Categories
Uncategorized

Straightening out the “Anthropic Principle”

Galaxy

This is my second and presumably last post on the anthropic principle. The first one is here.

The anthropic principle per Wikipedia is the “philosophical consideration that any data we collect about the universe is filtered by the fact that, in order for it to be observable in the first place, it must be compatible with the conscious and sapient life that observes it.” In popular discourse, this notion often manifests something like this: “How is the outrageously unlikely fact of our existence explained? Well, if the universe weren’t consistent with human life, we wouldn’t be here to ask that question!” I have beaten this formulation with a big heavy stick before (see the foregoing link) and I’ve now figured out how to frame the issue in a different but equally clear way.

First note that probabilities from your point of view depend on how much you know. For example, there’s probability that it will rain on any random day in Boston, given no other information. Then there’s there’s probability that it will rain today in Boston, given that it rained yesterday. These are generally going to be different probabilities.

Stat folks say “conditional on” instead of “given that.” E.g. where a normal person would say “the probability that it will rain today, given that it rained yesterday,” a Stat person would say “the probability that it will rain today, conditional on the fact that it rained yesterday.” And the probability that it will rain on any random day, given no other information, is called the unconditional probability.

On the “anthropic principle”: When people ask things like, “How is the outrageously unlikely fact of our existence explained?” they are interested in the unconditional probability that the universe has properties that can support human life (and that human life actually did evolve, but let’s just stick with the first part). Whereas the “anthropic principle” answers the completely trivial question, “What is the probability that the universe can support human life, conditional on the observation that human life actually exists?” The answer to that utterly trivial question is 100%, obviously.

Literally no human being ever, in the history of the world, meant to ask, “What’s the probability that the universe can support human life, given that it actually does support human life?” Yet that is the question that the so-called “anthropic principle” answers. Seriously, here’s the Wikipedia formulation again: The anthropic principle is the “philosophical consideration that any data we collect about the universe is filtered by the fact that, in order for it to be observable in the first place, it must be compatible with the conscious and sapient life that observes it.” That is literally saying, “The probability that the universe can support life, given that there is life to observe it, is 1.”

So much for the “anthropic principle.”

So what’s the honest answer to the unconditional question? I don’t see how anyone could know, because to answer this we’d need to know the probability distribution from which the actual universe was drawn. We don’t know that. Of course one can put forth if-then propositions about it. A common one is, “Suppose all universes which are physically possible exist. (The many worlds hypothesis.) Then the probability of any particular universe existing (including ones with humans) is 1.” Sure. But we don’t know whether the many worlds hypothesis is true.

Categories
Uncategorized

On the Possibility of Having True Beliefs

I vaguely recall a blog in which people were debating the role of self-confidence in pickup. (I forget whether it was a Game blog or a “rationalist” blog.) One person in the comments made the well-known point, a la Heartiste, that it’s better to be irrationally self-confident than rationally pessimistic, because with confidence you’ll do better with chicks.

Some doofus disputed this, saying it’s not good, because then “you’ll have beliefs that are demonstrably false.” Who cares, doofus? I’d rather have the false belief that I’ll score with 99% of chicks, which self-confidence leads me to score with say 20% of them, than have the belief that I’ll only score with 1%, if that pessimism would be a self-fulfilling prophecy and lead me to score with 1% of them. Or even worse, what if you had the belief that you’d score with zero chicks, and that became a self-fulfilling prophecy?!

The second commenter missed that while having true beliefs is good, there are other things that are also good. Like sex, for example.

Nietzsche: “Knowledge for its own sake”—that is the last snare laid by morality: we are thereby completely entangled in morals once more. The opening sections of Beyond Good and Evil engage with this in more depth. Old Fred was an interesting guy.

I could just stop right there, but I want to springboard from here to make a broader point about beliefs and outcomes. Consider general situations in which beliefs affect reality. For example self-fulfilling prophecies (SFPs) are common in economics, e.g. if enough people think a recession is coming, that can make them freak out and behave in ways— cutting back on consumer spending, laying off workers— that bring on a recession.

You can also have the opposite of an SFP. Example: I hear tell that chicks don’t like wearing the same dress as other chicks. Let’s suppose that every chick who’s going to a certain party tonight believes that lots of other chicks will be wearing a certain off-the-rack dress. Since they hate wearing what other chicks are wearing, none of them wears that dress. So the belief prevents itself from coming true.

In general beliefs can affect reality in ways more complex than self-fulfilling prophecies or self-blocking prophecies.

Here is my main point: In situations in which beliefs matter, it’s not at all obvious that there always even exist equilibrium beliefs, that is, beliefs that are both true and game-theoretically stable.

