The best 15 words

post by apophenia · 2013-10-03T09:08:34.710Z · score: 12 (27 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 386 comments

People want to tell everything instead of telling the best 15 words.  They want to learn everything instead of the best 15 words.  In this thread, instead post the best 15-words from a book you've read recently (or anything else).  It has to stand on its own. It's not a summary, the whole value needs to be contained in those words.

 

 

I'll start in the comments below.

(Voted by the Schelling study group as the best exercise of the meeting.)

386 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Nisan · 2013-10-03T21:09:46.350Z · score: 28 (32 votes) · LW · GW

Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter (or works of Quine):

"is false when preceded by its quotation" is false when preceded by its quotation.

comment by Stabilizer · 2013-10-03T21:23:26.415Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I hate you.

comment by mfb · 2013-10-06T14:26:05.836Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm, the whole statement is ' "is false when preceded by its quotation" is false when preceded by its quotation.', and it is not preceded by its quotation.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-07T05:49:53.534Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation" yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation.

comment by Morendil · 2013-10-04T20:47:32.900Z · score: 19 (21 votes) · LW · GW

If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T01:00:27.600Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

this seems like it belongs in the boring advice repository, but i'll say it anyway:

Smarter than Person X by most metrics ≠ nothing to learn from interacting with Person X

I'd modify the wording of the advice to:

"Strive to have at least one person close to you who exceeds you in your primary domains, (as well as the domains you wish to improve upon)"

comment by Morendil · 2013-10-07T21:20:21.953Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Those are not the best 15 words!

Although this is the lesser of two evils. This comment and this are, it seems to me, trying too hard to be the smartest person in the room: technically correct, but only if you ride roughshod over Gricean principles. This is a common failure mode.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T04:43:13.830Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(My comment was kind-of tongue-in-cheek. I know what you actually meant.)

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-07T23:46:04.954Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If "violating Gricean principles" = willfully misunderstanding what was meant, I wasn't.

The trouble with what ismeant by "your in the wrong room" is that while it can be taken to mean "seek out intellectual superiors" is also means "avoid intellectual inferiors". I meant to contest the latter.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T04:46:30.515Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How so? “You're the smartest person in the room” means that you have no intellectual superiors in there. It doesn't mean you have no intellectual inferiors -- that'd be “you're not the dumbest person in the room”.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-04T23:11:46.727Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

By that standards, in every room there is someone who shouldn't be there.

comment by shminux · 2013-10-04T23:17:21.848Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

That's why every room should have a way out.

comment by wadavis · 2013-10-09T02:23:00.490Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

And right here is the breakdown on why it is ok to gun for your boss's job, because he is gunning for the next room.

comment by Iksorod · 2013-10-05T00:13:57.024Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

By that standard, no one should be in any room.

comment by Zvi · 2013-10-07T14:44:03.602Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

But I'm the only one here...

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-10T12:35:13.716Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But I'm the only one here...

...which prompts that observation that apparently we should all be showering communally and only using toilets that are already occupied.

comment by Stabilizer · 2013-10-04T21:48:49.573Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What book is this?

comment by Morendil · 2013-10-05T08:22:26.402Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The "or anything else" files.

comment by apophenia · 2013-10-03T09:11:12.028Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Judea Pearl, Causality:

If two things are correlated, there is causation. Either A causes B, B causes A, they have common cause, or they have a common effect you're conditioning on.

Edit: If two variables are correlated, there is causation. Either A causes B, B causes A, they have common cause, or they have a common effect you're conditioning on.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-03T10:46:05.192Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If two things are correlated, there is causation. Either A causes B, B causes A, they have common cause, or they have a common effect you're conditioning on.

That's 28 words. Isn't it a bit long? (Still upvoted because the first sentence stands on its own with just 8 words.)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-03T13:27:33.118Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

•It doesn't have to be 15 words long, it's just the best "15" words.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-03T14:57:30.060Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If two things are correlated, there is causation.

I am confused, that doesn't seem to be true.

Consider a sine wave. It can be observed in a great number of phenomena, from the sound produced by a tuning fork to the plot of temperature in mid-latitudes throughout the year. All measurements which produce something resembling a sine wave are correlated. Remember that correlation (well, at least Pearson's correlation -- I assume that's what is meant here) is invariant to linear transformations so different scale is not a problem.

comment by Liron · 2013-10-03T23:14:57.652Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Correlation isn't a property of a pair of mathematical functions or a pair of physical systems, it's a property of a pair of random variables.

"A and B are correlated" means "Observing A can change your probabilistic beliefs about B".

If you already know that A and B are both sine waves, then neither has any belief-updating power over the others, there's no randomness in the random variables.

(I know that's not 100% precise... someone else please improve.)

comment by johnswentworth · 2013-10-04T01:31:08.272Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In the vast majority of cases involving sine waves, the correlation between A and B is due to the common cause of time. Space is also a common cause of such correlations.

However, if you imagine a sine wave in time and another sine wave in space, they have no correlation until you impose a correlation between space and time (e.g., by using a mapping from x to t). In that case, Armok's comment about a logical rather than physical cause might apply.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-04T15:37:33.126Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

the common cause of time

I don't understand what does that mean. In which sense can time be thought of as a cause?

comment by johnswentworth · 2013-10-05T02:59:06.492Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I started writing a reply to this comment, but as I was thinking through it I realized that the situation is actually WAY more interesting than I thought and requires a whole post. I've posted it in discussion:

http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/is7/the_cause_of_time/

Sorry if it's a bit unclear right now, hopefully I'll have time to add some diagrams this weekend.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-10-13T10:46:29.230Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

All measurements which produce something resembling a sine wave are correlated.

Only if the frequencies are identical. In that case, follow the improbability and ask how they come to be identical.

comment by Armok_GoB · 2013-10-04T00:01:20.064Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is a case of a common cause, in the form of a logical fact rather than a physical one.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-04T15:35:39.265Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't understand this. Which logical fact is the common cause? The fact that the measurements are correlated? Doesn't the whole thing collapse into a circle, then?

comment by Armok_GoB · 2013-10-05T01:08:30.554Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The fact of the shape of a sine curve.

comment by Decius · 2013-10-09T22:29:40.491Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

http://xkcd.com/882/

Sometimes the cause is you've been looking at too many random data sets.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-03T10:50:36.045Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If two things are correlated, there is causation. Either A causes B, B causes A, they have common cause, or they have a common effect you're conditioning on.

That doesn't seem to be strictly true. Of all the things that are correlated it would seem that there would be some that have none of the listed causal relationships. It is merely highly probable that one of those is the case.

comment by paulfchristiano · 2013-10-03T17:30:26.414Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

To the mathematicians, correlation is a statement about random variables, and not the same as empirical correlation (which is a statement about samples, and might be spurious).

Of course the world isn't made of random variables, but only in the same sense that the world isn't made of causal models. They are models, and "correlation" and "causation" are features of the model which don't exist in the real world. In a causal model, correlation implies causation (somewhere).

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-03T17:59:47.491Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

To the mathematicians, correlation is a statement about random variables

But then this "true correlation" is unobservable, is it not? Except for trivial cases we can never know what it is and can only rely on estimates, aka empirical correlations.

In a causal model, correlation implies causation (somewhere).

Well, that makes Pearl's statement an uninteresting tautology. Correlation implies causation because we construct models this way...

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2013-10-10T06:15:31.062Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Emphasizing random variables sounds pretty frequentist to me, while the source being summarized is bayesian. But, yes, models are made of random variables.

comment by apophenia · 2013-10-03T20:18:49.105Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

thanks, this is exactly the case. a better objection is, it's not strictly true because things can be some complex net of the above cases, and it doesn't always break down into one of the four, but that doesn't fit in "15" words, and it's less important

edit: also it's possible in rare cases for things to be uncorrelated but causally connected

comment by selylindi · 2013-10-03T14:03:27.314Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

To address your correct criticism, how about we modify apophenia's "15" words to:

• If two things are reliably correlated, there is causation. Either A causes B, B causes A, they have common cause, or they have a common effect you're conditioning on.

A 15-word version is possible but awkward:

• Reliable correlation implies causation: one causes the other, or there’s common cause, or common effect.

Potentially a great deal of complexity is smuggled into the word "reliable".

--

Edit: A friend pointed out to me that the above sentences provide unbalanced guidance for intuitions. A more evenly balanced version is:

• Reliable correlation implies causation and unreliable correlation does not.

comment by AlanCrowe · 2013-10-04T19:58:15.873Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That doesn't seem to be strictly true.

It goes against the spirit of "15 words" to insist on strict truth. The merit of the quote lies in the fourth clause.

or they have a common effect you're conditioning on.

That's the big surprise. The point of boiling it down to "15 words" is to pick which subtlety makes it into the shortest formulation.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-04T22:22:01.388Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It goes against the spirit of "15 words" to insist on strict truth.

I would suggest that it goes against the spirit of Judea Pearl's Causality to say things that are false or misleading.

Do note that I actually support the example, despite the problems. I expect that the surrounding context in Pearl's work more than adequately explains the relevant details. What I would object to is any attempt to suppress discussion of the limitations of such claims---so if it was the case that the "spirit of '15 words'" discourages discussion and clarification then I would reject it as inappropriate on this site.

comment by apophenia · 2013-10-10T06:48:33.960Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"15 words" is a secretly a verb rather than a noun. I definitely think discussion and clarification is good, although in this particular thread I'm sad to some people engaging solely in that and missing an opportunity to try out the exercise instead.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-10T12:38:04.486Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"15 words" is a secretly a verb rather than a noun.

As the thread creator you are entitled to specify the way you want the phrase to be used and what sort of replies you want. That said, it seems that the norms that you are attempting to create and enforce for this '15 words' activity don't belong on this site. It seems to amount to provoking and enforcing all the worst of the failures of critical thought that constantly crop up in the "Rationality" Quotes threads. Given as a premise that I hold that belief you could infer that my voting policy must be to downvote:

  • Any thread or comment requesting the 'action' "15 words" be performed.
  • Any attempt to criticise, suppress or dismiss clarifications, elaborations and analysis that crop up in response to quotes.
  • Any comment, regardless of overall merit, for which a minor clarification is necessary but would be prohibited or discouraged. Note that this applies to the ancestral quote by Pearl which I had previously upvoted. In a context of enforced uncriticality any deviation from accuracy becomes a critical failure.

I'm sad to some people engaging solely in that and missing an opportunity to try out the exercise instead.

That isn't what you saw. You saw people engaging in that in addition to engaging with the the exercise. They lost no opportunity, you merely couldn't tolerate the critical engagement that is an integral part of discussion on a rationalist forum.

comment by nshepperd · 2013-10-03T11:29:28.546Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It's possible to find "spurious" correlations in a limited data sample, if two things just "happen" to happen together often by chance. But I don't think that really counts. Did you have any other scenarios in mind?

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-03T11:53:02.834Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

It's possible to find "spurious" correlations in a limited data sample, if two things just "happen" to happen together often by chance. But I don't think that really counts.

When absolute claims are made with exhaustive lists of possibilities then things can "not count" only when excluded explicitly. When dealing with things at the level of precision and rigour that Pearl works at the difference between 'almost true' and 'true' matters. Even with the ('probably' or 'overwhelmingly likely') caveat in place the statement remains valuable. It is still worth including such a parenthetical so as to avoid confusion.

Did you have any other scenarios in mind?

No, the set of all correlations that are not causally related in one of the listed ways seems to fit the criteria "limited" and to whatever extent they can be described as 'spurious' that description would apply to all of them. Admittedly, some of them are 'limited' only by such things as the size of the universe but the larger the sample the higher the improbability.

I would replace 'spurious' with 'misleading'. A correlation just is. There isn't anything 'fake' or 'invalid' about it. The only thing that could be wrong about it is using it to draw an incorrect conclusion.

comment by nshepperd · 2013-10-03T12:34:30.352Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have a feeling including a parenthetical like that would invite more confusion than it avoids. "Oh cool, I guess my magical ESP powers are just one of the unlikely cases where I can be correlated with the hidden coin flips without any causal influence."

Because "correlation" is normally taken to mean a systematic effect that can be expected to be predictive of future samples, or something. In this specific case, Pearl probably means something more precise by it (like correlations between nodes in a particular causal model).

I suppose you could accurately clarify the original quote by saying "systematic correlation", which would pin down the idea referred to for people who haven't read the book.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-03T12:46:49.594Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have a feeling including a parenthetical like that would invite more confusion than it avoids. "Oh cool, I guess my magical ESP powers are just one of the unlikely cases where I can be correlated with the hidden coin flips without any causal influence."

The unqualified version is more compatible with muddled thinking about ESP than the qualified version. Specifically, it outright excludes the possibility "No, you were just lucky" from consideration.

In this specific case, Pearl probably means something more precise by it (like correlations between nodes in a particular causal model).

This exception applies in that case.

comment by witzvo · 2013-10-06T00:42:37.957Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't count?!

comment by dspeyer · 2013-10-03T14:00:52.238Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

With enough data from the two correlands, this goes away. I don't know the exact math, but I think there's a way to say the number of variables you're looking at, and the strength of a given correlation, and get a probability that it's really there.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-03T15:07:48.766Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This goes away only in the limit as the sample size goes to infinity.

For a finite sample size (and given a certain set of assumptions) you can establish a range of values within which you believe "true" correlation resides, but this range will never contract to a single point.

comment by JackV · 2013-10-07T19:24:37.122Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think the problem may be what counts as correlated. If I toss two coins and both get heads, that's probably coincidence. If I toss two coins N times and get HH TT HH HH HH TT HH HH HH HH TT HH HH HH HH HH TT HH TT TT HH then there's probably a common cause of some sort.

But real life is littered with things that look sort of correlated, like price of X and price of Y both (a) go up over time and (b) shoot up temporarily when the roads are closed, but are not otherwise correlated, and it's not clear when this should apply (even though I agree it's a good principle).

comment by johnswentworth · 2013-10-04T01:36:28.766Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

An alternative version which avoids most of the complaints in replies below:

Correlation doesn't imply causation, but it's damn strong evidence!

(Please reply if you remember either the exact wording or the source of that quote).

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-04T04:07:28.916Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Note, as I discuss here for this to be true you need to allow mathematical truths (and the laws of physics) to serve as causes.

comment by bentarm · 2013-10-04T12:32:09.739Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

The First 20 Hours (Josh Kaufman):

Practice something for 20 hours, and you'll learn a lot. Don't worry about feeling stupid/clumsy.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-18T00:00:11.965Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

would your recommend this book overall?

comment by bentarm · 2013-10-20T08:37:36.126Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To be honest, no. There really isn't much more to it than is contained in the sixteen words above, or listening to one of Kaufman's TedX talks.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-04T11:34:39.356Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Causal Decision Theory / consequentialism:

"If your actions have results, you can use actions to choose your favorite result."

comment by niceguyanon · 2013-10-26T20:50:59.289Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If your actions have results, you can use actions to choose your favorite result

I just realized that if you took the movie the secret and took out all the pseudo science BS, then condensed it to one sentence this is what you get.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-04T11:27:35.960Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Epistemic rationality (as far as I can tell):

"Take every mathematical structure that isn't ruled out by the evidence. Rank them by parsimony."

comment by Dorikka · 2013-10-03T13:47:43.793Z · score: 12 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Belongs in Discussion IMO

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-10-06T08:09:55.254Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Can you explain in 15 words what belongs to Main and what to Discussion? :D

comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2013-10-09T15:53:35.398Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Main: topics that are interesting to most LW readers, AND are notably worth reading

Discussion: topics that are interesting to most LW readers, OR are notably worth reading for some readers

Open Thread: everything else

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-09T16:24:57.626Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's not clear to me what category this post should fall under on that basis, but I'd suggest the heuristic that anything posted to Main which retains a positive score after a few days might as well stay there.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2013-10-10T06:20:11.255Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Many posts with positive scores are ejected from main.

comment by apophenia · 2013-10-03T20:21:40.720Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Could you break down that intuition? Why?

If you think that because it's short, I STRONGLY disagree--value added is not proportional to length.

If you think that because it's an exercise, I disagree, although that's a stronger case. We happen to be doing original research in exercise form, and evidence shows exercises work better than academic articles.

If you think that for some other reason, or something like the above but not quite, I'd love to hear it!

comment by Dorikka · 2013-10-05T03:50:20.160Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Insufficient value add by the OP. Given that, insufficient expected value add in the comments. (I think that the Textbooks List and Procedural Knowledge Gaps lists belong in Main because the collection of knowledge by commenters is valuable enough, even though the OP is not a huge value add on its own. )

comment by apophenia · 2013-10-06T21:57:29.063Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What a great reason!

If I wanted to not just learn that lesson, but reinforce that sort of reasoning in the Less Wrong community (in a welcoming way, naturally), what would you suggest I do? And feel free to PM, as I agree about limiting discussion about where to put threads inside threads.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-04T03:45:04.061Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why? Rationality Quotes threads are in Main too (though I suspect they are here more because of tradition than anything else).

comment by Dorikka · 2013-10-05T03:54:32.006Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You can read my reply here for a rough sketch of my viewpoint. To be honest, I'm not very interested in this bit of meta and am likely tapping out.

comment by Rob Bensinger (RobbBB) · 2013-10-03T23:31:10.497Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I can understand that intuition, but I'd like to see people err more on the side of putting slightly subpar things on Main, as opposed to erring on the side of putting slightly superpar things on Discussion. Main is underused, and I think metadiscussion about where to categorize things has become a bit too common.

comment by aspera · 2013-10-03T21:58:44.064Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

On Writing Well, by William Zinsser

Every word should do useful work. Avoid cliché. Edit extensively. Don’t worry about people liking it. There is more to write about than you think.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-04T22:52:11.410Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Don’t worry about people liking it"? This sounds dangerous.

comment by aspera · 2013-10-07T21:03:16.712Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Here is some clarification from Zinsser himself (ibid.):

"Who am I writing for? It's a fundamental question, and it has a fundamental answer: You're writing for yourself. Don't try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience - every reader is a different person.

This may seem to be a paradox. Earlier I warned that the reader is... impatient... . Now I'm saying you must write for yourself and not be gnawed by worry over whether the reader is tagging along. I'm talking about two different issues. One is craft, the other is attitude. The first is a question of mastering a precise skill. The second is a question of how you use the skill to express your personality.

In terms of craft, there's no excuse for losing readers through sloppy workmanship. ... But on the larger issue of whether the reader likes you, or likes what you are saying or how you are saying it, or agrees with it, or feels an affinity for your sense of humor or your vision of life, don't give him a moment's worry. You are who you are, he is who he is, and either you'll get along or you won't.

N.B: These paragraphs are not contiguous in the original text.

comment by PrometheanFaun · 2013-10-11T06:06:11.397Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's not helpful. Say I've got an audience who wouldn't like me if they knew me as my inner circle does, who definitely wouldn't be convinced if I wrote as though I were writing for my own. What would Zinsser do? Give up? Write something else? I know that communicating effectively when you don't personally feel what you're saying tends to fail, well yes, it's hard, but that's precisely what I've got to do!

comment by witzvo · 2013-10-06T01:55:18.213Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So perhaps the danger you're thinking of is the opportunity cost of spending time writing something that goes nowhere? That's sensible if you're already prone to writing lots of things and need a filter for what not to write.

If you're like me, though, you don't write enough, and thoughts that you might productively pursue with the assistance of a keyboard/screen don't get pursued if you're always thinking about who'd want to read it before writing, or thinking excessively about making it "sound right" instead of just getting the ideas out in a form that is clear to yourself. So the relevant opportunity cost for someone like that is ideas that you don't give expression to or that you fail to discover, perhaps to your surprise, that some people will respond to favorably to your writing.

In this sense, I think the principle is pretty useful, at least for me. If after writing it you think people won't like it, you could publish under a pseudonym, or just move on to writing the next thing.

comment by simplicio · 2013-10-07T15:50:53.869Z · score: 9 (15 votes) · LW · GW

The Bell Curve:

Intelligence matters, you live in a high-IQ bubble, you're in politically-motivated denial about it, and your denial isn't helping anyone.

comment by Fauxcrates · 2013-10-04T11:56:51.311Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

In fact, a sense of essence is, in essence, the essence of sense, in effect.

Douglas Hofstadter, Metamagical Themas

comment by efim · 2013-10-03T18:04:49.144Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

Without the [view of life from gene perspective] there is no particular reason why an organism should 'care' about its reproductive success and that of its relatives, rather than, for instance, its own longevity

comment by apophenia · 2013-10-03T20:24:10.810Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Great subset to have picked! Are there ways to shorten this style-wise or throw out technical vocabulary to make it accessible? Is some part of it less important than others, so that you can throw out ideas as well?

comment by apophenia · 2013-10-03T09:11:57.453Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Chip & Dan Heath, Made to Stick:

Communicate one thing.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-06T09:24:16.912Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

If after ten minutes you don't know who the sucker is, it's you.

(Common advice which applies mainly to zero-sum competitive situations. I heard it in the context of negotiating with competitors, but I imagine it applies to poker, political strategy, and other things too.)

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-04T15:59:18.537Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I feel this quote belongs in this thread.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." -- H.L.Mencken

comment by Stabilizer · 2013-10-04T21:49:59.156Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

But often it is worth understanding why the clear, simple answer is wrong.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-10-06T08:16:08.603Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Because it is incompatible with the beliefs of my tribe.

Because it is clear and simple, and therefore unfit to signal my sophistication.

