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Bloggingheads 04-02-2011 06:11 AM

Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 

RobinHanson 04-02-2011 08:39 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
The is an error Server.Reject here - the video will not play.

ejim 04-02-2011 08:46 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
working here, currently watching at university of florida

AemJeff 04-02-2011 10:15 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Not here, at least not on my desktop machine running Windows 7/64 w/ either Firefox 4 or IE 8.

Simon Willard 04-02-2011 10:29 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Broken for me, but the mp4 download works.

Ocean 04-02-2011 10:35 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
I'm not having any problems at all.

(Addendum: related to watching this video.) :)

Ocean 04-02-2011 10:46 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
I'm twenty minutes into the diavlog. Robin asks Brian why it would be so important or meaningful to try to be unlike an AI. He refers to an AI that is being scripted, lacking spontaneity, repetitive, with rigid routines.

Brian responds that it feels different, more human, and the quality is more pleasurable. They go on to discuss why.

I don't know whether they are going to discuss the neurochemical mechanisms why that would be. But, I would hope that they'll make reference to the fact that when we engage in repetitive, routine, scripted thought processes or activities, our brains go into "background mode". Dopamine decreases and the feeling perceived is that of boredom or even lethargy. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that mediates pleasure responses, is released among other things, when events are salient. When something new, different, sudden, unexpected occurs dopamine peaks. We feel alert, more alive if you want, our surroundings become more colorful and sharp.

So, from that perspective, spontaneity, creativity, non routine, non scripted activities are more pleasurable.

MargaretH 04-02-2011 11:03 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
I don't know the phrase "getting out of book." I take it that it is a chess-related expression. Would someone explain what it means? Thanks

Simon Willard 04-02-2011 11:11 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Wow, is this a silly conversation. Robin knows it's silly, and he struggles to maintain a polite composure while he (rightly) challenges every one of Brian's theses.

On a related note, I'm working on a computer program that solves math problems --- sometimes --- when it feels like it. And occasionally it takes 10 times longer than it should to obtain the right answer. And occasionally it gives a wrong answer. And sometimes it decides not to give an answer at all, but it types out a few lines of James Joyce instead. Please leave a note if you would like to purchase a copy.

Simon Willard 04-02-2011 11:25 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
There's a statement early on to the effect that we are trying to build machines that reproduce human capabilities so as to pass the Turing test. Well, sure. But the history of the computer industry shows that we mostly try to create machines that do things humans can't do. The latest Intel chip does multiplication and division billions of times faster than a human can. What's the next step? Intel is trying to do math even faster than that.

Be different from humans. That's where the money is.

ejim 04-02-2011 11:32 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/352...3:34&out=44:44

so Brian starts out this clip saying something like that we can use wisdom and think about what makes us different from machines to figure out what we want. Robin replies maybe this is just a signal that we are smart. ?? Is this nonsequeter? i dont get it why is everything about signaling and not actually about how to figure out what we want and how to live our lives. In another part it they were talking about how a wealthy person might value taking care of a garden, but then no, he does not value it he is just signalling htat he is wealthy and smart??

I kind of get what Robin is doing but doesn't stepping out and taking the meta view constantly miss the point? Maybe it is not about signalling status? Maybe its about finding what you value?

Also Robin says that economics lets us know what we value and i think he made a pretty good argument for me...
http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/352...0:00&out=62:43

Is it true that economics tells you what people value and that people will make those trades to find what they want and what they value most? We should not complain about people making such trades that we think might lead to lower life satisfaction because really they are optimizing something they value more. In fact we cant know what they value, only they know it and they use the market to demonstrate what they value. Its convincing me but im not comfortable with it. Can someone critique this?

ohcomeon 04-02-2011 12:11 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Not working for me either

JohnSWren 04-02-2011 12:41 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Seems to me Brian raises a valid concern. Don't act like an animal, and don't act like a machine. Robin seems to have a hard time understanding the concept, maybe it would help if he'd read EF Schumacher's book with the very telling (to Brian's argument) "Small is Beautiful-- Economics as if people mattered."

AemJeff 04-02-2011 01:38 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202897)
Wow, is this a silly conversation. Robin knows it's silly, and he struggles to maintain a polite composure while he (rightly) challenges every one of Brian's theses.

