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Sunday, September 22nd 2019
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Saturday, September 21st 2019
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7Kerry_Vaughan1d Is there a "scientific method"? If you learned about science in school, or read the Wikipedia page on the scientific method, you might have encountered the idea that there is a single thing called “The Scientific Method.” Different formulations of the scientific method are described differently, but it involves generating hypotheses, making predictions, running experiments, evaluating the results and then submitting them for peer review. The idea is that all scientists follow something like this method. The idea of there being a “scientific method” exists for some reason, but it’s probably not because this corresponds to the reality of actual science. This description from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the scientific methodology is helpful: ”[t]he issue which has shaped debates over scientific method the most in the last half century is the question of how pluralist do we need to be about method? Unificationists continue to hold out for one method essential to science; nihilism is a form of radical pluralism ... Some middle degree of pluralism regarding the methods embodied in scientific practice seems appropriate.” Similarly, the physicist and Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg said: ”The fact that the standards of scientific success shift with time does not only make the philosophy of science difficult; it also raises problems for the public understanding of science. We do not have a fixed scientific method to rally around and defend.” This suggests that the mainstream view amongst those who seriously study the scientific method is that there isn’t a single method that comprises science, but that there are a variety of methods and the question is how many different methods to include. This is weird. Why is the public discussion about the scientific method so out-of-touch with the reality of science? My best guess is that public discussions of the scientific method are doing three different things: 1. Governance Scientific knowledge is

Thursday, September 19th 2019
Thu, Sep 19th 2019

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26Linch3d cross-posted from Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/linchuan.zhang/posts/2407342496023187]. Sometimes I hear people who caution humility say something like "this question has stumped the best philosophers for centuries/millennia. How could you possibly hope to make any progress on it?". While I concur that humility is frequently warranted and that in many specific cases that injunction is reasonable [1], I think the framing is broadly wrong. In particular, using geologic time rather than anthropological time hides the fact that there probably weren't that many people actively thinking about these issues, especially carefully, in a sustained way, and making sure to build on the work of the past. For background, 7% of all humans who have ever lived are alive today, and living people compose 15% of total human experience [2] so far!!! It will not surprise me if there are about as many living philosophers today as there were dead philosophers in all of written history. For some specific questions that particularly interest me (eg. population ethics, moral uncertainty), the total research work done on these questions is generously less than five philosopher-lifetimes. Even for classical age-old philosophical dilemmas/"grand projects" (like the hard problem of consciousness), total work spent on them is probably less than 500 philosopher-lifetimes, and quite possibly less than 100. There are also solid outside-view reasons to believe that the best philosophers today are just much more competent [3] than the best philosophers in history, and have access to much more resources[4]. Finally, philosophy can build on progress in natural and social sciences (eg, computers, game theory). Speculating further, it would not surprise me, if, say, a particularly thorny and deeply important philosophical problem can effectively be solved in 100 more philosopher-lifetimes. Assuming 40 years of work and $200,000/year per philosopher, including overhead, this is ~800 millio

Sunday, September 15th 2019
Sun, Sep 15th 2019

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10casebash7d If we run any more anonymous surveys, we should encourage people to pause and consider whether they are contributing productively or just venting. I'd still be in favour of sharing all the responses, but I have enough faith in my fellow EAs to believe that some would take this to heart.

Saturday, September 14th 2019
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Friday, September 13th 2019
Fri, Sep 13th 2019

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5jpaddison8d I want to write a post saying why Aaron [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/users/aarongertler] and I* think the Forum is valuable, which technical features currently enable it to produce that value, and what other features I’m planning on building to achieve that value. However, I've wanted to write that post for a long time and the muse of public transparency and openness (you remember that one, right?) hasn't visited. Here's a more mundane but still informative post, about how we relate to the codebase we forked off of. I promise the space metaphor is necessary. I don't know whether to apologize for it or hype it. ——— You can think of the LessWrong [https://www.lesswrong.com/] codebase [https://github.com/LessWrong2/Lesswrong2] as a planet-sized spaceship. They're traveling through the galaxy of forum-space, and we're a smaller spacecraft following along. We spend some energy following them, but benefit from their gravitational pull. (The real-world correlate of their gravity pulling us along is that they make features which we benefit from.) We have less developer-power than they do (1 dev vs 2.5-3.5, depending on how you count.) So they can move faster than we can, and generally go in directions we want to go. We can go further away from the LW planet-ship (by writing our own features), but this causes their gravitational pull to be weaker and we have to spend more fuel to keep up with them (more time adapting their changes for our codebase). I view the best strategy as making features that LW also wants (moving both ships in directions I want), and then, when necessary, making changes that only I want. ——— One implication of this is that feature requests are more likely to be implemented, and implemented quickly, if they are compelling to both the EA Forum and LessWrong. These features keep the spaceships close together, helping them burn less fuel in the process.** *(and Max [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/users/maxdalton] and Ben [https://for

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