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  • Discsing Animal Intelligence

    This post replies to pdxthehunted from Reddit (everything he said there is included in quotes below). There is also previo discsion before this exchange, see here. This post will somewhat stand on its own without reading context, but not 100%. Topics include about whether animals can suffer, the nature of intelligence and the flaws of academia.

    [While writing this response, the original post was removed. I think that’s unfortunate, but what’s done is done. I’d still love a quick response—jt to see if I understand you correctly.]

    Hi, Elliot. Thanks for your response. I want to say off the bat that I don’t think I’m equipped to debate the issue at hand with you past this point. (Mostly based off your sibling post; I’m not claiming you’re wrong, but jt that I think I—finally—realize that I don’t understand where you’re coming from, entirely (or possibly at all). I’m willing to concede that—if you’re right about everything—you probably do need to have this conversation with programmers or physicists. If the general intelligence on display in the article I cited is categorically different from what you’re talking about when you talk about G.I. than I’m out of my depth.

    Yes, what that article is studying is different and I don't think it should be called "general intelligence". General means general purpose, but the kind of "intelligence" in the article can't build a spaceship or write a philosophy treatise, so it's limited to only some cases. They are vague about this matter. They suggest they are studying general intelligence becae their five learning tasks are "diverse". Being able to do 5 different learning tasks is a great sign if they are diverse enough, but I don't think they're diverse with respect to the set of all possible learning tasks, I think they're actually all pretty similar.

    This is all more complicated becae they think intelligence comes in degrees, so they maybe believe a moe has the right type of intelligence to build a spaceship, jt not enough of it. But their research is not about whether that premise (intelligence comes in degrees) is true, nor do they write philosophical arguments about it.

    That being said, I’d love to continue the conversation for a little while, if you’re up for it, either here or possibly on your blog if that works better for you. I have some questions and would like to try and understand your perspective.

    If I'm right about ~everything, that includes my views of the broad irrationality of academia and the negative value of current published research in many of the fields in question.

    For example, David Deutsch's static meme idea, available in BoI, was rejected for academic publication ~20 years earlier. Academia gatekeeps to keep out ideas they don't want to hear, and they don't really debate what's true much in journals. It's like a highly moderated forum with biased moderators following unwritten and inconsistent rules (like reddit but stricter!).

    My arguments re animals are largely Deutsch's. He taught me his worldview. The reason he doesn't write it up and publish it in a journal is becae (he believes that) it either wouldn't be published or wouldn't be listened to (and it would alienate people who will listen to his physics papers). The same goes for many other important ideas he has. Being in the Royal Society, etc., is inadequate to effectively get past the academic gatekeeping (to get both published and serioly, productively engaged with). I don't think a PhD and 20 published papers would help either (especially not with issues involving many fields at once).

    For what it’s worth, I think this is a fair criticism and concern, especially for someone—like you—who is trying to distill specific truths out of many fields at once. If your (and Deutsch’s) worldview conflicts with the prevailing academic worldview, I concede that publishing might be difficult or impossible and not the best e of your energy.

    I asked for a solution but I'm happy with that response. I find it a very hard problem.

    Sadly, Deutsch has given up on the problem to the point that he's focing on physics (Constructor Theory) not philosophy now. Physics is one of the best academic fields to interact with, and one of the most productive and rational, while philosophy is one of the worst. Deutsch ed to e.g. write about the implications of Critical Rationalism for parenting and education. The applications are pretty direct from philosophy of knowledge to how people learn, but the conclions are extremely offensive to ~everyone becae, basically, ~all parents and teachers are doing a bad job and destroying children's minds (which is one of the main underlying reasons for why academia and many other intellectual things are broken). Very important issues but people shoot messengers... The messenger shooting is bad enough that Deutsch refed me permission to post archived copies of hundreds of things he wrote publicly online but which are no longer available at their original locations. A few years earlier he had said he would like the archives posted. He changed his mind becae he became more pessimistic about people reaction's to ideas.

    I, by contrast, am pursuing a different strategy of speaking truth to power without regard for offending people. I don't want to hold back, but I also don't have a very large fanbase becae even if someone agrees with me about many issues, I have like two dozen different ideas that would alienate many people, so pretty much everyone can find something to hate.

    I don't think people would, at that point, start considering and learning different ideas than what they already have, e.g. learning Critical Rationalism so they could apply that framework to animal rights to reach a conclion like "If Critical Rationalism is true, then animal rights is wrong." (And CR is not the only controversial premise I e that people are broadly ignorant of, so it's harder than that.) People commonly dismiss others, despite many credentials, if they don't like the message. I don't think playing the game of authority and credentials – an irrational game – will solve the problem of people's disinterest in truth-seeking. This is view of academia is, again, a view Deutsch taught me.

    Karl Popper published a ton but was largely ignored. Thomas Szasz too. There are many other examples. Even if I got published, I could easily be treated like e.g. Richard Lindzen who has published articles doubting some claims about global warming.

    Fair enough.

    I’m not going to respond to the rest of your posts line-by-line becae I think most of what you’re saying is uncontroversial or is not relevant to the OP (it was relevant to my posts; thank you for the substantial, patient responses).

    I think most people would deny most of it. I wasn’t expecting a lot of agreement. But OK, great.

    For any bystanders who are interested and have made it this far, I think that this conversation between OP and Elliot is helpful in understanding their argument (at least it was for me).

    Without the relevant CS or critical rationality background, I can attempt to restate their argument in a way that seems coherent (to me). Elliot or OP can correct me if I’m way off base.

    The capacity for an organism to suffer may be binary; essentially, at a certain level of general intelligence, the capacity to suffer may turn on.

    I don’t think there are levels of general intelligence, I think it’s present or not present. This is analogo to there not being levels of computers: it’s either a universal classical computer or it’s not a computer and can compute ~nothing. The jump from ~nothing to universality is discsed in BoI.

    Otherwise, close enough.

    (I imagine suffering to exist on a spectrum; a human’s suffering may be “worse” than a cow’s or a chicken’s becae we have the ability to reflect on our suffering and amplify it by imagining better outcomes, but I’m not convinced that—if I experienced life from the perspective of a cow—that I wouldn’t recognize the negative hallmarks of suffering, and prefer it to end. My thinking is that a sow in a gestation crate could never articulate to herself “I’m uncomfortable and in pain; I wish I were comfortable and pain-free,” but that doesn’t preclude a conscio preference for circumstances to be otherwise, accompanied by suffering or its nonhuman analog.)

    I think suffering comes in degrees if it’s present at all. Some injuries hurt more than others. Some bad news is more upsetting than other bad news.

    Similarly, how smart people are comes in degrees when intelligence is present. They have the same basic capacity but vary in thinking quality due to having e.g. different ideas and different thinking methods (e.g. critical rationalist thinking is more effective than superstition).

    Roughly there are three levels like this:

    1. Computer (brain)
    2. Intelligent Mind (roughly: an operating system (OS) for the computer with the feature that it allows creating and thinking about ideas)
    3. Ideas within the mind.

    Each level requires the previo level.

    Sand fails to match humans at level 1. No brain.

    Apes fail to match humans at level 2. They run a different operating system with features more similar to Windows or Mac than to intelligence. It doesn’t have support for ideas.

    Self-driving cars have brains (CP) which are adequately comparable to an ape or human, but like apes they differ from humans at level 2.

    When Sue is cleverer than Joe, that’s a level 3 difference. She doesn’t have a better brain (level 1), nor a better operating system (level 2), she has better ideas. She has some knowledge he doesn’t. That includes not jt knowledge of facts but also knowledge about rationality, about how to think effectively. E.g. she knows some stuff about how to avoid bias, how to find and correct errors effectively, how to learn from criticism instead of getting angry, or how to interpret disagreements as disagreements instead of as other things like heresy, bad faith, or “not listening”.

    Small hardware differences between people are possible. Sue’s brain might be a 5% faster computer than Joe’s. But this difference is unimportant relative to the impact of culture, ideas, rationality, bias, education, etc. Similarly, small OS differences are possible but they wouldn’t matter much either.

    There are some complications. E.g. imagine a society which extensively tested children on speed of doing addition problems in their head. They care a ton about this. The best performers get educated to be scientists and lower performers do unskilled laborer. Someone with a slightly faster brain or slightly different OS might do better on those tests. Those tests limit the role of ideas. So, in this culture, a small hardware speed advantage could make a huge difference in life outcome including how clever the person is as an adult (due to huge educational differences which were caed by differences in arithmetic speed). But the same hardware difference could have totally different results in a different culture, and in a rational culture it wouldn’t matter much. What differentiates knowledge workers IRL, including scientists and philosophers, is absolutely nothing like that the 99th percentile successful guys are able to get equal quality work done 5% faster than the 20th percentile guys.

    Our actual culture has some stuff kinda like this hypothetical culture, but much more accidental and with less control over your life (there are many different paths to success, so even if a few get blocked, you don’t have to do unskilled labor). It also has similar kinda things based on non-mental attributes like skin color, height, hair color, etc, though again with considerably smaller consequences than the hypothetical where your whole fate is determined jt by addition tests.

    Back to my interpretation of the argument: Beneath a certain threshold of general intelligence, pain—or the experience of having any genetically preprogrammed preference frtrated—may not be interpreted as suffering in the way humans understand it and may not constitute suffering in any meaningful or morally relevant way (even if you otherwise think we have a moral obligation to prevent suffering where we can).

    It’s possible that suffering requires uniquely human metacognition; without the ability to think about pain and preference frtration abstractly, animals might not suffer in any meaningful sense.

    This is a reasonable approximation except that I think preferences are ideas and I don’t think animals have them at all (not even preprogrammed).

    So far (I hope) all I’ve done is restate what’s already been claimed by Elliot in his original post. Whether I’ve helped make it any clearer is probably an open question. Hopefully, Elliot can correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything or if I’ve dumbed it down to a level where it’s fundamentally different from the original argument.

    This is where I think it gets tricky and where a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding has been going on. Here is a snippet of the conversation I linked earlier:

    curi: my position on animals is awkward to e in debates becae it's over 80% background knowledge rather than topical stuff.

    curi: that's part of why i wanted to question their position and ask for literature that i could respond to and criticize, rather than focing on trying to lay out my position which would require e.g. explaining KP and DD which is hard and indirect.

    curi: if they'll admit they have no literature which addresses even basic non-CR issues about computer stuff, i'd at that point be more interested in trying to explain CR to them.

    I’m willing to accept that Elliot is here in good faith; nothing I’ve read on their blog th far looks like an attempt to “own the soyboys” or “DESTROY vegan arguments.” They’re reading Singer (and Korsgaard) and are legitimately looking for literature that compares or contrasts nonhuman animals with AI.

    The problem is—whether they’re right or not—it seems like the foundation of their argument requires a background in CR and theoretical computer science.

    Yes.

    My view: if you want to figure out what’s true, a lot of ideas are relevant. Gotta learn it yourself and/or find a way to outsource some of the work. So e.g. Singer needs to read Popper and Deutsch or contact some people competent to discs whether CR is correct and its implications. And Singer also needs to contact some computer people and ask them and try to meet them in the middle by explaining some of what he does to them so they understand the problems he’s working on, and then they explain some CS principles to him and how they apply to his problems. Something like that.

    That is not happening.

    It ought to actually be easier than that. Instead of contacting people Singer or anyone else could look at the literature. What criticisms of CR have been written? What counter-arguments to those criticisms have CR advocates written? How did those discsions end? You can look at the literature and get a picture of the state of the debate and draw some conclions from that.

    I find people don’t do this much or well. It often falls apart in a specific way. Instead of evaluating the pro-CR and anti-CR arguments –?seeing what answers what, what’s unanswered, etc. – they give up on understanding the issues and jt decide to assume the correctness of whichever side has a significant lead in popularity and prestige.

    The result is, whenever some bad ideas and irrational thinkers become prestigio in a field, it’s quite hard to fix becae people outside the field largely refe to examine the field and see if a minority view’s arguments are actually superior.

    Also, often people jt e common sense about what they assume would be true of other fields instead of consulting literature. So e.g. rather than reading actual inductivist literature (induction is mainstream and is one of the main things CR rejects), most animal researchers and others rely on what they’ve picked up about induction, here and there, jt from being part of an intellectual subculture. Hence there exist e.g. academic papers studying animal intelligence that don’t cite even mainstream epistemology books or papers.

    The current state of the CR vs. induction debate, in my considered and researched opinion, is there don’t actually exist criticisms of CR from anyone who has understood it, and there’s very little willingness to engage in debate by any inductivists. Inductivists are broadly uninterested in learning about a rival idea which they have not understood or refuted. I think ignoring ideas that no one has criticized is something of a maximum for a type of irrationality. And people outside the field (and in the field too) mostly assume that some inductivists somewhere did learn and criticize CR, though people ually don’t have links to specific criticisms, which is a problem. I think it’s important to have sources in other fields that aren’t your own so that if your sources are incorrect they can be criticized and corrected and you can change your mind, whereas if you jt say “people in the field generally conclude X” without citing any particular arguments then it’s very hard to continue the discsion and correct you about X from there.

    From my POV, (a) the argument that suffering may be binary vs. occurring on a spectrum is possible but far from settled and might be unfalsifiable. From my POV, it’s far more likely that animals do suffer in a way that is very different from human suffering but still ethically and categorically relevant.

    That’s a reasonable place to start. What I can say is that if you investigate the details, I think they come out particular way rather conclively. (Actually the nature of arguments, and what is conclive vs. unsettled –?how to evaluate and think about that –?is a part of epistemology, it’s one of the issues I think mainstream epistemology is wrong about. That’s actually the issue where I made my largest personal contribution to CR.)

