety labels.

    The world never stays that way for long, in historical terms. Besides, you seem to be interpreting “survival” as though I were referring to some sort of wilderness challenge, but the analysis applies equally well to holding down a job anywhere outside of academia, a church, or a handful of politically-protected niches.

  91. @Shenpen
    > why does LW, ESR and virtually everybody today take it as their base axiom that observation is the highest truth,

    I don’t think they do, in fact if you know anything about observation you will know that one of its primary characteristics is that it is unreliable.

    > Is there a good solution for this kind of epistemological problem?

    So here is what I think about this Shenpen. The problem is that your outline makes a fundamental structural assumption that reasoning proceeds from axioms to a stated higher order purpose and proceeds through various generative rules from one to the other. But that isn’t what actually happens with people.

    Victorian science might be described, as with much Victoriana, about building huge, intricate mechanical edifices. What are the minimum set of axioms and generative rules that produce all of mathematics? What are the smallest particles and what are the rules of their interaction, if we toss some dice, what is the mathematical equation that will tell us, given all the forces in question, what number the dice will come up with.

    Yet one of the stories of the 20th century is really the discovery of the unknowable. All that intricate mathematical machinery was blown to smithereens by Godel. All that intricate Newtonian physics sunk by the torpedo of QM and Relativity. In some respect the halting problem is the pinnacle of this unknowability, where we can’t even predict the behavior of one of our own artifacts.

    Philosophy is no stranger to this. On the Victoriana side we have Ayn Rand, with a huge edifice of putatively indubitable philosophy of everything, and on the other side we have Nihilism.

    But to me we have to ask the fundamental question — what do you really want from your philosophy. (There is of course the question of what do I mean by “want” here, but we will put that to the side for a moment.) For me what I want from all philosophy and all science is one thing: the ability to control the future, which is predicated on the ability to predict the future. Science is the latter, engineering is the former.

    I am a big advocate of agile programming. The essence of agile programming is, in my view, the recognition that we don’t know at the start what we want. Program requirements are not defined entirely at the beginning, but are derived as part of the process itself. Agile programming is essentially a mechanism to support the development of software where requirements are discovered as part of the process. We have always discovered requirements as part of the process, we just pretended that we didn’t.

    I believe the effective philosophy and science operate on the same basis. We don’t know what we want, but we derive it in an evolutionary process over time. We start out with a soft goal and proceed forward refining and improving as we go, perhaps entirely loosing the goal in the process. And part of the refining and improving is refining and improving the process and the refining process itself. Everything is subject to examination, change and modification. It is Pancritical rationalism.

    People don’t care for this much. For various evolutionary reasons we like a solid starting point and a solid ending point. We want to believe that there is meaning and purpose outside of ourselves. But none of these things really exist intrinsically. We have to create them for ourselves. One popular way to create these things for ourselves is to buy a prepackaged set from some hawker of philosophy. Sometimes it is called “religion” and usually the cost of that particular package is pretty high. But there are lots of prepackaged options available. Communism, Randism, Capitalism, Stoicism, Epicurianism, and so forth.

    And buying the prepackaged deal might be a good choice. Rational ignorance often is. But let’s at least recognize what we are doing rather than pretending that our package is self evidently true, and everyone else is a heretic.

  92. >I don’t think they do, in fact if you know anything about observation you will know that one of its primary characteristics is that it is unreliable

    Yes. But it’s all we have. I mean that in a very absolute sense.

  93. @esr
    > Yes. But it’s all we have. I mean that in a very absolute sense.

    Indeed, but to treat it as the highest truth as shenpen indicated is a mistake. We must recognize that it may be all we have, but it is a very noisy signal, and we must apply noise reduction filters over a longitudinal review to get any useful data.

    Really, when you think about our ancestors, they have these noisy observations of the world, through our unreliable senses, the chaotic interaction of millions of different causes affecting the simplest real world interaction, and somehow those scientists managed to meticulously pick it all apart, filter down their observations to solid reliable ones, and explain each individual part of the physics and chemistry involved, and to do it most of the time in an intellectually hostile environment. It is nothing short of a miracle of human ingenuity, persistence, dedication and passion.

    I mean, imagine you were born on a desert island with no schooling, no books, no knowledge, no tools, just the world around you. You might be smart but how far would you really get in understanding the world about you were you not also to stand on the shoulders of those giants?

  94. @Jessica Boxer

    Interesting question. You basically explained your motivation. I am not even sure about mine. Practical problem solving is good enough for engineering, less sure about science, and I am not at all sure about philosophy. I guess for me philosophy is historical and identity-forming, as the Western Civ as such is basically the Socratic Civ. I guess I am interested in figuring out how much of that tradition can be preserved, even at the cost of reinterpreting them, but not at the cost of being dishonest. Pure empiricism does not match very well with the logicalism of that tradition and I am simply seeing if it is possible to bridge that gap in a honest way or if not, how much and how Western culture and identity would change if empiricism became the complete norm. For example when people during online debates mention logical fallacies, that is still the Socratic-Scholastic tradition talking, not empiricism. Something could be fallacious yet predictive, in fact for the empiricist most fallacies should look like heuristics…

  95. >Indeed, but to treat it as the highest truth as shenpen indicated is a mistake.

    That’s an argument about map, rather than territory. It’s where you land when you put the ontological cart before the predictivist horse.

  96. @Jessica
    “I don’t think they do, in fact if you know anything about observation you will know that one of its primary characteristics is that it is unreliable.”

    That is why science evolved. It is a machine to convert empirical observations into knowledge. And that is far from trivial.

    It is not perfect, nothing is, but it is the best we have at the moment.

  97. When Eric says “[observation] is all we have”, in an absolute sense, I take it as something none of us can escape – if we are brains in vats (or if you are and we’re all just figments of your imagination), then the illusion is so complete that you may as well take what the vat computer is feeding you as truth; or in other words, you may as well assume you’re not a brain in a vat. More locally, you may as well trust that when you see or hear or feel something, that you really are seeing or hearing or feeling something.

    But Eric clearly doesn’t imply you can always jump to a conclusion based on an observation on grounds that that observation is as real as anything can be. Eric does not look in a mirror and infer that there is a double of his room on the other side.