Or because there are some specific technical reasons why it is wrong.

I guess these are the three most frequent reasons, perhaps even in the decreasing order of frequency, why clear and simple answers are wrong.

comment by DysgraphicProgrammer · 2013-10-07T15:26:27.306Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Because the problem is complex and your clear, simple solutions has at least 3 knock-on effects, one of which will make the original problem worse. And the other 2 will cause new complex problems in 10 years time.

The clear, simple solution to "X is to expensive" is "Declare a cheaper price for X by government fiat."

By the time you have compensated for the knock-on effects, regulated to prevent cheaters, and taxed to pay for costs, the solution is no longer simple.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-07T05:13:50.451Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The third one sounds a lot like “or anything else”.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-07T05:13:03.352Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Because it's actually an answer to a simple problem -- getting my mother out of the burning building is a simpler problem than getting her out of it alive and well, so the clearest. simplest solution to the former is a wrong solution to the latter. (In such an example it is obvious, but in many real-world situations it's easier to lose purposes.)

comment by apophenia · 2013-10-06T21:11:02.389Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

No, quotes don't belong in this thread, your intuition is wrong. This thread is about something closer to learning how to speak in original quotes.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-07T15:03:18.211Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I just went meta :-D

comment by Stabilizer · 2013-10-03T20:39:55.598Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Matthieu Ricard, Happiness:

It's better to be happy than to be unhappy. If you're unhappy, you can fix it. Here's how: cultivate love, compassion and mindfulness.

comment by shminux · 2013-10-07T19:17:23.023Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

50 shades:

Keep telling the girl that she is smart, beautiful and courageous and that you love her more than anything, and she will indulge your weirdest fantasy.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T20:31:25.744Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Great summary. If only it actually worked...

comment by shminux · 2013-10-08T20:37:45.126Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It probably does, more often than not. Two crucial items from this and similar stories I did not mention: she has to be into you to begin with and you have to be well enough off to make her feel (possibly subconsciously) financially secure with you.

comment by simplicio · 2013-10-07T15:46:19.222Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The Rebel Sell:

Counterculture movements are severely infected with status signalling spirals, making them various combinations of ineffectual, incoherent & parasitic.

comment by simplicio · 2013-10-07T15:37:24.104Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The Better Angels of Our Nature:

Violence is down short- and long-term on a per capita basis. This is due to interacting effects of governments, women, trade, rationality & literature.

comment by shminux · 2013-10-03T15:12:13.937Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Neat. It would be nice to describe this site in a dozen or so words and put this description on the front page.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-10-03T15:29:30.898Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

How about...

A community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality

:P

comment by Torello · 2013-10-03T23:27:59.283Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would be interested to see if other readers could come up with a more eye-catching description/slogan

comment by Dallas · 2013-10-05T23:57:05.669Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A community blog with the purpose of refining the practice of rational behavior?

Eliminates human bias, doesn't imply that rationality is an 'art', and proclaims itself teleologically rather than ontologically.

comment by shminux · 2013-10-03T16:02:46.852Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Oops, I missed the fine print :)

comment by apophenia · 2013-10-06T21:34:49.842Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That would be great, but it would be more in the keeping of this thread to try and condense some section of this site to a dozen or so words. (Not leaving in everything, of course)

comment by AlanCrowe · 2013-10-04T20:06:12.948Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

As Eilenberg-Mac Lane first observed, "category" has been defined in order to be able to define "functor" and "functor" has been defined in order to be able to define "natural transformation".

Saunders Mac Lane, Categories for the Working Mathematician

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-04T20:40:38.492Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Is there a way to explain that to a non-mathematician?

comment by Cyan · 2013-10-22T02:31:52.111Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

He's saying that he made up categories and functors because what he really wanted to study was the idea of natural transformations, and the former notions are needed to define the latter. Or: categories and functors are nice, but natural transformations are the bomb.

comment by hylleddin · 2013-10-22T02:12:07.963Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Or even a non-category theorist?

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2013-10-09T09:16:39.815Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

There's a quote I like from Terry Pratchett's juvenile book "Only You Can Save Mankind" that addresses a mistake that some people with a high IQ make:

"Just because you have a mind like a hammer doesn't mean you should treat everyone else like a nail."

That's 19 words (if you count "doesn't" as 1 word, rather than 2), but perhaps a 15 word version could be:

"Don't manipulate those you can out think, just because you are able to."

or, more abstractly,

"Don't treat people as inconvenient objects, even when you can get away with it."

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-09T13:38:16.629Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you just want to reduce the wordcount of the original without changing its flavor, you could go with "Other people aren't nails just because your mind is a hammer." That said, worrying too much about exact wordcount seems silly.

("The hammer is my mind.")

comment by timujin · 2013-10-20T19:22:30.038Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Don't manipulate those you can out think, just because you are able to."

Why?

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2013-10-20T20:56:25.585Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Firstly, having a centralised command economy run by the 'bright' people in charge at the centre didn't work out particularly well for the USSR. Even if you are well intentioned and manipulating them in a direction that you think is in their best interests (which, in any case, isn't the situation the dictum was talking about), you're unlikely to manage their affairs better than they would themselves.

Secondly, fooling people can become a habit. And the easiest person to fool is yourself. What do you changes who you are, to some extent.

Thirdly, people often realise they have been manipulated, on some level, even if they can't put words to it, or they realise too late. And it isn't a nice feeling. In utilitarian terms, despite any gain in pleasure you get, it is likely to be a net loss of utility.

comment by CoffeeStain · 2013-10-20T20:13:51.497Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Because your prior for "I am manipulating this person because it satisfies my values, rather than my pride" should be very low.

If it isn't, then here's 4 words for you:

"Don't value your pride."

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-20T20:32:28.212Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Don't value your pride."

Sorry to keep adding to the "why?" pile but do you mind explaining this one too?

comment by CoffeeStain · 2013-10-20T20:51:19.567Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For certain definitions of pride. Confidence is a focus on doing what you are good at, enjoying doing things that you are good at, and not avoiding doing things you are good at around others.

Pride is showing how good you are at things "just because you are able to," as if to prove to yourself what you supposedly already know, namely that you are good at them. If you were confident, you would spend your time being good at things, not demonstrating that you are so.

There might be good reasons to manipulate others. Just proving to yourself that you can is not one of them, if there are stronger outside views on your ability to be found elsewhere (like asking unbiased observers).

The Luminosity Sequence has a lot to say about this, and references known biases people have when assessing their abilities.

comment by timujin · 2013-10-21T20:33:57.670Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe that's just my personal quirk (is it?) but my pride is a good motivator for me to become stronger. If I think I am more able in some area than I actually am, then when evidence for the contrary comes knocking, I try as much as I can to defend the 'truth' I believe in by actually training myself in that area until I match that belief. And since I can't keep my mouth shut and thus I tell and demonstrate everyone how awesome I am when I am not actually that good, there is really no way out but to make myself match what other people think of me. Maybe that's not a very good rationality habit, but I am fully mindful of the process, and if I ever need to know my actual level at expense of that motivational factor, it is no trouble to sit down with a pencil and figure out the truth. It can hurt (because my real level almost always is way less than my expectations of it most of the time), but is probably worth it.

Manipulating people just out of pride and sense of domination was actually the factor that developed my social skills more than anything else. I became more polite, started to watch my appearance, posture and facial expressions (because it's easier to trick those who like me), became better at detecting lies and other people's attempts to manipulate me. Also, I believe, it helped me to avoid conformity (when you see people making dumb mistakes on a regular basis just because you told them something, the belief in their sanity vanishes quickly). And I am safe from losing friends' trust, because I strive to never trick or decieve close people (in a very broad sense) and maintain something close to (but not quite) Radical Honesty policy wtih those whom I value.

Am I walking the wrong path?

comment by CoffeeStain · 2013-10-31T08:33:51.716Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Am I walking the wrong path?

Eh, probably not. Heuristically, I shy away from modes of thought that involve intentional self-deception, but that's because I haven't been mindful of myself long enough to know ways I can do this systematically without breaking down. I would also caution against letting small-scale pride translate into larger domains where there is less available evidence for how good you really are. "I am successful" has a much higher chance of becoming a cached self than "I am good at math." The latter is testable with fewer bits of evidence, and the former might cause you to think you don't need to keep trying.

As for other-manipulation, it seems the confidence terminology can apply to social dominance as well. I don't think desiring superior charisma necessitates an actual belief in your awesomeness compared to others, just the belief that you are awesome. The latter to me is more what it feels like to be good at being social, and has the benefit of not entrenching a distance from others or the cached belief that others are useful manipulation targets rather than useful collaborators.

People vary on how they can use internal representations to produce results. It's really hard to use probabilistic distributions on outcomes as sole motivator for behavior, so we do need to cache beliefs in the language of conventional social advice sometimes. The good news is that good people who are non-rationalists are a treasure trove for this sort of insight.

comment by DSimon · 2013-10-03T13:45:46.197Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Scott Kim, What is a Puzzle?

  1. A puzzle is fun,
  2. and it has a right answer.

http://www.scottkim.com/thinkinggames/whatisapuzzle/

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-04T22:58:43.335Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I am dubious about any definition of "puzzle" for which the claim "This puzzle is not fun" is tautologically false, regardless of either the speaker or the puzzle in question.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-13T09:47:51.413Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If a puzzle is not fun, it is a chore, a problem or in the worst case, high school math homework.

comment by DSimon · 2013-10-07T14:47:53.564Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good point, probably the title should be "What is a good puzzle?" then.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-03T14:42:02.949Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I disagree about #2, incidentally.
It's a puzzle if I'm having fun trying to solve it.

comment by DSimon · 2013-10-03T16:22:17.251Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's interesting! I've had very different experiences:

When I'm trying to solve a puzzle and learn that it had no good answer (i.e. was just nonsense, not even rising to the level of trick question), it's very frustrating. It retroactively makes me unhappy about having spent all that time on it, even though I was enjoying myself at the time.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-03T16:56:16.693Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I certainly agree that being made to treat nonsense as though it were sense is frustrating.
And, sure, if things either have a right answer or are nonsense, then I agree with you, and with Scott Kim.
Nonsense is not a puzzle.

But I'm not sure that's true.

I'm also not sure that replacing "a right answer" with "a good answer" as you just did preserves meaning.

For example, I'm not sure there's a right answer to all puzzling questions about, say, human behavior, or ethics. There are good answers, though, and the questions themselves aren't all nonsense.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2013-10-07T23:52:32.313Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

From the Buddha's Kalama Sutra:

Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing,
nor upon tradition,
nor upon rumor,
nor upon what is in a scripture,
nor upon surmise,
nor upon an axiom,
nor upon specious reasoning,
nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over,
nor upon another's seeming ability,
nor upon the consideration, "The monk is our teacher."
Rather, when you yourselves know: "These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness," enter on and abide in them.'
comment by simplicio · 2013-10-07T16:02:00.741Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The Black Swan:

Don't pick up pennies in front of a steamroller. Especially if the guy encouraging you to do it is taking a cut of the pennies but not spending any time in front of the steamroller himself.

comment by simplicio · 2013-10-07T16:13:49.264Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For an example from real life, check out page 9 of this document for a fund my investment advisor wanted me to invest in:

"We got a positive number of pennies almost every day for several years!"

(NB: I'm not making a global judgment about this fund, just about the inherent anti-epistemology of obsessing over day to day "volatility".)

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2013-10-09T10:03:03.768Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"When you start treating people like people, they become people."

~Paul Vitale

"The person you can most easily fool is yourself. Before all else, avoid doing so."

~Richard Feynman (paraphrased)

"What is your excuse for not following the advice you claim is good for all?" ~paraphrase of link

comment by johnswentworth · 2013-10-04T01:40:55.596Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Jayne's Probability Theory:

There is nothing "subjective" about Bayesian probability.

EDIT: I like badger's suggestion below better than this one.

comment by badger · 2013-10-04T15:34:21.034Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I'd go with: Probability exists in your mind, not the world, but there still is an "objective" way to calculate it.

comment by johnswentworth · 2013-10-05T01:37:11.840Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I like it. In the spirit of iterative improvement, how about this:

Probabilities are subjective, but the information they represent is not. Use all available information on pain of paradox.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-05T03:05:09.998Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I propose an iteration with "on pain of paradox" truncated.

comment by johnswentworth · 2013-10-05T03:08:47.417Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm split on this one. I like it better without "pain of paradox," but it seemed like a third of the book was devoted to pains and paradoxes arising from ignoring information.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-04T22:50:11.535Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There is nothing "subjective" about Bayesian probability.

Because a direct contradiction of this quote is also true (and also something that the Jaynes would probably agree with) it is perhaps not the best 15 words in his work. The problem is that all the meaning conveyed relies on the reader plugging in suitable meanings for 'subjective' so that it makes sense. The knowledge needed to construct an interpretation of the quote that is correct and insightful gets deducted from the information that is conveyed by the quote.

I do agree that this message and this source are worth quoting. If the excerpt badger quotes does come from Jaynes then it certainly deserves a place. Same message, less ambiguity.

comment by DSimon · 2013-10-09T14:25:13.473Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The evaluator, which determines the meaning of expressions in a program, is just another program.

-- Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2013-10-09T09:51:15.587Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"Try to choose actions causing high total net utility gains when summed over everyone affected."

is an attempt at a 15 word summary of:

Precedent Utilitarians believe that when a person compares possible actions in a specific situation, the comparative merit of each action is most accurately approximated by estimating the net probable gain in utility for all concerned from the consequences of the action, taking into account both the precedent set by the action, and the risk or uncertainty due to imperfect information.

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2013-10-09T09:27:04.451Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW
  • Data = Signal - Noise
  • Information = Data + Encoding
  • Knowledge = Information + Context
  • Experience = Knowledge + Relevance
  • Wisdom = Experience + Meta

source

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-04T11:58:44.361Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Hehe...here's a controversial one.

The process and the consequences of fighting oppressive heirarchies are worse the heirarchies themselves - my take on Mencius Moldbug.

I don't really agree. But I've tried pretty hard to wrap my head around his ideology (he's incredibly long winded) and this is what I got from it. If I had to add a second sentence, it would be this:

"Progressive culture seduces intellectual elites and redirects their power to destructive, unreflective, self-righteous reformation."

..."This reformation inevitably strengthens the Progressive ideology and institutions, resulting in an invisible feedback cycle of power".

If there are any actual formalists reading this thread, I'd like to see one of them condense the main point into a supershort string like this, because it's really long...

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-04T16:48:26.728Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

If you want me to cut an actual quote down to 15 words it'll sound like absolute nonsense, but if a paraphrase is sufficient;

"Humans thrive under Order and suffer without it, but Chaos is both easy and attractive."

I think that hits all the major points;

  1. The Cathedral expands like an ideal gas; it has no actual leaders but a definite direction, and that direction is to move society to a more disordered state.
  2. "Oppressive hierarchies," when referring to pre-democratic systems, are not bugs but features. Organizing people along the lines of their natural abilities and putting harsh incentives in place to foster cooperation is the time-tested way to govern a society well.
  3. Life has, in the aggregate, gotten worse even despite our technological advances due to the collapse of society from a highly ordered to a highly disordered state.
  4. Unscrambling the egg may well be impossible, and even if it is will require enormous activation energy (such as the final collapse of the USG).

(Fair warning: I'm not a Formalist per se, I think the Patchwork is way too silly an idea to put my name near it, but I hope that this is a good enough summary for someone with a low tolerance for Moldbuggery.)

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-04T18:49:54.207Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

See, the trouble I have with Moldbug is that it's written less like a thesis and more like a poem. I got through a bit of it, and it was pretty fun to read and it constantly felt like I was on the edge of some earth-shattering revelation which would destroy all my previous political notions...but in the end I came away not quite getting the point. In places where I did understand the point, I didn't understand how it was supported.

I can readily identify all the statements you've listed as belonging to Reactionary schools of thought, but the bit about Order, Chaos, and Cathedral are all so layered in metaphor that I'm not really sure what they actually mean, let alone why I should believe that they are true. The point about life getting worse seems empirical, and I haven't fully grasped why he believes this.

So far, what I've taken is that reforming pre-democratic heirarchies (order) is both an act of violence and leads to violence and turmoil (chaos). Like most violence, this is a transfer of power to the progressive powers (the universities, the liberal democracies, and the reformers - collectively, the cathedral).

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-04T20:39:25.121Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Have you read Yvain's summary?

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-05T18:27:38.927Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. The three things I've read are Moldbug's "Open letter to Open Minded Progressives", Yvain's summary, and the first 1/3 of "A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations".

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-05T18:43:54.857Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

the first 1/3 of "A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations".

You know that's a 9 (technically 12, since there's a 9a - c) post series, right?

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-05T19:46:05.231Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, the bookmark is currently on this page.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-04T20:19:57.049Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, as much as Moldbug likes to talk about his site as a "red pill" it's really a horrible place to introduce yourself to Neoreaction. He is stingy with citations, assumes a lot of prior knowledge, and seems to assume his readers are either archive-binging or regulars.

the bit about Order, Chaos, and Cathedral are all so layered in metaphor that I'm not really sure what they actually mean

The Cathedral is a less clunky and more memorable way of saying "the bureaucracy of the international Progressive (he prefers Unitarian or Communist, but the territory is the same) movement and aligned criminal organizations." It's not exactly your standard conspiracy theory as there are no leaders, no actual plot, not even a conspiracy per se; just people reacting to a really bad set of incentives which drives politics leftwards and increases governmental entropy. It's an ideological feedback loop; a memetic parasite which gets more powerful by creating conditions hostile to its host.

Order / Chaos is really just a D&D-laden way of articulating Hierarchy v Anarchy. An Ordered society has clear lines of authority stretching downwards from the top (Moldbugian Formalism literally means making sure Formal de-jure authority and informal de-facto authority line up), with an incentive structure which promotes civilized behavior through appeals to morality and self-interest. A Chaotic society has unclear and/or conflicting sources of authority, such as imperium in imperio, and the incentive structure promotes societal conflict.

In terms of evidence, he alludes to some but you really need to come in with your own knowledge for the most part. Learn more about the biology (genetics and epigenetics) of intelligence, as well as other physiological differences linked to race / sex, a little macroeconomics and some history and you'll be able to make most of his points better than he can. Just ignore the climate skepticism and Chicago School stuff, put it down to him not having a science background. His crime stats are interesting but highly contested; his stats show a roughly 35x increase in reported murder over the last two centuries (that's after the recent crime dip; it was 50x in the mid 20th century) but people have claimed that it can at least partially be explained by poor record keeping.

Personally, I suggest you read him as a sort of autocthonian Free Spirit; someone who independently came to realize the need for a transvaluation of values and to avoid becoming a civilization of Last Men, but without either the elegance or nascent transhumanism of Nietzsche himself.

TL;DR: Moldbug is not user-friendly. If you want to get the most out of him, use your own prior knowledge and steelman his philosophy then have it fight with yours. The results may surprise you.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-05T19:31:35.502Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

just people reacting to a really bad set of incentives which drives politics leftwards and increases governmental entropy

Drives politics leftwards: This is confusing to me because I'm sitting leftward. This insidious set of incentives is shifting society's values towards mine. I want this to happen. Am I supposed to be rubbing my hands together and cackling gleefully as Cthulhu does my bidding?

Governmental entropy: So, the way you phrased that makes me assume that this doesn't mean "overturning of social order via revolution". But what does that mean, then? How is it measured? What's a real-world correlate?

Just ignore the climate skepticism and Chicago School stuff, put it down to him not having a science background.

Personally, my confidence about climate change is based largely around my confidence in the scientific consensus. Moldbug seems sufficiently well read as to not allow himself to be ignorant of the scientific consensus on the matter. I would thereby not make the inference that Moldbug is scientifically illiterate, but that Moldbug mistrusts the validity of scientific consensus itself. The real question is not about the facts of climate change. The real question becomes - is he overestimating the degree to which the supposed "Cathedral" can control the scientific consensus, or are you and I underestimating it?

steelman his philosophy then have it fight with yours

Thus far the result has been: It's probably a bad idea to try and tear down imperfectly good systems to make room for better ones. World-improvement-plots should follow the heuristic of minimizing destruction to existing societal infrastructure.

I'd call that conclusion valuable, but hardly a paradigm shift.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-05T23:28:24.657Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Drives politics leftwards: This is confusing to me because I'm sitting leftward. This insidious set of incentives is shifting society's values towards mine. I want this to happen. Am I supposed to be rubbing my hands together and cackling gleefully as Cthulhu does my bidding?

Today? Absolutely.

But Cthulhu doesn't stop swimming. The Whigs (both parties on both sides of the Atlantic applied), the Republicans (in the "First French Republic" sense), the Democrats (in the Jacksonian populist sense) and even most recently the Social Liberals all learned that lesson the hard way when they ended up taking their turns on the right side of the Overton Window.

You are not an exception; eventually, there will be a point at which today's intellectuals become tomorrow's targets. Given the ferocity of the anti-science postmodernism of Europe and California today, I don't think it's that far off. Look up the word "biotruth" or do some research into the anti-GMO movement and you'll see your leftist buddies are on the front line right now fighting against the very science which might someday make transhumanism possible.

Governmental entropy: So, the way you phrased that makes me assume that this doesn't mean "overturning of social order via revolution". But what does that mean, then? How is it measured? What's a real-world correlate?