    If you don’t want to investigate the details, has anyone else done so as your proxy or representative? Has Singer or any other person or group done that work for you? Who has investigated, reached a conclion, written it up, and you’re happy with what they did? If no one has done that, that suggests something is broken with all the intellectuals on your side – there may be a lot of them, but between all of them they aren’t doing much relevant thinking.

    In some ways, the more people believe something and still no one writes detailed arguments and addresses rival ideas well, the more damning it is. In other words, CR has the exce of not having essays to cover every little detail of every mainstream view becae there aren’t many of to write all that and we have ~no funding. The other side has no such exce yet they’re the side, between all those people, has no representatives who will debate! They have plenty of people to have some specialists in refuting CR but they don’t have any.

    Sadly, the same pattern repeats in other areas, e.g. The Failure of the 'New Economics’ by Henry Hazlitt is a point-by-point book-length refutation of Keynes’ main book. It es tons of quotes from Keynes, similar to how I’m replying his this comment ing quotes from pdxthehunted. As far as I know, Hazlitt’s criticisms went unanswered. Note: I think Hazlitt’s level of fame/prestige was loosely comparable to Popper and more than Deutsch; it’s not like he was ignored for being a nobody (which I’d object to too, but that isn’t what happened).

    Large groups of people ignore critical arguments. What does it mean for intellectuals to rationally engage with critics and how can we get people to actually do that? I think it’s one of the world’s larger problems.

    new_grass made a few posts that more eloquently describe that perspective; humans, yelping dogs, and so on evolved from a common ancestor and it seems unlikely that suffering is a uniquely human feature when so many of our other cognitive skills seem to be continuo with other animals.

    New_grass says:

    link

    But this isn't the relevant proposition, unless you think the probability that general intelligence (however you are defining it) is required for the ability to suffer or be conscio is one. And that is absurd, given our current meager understanding of conscioness.

    The relevant question is what the probability is that other animals are conscio, or, if you are a welfarist, whether they can suffer. And that probability is way higher than zero, for the naturalistic reasons I have cited.

    But according to Elliot, our judgment of the conservatism argument hinges on our understanding of CR and Turing computability.

    Does the following sound fair?

    Yeah, I have arguments here covering other cases (the cases of the main issue being suffering or conscioness rather than intelligence) and linking the other cases to the intelligence issue. I think it’s linked.

    If pdxthehunted had an adequate understanding of the Turing principle and CR and their implications on intelligence and suffering, their opinion on *(a)** would change; they would understand why suffering certainly does occur as a binary off/on feature of sufficiently intelligent life.*

    In short, yes. Might have to add a few more pieces of background knowledge.

    Please let me know if I’ve managed to at least get a clearer view of the state of the debate and where communication issues are popping up.

    Frankly, I’ve enjoyed this thread. I’ve learned a lot. I bought DD’s BOI a couple of years ago after listening to his two podcasts with Sam Harris, but never got around to reading it. I’ve bumped it up to next on my reading list and am hoping that I’m in a better position to understand your argument afterward.

    Yeah, comprehensive understanding of DD’s two books covers most of the main issues. That’s hard though. I run the forums where people reading those books (or Popper) can ask questions (it’s this website and an email group with a 25 year history, where DD ed to write thoands of posts, but he doesn’t post anymore).

    Finally--if capacity for suffering hinges on general intelligence, is conscioness relevant to the argument at all?

    To a significant extent, I leave claims about conscioness out of my arguments. I think conscioness is relevant but isn’t necessary to say much about to reach a conclion. I do have to make some claims about conscioness, which some people find pretty easy to accept, but others do deny. These claims include:

    1. Dualism is false.
    2. People don’t have souls and there’s no magic involved with minds.
    3. Conscioness is an emergent property of some computations.
    4. Computation is a purely physical process that is part of physics and obeys the laws of physics. Computers are regular matter like rocks.
    5. Computation takes information as input and outputs information. Information is a physical quantity. It’s part of the physical world.
    6. Some additional details about computation, along similar lines, to further rule out views of conscioness that are incompatible with my position. Like I don’t think conscioness can be a property of particular hardware (like organic molecules –?molecules with carbon instead of silicon) becae of the hardware independence of computation.
    7. I believe that conscioness is an emergent property of (general) intelligence. That claim makes things more convenient, but I don’t think it’s necessary. It’s a stronger claim than necessary. But it’s hard to explain or discs a weaker and adequate claim. There aren’t currently any known alternative claims which make sense given my other premises including CR.

    One more thing. The “general intelligence” terminology comes from the AI field which calls a Roomba’s algorithms AI and then differentiates human-type intelligence from that by calling it AGI. The concept is that a Roomba is intelligent regarding a few specific tasks while a human is able to think intelligently about anything. I’d prefer to say humans are intelligent and a Roomba or moe is not intelligent. This corresponds to how I don’t call my text editor intelligent even though, e.g., it “intelligently” renumbered the items in the above list when I moved dualism to the top. In my view, there’s quite a stark contrast between humans – which can learn, can have ideas, can think about ideas, etc. –?and everything else which can’t do that at all and has nothing worthy of the name “intelligence”. The starkness of this contrast helps explain why I reach a conclion rather than wanting to err on the side of caution re animal welfare. A different and more CR-oriented explanation of the difference is that all knowledge creation functions via evolution (not induction) and only humans have the (software) capacity to do evolution of ideas within their brains. (Evolution = replication with variation and selection.)

    That’s jt the current situation. I do think we can program an AGI which will be jt like , a full person. And yes I do care about AGI welfare and think AGIs should have full rights, freedoms, citizenship, etc. (I’m also, similarly, a big advocate of children’s rights/welfare and I think there’s something wrong with many animal rights/welfare advocates in general that they are more concerned about animal suffering than the suffering of human children. This is something I learned from DD.) I think it’s appalling that in the name of safety (maybe AGIs will want to turn into paperclips for some reason, and will be able to kill all due to being super-intelligent) many AGI researchers advocate working on “friendly AI” which is an attempt to design an AGI with built-in mind control so that, essentially, it’s our slave and is incapable of disagreeing with . I also think these efforts are bound to fail on technical grounds –?AGI researchers don’t understand BoI either, neither its implications for mind control (which is an attempt to take a universal system and limit it with no workarounds, which is basically a lost cae unless you’re willing to lose virtually all functionality) nor its implications for super intelligent AGIs (they’ll jt be universal knowledge creators like , and if you give one a CPU that is 1000x as powerful as a human brain then that’ll be very roughly as good as having 1000 people work on something which is the same compute power.). This, btw, speaks to the importance of some interdisciplinary knowledge. If they understood classical liberalism better, that would help them recognize slavery and refrain from advocating it.


    Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (11)

    Intelligence Isn't Speed

    I explained that intelligence isn't a matter of computing hardware speed.

    Sounds like the IQ vs Universality thing is jt two camps talking past each other.

    Suppose we do believe in the basic premise of universality, that all computers are equally "powerful" in a specific way, namely that there's no problem a sophisticated computer can solve that a simple computer cannot, provided we jt give the simple computer a long enough time frame to solve it in.

    Fair enough. But surely we're also interested in how fast the computer can solve the problems. That's not a trivial factor, especially when we consider that human computers are prone to getting bored, frtrated, confed, or forgetful.

    So maybe when we talk about IQ we're not talking about computational power, but maybe something like computational speed. Or, more likely, computational speed combined with some other personality traits.

    I think computational universality helps change the primary point of interest (re intelligence) to software that is created and modified after birth. You think maybe it makes hardware speed the key place to look re intelligence. FYI, your view is something I've already considered and taken into account.

    You also think some other (genetic) personality traits may be important to intelligence. I don't think so partly becae of a different type of universality: universal intelligence (or universal learning, universal knowledge creating, universal problem solving, same things). Universalities are discsed in The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch. It's important, in these discsions, to keep the two types of universalities separate (universal computer; universal learning/thinking software). I won't go into this point further right now. I'm going to talk about the hardware speed issue.

    Suppose my brain is 100% faster than yours (which sounds like an unrealistically high difference). You will still outperform me, by far, if you e a better algorithm than I do. E.g. if you e an O(N) algorithm to think about something while I'm ing O(N^2).

    That's called Big O notation basically means how many steps it takes to complete the algorithm. N is the number of data points. In this example, you need time proportional to the amount of data. I need time proportional to the square of the amount of data. So for decent sized data sets, you win even if my hardware is twice as fast. E.g. with 10 data points, you win by a a factor of 5. Taking 2 seconds per step, you need 10 * 2 = 20 seconds. I, doing steps in 1 second, need 10^2 = 100 seconds. How does it scale? With 100 data points, you need 200 seconds and I need 100^2 = 10,000 seconds. Now you won by a factor of 50. That factor will go up if there's more data. And the world has a lot of data.

    Exponential differences in Big O complexity between algorithms are common and routinely make a huge difference in processing time – far more than CPU speed. In software we write, lots of work goes into ing algorithms that are only sub-optimal by a linear or constant amount.

    If people think at different speeds, you should probably blame their thinking method (software) rather than their hardware for well over 99% of the difference. Especially becae hardware variation between humans is pretty small.

    But most differences in intelligence are not speed differences anyway. For example, often one human solves a problem and another doesn't solve it at all. The second guy doesn't solve it slower, he fails. He gets stuck and gives up, or won't even begin becae he knows he doesn't understand how to do it. This is partly becae of what knowledge people have or lack (learned information that wasn't inborn), and partly becae of thinking methods (e.g. algorithms which could be fast or exponentially slow depending on how well they're designed). With bad algorithms, the time to finish can be a million years while a good algorithm can do the same task in minutes on a slower CPU.

    There are other crucial non-hardware issues too, e.g. error correction. If you make a thinking mistake, can you recover from that, identify that something has gone wrong, find the problem, and fix it? Some ways of thinking can accomplish that pretty reliably for a wide variety of errors. But some ways of thinking are quite fragile to error. This is leads to wildly different thinking results that aren't due to hardware speed.

    I'll close with an explanation of these issues from David Deutsch, from my interview with him:

    David: As to innate intelligence: I don't think that can possibly exist becae of the universality of computation. Basically, intelligence or any kind of measure of quality of thinking is a measure of quality of software, not hardware. People might say, "Well, what hardware you have might affect how well your software can address problems." But becae of universality, that isn't so: we know that hardware can at most affect the speed of computation. The thing that people call intelligence in everyday life — like the ability of some people like Einstein or Feynman to see their way through to a solution to a problem while other people can't — simply doesn't take the form that the person you regard as 'unintelligent' would take a year to do something that Einstein could do in a week; it's not a matter of speed. What we really mean is the person can't understand at all what Einstein can understand. And that cannot be a matter of (inborn) hardware, it is a matter of (learned) software.


    Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)

    Error Identifying Superpower

    Suppose, hypothetically, that you had a superpower. It's the ability to find errors in academic papers (it works on books, blog posts, tweets, etc., too).

    You can do it for most fields.

    So I pick a field, e.g. animal intelligence, and you say "sure I can do that field", and I select 10 papers in the field. Then you find five errors in every paper. And not typos, significant errors. Mostly conceptual errors.

    What would you do with your superpower? How could it be ed to accomplish much of anything?

    It may sound kind of amazing. But I claim it'd be hard to get much value out of it. People, broadly, don't want to hear about errors. And they will say you don't have any credentials and assume you're wrong without listening even though, hypothetically, you're right about 100% of the errors you point out.

    Comment below with your plan to e this superpower.


    Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)

    TheCriticalRat posted my article Animal Rights Issues Regarding Software and AGI on the Debate A Vegan SubReddit.

    This post shares a discsion highlight where I wrote something I consider interesting and important. The main issue is about the inadequacy of academia.

    The two large blockquotes are messages from pdxthehunted and the non-quotes are me. I made judgment calls about newline spacing for reproducing pdxthehunted's messages and I changed the format for the two footnotes.

    This came up a few weeks ago, when u/curi was posing questions on this subreddit. I looked through some of Elliot's work then and did so again jt now. I'm not accing them of being here in bad faith--they seem like they are legitimately interested in thinking about this topic and are asking interesting questions/making interesting claims.

    That being said, they also seem to have little or no formal education in philosophy of mind or AGI. All of their links to who they are circle back to their own commercial website/blog, where they sell their services as a rationalist philosopher/consultant. It appears that they are (mostly) self-taught. Their (supposed)[1] connection to David Deutsch is why I bothered even to look further.

    I don't think you need to have a degree to understand even advanced tenets in philosophy of mind or artificial intelligence. The problem here is that Elliot seems to have written an enormo amount--possibly thoands of pages--but has never been published in any peer-reviewed journal (at least none that I have access to through my community college) and so their credibility is questionable. Judging from their previo interactions on this sub, Elliot seems to have created their own curriculum and field of expertise.

    I was impressed by the scope and serioness of their work (the little I took the time to read). Still, it's very problematic for debate: they seem to be looking for someone who has the exact same intellectual background as they do--but without any kind of standardization, it's very hard to know what that is without investing possibly hundreds of hours into reading his corp. This is the benefit of academic credentials; we can engage with someone under the assumption that they know what they're talking about. Most of Elliot's citations and links are to their own blog--not to any peer-reviewed, actual science. I spect that's why they've left the caveat that "blog posts are okay."

    A very quick browse through Academic Search Premier found over 100 published peer-reviewed journal articles on nonhuman animals and general intelligence. I browsed the abstracts of the first three, all of which discs general intelligence in nonhuman animals. General intelligence is hard to define--especially in a way that doesn't immediately bias it in favor of humans--but even looking at the ual spects in cognition demonstrate that many animals possess it unless we move the goalposts to human-specific achievements like writing symphonies or building spacecraft (which of course leaves the vast majority of all humans who've ever existed in the cold).