    Also, Eric also isn’t letting observation trump logic at all. There’s an underlying logical axiom to the primacy of observation, after all: namely, that something must have caused that observation. Can’t have that without logic. There’s logic at work all throughout, in fact: if Eric perceives something that his current understanding of the universe says should not have happened, he doesn’t insist obstinately that his understanding trumps his observation; rather, it’s that previous observations that informed his current understanding are now at war with the current observation; something must have caused both; the mission is to discover that cause. The means to that mission is to observe more.

    So when ur-Eric sees that other room in the mirror that previous observations say should not be there, he observes more, and in the process, hopefully, notices that the mirror is an object; that it can be moved; that when it moves, the room beyond moves in a way a room should not move (again, based on previous observation). Perhaps ur-Eric hits the mirror with something, cracking it, and observes the effect on the room. Eventually ur-Eric produces a probable cause: that there is a distinction between objects and their images, and what he is observing in the mirror is the latter. And that then leads to other questions which ultimately produce a theory of optics.

    Prediction is just a way to test that theory. It in turn is based on more logic: that if B usually happened when A happened and B rarely happened when A did not happen, then P(B|A) is very large and P(B|!A) is very small, and we can expect that to hold in the future.

    The real territory I think you’re fighting over here is those cases where you suspect A is not playing the only role in B. But that’s independent of whether observation trumps logic or the other way around.

    Shenpen: suppose something were indeed fallacious yet predictive in all experiments you endeavor to set up. At what point would you ever need to worry about that?

  98. @Paul Brinkley
    “Shenpen: suppose something were indeed fallacious yet predictive in all experiments you endeavor to set up. At what point would you ever need to worry about that?”

    That is no “suppose”. We know that every theory based on empirical evidence is false in some field of application. We only know where it is false when we find a falsified prediction. The interesting part is not that is is not the eternal truth, but to know what are the bounds of its applicability.

    Newtonian mechanics is “false”, but tremendously valuable in anything we do inside the solar system. General relativity and quantum mechanics are both false when we reach Planckian scales. Still, they both are exact to every measurable decimal.

  99. @Winter
    > Newtonian mechanics is “false”, but tremendously valuable in anything we do inside the solar system.

    Yes, nicely put Winter. That is exactly my philosophy. “True” and “false” are simply too black and white. Newtonian mechanics is extremely useful for changing the future, bending the future to my will which is my goal here, so that I can use their application to press the gas pedal on my car to drive me to the store. However, if I assume my car will always do that, and I (being a Chicagoan) hit a patch of ice, my prediction might be wrong, and the future might not bend sufficiently to my will (something else might get bent instead…) , I would have to broaden my understanding and application of other parts of Newtonian physics to get the icy thing right.

    Learning this I can refine my predictions of the future, and feed that back into my modelling to allow me to bend the future to my will once again, while incorporating this new piece of data. Were I to travel near the speed of light in my car (which I currently can’t do, not with gas prices where they are today anyway) I would have to change more of my assumptions and predictions

    Which is to say the assumption that some things are true and some things are false also is subject to criticism under a pan critical rationalism.

    It is all very fuzzy, and most people don’t like fuzzy. You are never really at the end of the quest for knowledge, and many people don’t much care for that. Uncertainty is not something humans deal with real well. Better to believe in God, government or karma than deal with the fuzziness. And that is perfectly OK, as long as you know that your abstraction, like all abstractions, leaks a little at the edges.

    Now if only I could work out what this means:

    > It’s where you land when you put the ontological cart before the predictivist horse.

  100. >Now if only I could work out what this means [It’s where you land when you put the ontological cart before the predictivist horse.]

    Ontology is the branch of philosophy concerned with understanding what kinds of things there are. It asks about very basic categories like “mind”, “matter”, “reality”, “unreality” and so forth.

    When doing it right, you start from a predictivist criterion of truth (“Learning this I can refine my predictions of the future, and feed that back into my modelling to allow me to bend the future to my will once again, while incorporating this new piece of data.”) and then use that to justify whatever ontological categories are useful for your theory-building.

    A lot of philosophy gets screwed up by a premature rush to set forth hard ontological categories. If you try to do ontology too soon, you end up getting stuck on false dichotomies like Shenpen’s empiricism vs. logicism. Or worse, uttering emotively appealing but meaningless babble about “higher truth”. Historically Western philosophy has been rife with this kind of mistake.

  101. @Jessica
    “Now if only I could work out what this means:
    > It’s where you land when you put the ontological cart before the predictivist horse.”

    Option 1: Philosophy

    Option 2: Badly mixed methaphor

    Option 3: Both of the above

  102. >What you seem to be criticizing looks like the idea of “theory free observations”.

    Almost, but I think there are serious technical problems with the usual attempts at distinguishing “theory-free” from “theory-laden” and I therefore consider that language unhelpful. I may blog about this.

  103. >A lot of philosophy gets screwed up by a premature rush to set forth hard ontological categories.

    In case anyone’s missed it, the A&D post “What is truth?” deals with this issue at a slightly greater length. Talk about a down-to-earth approach! :D
    That said, I share the concern expressed in the first comment of that thread.

  104. @esr
    > If you try to do ontology too soon, you end up getting stuck on false dichotomies

    Ah, I’ve got it thanks for the lesson. So it represents that all to common rabbit hole in online debates where they end up arguing about what a particular word means and start quoting dictionaries at each other. Which of course always entirely misses the point (and is mostly about proving oneself right rather than finding a useful result.)

    I have often said that I can give you an indisputable answer to the question “Do I have free will” as long as we can first agree the meaning of the words “I”, “have”, “free” and “will”. (I am totally OK with the word “do”.)

  105. >So it represents that all to common rabbit hole in online debates where they end up arguing about what a particular word means and start quoting dictionaries at each other.

    Usually (not always) that’s actually a different and more trivial kind of confusion. If you and I disagree on whether my wife’s old aqua-colored car was “blue” or “green”, that’s not an ontological problem. On the other hand, if you and I disagree about whether “love” or “the United States of America” are real things, that is almost certainly an ontological problem. Most language debates are more like the former than the latter, though people are often curiously reluctant to recognize this.

