# Idan Arye

Karma: 113
• I wonder, though—maybe there are some rational skills that do benefit from repetitive practice? Overcoming bias comes to mind—even after you recognize the bias, sometimes it still takes mental energy to resist its temptation. Maybe katas could help there?

• visitor: Hold on, I think my cultural translator is broken. You used that word “doctor” and my translator spit out a long sequence of words for Examiner plus Diagnostician plus Treatment Planner plus Surgeon plus Outcome Evaluator plus Student Trainer plus Business Manager. Maybe it’s stuck and spitting out the names of all the professions associated with medicine.

This actually sounds a bit similar to how Scott Alexander described hospital pipelines. Sure—real life are not as efficient as in the visitor’s homeworld, and medical doctors still go through maybe too much training, but there is still specialization going on, with each professional dealing with what they are proficient at.

• Beliefs are quantitative, not qualitative. The more evidence you pile in favor of the claim, the stronger your confidence in it should be. Observing that there is no monkey is much stronger evidence than the geography based argument, and it’s probably enough, but the belief is not binary so having both arguments should result in higher probability assigned to it than with having just one argument, not matter how much stronger that single argument is. .

In practice, thing about it that way—what if the monkey heard you coming and managed to hide so well that you couldn’t find it even after looking? This is a very unlikely scenario, but still a possibility—and its less likely to happen in the Pacific Northwest than in, say, India. So the geographic argument reduces the probability of a hidden monkey scenario—even if only by a little bit—and thus increases the overall probability of having a monkelyless closet.

• Rene Descartes goes up to the counter. “I’ll have a scone,” he says. “Would you like juice with that?” asks the barista. “I think not,” says Descartes, and he ceases to exist.

I can’t believe you missed an opportunity to do an “I drink, therefore I am” joke...

• I think this lesson extends behind the scope of programming, even behind the more general scope of technology. We should not be too humble before complicated, hard-to-understand things. We should not be too quick to assume the fault is in our inability to comprehend them. We should always consider the possibility that it’s their fault being needlessly complicated, or even just plain nonsense.

I’ve seen some essays (often in the area of philosophy and/​or religion) that—I believe—try to take advantage of that utility. They support their argument with cryptic, cumbersome and confusing reasoning that seem to me like an attempt to force their would be challengers to give up on the discourse for failing to understand it. Their supporters, of course, can remain—they are not trying to disprove the argument, so they don’t really need to understand it.

To fight this mentality, we need to give more credit to ourselves. Is the person making the argument smarter than us? Maybe. Does their intelligence exceed our own so much that they can create coherent arguments we cannot understand no matter how hard we try? Very unlikely. Maybe not outright impossible, but the probability is low enough that we should insist on the argument being flawed even when they try to convince us we simply fail to understand it.

• (on the other hand, the inability to condition yourself seems relevant here. It seems like the brain might be not be controlling for whether something is reasonable, but only for whether something is produced by yourself. So maybe exercise counts because it’s under your control, but waterboarding doesn’t count because it isn’t. I wonder if anyone has ever tried letting someone waterboard themselves and giving them the on-off switch for the waterboarding device. Was Hitchens’ experience close enough to this to count? Why would this be different from letting someone hold their breath, which doesn’t produce the same level of panic?)

Hypothesis: the difference is in the failure mode.

If you hold your breath, you can always choose (assuming you are not underwater or in some other environment that prevents proper breathing) to stop holding your breath and save yourself from suffocating. If you are being waterboarded by friendly demonstrators, you can say the safe word and save yourself from “drowning”. These may seem the same, but are not. In both cases the longer you hold the weaker you get—the way that weakening affects your ability to stop the ordeal is very different.

The longer you hold your breath the harder it gets to keep holding your breath—until at some point you are no longer able to hold your breath and are forced to breath. Even if you can keep holding your breath past that point—you are just going to pass out, and then you’ll just switch to autopilot and breath automatically. Unless you suffer from Ondine’s curse, failure will not kill you.

With waterboarding, if you become too weak to properly signal the “torturers” to stop—they won’t stop. Sure, in Hitchens’ case they noticed that he passed out and stopped it. Because they are professionals. But this is probably too high level for your subconsciousness and your body to rely on—as far as they care, failure can mean death. Holding as long as you can is no longer a safe option—so your body will try to scream at you to stop it as soon as possible.

• I’d argue that people who are not familiar with “iff” are usually unfamiliar with its full version “if and only if” as well and, unaware of the need for such distinction, tend to treat regular “if” as bidirectional. These two mistakes will cancel each other out and they won’t miss said something key.

• January 2021 have witnessed the GameStop short squeeze where many small investors, self organized via Reddit, bought a stock in order to hold it and cause financial damage to several hedge funds that shorted it. It was all over the news and was eventually diffused when the brokerage companies sold their clients stocks without their consent.

