Trying out something new

I have a fashion/lifestyle blog these days.

It’s in Finnish, but the pictures should be language-neutral.

I have generous friends

My birthday fundraiser was a fantastic success – I wasn’t originally sure whether a $500 goal would be realistic, but we ended up collecting the whole sum in donations to charitable causes! Even though it’s not actually my birthday anymore, I’m still feeling warm and fuzzy over the fact that this many people were ready to pitch in for good causes, and for my birthday. ^^ Final donation breakdown:

MIRI: $420,34
GiveDirectly: $52,33
Mercy for Animals: $27,33

(And I pitched in a bit, both to cover the PayPal fees that would have subtracted from these totals, and to bring the Mercy for Animals total up to $50.)

Many, many thanks to Peter Hurford , Juha Törmänen, Ricardo Martins, Sara Väätäjä, Jasper Mattson, Matti Keränen, Lani Pratt, Daniel Armak, Zoe Williams, Kimmo Kenttälä, Ninnat Dangniam, Holly Morgan, and five anonymous donors!

My birthday fundraiser

My birthday is today, on the 5th of September. I’d like to use my birthday to make the world a slightly better place, which is why I’m holding a birthday fundraiser! If you like me and would like to make both me and others a little happier on my birthday, please consider donating a few dollars, or euros, or Imperial Credits, or whatever your currency may happen to be. It would make me feel great to know that I’d enabled some worthy organizations to do their work just a bit better.

I’m using my birthday to collect for three organizations: the Machine Intelligence Research Institute works to make advanced artificial intelligence safer, GiveDirectly provides money directly to poor people in developing countries, and Mercy For Animals advocates for farm animals.

I chose MIRI because of my personal experience with them, GiveDirectly because they were recommended by the charity evaluation group GiveWell, and Mercy for Animals because they were recommended by Animal Charity Evaluators. You can choose to support one or more of them, or just make an unspecified donation, in which case I’ll use your money to support MIRI.

If you’re willing to donate, please do it via this link, so that we can see how much this drive manages to raise. :)

Arguments and relevance claims

The following once happened: I posted a link to some article on an IRC channel. A friend of mine read the article in question and brought up several criticisms. I felt that her criticisms were mostly correct though not very serious, so I indicated agreement with them.

Later on the same link was posted again. My friend commented something along the lines of “that was already posted before, we discussed this with Kaj and we found that the article was complete rubbish”. I was surprised – I had thought that I had only agreed to some minor criticisms that didn’t affect the main point of the article. But my friend had clearly thought that the criticisms were decisive and had made the article impossible to salvage.

Every argument actually has two parts, even if people often only state the first part. There’s the argument itself, and an implied claim of why the argument would matter if it were true. Call this implied part the relevance claim.

Suppose that I say “Martians are green”. Someone else says, “I have seen a blue Martian”, and means “I have seen a blue Martian (argument), therefore your claim of all Martians being green is false (relevance claim)”. But I might interpret this as them saying, “I have seen a blue Martian (argument), therefore your claim of most Martians being green is less likely (relevance claim)”. I then indicate agreement. Now I will be left with the impression that the other person made a true-but-not-very-powerful claim that left my argument mostly intact, whereas the other person is left with the impression that they made a very powerful claim that I agreed with, and therefore I admitted that I was wrong.

We could also say that the relevance claim is a claim of how much the probability of the original statement would be affected if the argument in question were true. So, for example “I have seen a blue martian (argument), therefore the probability of ‘Martians are green’ is less than .01 (relevance claim)”, or equivalently, “I have seen a blue martian” & “P(martians are green|I have seen a blue martian) < .01″.

If someone says something that I feel is entirely irrelevant to the whole topic, inferential silence may follow.

Therefore, if someone makes an argument that I agree with, but I suspect that we might disagree about its relevance, I now try to explicitly comment on what my view of the relevance of the argument is. Example.

Notice that people who are treating arguments as soldiers are more likely to do this automatically, without needing to explicitly remind themselves of it. In fact, for every argument that their opponent makes that they’re forced to concede, they’re likely to immediately say “but that doesn’t matter because X!”. The kinds of people who think that they aren’t treating arguments as soldiers will try to avoid automatically objecting “but that doesn’t matter because X” whenever our favored position gets weakened. This is a good thing, but it also means that we’re probably less likely than average to comment about an argument’s relevance even in cases where we should comment on it.

(Cross-posted on Less Wrong.)