On a related note, I'm working on a computer program that solves math problems --- sometimes --- when it feels like it. And occasionally it takes 10 times longer than it should to obtain the right answer. And occasionally it gives a wrong answer. And sometimes it decides not to give an answer at all, but it types out a few lines of James Joyce instead. Please leave a note if you would like to purchase a copy.

I don't agree that it was silly. (I doubt that Robin does either.) I think Brian's argument has a weakness, in that it's hard to quantify the issues that concern him. I also think Robin is right to argue for deep skepticism in regard to Brian's fine-grained concerns; but I think it's fair to say that Brian has an instinct (that I share to some extent) that there may be qualities related to subjective experience that are both important and resistant to measurement, or even direct discussion. Maybe it's an illusion (although Ocean's post about brain chemistry seems relevant) - but, I don't think it's right to dismiss that concern a priori.

T.G.G.P 04-02-2011 01:49 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
The Language Log peeves on Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" almost as much as on Strunk & White. They compare avoiding metaphors, similes and clliches to avoiding the letter 'e'.

James Scott's "The Art of Not Being Governed" is an excellent book partly on the dichotomy "civilized" and "barbarian" peoples feel toward one another.

The classic example of signalling your ability at distinguishing ("discrimination" used to be the word) is "The Emperor's New Clothes".

Robin says Christian is implying people are "less human" for liking games with clear objectives. I think there is a literature in "natural types" describing how we think of categories in terms not only of what is most characteristic of the category, but also what is most distinctive.

Warren Spector, creator of one of my favorite games, induced a lot of cringes when he talked about "The Tyranny of Choice".

Simon Willard 04-02-2011 01:51 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 202914)
I don't agree that it was silly. (I doubt that Robin does either.) I think Brian's argument has a weakness, in that it's hard to quantify the issues that concern him. I also think Robin is right to argue for deep skepticism in regard to Brian's fine-grained concerns, but I think it's fair to say that Brian has an instinct (that I share to some extent) that there may be qualities related to subjective experience that are both important and resistant to measurement or even direct discussion. Maybe it's an illusion (although Ocean's post about brain chemistry seems relevent) - but, I don't think it's right to dismiss that concern a priori.

Didn't you feel that every time Robin pushed -- even a little -- at a thesis, Brian side-stepped the question, or changed the subject, or just agreed with Robin to deflect the criticism? So the conversation sort of wandered aimlessly without getting very deep into things that would be very interesting. It's partly the difficulty of verbalizing these ideas, but I don't think either one of them made any very enlightening remarks. And I think that is partly because Robin felt constrained, informally acting as an interviewer of a budding author.


Maybe I'm just looking for an argument.

ejim 04-02-2011 02:26 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Its odd but i got just the opposite from the dialogue. I thought this was about what we should value and every time Brian asked interesting questions about our values. Robin would answer that the market already shows what we value and everything else we say we value is just signalling.

AemJeff 04-02-2011 02:32 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202916)
Didn't you feel that every time Robin pushed -- even a little -- at a thesis, Brian side-stepped the question, or changed the subject, or just agreed with Robin to deflect the criticism? So the conversation sort of wandered aimlessly without getting very deep into things that would be very interesting. It's partly the difficulty of verbalizing these ideas, but I don't think either one of them made any very enlightening remarks. And I think that is partly because Robin felt constrained, informally acting as an interviewer of a budding author.


Maybe I'm just looking for an argument.

Actually I did feel that way. At times, in fact, it seemed as if Robin had a better grasp of the implications of parts of Brian's argument than Brian did.

Simon Willard 04-02-2011 02:54 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ejim (Post 202918)
Its odd but i got just the opposite from the dialogue. I thought this was about what we should value and every time Brian asked interesting questions about our values. Robin would answer that the market already shows what we value and everything else we say we value is just signalling.

"Value" is such a vague term. We could go on for hours debating what the word means. The simplest definition would posit that people already do, at all times, that which they most value.

What's your definition of "value"?

Ocean 04-02-2011 04:57 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 202914)
I don't agree that it was silly. (I doubt that Robin does either.) I think Brian's argument has a weakness, in that it's hard to quantify the issues that concern him. I also think Robin is right to argue for deep skepticism in regard to Brian's fine-grained concerns; but I think it's fair to say that Brian has an instinct (that I share to some extent) that there may be qualities related to subjective experience that are both important and resistant to measurement, or even direct discussion. Maybe it's an illusion (although Ocean's post about brain chemistry seems relevant) - but, I don't think it's right to dismiss that concern a priori.