Entropy is an apt metaphor here actually;

Your metaphorical solid block of hydrogen at 0K is something like the thousand year Fnarg. Authority is absolute, atomic and universally acknowledged. Of course, in reality absolute zero is impossible but the principle remains that a more ordered state is one of greater regularity and lower volatility. We've all heard the proverb about how a woman could carry a pot of gold from one end of the silk road to the other under the Mongol Empire's rule, and while certainly an exaggeration it's clear that terrorism and organized crime in the modern sense would have been virtually impossible there.

On the other hand our metaphorical ideal gas might be something like the state of affairs during the Congolese or Somalian Civil Wars; or in other words, most of Post-Colonial Africa. The governments of these nations are actually rather large, in the sense that they employ a lot of people and pay them pretty well, and when you factor in the various NGOs and foreign governments propping them up their bureaucracies are extraordinarily complex while providing no actual governance or exercising any actual sovereignty. Those abdicated functions are carried out, if at all, by short-lived local warlords or tribal chiefs who are so insecure in their positions that constant terrorism of the people is the only way to survive.

There's a lot of room in between those extremes, for example I'd say the US today is an uncomfortably warm liquid, but that doesn't change the nature of the spectrum. Order is a state where unambiguous leadership creates a simple structure of government to incentivize productive behavior, whereas Chaos is a state where a leadership vacuum creates political complexity / volatility that incentivizes counterproductive behavior.

I would thereby not make the inference that Moldbug is scientifically illiterate, but that Moldbug mistrusts the validity of scientific consensus itself.

I don't see a distinction; if you think science is that institutionally corrupt, on a scale greater than even Lysenko could have aspired to, you're not functionally different from a postmodernist and have just as little credibility when talking about institutional science.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T00:24:53.842Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see a distinction; if you think science is that institutionally corrupt, on a scale greater than even Lysenko could have aspired to, you're not functionally different from a postmodernist and have just as little credibility when talking about institutional science

Not necessarily. Moldbug might trust scientific consensus to be correct in areas where politics won't distort it.

i obviously do trust the scientific consensus, but steelmanning, there have been times when politics or culture has interfered with science in half-science half-humanities fields like anthropology. Historically, even biology has been tainted by politics at times, when it comes to sexuality. (I'm not talking about modern evolutionary biology, but historical things such as chalking up female orgasms to "hysteria" and the historical attribution of homosexual behavior in animals as "dominance displays")

That's a devil's advocate though. For the most part, I agree with you.

Look up the word "biotruth" or do some research into the anti-GMO movement and you'll see your leftist buddies are on the front line right now fighting against the very science which might someday make transhumanism possible.

I predict that the liberal iteration of this movement will not gain in strength within our natural lifetimes, and will gradually peter out at some point (although maybe it won't peter out within our natural lifetimes). If for some reason it does not peter out, it will gradually become a conservative movement against the transhumanist liberals.

Historically, it hasn't been the first time lefties have done stupid things. Movements in which Lefties Do Stupid Things have tended to die away gradually (separatist feminism) or are considered crazy fringe groups today (Nation of Islam)

Also (I say this with the awareness that I run the risk of committing "no true liberal") each of these Liberals Being Stupid movements have an aspects which I instinctively associate with conservatism. Nation of Islam and Separatist Feminism favors in-groups over out-groups. Anti-GMO is largely driven by concerns about purity and keeping the status quo. If I didn't know the cultural context surrounding the green-blue affiliations, I would have labeled these to be conservative values.

The point is this: I've got some values. Some of those values pin me down as liberal. When I look at "liberals being stupid" examples, I do not see people who have taken the "liberal values" dial and turned them all the way up higher than I would like. Instead, I see people who have either turned off one or more of my liberal value dials, or added a conservative value into the mix. These people don't feel like current trends extrapolated - rather, they feel like a divergent stream.

When I think about what turning up the "liberal values" dial too high would look like, I think of things that don't hurt anyone but are nevertheless disgusting, and cannot be prevented without somehow imposing authority to restrict personal autonomy. For example, if large segments of society were to start falling into self-pleasure-stimulation feedback cycles, I can imagine a hyper-permissive liberal state which decides that they should be given the autonomy to do so.

Just imagine...the entire human race. Totally functional, with most rational faculties intact, still interacting with the outside world...but constantly in a great mood.

I'd really hate that idea. It's a world I wouldn't fit into at all. But oddly, I can already feel Cthulhu's persuasive tentacles convincing me that as long as the rational faculties do remain intact, it wouldn't be so bad if some people chose to live this way. As long as not everyone chooses it, what is the harm?

(history-politics is outside my domain and I haven't fact-checked so you shouldn't take any specific examples I give at face value)

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-07T15:56:34.023Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

each of these Liberals Being Stupid movements have an aspects which I instinctively associate with conservatism.

That's a very good point.

When I think about what turning up the "liberal values" dial too high would look like, I think of things that don't hurt anyone but are nevertheless disgusting

We have to start being careful about terminology here. The word "liberal" (at least in the contemporary US political discourse) has two quite distinct meanings. The first (at least historically) meaning is the "classic liberal" or "traditional liberal" or even "XIX century liberal" -- a political philosophy emphasizing individual rights and liberties. Nowadays a "classic liberal" is almost a synonym for a "small-l libertarian".

The second meaning is "leftist", "progressive", "opposed to conservatism". This is the usual meaning in which the word in used in the US today.

Now, what will happen if you dial the "liberal values" to 11? Liberal/classic, not much -- you'll get much weirdness, some of it disgusting, to be sure, but overall it might look like, I don't know, say, Burning Man.

But the liberal/progressive values are a different kettle of fish. These include things like serious dislike of inequality. Or, for example, strong preference for community over individual. So turning these things to eleven gets you moving towards the Soviet Russia territory. You should start thinking about confiscatory tax regimes, limitations on property rights, etc.

comment by pragmatist · 2013-10-08T08:06:23.955Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure how turning the dial to 11 works, but there seems to be a pretty glaring asymmetry in your analysis here. If turning the dial to 11 on progressivism takes you to Soviet Russia, why doesn't turning the dial to 11 on classical liberalism take you towards complete stateless anarchism, which I imagine would be considerably less congenial than Burning Man.

"But," the classical liberal might say, "we believe the state does have a role to play in protecting its citizens from violence inflicted by others, and in enforcing contracts." Yeah, and progressives believe that the market has a role to play in solving the economic calculation problem. They also have commitments to civil liberties and individual autonomy that are incompatible with a Soviet-style dictatorship. If turning the dial past 10 is sufficient to erase those commitments, maybe it's also sufficient to erase the classical liberal's commitment to a night watchman state?

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-10-08T20:21:15.161Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

This line of conversation seems to focus on the "turning the dial to 11" idea, which I take to mean "increasing the distance from the mainstream".

I think I see a couple of problems with this.

First, a political ideology is composed of not one, but several "dial settings". Correlations between them are at least partly matters of historical accident, not logical necessity. We can conceive of dialing up or down any of these somewhat independently of one another.

Why is anti-colonialism linked to opposition to private property, instead of to protecting the private property rights of oppressed people? Why is it in the interests of "big-business conservatives" today to oppose scientific education, whereas in the mid-20th century the business establishment was strongly supportive of it? Why is antisemitism today found in both the far left and far right, whereas it once was a defining characteristic of right-wing nationalist populism? Because of the formation and breakdown of specific political alliances and economic conditions over historic time — not because these views are logically linked.

Second, a political ideology often opposes what outsiders see as more extreme versions. Conservatives may say that progressivism is nothing but watered-down Stalinism, and progressives may say that conservatism is merely watered-down fascism. But conservatives have reasoned arguments against fascism, and progressives have reasoned arguments against Stalinism — and these arguments do not merely amount to "too much of a good thing".

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-08T17:23:13.046Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

why doesn't turning the dial to 11 on classical liberalism take you towards complete stateless anarchism

It takes me towards, that is, in that general direction. It doesn't get there, though, because classical liberals were quite familiar with stateless anarchism and have rejected it.

and progressives believe that the market has a role to play in solving the economic calculation problem. They also have commitments to civil liberties and individual autonomy that are incompatible with a Soviet-style dictatorship

Again, turning the dial to 11 moves the progressives towards Soviet Russia without necessarily getting them there.

Note my examples -- they do not mention hanging capitalists on the lampposts.

Imagine a committed (maybe even a radical) progressive finding himself in a country which taxes incomes over, say $500,000 at the 99% tax rate. Would he start to demand lower taxes on the rich? Not bloody likely, and this is a confiscatory tax regime.

comment by shminux · 2013-10-08T17:39:54.595Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Imagine a committed (maybe even a radical) progressive finding himself in a country which taxes incomes over, say $500,000 at the 99% tax rate. Would he start to demand lower taxes on the rich? Not bloody likely, and this is a confiscatory tax regime.

By the way, the marginal income tax rate in the US on incomes over $100k was 92% in 1953, and 70% on incomes over $108k until 1981, when Reagan first started trading taxes for deficits.

Source.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-08T17:53:57.945Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

From your source, in 1953 the marginal tax on ordinary income over $200K was 92% for single filers and that's $1.7m in today's dollars.

I do wonder how many people were in this tax bracket. For the rich most of their income was dividends and capital gains -- not part of ordinary income.

comment by shminux · 2013-10-08T18:18:36.304Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, 92% on $1.7m/yr it's not quite 99% on $500k/yr, as in your example, but it's not too far off, and it is interesting to examine how people on different sides of the political spectrum reacted to it. I don't know if any of the "progressives" (meaning leftists?) demanded lower taxes back then.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-08T19:44:23.277Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

By the way: a nice graph and an amusing fact:

The Wealth Tax Act of 1935, applied the top rate to income over $5 million and had only a single taxpayer: John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-06T14:26:03.645Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I think the issue here is that to you progressivism is a set of very specific ideals whereas to me it is a set of general-purpose political tactics. We could argue it around in circles forever, so why not cut to the meat of the issue; what would we expect the progressive response to be like if each of us were right?

Situation A: Three nationalist groups representing their country's majority begin systemic campaigns of genocide against minority groups whom they resent for their higher social standing and perceived foreignness (in reality, both have lived there for centuries). The German NSDAP targets the Ashkenazim, the Vietnamese Viet Minh targets the Hoa, and the Hutu Akazu targets the Tutsi. What do we expect the modern sensible progressive to feel?

If this is a simple question of morality, we could expect that each case would merit strong condemnation and the failure to prevent them as an unforgivable tragedy. If on the other hand Progressivism is simple political expedience, we expect our answers to break along purely practical lines; the NSDAP was a rival and is thus condemned as strongly as possible, the Viet Minh are even now an ally and thus their actions are completely ignored, and the Akazu are of no consequence whatsoever and are thus thought of only within the context of expanding the power of allied NGOs.

Situation B: Two men lead attacks on US Federal Government buildings in an attempt to spark a race war which they believed was divinely ordained, failed, and were subsequently executed. John Brown attacked the Federal Arsenal at Harper's Ferry, while Timothy McVeigh attacked the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. In both cases innocents were killed as a result of the attacks, and in both cases their actions hurt their cause in the public mind and encouraged the expansion of paramilitary police forces designed to prevent similar future strikes.

If this is a question of humanitarian ideals, you might expect that both would be repudiated for their actions; even if we hate slavery, surely a student of history should recognize that slave revolts tend to involve mass murder even when successful which means that regardless of the validity of their complaints, both were attempting to start a genocidal war. Of course, from the point of view of political expediency there is no conflict whatsoever; the neofascist terrorist is a threat and thus irredeemably evil while the radical abolitionist terrorist is a predecessor and thus an inspiring heroic figure.

Situation C: Two governments of modern first-world nations have made the deliberate descision to deny life-saving care from those seeking it for a practical purpose. The US government's Tuskegee Syphilus Experiment has denied 400 black men access to syphilus treatment so that the army can gather data on how best to treat STIs (a major readiness issue in any military), while the UK government's Liverpool Care Pathway has dehydrated and neglected 10,000(!) "dying" patients to make room for patients with better QALY returns.

If this was a case of values, we should expect universal condemnation; the TSE was nothing short of a racist massacre while the LCP crossed the line into actual mass murder. On the other hand, the US Army is a traditionally right-wing institution while the NHS is a monument to Social Democrat ideology; it would be surprising if the TSE didn't result in public shaming and calls for new boards of well-paid ethicists (read: academics) in every hospital while the LCP is met with calls for increased funding to the very organizaion which enacted it.

Obviously this isn't a perfect test of the principle; it's not particularly sporting of me to pick examples with perfect hindsight and I do apologize for that. As a rational intelligent person I know you're more than capable of stepping outside your philosophy and asking why it happens to have grown into the shape it's in, and who it's ultimately helping. As long as you've done that, as far as I'm concerned we don't disagree on anything substantive.

(Also I was hoping for your opinion on whether my explanation of the "governmental entropy" made any sense. I guess putting it in the middle of a text wall was a poor idea lol.)

comment by pragmatist · 2013-10-08T05:49:38.791Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I think the issue here is that to you progressivism is a set of very specific ideals whereas to me it is a set of general-purpose political tactics.

Judging by the examples you give, the tactic you're attributing to progressivism is basically harsh condemnation (and often forceful suppression) of purported "human rights abuse" when the perpetrators are ideological enemies, but quiet tolerance (and sometimes even approval) of the same actions when they are perpetrated by allies or by people/groups who do not fit the "bad guy" role in the standard progressive narrative. Is this pretty much what you intended to convey, or am I missing something important?

If I'm not, then I don't see why you tie this behavior to progressivism in particular. It seems like a pretty universal human failure mode when it comes to politics. Of course, the specifics of the rhetoric employed will differ, but I'm sure I can come up with examples similar to yours that apply to conservatives, or indeed to pretty much any faction influential enough to command widespread popular allegiance and non-negligible political clout. Do you think progressives are disproportionately guilty of this kind of hypocrisy, or that this hypocrisy is more central to the success of progressivism than that of other ideologies? Or are you just using the term "progressive" in a much more encompassing sense than its usual meaning in American political discourse?

I've also got to say that I don't find your three examples of progressive hypocrisy all that compelling (even though I don't deny the existence of this sort of hypocrisy among progressives -- I just think you're wrong about degree).

On situation A: The claim that progressives completely ignored Vietnamese ethnic cleansing is false. The push for a more inclusive refugee policy in America in the wake of mass Vietnamese displacement (culminating in the Refugee Act of 1980) was spearheaded by progressives in the Congress (like Ted Kennedy) and backed by labor unions. The UNHCR (which I'm assuming Moldbug regards as a tentacle of the progressive kraken) played a major role in drawing attention to the plight of the boat people. It's true that the Viet Minh's oppression of ethnic Chinese doesn't get condemned as vociferously or routinely as the Nazi oppression of Jews, but I don't buy that this is solely or even primarily attributable to the preservation of the progressive Grand Narrative. One relevant observation is that as bad as the Viet Minh's treatment of the Ethnic Chinese was, the Nazi treatment of Jews was considerably worse.

As for the Rwandan genocide, once again your characterization of the progressive response doesn't seem apt. While it is true that America did basically nothing to stem the genocide while it was in progress, some of the harshest criticism of this American inactivity has come from progressive academics (Samantha Power is a prominent example). Also, I don't think condemnation of the Akazu has been lacking at all. In fact, the impression I get is that Rwanda is the go-to example for modern (post WWII) genocide.

On situation B: I concede that a lot of contemporary discussion of John Brown is unjustifiably reverential, and I don't consider him particularly heroic. But I do think the difference in motivation between McVeigh and him is very relevant to our evaluation of their respective actions. Also, you seem to take for granted that the Haitian revolution was, on the whole, a bad thing. If not, your claim that Brown should have been dissuaded from starting a slave rebellion by the example of Haiti would make no sense. And I disagree that the Haitian revolution was on the whole a bad thing, despite the considerable loss of life involved. Perhaps this is another instance of progressive double standards, but you'll have to make that case for me. As it stands, the argument "Haiti's slave rebellion had horrible results, so John Brown should have expected his rebellion to have horrible results, so he should be treated as someone trying to bring about horrible results" is not very convincing to me, for a number of reasons.

On situation C: I just straight-up reject your characterization of the LCP as "mass murder". While there have been reports of some patients on the LCP being dehydrated and neglected by hospital staff, the numbers do not remotely approach 10,000. That's about the total number of people on the pathway, and there is no evidence I'm aware of that more than a small fraction faced systematic mistreatment (in contravention of the actual guidelines for the LCP, I should note). There is also evidence that a number of people on the pathway received exemplary end-of-life care.

And again, your characterization of the progressive response is pretty tendentious. I guess it's technically true that there are "calls for increased funding to the very organization which enacted" the LCP, but progressives also support increased funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, the very organization which enacted the Tuskegee experiment (gasp!). So no hypocrisy there, then. I find neither demand particularly scandalous, since both organizations do a lot of other good stuff that warrants increased funding. As for the specific abuses of the LCP -- while they are much less common than you claim, they are troubling, and as far as I can tell, there has been no significant progressive opposition to the Neuberger review's recommendation that the LCP be phased out and replaced with something that can be more effectively enforced. I'm not British though, so I may be wrong about this.

Now, it is quite possible that I have to some extent been duped by progressive myth-making in my conception of these situations. If so, I'd appreciate evidence indicating where my beliefs are false.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-10-08T18:35:19.418Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I concede that a lot of contemporary discussion of John Brown is unjustifiably reverential, and I don't consider him particularly heroic.

I consider him extremely heroic. Not ultrarational, but there were people suffering in the darkness and crying out for help, a lot of people saying "Later", and John Brown saying "Fuck this, let's just do it." If there's a historical consensus that the Civil War could have been avoided, I have not encountered it; and that being so, might as well have the Civil War sooner rather than later.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-09T05:29:46.918Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Not ultrarational, but there were people suffering in the darkness and crying out for help, a lot of people saying "Later",

To bring this to contemporary examples, do you support Operation Iraqi Freedom?

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-10-10T00:26:33.655Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

If I recall my past opinions correctly, I said at the time that while such wars were the only way to free certain countries, I did not trust the competence of the current administration to prosecute it and was strongly against the way in which it was carried out in defiance of international law.

I would say in retrospect that the resulting disaster would have been 2/3 of the way to my reasonable upper bound for disastrousness, but the full degree to which e.g. the Bush Defense department was ignoring the Bush State department was surprising and would not become known until years later. I have since adjusted my political cynicism upward, and continue to argue with various community-members about whether the US government can be expected to execute elaborate correct actions based on amazingly accurate theories about AI which they got from university professors (answer: no).

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-10T01:23:19.683Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Why doesn't the same logic apply to the Civil War?

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-10-10T01:59:42.997Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

For one thing, it worked. But I wasn't there at the time, not to mention not being born at the time, so it's hard to argue about what I would have said about the Civil War.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-12T06:14:27.729Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

For one thing, it worked.

For certain values of "worked". Slavery was abolished, similarly Saddam is no longer in power and Iraq is certainly much closer to democracy (at least by Arab standards). Also in both cases the occupation (called "reconstruction" after the civil war) met with heavy resistance and was ultimately discontinued for political reasons. Ultimately Jim Crow was instituted. It is notable that for roughly a century afterwards the civil war was regarded as a tragic mistake.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-10-08T19:16:03.428Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If there's a historical consensus that the Civil War could have been avoided, I have not encountered it

Here's an argument. Basically, Lincoln could have acted early to keep half of the South, and a confederacy of just seven coastal states primarily dependent on the global cotton market could have been waited out, or brought to heel quickly.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-08T21:57:12.268Z · score: -5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

If there's a historical consensus that the Civil War could have been avoided, I have not encountered it; and that being so, might as well have the Civil War sooner rather than later.

Well, no way to avoid it other than letting the Confederacy secede. Oh what am I saying; sure if we did that we might saved a few hundred thousand lives but we'd be letting the evil of slavery continue, and that's obviously such a great evil we can end the discussion right there. We don't need a decision theory when we've got our trusty moral intuitions right?

But on the safe side why don't we "shut up and multiply" for a second, see what our bargain bought us...

We paid 750,000 lives in the Civil War to free less than 4,000,000 slaves; in other words, the suffering of a lifetime of slavery is evidently worth 18.75% of the death of a free person in a horrific war. In other words, for the trade to come out equal a slave would be suffering more than a chemotherapy patient with recurring metastasized antibiotic-resistant breast cancer and sepsis. And even that weight is far too high; a slave could only expect to suffer for 20 years on average while a free man typically lived to 41, more than twice that value, not to mention that QALY weights are normed against a society with free pornography and twinkies rather than one with regular TB epidemics. So really terminal cancer is an absolute wonderland of fun compared to being in bondage! No wonder it was such a strong moral imperative to justify starting a preposterously bloody war over...

I concede defeat good sir, in the face of your flawless logic. I'm sorry ever to have doubted your well-considered opinion.

comment by EHeller · 2013-10-08T22:18:53.011Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

less than 4,000,000 slaves

Depends on how long slavery would have lasted without the war. You don't just free current slaves, you prevent future generations from ever being enslaved. I take that to be Yudkowsky's point- the earlier the better, because the more slaves you prevent.

