I wonder if the category should be epistemology or morality

Tom Robinson is now officialy my coolest reader. He commented as follows WRT inverse theory:

I'm slightly fuzzy about this inverse world view. Is it wrong about everything, or just some things, or just incoming morally-weighted facts? I mean, The Emperor knows that 0+1=1, so if he starts with no Death Star and then builds one new Death Star, then he'll end up with ... a Death Star. He knows this to be true despite being the epitome of evil.
To start, I deny The Emperor actually is the epitome of evil, or even all that close. But anyway, I would say if we have propositions A, B, and C, and A and B are consistent with each other. And C contradicts A. This implies that C and B somehow contradict. There aren't multiple ways to hold B and be consistent, so if A really is consistent with B and inconsistent with C, then B must be inconsistent with C. This follows directly from the idea that there is one truth.

To put in real propositions, B states 0+1=1. A states that we shouldn't murder Jews. I propose A and B are consistent. C states that we should murder Jews. I propose A and C are inconsistent. I conclude that B and C are inconsistent -- that wanting to murder Jews and doing math right contradict. This works with any form of being evil and math.

It is hard to see what the inverse worldview looks like. It is foreign to us, and most of its twisted logic beyond our worst nightmares. We get glimpses in the bad people of our world, but they are nowhere near the limits of evil.

Good people are succesful and flourish. Bad people, therefore, are unsucessful and do not flourish objectively, even if they think they do (or perhaps they think flourishing is bad, and think they do not flourish). I believe, in the limit, evil people would be unable to eat meals, or otherwise manage to even stay alive.

My explanation of why the bad people of our world manage to eat, and even manage to use creativity to plan nasty attacks, is that they are inconsistent. Much of their worldviews are true. They use the true bits to function. But they also have a significant, inverse portion, from which they take many of their goals and motives.

Notably, it is this inconsistent combination that allows them to be truly dangerious. An evil person who uses some true ideas to get what he wants is more threatening than an evil person who's own evil has rendered him impotent.

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example for previous entry

just read this about Soros, a billionaire who's giving away money trying make Bush lose the 2004 election.

if a democrat was consistent with his ideals, he'd be poor-ish. cause his ideals include misunderstanding economics, opposing business, and wasting money. but Soros is rich. how'd that happen? well, he's inconsistent.

if all democrats were consistent they'd be a crappy political force. but they manage to find people who somehow, inconsistently, are democrats who are good at this or that thing that the rest of the democrats can't manage. and this way they can end up with some rich supporters despite their ideology, and thus be more dangerous.

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on skool

Teacher: A person who talks in other people's sleep.

What's long and hard and fucks little girls? Elementary school.

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Popper Is Fallible

(If the quotes don't have a blue background, hit refresh. If they still don't, go here, refresh that, and then come back and try again.)

I just read a little of The Myth of the Framework by Karl Popper. I noticed two oversights I thought were worth pointing out. Both quotes are from page 175, and the first immediately precedes the second.

If we eliminate from language ambiguous terms like 'yesterday', a term which today means something different from what it will mean tomorrow, and if we take some further similar precautions, then it follows from Tarski's theory that every statement in this purified language will be either true or false, with no third possibility.

The issue Popper is worried about is evaluating whether the statement "Yesterday was Sunday." is true. He thinks this will be ambiguous, because it depends on what day we evaluate it. And his solution is to purify our language by removing all terms with variable meaning (presumably all pronouns too).

But this is very silly. All we have to do to decide if "Yesterday was Sunday." is true is to substitute in referenced concepts before saving the sentence for later evaluation when the references might not work any longer. What I mean is here 'yesterday' means 'the day before November 17, 2003'. The day before November 17, 2003 will always be Sunday whenever we evaluate the sentence. (And even if our calendar system should change, the meaning and truth of the sentence will not.) So, no purified language is necessary, if we will only bother to pay attention to the actual content of the sentence (alternatively, we could keep the form of the sentence exactly the same, but save with it all relevant data, such as in this case the date it was written).

Moreover, we can have an operation of negation in our language such that if a proposition is not true, then its negation is true.
This shows that of all propositions one half will be true and the other half false. So we can be sure that there will be lots of true propositions, even though we may have great trouble in finding out which they are.