I can't honestly say that's I clearly understand what Robin is defending (if anything). Perhaps because I listened to the diavlog in bits and pieces I missed some essential idea.

Brian's point does come through more clearly to me. We can all endure tedious repetitive tasks. We may even choose them because they provide some efficient use of time or resources, or even saves psychological energy since one doesn't have to problem solve N times a day. But the fact that tedium is tolerable, doesn't mean that it provides any direct psychological benefit to the person that endures it. The benefit may be indirect, or it may go to the person's employer who profits from increased efficiency.

Usually people enjoy activities where they can apply their creative or intellectual skills and be spontaneous. I don't know that it would be so hard to measure.

The segment when they talked about pick up lines for dating seemed bizarre to me. I guess there are people who have to study and rehearse how to be friendly, pleasant or attractive or how to deceive others to fall in some kind of trap. The normal way to go about it, spontaneity, may not come naturally to everybody, or may not be enough to compensate for other significant shortcomings in dating skills.

AemJeff 04-02-2011 05:19 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 202934)
I can't honestly say that's I clearly understand what Robin is defending (if anything). Perhaps because I listened to the diavlog in bits and pieces I missed some essential idea.

Brian's point does come through more clearly to me. We can all endure tedious repetitive tasks. We may even choose them because they provide some efficient use of time or resources, or even saves psychological energy since one doesn't have to problem solve N times a day. But the fact that tedium is tolerable, doesn't mean that it provides any direct psychological benefit to the person that endures it. The benefit may be indirect, or it may go to the person's employer who profits from increased efficiency.

Usually people enjoy activities where they can apply their creative or intellectual skills and be spontaneous. I don't know that it would be so hard to measure.

The segment when they talked about pick up lines for dating seemed bizarre to me. I guess there are people who have to study and rehearse how to be friendly, pleasant or attractive or how to deceive others to fall in some kind of trap. The normal way to go about it, spontaneity, may not come naturally to everybody, or may not be enough to compensate for other significant shortcomings in dating skills.

It seems to me that the problem with Brian's point is that it seems really hard to put your finger on what exactly he's talking about. Many of us share a sense, I think, of the relative, subjective quality of a given experience, especially in comparison with other experiences. It seems somehow better, for example, when you're interacting with other people, if your part of an interaction is based something other than your assessment regarding the most-likely-to-be-productive selection from a canned set of responses. (Which is what the pick-up lines example was about.) Most of us find that sort of behavior creepy, from the outside - but, I think it's legitimate to ask whether that's really anything other than a normative judgment. What's the standard? How would we demonstrate to a Martian the value of the underlying judgment? I liked Brian's "circles and octagons" analogy. What if the measure of those tiny curves that we claim to value actually falls below some threshold of perceptibility, and though we believe we're circles, we are, in fact, slightly deluded octagons? It's an interesting question...

BornAgainDemocrat 04-02-2011 06:15 PM

Work and Leisure
 
Happiness is a part-time job in the country.

Unit 04-02-2011 06:41 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 202934)
I can't honestly say that's I clearly understand what Robin is defending (if anything). Perhaps because I listened to the diavlog in bits and pieces I missed some essential idea.

Brian's point does come through more clearly to me. We can all endure tedious repetitive tasks. We may even choose them because they provide some efficient use of time or resources, or even saves psychological energy since one doesn't have to problem solve N times a day. But the fact that tedium is tolerable, doesn't mean that it provides any direct psychological benefit to the person that endures it.

Jogging?

ohreally 04-02-2011 10:56 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ejim (Post 202901)
http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/352...3:34&out=44:44

Is it true that economics tells you what people value and that people will make those trades to find what they want and what they value most?

Economics is a poor proxy. First, it often measures "value under constraints" rather than "intrinsic value." A guy whose job gives him crushing headaches "values" advil. But in fact he values no such thing. What he values is a headache-free job. If you have a 10-min lunch break, you'll value your vending machine's fast food, but again that's more a statement about your job environment than your values. Second, trade often measures needs and desires, neither of which has necessarily much to do with value. Third, it can't measure noneconomic value: love, hopes, your toddler's drawings, etc.