Edit: Actually, use your own numbers:

a slave could only expect to suffer for 20 years on average while a free man typically lived to 41

This implies converting someone from slave to free should increase their life by 20+ years, approximately half the life time of a free person. Just multiplying, using 1 free person dead = 41 years lost, one slave freed = 21 years gained, we pass a cost benefit test.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-10-08T22:54:23.755Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This implies converting someone from slave to free should increase their life by 20+ years, approximately half the life time of a free person. Just multiplying, using 1 free person dead = 41 years lost, one slave freed = 21 years gained, we pass a cost benefit test.

Not quite. The lower life expectancy due to slavery may be the result of early malnourishment, say, which manumission would not fix.

I've seen, but have not investigated, arguments that the civil war and emancipation of slavery led to lower life expectancy among former slaves, and those sorts of claims should be addressed in this calculation.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-11T06:08:32.039Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

One historical note I was not aware of until several months back, which was covered in a few books on related subjects which I read at the time, was that for more than a decade after the Civil War, the standard of living and level of equality experienced by recently free blacks was actually quite high. The levels of prejudice which led to the passage of the Jim Crow laws were actually cultivated by deliberately targeted propaganda by upper class industrialists who feared the political threat of lower class white and black laborers acting together as a voting bloc.

(I was initially skeptical of this as a posited explanation for the levels of prejudice which came about in ensuing decades, since humans can easily be induced to turn on each other without any pragmatic incentives, but not only do writings from those who were alive at the time reflect a genuinely dramatic nosedive in the state of racial relations, but some of those who were involved in the propaganda efforts wrote with surprising frankness about their intentions.)

It's questionable how predictable this turn of events could have been prior to the emancipation, but had it been avoided, the quality of life for free black Americans in ensuing decades might have been considerably higher, and for a decade or so after the war, their quality of life was likely rather higher than we might expect.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-10-11T15:10:54.882Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The levels of prejudice which led to the passage of the Jim Crow laws were actually cultivated by deliberately targeted propaganda by upper class industrialists who feared the political threat of lower class white and black laborers acting together as a voting bloc.

I think the argument I saw hinged on the strife that happened after emancipation, which is perhaps an argument for more Reconstruction rather than an argument against emancipation. But I don't remember it well enough; perhaps someone else has seen something similar.

comment by EHeller · 2013-10-09T00:00:48.973Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, doing this calculation right would require a great deal more research. Certainly, my prior would be that freeing a slave would result in a longer life expectancy, but I would not expect the gap between slave and free to instantaneously close.

I just wanted to point out that the large slave/free life expectancy gap he was presenting can work against him- and as a result he wasn't "shutting up and multiplying" correctly, which should undermine the weight of the sarcasm at the end of his post.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-09T01:16:16.538Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Backing out a little... if I see two people about to shoot someone tied to a tree, on your view am I ever justified in shooting them both to save the tied-up person's life? If so, what does it minimally take to justify that?

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-09T02:18:33.829Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Don't misunderstand me; I'm not a utilitarian, I just don't like hypocrisy.

But in my personal opinion? It'd depend on who's tied to the tree and who's shooting. I'd side with the people I value personally first; if they're all strangers I probably would have to go with the most aesthetically pleasant side or just sit it out. This is assuming a consequence-free vacuum of course; IRL there would be legal/social concerns which would trump any initial preference, not to mention how utterly unfamiliar I am with firearms.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-09T02:43:15.997Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, sorry. I thought you were arguing that the Civil War was a bad idea because it killed more people than it saved. My mistake, and thanks for answering my question.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-09T04:25:15.104Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But in my personal opinion? It'd depend on who's tied to the tree and who's shooting. I'd side with the people I value personally first; if they're all strangers I probably would have to go with the most aesthetically pleasant side or just sit it out.

For clarification here, do you mean behavioral aesthetics such as which people are trying to tie someone to a tree and shoot them, visual aesthetics (which side is better looking,) or some combination or alternative?

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-09T10:31:15.197Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A sort of a combo; aesthetics covers a lot of ground. Attractiveness, intelligence, how interesting/valuable their job is and how skilled they are in it, how cute they are (if they're a kid or other small mammal), how well behaved they are, etc. It's a lot easier to judge any given example than lay out hard and fast rules.

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-10-08T22:16:26.733Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

"Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.

-- Abraham Lincoln

in other words, the suffering of a lifetime of slavery is evidently worth 18.75% of the death of a free person in a horrific war.

Leaving aside all moral considerations of collective responsibility and individual complicity... and switching to my rough model of preference utilitarianism, which I generally don't use... this would sound like an incredible, unbelievably lucky bargain with this cruel universe at HALF a life for a freed slave. At 18,75% it appears perverse even to hesitate in this non-dilemma.

P.S.: instead of preference utilitarianism, I do find it much more comfortable to use broadly Christian virtue ethics for a snap moral decision. According to which... well, let's just mention that even a Catholic like Chesterton could be unapologetic in his respect for the Jacobins. Never mind the Christian abolitionists of the day.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-08T23:20:15.180Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

P.S.: instead of preference utilitarianism, I do find it much more comfortable to use broadly Christian virtue ethics for a snap moral decision. According to which... well, let's just mention that even a Catholic like Chesterton could be unapologetic in his respect for the Jacobins. Never mind the Christian abolitionists of the day.

I'm unclear what this actually means, considering there are usually Christians on every side of moral conflicts.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-08T14:15:07.958Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Judging by the examples you give, the tactic you're attributing to progressivism is basically harsh condemnation (and often forceful suppression) of purported "human rights abuse" when the perpetrators are ideological enemies, but quiet tolerance (and sometimes even approval) of the same actions when they are perpetrated by allies or by people/groups who do not fit the "bad guy" role in the standard progressive narrative. Is this pretty much what you intended to convey, or am I missing something important?

More or less; it's all about framing the debate in terms which push popular sentiment leftward. Whoever controls the null hypothesis gets to decide what the data means, and conservatives suck at statistics.

Now each of my examples is debatable; there are official Progressive answers to each dichotomy and they're all designed to make sense to well educated intelligent people (no-one with any sense would call the Cathedral dim). But if you look at the pattern, not just here but anywhere you look, you see double-standards which invariably favor the political Left and Demotism in general. I can't force you to see it, and I don't begrudge it if you don't, but it is there to see.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T18:32:44.972Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I took your explanation of "governmental entropy" to indicate a breakdown of heirarchy.

High order gov't = clear lines of heirarchy, which you could draw in a simple diagram

low order gov't = constant uncertainty about who's in charge (with the resulting insecurity resulting in violence).

We could argue it around in circles forever, so why not cut to the meat of the issue; what would we expect the progressive response to be like if each of us were right

So this is good, but I'm still confused.

Your examples describe a government which acts in its own interests (rather than by moral ideals) and I accept that this is in fact the case for our government, that it acts not according to ideals but in self-interest.

What I don't understand is why this is particular to progressive-ism, and not a general property of ideologically driven power structures. Or even power structures in general, for that matter - doesn't Fnarg also act in his own interests, by strengthening his allies and weakening his enemies?

who it's ultimately helping

Let's take India and Pakistan, and observe their positions on the Israel-Palestine scenario. Pakistan strongly sides with Palestine, probably because Palestine is the Muslim state and Israel are the Western Imperialists. Polls show India to be the most pro-Israel country in the world: despite India's strong anti-imperialist sentiment - here's a short analysis that makes sense to me.

India was chosen as an example because while many major variables are different from Western nations, I know it possesses the equivalent of what we've been calling "The Cathedral" and its conservatives are similar as well. As you might expect, India's leftists are more pro-muslim than the nation as a whole, and thus are less pro-Israel.

But I know that If a Muslim power started invading an indigenous Jewish population, left and right in India would be united in opposition. The alliance on the Right depends on the interests of the cultural in-group (which is why Pakistan supports Palestine and Indian conservatives supports not-Palestine), but the alliance of the Left doesn't seem tied to any particular culture's interest. Leftists from India to Europe to America tend to have greater support for Palestine.

So, once you subtract any moral variables, who does the leftist tend to help? One possibility is that they tend to help the underdog who wants to be autonomous from Fnargl. and thus cause the "underdog" to win. And if the underdog keeps winning, I suppose that this leads to chaos and constant revolutions.

if that's the case, it brings my back to the one useful thing said I had gleaned from reactionary thought - "World-improvement-plots should follow the heuristic of minimizing destruction to existing societal infrastructure."

That's just what I came up with, though, I'm not sure actually sure whom you meant when you said "who it's ultimately helping". Did you just mean that it acts to strengthen itself? If so, why is this unusual for a major ideology? All rapidly spreading things... Islam, English speaking, etc... can boast the same.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-06T19:17:41.678Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

the alliance on the Right depends on the interests of the cultural in-group (which is why Pakistan supports Palestine and Indian conservatives supports not-Palestine), but the alliance of the Left doesn't seem tied to any particular culture's interest.

That's not exactly true; there is one particular culture which benefits very greatly from every Leftist alliance; the culture of Leftist intellectuals.

The Palestinians do not benefit from the "Peace Process" which keeps them in refugee camps, and neither does Israel or any of Israel's Arab neighbors or even the United States which keeps the scam going. But it does provide an enormous amount of jobs for smart progressive kids working in the UN and other NGOs, juicy materials for journalists and political pundits, a great laboratory for PoliSci academics connected to the State Department to test their pet theories, and the crisis itself is an excellent propaganda tool for anyone to the left of Mussolini to use on any pet issue they might have.

In other words, the Cathedral itself profits, even if (especially if) everyone else is losing money. That's not a healthy business model, in fact it's almost criminal.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T19:33:29.900Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

but doesn't that just class "Leftist Intellectuals" as one among many groups who use power to serve their own interests, while outwardly appealing to high moral ideals?

What's different here from all the other Fnargles who seize power? Why should I take any particular notice of this particular group of Fnargles who fall under the heading "Leftist Intellectuals"? Why is this Universe worse than the Universe that would result if there were no "leftist intellectuals"?

Are "leftist intellectuals" somehow meaner and more destructive than other Fnargles? Or is it simply that this brand of Fnargle is really, really good at re-directing power to itself?

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-06T19:53:48.099Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Are "leftist intellectuals" somehow meaner and more destructive than other Fnargles? Or is it simply that this brand of Fnargle is really, really good at re-directing power to itself?

Yes and yes, and the reason for both is how they take power.

Nearly every ruler, and virtually every ruling class, in history has built their power by skimming off of the top; tithes are one of the oldest non-arbitrary forms of taxation, and the word literally means a ten percent cut. The incentive for the ruler is always to increase their personal profit by increasing the size of the pot he skims from, which means that as Machiavelli astutely pointed out a benevolent ruler and an amoral one will be indistinguishable.

The reason the modern situation is so bad is that the conditions where the Cathedral profits have nothing to do with how well it governs, and are in fact typically opposed. If Somalia stays a war zone for the next ten thousand years, that's quadrillions of aid dollars which otherwise wouldn't be spent.

Joseph Stieglitz, one of Bill Clinton's top economic advisers,made a similar point about modern corporate mismanagement. When the shares are controlled by an individual or a small number of individuals everyone has an interest in making sure that the company is running efficiently; when the shares are too widely distributed speculation rules and the Board of Directors ends up calling the shots in their own interests. The result is bad service, poor profits and a bunch of wealthy Board members.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T23:29:49.034Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, so I came into this considering the notion that attempts at reform frequently fail plausible. 2) I also came into this believing that there isn't any good feedback mechanism to kill counterproductive charity, so it's not a stretch to apply that to reform. 3) Also, perverse incentives can sometimes perpetuate dysfunctional things.

You've helped me to connect these dots and I am considering the notion that a system of perverse incentives is fueling a large amount of counterproductive reform, at least insofar as it comes to foreign policy. I don't have the evidence to believe this is true yet, but it is a coherent notion that could well be true.

With regards to domestic policy (an area where I've got at least some evidence) I'm more skeptical. But then again, I take it the Cathedral does skim off the domestic pot, so maybe the effects cannot be observed domestically. I'm also not sure I understand the whole "the past was in many ways better" notion - I can't think of many metrics by which this is true.

So...

1) Is this different from other forms of corrupt or inefficient charity? What is specific to the Left? Could this not apply to any group who were after a cause which was not related to their own direct profit?

2) Can it be fixed by requiring more transparency and data collection to ensure that interventions are, in fact, effective? (To force the benefit to the Cathedral to be tied to how well its actions produce the results it claims to produce)...basically, can we try to hold Cthulhu accountable?

After all, revolting against Cthulhu altogether will increase entropy, and for reasons obvious to both leftists and reactionaries that is undesirable. Transparency inducing reform seems to be something that everyone generally gets behind. If it is true that the tool of the Cathedral's violence is reform, then reform seems to be the appropriate channel by which to modify it.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-07T01:25:37.095Z · score: -3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

With regards to domestic policy (an area where I've got at least some evidence) I'm more skeptical. But then again, I take it the Cathedral does skim off the domestic pot, so maybe the effects cannot be observed domestically.

That's actually something I hadn't thought of. I guess my semi-conscious explanation for that was American "rugged individualism" but in retrospect that doesn't make half as much sense.

I'm also not sure I understand the whole "the past was in many ways better" notion - I can't think of many metrics by which this is true.

There are obvious areas of improvement, but I'm hard pressed to think of one which the Nazis or the Hapsburgs wouldn't have provided if they had modern technology. It's also not easy for me to speculate on the course of technological innovation in a monarchist or fascist world; that's more of a job for authors like Harry Turtledove. So in most of the obvious cases like life expectancy I think we can call it a wash.

In other places, we can see problems which only exist as a result of progressive ideology. The state of Africa, South America and much of Asia can be laid entirely at the feet of naive decolonization and parasitic clientism; even accounting for technology, much of the world's peoples likely led better lives as subjects of a foreign crown than they do under their "independent" nations. The mess we've made of the domestic economy, not to mention the world one, shouldn't be too much of a leap to ascribe to mismanagement. And even domestically, "liberated" women and "tolerated" minorities are consistently polled as being decreasingly happy over time, almost as if our progressive policies of equality were thrusting them into arenas they were fundamentally not fit to compete in.

The current dysgenic population shift is more ambiguous; I'd like to think that a Reactionary government could preserve or increase the value of our national stock, but there are also purely technological factors like the ease of birth control which are less amenable to regulation. Also ambiguous is Moldbug's democratic crime wave theory; his numbers show an order-of-magnitude increase in the murder rate over the last few hundred years, but the 18th century wasn't known for meticulous record keeping so that might be illusory. Yvain has some interesting posts calling the whole "Victorians were healthier!" meme into question at SlateStarCodex, so that theory has some holes also.

But to be honest I'm not that attached to the idea; it's interesting and more plausible than not, but I wouldn't be shocked if it was wrong either.

1) Is this different from other forms of corrupt or inefficient charity? What is specific to the Left? Could this not apply to any group who were after a cause which was not related to their own direct profit?

2) Can it be fixed by requiring more transparency and data collection to ensure that interventions are, in fact, effective? (To force the benefit to the Cathedral to be tied to how well its actions produce the results it claims to produce)...basically, can we try to hold Cthulhu accountable?

  1. It is the prototype of corrupt charity, and that is why it is specific to the Left. A Reactionary government is not a charity; it is a business, and like any good business it never confuses its employees and customers with its shareholders (although compensation in store discounts or non-voting stock options is perfectly acceptable). When you try to run a government like a charity you are asking for trouble.
  2. That's actually a simple fix, if one which is not particularly likely to be proposed. Anoint the Dean of the Harvard Law School as the Supreme Justice of the American Empire and give him power of appointment over the Federal Bureaucracy, name the Editor of the NY Times the Pontifex Maximus of the Church of Progress and have a synod to lay out the canon of responsible journalism, and let Jesse Jackson and his ilk reign as suzerain princes of their tribes. They wouldn't go Reactionary overnight, we might still have a Great Leap Forwards to deal with, but if Deng could pull China out of Maoism in one generation I'd give us even money on being a properly governed state within the decade.

After all, revolting against Cthulhu altogether will increase entropy, and for reasons obvious to both leftists and reactionaries that is undesirable.

Freezing a liquid (or, God forbid, depositing a gas) is hard work, and the entropy does end up increasing globally, but you can do it. I think our present situation is the result of a reversible reaction, and if it is we just need the right catalysts or raw power to push it back to completion in the other direction. At least that's my hope anyway.

Edit: Wow, I really just mixed up sublimation and deposition... must be bedtime.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-07T17:56:47.882Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

"liberated" women

I actually have seen that. Check out those graphs - there's a difference between statistical significance and differences of magnitudes that actually matter. But lets suppose for a moment that the differences were of a magnitude large enough to influence policy:.

..."this makes me happier" and "I prefer this" are not the same thing. Feminist action might well have shifted happiness from women to men as a result of shifting work load from men to women, but I'm not sure why a more equitable labor and happiness distribution is a bad thing? Unless you're suggesting that it was a net loss.

"tolerated" minorities / disgenic

I haven't seen the former...could it be attributable to the recession and wealth inequality? The latter is too large of a discussion to have.

I suppose arguing over the facts of these matters will derail somewhat. Back to the theoretical stuff...

When you try to run a government like a charity you are asking for trouble.

So if I understand, this can be paraphrased as, "a government that is designed for the purpose of benefiting its people is likely to be worse than a government designed to exploit its people because the former has no concrete incentive".

If so, I still don't see why the solution isn't transparency and data collection, to give the government an incentive to make reality come out the way that the government claims it should. If the numbers come out wrong, the ruler loses power.

Anoint

wait, not so fast

1) Doesn't that constitute a revolution and destruction of all existing power structures? Seems rather un-reactionary. My "transparency" solution was an attempt to work within the system, not to topple it.

2) You convinced me that it is possible that power structures designed to be non-exploitative tend to end up falling prey to perverse incentives that fuel a large amount of counterproductive action which benefits no one.

a) That's not the same as making a convincing case for the "order-chaos" thesis, where centralized power is superior to complex systems of distributed power. Thus far, I'd rather live in a random liberal democracy than a random totalitarian state, Why do you believe that a self interested and exploitative centralized power is superior to a self-interested and exploitative network made up of multiple distributed systems of power?

b) Your solution didn't even stipulate that our rulers must act in self interest. They'd still have to appease the populace. It didn't hand them any real power. Wouldn't a better solution (what I think maximizes Order and Self Interested Rulers, not what I think best maximizes utility) be to hand over all our weapons and military power to China and tell them to rule us as they see fit? Or, if we really had faith in this concept that even Fnargl would be superior, wouldn't North Korea suffice?

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-07T18:49:27.012Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure why a more equitable labor distribution is a bad thing?

If me and the eminent Professor Hawking found ourselves sharing an apartment, it would be insane to distribute the labor equally between us. Comparative advantage tells us that he should use his enormously powerful mind and reputation pay a much higher share of the rent while I can use my young and increasingly muscular body to do any household chores which need doing. This turned into a slash-fic way too fast, but you get my drift here; men and women need to pursue tasks which complement their natural advantages.

This doesn't mean women should be barefoot and pregnant, there is plenty of room in the world for exceptional women and men to take each other's roles, but it does mean that in general the distribution will more closely resemble traditional societies.

The latter is too large of a discussion to have.

I understand why avoiding it is wise, but it's not a particularly large discussion. The facts are pretty damning; the least capable elements of society are fast outbreeding the most capable, and immigration is not helping matters. The only solutions which come to mind are either very ugly or rely on the rapid maturation and implementation of technology which the Left strongly opposes.

So if I understand, this can be paraphrased as, "a government that is designed for the purpose of benefiting its people is likely to be worse than a government designed to exploit its people because the former has no concrete incentive".

Yup. If you want a game theoretic argument look at Stiglitz's work on the theory of information asymmetry in firms. [Edit: initial link was to overly-technical and not particularly demonstrative article; I'll look for a better one but his books might have to be sufficient]. He doesn't make the political connection, but it's a trivial one.

Hopefully this will also make the "widely distributed voting shares = bad management" point clearer as well.

(Note: I've read his conclusions in his book 'Whither Socialism?' but not the research behind them. In either case I'm not an economist or a game theory expert.)

b) Your solution didn't even stipulate that our rulers must act in self interest. It didn't hand them any real power. Wouldn't a better solution (to maximize Order and Self Interested Rulers, not to maximize utility) be to hand over all our weapons and military power to China and tell them to rule us as they see fit? Or, if we really had faith in this concept, wouldn't North Korea suffice?

I gave Dean Minow total control of the executive branch (a power Presidents have lacked for the better part of the century) and the ability to arbitrarily re-interpret the Constitution currently reserved for the Supreme Court. Considering we're taking about the mammoth USG here, that's more power in her hands than I can easily imagine. But of course she'd be far from my first pick for the job, just better than the current state of affairs.

China is a half-way decent choice, definitely better than the Harvard Dynasty, but still not really ideal. The Communist Party rules as a sort of semi-meritocratic natural aristocracy, very much like the old Eunuchs did really, but there is no dynastic Emperor to balance the equation. Each individual Party member is both a state employee and a shareholder in the People's Republic of China; while mild compared to the Western welfare state, graft and patronage within the Party is severe. Furthermore, any ambitious young Commie could eventually climb their way up and replace the Premier himself, which means the leadership will always be insecure and tempted towards purges as a means of stabilizing their positions.

