Archive for September, 2008

Funny Thoughts

Posted in Doom on September, 2008 by melendwyr

It is a curious fact that the neural systems we use to speak are not the same ones that we use to sing, or recite poetry.

The switching from one system, in which tone of voice is not strictly controlled, to the other, seems to be one of the cues people use to detect when someone is lying.  Why place a medium capable of expressing one’s emotional state under control if you’re not hiding something?

Learning how to ‘sing’ while maintaining an otherwise normal voice is probably one of the skills politicians and other professional liars find it necessary to cultivate.

All in the Same Package

Posted in Uncategorized on September, 2008 by melendwyr

See this post. (This link may also be useful.)

I am far less interested in what various AI researchers are unable to do than in what Eliezer Yudkowsky is able to do. If Eliezer can solve problem X, what difference does it make how many other people are unable to solve it?

So: how has Eliezer demonstrated problem-solving skills in the field of Artificial Intelligence? What progress has he made? What advancements has he been responsible for? What theoretical developments has he contributed to?

If he were on trial for having furthered the field of AI, could he be convicted? Could the court be forced to stand on reasonable doubt? Or would he be found not guilty on all counts?

Eliezer is particularly dismissive of non-quantative reasoning. Yet he has written a series of essays in which he discusses various assertions he makes about AI, its importance, and its dangers — essays remarkably free of mathematical theory, equations, or formal logical arguments.

How efficient of him.

One of these things is not like the other

Posted in Uncategorized on September, 2008 by melendwyr

See David Friedman’s blog and this Overcoming Bias post for the context.

My thoughts:

The second hypothesis set could trivially fit the data by repeating it and making random predictions for the future.

Random predictions are unlikely to be correct.  The first set has made correct predictions — this weakens the potential that it fit by chance.

The potential of the first set being trivially right is more excludable than the potential of the second being trivial.  The first is better.

Access to Intellectual Accessories

Posted in Politics and Society, Things You Should Read on September, 2008 by melendwyr

See Devin Finbarr’s comment regarding the relative value of democracy and the value of historical consensus.

Now there’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.


Posted in Uncategorized on September, 2008 by melendwyr

What I remember most about reading Eric Blair’s 1984 is what it doesn’t contain. A great deal of the book addresses the corruption of language as a means for expressing thought — and the terms Blair invented for the book have entered the language as iconic examples of such corruption.

But Blair doesn’t actually bring himself to showing actual cases of the degradation of communication. He writes about how the Party edits terminology so that concepts cannot be expressed, but he never shows it; he tells, but doesn’t actually demonstrate.

It’s clear that he knew how to do this. See What is Fascism? and Politics and the English Language; they reveal beyond all doubt that Blair understood the processes by which words are rendered meaningless. But in the text that serves as a warning of what those techniques can accomplish, they’re never actually identified and shown to the reader.

Curious, isn’t it? I cannot for the life of me understand why he wrote, and did not write, in the fashion that he did. I can only recognize that he did.

As he was a much better propagandist than I will ever be, I can only presume that this reveals a comprehension of some vital truth that he possessed and I lack.

The Mirror, Darkly

Posted in Uncategorized on September, 2008 by melendwyr

If you want honest and open feedback, then you must prevent yourself from opposing criticism and supporting praise.

The natural reaction is to reward and encourage behavior that pleases us, and punish and discourage behavior that irritates us. If feedback is to be more than others parroting what they think you wish to hear, you must take the utmost care. You must not respond when people speak ill of what you have done. You must not defend your actions. You must not justify your decisions. Remaining silent, or acknowledging that the criticism exists, is the most that can be done. You must not respond when people speak highly of what you have done. You must not say they are right. You must not return their praise with more praise. Remaining silent, or acknowledging that the praise exists, is the most that can be done.

People complain for many reasons. The most valuable reason is that they care deeply about the subject on which they’re giving feedback. The best medicines are often bitter. If you build a wall to shield yourself from worthless complaints, you shield yourself against the truth as well. It is easiest to block out that which you do not want to believe is true.

I am not misanthropic

Posted in Uncategorized on September, 2008 by melendwyr

Contrary to popular belief, I do not hate interacting with people. Quite the opposite: I love interacting with people.

I hate interacting with retarded tailless monkeys.

The normal kind of monkey is far more entertaining, anyhow.

Things you should read

Posted in Things You Should Read on September, 2008 by melendwyr

The Speed of Dark. Novel, by Elizabeth Moon.

(Note: Conflict of Interest: I score highly enough on the autism spectrum that I would probably have been diagnosed as such if I hadn’t been both extremely verbal and moderately functional.)

The Ice.  Short story by Steven Popkes.

Send Me A Mentagram.  Short story by Dominic Green.  One of the few plausibly-written examples of first-person writing from a genius’ perspective.

No one can tell you what the Matrix is

Posted in Uncategorized on September, 2008 by melendwyr

An example of a cliche that exists for the purpose of perpetuating untruths:  “The thing is more than the sum of its parts.”

Everything is equal to the sum of its parts — that’s what ‘sum’ means.  The reality is more complicated:  The properties of the sum of the parts are not the sum of the properties of the parts.

Reasonable Disagreement

Posted in Uncategorized on September, 2008 by melendwyr

Sometimes cliches exist because any truth becomes trite when repeated enough.  Sometimes, they exist so that people won’t notice the truth.

Reasonable people cannot disagree.  This is clear if you give the matter some thought.

Either reason mandates a position, or it does not.

If reason mandates a position, then reasonable people are required to accept that position; to reject it would be unreasonable.

If reason does not mandate a position, then holding a position on the matter and expecting others to adopt or acknowledge it is unreasonable.

Reasonable people do not have to hold precisely the same positions on everything, most especially if the information available to them differs, but they can never disagree about any position. Disagreement indicates error on the part of at least one of the participants, possibly more.