I think this is actually quite funny. Yeah, there are lots of true propositions when you include the negation of false propositions... But most of them are things like, "I did not go to England yesterday," and "My house is not painted red," and "My name is not Fred." In reality, it makes sense to say there are a lot more ways to be wrong than to be right.

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Structural Epistemology Introduction Part 2

Part 1

Last time I alluded to the most important aspect of knowledge structure: some structures are more or less resistant to being changed to have some other function (denotation). Additionally, whether a structure is easy to change to some new problem is not simply a matter of luck. Rather, some structures are better than others, because they contain more knowledge. Now I will give some illustrations.

First, let's reexamine the multiply function. What if the situation changed and we suddenly had to rewrite our multiply function with a special constraint? Such as, what if the built-in multiplication function in our programming language was no longer available? Or what if user-defined function calls suddenly became very slow and expensive? Or what if there was a problem with assignment, and we couldn't use that (basically, no equal sign allowed).

It turns out each of these problems would break one of the multiply functions so badly we would be better off starting over from scratch than trying to salvage it, and the other two wouldn't need even a single change. (If you're wondering, no built-in multiplication ruins the third multiply; no assignment ruins the iterative version; and user-defined function calls being expensive ruins the recursive version.) This demonstrates that structure makes a difference. But so far none are obviously better than others.

Next, lets imagine we were writing a program that played some game, and a few dozen times in the program we needed to refer to the number of actions each player gets per turn. And lets suppose it's 8 now, but possible this may change in future versions of the game. One thing we could do is everywhere we need to refer to the number of actions per turn, put an 8. The program will run just fine. But if we have to change the number of actions per turn later (or perhaps we'd just like to try out a different number to see how it works, to see if changing it might be a good idea at all), then we will have to go through our whole program and alter a few dozen lines of code! That's a pain, and there's a better way.

What we should do is define a constant variable, int ACTIONS_PER_TURN = 8, and then write ACTIONS_PER_TURN instead of 8 throughout our program. Then, we could very easily change the number of actions per turn by altering a single line of code. This new program using a constant variable has exactly the same denotation as the original one with 8 everywhere -- someone playing the game will never know the difference. But not only is the structure different using a constant variable, it's better because it allows significant advantages in ways it can be changed, with no disadvantage at all(1). One way to put the difference is it contains the knowledge that each of the dozens of 8's in the program is really the same thing, thus allowing them to be changed as a group.

Another example of trying to change a program, is if we had our multiply programs and wanted to do exponentiation (assume there is no built-in function for that). In that case, the program that relied on built-in multiplication is absolutely useless. Just as it would be useless to change to anything at all that wasn't built in. This reveals its structure has very little knowledge in it. On the other hand, the recursive and iterative multiply programs could both be changed to do exponentiation fairly easily. They could also be altered to do a host of other things, because each has a knowledge-laden structure. In effect, they are both set up to do work (in a certain way), and only need to be told what type. (It's not clear which one has more structural knowledge. I believe the recursive one does, but they are useful in different ways.)

So, to sum up, if we wish to change a program to do something else, depending on its structure, we may have an easy time of it, or may be totally out of luck. And furthermore, some structures are better than others, because they contain more knowledge.

(1) It will run negligibly slower, or compile negligibly slower in a compiled language. And I mean negligibly.

PS I understand that if you knew that, for what you were doing, certain structural knowledge was entirely unnecessary, and never would be useful, you might intentionally leave it out, and say this was a better design. However this is very rare on anything but the most trivial project, and does not ruin the idea of better structures. It's just like, if I was trying to learn physics, I might not need an economics lecture. But we can still say economics has useful, true knowledge, and that there is better and worse economic knowledge.

To be clearer, the objection I fear goes, "Constants are nice, if you're going to change them, but if you aren't, using them is a waste of time, therefore which structure is better depends entirely on the problem at hand, and thus better is only a relative term for knowledge structures." This is wrong. It is equivalent to saying, "The laws of supply and demand are nice, if you're learning about economics, but if you aren't, learning them is a waste of time, therefore whether hearing the laws of supply and demand or nothing is better depends entirely on the problem at hand, and thus better is only a relative term for economic theories." In both cases the 'and thus' clause simply does not follow. Just because we might not want a bit of knowledge this instant does not make it equivalent to no knowledge, or make its value relative.