    In short--not to be rude or dismissive--but the reason that animal rights activists aren't concerned about the "algorithms" that animals have that "give them the capacity to suffer" (forgive me if I'm misquoting) is that it is a non-issue. No serio biologists doubt that nonhuman animals (at least mammals and birds) can have preferences for or against different mental states and that those preferences can be frtrated or thwarted. Pain and suffering are fitness-selecting traits that allowed animals to avoid danger and seek nourishment and mates. I'm not an expert in any of your claimed domains; that being said, to believe that conscioness and the capacity to suffer evolved only in one species of primate demonstrates a shockingly naive understanding of evolution, philosophy of mind, cognitive science/neuroscience, and biology.

    Similar questions can be asked about general intelligence. My answer to that is we don’t entirely know. We haven’t yet written an AGI. So what should we think in the meantime? We can look at whether all animal behavior is consistent with non-AGI, non-conscio, non-suffering robots with the same sorts of features and design as present day software and robots that we have created and do understand. Is there any evidence to differentiate an animal from non-AGI software? I’m not aware of any, although I’ve had many people point me to examples of animal behavior that are blatantly compatible with non-AGI programming algorithms.

    There is no "scoop" here. There are a few serio philosophers I've read--Daniel Dennett, for instance--who I think make similar arguments as you're making here, which we can call the "animals as automata" meme. The very fact that you believe that cows show no more intelligence than a self-driving car makes me feel very spicio that you don't know what you're talking about. Nick Bostrum basically states in his AI op Superintelligence that if humans managed to emulate a rodent mind, we would have mostly solved human-level AGI.

    To claim that there are "no examples" of an animal doing something that a non-AGI robot couldn't[2] do discredits your entire thesis--you're either woefully misinformed, or disingenuo. Again, I'm very impressed by your (Elliot's) obvio dedication to learning and thinking. Still, I don't think this argument is even to the point where it's refined enough to take serioly. There's so much wrong with it that betrays not jt a lack of competence in adjacent disciplines but also an arrogance around the author's imagined brilliance that it feels awkward and unrewarding to engage with.

    EDIT 12/2: [1] Connection to Deutsch--though not necessarily relevant to this argument--is not overstated.

    [2] Changed would to couldn't

    Suppose I'm right about ~everything. What should I do that would fix these problems?

    Thanks for the response. Also, I checked the Beginning of Infinity and saw that you don't seem to be exaggerating your claim (obvioly you know this--I'm mentioning it for any skeptics). Elliot Temple is not only listed in the acknowledgments of BOI, but they are given special thanks from the author. That's very cool, regardless of anything else. Congratulations. I'm hesitant to do too much cognitive work for you on how to fix your problems--it sounds like you're ed to charging people a fair amount of money to do the same. Still, I engaged with you here, so I'll let you know what I think.

    Read More

    You need to become better read in adjacent fields--cognitive neuroscience, ethology, evolutionary biology, ethics--these are jt a few that come up off the top of my head. If you're right about more or less everything, peer-reviewed research done by actual scientists in most of these fields should agree with your thesis. If it doesn't, make a weaker claim.

    Publish

    Right now, your argument is formatted as a blog post. Anyone with access to a computer is technically capable of self-publishing thoands of pages of their thoughts. Write an article and submit it to an academic journal for peer review. Any publication that survives the peer-review process will give you more credibility. I'm not saying that's fair, but it is a eful heuristic for nonexperts to decide whether or not you are worth their time. An alternative would be to see your blog posts cited in books by experts (for instance, Eliezer Yudkowsky has no formal secondary education, but his ideas are good enough that he is credited by other experts in his field).

    Empiricism/Falsifiability

    As it currently stands, you're essentially making a claim and insisting that others disprove it. This, of course, is acceptable as a Reddit discsion or a blog post--but is not suitable for uncovering the truth. I can insist that my pet rock has a subjective experience and refe to believe otherwise unless someone can prove it to me, but I won't be taken serioly (nor should I be). Could you design an experiment that tests a falsifiable claim about nonhuman animal general intelligence? (Or, alternatively, find one that has already been published demonstrating that only humans possess it?) What would it look like?

    What computations, what information processing, what inputs or outputs to what algorithms, what physical states of computer systems like brains indicates or is conscioness? I have the same question for suffering too.

    We don't know the answer to these questions. Staking your thesis on possible answers to open questions might be a way to stalemate internet debates, but won't deepen your or anyone else's understanding.

    Gatekeeping

    You're widely read and the depth of your knowledge/understanding in some areas is significant. You need to recognize that some people will have different foundations than yours--they might be very well-read on evolutionary biology--but have less of an understanding of Turing computability. Instead of rudely dismissing arguments that are outside of the disciplines you're most comfortable with, try to meet these people on their level. What do they have to teach you? What thinkers can they expose you to? Your self-curated curriculum is impressive but uneven and far from comprehensive. Try a little humility. Assuming you're right about everything, you should be able to communicate it to experts outside of your field.

    Closing

    I think that advice is good whether or not you're correct; if you are, people far more intelligent than I should start to recognize it. If you aren't, you might be able to clarify where you went wrong and either abandon your claim or reformulate it to make a weaker--but possibly true--version.

    Lastly, I encourage anyone observing from the sidelines to e Google Scholar or similar if you have an interest in animal general intelligence. I linked an article above; here it is again. The article references 60 others and has been cited in 14. This does not mean that the authors' findings are replicable or ironclad, but again--it is a eful heuristic in deciding what kind of probability we want to assign to the likelihood it is on the right track, especially when the alternative is trying to read through hundreds of pages of random blog posts so that we can meet an interlocutor on their level.

    To find that article, I searched for "general intelligence in animals" ing Academic Search Premier. Pubmed and Google Scholar might find similar results. I filtered out all articles that were not subject to peer review or were published before 2012. It was the 4th search result out of over 50 published in the last seven years. Science may never be finished or solvable, but nonhuman animal's capacity to learn, have intentional states, preferences, and experience pain are not really still open questions in relevant disciplines.

    If I'm right about ~everything, that includes my views of the broad irrationality of academia and the negative value of current published research in many of the fields in question.

    For example, David Deutsch's static meme idea, available in BoI, was rejected for academic publication ~20 years earlier. Academia gatekeeps to keep out ideas they don't want to hear, and they don't really debate what's true much in journals. It's like a highly moderated forum with biased moderators following unwritten and inconsistent rules (like reddit but stricter!).

    My arguments re animals are largely Deutsch's. He taught me his worldview. The reason he doesn't write it up and publish it in a journal is becae (he believes that) it either wouldn't be published or wouldn't be listened to (and it would alienate people who will listen to his physics papers). The same goes for many other important ideas he has. Being in the Royal Society, etc., is inadequate to effectively get past the academic gatekeeping (to get both published and serioly, productively engaged with). I don't think a PhD and 20 published papers would help either (especially not with issues involving many fields at once). I don't think people would, at that point, start considering and learning different ideas than what they already have, e.g. learning Critical Rationalism so they could apply that framework to animal rights to reach a conclion like "If Critical Rationalism is true, then animal rights is wrong." (And CR is not the only controversial premise I e that people are broadly ignorant of, so it's harder than that.) People commonly dismiss others, despite many credentials, if they don't like the message. I don't think playing the game of authority and credentials – an irrational game – will solve the problem of people's disinterest in truth-seeking. This is view of academia is, again, a view Deutsch taught me.

    Karl Popper published a ton but was largely ignored. Thomas Szasz too. There are many other examples. Even if I got published, I could easily be treated like e.g. Richard Lindzen who has published articles doubting some claims about global warming.

    Instead of rudely dismissing arguments that are outside of the disciplines you're most comfortable with, try to meet these people on their level.

    If I'm right about ~everything (premise), that includes that I'm right about my understanding of evolutionary biology, which is an area I've studied a lot (as has Deutsch). That's not outside my comfort zone.

    I think that advice is good whether or not you're correct; if you are, people far more intelligent than I should start to recognize it.

    We disagree about the current state of the world. How many smart people exist, how many competent people exist in what fields, how reasonable are intellectuals, what sort of things do they do, etc. You mention Eliezer Yudkowsky, who FYI agrees with me about this something like this particular issue, e.g. he denies "civilizational adequacy", and says the world is on fire, in Hero Licenscing. OTOH, he's also the same guy who took moderator action to suppress discsion of Critical Rationalism on his site becae – according to him – it was downvoted a lot (factually there were lots of downvotes, but I mean he actually said that was his reason for taking moderator action – so basically jt suppressing unpopular ideas on the basis that they are unpopular). He has publicly claimed Critical Rationalism is crap but has never written anything substantive about that and won't debate, answer counter-arguments, or endorse any criticism of Critical Rationalism written by someone else (and I'm pretty confident there is no public evidence that he knows much about CR).

    The reason I asked about how to fix this is I think your side of the debate, including academic institutions and their alleged adequacy, are blocking error correction. They don't allow any reasonable or realistic way that, if I'm right, it gets fixed. FYI I've written about the general topic of how intellectuals are closed to ideas and what rational methods of truth seeking look like, e.g. Paths Forward. The basic theme of that article is about doing intellectual activities in such a way that, if you're wrong, and someone knows you're wrong, and they're willing to tell you, you don't prevent them from correcting you. Currently ~everyone is doing that wrong. (Of course there are difficulties like how to do this in a time-efficient manner, which I go into. It's not an easy problem to solve but I think it is solvable.)

    Lastly, I encourage anyone observing from the sidelines to e Google Scholar or similar if you have an interest in animal general intelligence. I linked an article above; here it is again.

    PS, FYI it's readily apparent from the first sentence of the abstract of that article that it's based on an intellectual framework which contradicts the one in The Beginning of Infinity. It views intelligence in a different way than we do, which mt be partly due to some epistemology ideas which are not stated or cited in the paper. And it doesn't contain the string "compu" so it isn't engaging with our framework re computation either (instead it's apparently making unstated, uncited background assumptions again, which I fear may not even be thought through).

    I guess you'll think that, in that case, I should debate epistemologists, not animal rights advocates. Approach one of the biggest points of disagreements more directly. I don't object to that. I do foc a lot on epistemology and issues closer to it. The animal welfare thing is a side project. But the situation in academic epistemology has the same problems I talked about in my sibling post and is, overall, IMO, worse. Also, even if I convinced many epistemologists, that might not help much, considering lots of what I was saying about computation is already a standard (sorta, see quote) view among experts. Deutsch actually complains about that last issue in The Fabric of Reality (bold text emphasized by me):

    The Turing principle, for instance, has hardly ever been serioly doubted as a pragmatic truth, at least in its weak forms (for example, that a universal computer could render any physically possible environment). Roger Penrose's criticisms are a rare exception, for he understands that contradicting the Turing principle involves contemplating radically new theories in both physics and epistemology, and some interesting new assumptions about biology too. Neither Penrose nor anyone else has yet actually proposed any viable rival to the Turing principle, so it remains the prevailing fundamental theory of computation. Yet the proposition that artificial intelligence is possible in principle, which follows by simple logic from this prevailing theory, is by no means taken for granted. (An artificial intelligence is a computer program that possesses properties of the human mind including intelligence, conscioness, free will and emotions, but runs on hardware other than the human brain.) The possibility of artificial intelligence is bitterly contested by eminent philosophers (including, alas, Popper), scientists and mathematicians, and by at least one prominent computer scientist. But few of these opponents seem to understand that they are contradicting the acknowledged fundamental principle of a fundamental discipline. They contemplate no alternative foundations for the discipline, as Penrose does. It is as if they were denying the possibility that we could travel to Mars, without noticing that our best theories of engineering and physics say that we can. Th they violate a basic tenet of rationality — that good explanations are not to be discarded lightly.

    But it is not only the opponents of artificial intelligence who have failed to incorporate the Turing principle into their paradigm. Very few others have done so either. The fact that four decades passed after the principle was proposed before anyone investigated its implications for physics, and a further decade passed before quantum computation was discovered, bears witness to this. People were accepting and ing the principle pragmatically within computer science, but it was not integrated with their overall world-view.

    I think we live in a world where you can be as famo as Turing, have ~everyone agree you're right, and still have many implications of your main idea substantively ignored for decades (or forever. Applying Turing to physics is a better result than has happened with many other ideas, and Turing still isn't being applied to AI adequately). As Yudkowsky says, it's not an adequate world.


    Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (8)

    Division of Labor and Experts: Generally Great but Sometimes Overrated

    Our society has had great success due to the division of labor. People economically specialize. We have farmers, lawyers, barbers, bakers, security guards, inventors, novelists, architects, engineers, programmers, managers, marketers, etc.

    Division of labor is far more efficient than everyone living independently and doing a little of each job. It lets people foc a large portion of their time, attention and learning on one area. As a result, they get better at it.

    Trade is what makes division of labor work. I don't farm or bake but I can trade for corn and bread. Trade is how I benefit from other people doing something.

    This system plays a big role in our lives. We're all familiar with it even if we don't really think about it or study economics. Besides providing material prosperity, it has led to certain psychological attitudes.

    I don't know how most things work and I get them from specialists. I don't know how to repair a car so I rely on a mechanic. I don't know how to write a good poem so I get poems from poets. I don't know how to paint so I get my paintings from people who do. I do know how to create software, but I still get most of my software from other people who specialize in that particular type of software.

    People have developed an attitude of not knowing how most things work and not needing to. Someone else will do it better than I would, anyway. For almost everything, there is a specialist who's better at it than me. If I do it, other than my career, it's jt a hobby for fun.

    This attitude is partly reasonable but partly dangero. People can overestimate experts.

    There don't actually exist good specialists for every speciality. Some areas have too few people working in them, e.g. life extension, AGI or epistemology. In some areas, tons of experts are wrong, e.g. Keynesian economists and Kantian philosophers.