  106. A question is only useful to the extent that its answer affects what other propositions you can infer from it.

  107. What you seem to be criticizing looks like the idea of “theory free observations”.

    Isn’t the problem less about “theory free observations” and more about “observation free theories”? By that I envisage building a map that you’re not trying to make represent the territory (which always sounds like a stupid thing to do when you say it like that and yet happens all the time).

  108. @JonCB
    Theory Free Observation is not possible. What happens is that you hide the theory that is used. Miraculously, that hidden theory resurfaces later as the only possible conclusions of your observations. At least, if you can make it that far. Ontological problems tend to be real quagmires.

    Observation free theories are easy to spot. Just ask how you can falsify the theory? No further actiion is generally necessary.

  109. @Jessica

    Philosophy is no stranger to this. On the Victoriana side we have Ayn Rand, with a huge edifice of putatively indubitable philosophy of everything, and on the other side we have Nihilism.</blockquote

    haha. On the one hand nihilism, on the other hand.. objectivism. Stop using words you don't understand please, you're embarrassing yourself. I mean it just boggles me how you can be this dumb. You don't know whay nihilism means. You don't have any idea what it is opposed to. It therefore seems prudent to just shut up and not talk about it. But you have a desperate need to babble about things you don't know anything about, and Eric apparently doesn't ban people for stupidity that borders on LYING, so here we are.

    But to me we have to ask the fundamental question — what do you really want from your philosophy. (There is of course the question of what do I mean by “want” here, but we will put that to the side for a moment.) For me what I want from all philosophy and all science is one thing: the ability to control the future, which is predicated on the ability to predict the future. Science is the latter, engineering is the former.

    All good philosophy works in this way, you just haven’t read (and understood) it. The problem you have is that (1) you are a bit on the slow side, and (2) as an American you find any excuse to read as little as possible. Consequently, if someone were to plonk all the works of Nietzsche in front of you (that is to say, the greatest works in philosophy thus far) it would be TOTALLY USELESS to you. You wouldn’t have the education to apprehend even a fraction of what’s written. And because you live in a tiny little box in some company tapping away at little keys on a computer you are exceedingly unlikely to ever NEED anything more than a tiny philosophy for tiny little key-tappers, which is why you would, further, never summon the courage to face the sheer, UTTERLY CRUSHING superiority of the writer. Hence all your dumb-ass rationalizations and laughable evaluations. You can’t even admit to yourself that you know sweet fuck-all about philosophy and that your little opinions on it are therefore as relevant as a dog’s opinion on world politics. I mean, if you can’t face your inferiority against me (an AUSTRALIAN), imagine how much trouble you would have witnessing – with honest eyes – where you stack up against Nietzsche, who towers vastly above pretty much everybody on the planet.

    People don’t care for this much. For various evolutionary reasons we like a solid starting point and a solid ending point. We want to believe that there is meaning and purpose outside of ourselves. But none of these things really exist intrinsically. We have to create them for ourselves. One popular way to create these things for ourselves is to buy a prepackaged set from some hawker of philosophy. Sometimes it is called “religion” and usually the cost of that particular package is pretty high. But there are lots of prepackaged options available. Communism, Randism, Capitalism, Stoicism, Epicurianism, and so forth.

    What do you even mean by “really exist intrinsically”. Explain to me what this actually means. THIS PROBLEM HAS BEEN DEALT WITH. READ THE SOLUTION. No wait – it’s more fun to just make bullshit up. Your view of philosophy as a “shopping mall for ideas” rather than a field with a definite progression from primitive to advanced is just pure fucking ignorance. This is not how it works, and you would know that if you’d actually studied the thing you’re pretending to know something about.

  110. @Shenpen Nobody (who is not an imbecile) calls observation the highest truth! Higher = MORE GENERAL. That is why logic etc are always higher than pure observation – because observation is mere DATA. Observation is therefore the LOWEST truth. And yet, nobody in this thread – in spite of using the phrase “highest truth” multiple times – appears to understand what this even means. The lowest truth is always the most reliable truth – since it is the most immediate – what I am feeling right now is the absolute, realest thing there is (so much for Jessica’s imbecilic “exists intrinsically”). In fact, the low truth is the SOLE reason for obtaining the higher one – because the higher the truth, the more of the LOWER truth it contains.

  111. @Roger Phillips
    > Stop using words you don’t understand please, you’re embarrassing yourself.

    Summary of your comment Roger: “Jessica you know nothing, shut up.”. I read it a few times and I really couldn’t find a single thing in there that didn’t amount to this.

    Excellent and useful contribution Roger. Keep up the good work.

    I do object to one thing: I thought I was the only imbecile here! Apparently Shenpen is one too. In fact everyone is apparently too stupid to understand that which you think is plainly obvious about “highest truth”. We are all intellectual amoebas? Now I don’t feel special anymore.

    I do wonder though. If this is your standard operating practice, and you do, as you claim, manifest it in rl as well as online; I wonder do you go down to the local hospitals for the mentally deranged and yell at them and tell them what a bunch of fucking morons they are too? Me, when I find people who are much less smart than me (I know it is hard to believe, but surely there must be SOME of them out there) I think I am more likely to benignly smile, offer encouragement, and offer help to fulfill whatever limited capacity they might have. If I were to behave like you do, I think most people would think me a monster. Come to that I’d think me a monster.

    However, i do appreciate that you have decided to put aside the swearing every other word. That is definitely nice. I’m sure your mother is proud of you. I am going to take credit for that. Apparently Drucker was right, “what is measured improves.”

    Nonetheless, it is particularly ironic to hear you tell me I am embarrassing myself when you screwed up the comment by putting it all in italics. Now that is kind of embarrassing.

  112. @Jessica

    Summary of your comment Roger: “Jessica you know nothing, shut up.”. I read it a few times and I really couldn’t find a single thing in there that didn’t amount to this.

    LOL.. so in your stupidity-addled brain, pointing out that “nihilism” doesn’t mean what you think it means, that Ayn Rand doesn’t have the relationship to nihilism (or even philosophy at large) that you think it does, is EQUIVALENT to “shut up”. HOW MANY TIMES? HOW MANY TIMES DOES IT HAVE TO BE POINTED OUT, PLAINLY AND TO YOUR FACE, THAT YOU ARE COMPLETELY MISINTERPRETING WHAT’S WRITTEN BEFORE YOU GET THE MESSAGE? Just like Winter, your SOLE means of reading is to pick a few n-grams out and guess what was meant by the most shallow process. Which is probably why you think Ayn Rand is related to nihilism lol..