This resolution triggered great outrage. The traders and their supporters claimed that hedge funds were toying with the economy for a long time now, ruining companies and the families who depended on them, and it was considered okay because they played by the rules. Now that the common folks play by the same rules—the rules were changed so that they cannot play.

(To be fair—the brokerage companies that sold their stocks did have a legal standing in doing so. But this is just an anecdote for my main point, so I’d rather not delve into this technicality)

This post was written years before that, but the sentiment is timeless. Is it really okay to constantly change the rules of science just to deny access to a certain group?

• Section IV, clause A:

Buyer and Seller agree that the owner of the Soul may possess, claim, keep, store, offer, transfer, or make use of it in whole or in part in any manner that they see fit to do so, conventional or otherwise, including (but not limited to) the purposes described in this Section (IV). Example uses of the Soul which would be permitted under these terms include (but are not limited to):

• ...

• Long term storage, usage, or preservation of the Soul in a state which would prevent it from taking the course of development, evolution, or relocation it may otherwise take naturally or due to the actions or material status of the Seller.

Am I interpreting it wrong, or is this clause permitting the buyer to kill the seller?

• Isn’t that the information density for sentences? With all the conjunctions, and with the limitness of the number of different words that can appear in different places of the sentence, it’s not that surprising we only get 1.1 bits per letter. But names should be more information dense—maybe not the full 4.7 (because some names just don’t make sense) but at least 2 bits per letter, maybe even 3?

I don’t know where to find (or how to handle) a big list of full names, so I’m settling for the (probably partial) lists of first names from https://​​www.galbithink.org/​​names/​​us200.htm (picked because the plaintext format is easy to process). I wrote a small script: https://​​gist.github.com/​​idanarye/​​fb75e5f813ddbff7d664204607c20321

When I run it on the list of female names from the 1990s I get this:

$./​names_entropy.py https://​​www.galbithink.org/​​names/​​s1990f.txt Entropy per letter: 1.299113499617074 Any of the 5 rarest name are 1:7676.4534883720935 Bits for rarest name: 12.906224226276189 Rarest name needs to be 10 letters long Rarest names are between 4 and 7 letters long #1 Most frequent name is Christin, which is 8 letters long Christin is worth 5.118397576228959 bits Christin would needs to be 4 letters long #2 Most frequent name is Mary, which is 4 letters long Mary is worth 5.380839995073667 bits Mary would needs to be 5 letters long #3 Most frequent name is Ashley, which is 6 letters long Ashley is worth 5.420441711983749 bits Ashley would needs to be 5 letters long #4 Most frequent name is Jesse, which is 5 letters long Jesse is worth 5.4899422055346445 bits Jesse would needs to be 5 letters long #5 Most frequent name is Alice, which is 5 letters long Alice is worth 5.590706018293878 bits Alice would needs to be 5 letters long And when I run it on the list of male names from the 1990s I get this:$ ./​names_entropy.py https://​​www.galbithink.org/​​names/​​s1990m.txt
Entropy per letter: 1.3429318549784128

Any of the 11 rarest name are 1:14261.4
Bits for rarest name: 13.799827993443198
Rarest name needs to be 11 letters long
Rarest names are between 4 and 8 letters long

#1 Most frequent name is John, which is 4 letters long
John is worth 5.004526222833823 bits
John would needs to be 4 letters long

#2 Most frequent name is Michael, which is 7 letters long
Michael is worth 5.1584658860672485 bits
Michael would needs to be 4 letters long

#3 Most frequent name is Joseph, which is 6 letters long
Joseph is worth 5.4305677416620135 bits
Joseph would needs to be 5 letters long

#4 Most frequent name is Christop, which is 8 letters long
Christop is worth 5.549228103371756 bits
Christop would needs to be 5 letters long

#5 Most frequent name is Matthew, which is 7 letters long
Matthew is worth 5.563161441124633 bits
Matthew would needs to be 5 letters long

So the information density is about 1.3 bits per letter. Higher than 1.1, but not nearly as high as I expected. But—the rarest names in these list are about 1:14k—not 1:1m like OP’s estimation. Then again—I’m only looking at given names—surnames tend to be more diverse. But that would also give them higher entropy, so instead of to figure out how to scale everything let’s just go with the given names, which I have numbers for (for simplicity, assume these lists I found are complete)

So—the rare names are about half as long as the number of letters required to represent them. The frequent names are anywhere between the number of letters required to represent them and twice that amount. I guess that is to be expected—names are not optimized to be an ideal representation, after all. But my point is that the amount of evidence needed here is not orders of magnitude bigger than the amount of information you gain from hearing the name.