    People overestimate medicine's ability to fix their problems. Many surgeries and medications are cruder and less effective than people think. It's good that they exist. They're good options to have. But they aren't jt safe, perfectly effective and wonderful. They're risky and doctors downplay the risks and side effects. Doctors can't fix everything and lots of the fixes have a meaningful chance of breaking something.

    Worse are experts for mental, not physical, problems. Sad? Go talk to a "professional" to get help for your "depression". Marriage problems? There's an expert for that. Kid doesn't listen in school? There are experts for that. But these people don't know much about ideas. They are neither philosohpers nor scientists. They can give some basic self-help advice and they can e social pressure to manipulate people. The whole field isn't merely largely ineffective, it's dangero with its brain-disabling drugs, it's imprisonment without trial ("involuntary commitment"), and how it misdirects people away from solving their own problems with self-improvement, studying better ideas, and other productive activities.

    Experts encourage people to be irresponsible. Don't worry about it, the expert is responsible for getting a good outcome. But people are often disappointed by the outcome the expert provides. It's your life. You have to live with the outcome. You need to judge which experts are effective enough and when you need to take matters into your own hands.

    Many types of experts are fine. People who produce material goods for sale are broadly OK. People who provide relatively simple or easily evaluated services are broadly OK. The longer term the issue is, and the more ongoing interaction with the specialist is needed, the more you should be careful.

    The most dangero experts that people consult direct are "mental health" experts. That whole indtry is poison.

    The capabilities of physical doctors are overestimated but they're basically on your side, try to help, and mostly make things better. Mental doctors make a lot of things worse. Many people regret interacting with them, and others are brainwashed/indoctrinated/pressured to the point they have trouble thinking critically about it and forming an independent opinion of their psychology or psychiatry experiences.

    The most dangero experts that people deal with indirectly are philosophers. Most people don't read philosophy books but they pick up ideas, here and there, about learning, knowledge, critical thinking, reason, morality, political principles, the metaphysical nature of reality, etc. Many of those ideas are badly wrong. They lead to people being irrational, unerasonable, bad at learning, biased, etc., which makes things worse throughout their lives. Economists also spread a ton of really bad ideas to people indirectly.


    Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (9)

    Childing a Child

    Many people think "gendering" a child might be bad.

    That means: Teaching the boy role to a boy might be bad. Teaching the girl role to a girl might be bad.

    No one considers that that teaching the child role to a child might be bad.

    I think the child role is more impactful (for good or bad) than a gender role. There's a much larger difference between young children (e.g. a 5 year old) and adults than between men and women. I'd estimate that under 20% of the adult/child difference is due to the child's learned social role, but the social role is still a big factor.

    The child social role has a lasting impact after childhood. People don't jt forget being children. And people transition in stages where they e.g. put effort into differentiating themselves from a child. When reacting to a former role is a significant part of one's life, then that role is still impactful.

    Adults put substantial ongoing effort into avoid being childlike. It prevents them from doing much learning. They don't want to be beginners or learners becae that's for children. It also prevents adults from having some types of fun. Curiosity is another childish trait which adults suppress a lot of.

    Most people are mostly respectful of both genders. They don't have a significant grudge against either gender. By contrast, people are frequently hateful of the child role. They dislike and mistreat children routinely. Teaching your offspring a social role that you don't respect, then disrespecting them for years, is a nasty system. People think children are stupid and e the fact that they do child social role behaviors –?while adults don't – as proof.


    Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)

    Research and Discsions About Animal Rights and Welfare

    I made Discsion Tree: State of Animal Rights Debate. My tree diagram summarizes pro-animal-rights arguments from Peter Singer and asks some questions about major issues he didn’t cover. It reveals that his arguments were incomplete. The incompleteness I’ve foced on is that they don’t address issues related to computers and software. Maybe animals are like self-driving cars with some extra features, not like humans. Self-driving cars aren’t intelligent, conscio or capable of suffering. Singer doesn’t try to address that issue.

    I did additional research to find arguments to add to my discsion tree. I found no answers to basic computer science questions from the animal welfare advocates.

    I posted to five pro animal rights forums asking for links to written material (like books, articles, or blog posts) making arguments that Singer didn’t make, so I could read about why they’re right. I received no relevant responses and almost zero interest.

    Later, I and others posted to eleven more places. Although this resulted in a bunch of discsion, I was not referred to a single piece of relevant literature. No one had a single piece of evidence to differentiate animals from fancy self-driving cars, nor any substantive argument. Many people insulted me. None had a scientific, materialist worldview, incorporating computer science principles, and could give any argument against my position which is compatible with that type of worldview. Nor did they give arguments that that kind of worldview is false. No one said anything that could plaibly have changed my mind. And people didn’t quote from my discsion tree and respond, nor suggest text for a new node. I linked and documented lots of the discsion on this page.

    I was referred to dozens of pieces of literature, but none were relevant. In general, searching for terms like “software”, “hardware”, “algorithm” and “compu” immediately showed the source was irrelevant.

    I also went to a vegan Discord for a YouTube debater to ask if they could help me improve my discsion tree diagram. I streamed what happened. Summary: They laughed at my view, then asked me to debate in voice chat (instead of giving literature), then banned me for not responding in 30 seconds while they knew I was by fixing an audio issue.

    This illtrates several things. First, my discsion tree shows how you can begin researching a topic in an organized way. You can pick a topic and create something similar. If you want to learn, it’s a great approach.

    Second, there’s a serio lack of interest in discsion or debate in the world, and most people are quite ignorant and don’t even know of sources which argue why their beliefs are correct. They have some sources for why they’re right and rival views X and Y are wrong, but no answer to view Z, and will jt keep giving you their answers to X and Y. Are you better or do you know of anyone who is better? Speak up.

    Third, animal rights advocates broadly don’t know anything about computers and software and haven’t tried to update their thinking to take that stuff into account. Sad!

    I encourage people to try creating a discsion tree on a topic that interests them, then ask for help finding sources and adding arguments to it. See what people, with what conclions, have anything they’re willing to contribute, or not. You’ll learn a lot about the topic and about the rationality of the advocates of each viewpoint. It’ll help you judge issues yourself instead of deferring to the conclions of experts (rather than their arguments). Even if you were happy to defer to expert opinions, it’s hard becae experts disagree with each other; a discsion tree can help you organize those expert arguments.

    You can also e discsion trees to organize and keep track of debates/discsions you have –?as the conversation goes along, keep notes in a tree diagram.

    I made a video covering these events and more. It’s from when I’d gotten almost no answers, rather than a bunch of bad answers. And I streamed a bunch of my discsions when I got bad answers.

    While discsing, I wrote several additional blog posts, including a second discsion tree.


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    Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)

    Human and Animal Differences

    In the comments below, reply saying which is the first sentence you disagree with, and why you disagree.

    Minds are software. Suffering is a state of mind. Physical information signals, whether from the eyes or from pain nerves, have to be processed by the software before they can cae suffering, be liked or disliked, etc. Before that they're jt raw data and no meaning has been determined yet by the conscio mind.?
    Brains (both human and animal) are universal classical computers. The hardware between humans and some animals is similar. Hardware similarity doesn't tell you about software similarity. Computation is hardware independent. Similar or even identical hardware can run totally different computations. Studying hardware and comparing hardware similarities is a red herring.

    All animal behavior follows algorithms specified by their genes. Human genes specify a different type of algorithm – general intelligence?– which involves the ability to create/design new knowledge, jt as biological evolution created/designed the knowledge of optics in our eyes, the knowledge for how to build a computer out of neurons, the knowledge for what situations a rabbit should run away in, etc. General intelligence is the ability to evolve new knowledge. It’s the ability to replicate ideas with variation and selection, jt as biological evolution proceeds by replicating genes with variation and selection. With animals, all the knowledge comes from biological evolution. Humans can do evolution of ideas inside their brains to create new knowledge, animals can’t.


    Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

    The Cambridge Declaration on Conscioness

    The Cambridge Declaration on Conscioness (2012):

    The field of Conscioness research is rapidly evolving. Abundant new techniques and strategies for human and non-human animal research have been developed. Consequently, more data is becoming readily available, and this calls for a periodic reevaluation of previoly held preconceptions in this field.

    ok

    Studies of non-human animals have shown that homologo brain circuits correlated with conscio experience and perception can be selectively facilitated and disrupted to assess whether they are in fact necessary for those experiences. Moreover, in humans, new non-invasive techniques are readily available to survey the correlates of conscioness.

    No. Wrong jt in this summary, unsourced, and focing on correlation instead of caation.

    You can’t tell what is “necessary” by turning some things on and off. You turn off X and then Y doesn’t happen. Does that mean X is necessary to Y? No, some Z you didn’t consider could cae or allow Y. So they’re making a basic logic error.

    And how can you do a correlation study involving “conscio experience” in non-human animals? How do you know if or when they have any conscio experience at all?

    The neural substrates of emotions do not appear to be confined to cortical structures.

    These people don’t seem to understand the hardware independence of computation. Or they think emotions are non-computational or something. But they don’t explain what they think and address the computer science issues.

    In fact, subcortical neural networks aroed during affective states in humans are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals.

    Wait lol, after they brought up emotions the next sentence (this one) switches from emotions to “emotional behaviors”. Emotional behaviors are behaviors which look emotional according to some cultural intuitions of some researchers. This ain’t science.

    The rest is more of the same crap that doesn’t address the issues or give sources, so I’m stopping now.


    Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)

    Animal Rights Issues Regarding Software and AGI

    Claim: Animal rights may be refuted by advanced Critical Rationalist (CR) epistemology, including the jump to universality, but most people (pro or anti animal rights) haven’t read and understood The Beginning of Infinity and have a different view of epistemology. Given that ignorance of CR, their belief in animal rights is reasonable. And their failure to understand my questions and challenges of their beliefs is also reasonable. (This claim is based on a comment by TheRat on Discord.)

    I disagree with that claim. The purpose of this post is to restate my main question/challenge for animal rights and then to argue that it should be understandable, and be seen as an issue worth answering, by someone who has never heard of CR. The issue is related to software not CR. I will further claim that a non-programmer should be able to understand the question/problem/issue and see that it matters (even though he’ll have a hard time reaching a conclion about the answer without being able to understand code).

    Note: I do have other arguments against animal rights which rely on CR.

    The Programmer’s Challenge to Animal Rights

    Claim: Animals are complex robots. Humans are different becae they have general intelligence – the thing that AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) researchers are trying to program but haven’t yet been able to. All known and documented animal behavior is compatible with animals lacking general intelligence (example).

    Animals are built with with different materials (more carbon, less metal). This difference is irrelevant. Similarly, the “artificial” in Artificial General Intelligence doesn’t matter either.

    Animals are fundamentally similar to a self-driving car, to board game playing software in a robot with (or without) an arm that can move the pieces around the board, and to “AI” controlled video game characters. Those, like all human-written software that exists today, are all examples of non-AGI (non-general intelligence) algorithms. And the lack of a physical body in some cases important (a robot body could be built and added without changing the intelligence of the software).

    Brains of both animals and humans are universal classical computers (Turing complete), jt like Macs and iPhones, which run software. The relevant differences are software algorithm differences. People who deny this are ignorant and/or unscientific.

    Further Explanation

    All software we know how to write today is inadequate to achieve general intelligence. So to claim animals have moral rights like humans, people should argue that animals do things which fundamentally differ from current software. So far I have been unable to find any serio attempt to do this.

    Alternatively, someone could come up with a distinguishing feature of software algorithms other than having or lacking general intelligence, show that some animals have that feature, and explain why that feature has moral relevance. I’ve also been unable to find any serio attempt to do this.

    Whether general intelligence has moral relevance is non-obvio. Regardless, a reasonable person should agree it might have major moral relevance and therefore this is an issue worth investigating for those about animal rights. If there is no animal rights literature trying to do this sort of analysis, and addressing these issues, that’s a significant gap in their arguments.

    People denying that general intelligence has moral relevance should specify what else humans have, which robots lack, which they think has moral relevance. A common answer to that is the capacity to suffer. I have been unable to find any animal rights literature that tries to differentiate humans or AGIs from self-driving cars and non-AGI software in terms of ability to suffer. What is it about a human’s software, what trait matters other than general intelligence, that grants the capacity to suffer? If they answered that, then we could investigate whether animal software has that trait or not.

    I think capacity to suffer is related to general intelligence becae suffering involves making value judgments like not wanting a particular outcome or thinking something is bad. Suffering involves having preferences/wants which you then don’t get. I don’t think it’s possible without the ability to consider alternatives and make value judgments about which you prefer, which requires creative thought and the ability to create new knowledge, think of new things. This is a very brief argument which I’m not going to elaborate on here. My main goal is to challenge animal rights advocates. What is their position on this matter and where are their arguments?

    What I’ve mostly found is that people don’t want to think about computer algorithms. They don’t know how to program and they aren’t scientists. They don’t know (or deny without educated arguments) that brains are literally universal classical computers (Turing complete), that information and computation is part of physical reality and physics, that human minds are literally equivalent to some sort of software, and other things like that. That’s OK. Not everyone is an expert.

    That’s why I’ve been asking (see the comments in addition to the post) to be referred to literature from someone who does know how to program, understands some of these basic issues, and then makes a case for animal rights. Where are the people with relevant expertise about computers and AGI who favor animal rights and write arguments? I can’t find any. That’s bad for the case for animal rights!

    Note: My relevant views on AGI are mainstream for the field. I disagree with the mainstream views in the AGI field on some advanced details, but the basic stuff I’m discsing here is widely agreed on. That doesn’t prove it’s true or anything, but a mainstream view merits some analysis and argument rather than being ignored. (Even obscure views often merit a reply, but I won’t get into that.) If animal rights advocates have failed to consider mainstream AGI ideas, that’s bad.