    I do wonder though. If this is your standard operating practice, and you do, as you claim, manifest it in rl as well as online; I wonder do you go down to the local hospitals for the mentally deranged and yell at them and tell them what a bunch of fucking morons they are too?

    I ALREADY EXPLAINED THIS. Of course, you are too much of a fucking idiot to understand. I have taught classes for several years, and in that time I have NEVER experienced this kind of arrogance. Nobody ever came into my class and professed to be a bigger expert on the subject that me. The absolute furthest I’ve ever had to go, after explaining why someone was wrong and being more-or-less ignored, was to say “I have been doing this for a number of years, and you should take what I say seriously”, after which the matter was COMPLETELY resolved. And this is a knuckle-headed 18 year old we’re talking about. Whereas I can pile opprobrium on you for days on end and you still can’t get the message into your retarded, American “brain”. I have been taken to task by a professor when I was younger when I was talking about something I didn’t understand, and it was the RIGHT THING TO DO.

    Me, when I find people who are much less smart than me (I know it is hard to believe, but surely there must be SOME of them out there) I think I am more likely to benignly smile, offer encouragement, and offer help to fulfill whatever limited capacity they might have. If I were to behave like you do, I think most people would think me a monster. Come to that I’d think me a monster.

    Anyone who thinks your behavior is “nicer” than mine simply has a very limited perspective. One in which you are allowed to poison the atmosphere with retarded ideas that have been refuted a thousand times, while I am a bad person for writing some “mean” words on the Internet. And I have already explained to you that my response is commensurate with what I am given – and in your case, the sheer arrogance is vastly greater than ANYTHING I have encountered in-person, even in years of dealing with young students who are often full of themselves.

    As it goes, the lower the life form, the lower the ceiling on the forms of offense it can take. Just as you can’t offend a dog by calling it a “cunt” (it responds only to TONE), you can’t offend a low-down piece of American trailer trash such as yourself by perverting advanced philosophical ideas.

    Nonetheless, it is particularly ironic to hear you tell me I am embarrassing myself when you screwed up the comment by putting it all in italics. Now that is kind of embarrassing.

    So to summarise the progression of this conversation, you have gone from spewing dumb shit, to ignoring and misinterpreting responses, to saying I’m a big meanie for not letting you be an arrogant fuckface and shit all over the greatest minds in history, to lambasting me for misstyping something. Apparently it’s “ironic” that I made a SINGLE simple MECHANICAL error with my fingers after criticizing you for repeatedly and consistently talking utter bullshit to the point where you don’t even realize that you’ve made an error after having it pointed out to you OVER AND OVER. LOL. What’s “ironic” is that in the post you were replying to you were being accused of being a little -finger-tapper, with a little finger-tapper’s philosophy. And here we have yet another manifestation of your tiny little philosophy in action. L-O-FUCKING-L.

  113. @Roger Phillips
    > so in your stupidity-addled brain, pointing out that “nihilism” doesn’t mean what you think it means, that Ayn Rand doesn’t have the relationship to nihilism (or even philosophy at large) that you think it does, is EQUIVALENT to “shut up”.

    No, not “shut up”, Roger,however, it is equivalent in this context to “you are stupid.” And FWIW, I said exactly the opposite of what you just claimed I said, specifically I CONTRASTED Rand with Nihilism, in one particular respect. And perhaps you think Rand was not a philosopher, but she sure as hell did, and so do many of the people who practically worship her.

    > you can’t offend a dog by calling it a “cunt” … you can’t offend a low-down piece of American trailer trash such as yourself

    I have been very willing to listen to your insults in the hope that you had something substantial to say, but this really is the limit. I will not accept you calling me a “low-down piece of American trailer trash”. It is not true in any measurable way, it is oozes an outrageous contempt for a great and honorable, if flawed nation, the United States, and your deliberate use of the word “cunt” to offend me specifically because of my gender is nothing short of outrageous.

    I will no longer engage with you and I’d encourage any of the people with whom I have enjoyed engaging with on this blog to also boycott you and your outrageous behavior. I can only think this is the outcome you are going for. Congratulations.

    I am happy to weather the storms of hefty criticism and robust debate, but empty replies with not content except outrageous, baseless insults are simply not acceptable to me or really to any decent human being.

  114. @Jessica

    No, not “shut up”, Roger,however, it is equivalent in this context to “you are stupid.” And FWIW, I said exactly the opposite of what you just claimed I said, specifically I CONTRASTED Rand with Nihilism, in one particular respect. And perhaps you think Rand was not a philosopher, but she sure as hell did, and so do many of the people who practically worship her.

    LOL. Another total FABRICATION. The opposite of “contrast” is “equate” or “liken”. I never accused you of likening them. I accused you of relating them in a way that was bogus. Are you counting the number of times you’ve completely misread what was written? No doubt you’ll just continue in your stride like nothing every happened, like you haven’t fucked up in this conversation 20 times already. The readers can be grateful to you for the abundantly clear example of that oh-so-common type of person who can fuck up over and over and always manage to rationalize their mistake into oblivion, and consequently keep being a nuisance to other people forever and ever.

    To elaborate on what I ACTUALLY said: objectivism is not contrasted with nihilism in the “one particular respect” in which you tried to contrast them! Nihilism isn’t even a philosophical system – it is a philosophical PROBLEM! There are people who IMAGINE themselves to be philosophers who talk about nihilism in the way you do, but this is ENTIRELY BOGUS, and no more relevant than me using the nomenclature of neocreationists in a discussion about biology. And this disqualification is totally essential, because the whole point of this contrast was to draw a parallel with “pessimistic” developments in the STATE OF THE ART in the “natural sciences”, not randomly selected charlatanism! Not that it’s possible for you to grasp even a fraction of this, any more than a 12th century peasant could understand this whole “physics” thing. You simply don’t have the base to try your hand at the topics you’re writing about.