North Korea on the other hand is a communist dictatorship out of time; even in it's relationship to the US it mirrors the USSR. We prop them up with food aid and timely blackmail payments while sympathetic liberal elements in the US systematically oppose both a definitive conclusion to the (ongoing) Korean War and any attempt to sever our economic umbilical cord with them. Even their legitimacy depends on our support; without the constant threat of an American invasion which will never come the Kims couldn't possibly hope to keep their sustaining isolationism alive. They are an obsolete form of Leftist government but leftist nonetheless.

Ideally we'd want someone more like the Saudi Royals or any of the UAE's Emirs; capable established dynasties with existing ties into the US political structure and a traditionalist-yet-irreligious worldview. They wouldn't be able to rule directly, they're too foreign for one thing, but if the House of Windsor could rule India for three centuries the House of Saud could probably manage the continental US as a suzerainty for a while.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T04:29:17.500Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If me and the eminent Professor Hawking found ourselves sharing an apartment, it would be insane to distribute the labor equally between us. Comparative advantage tells us that he should use his enormously powerful mind and reputation pay a much higher share of the rent while I can use my young and increasingly muscular body to do any household chores which need doing. This turned into a slash-fic way too fast, but you get my drift here; men and women need to pursue tasks which complement their natural advantages.

By “equitable” I'd mean that we each start out with half of the pie; it doesn't stop being equitable if I like crust and dislike filling and you like filling and dislike crust so we mutually agree to trade my share of filling for your share of crust (i.e. this or a quick-and-dirty informal approximation thereof).

This doesn't mean women should be barefoot and pregnant, there is plenty of room in the world for exceptional women and men to take each other's roles, but it does mean that in general the distribution will more closely resemble traditional societies.

What do you mean by “exceptional”, 20% or 0.1%?

Note also that, given larger IQ variance among men than among women, the Flynn effect means that the fraction of people above a given IQ threshold who are male has decreased with time; technological advances mean that low-IQ labour has become less useful; and anyway IQ overweighs visuospatial intelligence compared to its importance today inflating male scores (and deflating Jewish scores). Fun fact: 59.4% of the people who graduated at my university in 2012 were female.

I understand why avoiding it is wise, but it's not a particularly large discussion. The facts are pretty damning; the least capable elements of society are fast outbreeding the most capable, and immigration is not helping matters. The only solutions which come to mind are either very ugly or rely on the rapid maturation and implementation of technology which the Left strongly opposes.

I suppose there are differences among different parts of the present-day western world with respect to that: if I understand correctly what kind of technology you're talking about, where I come from it's the Catholic right that's opposing it.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-08T13:40:13.745Z · score: -5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

By “equitable” I'd mean that we each start out with half of the pie; it doesn't stop being equitable if I like crust and dislike filling and you like filling and dislike crust so we mutually agree to trade my share of filling for your share of crust (i.e. this or a quick-and-dirty informal approximation thereof).

Dividing work in a family not about what people like, or about what's equal, it's about what works. You can't build a society on the basis of atomized individuals constantly negotiating out every interaction on an ad-hoc basis; that's just not a stable or realistic foundation. It leads to a culture of divorce and single-parents, generations of unsocialized children and ultimately societal collapse; we've seen the same pattern play out in the black community already.

Start with a strong tradition which works well in the aggregate, make that the standard, then we can talk about shifting the details around in any given family.

What do you mean by “exceptional”, 20% or 0.1%?

Closer to 20% would be my guess; women only lag men by about 5 points overall and a lot of that is the aforementioned spatial reasoning. I'd say something akin to the Asian-White proportions would be a good baseline expectation given that the magnitude of difference is similar, with more women at the top levels due to their wide variance.

Of course, the actual representation in the work force might still come in under our expectations; pregnancy and even menstruation are serious problems for women trying to compete with men, even with modern hormonal birth control which mediates the effects of both, and as studies have shown women tend to be happier as homemakers than breadwinners

Fun fact: 59.4% of the people who graduated at my university in 2012 were female.

On the other hand, the university I went to was a top-tier engineering school with about 20% women and more Asians than Whites by a long shot (and most of us 'whites' were at least a quarter if not fully Jewish). Was my school suffering from unfair "boy's club" discrimination against women or was yours caving to the constant push for "better representation" of women in academia?

That's why I prefer to look at scientific measures like IQ scores and market-based indicators like wages earned than university admissions. Uni is supposed to prepare us for the job market and separate the wheat from the chaff anyhow; the numbers ought to all roughly match up if it's working properly.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-19T19:58:39.237Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Dividing work in a family not about what people like, or about what's equal, it's about what works. You can't build a society on the basis of atomized individuals constantly negotiating out every interaction on an ad-hoc basis; that's just not a stable or realistic foundation. It leads to a culture of divorce and single-parents, generations of unsocialized children and ultimately societal collapse; we've seen the same pattern play out in the black community already.

And yet Northern European societies, which have very low gender inequality, haven't collapsed yet. So maybe the reason why the black community (ITYM the one in the US) has is probably a different one. (EDIT: Oh, look at this too.)

(Also, how comes people can ever get along with roommates of the same sex, where there's no Schelling point as to who should do which chores?)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-19T23:38:39.181Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

...let alone spouses and co-parents of the same sex, where there's frequently more at stake than dirty dishes.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-20T10:47:10.063Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'd be surprised if no-one had used that as an argument against gay marriages and adoptions.

(Here too, ‘how comes the Netherlands have had same-sex marriages and adoptions for 12 years and the sky there hasn't fallen yet?’ sounds like a valid counterargument.)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-20T13:15:07.110Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, they do all the time.
And yet, as you say, it turns out that society never quite collapses when we ignore those dire predictions.
Which of course doesn't stop the kinds of people who believe such things from believing that this time it certainly will.

comment by dthunt · 2013-10-20T14:35:51.561Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is there some easily communicable message here for doomsayers that stands a decent chance of kick-starting the "Oy, was I mistaken!" part of their brains into gear?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-20T18:43:38.581Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think that's a little bit of a wrong question.

I'd be more inclined to discard the category "doomsayers" and instead categorize people, not by the behavior, but by the intent... different people doomsay for importantly different reasons, and not all people motivated by each of those reasons necessarily actually doomsay (as opposed to, for example, feeling vaguely anxious all the time, or expressing outrage about things, or framing themselves as more clever and rational than I am, or something else), and different strategies are optimal for each (and highly differentially so... what works for someone who's just scared and ignorant is actively a mistake for someone who wants to control my behavior for their own benefit, and vice-versa)

But even with that revision, I think in most cases we care about it's not easy (because the easy cases tend to get corrected often enough that we care about them less, because only really bad thinkers fall for them). The cognitive biases and incentive structures that encourage believing messages like "issue de jure is causing the negative stuff I experience!" aren't sound-byte-resolvable.

That said, what I try to do, both for others and for myself when I find myself veering towards this kind of crazy, is start by framing myself as a non-enemy and approaching people with compassion. Often that seems to damp down the worst excesses of fear/hostility, and sometimes it prevents outrage from having anything to latch on to without looking silly. It doesn't work reliably, though, and sometimes it fails disaterously, and at best all it does is create a space where a different message can be received ungarbled... which is necessary, but not sufficient.

(And yes, it was intentional.)

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-23T03:17:34.178Z · score: -2 (14 votes) · LW · GW

If your house is infested with termites that doesn't mean it'll explode the next day in a cartoon cloud of sawdust; it takes years for the full scope of the damage to become apparent, and even then it might still be livable for a while after it's clear that it can't be saved.

Look at the predictions of the people opposing the sexual revolution in the 1960s, or hell even the people opposing women's suffrage in the early 1900s, and you'll see they were more-or-less right on the money. The American family has dissolved, the birth rate has fallen below the replacement rate, promiscuity and deviant sexual behaviors are rampant, and women are less happy in their new masculine roles while men are being forced to become more effeminate. All this in less than a century, a half-century really, which is pretty damn impressive a timescale for a civilization to fall when you look at it in historical time.

When you see the walls buckling and the floors start giving way under you, it's time to get out of the house. It might not collapse this month, or even this year, but it's not a stable place to live.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-23T12:57:34.022Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I certainly agree that if differential predictions of specific societal changes due to the sexual revolution and/or woman's suffrage are accurate, that should increase my confidence in other similar predictions with longer time-windows, including predictions of eventual societal collapse.

comment by EHeller · 2013-10-23T03:42:54.105Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Look at the predictions of the people opposing the sexual revolution in the 1960s, or hell even the people opposing women's suffrage in the early 1900s, and you'll see they were more-or-less right on the money.

Not if you focus on the details- the families that most reflect (for lack of a better term) 1950s values are more likely to divorce,have kids out of wedlock,etc. There is a broad pattern outline that loosely matches with your theory, but when you apply it on a micro scale, it fails.

comment by shminux · 2013-10-23T16:13:08.650Z · score: 1 (15 votes) · LW · GW

The American family has dissolved, the birth rate has fallen below the replacement rate, promiscuity and deviant sexual behaviors are rampant, and women are less happy in their new masculine roles while men are being forced to become more effeminate.

Wow, it's hard for me to imagine anyone saying this with a straight face.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-23T16:26:49.034Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, it's hard for me to imagine anyone saying this with a straight face.

You don't listen to conservative talk radio. The "top three" headline issues on Focal Point yesterday were 1) gay marriage, 2) transgendered rights, and 3) female dissatisfaction with the consequences of the sexual revolution.

comment by shminux · 2013-10-23T16:41:58.891Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I guess I imagine that LW regulars are less ideologically motivated that this. But, with Multiheaded on one end and Konkvistador on the other, I should have known better.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-23T16:43:53.111Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You don't listen to conservative talk radio

That's a good thing, right? :-D

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-23T16:54:02.124Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Really? I find it easy... not just with a straight face, but while leaning forward in their seats and looking me straight in the eyes while making emphatic hand gestures.

Admittedly, I also anticipate as part of the same cluster being told that the solution is for everyone to truly accept the love of Christ into our hearts, which I expect to be less common on LW.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-23T17:16:42.580Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

You want to actually engage with any of those points, rather than just smirking and shaking your head?

Remind me; what are our divorce rates like and how many kids are currently raised by a single parent or in foster care these days? Which populations are expanding and which are disappearing (I always get the progressive whites and the traditional hispanics confused)? How old is the average age of someones first sexual encounter, how many lifetime partners do they have, and what is their lifetime risk of contracting an STI? When women are polled on how happy they are is it working women or housewives who come out ahead, and are modern women polled as more or less happy than their ancestors? Has the average male's testosterone level increased or decreased over the last few decades?

I would link you to the answers myself, but I have this mysterious feeling they'd just get dismissed out of hand if they came from me. So take an hour off some time when you're not that busy, look at the numbers for yourself and maybe you'll see why I don't find the idea as laughable as you do.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-23T17:41:57.503Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Let us suppose for the sake of comity that if we compare today's statistics to those prior to the sexual revolution in the 1960s, or hell even to those prior to women's suffrage in the early 1900s, we find that:

  • divorce rates are higher now
  • more children are raised by single parents now
  • more children are in foster care now
  • some populations expanded and others shrank
  • average age of first sexual encounter is lower now
  • number of lifetime partners is higher now
  • lifetime risk of contracting an STI is higher now
  • working women now report being less happy than housewives
  • women now report being less happy than women then reported
  • average male testosterone level has declined

Is it your position that discovering this should convince me that society is collapsing, and has been doing so since 1960/1900?

comment by shminux · 2013-10-23T17:40:36.617Z · score: 3 (13 votes) · LW · GW

My rule is to not engage into specific arguments with anyone with clear signs of motivated cognition, since it is almost invariably futile, as their true objections are not in the arguments they put forward. I tend to try to figure out why it is important for someone in this state to believe what they believe. For example, it is pointless to discuss metallurgy with a 911 truther or a certain purported perpetual motion contraption with a free-energy crank.

Here are the signs of your motivated cognition: you use negative connotation-charged descriptions of purported trends and behaviors:

  • "promiscuity" instead of, say, "reduced incidence and duration of exclusive committed relationships",

  • "deviant sexual behaviors" instead of, say, "widening spectrum of sexual norm",

  • presuming that "roles" are inherently masculine or feminine,

  • "effeminate" instead of, say, "less gender-normative".

Clearly you have your reasons for passing judgment, whether consciously or not, and these reasons have to be elucidated before one can have a fruitful discussion on the effects of evolving sexual norms on the American society.

comment by Dias · 2013-11-20T00:30:23.237Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"promiscuity" instead of, say, "reduced incidence and duration of exclusive committed relationships",

I think "using one word instead of eight" is not very good evidence of motivated cognition. Maybe if Moss had said "sluttishness" instead you would have a point.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-23T17:35:09.823Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The first question is that I don't see why many of the things you listed are bad.

Why is a high divorce rate bad? Why a lower age of the first sexual encounter (compared to what, by the way?) is bad? Why having many lifetime partners is bad?

The second question is how do you distinguish correlation and causation -- I'm looking at the male testosterone level.

As an aside, are you aware of Yvain's Anti-Reactionary FAQ?

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-23T16:45:31.359Z · score: -2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

But... but... but... the sluts engage in sex other than for procreation!!!eleven! Clearly the society is doomed!! RUN!!!!!

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-22T01:07:39.375Z · score: -5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

And yet, as you say, it turns out that society never quite collapses when we ignore those dire predictions.

Classic case of survival/anthropic bias.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2013-10-23T16:53:23.671Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't work. There are a lot of different countries that have made the same changes. So if there were a survivorship bias one would still see the collapse and chaos in neighboring areas.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-22T01:49:45.891Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Case 1: Someone tells me I will die tomorrow.
Case 2: As above, but preceded by 99 people on 99 different days telling me I will die the next day, and I don't.

Assuming everything else is constant, on your account do I have more evidence for my death tomorrow in case 1, or case 2?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-23T00:00:08.277Z · score: -5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

"I stopped working out and started smoking but I'm still alive. The health warnings must have been lies."

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-23T00:05:23.727Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If you insist on oblique evocative responses in lieu of answering questions, I suppose my reply is "I stopped going to church but I haven't gone to hell. My priest's warnings must have been lies." But honestly, I prefer the more boring conversational method of actually answering questions.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-23T03:06:03.220Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I suppose my reply is "I stopped going to church but I haven't gone to hell. My priest's warnings must have been lies."

That doesn't seem to follow. The priest never predicted that you would go to hell prior to your death. The priest's prediction has not been falsified. (The fact that it never can be by a live person is a whole separate issue.)

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-23T01:43:11.795Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, I thought my point was clear.

I don't know what you're analog of someone telling you that you will die tomorrow is supposed to be. In the topic under discussion the warnings are much more similar to the warnings issued about smoking than saying "if you do this, you die tomorrow".

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-20T15:53:50.590Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

And yet Northern European societies, which have very low gender inequality, haven't collapsed yet.

No, you're absolutely right they haven't collapsed yet. Even though their native populations have fallen under the replacement rate and are rapidly aging, they can still function more-or-less by importing huge numbers of cheap foreign immigrants and ignoring any shenanigans they get up to. Even though their cultures and social structures have largely been dismantled, their enormous tax rates and the free military security provided by the US means their welfare states can afford to fill those functions (with varying degrees of success). Even though their economies are growing at the rate of lichen, they're still big enough (and the rest of the world small enough) that the EU's protectionist policies can keep them out of the red.

But patches don't hold forever; you can already see the cracks. It's only been a little over a half-century and democratic Europe is already seeing a stagnation most empires have to last for centuries to attain. They might well outlast me personally, that's entirely possible even given my family's longevity, but I'd bet good money no modern European welfare state makes it to 2099.

(EDIT: Oh, look at this too.)

To be honest, these statistics don't really impress me much; a fertility rate of 1.8 or 1.6 is better than the European average, but both are tragically low in a country where resources are as abundant as they are in a modern 1st world nation. And the divorce rates, while better than ours certainly, are still absolutely pathetically sad compared to any society which practices arranged marriage.

If you can't even beat the replacement rate in terms of fertility and 40-50% of marriages fail so spectacularly the courts need to be involved, those are not numbers to be proud of. It is an indictment of the state of the world that this is the best our modern societies can do.

(Also, how comes people can ever get along with roommates of the same sex, where there's no Schelling point as to who should do which chores?)

To be honest, we don't. Or at least we don't get along on the same timescale as a successful marriage. I've never had a roommate last longer than two years, much less the decades you need just to raise 3+ kids.

Actually, now that you mention it, people in modern marriages do look more like roomies than spouses. 50% leaving in the first five years actually sounds pretty optimistic for roommates; people that reliable I might actually want to rent to. Of course, you'd be nuts to actually sell them a house unless they paid upfront... you're just not going to see that 30 year mortgage paid off.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-22T02:49:15.121Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Even though their cultures and social structures have largely been dismantled...

Oh really? I've been to Scandinavia recently. And while the center of Stockholm got to be a less than entirely pleasant place (not Gamla Stan, of course, one has to provide for the tourists), Oslo is noticeably better and once you get out of capital cities into small towns and the country, the "cultures and social structures" look entirely intact to me.

You also forgot that Norway has oil. Lots of oil and not too many people. The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund is about $730Bn in size and is the largest stock owner in Europe.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-27T17:01:38.560Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

and once you get out of capital cities into small towns and the country, the "cultures and social structures" look entirely intact to me

Indeed, I'd be curious whether the downward trends reactionaries point out would still apply when you control for the size of settlements people live in (i.e., comparing people in towns of 10,000 inhabitants today with people in towns of 10,000 inhabitants in the past).

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-09T04:12:37.913Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That's why I prefer to look at scientific measures like IQ scores and market-based indicators like wages earned than university admissions. Uni is supposed to prepare us for the job market and separate the wheat from the chaff anyhow; the numbers ought to all roughly match up if it's working properly.

Wages earned are a rather poor proxy for cognitive ability, or for that matter for productivity, since people in different careers can capture markedly different amounts of the value they create. For instance, a person working in the financial sector may have the opportunity to capture a very high proportion, whereas a person working as a public school teacher who performs way above the norm and produces tremendous long term value in increased productivity of their students will not capture any of that value.

Using wages-earned as a proxy to compare output between groups is only useful if we can assume that both groups are on average working in positions where they capture an equal proportion of the value they produce, something which is very much an unsafe assumption in this case.

(This is of course setting aside the issue of whether there are existing biases in our population which affect wages earned between groups given equal quality workers.)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T03:52:04.528Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Dividing work in a family not about what people like, or about what's equal, it's about what works.

But what works for someone needn't be what works for someone else! (Non-sexuality-related cognitive differences among each gender are comparable to or smaller than those between the two genders; sure, physical differences are larger, but in how many of today's jobs are they relevant?) And what works in a society needn't be what works in a different society. (Another example besides those I already mentioned is that stuff like the washing machine have reduced the time and effort it takes to do housework.)

You can't build a society on the basis of atomized individuals constantly negotiating out every interaction on an ad-hoc basis;

That needn't be explicit negotiation the way the author of that post and her husband do; just acknowledge that if I'm better at A and you're better at B then I should do A and you should do B regardless of who has a chromosome Y. (Maybe the pie was too abstract a metaphor.)

Start with a strong tradition which works well in the aggregate, make that the standard, then we can talk about shifting the details around in any given family.

If you put it that way, I may agree denotationally, but the amount of shifting that there should be is probably at least an order of magnitude larger than there was in early-20th-century Europe, and the amount of social (and institutional) pressure against it a couple orders of magnitude less. I don't think a world where people hindered Emmy Noether solely because of her gender is an ideal world.

and as studies have shown women tend to be happier as homemakers than breadwinners

First, “tend to be” != “always or almost always are”, and second, probably plenty of men would too if they had a chance.

On the other hand, the university I went to was a top-tier engineering school with about 20% women and more Asians than Whites by a long shot (and most of us 'whites' were at least a quarter if not fully Jewish).

Well... You can see a breakdown by faculties (in the European sense, i.e. what would be called colleges or schools in North America) in the link. Most engineers are male here too. Now, I'll concede that the faculties with the largest fraction of female graduates are largely influenced by Cthulhu, but the mine isn't (if anything, it's influenced by anti-Cthulhu) and still 42.7% of the graduates there are female.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-09T10:39:02.179Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you put it that way, I may ) and still 42.7% of the graduates there are female.

I think there was a formatting issue here and would like the read what you had originally planned to write, as your comments are invariably interesting.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T15:25:39.336Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Fixed.

Dammit! Couldn't Markdown just spit out the stuff it doesn't understand unchanged, rather than deleting it altogether? (And couldn't I look at my comments after submitting them for stuff like that?)

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-09T16:29:45.211Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I definitely sympathize; trying for coherent formatting online is hard enough even when it's just an issue of uncooperative html tags.

As to your points, I'd agree that a hard reset to 1700, or even 1900, on gender would do more harm than good and that we would need to be careful to create norms which don't waste our human capital. Perhaps a natural solution would be class-based gender norms; upper class women have more to gain from academic education and could use surrogates to keep up a birth rate without committing career suicide, while lower class women would be happier without being forced into the workplace and would contribute to societal stability. That way we don't have to worry about losing future Rosalind Franklins / Marie Curies without utterly fracturing our society to do it.