In math-speak, the item of interest is the mapping between beliefs and reality and the question is, Does that mapping even have a fixed point? That is, are there any beliefs that are self-confirming? It’s far from obvious whether the answer is always Yes.

(In the pickup example, a fixed point would be any SFP about your success rate. E.g. if you think you’ll score with 60% of chicks and that level of confidence causes you to indeed score with 60% of chicks.)

It’s possible that there are kinds of interactions in which any given belief is like the dress belief, in the sense that any particular belief will prevent itself from being true. In this kind of situation, hectoring someone because he has beliefs “which are demonstrably false” is even more idiotic, because it’s not even possible to have beliefs which won’t be demonstrably false!

(In theory an external observer— someone who’s not going to the party, in the dress example— could make correct predictions about the situation, but my focus here is the beliefs of people involved in the situation, e.g. you’re a guy going to a bar to try to pick up a chick and that’s what you’re forming beliefs about. By the way, even an external observer can’t form correct predictions without knowing all participants’ beliefs. That would require reading people’s minds, so no.)

On this claim that equilibrium beliefs may not be possible, people familiar with game theory may say “Ha! Nash’s Theorem, bitch!” But of course Nash’s Theorem makes certain assumptions about the environment, and uses a fixed-point theorem to prove the existence of equilibrium. If the mapping from beliefs to outcomes isn’t continuous, standard fixed point theorems don’t apply so that kind of proof doesn’t work.

(Note to nerdlingers: Nash’s Theorem deals with the continuity problem by letting agents’ moves be chosen probabilistically; this makes the relevant strategy sets continuous. But here, an agent’s “move” is his belief. The beliefs are about probabilities, but the beliefs are not themselves chosen probabilistically. There is a difference between (A) believing that a certain coin has a 0.5 probability of coming up heads, and (B) randomly switching between believing that it has a 100% probability and a 0% probability of coming up heads. If agents change their beliefs randomly, Nash’s Theorem might apply, but that’s not what we mean when we talk about beliefs, and certainly not rational beliefs. Changing your behavior with a random component can be rational, in adversarial games where you don’t want to be predictable, but changing your beliefs at random is not rational.)

The relevant mapping doesn’t even necessarily fill up the entire space. (Nerds: The mapping needn’t even be a surjective, i.e. “onto” mapping.) Indeed, there’s no man in the world who can be guaranteed to score with every woman in the world if he tries. Doesn’t matter if you believe you’ll have a 100% success rate; you won’t. So not all success probabilities are even in the range of the mapping.

“Damn it, Neuropoison; you’re really ass-raping my attention span here!” Okay sugar-tits, look at the pretty picture:

BeliefsReality1
A mapping from believed probabilities (horizontal axis) to actual probabilities (vertical axis).

The diagram has the same variable on both axes, probabilities in [0,1]. Thus the entire admissible space is a 1 x 1 square, though I prefer to call it a “2-dimensional hypercube” as that helps me to score with intellectual chicks. Any point on the identity line is a fixed point, a self-confirming belief about the probability of some event. The issue is that the mapping from beliefs to reality is not continuous, so there isn’t a fixed point. That is, there are no self-confirming beliefs.

Just eye-balling it, it looks like if your belief is 100%, the reality is about 60%, and that’s as high as it gets. If this described your F-close rate with chicks, your best belief (if you could choose your beliefs purposefully) would be that you’d score with 100% of chicks you hit on, which would lead to a success rate of 60%. Obviously I just pulled these numbers out of my ass, but the point is, anyone who says, “Your beliefs are demonstrably false” should be given a wedgie for various reasons, among them there are no beliefs which will self-confirm as demonstrably true anyway.

Now that I’ve finished writing this I’m wondering whether it’s mathematically robust. It seems to be, but did I miss something? Is there some way to do a Nash on this and guarantee that everything is actually continuous in the relevant way, thus guaranteeing at least one fixed point? If not, it’s unsettling, as it illustrates that there can be situations in which having correct beliefs is not even theoretically possible.

UPDATE a few days later: It turns out I was right. Nerdlinger explanation: The reason you can’t “do a Nash” on this is that Nash’s theorem applies to game theory, in which all players are best responding to other players’ moves. (From now on I’m going to write playahs because that amuses me.) That is, each playah’s move is his best option given the other playahs’ moves. And “best responding” means optimizing, which (with other features of Nash’s setup) allows the Theorem of the Maximum to be applied. And that theorem implies the continuity of best-response mappings, which in turn implies the existence of at least one fixed point. But here, there is no optimization/best responding. You believe some probability, then cause and effect kicks in and results in some actual probability. There’s no other playah who is choosing the actual probabilities to optimize some goal function. Therefore, nothing prevents the relevant mapping from being discontinuous, so there is not necessarily a fixed point.