    I have been very willing to listen to your insults in the hope that you had something substantial to say, but this really is the limit. I will not accept you calling me a “low-down piece of American trailer trash”. It is not true in any measurable way, it is oozes an outrageous contempt for a great and honorable, if flawed nation, the United States, and your deliberate use of the word “cunt” to offend me specifically because of my gender is nothing short of outrageous.

    Once again a TOTAL misread. America is the greatest nation on Earth, bar none. NONETHELESS, it is yet to produce a single piece of worthwhile philosophy, and its people are an uneducated rabble of “can-do” dolts. It is impossible to have “contempt” for the US, because its influence permeates into every aspect of life. What a stupid, one-dimensional thinker you are. “YOU SAY BAD FING ABOUT UNITED STATES BUT UNITED STATES GUD!!!”

    And once again you are offended only by the LOWEST thing (the word “cunt”). Earlier I pointed out that women are crap at philosophy and that has so far warranted no mention from you. It’s simply impossible for you to be offended by this because every word I said about you being an American simpleton who doesn’t care the least about philosophy is true!

    I will no longer engage with you and I’d encourage any of the people with whom I have enjoyed engaging with on this blog to also boycott you and your outrageous behavior. I can only think this is the outcome you are going for. Congratulations.

    Well if you wanted to completely and utterly mentally capitulate to me then bravo. As I outlined in your last post you haven’t even responded to anything I’ve said yet, and your responses have been steadily moving further and further toward “typos” and other bullshit as the conversation has worn on. And now you are going even lower – from pointing out typos to vowing to “boycott” me on this forum. Every post you’ve written so far has been a total fabrication – a response to something you IMAGINED, just as your belief in your own understanding in the topic of philosophy is imagined. But I forgot – all this bullshit on your part isn’t “outrageous behavior” – what’s outrageous is saying mean things to you. lol. You are simply an incorrigible, anti-social blabbermouth. “I encourage my friends to boycott the person who rebuked me for pissing all over the street!!”

    I am happy to weather the storms of hefty criticism and robust debate, but empty replies with not content except outrageous, baseless insults are simply not acceptable to me or really to any decent human being.

    It’s exasperating how out-of-touch you are with reality. I have rebutted all your shitty points DIRECTLY. You have chosen to IGNORE those rebuttals and make up a bunch of random bullshit instead. Even my “insults” (as you call them) are spot-on evaluations of your personality and behavior. There isn’t a single point I’ve made that you’ve successfully answered, and I have answered every point that you’ve made. All you’ve achieved with this final, BOGUS claim about my postings is to illustrate what a weak-minded little woman you are – so much so that you are totally incapable of reading meaning of any kind out of something that you find offensive. And again, this speaks to the fact that you will never get anywhere intellectually because it only gets uglier and more offensive from hereon in. Have fun tapping little keyboards for the rest of your miserable life! tap tap tap

  115. >you can’t offend a low-down piece of American trailer trash such as yourself

    Roger, you have stepped over the line into unacceptable behavior.

    I have been giving you a lot of slack because you have written interesting things in the past. But your posts have become increasingly abusive and content-free, to the extent that I have been beginning to wonder if you have a mental-health problem.

    I have not had to ban anyone in nearly two years. I would like to continue that streak, so clean up your act. You owe Jessica an apology; that was indeed a new low in depths of unmerited insult, which I am sorry I did not notice and call out sooner.

    You are on notice that if your next comment does not indicate both the ability and the willingness to amend your conduct, you will be banned.

  116. Eric as you know I’m quite happy to follow the rules of your forum, and I can understand why you don’t want my cruel comments. But I’m disappointed by you and everyone else who’s responded with this “content-free” comment, when I’m responding to statements like this:

    Philosophy is no stranger to this. On the Victoriana side we have Ayn Rand, with a huge edifice of putatively indubitable philosophy of everything, and on the other side we have Nihilism.

    Which is equivalently nonsensical to:

    Sport is no stranger to this. On the one side we have Michael Jordan, who has played multiple sports, and on the other side we have basketballs.

    Not to mention to the prior conversation in which Jessica was claiming that ants and calculators are no more specialized than humans. And every cruel comment is, in addition to being cruel, an insightful statement. For example, it may be cruel to call Jessica what I called her, but the fact remains that she is bad at philosophy for exactly the reasons I listed, and this and every other cruel claim about her personality has been confirmed by Jessica’s own comments.

  117. >For example, it may be cruel to call Jessica what I called her, but the fact remains that she is bad at philosophy

    It is true that Jessica sometimes makes naive mistakes. You demonstrate that by argument, not by insult. If you don’t understand the difference, you don’t belong here.

  118. @esr:
    anthropogenic-global-warming theory is falsified by its failure to predict the observed relationship between global average temperature and CO2 levels.

    This is one topic where I think the Less Wrong community might benefit from some skeptical input. Consider, for example, these posts:

    http://lesswrong.com/lw/aw6/global_warming_is_a_better_test_of_irrationality/

    http://lesswrong.com/lw/5ke/climate_change_existential_risk/

    There are good comments in both of these, but the general vibe (which I also get from other LW posts) is that AGW is one of the “accepted” claims on LW, and skepticism about it is not received well.

    There’s another post I can’t find right now that talks about how to evaluate claims when you don’t have enough knowledge to do so on their merits (that’s not precisely how the post puts it, but that’s the gist), and uses AGW as an example, basically saying that you should believe what the IPCC claims unless you’re a climate expert yourself and can refute them on the merits.

  119. @Eric

    It is true that Jessica sometimes makes naive mistakes. You demonstrate that by argument, not by insult. If you don’t understand the difference, you don’t belong here.

    I did demonstrate it by argument. Repeatedly – and she chose to misrepresent my arguments to rationalize her mistake. Do you think it’s acceptable for her to repeatedly misrepresent what I say? This is tantamount to trying to make me look stupid, albeit in a very cowardly, dishonest manner.

  120. >Do you think it’s acceptable for her to repeatedly misrepresent what I say?

    You don’t demonstrate a misrepresentation by flinging personal insults, either. What you do, instead, is generate sympathy for her because your behavior looks like bullying.

  121. @esr
    > generate sympathy for her because your behavior looks like bullying.