On the exact numbers of women graduates, I'm not too attached to any one figure as an ideal given how wonky the male-female gap gets at the right ends of the curves and how different the score breakdowns look. The main thrust is this; if there is a .33sd gap in general, and a 1sd gap on spatial relations specifically, and men have wider variance at the edges, then why should we expect anything but inequality in fields which rely on exceptionally high IQ and solid spatial reasoning skills? You need to know the exact numbers to see what the exact difference ought to be, but it's unreasonable not to expect one at all.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-19T19:48:01.830Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

upper class women have more to gain from academic education and could use surrogates to keep up a birth rate without committing career suicide

There are more normal (i.e. less Brave New World-reminiscent) ways to make it easier for people with a career to have kids (though of course the future needn't be normal) -- paid maternity leaves exist pretty much everywhere in the world except the US and so do paternity leaves in a few countries, France has a 35-hour working week and the sky hasn't fallen there, etc.

while lower class women would be happier without being forced into the workplace and would contribute to societal stability

Before solving this problem, shouldn't you ask who is doing the forcing? It's not like being a stay-at-home mum is illegal, so why are they working outside the home for money if they're less happy that way? Once you answer this question, then you can think of possible solutions. (The reason for poor people may be different from that for rich people, and the solutions that would most help the former may be quite different from the ones you've thought of so far.)

The main thrust is this; if there is a .33sd gap in general, and a 1sd gap on spatial relations specifically, and men have wider variance at the edges, then why should we expect anything but inequality in fields which rely on exceptionally high IQ and solid spatial reasoning skills?

On the other hand, on fields that require average-or-higher (but not necessarily extreme) cognitive skills other than spatial ones, we would expect inequality the other way (and in some cases that's what we already see, most school teachers being female); do we really want most of those people to stay at home because of social norms that developed long ago, when said cognitive skills were less important than today and manual labour more so?

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-09T17:05:38.129Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As to your points, I'd agree that a hard reset to 1700, or even 1900, on gender would do more harm than good and that we would need to be careful to create norms which don't waste our human capital. Perhaps a natural solution would be class-based gender norms; upper class women have more to gain from academic education and could use surrogates to keep up a birth rate without committing career suicide, while lower class women would be happier without being forced into the workplace and would contribute to societal stability. That way we don't have to worry about losing future Rosalind Franklins / Marie Curies without utterly fracturing our society to do it.

Putting aside the question of aptitude, this sounds likely to be dysgenic given that increasing educational attainment in women tends to decrease birthrate. Plus, "increased societal stability" in this case also amounts to decreased class mobility in cases of exceptional aptitude.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-09T16:46:12.193Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

...class-based gender norms; upper class women...

Are you using "upper class" to mean "high IQ" and "lower class" to mean "low IQ"? Because that's not what it usually means...

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-10-08T21:00:02.687Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Dividing work in a family not about what people like, or about what's equal, it's about what works

To paraphrase Lenin, "Works for whom? To achieve what?" Cui prodest in any particular social arrangement? My personal go-to default hypothesis is that it's always the side that can harness greater bargaining power through having more overall control of resources. Apply to workplace/labor relations, families, tribal clashes etc.

(Citation! Citation! A very favourable review - by Satoshi Kanazawa of all people - of a book on the game-theoretical causes and consequences of power inequalities.)

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-22T00:59:20.571Z · score: -3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

To paraphrase Lenin, "Works for whom? To achieve what?"

Society is not a zero sum game. Would you really prefer a situation where, to paraphrase Stalin, "the shortage is distributed equally among the peasants"?

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-10-08T22:04:37.967Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

name the Editor of the NY Times the Pontifex Maximus of the Church of Progress and have a synod to lay out the canon of responsible journalism

Oh, hahahahahaha, if that ever happened in some wacky weird moldbuggy universe... that'd be like Vatican trying to grab supreme jurisdiction over all Christian denominations by proclaiming the Pope to be the spiritual heir of Martin Luther and "interpreting" Luther's theses to show how all modern-day Protestants need to forget about their minor disagreements and follow the RCC.

Which is to say... you do realize that the vast majority of serious leftists - including American leftists, and I mean people who self-identify as socialists, left-libertarians, anarchists, etc - have nothing but scorn and contempt towards the NYT? In the left-wing interpretation of the "Cathederal", the NYT is not an active weapon of the Big Bad System like in yours, but it is nonetheless viewed as a symbol of moral bankrupcy, insidious propaganda and serving as the mouthpiece of the neoliberal elite. In short, it is not a case of the NYT being not progressive enough for a few of the most zealous commies; in their (our) interpretation, it is unambiguiously an anti-Left force.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-08T22:26:05.047Z · score: -8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

You know it's funny; I sort of used to be that person.

I read the Nation every month, laughed sincerely with every Tom the Dancing Bug cartoon. I went to every Michael Moore movie punctually the day after opening weekend (I never liked crowds). I listened to Air America from the literal first day they started broadcasting in my town, watched the Rachel Maddow show religiously. I marched against the Iraq War in 2003, cried when Kerry lost in 2004, and I've never used a drug in my life which felt like seeing Obama elected in 2008. My senior superlative? Most politically active. True. Fucking. Story.

You know what changed?

I woke up.

The world today is a mess, and every time I wrote the DNC a check or marched for some Social Justice cause or kicked someone under the table for talking during a day of silence I was doing my part to make that mess worse. So I stopped. It's that easy.

I think you could stop too, if you wanted to. I don't expect it, but please just look around and ask yourself honestly if we can really keep going the way we have.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-08T22:42:21.304Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I can understand the appeal of "I used to believe what you do now, but then I saw the light" arguments, but I'd rather not see this sort of thing replace a discussion of actual reasons for one's changes in belief. It reduces the exchange of useful information, and it signals an unhelpful level of condescension.

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-10-08T22:45:50.382Z · score: -5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

...Michael Moore?

...Rachel Maddow?

Have you read a single damn word of my above comment?

The world today is a mess, and every time I wrote the DNC a check or marched for some Social Justice cause or kicked someone under the table for talking during a day of silence I was doing my part to make that mess worse. So I stopped. It's that easy.

I'm getting full-on Poe's Law vibes from this. Do you really, truly feel like the world revolves around your skinny first-world bourgeois STEM dudebro ass? That conversion from a very boring and milquetoast American white liberal to a wannabe fascist has been some ethical and philosophical triumph of yours? Man, oh man.

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-10-08T20:01:06.518Z · score: -5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

And even domestically, "liberated" women and "tolerated" minorities are consistently polled as being decreasingly happy over time, almost as if our progressive policies of equality were thrusting them into arenas they were fundamentally not fit to compete in.

Way too sick of this shit on LW. And as usual, it's by straight white middle-class dudebro who hypocritically preaches about the danger of epistemic corruption in evaluating society while connected to it.

Check your fucking privilege and let people from the groups you bring up do some talking for themselves.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T20:28:07.684Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Asking people who are obviously not part of the social justice movement to check their privilege does not work, asking people who are is generally unecessary if they are any good at it. There might be a way to convince people to stop writing crap like this here, that won't work.

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-10-08T20:43:21.942Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I know, I know. If I was writing this with any actual goal-oriented hope for positive change on LW, I would've tried to bridge the inferential distance. But hell, I'm just a miserable and depressed cranky guy. Not even in gender studies. Sigh.

You know part of why I've been posting such low quality, counter-productive (passive)-aggressive remarks recently? I still remember that buzz, that breathtaking feeling of half-delight and half-awe when I discovered the LW community and read the Sequences two years ago. Here are some of the most insightful, kickass people I could realistically talk to and learn together with, it said. And now noticing all the terrifying, fascist-leaning political undercurrents that pervade the community, I feel zero joy at the thought of just averting my eyes and staying for the "Awesome Rational Shoes" stuff and smart conversation.

Don't get me wrong, Eliezer on his own is still just as ultra-badass as ever. But the honeymoon is definitely over for me.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-08T23:16:21.049Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I would like to apologize that the discussion that I started has upset you. I feel partly responsible that you are upset and I'd like to remedy this.

I think that what you are feeling is part of the halo effect. When we see people who have some qualities we like (Understanding of logic, need for cognition, precise and methodical thought) we assume that they will also have other qualities we like and share our other values. So when someone within that doesn't share them, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

It's also a reminder that your other views don't automatically come with the intelligence-rationality package. This reminder is good for your overall rationality. It forces you not to fall back on the "anyone who isn't an idiot can see that I am right" defense.

But keep in mind Re: sore thumbs: In a rationalist community, Disagreement is salient, Agreement is silent.. Why was I even interested in Moldbug in the first place? Because he disagrees with me!

And now noticing all the terrifying, fascist-leaning political undercurrents that pervade the community

This is from the Lesswrong 2012 survey:

POLITICS:

Liberal: 427, 36%

Libertarian: 359, 30.3%

Socialist: 326, 27.5%

Conservative: 35, 3%

Communist: 8, 0.7%

No answer: 30, 2.5%

ALTERNATIVE POLITICS QUESTION:

Progressive: 429, 36.3%

Libertarian: 278, 23.5%

Reactionary: 30, 2.5%

Conservative: 24, 2%

Communist: 22, 1.9%

Other: 156, 13.2%

ALTERNATIVE ALTERNATIVE POLITICS QUESTION:

Left-Libertarian: 102, 8.6%

Progressive: 98, 8.3%

Libertarian: 91, 7.7%

Pragmatist: 85, 7.2%

Social Democrat: 80, 6.8%

Socialist: 66, 5.6%

Anarchist: 50, 4.1%

Futarchist: 29, 2.5%

Moderate: 18, 1.5%

Moldbuggian: 19, 1.6%

Objectivist: 11, 0.9%

I show you this out to demonstrate the strong, silent agreement of social values on Lesswrong forums. We just don't feel the need to talk about it, because all our opinions are assumed by default. The "undercurrents" that concern you are feeling distressed about are an overwhelming minority. They get attention because they disagree, and therefore they are interesting.

After you've finished with the "learning" phase, areas of disagreement mark the places worth watching, because that's where you are likely to be wrong. That's why in rationalist culture, the minority-view-holding-contrarian is always correspondingly louder. I'd argue that this is, on the whole, a good thing (coordination problems pointed out by E.Y. notwithstanding). This is the reason that despite my disagreement (which has emotional components aplenty - I know what it is like to be the target of racial discrimination) I am willing to really try considering such views dispassionately and on their own merits, making effort to put myself aside.

I hope that this makes you feel better about the whole thing.

comment by shminux · 2013-10-08T21:23:15.099Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You know part of why I've been posting such low quality, counter-productive (passive)-aggressive remarks recently?

I am puzzled. I understand your desire to vent, and there are places to vent about this forum, like the relevant subreddit. But here people are expected to at least make an attempt at practicing rationality, even if faced with mixed success. Why post something here you know is irrational? Is the dubious satisfaction of telling me or someone else "wrong on the internet" off really worth it?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-09T06:13:48.474Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Here are some of the most insightful, kickass people I could realistically talk to and learn together with, it said. And now noticing all the terrifying, fascist-leaning political undercurrents that pervade the community,

So you've discovered a community of extremely rational people and some of their conclusions make you highly uncomfortable. How is this surprising? This is probably how a lot of theists feel while deconverting.

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-10-08T20:57:21.003Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The worst thing is... my crap doesn't just mildly degrade the "overall" signal to noise ratio (I disagree that this could be a coherent metric, especially in arguments directly related to actually existing socieies) - it outright hurts the (ever-precarious) position of "my" side, and doesn't even encourage my allies on any problematic topic to put forward a better denouncement of "hostile" content here. Yet silence and aquiescence feel even more humiliating to me than making a fool of myself on LW.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-10-08T21:33:15.507Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yet silence and aquiescence feel even more humiliating to me than making a fool of myself on LW.

I recommend developing emotional self-control to the point that you can put your political goals above your personal emotional satisfaction, or alternatively realizing that your terminal goals appear to be emotional, not political, and you can adjust your political goals to make your emotional goals easier to satisfy.

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-10-08T21:37:09.155Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

So you mean... I could really use another drink right now? Yeah, sure, that's what I was thinking too! Can't hurt...

comment by Vaniver · 2013-10-08T21:37:56.784Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That sounds like the opposite of emotional self-control.

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-10-08T21:41:55.107Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, you mean, like... do some cough syrup? Nah, that stuff is good, but I decided I need a tolerance break from it.

giggles stupidly

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-08T20:13:19.711Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

let people from the gruops you bring up do some talking for themselves

Looking the text you're quoting: "...are consistently polled as being decreasingly happy over time". That's them talking, right?

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-10-08T20:20:45.429Z · score: -5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

How about I "poll" you about your current happiness, check your body language and such, then kidnap you, screw with your mind through typical abuser tactics, then pump you full of heroin and repeat the "poll"?

comment by Vaniver · 2013-10-08T20:09:40.509Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Check your fucking privilege and let people from the gruops you bring up do some talking for themselves.

Like... Ann Coulter, suffrage pessimist?

It's not obvious to me that one needs to be of a group to comment about that group, and when it comes to statistical statements the collector of the statistics seems entirely irrelevant. "Check your fucking privilege" is not a helpful addition to the conversation, whereas Ishaan's "I've seen the data, and it isn't that significant" is.

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-10-08T20:30:45.168Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ann Coulter, suffrage pessimist?

Well, you're going to find literally hundreds of women with outspoken feminist ideas to one outspoken Ann Coulter, so... Okay, let's be generous and say that she and Andrea Dworkin, a fierce critic of anti-feminist women, cancel each other out. Then you're still going to get far more women with explicitly and implicitly feminist aliefs. Even when they self-identify as "conservative" for cultural or political reasons, have a negative perception of feminist activism, etc. The public image of "feminism" might not be so great, but women by and large seem to genuinely stand behind feminist convictions Could it be because most women recognize women's social and economic self-interest better than most men?

It's not obvious to me that one needs to be of a group to comment about that group

Making certain types of comments from certain socioeconomic positions relative to the group in question is a huge, terrible epistemic hazard, which is so for pretty much the same reasons as the generally corrupting nature of power.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-06T18:56:03.405Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Your examples describe a government which acts in its own interests (rather than by moral ideals )

That's one way to look at it, but this is more about the actual responses of progressives themselves and I tried to phrase it that way (I.E. "What do we expect the modern sensible progressive to feel?").

What do you think about the Viet Minh's genocide against the Hoa? What do you even know about them? Is it anything at all like what you feel about the Holocaust?

What do you feel when you think about John Brown? Do you think about him? Is it at all like your mental image of Timmy McVeigh?

What's your response to the Liverpool Care Pathway? Is that even on your radar? How about the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, I'm sure you've got a strong feeling about that one?

There is a pattern here; supposed moral concerns do not accurately predict how progressives, ordinary progressives not politicians remember, react to most issues. There are patterns of thought and behavior here and elsewhere which simply do not make sense except in the context of systematically eliminating non-aligned bases of power and expanding aligned ones. This is the absolute essence of the issue.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T20:12:44.778Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Me, personally? My domain is biology, and am aware that my political opinions on most issues aren't to be taken any more seriously than the average undergraduate's opinions. I suppose that makes me the "average progressive", so maybe that's a good thing:

Truthfully, none of those are on my radar, and I know nothing about the Holocaust beyond what I learned in school. As far as I'm concerned it's just one among many terrible genocides, and one that presently gets more attention than the others because it was committed against a group who currently inhabits Western nations. Slavery of African Americans is similar - one among many terrible atrocities which happen to get more attention because the group they were committed against lives among us.

The American public (which includes me) ignores the Hoa because we never see the Hoa and have no clue who they are. I've never met a Hoa. There's no Hoa organizations fighting for increased awareness. If awareness existed, people would care...but it doesn't, so they don't. This is what is meant by liberals when we say "privilege" - African Americans and Jews living in the West, as a group, have more privilege than the Hoa of Vietnam. The source of the privilege is that they were born in a Western nation.

The US Government, like most Powers, frequently supports shady, unethical groups in pursuit of its own interests. Saddam Hussein comes to mind as an example of supporting a seedy dictator which came to bite the US in the butt later. It is irrelevant that the Viet Minh and Saddam Hussein are on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum - they were both chosen on "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" logic, to support the United State's interests at the time.

I never heard of Timmy McVeigh.before today. His wikipedia page doesn't match your description - it does not mention any "divinely ordained race war". Do I have the wrong McVeigh?

I learned about John Brown in school, he was mentioned alongside Nat Turner. I understand John Browns emotions of righteous fury. However, he was stupid to attempt such a war. Violence is only rational when the other side will see your power and back down - an all-out fight where one party (the slaves, in this case) are required to put in all their resources will result in slaughter on one or both sides. Even under the premise that you only care about your group and not the other group, a all-out war is an irrational decision. If you intrinsically value human life, the decision is even more irrational. The same applies to McVeigh. If Brown could have actually won - if he had sufficient power to force the other side to negotiate terms rather than all out slaughter, i might have supported it.

Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment / Liverpool QALYs: A sacred value against a secular one. You've heard the moral dilemma where you kill 1 healthy patient and take the heart, lung, liver, etc to save 5 people? The utilitarian response seems to say "yes", and most people's hearts (including mine) say "no". In practice, I go with the sacred answer, and the excuse I make is that we need to be able to trust doctors enough to go to hospitals without fear of being killed. In the true, externality-free hypothetical, I confess to being confused.

However, I know that the logic of the Syplillis Experiment was "black people are less important so lets test it on them" and the logic of the Liverpool folks was "Let's maximize QALY's". The latter illicits my sympathies, the former does not. The Liverpool was not on my radar until this conversation, and I remain unsure about what to think of it.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-06T20:48:50.016Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You know, one of the things I keep forgetting is how reasonable people tend to be over here. My flinch-instinct is still very much tuned to other corners of the internet.

Basically, everything you've said is consistent and reasonable and utterly dissimilar to most of the progressive stuff I've ever seen. My sociology prof's lectures, articles I read on Jstor, friends/family back home in my yellow dog democrat hometown, the feminist / progressive christian blogs I lurk on, politicians I follow (and often vote for. My options are bad in that sense.). Its obviously the same general pedigree, but a different breed. I'm not particularly sure what to make of it.

I never heard of Timmy McVeigh.before today. His wikipedia page doesn't match your description - it does not mention any "divinely ordained race war". Do I have the wrong McVeigh?

You have to scroll a bit; his whole plan was based on a white-supremacist novel called The Turner Diaries. It's pretty much Battlefield Earth with Psychiatry find-and-replaced with Judaism, even down to the "nuke 'em all" ending. I've never read it myself but it's supposedly very popular in those circles.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2013-10-08T18:41:38.540Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Situation B: Two men lead attacks on US Federal Government buildings in an attempt to spark a race war which they believed was divinely ordained, failed, and were subsequently executed. John Brown attacked the Federal Arsenal at Harper's Ferry, while Timothy McVeigh attacked the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. In both cases innocents were killed as a result of the attacks, and in both cases their actions hurt their cause in the public mind and encouraged the expansion of paramilitary police forces designed to prevent similar future strikes.

If this is a question of humanitarian ideals, you might expect that both would be repudiated for their actions; even if we hate slavery, surely a student of history should recognize that slave revolts tend to involve mass murder even when successful which means that regardless of the validity of their complaints, both were attempting to start a genocidal war. Of course, from the point of view of political expediency there is no conflict whatsoever; the neofascist terrorist is a threat and thus irredeemably evil while the radical abolitionist terrorist is a predecessor and thus an inspiring heroic figure.

One of those is a war to stop something which is actually bad. The other isn't. That's not a trivial distinction.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-06T02:45:37.521Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So, what is the harm?

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T03:10:14.843Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

There isn't any "harm" - that's the entire point. It just feels wrong at a gut level. The example was specifically chosen to be something that did not upset "harm avoidance" or "egalitarianism" or "autonomy" (in the john haidt sense). I was trying to think of a world in which I might be the conservative one.

In this case, I think that the notion of a human without negative effect is hitting some sort of psychological Uncanny Valley between human and alien for me. Maybe it violates some sort of purity norm? Or perhaps it causes individuals to in some senses leave the "in-group" by becoming less similar to me?

The truth is that the strangeness would probably wear off after repeated exposure. I only had to think about the idea for a small amount of time before realizing it wasn't really as bad as it seemed at first. But I can I imagine that if I hadn't ever considered the idea in my youth, an older version of me would no longer be cognitively flexible enough to consider it as acceptable behavior.

This is probably how conservatives feel with homosexuality. (And just the same way, if you take a young conservative who doesn't take any religious scriptures literally, and you give them repeated exposure, they tend to change their mind unless religion somehow interferes).

(If everyone did it, there might be ...not harm, but dis-utility. It wouldn't be my optimal universe, though perhaps it wouldn't be worse than the present. I think that I consider diversity of experiences intrinsically valuable, so I'd feel like something intrinsic to humanity was lost if at least some toned-down brands of negative affect weren't preserved in at least some people. A more obvious problem is that it might be boring...I'm not sure whether the fact that they wouldn't find it boring makes it better or worse. I guess I'd be happy for them, but I wouldn't identify myself, or humanity, with them as much.)

Yes... I think what bothers me most is that it is a subtraction. It's one fewer emotion on the spectrum of experience. I wouldn't mind people becoming strange and different, but I would want them to be more than human in the realm of breadth of experience, not less than human. Perhaps I wouldn't mind as much if they became more complex in other ways.