Categories
Miscellany Politics Red pill

Miscellany 18: Love in the Time of Corona

(1)

Only the little people suffer at the hands of Justice; the creatures of power slide out from under with a wink and a grin. If you want justice, you will have to claw it from them. Make it personal. Do as much damage as you can. Get your message across. That way you stand a far better chance of being taken seriously next time. Of being considered dangerous. And make no mistake about this: being taken seriously, being considered dangerous, marks the difference—the only difference in their eyes—between players and little people. Players they will make deals with. Little people they liquidate.

Altered Carbon, Chapter 15

Well, they don’t always liquidate “little people,” no. But they do ignore them. They treat “little people” with contempt, with the smug disregard of someone whom it is safe to attack, someone who cannot fight back. We have to show them that if they provoke us—let alone attack us—they will suffer.

(2) Holy shit, even Scientific American acknowledges that sex differences are real and important:

Taking Sex Differences in Personality Seriously, by Scott Barry Kaufman, December 12, 2019.
Sub-heading: New approaches are shedding light on the magnitude of sex differences in personality, and the results are so strong and pervasive that they can no longer be ignored.

In a particularly devastating result for the “nurture” crowd,

“While there was cross-cultural variation in the effect, there was a general trend for more developed, individualistic countries with higher food availability, less pathogen prevalence, and higher gender equality to show the largest sex differences in global personality.”

[Emphasis in original.]

(3) Aidan Maclear on antinatalism:

“I must bulli, because there is no rational argument to be made with an antinatalist. It is as viscerally and obviously sick as a cult promoting suicide. You do not reason, you hit with stick.”

(4) Writer at the leftist Mother Jones belatedly notices the obvious, worries that “racism” rhetoric may have become counterproductive for the left:

With the exception of actual neo-Nazis and a few others, there isn’t anyone in America who’s trying to promote the idea that whites are inherently superior to blacks or Latinos. Conversely, there are loads of Americans who display signs of overt racism—or unconscious bias or racial insensitivity or resentment over loss of status—in varying degrees.

This isn’t just pedantic. It matters. It’s bad enough that liberals toss around charges of racism with more abandon than we should, but it’s far worse if we start calling every sign of racial animus—big or small, accidental or deliberate—white supremacy. I can hardly imagine a better way of proving to the non-liberal community that we’re all a bunch of out-of-touch nutbars who are going to label everyone and everything we don’t like as racist.

Ya think?! A decade or so too late on that one, dude.

(5) One Charlie Jane Anders is a tranny sci-fi author (So brave! See #7 below) who wrote a novel called The City in the Middle of the Night. The second paragraph:

As the two of us walk back toward campus, a brace of dark quince leaves, hung on doorways in some recent celebration, wafts past our feet. Their nine dried stems scuttle like tiny legs.

“Brace” means “pair.”

But the really awesome part is the dedication. It starts like this:

For my mom, who taught me about colonialism…

LOL. You really cannot satirize lefties any more.

(6) I don’t know what color pill this is, but it sure as hell isn’t blue:

“Sleeping with the enemy: An essay on mixed identity in the context of violent conflict.” Ralph Hartley, University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Social Identities, March 2010.

Abstract:
When competition between groups becomes violent the female of a mixed marriage and her offspring are often vulnerable to violence by not only the group from which her male partner is assigned but also to violent acts by members of the group with which she is identified. When the goal of an adversary is to eliminate manifestations of identity the role of the individual within a society, including children and other non-combatants, is of little consequence. Using the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda as a focus this essay takes a bio-social and cultural comparative approach in exploring the situational factors underlying genocidal behavior wherein the woman in a mixed conjugal union and her offspring are disproportionately vulnerable to violence. The possible co-evolvement of individual behaviors with group-level institutions is considered as worthy of more focused attention in an attempt to understand the intense vulnerability of some women and children in environments of lethal conflict.

Via http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/04/mailvox-what-about-meeeee.html

The lesson as I think it applies to the current western world: White women who think that they are making themselves safe by marrying non-white men – because they’re staying on the leading edge of current SJW political moves – may be… misguided. They and their children may find that out, sadly, when our political situation goes from warming up to boiling over.

(7) Speaking of pills of various hues, Elon Musk tweets “Take the red pill” to his 34 million followers. Sweet. Ivanka Trump responds “Taken!” in re-tweeting it. The usual “I’m so offended” crowd says “I’m so offended.”

Bonus: in the Guardian link we learn that there’s something called “the Brave Space Alliance, an LGBTQ support centre led by black and transgender people.” Yes, they call themselves “brave.” I guess they don’t want to wait for us tell them, “So brave! Thank you for this.” However, I think you guys are too modest. You know how Wile E. Coyote upgrades himself from “genius” to “supergenius”? You guys should upgrade yourselves from “brave” to “superbrave.” Don’t let any bigots tell you otherwise!