PPS Mad props to David Deutsch, 'cause he's cool.

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I Hate Jew Hatred

Frank J (a Catholic) got anti-semitic hatemail. Emperor Misha commented:

We're ALL Jews now.

I agree. (Misha also says more here.)

I very much like the sentiments that if people are going to target Jews, we should stand up with the Jews. Neutrality is useful if you see two gangs of barbarians fighting; there is no point in getting yourself killed over that. Who cares who wins? But when two groups clash, and one is good, and one is bad, neutrality just won't cut it. What truly good person could abandon the side of good?

But there's more to it than just that we should stand with the Jews. Why do they confuse us with Jews? Well, we agree with Jews a lot. We think Israel should exist (more than that: that it is one of the most moral countries on the planet). We oppose Arab terrorism. No excuses. It's wrong, horrid, and evil. And we use Jew logic. Which says things like you don't win discussions by authority; rather we should look for good arguments. And that we should hold our ideas true and mutable (tentatively true, if you prefer). And, heh, that 2+2 is 4. The Jews in America are not outsiders. Or more like, it's easy to confuse Americans with Jews. It's not just that we stand with Jews (far less than we should), it's that through the eyes of The Enemy, we look and act as if we are Jews.

And if you think talking about good and evil is too simplistic and therefore false, I pray you spend a lot of time around fire and brimstone. And, yes, I am an avowed atheist. But that won't save you from hell >:-D

PS In general when I write 'we' I am including Jews, but not in this piece.

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i've got issues

Scrappleface thinks that birth control is evil. his reasoning is that it lets young girls have sex without horrid consequences. and we can't have that!

I replied: cause actually sex is evil, unless you get a wizard to perform a "marriage ritual" spell, which makes it ok.

thus far all I got back was someone replying that I have issues. good argument! ho hum.

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email is fun

On Sunday, November 23, 2003, at 08:37 AM, A Poster wrote:

Subject Line: shouldn't TCS be questioned?

Yes, of course. It even says so, does it not? Now, some people seem to have the idea that TCS holds itself up infallible, but reality seems to be against them. For example, I no longer use the "official" TCS definition of coercion.

(Of course, one should not make such a change haphazardly, or on a whim, but rather after deep understanding of the official definition, and its strengths. And one should be careful the new version really is an improvement. etc)

What happens to all those families out there who find that, according to their own lights, TCS seems like a really bad, dangerous idea?

Well, until they give some good reason (an argument), I will consider their lights wrong. But I won't hunt them down; all that *happens* (in my view) is they have worse lives than they might.

Even if some of it has changed their lives for the better? But that certain aspects of - say - hardcore rationalism, dogged belief in the TCS 'way', an abiding faith in the TV as a *good thing*, ditto eating what you feel like....all have and continue to.... feel a bit unnatural?

well i think you've misunderstood TCS here. while i will insist that TV shows are, in principle, great things, just like books, I will also concede that there are both many bad books and many bad TV shows. Personally I don't watch tons of TV. mostly japanese anime and movies and southpark oh and The OC. lots of other stuff is great if you have the right problem situation for it, and many people are too negative about TV, but for some problem situations not watching a whole lot of TV would make sense.

as to eating, well we should eat what we want, and we should want to eat the right things to eat. true and changeable. favorite and changeable. you need *both* sides of that coin. the solution to bad eating habits is not to eat what you don't want to. that's just hurting yourself. the solution is to find some good arguments about what is right to eat, and then want to eat that way because you really do believe it's right.

personally, i eat almost no candy and desert fairly rarely, and have a general distaste for too much sugar. i think i'm weird about that, but *shrug*. i *also* don't like salad much.

What if believing in these things starts to make parent feel totally duped and like he doesn't have enough faith in his own good ideas?

You should not hold ideas true because someone said so, not even Elliot Temple nor David Deutsch. You've got to act on your best theories, which means only arguments that you find make sense. Even if some theory is true, if you don't understand it, it's no good to you (though maybe it will be later). And if you do this, faith in your own ideas should not be an issue, because you would know of none you consider better.

