London Meetup 05-Jun-2011 - very rough minutes
This was posted to the London LessWrong mailing list, but I am crossposting here, as per David Gerard’s suggestion, in case anyone else finds this interesting.
So here’s my notes:
Bitcoin—Mostly how it’s quite interesting, but annoying that we can’t transfer money in from the UK. Myself and ciphergoth were the interested parties. If anyone has any ideas, let us know.
Euthyphro Dilemma and Moral Realism—The first religion-themed conversation, mostly on the sorts of answers that come up to the dilemma and what constitutes moral realism anyway.
Evolutionarily Stable Strategies—The discussion of moral realism naturally led to what the nature of morality is and how evolution gave rise to it.
Learning Decision Theory & Project Euler—Not sure how we got here, but I mentioned my desire that the people working on decision theory would make a Project Euler-type introduction to the material, so the rest of us can eventually join the conversation. I should probably write this up as a separate discussion post.
Rationality as Landgrab, and Definitions of Rationality—Apparently some high-ranking figures in the general futurist cluster dislike LessWrong for ‘appropriating the term rationality’. There may or may not be a point there, but we started discussing how the term can be defined, preferably in a LW-independent manner.
Libertarianism & LessWrong—There seems to be a high concentration of libertarians on LW, and it seems that the ban on talking politics has kept this from being discussed much. Which brings us to...
Talking Politics on LessWrong—There seems to be this norm against talking politics, which was inherited by other online communities. However, LessWrong is very much not like other communities. We can discuss religion and philosophy without flamewars breaking out, so why not try politics too? People on LW have been known to change their minds, so there is a good chance we will generate more light than heat.
Describing LW & Changing our minds—Leonhart described the site as ‘an Internet forum where people occasionally apologise and change their minds’. Everyone else felt this was a great formulation that should be noted down. Discussion on what we have changed our minds on on LW followed
Historicity of Jesus—Back on the religious track, we discussed how atheists are often former Christians who looked into the Historicity of Jesus. Cases in point—taryneast’s relatives and Lukeprog.
Making pepole admit cached thoughts—More or less what it says on the tin. What it is and if anyone’s done it (not really).
Is the term ‘Dark Arts’ meaningful? - Perhaps one of the few discussions where there was active debate. A couple of good definitions for ‘dark arts’ came up, including ‘techniques that if the other person knew you were applying them, they would be pissed off’. My personal definition was ‘convincing techniques independent of the payload’. Which is to say, tricks anyone can use to convince the untrained about almost anything.
Methods of Rationality meetup—By this point we’d moved on to the next pub. The discussion was whether to do a MoR meetup (yes) and how we would go about setting it up (coordinating with Eliezer to have a date set before he posts the next chapter). What remains is actually doing any of this.
Plausibility vs. Possibility—David Gerard’s idea. The ideas that seem plausible should raise a red flag since that may be due to the conjunction fallacy, reducing the possibility of them actually being true.
Biweekly Meetup Dates—It has been decided by the council of elders (aka, those who bothered to turn up) that the biweekly meetups will be on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month, with every 4th one being a ‘big’ bimonthly meetup.
Psychology & Science—Is psychology a proper science? (some of it yes, some of it no).
Race & Intelligence—Another debated topic. On the one hand, it’s unlikely that intelligence would remain stable while so many other attributes vary among races. On the other David Gerard mentioned recent research raises questions about the studies that showed such differences. On the third hand, anyone seriously researching the topic without a view to disproving it will have their career destroyed, so, yeah...
Prevalence of Basic Knowledge—An anecdote by me about some fairly educated acquaintances that had basic misconceptions about evolution (oddly, not with religious motive, I think), and a warning not to consider the general public’s education levels too high due to the Typical Mind Fallacy.
Comedy as Anti-Compartmentalization—Another pet theory of mine. I was puzzled by the amount of atheist comedians out there, who people pay to see tell them that their religion is absurd. (Yes, Christian comedians exist too. Search YouTube. I dare you.) So my theory is that humour serves as a space where patterns and data from different fields are allowed to be superimposed on one another. Think of it as an anti-compartmentalization habit. Due to our brain design, compartmentalization is the default, so humour may be a hack to counter that. And we reward those who do it well with high status because it’s valuable. Maybe we should have transhumanist/rationalist stand-up comedians? We sure have a lot of inconsistencies to point out.
Spread of Atheism—The above developed into this. Has atheism saturated it’s audience, and will it stabilise? No clear outcome, I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I certainly hope not.
Wikipedia’s Epistemology—How Wikipedia determines truth. I’ll let David Gerard tell us what that was about
The Larrikin-Wowser Dynamic—Kristoff mentioned this theory on how societies work through this fundamental tension. He can probably say more on this than I can.
The Myers-Kurzweil argument—It turns out, the winner differs by how you frame the claims made. As far as I am concerned, of these two, whoever wins, we lose.
The Black Box experiment—The discussion turned to raising children, and I mentioned this experiment on how the children of other primates seem to do some things better than human children do, and what that tells us about our learning process. YouTube vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIAoJsS9Ix8
End of notes.
That was a lot of text, if you made it down to here, you have my sincere congratulations.