Categories
Politics

The Coronavirus was not planned by the left (or if it was, they sure are shooting themselves in the dick).

Wile-E-CoyoteLeft
“My master plan cannot fail!”

No one in the western world planned the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone is improvising in response to it.

And as our domestic enemies become more irrational— which is always the long-run trend of leftist insanity— their responses become more idiotic.

An example: Many states have now mandated the wearing of masks in public. This destroys what was obviously one of the totalitarians’ plans, to subjugate us by means of facial-recognition technology so they’d always know where everyone is. “But the corona thing won’t last forever,” you say. A lot of them want it to! More relevantly, the longer it lasts, the more the wearing of masks in public for health reasons become normalized. This is not something they would have supported if they were rational and in control of the situation. Maybe masks are a good idea for medical reasons; if so that’s evidence the bad guys are not in control of the situation, because the nature of the virus imposes constraints on them.

Another example: While some on the right are shrieking, “The economy’s tanking, and this will hurt Trump’s re-election chances!” this is wrong, idiots. Trump’s poll numbers went up. As I recall, it took a month of one-sided propaganda just for the bad guys to get his numbers back down nearer where they were before. That’s the most they can do. Everyone knows that the economic problems are due to the virus, not due to Trump. Duh. People in states with dictatorial governors know quite well that it’s the governors who are imposing totalist lockdowns, not Trump. Again, DUH.

Presidential matchup: In a Reuters poll from May 5, “45% of Americans said Trump was better suited to create jobs, while 32% said Biden was the better candidate for that. That pushed Trump’s advantage over Biden in terms of job creation to 13 points, compared with the Republican president’s 6-point edge in a similar poll that ran in mid-April.”

No one is going to blame the economy’s shutdown on Trump. That’s ridiculous. They ARE blaming the dictatorial actions on the (mostly Democrat) governors who are imposing those actions.

In fact, regarding the economy this might be lucky: It’s possible that there would have been a recession this year anyway. Apparently there were some signs that pointed in that direction. Without the virus, Trump would have taken the heat for that. But as things are, he won’t.

If all this leftist stupidity seems hard to believe, you must remember that even the left’s leadership is not evil supergeniuses. They’re mostly evil idiots and mid-wits. They are doing things that are hurting their popularity with voters. Insofar as they have a plan at all, it’s to counteract this damage with outright electoral fraud. But they had access to fraud before the virus. The virus just makes it more difficult for them to commit enough fraud to “win.”

The one caveat is whether they can use the virus as an excuse to force vote-by-mail in enough swing states. (Blue states don’t matter; they were always going to vote Dem anyway.) But for that to happen, the lockdown has to last months longer, and there’s no way that’s going to happen. People started getting restive and protesting this stuff weeks ago… even in deep-blue California. Let alone simply ignoring the lockdown orders. And some cops are pushing back against this stuff, and there are increasing lawsuits contesting it, some from some parts of the government suing other parts.

Also, the Dems have revealed to normies how psychotically power-mad they are. The best example is Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a woman who has screaming orgasms from bossing other human beings around. Without the virus and her overreach, most people in Michigan might not have known that. As it is, she has achieved national attention… and not in a good way.

All in all, the likelihood is that the increased anger at the Dems, which is broad-based, will overcome the possibility of mail-enabled electoral fraud in a couple of key swing states.

Apart from anger at the mostly-Dem overreach, what about the head-to-head Presidential contest? Latest reading, from that Reuters poll linked above: Thirty-seven percent said Trump was better leading the country’s coronavirus response, while 35% preferred Biden. That’s a statistical tie if we take it at face value, so the virus is not helping Dems. Allowing for the usual pro-Dem polling bias, the margin is larger in Trump’s favor: It’s hurting Dems.

Some whackos on the right have floated the Fu Manchu conspiracy theory that the U.S. Deep State created corona because they knew they were going to lose in November, so they had nothing to lose by throwing a monkey wrench into the machinery. The effects of corona were unpredictable, but if you’re going to lose anyway, why not? In terms of leftist behavior, this is certainly something they would do— it’s not as if the left has ever hesitated to kill for political advantage— but I see no evidence that they did do it. Occam’s Razor says this is just another natural disease. If the Deep State wanted to create a black swan medical crisis, they could have created something worse than the Spanish Flu of 1918. They actually created something relatively mild.

Also refuting the “evil genius master plan” notion is the left’s about-face on the virus. Remember, a couple of months ago they were telling us not to worry and that anyone who got worked up about it was a moron or a fascist trying to help Trump seize total power. Now they’ve done a 180. There is no evidence of planning here.