Actually, due to what entropy is supposed to represent, on average the amount of information needed is exactly the amount of information contained in the name.

• The prior odds that someone’s name is “Mark Xu” are generously 1:1,000,000. Posterior odds of 20:1 implies that the odds ratio of me saying “Mark Xu” is 20,000,000:1, or roughly 24 bits of evidence. That’s a lot of evidence.

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet. Even if, for simplicity, our encoding ignores word boundaries and message ending, that’s bits per letter so hearing you say “Mark Xu” is 28.2 bits of evidence total—more than the 24 bits required.

Of course—my encoding is flawed. An optimal encoding should assign “Mark Xu” with less bits than, say, “Rqex Gh”—even though they both have the same amount of letters. And “Maria Rodriguez” should be assigned an even shorter message even though it has more than twice the letters of “Mark Xu”.

Measuring the amount of information given in messages is not as easy to do on actual real life cases as it is in theory...

• Realistically, how high would the tax burden have to be for you to accept those costs of secession?

France’s 2015 taxes of 75% made rich people secede, so we can take that as a supremum on the minimal tax burden that can make people secede. Of course—France’s rich didn’t have to go live in the woods—they had the option to go to other countries. Also, they did not have the option to not go to any country, because all the land on earth is divided between the countries.

I agree that the main benefits for the rich to remain in under the state’s rule and pay taxes is to be able to do business with its citizens. And of course—to be able to pass through the land—otherwise they won’t be able to physically do said business. So the core question is:

Does the state have the right to prevent its citizens from doing business with whoever they want?

They practice that power—that’s a fact. They send the police to stop business that’s not licensed by the state. But should this be considered an act of violence, or as an act of protecting their property?

• I think there is some academic merit in taking this example to the extreme and assuming that the rich person is responsible to 100% of the community’s resources, and they alone can fund the its entire activity, and if they secede alone the community is left with nothing. They can’t protect people in their streets because they can’t afford a police. They can’t punish criminals because they can’t afford a prison. They may be left with their old roads, but without maintenance they quickly wear out while the rich person can build new ones. Their permission to do business means nothing because they have no means to enforce it (no police) - they can’t even make a credible embargo because the rich person is the only one you can offer jobs and the only one who has goods to sell, so the incentive to break the embargo is huge. The rich person has all the power and zero incentive to give in to the community which will take it away and give their “fair share” of of it in return.

Of course—this extreme scenario never happens in real life, because in real life there are always alternatives. There are more rich people, to begin with, so no single rich person can hold all the power. People can start their own business, breaking the 100% dependency on the rich class from our example. And—maybe most importantly—modern society has a huge middle class that holds (as a socioeconomic class) a considerable share of the power.

So, a real life rich person cannot have a full Shapley value like our hypothetical rich person, and the poor people’s Shapley value is more than zero. Still—a rich person’s Shapley value is much much higher than a poor person’s, and therefore there is a point where taxation is heavy enough to make it worthwhile for them to secede.

• I was replying to ShemTealeaf’s claim that the rich person still has an incentive to stay—remaining under the protection of the community’s court system. I was arguing that what the rich person needs from the community’s court system is not its resources (which the rich person was providing anyway, and would dry out once they secede) but its social norms—the people’s agreement to respect it’s laws, which mean they would not attack the rich person. My point is that if the reach person’s incentive to stay is to not get robbed and killed by the community—then we can’t really say that they are allowed to opt out.

Of course—if they poor people that remain the community will not attack the rich person once they leave—then they are indeed allowed to opt out, but in that case their incentive to stay is gone.

• In this hypothetical scenario, the rich person was the sole source of funding for the community’s services. Once they opt out, the community will no longer be able to pay the police, and since all the police salaries came from the rich person’s pockets—the rich person will be able to use the same amount of money previously used to pay the police force to finance their own private security.

Same for all the other services the community was providing.

Of course, the community will still have all the infrastructure and equipment that was purchased with the rich person’s taxes in the past, and the rich person will start with nothing—but this is just a temporary setback. In a few years the rich person will build new infrastructure and the community’s infrastructure will not hold for long if they keep using it without being able to afford its maintenance.

This leaves us with the core community service the rich person was enjoying. The only service that does not (directly) cost money to provide. Social norms.

As you said—once the rich person opts out of the community, the members of the community is no longer obliged to refrain from robbing or kill them. And they have an incentive to do so. They may no longer be able to pay their police in the long run, but it’ll take some time for all the cops to quit and it’ll take some time for the rich person to build their own security force (unless they have prepared it in advance? They probably did), so if they act quick enough they can launch an attack and have a good chance at winning. And even if they get delayed and the balance of armed forces swifts—large enough masses of poor people can take down the rich with their armed guards.