    Conscioness

    Besides suffering and general intelligence, the other main trait brought up in animal rights discsions is conscioness. If animals are conscio, that gives them moral value. These three traits are related, e.g. conscioness seems to be a prerequisite of suffering, and conscioness may be a prerequisite or consequence of general intelligence.

    What computations, what information processing, what inputs or outputs to what algorithms, what physical states of computer systems like brains indicates or is conscioness? I have the same question for suffering too.

    Similar questions can be asked about general intelligence. My answer to that is we don’t entirely know. We haven’t yet written an AGI. So what should we think in the meantime? We can look at whether all animal behavior is consistent with non-AGI, non-conscio, non-suffering robots with the same sorts of features and design as present day software and robots that we have created and do understand. Is there any evidence to differentiate an animal from non-AGI software? I’m not aware of any, although I’ve had many people point me to examples of animal behavior that are blatantly compatible with non-AGI programming algorithms. Humans are different becae lots of their behavior is not explainable in terms of current software algorithms. Humans create new knowledge, e.g. about spaceships and vaccines, that isn’t programmed in their genes. And humans do that regarding many different topics, seemingly all, hence the idea of “general” intelligence. I have yet to see evidence that any animal does that on even one topic, let alone generally.

    Many of the arguments about conscioness involve the rejection of what I regard as science. E.g. they advocate dualism –?they claim that there is something other than the material world. They claim that conscioness is a fundamental, non-physical part of reality. They deny that physics can explain and account for everything that exists.

    I regard dualism as bad philosophy but I won’t go into that. I’ll jt say that if the case for animal rights relies on the rejection of modern physics and the scientific-materialist view of the world, they’ve got a serio problem which they should address. Where can I read literature telling me why I should change my view of science and accept claims like theirs, which addresses the kind of doubts an atheist who believes in objective physical reality would have? I haven’t gotten any answers to that so far. Instead I’m told assertions which I regard as factually false, e.g. that information is not physical. People who say things like that seem to be unfamiliar with standard views in physics (example paper).

    The Argument for Conservatism

    Animal rights advocates claim that, if in doubt, we should err on the side of caution. If the science and philosophy of mind isn’t fully figured out, then we should assume animals have moral value jt in case they do. Even if there’s only a 1% chance that animals have rights, it’s a bad idea to slaughter them by the millions. I agree.

    Pro-life (anti-abortion) advocates make the same argument regarding human fetes. The science and philosophy aren’t fully settled, so when in doubt we should avoid the chance of murdering millions of human beings, even if it’s a low chance. I agree with that too. I think most animal rights advocates disagree with that or refe to take it into account so that they can favor abortion. I think this indicates some political bias and double standards. I imagine there are some pro-life animal rights activists, but I think most aren’t, which I think is screwy.

    Despite agreeing with these arguments, I’m pro-abortion and pro-slaughtering-farm-animals. The reason I favor abortion is I don’t have any significant doubt about whether a 3 month old fet, which doesn’t not yet have a brain with electrical activity, is intelligence. I haven’t carefully researched the scientific details about abortion?(I would if I was actually deciding the law), but from what I’ve seen, banning third trimester abortions is a reasonable and conservative option.

    The reason I favor slaughtering cows is that I have no significant doubt about whether a cow has general intelligence. I’ve seen zero indicators that it does, and I’ve debated many people about this, asked many animal rights advocates for things to read which argue their case, asked for examples of animals doing things which are different than what a non-AGI robot could do, and so on. The total lack of relevant counter-argument from the other side is jt the same as with abortion and is about equally conclive. When all the arguments go one way, one can reasonably reach a conclion and act on it instead of endlessly doubting. (When argument X has logical priority over Y, then Y is excluded from “all the arguments”. And when argument P is conclively refuted by argument Q, then P is excluded from “all the arguments”.)

    My Expertise

    Becae I’m asking for arguments from someone familiar with software and AGI rather than from jt anyone, I think it’s fair that I share my own background.

    I’m a philosopher and programmer. My speciality is epistemology (the philosophy of knowledge, including how to think, learn and reason, and how to evaluate ideas and arguments). I study and contribute to the Critical Rationalist epistemology of Karl Popper and David Deutsch, which I believe is important to making progress on AGI. David Deutsch, a physicist, philosopher and programmer, was my mentor and taught me a lot about philosophy and physics. He’s an award-winning pioneer of quantum computing, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and an author.

    I’m a professional programmer with over a decade of work experience, but the software I work on isn’t related to AGI. I’ve read books about AI, watched talks, learned and coded some of the algorithms, talked with people in the field, etc.

    Conclion

    Non-programmer animal rights advocates ought to be able to see that someone, some expert, should address the issue of whether humans are animals are differentiated by general intelligence. They should argue that animals have general intelligence (or argue that humans don’t have it) or explain some other sort of software/algorithm/code difference between animals and present day, non-AGI robots and software. If no one can do that and address the computational issues, the remaining option in favor of animal rights is to reject science.

    I’m seeking thoughtful, competent written arguments address these issues. Blog posts are OK, not jt academic material. I challenge anyone who favors animal rights to refer me to such literature in the comments below.


    Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (10)

    Discsion about Animal Rights and Popper

    This discsion is from the Fallible Ideas Discord. Join link.

    Context: Discsion Tree: State of Animal Rights Debate and in the comments you'll see that I went to some animal rights forums and asked for responses. And, after they had no literature to refer me to, I got banned from the Ask Yourself vegan debate Discord for not responding fast enough while troubleshooting an audio issue.

    TheRat: curi, re the vegan thing. How could science demonstrate that animals can suffer (interpret pain as bad etc...) or how could we falsify that animals are not robots? Would this not require to understand conscioness first? Would this not be in the realm of philosophy vs science? btw I think you're right but I don't know what would change my mind.
    curi: knowledge creating animals. humans routinely do things we can't explain as non-AGI algorithms. let's see an animal do one. it's clearer if you get several different sorts of things, e.g. poetry, engineering, art, chess.
    curi: you have to be careful about what counts cuz e.g. beavers do something that could be called engineering. but only a specific type that is encoded in their genes, they don't do it more generally.
    curi: i'm not aware of any animal researcher with a halfway sophisticated understanding of what non-AGI software can do who has carefully observed and documented animals to try to show they do anything intelligent.
    curi: i am aware of ppl observing carefully and noticing animals being much more algorithmic (or simpler algos) than ppl would naively, unscientifically expect: http://wwiq9.icu/272-algorithmic-animal-behavior
    curi: i think the reason ppl don't care about this is they assume intelligence is a matter of degree and/or suffering is possible without intelligence
    curi: so they consider it an uncontroversial non-issue that e.g. a dolphin is somewhere between 0.1% and 70% as intelligence as a human
    curi: rather than understanding there at least might be a jump to universality for intelligence and so you can't jt safely assume stuff has medium intelligence anymore than a computer can have a medium computational repertoire
    curi: the jump to universality is what polarizes the issue into a binary intelligent or non-intelligent. but ppl don't know about it. so they aren't even trying to show a single thing that any animal has ever done which is incompatible with non-intelligence.
    curi: so they haven't.
    curi: alternatively they could argue for dualism, animal souls, non-intelligent suffering and differentiate that from information processing and computation, or several other things.
    curi: i haven't seen anything that understands software stuff which tries to differentiate suffering from information processing in general without intelligence.
    TheRat: Is it possible for animals to suffer without having that universality?
    curi: there are no arguments to establish some way that would be possible afaik. i think suffering is related to preference, opinions, values, judgments. i think you have to want, prefer or value X, and be able to form judgments about better and worse, in order to suffer. something along those lines.
    curi: if you never consider alternatives, like a rooma algorithm doesn't, then how can you be bothered by the outcome?
    TheRat: I've read about Dolphins in captivity that seem to "go insane" and commit suicide. What do you think is going on there?
    curi: chess algorithms consider alternative moves in some sense but it's mechanistic, it isn't a value judgment, they jt do math about each outcome on the board and play the move that leads to the highest evaluation (or sometimes e a random algorithm among the top few moves to avoid predictability).
    curi: re dolphins: sounds like algorithm bugs. animals have plenty of those. it's probably an evolutionary eful thing in some scenarios, like a failsafe where it tries to stop repeating the same actions that aren't working.
    curi:

    Only after thirty or forty repetitions will the wasp finally drag the caterpillar into its nest without further inspection.

    curi: even digger wasps have failsafes where they change behavior after 30-40 repetitions.
    curi: (whether an action works being defined in some algorithmic way, not as a value judgment or opinion, and in particular not as something where the creature can create new knowledge and new opinions that aren't in its genes)
    curi: my position on animals is awkward to e in debates becae it's over 80% background knowledge rather than topical stuff.
    curi: that's part of why i wanted to question their position and ask for literature that i could respond to and criticize, rather than focing on trying to lay out my position which would require e.g. explaining KP and DD which is hard and indirect.
    curi: if they'll admit they have no literature which addresses even basic non-CR issues about computer stuff, i'd at that point be more interested in trying to explain CR to them.
    TheRat: Yes. I've had that issue when trying to debate people. I'll say something and it flies right past them becae they don't have cr background. Most of the time not realizing there is a disagreement there.
    curi: it's worse for me in general b/c it's CR and Objectivism and Atrian econ/classical liberalism as major background knowledge ppl don't have. and sometimes other stuff but especially those 3.
    curi: i should perhaps add my own additions to CR, especially debating methodology stuff, as an additional thing.
    curi: they are within the CR tradition so could go either way on separating. i don't like to separate DD from CR.
    curi: programming is another big background knowledge which is relevant in this case but doesn't come up tooooo often.
    TheRat: Yes I have no programming knowledge at all so I struggle with the computation stuff from CR and DD.
    curi: i don't think it's realistic to have serio opinions about animal rights without knowing how to code, knowing how vario video game "AI" algorithms work, stuff like that. also some physics knowledge is important like about what information is and some conception of how computation aka information processing is part of reality.
    curi: i don't even know good sources for that physics stuff. i kinda got bits here and there over time from DD. his information flow in the multiverse paper is both technical and largely off topic or unnecessary cuz of the multiverse foc.
    TheRat:

    i don't think it's realistic to have serio opinions about animal rights without knowing how to code

    That sucks. Everytime I have attempted to learn how to code I give up after 1 day. I get bored.
    curi: you can't really compare animals to robots if you don't know how robots work. harsh but i don't know a good workaround.
    curi: i don't even know where to find one animal rights writer who knows how to code and tries to analyze that stuff.
    curi: i don't think most animal rights advocates know of one either...
    curi: i imagine i would have gotten replies by now somewhere if ppl actually had answers.
    curi: ppl like answering reasonable-seeming opponents who ask for a particular thing and they totally have that covered.
    curi: it's like if you go to a Popperian forum and ask if anyone knows any Popper chapters that refute induction, ppl will be happy to answer.
    curi: or if you ask for anyone other than Popper with good anti-induction args, someone will want to recommend DD.
    curi: but if no one knows any answers then you may be ignored.
    curi: like if you go to a Popper forum and ask for his arguments against capitalism and why he rejected Mises, you may not get an answer b/c no1 has an easy or good answer to give. the answer, afaik, is Popper was wrong and actually irrational about that.
    curi: if you don't bring up Mises they may point you to some non-technical kinda vague comments here and there that he made, but if you do bring up Mises' treatises Popper certainly made no attempt to answer those and nevertheless formed opinions in contradiction to them, so that's awkward, so it'll be hard to get ppl to engage with that issue.
    curi: someone might try claiming that maybe Popper didn't know about Mises or didn't have time to read every possibly-dumb idea and it wasn't his speciality. but that kind of thing is dangero and in this case will actually get you rekt by documented facts about Popper's awareness of Mises and exposure to ideas of that nature.
    curi: so safer not to respond.
    TheRat: Popper was friends with Hayek right? Did he disagree with Hayek too? I am very unfamiliar with Popper's political views. What I've read in OSE is actually more epistemology than poli sci or econ.
    curi: yes he disagreed with Hayek significantly re capitalism/econ stuff. But hayek was also somewhat of a statist and socialist sympathizer, whereas Mises wasn't.
    curi: Hayek was the leader of the Mount Pelerin society meetings which Mises and Popper both went to.
    curi: there's a comment in a book by a popper student about Popper disliking and dismissing libertarian-type arguments like Mises, but it doesn't give arguments, nor did Popper. but he wasn't jt unaware.
    curi: his irrationality on these issues was enough to contradict himself, IMO quite blatantly. advocated freedom ... and TV censorship. advocated freedom and peace ... and the government forcibly taking 51% of all public companies.
    curi: he says milder stuff in that direction in OSE. haven't read for ages but he talks about social technology by which he means something along the lines of governments improving at figuring out how to be effective at their policy goals. which sure aren't freedom.
    curi: he's of course right that governments do tons of counterproductive and inefficient actions, and that's a big problem, and there's tons of room for improvement there. but he was also making some statist assumptions.


    Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

    Fraud and Big Companies Supporting Fraud

    As a followup to my post on Deplatforming and Fraud, I’m going to share two examples of other frauds which were supported by large tech companies (Airbnb, Apple) but aren’t related to deplatforming. I think this will help people better understand what fraud is and that our society has inadequate mechanisms for dealing with fraud.

    Airbnb’s Fraud

    So, a journalist runs into scammers listing places to stay on Airbnb. They defraud her and she has to stay in a hotel. Full article. Then:

    When I asked about the stat of my refund, [the scammers] ghosted, which led me to contact Airbnb. Though I had been moved to a flophoe and then told to leave early, Airbnb only refunded me $399 of my $1,221.20, and only did so after I badgered a number of case managers over the course of several days. The $399 didn’t even include the service fees Airbnb charged me for the pleasure of being thrown out on the street.

