Some of my replies on Youtube

Sometimes it seems like I follow the opposite of Thumper’s Rule.  Even when I mostly like stuff, I’m prone to being silent until I spot a flaw to point out!

Recently I’ve been less like that, but here I wanted to share two comments I made that admittedly followed that trend.

  1. Julia Galef Newcomb’s problem

    In her video, she explained how two different theories of decision making (“State of the World” Causal decision theory VS Evidential decision theory) seem to come to opposite conclusions in this paradox.

    Now that I’m revisiting this, I think the “state of the world” thing (as stated in the video) is a failure to actually be what it’s claimed to be:  Causal decision theory.   It’s stated as if the person’s choice will not cause the contents of the box.  Yet that’s precisely the line of causation that the thought experiment tells you will take place.  So any true Causal Decision Theory should accept that.

    Because of that mixup, my comment below might look like it isn’t totally addressing the position as stated in the video, I addressed causality, which is what really matters.  By definition, causality determines what outcome (such as the contents of the box) will be caused.

    I said:

    The two decision theories don’t predict different actions if done correctly. The state of the world isn’t just the contents of the box. It is also the decision maker, and the mind reading, the fact that the future is physically pre-determined, etc.. Given THAT state of the world, which to pick? You get the same answer as the evidential approach. Your idea of “the state of the world” has to depend on evidence anyways, and so does the “which action causes the best expected outcome” part.

    It only seems that they give different answers because you are, essentially, approximating the answers, rather than computing them exactly. Or because you disagree on the state of the world. Maybe you disagree that the “state of the world” includes the fact that the future is pre-determined in some way (or at least functionally identical to determinism). But then you are simply rejecting the thought experiment, which dictates that this is indeed the state of the world.

    Also, the correct answer can change (and both decision theories will agree) once the situation is not idealized. Once there is uncertainty. Then you need to use Bayesian decision making based on the values and probabilities. But also note that the values in this calculation don’t merely depend on the absolute value of the dollars, but also how important each outcome is in your life. For some people, it might be more important to guarantee that they get more than zero dollars (maybe they are starving poor) so taking the $1000 might be the only rational choice. For others, $1000 might not be enough (maybe they need ransom money immediately), so increasing the probability of the million might be the only rational choice.

    (I also replied to several other commenters)

    Check out her channel! One of her videos even had advice for solving “paradoxes”, and when I watched that one I got the feeling maybe she’d even agree with my above comment.

  2. Also, Arthur Isaac Ecumenopolises

    He argued something to the effect of “since we value people more than we value heaps of unused raw material, it’s better (all else being equal) if all the unused material in the universe is turned into more people”.  Hmmm.  Maybe, if it increases our chances of finding people that are more perfect soul mates etc?  And similar “lottery” situations, where you need to “buy more tickets” to ensure “winning”.

    Anyways, at the time, I said:

    I have to disagree that more people is good since you said “all things being equal”. I take that to mean that a lesser number of people have nothing to gain by choosing one option over the other. That means more people would be entirely neutral, not good, but not bad either. You say intelligent life is more valuable than inanimate asteroids and dead planets. Of course that is true in at least two ways: first, the good that they can bring to other people. But eventually, if you have enough, I think more people will make no difference to anyone (except for those people who want to have children, but plenty of advanced nations have very low birth rates, so who knows). Second, intrinsic value. We are intrinsically valuable because we value ourselves. But that is different from valuing a state of the world where there are more people. Moral arguments, such as the trolley problem, work because people already value their own futures and such. In the trolley solution, it’s not because more people will exist, it’s because there is statistically less disaster. And we want to live in a world where there is statistically less disaster. People want us to make that world, and we want other people to make that world.

“Name Calling” Consists of Unargued Conclusions on Facts and Values.

“____ is ____.”

“X is Y.”

“This (person, action, item, etc.) is (a) that.”

This kind of statement is name calling.

Essentially, it’s a conclusion, or an assertion.  It doesn’t include much, if any, support for the conclusion.

Using mere name calling will leave many of the most important questions unanswered:

Is X really Y?  Are you sure that X isn’t something else instead?  How sure?  What does it mean for something to be Y?  What is Y?  Is Y good or bad in this case?  Why?  Compared to what alternatives?  How sure are you?