But really, that doesn't become a problem unless everyone chooses wire-heading.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-06T03:28:32.645Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(nods) Ah, I see. Gotcha.
I certainly agree that we can be squeamish about things that we don't actually judge to be wrong, whatever our ethical standards are (unless we explicitly consider squeamishness our ethical standard, of course).
That said, I don't seem to value diversity of experience enough that I'm willing to preserve suffering for the novelty/diversity value.
Tangentially, IME the stuff we class as "positive affect" is way less boring to experience than the stuff we class as "negative affect," as well as involving less suffering.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T03:39:00.632Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I just remembered about eliezer's post about serious stories. He thinks that all stories involve conflict, fear, or sadness, and aren't interesting otherwise.

I think he's got a point, about humans needing some sort of self-narrative, about having a need to live the sort of life you would like to read about.

After reading Eliezer's post, I put it on my to-do list as a challenge to write a good story that involves no pain or conflict. I'm hoping to substitute conflict related suspense with strangeness and wonder suspense. That said, it's true that I'm having trouble thinking of counterexamples among non-short stories I've read which stand only on positive emotions. I wouldn't even know how to start going about this feat outside the realm of sci-fi-fantasy.

Thanks for making me think about this though, because I was just shifting through my mental archive of short stories looking for one without conflict and came up with this, which illustrates what I meant about awe and wonder having dramatic effects which rival those of pain and conflict.

Idea cross posted at "serious stories"

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-06T04:26:56.779Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

all stories involve conflict, fear, or sadness, and aren't interesting otherwise.

Just to pick the obvious counterexample that comes to mind... are we considering porn to be uninteresting? To not be stories? Or do we want to claim that all porn involves conflict, fear, or sadness?

I think he's got a point [..] about having a need to live the sort of life you would like to read about.

Hm.
What makes you think that?

I ask because I don't think I need to live the sort of life I'd like to read about., and I'm curious whether we're simply different that way, or whether perhaps this is a lack of self-awareness on my part.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T05:14:23.558Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

More thought:

Our emotions are in some sense the human equivalent of "utility functions".

We don't hate the suffering of other people in some abstract way - we hate the suffering of other people because it causes us pain to think about other people suffering. We love truth because of that rush of satisfaction upon hitting upon it.

Yes, we intrinsically prefer pleasure over pain, but that's only part of the story. We also prefer the causes of satisfaction to happen, beyond preferring the feeling of satisfaction itself. We hate the causes of pain beyond the extent to which we hate the actual feeling of pain itself.

You can't really replace the more abstract negative affects with a warning signal, because the negative affect was the reason you hated, say, deception, in the first place. Replacing negative affect in response to deception would be akin to removing part of the preference against deception.

That's why sociopaths don't care about people. They don't feel guilt. You could tell them "this is where you would ordinarily feel guilty, if we hadn't removed your negative affect associated with hurting people" but they aren't going to care about the warning signal. Maybe some past version of themselves who hadn't had negative affect removed might have cared, but they will not.

Negative affect is the switch that tells the brain "don't do things that cause that'. Removing negative affect would actually remove the perception of negative utility. For simple bodily pain, who cares...but you're going to start altering values if you mess with any of the more abstract stuff.

So, when we radically alter our emotions, don't we also radically alter our "utility functions"? I'd like future-me's interests to generally align with current-me's coherent extrapolated interests.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-06T05:53:56.680Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

we hate the suffering of other people because it causes us pain to think about other people suffering.

It seems to me that I negatively value other people's suffering... I want there to be less of it.

Given the choice between reducing their suffering and reducing the pain I feel upon contemplating their suffering, it seems to me I ought to reduce their suffering.

Given the option of reducing their suffering at the cost of experiencing just as much pain when I contemplate their lack of suffering as I do now when I contemplate their suffering, it seems to me I ought to reduce their suffering.

None of that seems compatible with the idea that what I actually negatively value is the pain of thinking about other people suffering.

What I can't figure out is whether you're suggesting that I'm ethically confused... that it simply isn't true that I ought to do those things, and if I understood the world better it would stop seeming to me that I ought to do them... or if I'm simply not being correctly described by your "we" statements and you're unjustifiedly generalizing from your own experience... or whether perhaps I've altogether misunderstood you.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T06:35:56.071Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What I can't figure out is whether you're suggesting that I'm ethically confused... that it simply isn't true that I ought to do those things, and if I understood the world better it would stop seeming to me that I ought to do them... or if I'm simply not being correctly described by your "we" statements and you're unjustifiedly generalizing from your own experience

None of the above. I'm just trying to figure out why my intuition says that I do not want not block all negative affect and whether my intuition is wrong, and your objections are helping me to so. I've got no idea whether we're fundamentally different, or whether one of us is wrong - I'm just verbally playing with the space of ideas with you. The things I'm saying right now are exploratory thoughts and could easily be wrong - the hope is that value comes out of it.

"We" is just a placeholder for humans. I'm making the philosophical claim that negative affect is the real-life, non-theoretical thing that corresponds to the game-theory construct of negative utility, with some small connotative differences.

None of that seems compatible with the idea that what I actually negatively value is the pain of thinking about other people suffering.

No, of course not. Here's what I'm suggesting: Thinking about other people's suffering causes the emotion "concern" (a negative emotion) which is in fact "negative utility". If you don't feel concern when faced with the knowledge that someone is in pain, it means that you don't experience "negative utility" in response to other people being in pain. I'm suggesting the fact that you negatively value people to be in pain is inextricably linked to the emotions you feel when people are in pain. I'm suggesting that If you remove concern (as occurs in real-world sociopathy) you won't have any intrinsic incentive to care about the pain of others anymore.

(Not "you" in particular, but animals in general.)

Basically, when modelling a real world object as an agent, we should consider whatever mechanism causes the neural circuits (or whatever the being is made of) that cause it to take action as indicative of "utility". In humans, the neural pattern "concern" causes us to take action when others suffer, so "concern" is negative utility in response to suffering. (This gets confusing when agents don't act in their interests, but if we want to nitpick about things like that we shouldn't be modelling objects as agents in the first place)

Here's a question: Do you think we have moral responsibilities to AI? Is it immoral to cause a Friendly AI to experience negative utility by fooling it into thinking bad things are happening and then killing it? I think the answer might be yes - since the FAI shares many human values, I think I consider it a person. It makes sense to treat negative utility for the FAI as analogous to human negative affect.

If it's true that negative affect and negative utility are roughly synonymous, it's impossible to make a being that negatively values torture and doesn't feel bad when seeing torture.

But maybe we can work around this...maybe we can get a being which experiences positive affect from preventing torture, rather than negative affect from not preventing torture. Such a being has an incentive to prevent torture, yet doesn't feel concerned when torture happens.

Either way though - if this line of thought makes sense, you can't have a human which is constantly experiencing maximum positive affect, because that human would never have an incentive to act at all.

A rational agent makes decisions by imagining a space of hypothetical universes and picking the one it prefers using its actions. How should I choose my favorite out of these hypothetical universes? It seems to involve simulating the affective states that I would feel in each universe. But this model breaks down if I put my own brain in these universes, because then I will just pick the universe that maximize my own affective states. I've got to treat my brain as a black box. Once you start tinkering with the brain, decision theory goes all funny.

Edit: Affective states don't have to roughly correspond to utility. If you're a human, positive utility is "good". you're a paperclipper, positive utility is "paperclippy". It's just that human utility is affective states.

If you alter the affective states, you will alter behavior (and therefore you alter "utility"). This does not mean that the affective state is the thing which you value - it means that for humans the affective state is the hardware that decides what you value.

(again, not you per se. I should probably get out of the habit of using "you").

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-06T19:30:39.063Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thinking about other people's suffering causes the emotion "concern" (a negative emotion) which is in fact "negative utility".

I agree with this, in general.

If you don't feel concern when faced with the knowledge that someone is in pain, it means that you don't experience "negative utility"

This suggests not only that concern implies negative utility, but that only concern implies negative utility and nothing else (or at least nothing relevant) does. Do you mean to suggest that? If so, I disagree utterly. If not, and you're just restricting the arena of discourse to utility-based-on-concern rather than utility-in-general, then OK... within that restricted context, I agree.

That said, I'm pretty sure you meant the former, and I disagree.

Do you think we have moral responsibilities to AI? Is it immoral to cause a Friendly AI to experience negative utility by fooling it into thinking bad things are happening and then killing it?

Maybe, but not necessarily. It depends on the specifics of the AI.

If it's true that negative affect and negative utility are roughly synonymous, it's impossible to make a being that negatively values torture and doesn't feel bad when seeing torture.

Yes, that follows. I think both claims are false.

you can't have a human which is constantly experiencing maximum positive affect, because that human would never have an incentive to act at all.

I agree that in human minds, differential affect motivates action; if we eliminate all variation in affect we eliminate that motive for action, which either requires that we find another motivation for action, or (as you suggest) we eliminate all incentives for action.

Are there other motivations?
Are there situations under which the lack of such incentives is acceptable?

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T21:03:42.401Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If not, and you're just restricting the arena of discourse to utility-based-on-concern rather than utility-in-general, then OK... within that restricted context, I agree.

yes...we agree

If it's true that negative affect and negative utility are roughly synonymous, it's impossible to make a being that negatively values torture and doesn't feel bad when seeing torture.

Shit I'm in a contradiction. Okay, I've messed up by using "affect" under multiple definitions, my mistake.

Reformatting...

1) There are many mechanisms for creating beings that can be modeled as agents with utility 2) Let us define Affect as the mechanism that defines utility in humans - aka emotion.

So now....

3) Do moral considerations apply to all affect, or all things that approximate utility?

if we meet aliens, what do we judge them by?

They aren't going to be made out of neurons. Our definitions of "emotion" are probably not going to apply. But they might be like us - they might cooperate among themselves and they might cooperate with us. We might feel empathy for them. A moral system which disregards the preferences of beings simply because affect is not involved in implementing their minds seems to not match my moral system. I'd want to be able to treat aliens well.

I have a dream that all beings that can be approximated as agents will be judged by their actions, and not any trivial specifics of how their algorithm is implemented.

I'd feel some empathy for a FAI too. Even it it doesn't have emotions, it understands them. It's utility function puts it in the class of beings I'd call "good". My social instincts seem to apply to it - I'm friendly to it the same way it is friendly to me.

So, what I'm saying is that "affect' and "utility" are morally equivalent. Even though there are multiple paths to utility they all carry similar moral weight.

If you remove "concern" and replace it with a signal that has the same result on actions as concern, then maybe "concern" and the signal are morally equivalent.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-06T21:38:19.164Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that distinct processes that result in roughly equivalent utility shifts are roughly morally equivalent.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T22:03:51.868Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you further agree that it follows from this that there is some hard limit to which it makes sense to self-modify to avoid certain negative emotions?

(We can replace the negative emotions with other processes that have the same behavioral effect, but making someone undergo said other processes would be morally equivalent to making them undergo a negative emotion, so there isn't a point in doing so)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-06T23:25:56.332Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you further agree that it follows from this that there is some hard limit to which it makes sense to self-modify to avoid certain negative emotions?

I don't agree that it follows, no, though I do agree that there's probably some threshold above which losing the ability to experience the emotions we currently experience leaves us worse off.

I also don't agree that eliminating an emotion while adding a new process that preserves certain effects of that emotion which I value is equivalent (morally or otherwise) to preserving the emotion. More generally, I don't agree with your whole enterprise of equating emotions with utility shifts. They are different things.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T04:57:07.157Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

hmm...here's a better way to illustrate what I'm getting at.

Do you like to read stories that have conflict? (yes) Would you enjoy those stories if they didn't illicit emotions for you? (no)

Now imagine you are unable to feel those emotions that the sad story illicits. Do you still feel like reading the story? (no) If not, isn't that one less item on the satisfaction menu? (yes)

(In parenthesis are my answers.)

You can apply this to other stuff. Most of the arts fit nicely. Arts are important to me.

Or imagine that you feel down about some small matter, and your friend comes and makes you feel better. That whole dynamic just seems part of what it means to be human.

Maybe life would be better without negative affect. Certainly, if I were to start never feeling negative affect tomorrow, I wouldn't be bothered (by definition). But that version of me would be so different from the current version. It would disrupt continuity quite a bit..

I guess the acid test would be to go into the postiive-affect-only state temporarily, and then go back to normal. If I still wanted to keep negative affect states after the experience then maybe it wouldn't really be a disruption of continuity at all.

("disrupt continuity" here is short for: this hypothetical future being might be descended from my computations in some way, but it differs from the being that I currently am in such a way that I should now be considered partially if not wholly dead)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-06T05:33:33.227Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, I expect that I'd have very different tastes in stories if my ability to experience emotion were significantly altered, and that there are stories I currently enjoy that I would stop enjoying. And, as you say, this applies to a Iot of things, not just stories.

I also expect that I'd start liking a lot of things I don't currently like.

I mean, I suppose it's possible that I'm currently at the theoretical apex of my ability to enjoy things without disrupting continuity, such that any change in my emotional profile would either disrupt continuity or narrow the range of things I can enjoy... but it doesn't seem terribly likely. I mean, what if I passed that apex point a while back, and I would actually have a wider menu of satisfaction if I increased my ability to be sad?

Heck, what if having enough to eat stripped me of a huge set of potentially satisfying experiences involving starving, or giving up my last mouthful of food so someone I love can have enough to eat? Perhaps we would have done better to live closer to the edge of starvation?

I dunno. This all sounds pretty silly to me. If it's compelling to you, I conclude we're just different in that way.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T05:44:29.712Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I also expect that I'd start liking a lot of things I don't currently like.

I think the reason we disagree is that you are only considering first-order preferences, which is understandable because the initial examples i provided were pretty near first order preferences. The other comment articulates my thoughts about why higher order preferences are necessarily affected when you alter emotions.

Aren't your preferences (not first order preferences, but deeper ones) part of your self-identity? Is a version of you which doesn't really feel empathetic pain still you in any meaningful sense? Would such a being care about actual torture? (I'm aware I'm switching tracks here. I'm still attempting to capture my intuition.)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-06T06:02:37.746Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The other comment articulates my thoughts about why higher order preferences are necessarily affected when you alter emotions.

Like preferring that people not suffer, and the feeling of pain at contemplating suffering?
See my reply there, then.

"Affected" is a vague enough word that I suppose I can't deny that my preferences would be affected... but then, my preferences are affected when I stay up late, or drink coffee.

It seems to me that you are equating emotions with preferences, such that altering my emotional profile is equivalent to altering my preferences.
I'm not sure that's justified, as I said there.

But, sure, there are preferences I strongly identify with, such that I would consider a being who didn't share those preferences to be not-me.

And sure, I suppose I can imagine changes to my affect that are sufficiently severe as to effect changes to those preferences, thereby disrupting continuity. I'd prefer not to do that, all things being equal.

But it seems to me you're trying to get from "there exist emotional changes so disruptive that they effectively kill the person I am" to "we shouldn't make emotional changes"... which strikes me as abuot as plausible as "there exist physiological changes so disruptive that they effectively kill the person I am" to "we shouldn't make physiological changes."

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T07:01:55.777Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But it seems to me you're trying to get from "there exist emotional changes so disruptive that they effectively kill the person I am" to "we shouldn't make emotional changes"... which strikes me as abuot as plausible as "there exist physiological changes so disruptive that they effectively kill the person I am" to "we shouldn't make physiological changes."

That's actually really close to what I am saying, but minor alteration.

I'm going from "there exist emotional changes so disruptive that they effectively kill the person I am" to "we probably shouldn't specifically make the emotional change where change = remove all negative affect. It's probably one of those changes that effectively kills most people."

I'm totally down with making some emotional changes, such as "stop clinical depression", "remove hatred", etc.

To follow the physiology analogy, "remove all negative affect" seems equivalent to saying "cut the right half of the brain off". That's approximately half of human emotion that we'd be removing.

But maybe if we can replace "suffering" with an emotion that we don't intrinsically hate feeling which ends up producing the same "utility function" (as determined behaviorally), then it's all good? It's a lot of changes, but then again my preferences are where I place a large part of my identity, so if they are unaltered then maybe I haven't died here...

Edit: Can you identify any positive preferences within yourself which do not correspond to a positive emotion? (or negative). I'm currently attempting to do so, nothing yet.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-06T19:13:30.765Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can you taboo "negative affect"? I was fine with it as shorthand when it was pointing vaguely to an illustrative subset of the space of emotions, but if you mean to define it as a sharp-edged boundary of what we can safely eliminate, it might be helpful to define it more clearly.

Depending on what you mean by the term, I might agree with you that "remove all negative affect" is too big a change.

Can you identify any positive preferences within yourself which do not correspond to a positive emotion?

Well, I feel the emotion of satisfaction when I'm aware of my preferences being satisfied, so a correspondence necessarily exists in those cases. In cases where I'm not aware of my preference being satisfied, I typically don't experience any differential emotion. E.g., given a choice between people not suffering and my being unaware of people suffering, I prefer the former, although I don't experience them differently (emotionally or any other way).

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-06T14:40:01.573Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There is none, and the idea that it's at all a Left-Right issue is baffling. I personally don't like the idea on aesthetic principles but it's not the result of some Reactionist policy statement.

People being happy prosperous and free is the goal of Reaction; why would anyone bother with a philosophy which promised sadness poverty and slavery? The difference is entirely in the question of what sorts of conditions in the real world will lead to a good society, and that is a simple factual question.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-06T20:15:23.571Z · score: -4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

the historical attribution of homosexual behavior in animals as "dominance displays"

When you think about it abstractly (i.e., try to ignore your modern tendency to alieve that anything that might make homosexuals look bad must be EVIL!!1!!) this makes a lot more sense than any modern theory I've heard.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T22:30:22.542Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I stated that too strongly... come to think of it there are some sexual behaviors that are, in fact, status contests between partners - like in hyenas. It's not as ridiculous of a hypothesis as I made it out to be, and I agree that this is because of my own biases.

That said, I think it's fairly clear that there are a large number of non-reproductive sexual behaviors found in nature which are not dominance contests between partners.

more sense than any modern theory I've heard.

Let me try to remedy that. Here are some hypotheses - not truth claims, just hypotheses.

-Our genomes contain both gender's body plans. Unusual hormone levels in an individual might set off developmental pathways which give a male a female-typical brain, or vice versa, leading to atypical sexual orientation and sometimes behavior. It plays no adaptive role and decreases the organisms fitness. In such organisms, homosexual behavior will be rare in most individuals in the population while being extremely frequent among a small minority. The trait might pop up due to environmental abnormalities, or be maintained genetically due to pleiotropy, or any number of reasons. This is thought to be the case in humans and possibly in sheep.

(Basically, people sometimes have unusual genitalia and unusual secondary sex characteristics, so why should a good reductionist ever be puzzled by the notion that people might have unusual brains?)

-Sex might strengthen group bonds. Female and male bonobos are thought to use homosexually to strengthen group bonds. It's involved in creating dominance hierarchies (Bonding with the dominant female causes her status to be conferred upon you)) but the sex in-and-of-itself is not a between-partners status contest.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T01:22:55.837Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Given the ferocity of the anti-science postmodernism of Europe and California today, I don't think it's that far off.

Also...it just seems like the smartest people would always discard post-modernism. Values might shift away from mine, but post-modernism would imply that the epistemology would shift away from mine.

Values are mutable properties, but there's only one correct epistemology. It aught to be converged upon. It's not like the swimming Cthulhu just happened to swim by the correct epistemology by chance, as part of a leftward drift. The correct epistemology is one answer in a reasonably large memetic space - we wouldn't have found it by coincidence.

What's more, the ideals of reductionism and logic and the correct epistemology have been multiply, independently derived. China, India, and Greece all demonstrably converged upon them, and I'm sure many other unrecorded individuals have as well.

(I take it you agree with me that there is a correct epistemology and it approximately corresponds to science, rationality, reductionism, etc, since you decry anti-science post modernism)

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-06T14:08:35.631Z · score: -2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Postmodernism doesn't have to be right to be popular, and right now political power is a matter of popularity. Even if "the smartest people" prefer being right to being powerful, a dubious proposition if you ask me, that just means their less intelligent but more ambitious cousins will be the ones wielding the power instead.

The modern feminist and anti-racist movements have started to learn that their pet pseudo-science sociology is just not credible enough to counter anthropology biology and psychology; they see postmodernism as a way to hit back at "the scientific establishment" which they identify as aligned with their oppressors. At the same time, anti-corporate alternative medicine and animal rights activists (who travel in the same circles) have wanted to discredit the medical industry for decades and are turning to PoMo rhetoric as well. These groups are all at the vanguard of the modern left and all of them have a lot to gain by weakening science.

What's more, the ideals of reductionism and logic and the correct epistemology have been multiply, independently derived. China, India, and Greece all demonstrably converged upon them, and I'm sure many other unrecorded individuals have as well.

In the bastardized words of Tolstoy: "Good ideas are all alike; every bad idea is bad in its own way."

An ordered society, like Greece India and China, will tend to look and think very similarly even when direct communication is limited. Their traditions are the results of centuries or millenia of received knowledge which has had to pass the test of each new generation before it was transmitted to the next. In a sense you could say their memes are K-strategists; in a stable environment with limited opportunity to transmit themselves, the high cost of a more correct idea pays for itself by out-competing rivals in the long run.