Isn't this TCS working against itself? That would be a good thing, right? But then if the TCS parent turns off the TV because he wants to, and does the things he wants to do, because he strongly believes those things to be better for his children - and,yeah, he 'could be wrong, but so what? - he would be said to be reacting to his coerced and unhappy former way of life (and was possibly evil according to some of the TCS inner circle)?

Well, as to making choices for your children, it's not just that you could be wrong, but also that it isn't your choice to make. Children are people with their own lives. You should decide if you want to watch TV, and if someone says you should, you can decline their advice and not watch. And if your children want to watch, and you advise against it, it's still their call.

Just as TCSers will not rule any parent's life by force, parents should not rule their children's lives by force.

Isn't all this a bit fucked up? Maybe the parent should just go and get a life, take his children seriously the way it makes sense to him, be willing to question himself constantly, be aware of his fallibility, but forget all about the harm done to his home by the less desirable aspects of TCS

I want to point out that your understanding of TCS is fallible, so even if hypothetically TCS was perfect, sometimes your understanding of TCS would be wrong, and you would be right to act contrary to it when you thought you knew better. This is manifest in the way most of what you think TCS is wrong about, I think you've simply misunderstood.

Don't let "I think TCS says X" pressure you into doing X. Maybe it doesn't even.

Sometimes he can't work out which is worse, but maybe it doesn't matter,

Well, I can tell you that how you parent *does* matter to your children. So this stuff is important.

-- Elliot Temple

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In-The-Limit Worldview Theory

If we start with some worldview, it will have inconsistencies (internal contradictions) and it will not be aware of all facts and won't have stances on everything. However, over time, we can make it more consistent, and take stances on more issues (make it more complete), then in the limit, it would be perfectly consistent and have stances on all possible issues. Such that no matter what someone told you, you'd never need to change your worldview anymore.

In the limit means in the extreme case. Like if you kept making your worldview more complete and more consistent until you couldn't anymore that'd be the limit

I posit there are three different perfectly consistent complete worldviews that you could have reached. One is commonly called true. But there's actually 2 others that are consistent and complete.

One is empty or null. When asked questions it .... doesn't answer. On the way there I suppose adherents would deny stuff matters. But in the limit, I don't think they could speak or move. They'd be dead. They would have no theories and not be able to learn or get new ones.

And the last is the inverse/false/evil/opposite/bad whatever view. None of the three worldviews share any common points of agreement. But unlike the null view, this one does say stuff about the world ... but none of it true. It has some sort of twisted logic whereby false statements are made to all come out consistent. I don't know the details of it. But I think it is possible to be consistent about opposing truth/goodness.

One consequence of this is: people complain that logic alone can't tell us about morality. It can tell us what contradicts what, but how's it to say what is good? Well, if we accept these three in-the-limit views, we can speak about statements approaching one of them, or being a member of one of them. Now logic can do everything but one single value judgment of comparing the three WVs. And I believe the value judgment is pretty easy. One view says life doesn't matter. One says life is bad. One says life is good...

You may object that logic alone can't tell us everything, because, for example, physics isn't determined by logic. Nor is which house my friend lives in. Well, of course contingent questions depend on contingent details (contingent means not necessary means not implied by logic). But that's not the point. I'm not saying we should figure everything out by pure logic. As stated, first we would need to know everything (have all three views laid out) and then we could answer all moral questions with logic (well actually we could say which of the three worldviews various ideas were part of). (Actually some statements aren't part of any. We'd identify those separately as simply inconsistent ideas.)

The point was simply that this is theoretically possible (well not with perfection, but with arbitrarily high accuracy). Which means if someone says "morality is a matter of taste" ... Well, logically, the matter of taste is between three choices, one of which says life is bad and one says life doesn't matter.... This retort is useful and important.

The three worldviews share no common points of agreement. So if we determine a proposition is in one (say: Jews shouldn't die is in the good one), then contradictory theories (Jews should die) are not in the good one.

We do need independent (from what I've said here) arguments about which propositions go in which worldview. But if you can argue that a proposition is in one of the worldviews, then you can refer to the in the limit consequences it, and of its rivals, which is powerful.

PS This is my entirely original theory. Just saying. :-)

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