Simon Willard 04-02-2011 11:54 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ohreally (Post 202944)
Economics is a poor proxy. First, it often measures "value under constraints" rather than "intrinsic value." A guy whose job gives him crushing headaches "values" advil. But in fact he values no such thing. What he values is a headache-free job. If you have a 10-min lunch break, you'll value your vending machine's fast food, but again that's more a statement about your job environment than your values. Second, trade often measures needs and desires, neither of which has necessarily much to do with value. Third, it can't measure noneconomic value: love, hopes, your toddler's drawings, etc.

Can you define "intrinsic value"? I don't know what that means.

Why would a guy take Advil if he didn't value taking Advil? I don't think it's possible. He must also value his job, or he wouldn't do it. He may be desirous of a headache-free job, but I assume that he does not have that option, otherwise he would take it. And if you don't have an option, or if you cannot obtain something, then what meaning does "value" have? I would say the value is undefined.

Therefore the value of a single Advil pill exceeds the value of the dream job, as long as that job is unobtainable.

Ocean 04-03-2011 12:12 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202945)

Therefore the value of a single Advil pill exceeds the value of the dream job, as long as that job is unobtainable.

I thought the point is that the person shouldn't live his life believing that Advil is the greatest thing on Earth. Instead he should realize that it's a mere tool to relieve his suffering, which is caused by a bad job choice, or a bad set of circumstances. A better, headache free job would have a greater intrinsic value.

I have difficulty understanding economics/ utilitarian reasoning except for the most basic level. Most of the time it seems to lack depth. Perhaps I'll come around to understand it one day.

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 12:58 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 202946)
I thought the point is that the person shouldn't live his life believing that Advil is the greatest thing on Earth. Instead he should realize that it's a mere tool to relieve his suffering, which is caused by a bad job choice, or a bad set of circumstances. A better, headache free job would have a greater intrinsic value.

If you can get a better job, it has better value to you. Nothing "intrinsic" about it. So... why doesn't everyone have a better job?

If Warren Buffet gave me $10 million, it would make me happier. It would have great value to me. However, I'm not expecting that. That $10 million sits somewhere, Omaha perhaps, permanently out of my reach. And therefore it has no value to me. Perhaps you think it's counterintuitive that $10 million has no value, but that's the point I'm trying to make.

cosmic_electrons_dancing 04-03-2011 01:22 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Brian said, "Damn it, I just wasted an hour of my life." My sentiment exactly.

ohreally 04-03-2011 01:31 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202945)
He must also value his job, or he wouldn't do it.


Do you read what you write, or do you live on a different planet?

Florian 04-03-2011 07:25 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202945)
Can you define "intrinsic value"? I don't know what that means.

Why would a guy take Advil if he didn't value taking Advil? I don't think it's possible. He must also value his job, or he wouldn't do it. He may be desirous of a headache-free job, but I assume that he does not have that option, otherwise he would take it. And if you don't have an option, or if you cannot obtain something, then what meaning does "value" have? I would say the value is undefined.

Therefore the value of a single Advil pill exceeds the value of the dream job, as long as that job is unobtainable.

Non-sequitur, it seems to me.

Would you accept the idea that some values (goods) are instrumental to, or the means to, some other values (goods), and that other values are good in themselves (intrinsic values)? To be free of pain is an intrinsic good, and Advil is the (temporary) means to that end. That is its instrumental value. To have a job, even if it is not a dream job, can be considered both as an intrinsic value and as the intrumental means to other values (goods). There is a certain amount of disagreement among people about this. Is work a necessary evil or an intrinsic good? Or both? In any case, it is unavoidable in any modern society. I seriously doubt, though, that anyone, even someone who considers work to be a necessary evil (the means to other intrinsic goods) would rank it as equivalent to a pain-killer.

So I cannot see how the value of a single Advil pill could exceed the value of a job, let alone a dream job.

Roosevelt 04-03-2011 08:29 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
While I almost always enjoy the diavlogues on BloggingHeads, I must say I really disliked this one. I wish Hanson hadn't spent the first 53 minutes (I stopped there) incredulously asking the same question in twenty different ways. John Horgan or George Johnson or Will Wilkinson, even if they held the same objections, would've moved on at the 10 minute mark.

Ocean 04-03-2011 11:40 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Unit (Post 202937)
Jogging?