Unlike Wikipedia, I don’t only regard something as name calling if it is an insult.  It could be praise (“he’s a straight talker”, “genius”, “saint”).  Nor do I limit it to targeting people.  It could target actions (“telling it like it is”, “pandering”, “virtue signaling”) or beliefs or policies or anything else.  Because the same concerns can arise for all of these kinds of name calling, and they share a lot of things in common, the same form, and because the name fits.

Some Simple Things (That I Wish Everyone Already Knew)

     First, when a joke (or something else) is friendly and when it is unfriendly. That could be a big topic, but for now I’ll narrow it down to one situation: when someone asks you to stop.
     When someone tells you to stop something, you have a few options. Your can:
  1. accept their request
  2. not accept their request (by either continuing what they told you to stop, or complaining about their request)
     I’d argue that option 1 is friendly, and option 2 is unfriendly. When someone sincerely tells you to stop something and you continue to do it, it ceases to be friendly. Even if the action looks the same.
     Real friendliness includes wanting to avoid annoying or upsetting your friend. It means caring about their feelings, preferences, and how they want to be treated.
     In some situations that might be difficult, like when their preference conflict with yours. If the two of you really can’t come up with a solution that you both like, maybe you can’t be friends at all. But that’s unlikely to occur in the case of jokes, which you don’t really need to make. So in this example, I think it’s most reasonable to accept their request.

A second (and related) point: sometimes seemingly identical actions can be morally different.

     How can two actions which seem identical be morally different?
     If there is some other difference.
     For example, if a professional boxer starts boxing unsuspecting people in the street, that’s assault. Their actions alone might look identical to the ethical sport of boxing. But the random people on the street (in my example) did not consent to a boxing match. That’s the key difference.

Another Quick Thought

Just re-watching Richard Carrier’s talk Is Philosophy Stupid? again.  I think the implication is that we need a “philosophy revolution” the same way we had a “scientific revolution” back in the 1700s.

Also, I personally think we similarly need an “art revolution”!  ^^

Art could get far more advanced than it generally is currently.  Part of that is the lack of systemic vision.  Currently there is a very unorganized art world where experiments or prototypes are treated as finished products.  Also too much incomprehensible or meaningless art.  Plus I think there’s a bit of an epidemic of making art that is just making a little commentary on some other piece of art/aspect of the art world.

People need to view doing art as a kind of engineering.  It can go as far and as advanced as the engineering that goes into stealth fighter planes or whatever.  And I also think there needs to be more scientific study into how to make good art, and artists need to be more connected to that knowledge.

Ok I’ll end this here before it becomes a longer rant…

A Quick Idea Before I Forget

A website (powered by an artificial intelligence probably) that takes your goals or requests and creates various plans of action for you to take to achieve them. Has a vast knowledge of tools and resources to help you (such as the Swapdom website, kijiji, kickstarter, and who knows what else)…Google should really be doing something like this, because they have the resources and they are already well known. So many of these useful resources are unknown, which is one problem this website needs to solve.

Of course less advanced versions of this idea could be made much sooner (without so much fancy artificial intelligence, etc.).  It would basically just be a well organized library of such useful stuff.  And, of course, Google search is already a sort of version of this.  But not good enough.

Difficulty With Government Forms Part 1: Bank Account Information.

While trying to check if my bank account information was correct on a government form, I encountered this strange and confusing “help” page on the TD website.

I sent them this feedback:

Several parts of this help page are confusing. First, it says “Transit or Branch Number” when it really should say “Transit or Branch Number plus location digit”. “Transit or Branch Number” implies that the Transit number is equal to the Branch number. But this is contradicted by the description, which says that the Transit number is the Branch number plus one digit to indicate the location/province. Second, the description of “Designation number” is unclear. It seems identical to the Transit number’s description. Yet the diagram example shows it is not. Third, how is the four digits a “branch location number” if a fifth number is called “Branch Locator”? If the four digits are already the location number, why is another digit required before the branch can be located? Fourth, how does the sentence “You can find your branch number by using our Branch Locator” make any sense? The branch number is the four digit number. So how can the Branch locator (one digit) help us to find the four digit number?