    Airbnb is a party to fraud. It should have been easy to get a full refund. They are protecting and profiting off fraud. Their policies aid fraud. They are playing the middleman and substantially siding with blatant fraud.

    Why doesn't she chargeback the whole thing on his credit card? I think the reason is simply that Airbnb would blacklist her as punishment for getting his money back in case of fraud. Without Airbnb in the middle, putting effort into it, the fraud couldn't succeed.

    Why doesn't she sue Airbnb? That'd be quite hard. Should it be hard? No. They are blatantly a party to blatant fraud.

    In a more capitalist world, with a better legal system that better protected individuals against fraud, stuff like this wouldn't happen. Airbnb would predictably get sued and lose, repeatedly, until they stopped participating in fraud. The people suing would find it adequately cheap and easy, and their payouts would more than cover their legal fees and the hassle, leaving them better off than if they hadn't sued.

    We in the A live in an over-regulated world with too many laws covering everything, and people can get in legal trouble over dumb stuff. But at the same time, we also live in an under-regulated world where there's too little law and order. The basic elements of a minimal government which protects against violence, threat of violene, and fraud, are not actually functioning very well. (Mainly the issue is for fraud. I think our protections against violence, while imperfect, work reasonably well.)

    The article shares specifics of Airbnb's unreasonable actions supporting fraud in this case and in many other cases.

    Apple’s Fraud

    This one is my own story from a couple months ago. I made some in-app purchases in the mobile game Archero, by Habby, from Apple's app store. A few days later, Archero had major technical problems. Although it's a single player game, it requires an internet connection to communicate with their servers for anti-cheat reasons. Their servers were unstable and frequently down. It was frtrating to try to e the game becae it was broken so much. I stopped playing. I waited a few weeks and expected the problem to be fixed. It wasn't, and I eventually moved on to playing a different game.

    About a month after their game was broken, Archero sent out an in-game message to all players (or maybe jt players, I don't know what's going on in other regions) saying sorry for the technical problems, they are now fixed, here's a couple dollars worth of in-game currency as an apology. Over the next month, Archero sent out four more similar messages, each claiming they had now fixed the problem. I know it wasn’t actually fixed for two months but I’ve stopped checking. Maybe the fifth announcement that they’d fixed it was finally true instead of lying. Their subreddit has lots of complaints and memes about the ongoing problems. I observed the problem on multiple devices and with multiple internet connections, and many other people also had the same issue.

    After it wasn’t fixed for several weeks, I contacted Apple and asked for a refund since I hadn't gotten to actually e what I paid for. They told me to contact Habby for ctomer support. I did. I waited over a week. There was no response at all.

    I followed up with Apple and they told me they wouldn't give me a refund. I asked why. I got a non-answer. I asked why again. Non-answer. I asked why again, for the third time. Apple escalated my case to a supervisor on their own initiative. The supervisor did not say why I was ineligible for a refund and told me the case was now closed, final answer. I asked why again and also asked what would happen if I did a credit card chargeback. Apple responded to the allegedly closed case with a non-answer that still didn't tell me what their refund criteria are, what aspect of my case disqualified me for a refund, nor what their chargeback policy is. I asked again about a chargeback and received no response from Apple. This is ridiculo, unfair, and dissimilar to refund policies I experience with major companies in general. It violates my reasonable expectations, based on Apple’s advertising (including all public communications like their website and support documentation), of what sort of ctomer service would be available (that means Apple’s advertising/public-communication is fraudulent).

    I did not chargeback Apple with my credit card for fear that they would punish me, e.g. lock my iCloud account or block me from future App store purchases. Those outcomes would be far worse for me than losing the money.

    So Habby got my money by fraud. The only reason they kept it was becae Apple played middleman and took their side. Apple was a party to fraud. I think Apple getting in the way of refunds is a significant part of what a lot of shadier app developers are paying for when they give Apple a 30% cut.

    If all refunds for Archero have to go through Apple, then it’s Apple’s responsibility to know about Archero’s server problems. Apple won’t investigate the details of particular games, even though they are in charge of dealing with monetary transactions about those games, and Apples tells me to contact Habby for support, but it’s Apple controlling refunds and therefore Apple who needs to deal with it. If Apple’s policy was “developer offered no support and ignored ctomer, so we’ll issue a refund” it’d be OK, but Apple will refe refunds when developers have broken apps and completely ignore ctomers.

    Of course, having technical problems with your game servers isn't fraud in and of itself. But they advertised that I could play the game and I could buy things and e them to play the game. They failed to live up to that. So they should give me a refund since I didn't get what I paid for. Refing the refund makes it fraud. They didn’t provide what I paid for and didn’t give me my money back. The combination is breach of contract and fraud. It’s fraud by Habby becae they deceived me into believing they would honor their (implied, unwritten) contract with me that I’d get to experience certain gameplay in return for the payments. It’s fraud by Apple becae they deceive the public by pretending to have civilized, law-and-order-compatible dispute resolution mechanisms for their app store, but they don’t. Habby also commited fraud by continuing selling the game throughout their technical problems with no warnings or disclaimers.

    FYI Archero is a popular game which has been promoted by Apple and Pewdiepie. Some article says Archero earned $8,500,000 revenue in its first month alone. There are other articles with large numbers too. Either most ctomers are satisfied and they could refund the jtifiably unsatisfied ctomers and still have a large profit. Or, in the alternative, they got a large portion of their millions of dollars by fraudulently tricking ctomers into thinking they’d get a gaming experience that they would not get.

    Bon Apple Story

    One more quick story about Apple. Over 10 years ago I bought an Apple laptop, with Applecare, along with an Apple Cinema Display. Their website advertised that the Applecare for the computer would also apply to the display without having to separately purchase Applecare for the display. The display broke after the standard warranty but within the Applecare period. Apple refed to repair my display. They said the special deal only applied to desktop computers (or some set of computers that didn’t include the one I’d bought). I had records showing their website had advertised that the deal did apply for the computer I bought. That had apparently been an error. Over the phone, Apple absolutely refed to fix their error and repair my display. I talked to multiple people, escalated it, was assertive, had proof, and was refed service.

    The money was a big deal to me back then. I wrote a letter to Apple complaining about the incident (and documenting again that I was correct), on paper, and mailed it to them. Apple responded to the letter by solving the problem for me and repairing the display. People should be aware that writing letters can get problems solved.

    I’m not going to send a letter this time (I didn’t even phone in either, which would be too much hassle, I interacted with Apple over email about Archero). It’s significantly less money at a time when I have significantly more money, so it’s not that big a deal to me. I have better things to do. And the case is less clear cut. It involves a third party who didn't make specific guarantees, in writing, about the availability of their game –?whereas Apple had literally posted, in writing, on their own website, a specific offer regarding the display purchase. And Apple is a bigger company now, with more unreasonable, evasive support people, and I’m not confident that a letter would solve the problem.

    Conclion

    The Airbnb scammers are blatant criminals who can only get away with it due to Airbnb’s support. I doubt Habby are knowingly criminals on purpose. I doubt they think of it that way. But they’re committing some fraud that they can only get away with becae of Apple’s support.

    Our legal system makes it too hard to hold Airbnb or Apple accountable, which enables ongoing violations of basic capitalist law and order to continue. This is similar to how there is ongoing fraud by tech companies related to deplatforming, which they are getting away with, but could not get away with in a classical liberal society which had fewer laws but actually enforced the most important laws (that we have too, but don’t enforce well enough), in particular laws about fraud and following contracts.

    I think it’s especially gross when standard mechanisms for solving these problems, like chargebacks, are prevented becae of a company like Apple or Airbnb playing middleman for fraud, so it’s not possible to directly chargeback the company you have a problem with. (Credit card companies in my experience, and by reputation, are very ctomer-friendly, and it’s easy to get your money back over stuff like this. They basically demand that merchants keep ctomers satisfied. But Airbnb is sheltering scammers from that demand and Apple is sheltering Habby from it.)

    We need a legal system that makes it easier to successfully do small lawsuits for fraud, with meaningful punitative damages. E.g. $10,000 punuitative damages on $100 actual damages, pl legal costs, would add up after many lawsuits and would give individuals the incentive to sue. When many individuals sue over fraud like this, as should be fairly easy to do in a reasonable legal system, companies will change. Similarly it shouldn't be that hard to sue e.g. Facebook if they delete one of my posts or groups on their website contrary to their advertised non-politically-biased policies or terms of service.


    Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

    Potential Debate Topics

    These are brief statements of some controversial ideas I believe. They are mostly unexplained conclions. I’m not trying to argue my case here (jt a little bit here and there). You can search my writing and discsion archives for explanations and reasoning. You can e this list to help find something you disagree with me about, which you could then research, ask questions about, or debate.


    It’s possible and desirable to raise children without doing anything to them against their will. No punishments, no force, nothing that’d be illegal to do to an adult neighbor, no manipulative guiding, no agendas, no curriculums, no assumption that, in a disagreement, the parent is correct.

    Objectivism is the best philosophy in general. Critical Rationalism offers improvements re refuting induction and replacing it with a fallibilist evolutionary epistemology.

    I favor abortion. Only intelligent beings are moral agents, not fetes. Abortion should not be “safe, legal and rare”, nor is it something to personally disapprove of. It’s either murder or it’s not. If it’s murder, it should be illegal. If it’s not murder, what’s to disapprove of? If you’re unsure, you should want abortion to be illegal becae we should err on the side of caution when murder is at stake. For the sake of being careful, I’m fine with banning third trimester abortions (except e.g. when medically necessary to save the mother). I’m confident there isn’t an intelligent being until a while after there is a brain with electric signals. I don’t think that’s an ambiguo gray area. I’ve read the earliest brain activity that (very conservatively) starts to plaibly resemble conscioness start around the start of the third trimester, but I haven’t researched an exact cutoff date. I don’t think birth corresponds to gaining intelligence, and I think it’s conceivable that a baby isn’t an intelligent being for a few weeks after birth.

    Animals aren’t intelligent so they don’t have moral rights. The word “intelligent” has two related meanings. Sometimes it’s ed to refer to degrees of intelligence – Joe is smarter than Bob. But it’s also ed to refer to a distinction between intelligent or non-intelligent, e.g. a rock is not intelligent. The mainstream view is that animals are intelligent but to a lesser degree than humans (some people even claim that some animals are more intelligent than 2 year old child). I claim animals are fundamentally different than human beings becae humans can learn anything that can be learned (including by aliens or artificial intelligences) while animals don’t learn at all. Animals are robots which are controlled by software (developed by evolution) which is like a more complicated version of a computer-controlled video game character. It’s like an advanced Roomba.

    I’m an atheist. I also reject superstitio ideas like luck, karma, reincarnation, the afterlife, ghosts, angels, devils, demons, voodoo, spoon bending, ESP, telepathy, telekinesis, fortune telling, astrology, talking to dead people (mediums), etc.

    U.S. Christians and Jews are no more irrational, superstitio or unreasonable than atheists on average. Of major groups, Christians do the best job of understanding and promoting important, traditional American values like freedom. They’re more resistant to socialism, environmentalism, and other evil ideologies which violate common sense. They’re more willing to disagree with the assertions of human authorities like “scientists” or government officials.

    Christianity was barbaric originally but improved along with civilization. It’s civilized now, at least in the English speaking countries. Islam is uncivilized today.

    I favor pure laissez-faire capitalism. I will debate for “minarchy” (aka “nightwatchman state”) –?a minimal government providing law, order, courts, police, military but leaving the economy alone. I’m open to anarchist ideas but generally don’t advocate them becae minarchy is the correct goal for the foreseeable future.

    I favor classical liberalism which advocates freedom (including free markets) and limited government power. As violence is irrational and destructive, no one should initiate force (including threat of force or fraud). Defensive force is OK. To learn more about liberalism and (Atrian) economics the main authors to read are Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, Ayn Rand and George Reisman.

    Parents torture children for twenty pl years and destroy their rationality. Teachers are no better. Parenting needs to be reformed with rational epistemology –?Critical Rationalism?– so that parents and teachers are primarily helpers rather than leaders or guiders of children. People should manage their own learning and pursue their own goals, not have goals and conclions imposed on them by authority. Parents should interpret all disobedience, misbehavior and not-listening as disagreements where the fallible parent may well be mistaken and rational truth seeking is the way forward. In the event of failure to reach agreement, the parent should follow liberal principles like leaving people alone instead of ing force.

    Romantic relationships are broken and irrational rather than a wonderful good idea. Relationships should be more varied instead of everyone following the same model. “Love” is a bad, ambiguo idea. Positive emotions are overrated and in this case often come from conformity to static memes. Jealoy is bad. In the long run, most marriages that don’t end in divorce are unhappy or merely OK. The fear of rejection, the stress of asking a girl out, the waiting and hoping a boy will notice you, the lipstick, the dancing, the partying, etc., are bad things. The heavy reliance on stereotyped interactions like dates and saying “sweet nothings” are bad.

    Polyamoro people generally especially like and value love and sex. I think those are overrated. And they’re naive about how hard it is to interact closely with other human beings. It’s hard enough to have one romantic partner without fighting. More partners makes it harder becae it’s more complicated and non-traditional.

    When in doubt, follow traditions. By default, follow traditions. There are two main reasons to go against tradition. First, you can pick a small number of things to try to improve in your life. You can’t change everything but you can make a few improvements if you study and research what you’re doing a ton (which people rarely do). Second, you have to violate some traditions when they contradict each other. Contradictions between traditions give one no choice but to (partially) go against a tradition and are the main reason to do that.

    Genes (or other biology) don’t have any direct influence over our intelligence or personality. We have free will. What kind of person someone grows up to be depends on the ideas they’re exposed to and accept, and their own choices. Genes play fairly non-controlling indirect roles, e.g. if you’re tall more people will encourage you to play basketball. All people are born with essentially equal intellectual capacity. Dumb people are people with bad ideas about how to think.