    I don’t really want to interfere in your discussion, but I also don’t want to be characterized as a victim. Roger wasn’t bullying me, he was being a dick. The problem is that when you are so much of an extreme dick as he was being, nobody can hear anything except your dick-ishness. That includes me, it was impossible to hear any substantial point he might make in among all that vile yelling.

    Normally what I do with people like that is just ignore them, but for some reason he decided in the past week to ramp up his attacks on me. And it was clear that he was not going to let me just ignore him. I have no desire to see him banned, I agree he does say interesting things occasionally, even if he does so always in the snarkiest way possible. I’d just like him to stop being a dick, or at least let me ignore him.

  122. >That includes me, it was impossible to hear any substantial point he might make in among all that vile yelling.

    Listen and learn, Roger.

  123. >If you don’t understand the difference [between argument and insult], you don’t belong here.

    Setting aside the argument/insult issue, that sentenced raised in my mind a more general–and unsettling–question: how does one know whether one belongs here or not without having to be on the verge of a ban?

  124. @esr

    That includes me, it was impossible to hear any substantial point he might make in among all that vile yelling.

    Listen and learn, Roger.

    Learn what? I referenced this inability several times already. And it’s clouding the issue – because Jessica didn’t “hear any substantial” point right from the get-go, before the insults really started flying. Right from the start she simply ignored what I said and responded to something I didn’t say so she could avoid confronting her mistake. So again – is this acceptable on this forum? It seems that the rules are to the effect that you can be slanderous in substance, but not in style.

  125. @ Jorge Dujan – “how does one know whether one belongs here”

    Most of the folks that hangout here are reasonably intelligent. Getting banned is a indication that you may not possess that quality.

    @ Roger Philips re: the emotional tirade directed at Jessica

    Eric does not prefer to ban anyone, and only does so as a last resort. In your case, he has been kind enough to go a little further and softly indicate that you may need some help. Eric is very wise, and you would do well to take his heed.

  126. >Right from the start she simply ignored what I said and responded to something I didn’t say so she could avoid confronting her mistake.

    That’s not what I think I saw.

    In general, even if you think someone is doing that, it is better to behave as if they are having a failure of understanding that needs to be corrected by clearer explanation. That’s what I usually do in such cases.

  127. question: how does one know whether one belongs here or not without having to be on the verge of a ban?

    To me there are couple of criteria :-

    Do you find the content interesting (regardless of whether you agree or not)?
    Do you, before posting a comment, ask yourself “Does this comment actually add something to the discussion?” and then delete the comment if the answer is no?

    If you answer yes to both the above questions then i’d be surprised to find you don’t belong.

  128. @esr:
    “anthropogenic-global-warming theory is falsified by its failure to predict the observed relationship between global average temperature and CO2 levels.”

    Just as an update, the Netherlands saw its warmest year in 300 years of temperature recordings. And the year is not even over. Obviously, there will be some arguments about why this does not count. But still, another data point.

    And we do not seem to be alone in this:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/2014-to-be-hottest-year-ever-measured/

  129. Just as an update, the Netherlands saw its warmest year in 300 years of temperature recordings.

    I thought that weather wasn’t an accurate indicator of climate change.

  130. @Roger Philips
    “I did demonstrate it by argument. Repeatedly – and she chose to misrepresent my arguments to rationalize her mistake.”

    Just my $0.02, for some reason I too seem to be unable to understand what you write. At least, you have lectured me countless times about my mistakes in this respect. We even concluded that my intelligence was not up to the task of understanding your writings.

    From my own personal experience, I might deduce that it is entirely possible that Jessica too has difficulty extracting the intended messages from your writings. Therefore, you might try to start from an assumption of (our) incompetence instead of (our) malice.

    To go one step further, you could perform a critical evaluation of your writing style. Maybe we are not the ideal audience for it and an adaptation of your writing style might increase our understanding. You could try picturing us as a class of high school children. Or elementary school, if that helps.

    I agree with eric and jessica that swearing and insulting does not improve my understanding.

  131. >I thought that weather wasn’t an accurate indicator of climate change.

    You missed the memo. Weather indicates climate change only when it reinforces the alarmist narrative. Furthermore, unusually cold weather (“arctic air masses” in the U.S.) is as indicative as unusually hot weather. Dishonesty and incoherence are not only permitted, they are required.

  132. @Christopher Smith
    “I thought that weather wasn’t an accurate indicator of climate change.”

    This is a response to eric complaining that there has not been any sign of atmospheric warming in the last decade. The current year average (which is not exactly “the weather”) is a data point that contradicts that complain.

  133. @esr
    “Furthermore, unusually cold weather (“arctic air masses” in the U.S.) is as indicative as unusually hot weather. ”

    You claimed warming had stalled a decade (or more?) ago. I just show that this year must be special then.

    It is called “Climate Change” for a reason. Say, growing wine in the Netherlands (never done in history before), getting record floods from our rivers, having to go higher up the mountains for skiing, shrinking gletchers, plant distributions moving pole wards, changes in precipitation. The weather is changing and you have no explanations, only doubts and confusion.

    Btw, this is not some kind of US court case where real evidence can be thrown out because it is “inadmissible” for some formal reason. This is not about one side winning a game.

  134. >The current year average (which is not exactly “the weather”) is a data point that contradicts that complain.

    And yet, somehow, when the ice on Lake Superior lingers for a record number of days after formation, or Arctic ice cover roars back at record speeds and densities, or record snowfalls blanket England and Ireland – all directly contradicting alarmist predictions – this is never considered a problem.

  135. @esr
    As you said yourself many times, local weather conditions are not directly relevant. They crucially depend on wind directions. Though, when arctic ice covers are suddenly below anything we have ever seen before, that is food for thought.

    However, you yourself have used average global temperatures to reject climate change. So, I give you a national average that aligns with the global one (see the link). The global average temperature is of a different level than local weather conditions. Not “proof”, but just a data point in your argument of “warming stalled years ago”.

    And we are still far away from the weather and climate of your youth.

  136. >And we are still far away from the weather and climate of your youth.

    The change I notice isn’t temperature, it’s seasonal boundaries. Here in the mid-Atlantic East coast of the U.S., cold weather starts later and ends later than it did when I was a kid. White Christmases have become markedly less common, but we now get snowstorms through the end of February and into early March.

