Reading Yudkowsky, part 65

by Luke Muehlhauser on August 17, 2011 in Eliezer Yudkowsky,Resources,Reviews

AI researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky is something of an expert at human rationality, and at teaching it to others. His hundreds of posts at Less Wrong are a treasure trove for those who want to improve their own rationality. As such, I’m reading all of them, chronologically.

I suspect some of my readers want to “level up” their rationality, too. So I’m keeping a diary of my Yudkowsky reading. Feel free to follow along.

His 762nd post is Forcing Anthropics: Boltzmann Brains. But at this point in Less Wrong’s history, most of Eliezer’s posts are news posts or other short posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17.

Outlawing Anthropics: An Updateless Dilemma continues the discussion of timeless decision theory.

Let Them Debate College Students offers a debate suggestion, though the post is edited to favor Woozle’s recommendation instead.

The Lifespan Dilemma begins with a discussion of Parfit’s Repugnant Conclusion, and graduates to the larger dilemma.

The Anthropic Trilemma gives another problem that Eliezer can’t solve.

Privileging the Hypothesis opens:

Suppose that the police of Largeville, a town with a million inhabitants, are investigating a murder in which there are few or no clues – the victim was stabbed to death in an alley, and there are no fingerprints and no witnesses.

Then, one of the detectives says, “Well… we have no idea who did it… no particular evidence singling out any of the million people in this city… but let’s consider the hypothesis that this murder was committed by Mortimer Q. Snodgrass, who lives at 128 Ordinary Ln.  It could have been him, after all.”

I’ll label this the fallacy of privileging the hypothesis.

Next, Eliezer reiterates that I’m Not Saying People Are Stupid. Frequentist Statistics are Frequently Subjective launches another critique of frequentist statistics. Next is The Contrarian Status Catch-22 and The Correct Contrarian Cluster.

Other posts I won’t summarize:

Conversation Halters is a nice list, including:

Appeal to egalitarianism – something along the lines of “No one’s opinion is better than anyone else’s.”  Now if you keep talking you’re committing an offense against tribal equality.

Appeal to common guilt – “everyone is irrational now and then”, so if you keep talking, you’re claiming to be better than them.  An implicit subspecies of appeal to egalitarianism.

Appeal to inner privacy – “you can’t possibly know how I feel!”  It’s true that modern technology still encounters some slight difficulties in reading thoughts out of the brain, though work is underway as we speak.  But it is rare that the exact details of how you feel are the key subject matter being disputed.  Here the bony borders of the skull are being redeployed as a hard barrier to keep out further arguments.

Appeal to personal freedom – “I can define a word any way I want!“  Now if you keep talking you’re infringing on their civil rights.

Also: “Outside View!” as a Conversation Halter.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

flavio August 17, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Off topic:
Luke, can you clarify whats the difference of implicite/negative atheism to agnosticism to me?
Does absence of evidence provide evidence of absence or in the lack of positive evidence for atheism we should assume a equipropability between god’s existence and inexistence?

Please answer me im in terrible doubt…


anti_supernaturalist August 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Parson Bayes will not refute the irrefutable

Hegel is supposed to have said that “logic can not lure a dog from beside a warm stove.”

Like Hegel’s warm stove, xianity is irrefutable — has been from its earliest days. To make modern comparisons it enjoys the same status as other dogma, marxism and freudianism. Core ideological commitments are beyond discussion. That’s Popper’s no doubt correct view.

Despite sprigs of rationality from platonic idealism to many-world logics grafted by theologians onto its poisonous roots, xian growths are deformed fruit of their death cult. Nihilism — with its inverted snobbery — has stunted western cultural health since P/Saul of Tarsus (fl 50-68 CE):

Brothers… not many of you were wise…; not…influential; not…of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things…to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things…and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are…1Cor1:26-28 NIV.

Tacitus claimed that xianity “is a religion fit for slaves.” The Romans, usually tolerant in matters religious, felt compelled to punish what they called xian “obstinacy” — clinging to xian dogma led to death, aka martyrdom. Fundies hallow a notorious parentage.

But, scratch any “moderate” xian and you must find irrefutable lies — as protestants like Luther and Kierkegaard amply demonstrate.

Theology is fifth-rate fan fiction. Xianity cannot be refuted; it can only be dismantled. The de-deification of culture (including all the sciences) is our task for the next 100 years.

the anti_supernaturalist


cl August 19, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Nice sermon Preacher!


Shang Tsung August 19, 2011 at 4:00 pm



Luke Muehlhauser August 19, 2011 at 8:58 pm


Okay. Shang Tsung made me laugh…


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