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ESRogs' Comments

Open & Welcome Thread - December 2019


wondering if the community here thought Hume was an idiot

Just searched old posts, and apparently at least one person on LW thought Hume was a candidate for the Greatest Philosopher in History. That's an obscure post with only one upvote though, so can't be considered representative of the community's views.

In general I think this community tends to be not too concerned with evaluating long-dead philosophers, and instead prefers to figure out what we can, informed by all the knowledge we currently have available from across scientific disciplines.

Historical philosophers may have been bright and made good arguments in their time. But they were starting from a huge disadvantage to us, if they didn't have access to a modern understanding of evolution, cognitive biases, logic and computability, etc.

For a fairly representative account of how LW-ers view mainstream philosophy, see: Less Wrong Rationality and Mainstream Philosophy and Philosophy: A Diseased Discipline.

wondering if the community here thought... the latest findings about emotions being a necessary part of decision-making horrifying

I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to. But in general I think the community is pretty on-board with thinking that there's a lot that our brains do besides explicit verbal deductive reasoning, and that this is useful.

And also that you'll reason best if you can set up a sort of dialogue between your emotional, intuitive judgments and your explicit verbal reasoning. Each can serve as a check on the other. Neither is to be completely trusted. And you'll do best when you can make use of both. (See Kahneman's work on System 1 and System 2 thinking.)

ESRogs's Shortform

I'm looking for an old post where Eliezer makes the basic point that we should be able to do better than intellectual figures of the past, because we have the "unfair" advantage of knowing all the scientific results that have been discovered since then.

I think he cites in particular the heuristics and biases literature as something that thinkers wouldn't have known about 100 years ago.

I don't remember if this was the main point of the post it was in, or just an aside, but I'm pretty confident he made a point like this at least once, and in particular commented on how the advantage we have is "unfair" or something like that, so that we shouldn't feel at all sheepish about declaring old thinkers wrong.

Anybody know what post I'm thinking of?

A Problem With Patternism
"Which are relevant, and which are most important?"
That’s precisely the subjective part.

They could be objective, given a context. Now the choice of context may be a matter of taste or preference. But given a context that we want to ask questions about, we might be able to get objective answers. (E.g. will this hypothetical future person think like me?)

But agree that some subjectivity is involved somewhere in the process.

Reflective Complaints

Romeo Stevens, the king of pith.

A Problem With Patternism

Ah, maybe I misunderstood what you meant when you said you would throw it away. I thought maybe you meant you'd discard it in favor of some other preferred theory. Or in favor of whatever you believed in before you learned about patternism.

And depending on what those theories are, that seemed like it might be a bad move, from my perspective.

But if instead your attitude is more like picking up a book, only to find out the author only got half way through writing it, and you're going to set it aside until it's done so you can read the whole story, then it seems to me like there's nothing wrong with that.

A Problem With Patternism
but for now is the superiority of subjective measuring the viewpoint I’ll accept

I didn't follow this. You're saying for now you're leaning towards a subjective measuring viewpoint? Which one?

I’m willing to give up on trying to find some impartial way of measuring this

Depending on what you mean by "impartial", I might agree that that's the right move. But I think a good theory might end up looking more like special relativity, where time, speed, and simultaneity are observer-dependent (rather than universal), but in a well-defined way that we can speak precisely about.

I assume personal identity will be a little more complicated than that, since minds are more complicated than beams of light. But just wanted to highlight that as an example where we went from believing in a universal to one that was relative, but didn't have to totally throw up our hands and declare it all meaningless.

I’m at a loss to how you could build on it honestly.

FWIW, if I were to spend some time on it, I'd maybe start by thinking through all the different ways that we use personal identity. Like, how the concept interacts with things. For example, partly it's about what I anticipate experiencing next. Partly it's about which beings' future experiences I value. Partly it's about how similar that entity is to me. Partly it's about how much I can control what happens to that future entity. Partly it's about what that entities memories will be. Etc, etc.

Just keep making the list, and then analyze various scenarios and thought experiments and think through how each of the different forms of personal identity applies. Which are relevant, and which are most important?

Then maybe you have a big long list of attributes of identity, and a big long list of how decision-relevant they are for various scenarios. And then maybe you can do dimensionality reduction and cluster them into a few meaningful categories that are individual amenable to quantification (similar to how the Big 5 personality system was developed).

That doesn't sound so hard, does it? ;-)

A Problem With Patternism

Hmm, are you thinking of the theory of patternism as something other than the claim that 1) it's your pattern of atoms (and how they interact with each other and the rest of the world) that's relevant for determining your behavior, including your internal experience, and 2) that there's no metaphysical personal identity other than what arises from the relationship of these patterns to each other over time?

It seems to me that this predicts that we won't in the future discover some way to determine which of two copies of a person is "the original".

If you claim instead that this is not a prediction, but just a restatement of patternism, then maybe that's a valid criticism -- that patternism is not a theory but just a claim. But then I wouldn't want to through that claim away! Because I expect it to be true.

A Problem With Patternism

If all you mean to be saying is that it's incomplete, then I don't disagree. But you described throwing it away, which seems to me like not what you'd want to do with our best theory so far. Rather you'd want to build on, refine, or expand it.

Unless you think there's a better foundation to build on?

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