    I don’t know if a similar shift has happened worldwide. If so, the most plausible explanation for this is orbital dynamics, I think – Milankovich-cycle effects.

    Even the warmists know that warming stalled over a decade ago – see Kevin Trenberth admitting in 2010 that their inability to account for this is a “travesty”. They call it the “Great Pause” and there are a blizzard of papers trying to explain it away.

  137. @esr
    “Even the warmists know that warming stalled over a decade ago”

    And that might have been only a temporal stall, given the temperatures of this year. This was my whole point: The temperature this year is not in line with a stall. Nothing more was claimed, and nothing less.

    And “explaining” the stall is not “explaining it away”.

    @esr
    “I don’t know if a similar shift has happened worldwide.”

    Over here, changes are reflected in plant and wildlife seasonality and changes in precipitation. They are quite consistent. The problem here is that the climate is dominated by the North Atlantic Deep Water formation and the wind direction. Makes it more difficult to draw conclusions.

    Anyhow, Milankovich-cycle effects can be calculated and incorporated in climate models.

  138. >Anyhow, Milankovich-cycle effects can be calculated and incorporated in climate models.

    But have not been. You can’t wash away the predictive failure of the present models by saying “someday, in some future, we might have better ones”.

  139. @esr
    “But have not been. You can’t wash away the predictive failure of the present models by saying “someday, in some future, we might have better ones”.”

    The links below do take them in account. I think your understanding of current research is not completely up to date.

    http://www.academia.edu/2101696/Climatic_variability_over_time_scales_spanning_nine_orders_of_magnitude_Connecting_Milankovitch_cycles_with_Hurst_Kolmogorov_dynamics

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v419/n6903/full/nature01090.html

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v444/n7116/full/444152a.html

    http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/pnw_gtr900.pdf

  140. This is interesting. I found Eliezer independently to finding you, I think (via Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality). Unless I found that here. I don’t remember.

    I got the slight-groupthink feeling from LW, too. I wonder if it’s something about the Reddit code that does this. For instance I noticed that anyone arguing against “mainstream” AGW thinking was getting downvoted, even though to my rationalism, AGW looks like cargo-cult science and you’d think LWers would be able to spot this too.

    Hopefully they will figure it out in time.

  141. >The links below do take them in account

    So much the worse, then. Nonpredictive models with Milankovich cycles mixed in are still nonpredictive. They will get nowhere until they abandon their central dogma, the H2O/CO2 nonlinear feedback.

  142. @Winter
    > You could try picturing us as a class of high school children. Or elementary school, if that helps.

    I think that is bad advice. I was reminded of this last night when I was talking to a girl from my Karate class. She had asked for some help with her middle school science project because she was having a hard time understanding the need to include error bars in her graph, and the whole concept of standard deviation.

    It reminded me that in science the confidence we have in our results is almost as important, perhaps more important, as are the results themselves.

    People like Roger have excessively high levels of confidence in their knowledge and understanding. The world is full of people like that, I have that tendency myself, though I am not in the same league as Roger. For example, at one point he told me that some problem of philosophy has been solved, as if any problem of philosophy has been raised to the point where most people agree on its solution. No doubt in the circles he moves in, and within whatever philosophy he espouses, it has an agreed solution. But his certainty that that particular philosophy or circle is entirely correct is the problem.

    This isn’t seen in science so much, though in some cases it is, but in some softer things like philosophy and politics it is prevalent. But, and this is the most important point of all, the tribalism brings about a situation where those who hold a different view are not just wrong, but they are deliberately wrong, or they are illiterate fools, or mendacious manipulators of the fact, or even that they are evil.

    This is seen most clearly in politics where the other side is not just mistaken, but utterly repugnant, evil, with indecent motives. We are all surely familiar with that story in politics, but it closely characterized Roger’s reaction to me too.

    Another area where this is pretty commonly seen is in the subject of climate science, where for many advocates are not only mistaken, they are either tools of big government or tools of big oil. Either way they are not just mislead, they are evil monsters out to ruin the economy or ruin the planet. Such a belief leads to an out of proportion rage, and emotional reaction that on the surface seems nuts.

    What is particularly curious about Roger though is that this “the other is evil” is mostly prevalent among those who hold their views for mostly tribal reasons rather than for intellectually sound reasons. I have little doubt that Roger is super smart and holds his views based on extensive research and careful thinking. So it just seems odd that he would behave in this way.

    This is added to another strange thing, not unique to him, but seemingly taken to a new degree with him, and that is that strange combination of the great intelligence and the sophomoric thinking. In many people there is a certain pettiness, almost childishness to the argument. Of course we are all subject to this to some degree, but as an example, his reaction to “you are too insulting I don’t want to engage with you anymore” was something like “if you want to totally intellectually capitulate…” which is straight out of kindergarten, though with fancier words. It just seems a bizarre contrast to me.

    It doesn’t have to be that way of course. You, Winter, and I often disagree on various fundamental things, but I hope you will agree that we have always done so honestly and respectfully, and the same with most other people here. Even though I’d never vote for you in an election, were I ever in the Netherlands I would make a special effort to try to grab a cup of coffee with you.

    So advising Roger to think of his audience as intellectual minnows to his whale shark intellect is exactly wrong. Rather he needs to be open to hearing a different point of view. He needs to spend more time listening rather than writing. I suppose we all do, of course, but his ears are especially closed.

    This is true irrespective of whether he is in fact the massive intellectual giant he thinks he is. For true genius is to be able to understand someone else’s position and walk them from there though means that they agree with to the position you advocate. Or, more likely putting information into play that offers a bridge between the position, and allowing the other to stew on it.

    I am capable of holding another person’s view in my mind, and groking it, even if I don’t agree with it at all. If you doubt that you should ask Eric about my advocacy of socialism some time, even though I find socialism utterly repugnant. I think being able to do that is vital to advancing your own understanding. Perhaps Roger is so smart, so well educated, so full of knowledge and expertise, that his brain doesn’t have any space left for an opposing point of view.

    However, for someone who was, for part of her childhood brought up in a trailer park, though I doubt I was ever the trailer trash he seems to think of me as, I think I have done pretty well, and I’m not done yet. Who knows, I might even learn something from Roger, though I wouldn’t have a cup of coffee with him for a million dollars.