    Human minds aren’t a collection of modules or compartments (for e.g. language, math, art, science, visual-spatial thinking, etc.). We have a single, general purpose, universal intelligence.

    Environmentalism is evil. The basic idea is to reject human values and what’s good for humans and instead e nature as the standard of value. Global warming is a scare story to jtifying oppressive government intervention in the economy. The “science” is shoddy. Environmentalism has some appeal becae it’s confed with reasonable stuff like e.g. having clean lakes, but that is something generally favored and provided by non-environmentalists once there is enough wealth to afford it. The actual goal of the green movement is to shut down indtry, not to encourage reasonable reforms and improvements when they become cheap enough to be worth it.

    Unions, minimum wage, rent control and many other allegedly pro-worker and pro-poor-people policies harm everyone including workers and poor people.

    There are no conflicts of interest between rational men. Self-interest is harmonio with the general welfare. Marxist class warfare is unnecessary and irrational. Workers and employers both benefit by cooperation (and, in the freer countries, people reasonably often change groups in both directions).

    The vast majority of studies in the social “sciences”, like psychology, are low quality and should be ignored. The most common problem is they find a correlation and pretend they studied caation.

    The government shouldn’t fund science, education, healthcare or retirement.

    The vast majority of “intellectuals” and academics are social climbers who are faking being smart.

    People lie all the time – primarily to themselves with lying to others as a secondary consequence – and are wrong about many of their claims about themselves. People are often wrong about why they want something, what they meant by a statement, or why they did an action. Being wrong about those things is often due to lying to themselves. People are often mistaken or lying (to themselves) about what their intentions were (e.g. they say they had good intentions but didn’t). People are often mistaken about whether they are angry, emotional or upset.

    The laws of epistemology, computation and logic technically depend on the laws of physics. They aren’t a priori. (They are mostly autonomo. It’s generally OK to study them directly without studying physics.) Nothing is a priori. You can’t get away from physics and our understanding of physics is connected to observation of reality (experience).

    Induction is an error and myth. No one has ever learned anything by induction. Induction doesn’t describe a physically possible series of actions.

    A successful alternative to induction was offered by Karl Popper.

    Men have more to gain by peace than war. Peace is strictly better.

    Overall, I support president Trump. He was my second choice after Ted Cruz. My main complaints are that he has done much less than he promised. No wall, no dramatic reduction in immigration, no end to anchor babies, no end to Obamacare, and he’s worked with the GOP establishment a fair amount instead of draining that part of the swamp. Obama was the worst, most destructive president for a long time (maybe since the New Deal), and has anti-American values.

    Infallible proof is impossible. Whatever arguments you make, whether a formal deduction, a mathematical proof, or claiming 2+2=4, you had to evaluate whether that’s true with a physical process like thoughts in your brain, and the correctness of your conclion is dependent on your understanding of the properties of that physical process, and your understanding of the laws of physics is certainly fallible. (This argument was originated by David Deutsch in The Fabric of Reality chapter 10.)

    Most arguments are not inductive, deductive nor abductive. They aren’t equivalent to any of those. They’re jt regular arguments. They don’t even have a special name. The main purposes of argument are to criticize and explain.

    The French Revolution was evil and destructive.

    People make choices about their interests, personality, sexual orientation and gender identity. Some choices are made in early childhood, forgotten about, and very hard to figure out how to change later. And choices are made while externally pressured. That doesn’t make something a biological non-choice, though.

    Over 90% of the pleasure people feel during sex is due to ideas and mental interpretations, not biology or physical sensations. Sense data, including nerve data relating to pleasure or pain, is open to interpretation. As Karl Popper says, all observation is theory laden. Raw data doesn’t have an inherent meaning. Our ideas give it meaning and direct our attention selectively to the aspects we consider important.

    All finite data sets are logically compatible with infinitely many explanations, patterns or conclions. There is no such thing as which claims “better fit” the data – the data contradicts some claims and does not contradict others.

    Correlation does not hint at caation.

    Evolution is replication with variation and selection. That’s the origin of life on Earth. Evolution of memes (ideas, not joke images) is literally evolution, not an analogy.

    Morality is objective. Everything is objective. We live in physical reality. It’s one single, shared reality for all people. Truths about this reality do not depend on who is inquiring. There are objective facts about how foods taste to you, which foods you should buy given your physical tastebuds, ideas, budget, etc. And there are truths about what ideas you have and what tastebuds you have and your bank account balance and income, all of which are parts of physical reality.

    Solipsism, relativism, nihilism, and skepticism are false.

    Cognitive biases, qualia and mirror neurons are confions.

    We live in a multiverse. There are trillions or infinite versions of you. The multiverse is local (no faster than light motion or communication). This is the best current understanding of physics. People who disagree are almost all ignorant or irrational, rather than innocently mistaken.

    If you’re wrong about that idea, by what process can someone who knows you’re wrong correct you? Intellectuals should have good general-purpose answers to this in writing.

    Arguments don’t have degrees of strength. There aren’t weak and highly compelling arguments. Arguments are conclive or non-conclive. If all arguments are non-conclive, instead of tiebreaking between options without any conclive way to decide, one can and should create a conclive argument related to how to proceed.

    One can always act on non-refuted ideas. Not merely as a theoretical possibility but as a practical, rational option that one should do. There’s never any good reason to act on a refuted idea.

    All correct positive arguments (arguments in favor of something) can be translated into negative arguments (arguments against stuff). If it can’t be translated, it’s incorrect. The negative argument version is the more rigoro and formal version of the argument. Arguments refute. They only support as a loose statement, an approximation.

    No Partial Universality: There are no classical computers that can compute 90% of what can be classically computed. (Classical computation is what Macs, Windows PCs, iPhones and Androids do. It excludes quantum computation which is related to quantum physics.) When adding features to a simple classical computing system, it jumps straight from near-zero functionality to universality. Universality and jumps to universality also come up in other areas, e.g. with ability to learn. There are no learners that can learn 90% of what can be learned. Learning systems jump from near-zero to universality.

    Serio debates should be done publicly online, in writing, over days/weeks, with no editing or deleting messages, with written methodology for how to reach a conclion or end the debate.

    Intellectuals who are too by to talk with everyone should have written policies for who they talk to, how much, etc., so it’s all predictable and people who believe they have something important to say can meet the policy requirements and get to discs it. A major design goal of these policies should be combatting bias (so the policies don’t biasedly suppress certain ideas from being discsed).

    The “burden of proof” idea is a misconception.

    Don’t ignore “small” errors. You can’t reliably tell how small an error an idea is without correcting it. Once you have a solution, you can say in retrospect that it turned out to be a small, easy, quick fix. But knowing that in advance would be predicting the future growth of knowledge which is impossible.

    Rational thinkers address every criticism of their ideas. They never ignore criticism. People who don’t know how to do this in an adequately time efficient manner need to learn how rather than make exces. In particular, you can criticize patterns or categories of arguments at the same time, as a group, rather than addressing criticisms one by one. You should write down your arguments so that you can reference them in response to repeat criticisms, th allowing the critic to learn why he’s mistaken and/or share an additional criticism about your argument.

    Psychiatry is the modern inquisition. They aren’t doctors or scientists, they are a mechanism of social control. They suppress deviants, heretics, “misbehavior” (behavior unwanted by by those with more power and social stat). Psychiatric diagnostic criteria are vague and non-objective becae they’re judgment calls about conformity to largely-unwritten social rules.

    Standard ideas about what foods are healthy to eat are full of fads and myths. Diets affecting energy levels and mood is primarily placebo. Balancing individual meals is dumb – better to balance what you eat during a whole day or a week. But the food groups and balancing methods are dumb too.

    Current AGI (artificial general intelligence) research is working on dead ends. AGI workers should learn Critical Rationalism to make progress. Also non-AGI work called “AI”, such as software to play chess or drive cars, is eful but isn’t substantial progress towards AGI. An AGI won’t be created by combining a bunch of non-general modules like those.

    Anti-semitism is wrong. The U.S. political left and media are broadly anti-semitic. Israel and Zionism are good. Anti-Israel political views are due to anti-semitism. The IDF is the world’s kindest military. (I would say most moral except I think they sacrifice too many Israeli lives, both military personnel and civilians, to prevent collateral damage. Pl they have conscription.) The Israel and the IDF doesn’t mistreat or abe Mlims, they bend over backwards to be fair, genero, peaceful, reasonable, etc.

    The A is by far the best and most important country. It’s the leader of the civilized world.

    Slavery isn’t in the rational self-interest of the slavers. And A wasn’t built on slavery. Slavery is economically inefficient, not a source of indtrial-age wealth.

    If someone was really strongly motivated by greed, they’d learn economics and choose not to be a slaver, thief, fraudster, etc. Greed would motivate them to produce and trade, not to hurt anyone. The most effective way to get rich in a free country is by mutually beneficial social cooperation. But the more the government interferes in the economy, the more opportunities it creates for men to get rich by oppression and tyranny instead.

    “Pickup Artist” (PUA) ideas are broadly correct about how dating works and what women want. Search “Dating and Social Dynamics” on the FI book recommendations for sources. Disclaimer: other sources may be bad. The PUA materials I respect are standard, popular ones connected to the original discsion forums, but there’s also a lot of other stuff which is crap.

    All women are like that (AWALT).

    Social metaphysics, altruism and second-handedness (see Objectivism for details) are evil.

    Death, disease and weakness due to aging are a solvable medical problem. If ignored, aging will harm and kill every single person alive today along with all of our great grandchildren. It’s a big, urgent problem – far more important than global warming even if that were correct. It merits much more medical research than it receives. Arguments for not trying to solve aging (e.g. overpopulation, people getting bored with living, divine punishment) are wrong.

    Many discsions fail becae people are too impatient and intolerant about disagreement. People largely don’t understand how different another person’s ideas can be than their own, and aren’t interested in learning about ideas their prejudices say are unreasonable (but which they haven’t refuted and can’t cite any refutation of by anyone that they’d endorse).

    Keynesian economics was refuted by Hazlitt’s Failure of the 'New Economics’. This is one of many examples showing intellectual culture is broken: often the right ideas are more ignored than responded to. Intellectually, in terms of objective truth-seeking, Keynes and his fans lost the debate (substantially by refing to debate, refing to study and engage with rival ideas). But they remain much more influential than the superior ideas which out-argued them. The primary issue is people ignoring ideas, not people learning the ideas but then coming to a different, reasonable evaluation of their merits. Most intellectuals are unreasonable, irrational, ignorant, un, dishonest and aren’t truth seekers.

    Steelmanning and the principle of charity are overrated approximations. They don’t involve substantial understanding of epistemology which reveals many limitations. They’re fairly commonly ed to make discsions worse rather than better.

    Ideas rule the world.

    Everyone/anyone can contribute to truth seeking and ideas. Each person who chooses not to is individually guilty of refing to think much and choosing not to participate significantly in the key issues affecting the fate of civilization. You should care about ideas instead of leaving it to alleged experts. You should read, study, debate, etc., in a patient, , serio way.

    A key separator of rational truth seekers and dishonest frauds is unbounded pursuit of truth. Most people have some limits beyond which they won’t think.

    Making progress effectively requires managing your error rate. Do things easy enough to keep your weighted error rate pl a buffer (to handle variance) below your error correction capacity. If you want to do harder or more complex things, build up to them. Learn more so they’re easier for you (can be done with fewer errors). And increase your error correction capacity. Doing stuff early is inefficient at best and often leads to failure.

    If you want to do a project, consider what prior projects of a similar nature you’ve done successfully. Have you already succeeded at one or several projects with 80% of more of the difficulty and complexity of the one you want to do now? You should have. E.g. if you want to debate or study a complex intellectual topic, you should have a history of success doing that kind of activity. If you don’t, start simpler and get it right.

    Learning effectively works by getting things right first and dealing with other aspects like speed, memory, forming habits or increasing complexity second. E.g. when learning typing, foc on correctness first and speed up second. If you speed up first, then try to fix your errors, you’re trying to fix the errors at high speed; it would have been easier to fix them earlier on at lower speed. Similarly, figure out how to have a simple rational, productive conversation successfully and correctly before trying for hard ones. Don’t try to learn everything at once. Try to isolate what you’re learning and learn a few things at a time.

    Deplatforming is a major problem. It’s not simply the right of private tech companies to have whatever moderation policies or algorithms they want. They advertise fraudulently about how they are unbiased. They lobby for and get special government favors and privileges. The alternatives aren’t either to oppose deplatforming on statist grounds or to accept it (regretfully? but I don’t see many expressions of regret). One can make a classical liberal case against it.

    We should go back to a gold standard for money. Prices are directly related to the supply of money. When the government prints money, it raises prices (which lowers the value of savings, so it’s like a wealth tax). The single best feature of a gold standard is that the government can’t print gold.

    Bitcoin and cryptocurrency are worthless investment frauds. As investments they’re similar to a Ponzi scheme where earlier investors are paid by newer investors and it falls apart when people stop buying in. The software is terrible from a technical perspective, the companies involved are incompetent, and the main e case is to facilitate money laundering and crime.

    Immigration should be restricted as part of defense against violence, becae our welfare state gives big handouts to anyone here, and becae our government has many oppressive powers – it’s not properly limited –?so it’s dangero to allow people to vote who don’t have civilized Western values.

    Fossil fuels are great. Nuclear power is even better for electricity, though not for gasoline or plastic.

    Affirmative action is racist. America is an especially non-racist country – except the leftist political activists who bring up race so much.

    You have no right to make demands about what pronouns I e to refer to you. I’ll normally e “he”, “she” or maybe “they” at people’s request, but not any arbitrary words, and I’m not obligated to, it’s jt a courtesy. My speech, my choice. It’s also OK to e previo names of public figures.