No. Chores around the house, telephone calls and all that.

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 11:51 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 202954)
Non-sequitur, it seems to me.

Would you accept the idea that some values (goods) are instrumental to, or the means to, some other values (goods), and that other values are good in themselves (intrinsic values)? To be free of pain is an intrinsic good, and Advil is the (temporary) means to that end. That is its instrumental value. To have a job, even if it is not a dream job, can be considered both as an intrinsic value and as the intrumental means to other values (goods). There is a certain amount of disagreement among people about this. Is work a necessary evil or an intrinsic good? Or both? In any case, it is unavoidable in any modern society. I seriously doubt, though, that anyone, even someone who considers work to be a necessary evil (the means to other intrinsic goods) would rank it as equivalent to a pain-killer.

So I cannot see how the value of a single Advil pill could exceed the value of a job, let alone a dream job.

Florian, I'm not accepting the notions of "intrinsic value" or "instrumental value". I think that's just meaningless gobbledygook. I do accept that "value" allows for comparison between things, otherwise it would not be a useful concept. When offered a choice between A and B, I will choose the one with more value.

My job has its irritations, so why don't I quit? I value the job because the income I receive allows me to feed my beloved children. So I'm bundling these things together: the love that ohreally claims cannot be measured is, in fact, measured in my choice to keep the job, and it affects many other choices I make.

You don't like my bundling? Well, I do understand the urge to analyze value into component parts ("My job is worthless, but I'm forced to do it to feed the kids"). I would caution you that such analysis often leads us astray and strips us of our humanity. Does a share of Apple stock have a value? Of course not. It only acquires a value when it is sold. Likewise, other values in our life can be directly assigned only when we make a choice. The value I place on my job is measured by how tightly I cling to it, rejecting other opportunities.

Be wary of intrinsic value. When your partner says "I didn't really need this, but it was on sale!" he/she has been misled by an illusion of intrinsic value.

Back to the value of an Advil pill -- I admit it's pretty small, but it does have measurable value for people with headaches. It certainly exceeds the value of a job that has zero value. When would a job have zero value? When a person would prefer to forfeit the income rather than do the job. Happens all the time.

Ocean 04-03-2011 11:54 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202948)
If you can get a better job, it has better value to you. Nothing "intrinsic" about it. So... why doesn't everyone have a better job?

If Warren Buffet gave me $10 million, it would make me happier. It would have great value to me. However, I'm not expecting that. That $10 million sits somewhere, Omaha perhaps, permanently out of my reach. And therefore it has no value to me. Perhaps you think it's counterintuitive that $10 million has no value, but that's the point I'm trying to make.


You may want to see Florian's comment as well.

Again, the central point here seems to be that we have developed such a complex structure in society, with so many layers that separate us from our natural needs and wants, that we may be losing track of those things that have an intrinsic value. The whole idea of paying for status signaling, or why we end up using so many of our resources on things that may be in essence meaningless are at the core of the discussion. It's like expending your entire salary in transportation to your job! Unless you work for fun, and would do it for free, it doesn't make sense as a means to make an income.

That's the kind of paradox that's being discussed. Your reasoning seems to be exactly what's being criticized. Assigning value to things that don't have an intrinsic value, should be done with caution and full awareness, while not losing track of the things that do have intrinsic value.

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 12:06 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 202961)
You may want to see Florian's comment as well.

Again, the central point here seems to be that we have developed such a complex structure in society, with so many layers that separate us from our natural needs and wants, that we may be losing track of those things that have an intrinsic value. The whole idea of paying for status signaling, or why we end up using so many of our resources on things that may be in essence meaningless are at the core of the discussion. It's like expending your entire salary in transportation to your job! Unless you work for fun, and would do it for free, it doesn't make sense as a means to make an income.

That's the kind of paradox that's being discussed. Your reasoning seems to be exactly what's being criticized. Assigning value to things that don't have an intrinsic value, should be done with caution and full awareness, while not losing track of the things that do have intrinsic value.


I do agree about the danger of assigning value to things. See my reply to Florian.

But I'm afraid I'm not completely understanding you. I'm still looking for an explanation of this mysterious "intrinsic value" thing.

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 12:08 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ohreally (Post 202950)
Do you read what you write, or do you live on a different planet?

Do you live what you believe? Or is your life controlled by others?