  143. @Winter

    I don’t believe you’re any better at reading anyone else’s writing either! But others have a much higher tolerance for having their ideas distorted because their sentences are not very precise and they are not committed to any particular argument. In other words, they are operating closer to the level of “monkey noises” than I am – so naturally when you misinterpret them it gets washed out in the noise of the conversation. I am say extremely specific things and there is no room for misinterpretation. Sorry, but it is your own incompetence and laziness. There’s no “malice” in it (yet ANOTHER thought you have wrongly attributed to me). Here’s the opening sentences from my conversation with Jessica:

    Roger says: It doesn’t need to be said – it’s not even true. Humans are vastly broader in capabilities than computers. This is simply nonsense. Like saying humans are “highly specialized” relative to ants because ants are really good at digging little tunnels in the ground.

    To understand this sentence, you have to read and understand EVERY word. And the point being raised by way of analogy is that going deeply into one thing doesn’t make you less specialized – it is in fact the very DEFINITION of specialized! And yet, here is the response:

    Jessica says: Only if you measure capabilities from a human perspective, which is shockingly narrow minded of you Roger. The range of things humans can do is certainly large, but the range of things computers can do is also extremely large, and there is a small intersection. Computers cannot effectively use human language, but humans have specialized hardware for that. Humans can’t draw highly detailed pictures of dynamic battlefield scenes sixty times a second, but computers can, because they also have specialized hardware. Most humans can barely multiply two, two digit numbers in their heads, in many respects the capabilities of the human brain are rather pathetic. Personally I find the shortcomings of mine rather frustrating.

    This is nothing short of a complete failure to process what I wrote. Nothing in this response addresses my objection. Every single one of the examples given is exactly like the ant example – something humans can do taken to an extreme – in a word, SPECIALIZATION. And it only gets worse as the posts go on. Essentially, the argumentative style is to misinterpret what you can, and ignore what you can’t misinterpret.

  144. @esr
    > But have not been. You can’t wash away the predictive failure of the present models by saying “someday, in some future, we might have better ones”.

    If you mean you can’t deny the failures happened, you are of course correct. However, for sure you can and should absolutely adapt and change your models. After all, this really is the basis of the scientific method: formulate a falsifiable hypothesis, perform an experiment, publish reproducible results, modify hypothesis based on results, repeat. In the case of the climate models, the experiment is the earth’s weather.

    What you cannot do though is say “our models were not correct because we forgot this or that factor, however, the panic based on these models is still correct”, or “when we designed these models we did not fully account for this or that factor, however, we should still make large, unpredictable changes to the world economy to account for the predictions of the models known to be flawed.”

  145. The earth itself, its surface composition, features, living organisms, and atmospheric boundary layer, represent an incredibly complex dynamical system. And it’s not a closed system because we receive a massive energy input from the sun and simultaneously radiate energy back into space (both of which are also dynamic processes), and the huge presence of water on the planet makes surface composition a dynamical process as well; i.e. all sorts of temporal storage and release processes are in motion continuously, variably, and interactively.

    Atmospheric climate models attempt to estimate the behavior of these systems, but “estimate” is the operative word. Some scientists (and politicians) believe that some of these models have achieved reasonable accuracy and consequently have predictive value. This is a belief (or assertion) and not a demonstrated truth. And sorry Winter, anecdotes from The Netherlands are insufficient to demonstrate the fidelity of the models.

    As an engineer that has worked on complex dynamical systems (but not nearly as intricate, chaotic, or huge as the atmosphere), I think we are, at best, in the infancy of this effort, expectations of reasonable accuracy are farfetched at this time, and an honest scientist will readily admit that we do not yet know if accurate modeling is even feasible. Chaos alone can make some types of problems indeterminate and rough approximation may be the best you can ever do.

    Most of the people on this board who take a strong position on Climate Change are assuming that the science is mature and reasonably reliable. It is neither, and may not be in our lifetime, and may never attain the status of demonstrated fidelity.

    The climate (like the weather) is always changing. The one thing it never does is stay the same. What may appear as sameness is just poor precision of measurement.

  146. @Jessica
    “Even though I’d never vote for you in an election, were I ever in the Netherlands I would make a special effort to try to grab a cup of coffee with you.”

    The feeling is mutual ;-) Please let me know when you visit.

    I think I agree with your evaluation of Roger. Although I share eric’s worries aboit his mental state. My advice was aimed at getting Roger to form a mental image (theory of mind) of his audience and surpress his feelings of paranoia. If he does so, I hope it will not matter whom he thinks he is addressing. Everything is better than his current behavior

  147. @TomA
    “And sorry Winter, anecdotes from The Netherlands are insufficient to demonstrate the fidelity of the models.”

    They were not meant to. Read the IPCC reports fort that. And any number of research papers.

  148. BTW I think the best thing coming out of the LW community is the Star Slate Codex blog. I am still ruminating Section V of this post: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/27/why-i-am-not-rene-descartes/

    “But aside from all this, I do think there’s an important point that needs to be made here. That is – given that empiricism and scholarship is obviously super-important, why is it not enough?
    The very short answer is “A meta-analysis of hundreds of studies is what tells you that psychic powers exist. Critical thinking is what helps you figure out whether to trust that result.” The longer answer: rationality is about drawing correct inferences from limited, confusing, contradictory, or maliciously doctored facts. (…) If you’re investigating a problem even slightly more interesting than evolution versus creationism, you will always encounter limited, confusing, contradictory, and maliciously doctored facts. The more rationality you have, the greater your ability to draw accurate conclusions from this mess. And the differences aren’t subtle.”

    If I get it right, the position is that rationality is always about dealing with empirical, phenomenal reality, however the the data about it is often unrealiable and that is when the rational-logical, quasi-Platonic stuff comes into play? Avoiding two extremes, one of undigested, uncritical data-positivism, data-empiricism, the other being that kind platonic idealism that consideres concepts real? This sounds like something that requires a lot of judgement and no hard and fast rules.

  149. >Reading LessWrong has been know to cause brain damage.

    If that was an attempt at a joke, it was remarkably ineffective.

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