    Grammar is eful to learn.

    Being economically literate is roughly as important and eful as being scientifically literate. Fewer than 1% of people have basic economic literacy – e.g. they couldn’t correctly figure out the economic consequences of minimum wage laws (on their own without looking it up –?it’s a simple enough issue that you should be able to do that) and they can’t reliably, consistently avoid all variations of the broken window fallacy.

    “Picky” and “pedantic” arguments often matter. Ask people why they think the issue matters (often it’s a clarity issue –?and clarity should be one of your main goals in writing or speaking about ideas) or fix it. It’s such a minor issue, correct it. A good policy is to ask what the point is if a person makes three arguments in a row that seem pointless to you, not one. Bring up problematic patterns but react initially, the first time, with some patience, tolerance, and willingness to consider a different person’s perspective. Don’t assume bad faith immediately. Good faith means they think it’s important for some reason or they wouldn’t be saying it. Also it’s possible they don’t understand how to discs/debate properly and rationally but would appreciate finding that out and discsing what kinds of arguments are important or productive to make and why (this is different than them making dumb arguments on purpose to derail the conversation).

    Reading (or skimming) until the first disagreement/problem/criticism is a good way of dealing with sources, articles, books, etc. that come up in discsions/debates. Refing to look at them is a bad way.

    Knowing foreign languages is overrated. (So are many other ways of being “cultured”). Learning to code is better than learning a second natural language. The exception is that English is the most important language, so people who don’t know it should learn. If you want to study philosophy and other good ideas, English is a crucial tool. Setting aside its widespread e, English is also superior to the world’s other major languages for communicating ideas.

    People wear shoes that are too narrow due to dumb fashion preferences. Pinky toes aren’t supposed to be squished. Shoes actually change the shape of their feet. It’s so widespread it’s hard to get reasonable shoes. A substantial portion of parents fight with their kids to make them wear shoes. Kids often want to take their shoes off becae the shoes are uncomfortably becae they’re deforming the kid’s feet. It takes a long time, but being forced to wear uncomfortable shoes for years eventually caes permanent deformation.

    Male circumcision is genital mutilation. People should stop doing it. People should have to jump through some sort of hoops to get it done (e.g. saying it’s important to their religion and signing a form). People who don’t care that much shouldn’t be able to carelessly or casually get it done. Female genital mutilation should be entirely illegal, no exceptions.

    There should be no laws requiring children to go to school, e.g. no truancy laws. If a parent wants to force his kid to go to school, that’s his biness, but the police and government shouldn’t help him do it. Compulsory school attendance is imprisonment without trial. Children may be ignorant of many things, but they are experts on whether they personally like or dislike school, whether they find it tolerable or intolerable, etc.

    Serio, truth seeking discsion/debate should be done publicly, in writing, online, ing block quotes liberally, over days/weeks/months.

    The goal of a rational discsion/debate is to understand and add to the current, objective state of the debate. For complex issues, understanding what arguments already exist and how they interact (what questions are unanswered, what refutes what, etc.) is important to be able to productively add to the debate. Clarifying the existing situation is what many fields need more than they need new arguments to be chaotically added to the mix.

    There is a single objective truth. For empirical issues it corresponds to objective reality (which exists). There are also truths for other issues like epistemology and morality (which, though technically connected to empirical reality, we study in a mostly independent way, so we call them non-empirical as an approximation.)

    Rational people can quickly reach agreement in discsion. We don’t have all the answers but we can agree that some knowledge is inconclive. When a range of views are reasonable, people can agree on what that range is (rather than bickering over their intuitions about which of the reasonable views, which it’s narrowed down to, is the best current guess). When someone is missing a bunch of background knowledge, agreement can be reached that, given their ignorance, they shouldn’t reach conclions about certain issues until they know more. Inconclive, unproductive discsions/debates are an indication of irrationality by at least one participant.


    In the comments below, please post links (with one sentence saying what they are) to other controversial ideas I have which would make good debate topics. You can also share links to my writing about the topics above or debate them.


    Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (14)

    Deplatforming and Fraud

    Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Patreon, PayPal and other companies have repeatedly advertised that they are politically-neutral open platforms. All are welcome. They’re for everybody.

    Then they ban, moderate, demonetize and censor people, and bias search algorithms, for a variety of biased reasons, including especially to persecute right wing political ideas. I’ll call this general issue “deplatforming”. It’s about not letting certain non-favored persons/ideas e the platforms in the standard, (allegedly) publicly-available way.

    For those unfamiliar with or doubtful of the relevant facts, I’ve included an information section below.

    The public debate over this issue has two main sides.

    First, most of the left is cheering as their enemies are attacked.

    Second, most of the right, along with some people on the left with greater integrity, say that free speech is important, tech companies are an important part of modern life, and we need government regulations to make things fair.

    A third, smaller group are free market advocates who say private companies should be able to do whatever they want, even if it’s politically biased, and the government should leave them alone. They often say this despite having right wing ideas themselves. They say it despite being part of the oppressed group.

    What’s missing is a pro-free-market, anti-deplatforming group. That’s my position. It’s important that the free market is compatible with solving the deplatforming problem. This isn’t a failure of capitalism. Anyone who cares about freedom and classical liberalism should be interested in how it can address a problem like this without assuming it’s inadequate.

    As a free market advocate, many people expect me to say that private companies can do whatever they want and the government should stay out of it. I think deplatforming is a horrible problem, but don’t my principles require me to accept it?

    I find most free market people insufficiently regretful regarding their support of deplatforming. They don’t say how horrible it is, and they wish there was anything to be done about it, but their hands are tied. They don’t seem to mind much. I think many have some partial leftist sympathies.

    There’s a better way to view the issue. There’s something bad going on. I dislike it. And most of the proposed solutions are statist. So then what? Give up? No! The first thing to do is consider free-market-compatible solutions. Classical liberalism is a sophisticated, nuanced political philosophy which should be able to deal with problems like this. Can it? No one seems to have checked.

    In the free market, the initiation of force is prohibited. This includes threat of force and includes fraud. False advertising is fraud. Advertising being a neutral platform, while not being one, is fraud. These companies should be sued. We don’t need new regulations. We need the most basic legal protections that would also exist in a minarchist society (minimal government society, aka nightwatchman state).

    These companies don’t follow the rules in their own Terms of Service. That’s fraud. They are telling the public the rules are one way, but acting a different way.

    The ongoing fraud has been revealed by many sources including Project Veritas (e.g. Google Document Dump). More sources are below.

    Why are companies flagrantly violating the law and no one seems to notice and they aren’t losing all their profits to lawsuits? Becae they have special government privileges. They’re being protected from being accountable under the law. They aren’t fully private companies. They hire tons of political staffers and lobbyists. They have friends in high places. They have political pull and receive favors. They aren’t operating in a free market context.

    People tell right wingers to make their own competing sites. If you don’t like these companies, beat them in the free market. There are a few problems with this. First, having a larger er base is a huge advantage in social media. People want to be on the sites their friends are on. And why do these companies have such a head start? Becae they fraudulently lied about their political neutrality so people didn’t see the need to compete with them earlier on. Second, they are still lying today which reduces the interest in alternative sites. If they openly said they’re biased against Trump voters, more people would recognize the bias and switch to a new competitor. But they still lie to their ers. And third, there’s the banking problem.

    The worst problem related to deplatforming is not access to social media platforms for sharing ideas. It’s access to the financial system. You can make your own blog or other website to speak your mind (deplatforming by domain registrars, webhosts, etc., has begun but isn’t very bad yet). But what if you’re being preventing from selling your work online? What if your fans can’t donate money to support you? What if you can’t sell merch? How can you compete in the free market if you don’t have the ability to participate in the market online?

    The banks and credit card companies are highly government regulated. And they have pressured sites like Patreon and PayPal to deplatform right wingers. And when Gab tried to build a Twitter competitor, they found it very difficult to get any banking partners. Patreon competitors have also had huge difficulties getting banking access to enable their ers to send money online to fund content creators. For most types of biness, getting banking is easy. Banks and payment processors compete for your biness. They want to be widely ed. But right wing people online are being treated differently by financial companies which are considerably more government-controlled or government-influenced than Facebook or Google is.

    My position is that I wish we had a free market. A free market would solve this problem becae there would be serio consequences for fraud. We aren’t even close to a free market. Free market advocates tend to recognize this fact in general. They recognize e.g. that the U.S. healthcare market (including before Obamacare) is not even close to free market, capitalist healthcare. They recognize how involved the government is in the universities. But with deplatforming, the government’s role seems to be widely overlooked.

    The main takeaway here is simple but widely ignored. Given the facts about the situation (which most people don’t know much about), Google, YouTube, Twitter and so on are guilty of blatant, massive and ongoing fraud. We don’t need new laws or regulations, we need to enforce the most basic and capitalism-compatible laws.

    Deplatforming Info

    For those who haven’t been following the public information about deplatforming much, here are some examples:

    "Twitter stands for freedom of expression," Dorsey declared. "Twitter stands for speaking truth to power." Dorsey is CEO and co-founder of Twitter. Jt from accounts I was following, Twitter deplatformed Heartiste, Real Peer Review and American Renaissance.

    "I'm almost a free-speech absolutist." said Prince, the CEO of Cloudflare, an internet infrastructure company that deplatformed the Daily Stormer for political reasons.

    Kudos to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for defending free speech at a tough moment. There are many articles attacking Zuckerberg for being too favorable to free speech. Meanwhile Facebook deletes, censors and deprioritizes (lowering the traffic they get) right wing groups and ideas.

    There is some non-political, largely-unexplained deplatforming too, contrary to publicly claimed policies. E.g. Facebook deleted without warning or explanation the Banting7DayMealPlan er group. The group has 1.65 million ers who post testimonials and other information regarding the efficacy of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet.

    Sam Harris Drops Patreon, Citing 'Political Bias' Likely Inspired by SPLC's 'Hate Group' List

    Google "Machine Learning Fairness" Whistleblower Goes Public, says: "burden lifted off of my soul”, from Project Veritas, which I found as the 15th search result on YouTube for project veritas google whistleblower. It’s so low due to search algorithm bias, which ironically is one of the topics of the video.

    Twitter banned a psychiatry expert for sharing his professional research conclions (for political reasons).

    Jared Taylor was the first victim of a new YouTube deplatforming campaign.

    I Was Fooled By The Promise Of The Internet:

    Domain registrars promised that I could “own” my little corner of the web with a domain name, and now my domains can be seized by a faceless bureaucracy. Google told me to create the best content I could to be ranked highly in their search engine, but then they manipulated their algorithms to lift dull corporate propaganda above my own. Twitter promised that I could share any thought that came to mind, and after I spent years doing so, they changed their mind and will now ban me if I make fun of an obese feminist. YouTube said I could upload engaging videos that viewers love, and even make money doing so, but then they demonetized most of my videos, put others in “limited state,” and banned me from live streaming for three months becae I asked if women who wear chokers want to be treated subserviently. Disq offered me a service to allow the community at Return Of Kings to discs what was on their mind, but they banned the site becae they didn’t want to discs certain things. Amazon said I could publish books on their platform and even make a living as a writer, but then they banned the paperbook and ebook editions of nine of my books with no explanation why. Paypal said it would be easy to add payment processing to my site, and then later showed how easy it is to ban me for political reasons.

    I’ve covered deplatforming in newsletters, e.g. after Charlottesville and re Twitter censoring Canary Mission and Gab and about the banking/financial forces behind deplatforming (sadly and ironically, the Nick Monroe Twitter thread in the newsletter is no longer readable becae Twitter deplatformed him. And the Thread Reader App archive of it is hidden by Twitter in the replies behind a warning saying “Show additional replies, including those that may contain offensive content” and then the content is deleted from their site anyway. But it’s still on the wayback machine.).

    Some more examples from the open politics discsion on Curiosity (this website):

    • Roosh’s private account banned from Instagram.
    • Heartiste deleted from WordPress.
    • Michelle Malkin post deleted on Facebook.
    • An Objectivist defended deplatforming.
    • David Horowitz restricted on Twitter.
    • Borderless video had delayed processing, then was taken down, on YouTube.
    • Facebook deleted a Paul Joseph Watson post consisting of the single word “honk” becae it referenced a right wing political meme.
    • Koch Brothers Team Up With George Soros, Patreon and Airbnb to Fight Online Extremism (fighting online extremism is code for deplatforming).
    • Pinterest whistleblower told Project Veritas about their political bias. Then YouTube deleted the video after it had a million views. One consequence is that the link to the video in my email newsletter archives, which can’t be edited, is now broken.
    • Vdare article with non-classical-liberal tech censorship response.
    • I answer Alan Forrester’s question about what fraud Facebook has committed (part 2).
    • Apple threated to kick Parler (a Twitter competitor) off their app store unless Parler banned some people. Apple also blocks some channels on Telegram.
    • Reddit quarantined the The Donald subreddit and spended Veritas’ account.
    • YouTube officially fraudulently lied that we apply our policies fairly and without political bias.
    • I commented on fraud and deplatforming on the Hoe of Sunny podcast.
    • Wikipedia has biased editing, e.g. an example related to Jeffrey Epstein.
    • A gaming channel got banned at a million followers on YouTube and had to start over.
    • Links to collections of examples of Google and Facebook censorship.
    • Cloudflare deplatformed 8chan.
    • Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell got spended from Twitter for sharing a video showing people making violent threats against him
    • Owen Benjamin has been deplatformed by YouTube and others.
    • Games Done Quick speedrun marathon deplatforms people for MAGA hats.

    This is jt a small sampling of deplatforming info. There’s far more. Post more in the comments below. I’ve posted, as the first comment, a list of deplatforming related links that Jtin Mallone gathered earlier this year.


    Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (18)
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