So this is what’s going to stop the rich person from opting out. The threat of violence if they do so. In that light—can we still say they are allowed to opt out?

• Most[1] logical fallacies are obvious when arranged in their pattern, but when you encounter them in the wild they are usually transformed by rhetorics to mask that pattern. The “lack of rhetorical skills”, then, may not be bad argumentation by itself—but it does help exposing it. If a pickpocket is caught in the act, it won’t help them to claim that they were only caught because they were not dexterous enough and it’s unfair to put someone in jail for a lack of skill. The fact remains that they tried to steal, and it would still be a crime if they were proficient enough to succeed. Similarly, just because one’s rhetorical skills are not good enough to mask a bad argument does not make it a good argument.

A more important implication of my take on the nature of logical fallacies is that it is not enough to show that an argument fits the fallacy’s pattern—the important part of countering it is showing how, when rearranged in that pattern, the argument loses its power to convince. If it still makes sense even in that form.

Note that in all of Scott’s examples, he never just said “X is a noncentral member of Y” and left it at that. He always said “we usually hate Y because most of its members share the trait Z, but X is not Z and only happens to be in Y because of some other trait W, which we don’t have such strong feeling about”.

So, if we take your first example (the one about eating meat) and fully rearrange it by the noncentral fallacy not only with X and Y but also with Z and W, the counter-argument would look something like that:

It’s true that animal farming (X) is technically cruelty (Y), but the central members of cruelty are things like torture and child abuse. What these things have in common is that they hurt humans (Z), and this is the reason why we should frown upon cruelty. Animal farming does not share that trait. Animal farming is only included in the cruelty category because it involves involuntary suffering (W) - a trait that we don’t really care about.

Does this breakdown make the original argument lose its punch? Not really. Certainly not as much as breaking down the “MLK was a criminal” argument to the noncentral fallacy pattern makes that argument lose its punch. Here, at most, the breakdown exposes the underlying reasoning, and shifts the discussion from “whether or not meat is technically a cruelty” to “to what extent do animals deserve to be protected from involuntary suffering”.

Which is a good thing. I believe the goal noticing logical fallacies is not to directly disprove claims, but to strip them from the rhetorical dressing and expose the actual argument underneath. That underlying argument can be bad, or it can be good—but it needs to be exposed before it can be properly discussed.

1. I say “most”, but the only exception I can think of is the proving too much fallacy. And even then—that’s only because there is no common template like other fallacies have. But that doesn’t mean that arguments that inhibit that fallacy cannot be transformed to expose it—in this case, to normalize the fallacy one has to reshape it to a form where the claim, instead of being a critical part of its logic, is just a placeholder that can contain anything and still make the same amount of sense.

So, there is still an normal form involved. But instead of a normal form for the fallacy, the proving too much fallacy is about finding the normal form of the specific argument you are trying to expose the fallacy in, and showing how that form can be used for proving too much. I guess this makes the proving too much fallacy a meta-fallacy? ↩︎

• If Alice can sacrifice her privacy to prove her loyalty, she’ll be force to do so to avoid losing to Bob—who already sacrificed his privacy to prove his loyalty and not lose to Alice. They both sacrificed their privacy to get an advantage over each other, and ended up without any relative advantage gained. Moloch wins.

• Coincidences can be evidence for correlation and therefore evidence for causation, as long as one remembers that evidence—like more things than most people feel comfortable with—are quantitative, not qualitative. A single coincidence, of even multiple coincidences, can make a causation less improbable—but it can still be considered very improbable until we get much more evidence.

• Manslaughter? Probably not—you did not contribute to that person’s death. You are, however, guilty of:

1. Desecration of the corpse.

2. Obstructing the work of the sanitation workers (it’s too late for paramedics) that can’t remove the body from the road because of the endless stream of cars running over it.

3. You probably didn’t count 100k vehicles running over that body. A bystander who stayed there for a couple of days could have, but since you are one of the drivers you probably only witness a few cars running over that person—so as far as you know there is a slim chance they are still alive.

I may be taking the allegory too far here, but I feel these offenses can map quite well. Starting from the last—being able to know that all the damage is done. In Sipple’s case, this is history so it’s easy to know that all the damage was already done. He can’t be outed again. His family will not be harassed again by their community, and will not estrange him again. His life will not be ruined again, and he will not die again.

Up next—interfering with the efforts to make things better. Does this really happen here? I don’t think so. On the contrary—talking about this, establishing that this is wrong, can help prevent this from happening to other people. And it’s better to talk about cases from the past, where all the damage is already done, than about current cases that still have damage potential.

This leaves us with the final issue—respecting the dead. Which is probably the main issue, so I could have just skipped the other two points, but I took the trouble of writing them so I might as well impose on you the trouble of reading them. Are we really disrespecting Oliver Sipple by talking about him?