Florian 04-03-2011 12:25 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Thank you for your reply, but you completely missed the point. I rephrased your comment in terms of goods, intrinsic and instrumental, because "value" is ambiguous.

All goods are either intrinsic or instrumental. They are either ends, that for the sake of which something is done--being free of pain in your example--- or they are the means to such ends--the pain-killer. Work, as I pointed out, can be both intrinsic (a good, an end in itself) or a means to an end, or both. That is not gobbledegook. That is just the basic grammar of moral evaluation, and has been so since Plato and Aristotle. Your ridiculous comment about Advil would not have been acceptable to them, or to a freshman in philosophy 101 at Harvard.

Ocean 04-03-2011 12:38 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202962)
I do agree about the danger of assigning value to things. See my reply to Florian.

But I'm afraid I'm not completely understanding you. I'm still looking for an explanation of this mysterious "intrinsic value" thing.

I can see that the problem is in how we define intrinsic value vs instrumental value.

The example in your response to Florian suggests that we aren't sharing the same definition of intrinsic value:

Quote:

Be wary of intrinsic value. When your partner says "I didn't really need this, but it was on sale!" he/she has been misled by an illusion of intrinsic value.
The above is an example of something that doesn't have an intrinsic value to you or your partner because of the statement "I didn't really need this". We have become used to enjoying bargains, so we may feel compelled to buy something on sale even when we don't need it. That's exactly the kind of trap that we fall into by creating the illusion of value (as you say above).

Quote:

Intrinsic value is an ethical and philosophic property. It is the ethical or philosophic value that an object has "in itself" or "for its own sake", as an intrinsic property. An object with intrinsic value may be regarded as an end or end-in-itself.

It is contrasted with instrumental value (or extrinsic value), the value of which depends on how much it generates intrinsic value. For an eudaemonist, happiness has intrinsic value, while having a family may not have intrinsic value, yet be instrumental, since it generates happiness. Intrinsic value is a term employed in axiology, the study of quality or value.
The problem is that sometimes there are so many layers of things with instrumental value, that we lose track of what it is that really has intrinsic value. You can identify intermediate values that somehow carry some intrinsic value relatively speaking, although they may be means to reach something else.

For example, if someone decides to improve their appearance in order to start dating, their clothes, what they pay for a hair cut have instrumental value. Dating itself may have an instrumental value because it may lead to a long term relationship/ family. Family may have an instrumental value because it may lead to happiness (although this is arguable ;) ). In this example, it is possible that some of those intermediate steps have gathered a certain degree of intrinsic value because there's some gratification that comes out of it independent of the instrumentality function.

Taking a pill seems to lack even that intermediate value, unless the pill is some form of tasty chewable that can be enjoyed by itself.

This view is more "meta". You seemed to refer to value as a very discrete concept that applies to every moment when decisions are made, the value at that particular knot.

badhatharry 04-03-2011 01:53 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202897)
Wow, is this a silly conversation. Robin knows it's silly, and he struggles to maintain a polite composure while he (rightly) challenges every one of Brian's theses.

On a related note, I'm working on a computer program that solves math problems --- sometimes --- when it feels like it. And occasionally it takes 10 times longer than it should to obtain the right answer. And occasionally it gives a wrong answer. And sometimes it decides not to give an answer at all, but it types out a few lines of James Joyce instead. Please leave a note if you would like to purchase a copy.

How ironic! I'm reading Ulysses. If it can interpret Joyce (particularly Chapter 9), I'll buy it.

badhatharry 04-03-2011 02:20 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Quoting Ocean:That's the kind of paradox that's being discussed. Your reasoning seems to be exactly what's being criticized. Assigning value to things that don't have an intrinsic value, should be done with caution and full awareness, while not losing track of the things that do have intrinsic value.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202962)
I do agree about the danger of assigning value to things. See my reply to Florian.
But I'm afraid I'm not completely understanding you. I'm still looking for an explanation of this mysterious "intrinsic value" thing.

Geez, what a numbskull you are, Simon Willard.

Things with intrinsic value are things which should be kept track of and kept separate and maybe even in a different room from things which don't have intrinsic value. You'll know them when you see them.

And it goes without saying, hopefully, that when you assign value to things that don't have intrinsic value you should be very careful and close the door when you're finished.

I will now beg another question.


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