In the modern world (more-or-less everything after the printing press), where the our technology made data transmission and storage trivial, the new environment put out new pressures. Old ideas were built to last but slow to spread; new ideas could easily afford to be much stupider and more dangerous as long as they reproduced and mutated quickly enough. These r-strategist memes are fads; they flood the field and by the time they've burned out there's a new one ready to go.

I don't think it's surprising that science is coming under attack; it is very expensive to produce a proper scientific mindset, while pseudoscientific fads can use aggressive mimicry to cheaply soak up any good reputation we generate.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T19:15:25.061Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

But ancient India, China, Greece were absolutely over-run by irrationality. The seeds of logic and reason were lying more or less ignored, buried in texts alongside millions of superstitions and bad epistemologies. And our currently fashionable epistemology is superior to theirs. They didn't have the notion of parsimony.

Why is logic and reason spreading faster today than in the past? Do you think that the rise of post-modernism (Actually, wait.... why are we using the word post-modernism to mean anti-science? That doesn't make sense...) will somehow eclipse the spread of rationalism?

Your model seems to have anti-science-post-modernism as a successor tor rationalism My model has anti-science as a reaction to the rapid spread of rationalism - a backlash. Whenever something spreads rapidly, there are those who are troubled. Anti-science can only define itself in opposition to science - imagine explaining it to someone who had never heard of science in the first place! Further, anti-science advocates a return to pre-scientific modes of thought. Both of these are the signals of a reactionary school of thought. Cthulhu doesn't swim that way.

n the modern world (more-or-less everything after the printing press), where the our technology made data transmission and storage trivial, the new environment put out new pressures.

I'm even more confused now. You aren't saying that Cthlulu's left-ward swim is powered by technological advance, are you?

Because my current working hypothesis for the Leftward trend of history has thus far boils down to technological progress. I thought Reactionaries et al were going to provide an alternative explanation involving power structures and perverse incentives.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-07T05:47:12.001Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Because my current working hypothesis for the Leftward trend of history has thus far boils down to technological progress. I thought Reactionaries et al were going to provide an alternative explanation involving power structures and perverse incentives.

Yvain's too.

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-10-08T20:14:23.887Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

HUGE SPOILER: Technically, historical materialism and economic determinism was first... yup, a core Marxist idea.

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-10-08T22:10:26.594Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Would anyone care to dispute the object-level claim I made, or are people just spree-downvoting?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_materialism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_determinism

Wikipedia seems to be pretty unambiguious about Marx being the first notable theorist here. It's not about "neutrality", there just isn't any evidence that this claim is mistaken.

comment by Randaly · 2013-10-08T23:27:50.900Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Neither of the above. Your comment's style was suboptimal, technological determinism is different from economic determinism, and the neo-reactionary position is neither. (This is obvious from the fact that they think that they can reverse the left-ward trend of history, but that it will take a concentrated effort.)

(I did not downvote.)

comment by EHeller · 2013-10-09T00:07:28.038Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Your comment's style was suboptimal, technological determinism is different from economic determinism

I cannot see how it is different then a mix of historical materialism and economic determinism. Please elaborate.

and the neo-reactionary position is neither

Near as I can tell, the point is that Yvain and others (Ishaan specifically) are arguing that the reactionary position is wrong by asserting some form of historical materialism/economic determinism.

i.e. reactionaries cannot reverse the trend of history because the structures of governments are largely an adaptation to the technological world we live in. The reactionaries want to divorce the government/culture from technological progress and assert they can move independently.

The argument against them seems to be that government/culture may well be a response to the technological climate, and as such as technology changes so will the culture and government.

comment by Randaly · 2013-10-09T01:34:24.558Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I cannot see how it is different then a mix of historical materialism and economic determinism. Please elaborate.

Economic determinism refers specifically to the economic structure. The basic outlines of the US's economic structure have not changed since at least the 1930's, and arguably even earlier. The development of TV, the internet, or for that matter the printing press, are all changes in technology, not changes in a society's economic structure. Marx, for example, was not a technological determinist; Yvain et. al. are not economic determinists. Changing an economic structure is significantly easier than destroying all technology and preventing new developments.

Other stuff

In that case, I switch this critique to 'sub-optimal style'- i.e. it was difficult for me to tell who Multiheaded was addressing and how his point was relevant.

comment by EHeller · 2013-10-09T01:52:25.744Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Economic determinism refers specifically to the economic structure.

You missed roughly half of my sentence, and half of Multiheaded's. The other half was historical materialism- below is a quote from the wikipedia article

[Historical materialism] is a theory of socioeconomic development according to which changes in material conditions (technology and productive capacity) are the primary influence on how society and the economy are organised.

comment by Randaly · 2013-10-09T07:20:04.124Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Nah, I was deliberately ignoring the other half. The fact that one part of Multiheaded's comment was correct (though, AFAICT, irrelevant to the above discussion) doesn't mean that the other part (regarding economic determinism) is too.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-08T23:14:04.596Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Would anyone care to dispute the object-level claim I made, or are people just spree-downvoting?

Assuming the claims are correct (haven't a clue personally and nearly as little interest) I don't know why you got downvoted. The style is a little way from optimal but not enough that I'd expect serious penalties to be applied. Have you been pissing people off elsewhere in this thread? Voting tends to build up momentum within threads and the reception of later comments is at least as strongly influenced by earlier comments as it is by individual merit.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-08T02:47:34.976Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Yvain's argument appears to be an attempt to put a positive spin on one of the neo-reactionary definitions of leftism:

Leftism is would happens when signaling feed back cycles no longer interact with reality, in the sense of the Philip K. Dick quote "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".

Edit: Yvain tries to be pro-leftist by associating it with technological progress. Except he runs into this problem, i.e., leftism is how people in technological (or merely prosperous) societies like to behave, which is not the same thing as the behaviors that lead to technological progress (or prosperity).

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-19T20:00:32.529Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Well, once you've got the bottom few tiers of Maslow's pyramid secured out, shouldn't you start to think about the upper ones? And is chess evil because the pieces don't refer to anything outside the game?

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-10-19T20:27:23.401Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, once you've got the bottom few tiers of Maslow's pyramid secured out

...then you can ignore them, because that's done?

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-21T00:44:30.430Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

...then you can ignore them, because that's done?

The word was secured. And yes, it means that most of your attention no longer needs to go to that area. That's the entire point of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Once people have satisficed their low level needs they tend to focus more attention on higher, more abstract, goals.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-20T13:45:24.122Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't mean you no longer need to eat, I mean that once you've reached a stable income that will allow you to eat as much as you need, you no longer need to worry about eating, and you can spend some of the time left over playing darts or whatever, rather than getting even more food into your fridge. Or why did you take the time to write that comment? Did it help you meet your basic survival needs somehow?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-20T23:39:14.022Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

And is chess evil because the pieces don't refer to anything outside the game?

Chess does a reasonable job of relating to reality in the sense I mean because the rules of the game and the person who wins are objective and (relatively) independent of any false beliefs about strategy the players might have. (If chess ever reaches the point that a player can get away with arguing that the laws of the game are arbitrary and that therefore he should be able to play some illegal move, that will be a sign that chess is becoming corrupted.)

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-08T03:47:08.752Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

While I'm sure that there are ways in which our society could be much better geared to cultivating technological progress and/or prosperity, looking to the standards of earlier times does not seem like a particularly effective way to do so.

Considerations of how to best cultivate further prosperity aside, I would say that there is a lot to recommend having people in a society behave as they like to behave, rather than ways that they don't like to behave.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-08T04:22:26.543Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

While I'm sure that there are ways in which our society could be much better geared to cultivating technological progress and/or prosperity, looking to the standards of earlier times does not seem like a particularly effective way to do so.

Why not? Look at societies that achieved and/or maintained prosperity and imitate them; look at prosperous societies that collapsed and avoid doing what they did.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-08T04:34:55.313Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What societies maintained prosperity without either collapsing or turning into, well, us?

In any case, we are by many standards the most prosperous civilization ever to exist; by what older prosperity-promoting behaviors do you think our society might be improved?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-09T05:41:56.221Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

What societies maintained prosperity without either collapsing or turning into, well, us?

That's like saying that because everyone has either died or is currently living there is nothing we can learn about health and longevity by looking at other people's lifestyles.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-09T05:53:56.853Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Not especially, since not only do civilizations not have hard limits on their persistence times like humans do, the very qualities which made certain civilizations particularly stable in their own time periods might cease to be viable in other ones (which is in some cases why they ended.)

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-09T06:27:27.815Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Civilizations also tend to change their qualities over time, thus we can see what changes tend to promote increased prosperity (or collapse).

the very qualities which made certain civilizations particularly stable in their own time periods might cease to be viable in other ones

What do you mean by "time periods"? The logic of your argument suggests you mean it as a proxy for some other changes. It would help to thing of those variables explicitly. For example, if you mean different levels of technology, it makes sense to look at qualities that were helpful in societies of different technological level.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-09T14:58:24.022Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Different technology, different memetic environments, different relationships with other nations. Possibly other factors I'm leaving out.

Once a new meme enters the environment, it can be transformative to the political environment the way, say, the evolution of lignin-degrading bacteria, or of angiosperms, were to the ecological. Adaptations which were useful in the prior context can be totally obsoleted, with no backtracking.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-10T01:25:29.496Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If you actually study history, you will find that there are a lot more patterns than you seem to be implying.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-10T01:34:22.202Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I have studied history, and continue to do so, and this is not a helpful comment.

It's easy to take the tact of "I know stuff you ought to know and would believe differently if you also knew it" without actually raising those matters in the discussion, but a useful dialogue it does not make.

When I asked you before about what specific prosperity-promoting behaviors from the past we ought to emulate, that was also not a rhetorical question.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-06T19:37:51.493Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Why is logic and reason spreading faster today than in the past?

Are they? Unless you mean that as a synonym for Progressivism, I've missed that bit.

(Actually, wait.... why are we using the word post-modernism to mean anti-science? That doesn't make sense...)

Postmodernism isn't just a literary theory.

Because my current working hypothesis for the Leftward trend of history has thus far boils down to technological progress. I thought Reactionaries et al were going to provide an alternative explanation involving power structures and perverse incentives.

You can't have an Emperor surrounded by legions of Mandarins if everyone is out in the bush looking for acorns; you need agriculture and specialization long before anyone starts talking about the Mandate of Heaven or tracing out dynasties. The same way you couldn't expect someone to come up with Black Bloc tactics without there already being ubiquitous video recording.

But you could have crop rotation without building the Forbidden City; technology is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one. The incentives are no less real and no less perverse if they require a technological substrate to be effective.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T22:52:08.013Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Unless you mean that as a synonym for Progressivism

I'm talking about the greater literacy and mathematical proficiency, coupled with a decline in superstition and religious belief among cultures that have had the longest exposure to information technology.

The incentives are no less real and no less perverse if they require a technological substrate to be effective.

Oh, ok that makes more sense.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-07T01:40:22.491Z · score: -5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I'm talking about the greater literacy and mathematical proficiency, coupled with a decline in superstition and religious belief among cultures that have had the longest exposure to information technology.

I'll give you the literacy and maths skills but I'm not convinced that superstition or religion are any weaker. After all, if we defined "superstition" in the Roman Empire as animal sacrifices to gain favors and "religion" as the worship of pagan gods, the victory of Christianity there was an unparalleled triumph of reason.

The modern conception of race and gender equality is absolutely superstitious; democracy and marxism are absolutely religious in character. I don't see that we've necessarily decreased the abundance of either by removing the competitors to our ruling groups.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-07T16:50:30.952Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

After all, if we defined "superstition" in the Roman Empire as animal sacrifices to gain favors and "religion" as the worship of pagan gods, the victory of Christianity there was an unparalleled triumph of reason.

I've got two answers to that:

1) I think you've got an insufficient understanding of either Christianity as it is practiced or of polytheistic religions, if you think Christianity is a major improvement upon them rationality-wise. An animal sacrifice was the ancient equivalent of modern 4th of July fireworks.

2) Suppose I'm wrong about (1) and you are right that Christianity is in some way less superstitious and more grounded in reality than the pagan religions that it supplanted. Would the spread of Christianity not then constitute a weakening of superstition, in accordance with what we'd expect to pair with technological improvement?

The modern conception of race and gender equality is absolutely superstitious

I think you're stretching the use of the term "superstition" to encompass things you don't agree with. In my opinion, the psychology of superstition can be summed up with this paper - it describes a specific subset of beliefs.

1) Most people believe there is evidence that no genetically determined behavioral differences exist between races. That's not a superstition - they assign a probability to the evidence being out there, just as they assign it to global warming. (For my own view, I would say "racially-correlated genetically determined behavioral differences should be considered considered possible, but there is currently insufficient evidence to make strong claims about the nature or magnitude of any supposed behavioral differences. I think the "race realist" crowd, who thinks that we aught to shape policy around this, is ridiculously overconfident.) You can call them (and me) wrong, but would you call us superstitious?

2) Political race and gender equality would be better termed "race and gender egalitarianism". It should be thought of as a value, not as a fact. It already is demonstrated that gender-correlated-genetically-determined-behavioral-differences exist, but that doesn't really destabilize the main point of gender egalitarianism at all.

Race-gender egalitarianism essentially says: Even if there are group behavioral differences, individuals should be judged on their own merit, rather than by the category they might be assigned to. To see why people might think this is a good idea, just think of any trait you have that happens to be correlated with something negative that you don't have, and then imagine what would happen if people started basing public policy around that trait.

I think what you meant to say by "superstitious" is that people's beliefs surrounding that topic might be biased by political motivations, and I wouldn't disagree.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-07T16:57:05.452Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

there is currently insufficient evidence to make strong claims about the nature or magnitude of any supposed behavioral differences.

I think there's a large amount of sufficient evidence to make strong claims about IQ differences.

It should be thought of as a value, not as a fact.

Yes, it should, but in reality gender equality is often treated as equality of capability.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-07T18:13:33.627Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think there's a large amount of sufficient evidence to make strong claims about IQ differences.

Genetically based differences, not differences in general. Epigenetics and environmental factors obviously create huge differences.

gender equality is often treated as equality of capability.

Obviously, capability is not equal across all domains. The only thing which remains controversial is which domains the differences exist in, and to what extent these differences are genetic.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-07T18:37:55.413Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Epigenetics and environmental factors obviously create huge differences.

As you well understand, the race-based IQ differences were and are a very unwelcome result. Lots of effort was spent to overturn or debunk these findings. Obvious things like environmental factors and the like were looked at very carefully.

The results still stand.

Obviously, capability is not equal across all domains.

Well, obviously. And yet consider the consequences to Larry Summers of some rather obvious remarks which, arguably, include being kicked out of the running for the Fed chair.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-07T19:01:19.274Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Obvious things like environmental factors and the like were looked at very carefully.

Environmental factors can be very hard to control for. Maternal factors in the womb, DNA Methylation, etc, etc.

There's stuff for which the 'race-realists" explanations are very shaky. The considerable academic success of African immigrants to the US (even when compared to immigrant groups from other areas) is an example for which the explanations provided (high barriers to entry only let smart people in) is plausible, but it leaves plenty of room for uncertainty.

I dunno, this is a topic that can be debated for a really long time. Suffice it to say that I remain uncertain.

Larry Summers

Yes? I never claimed that political correctness never gets in the way of good decisions. I'm trying to understand reactionary thought, and that naturally causes us to touch upon politics, but I'm not attempting to argue for a political side here. You won't catch me defending the censorship of Summers.

I agree that Summers should be allowed to air ideas on public forums without fear of personal consequences.

The vitriol directed to Summers was also quite heavily criticized, and by some pretty influential people. The majority of students also supported him.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-07T19:20:06.119Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Yes?

Just an example to demonstrate that pointing out "obvious" things about gender equality in public can have very unpleasant real-life consequences. Which, in turn, affect future willingness to say such things in public. Which affects the "public consensus". Which affects the default way the majority of the population thinks about the issue.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-07T19:41:58.606Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with you on that, and that is unfortunate.

I do suspect the degree to which the people perceives that the "PC-police" controls everything is overblown.

I'm using a less-than-anonymous handle here, and I've just expressed support of Summers' right to present his data. I've also expressed open-mindedness (though not acceptance) towards the idea that genetically determined behavioral differences could conceivably exist.

I've got sufficient faith in the system that it won't punish me for open-mindedness to un-PC ideas. If I thought that what happened to Summers was a really common thing, I'd be using an anon handle to even discuss reactionary thought.

Would you say my trust is poorly placed?

comment by simplicio · 2013-10-07T20:00:06.831Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've also expressed open-mindedness (though not acceptance) towards the idea that genetically determined behavioral differences could conceivably exist.

That amounts to "human group differences are not ruled out a priori", which is an incredibly low bar. Even SJ Gould, who was enough of a PC policeman to falsify claims of bias against a 19th century biologist who examined cranial capacity, admitted that "equality is not an a priori truth".

If I thought that what happened to Summers was a really common thing, I'd be using an anon handle to even discuss reactionary thought.

It's pretty common for public figures. I don't know who you are, but my guess is you're not a public figure. Hence, your protection (and mine) largely consists in being small fry.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-07T22:48:00.810Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's pretty common for public figures. I don't know who you are, but my guess is you're not a public figure. Hence, your protection (and mine) largely consists in being small fry.

Certain right-wing Italian politicians who say things that seem optimized for maximum offensiveness whom I cannot reliably tell apart from their parodies surely should count as public figures too?

comment by simplicio · 2013-10-08T00:53:47.314Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure all laws of science and human action contain special exception clauses for Berlusconi.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T03:11:46.021Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

While I wouldn't want to see too many of those good, solid digs on Less Wrong, this comment made my day. I made a special exception ;-) and upvoted it.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-09T05:57:49.337Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

No, remember reality is normal. If Berlusconi breaks your model of reality, you would do well to update your model.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-07T20:11:33.883Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

human group differences are not ruled out a priori

Isn't that, in a nutshell, exactly what Summers was saying?

comment by simplicio · 2013-10-07T20:39:42.282Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

IIRC he went farther, suggesting (as one hypothesis among several) that low female representation in STEM fields could be due to lower female IQ variance.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-07T19:59:24.659Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I do suspect the degree to which the people perceives that the "PC-police" controls everything is overblown.

It really depends. If you're, say, the owner of a small auto repair business in Montana, you can give the PC police the middle finger every day and nothing bad will happen to you. On the other hand, if you're a school employee in a rich suburb somewhere in the Northeast... well... the situation is different :-/

Would you say my trust is poorly placed?

Yes.

This mostly has to do with using a less-than-anonymous handle. If any lurker who decided to get his jollies by being nasty to you can pierce your veil of anonymity and, say, send a carefully chosen collection of quotes from your posts to a variety of people who have authority over you -- well, it could get rather unpleasant.

Such things, unfortunately, are not rare on 'net forums.

Whether "the system" won't punish you depends on which system. If you're in academia or paid-by-feds research (e.g. NIH), I would expect the system to punish you (not necessarily in immediately obvious ways).

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T00:39:40.730Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Whether "the system" won't punish you depends on which system. If you're in academia or paid-by-feds research (e.g. NIH), I would expect the system to punish you (not necessarily in immediately obvious ways).

I guess that depends on whether you are in the humanities or the hard sciences. I've heard several maths professors often making politically incorrect remarks and jokes in lectures where they couldn't have known that nobody was recording them. You wouldn't speak out against Socialism in a similar venue in the Soviet Union. (Or are web forums held to a higher standard than university lectures?)

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-08T17:11:07.923Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I guess that depends on whether you are in the humanities or the hard sciences.

That's probably true. I suspect it also depends on whether you are a tenured professor, rather hard to dislodge, or a mere tenure-track larva terrified of not getting tenure...

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-07T22:41:35.476Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It also depends on where you say said things (I see people post race- and gender-essentialist stuff on Facebook with their real name quite often, and nothing bad has happened to any of them as a result AFAIK), and which tone you use (sometimes truth isn't enough).

(But from what little I've read about the Summers incident, I agree the reaction was unfortunate.)

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-10-07T19:00:12.869Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Political race and gender equality would be better termed "race and gender egalitarianism". It should be thought of as a value, not as a fact.

Speaking as someone who is all in favour of equality, hell no. It should be though of as a strategy. Values are something quite different.

On the other hand, if we found ourselves in, say, the world of Dungeons and Dragons, we would require a different strategy to fulfill our values.

Of course, it's tempting to praise the Good thing by saying it would be Good in every possible world - there are several posts on the fact floating around LW - but fight it! Declaring your policies terminally valuable is only one step away from concluding everyone who doesn't hold them must hold different terminal values, and is equivalent to clippy - and that doesn't turn out well.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-07T19:15:04.224Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. I can imagine possible worlds in which race and gender egalitarianism would be silly.

What I should have said is that it is a heuristic, which is generally believed to hold in all cases where between group variation is less than within-group variation. (Which is why it's okay that athletics are gender segregated)

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-08T16:30:33.349Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What I should have said is that it is a heuristic, which is generally believed to hold in all cases where between group variation is less than within-group variation. (Which is why it's okay that athletics are gender segregated)

Well, depending on the metrics you use, within-group variation for men's and women's athletic ability is much greater than between-group variation. After all, the difference between the most and least athletic women, or between the most and least athletic men, is much greater than the average difference between men and women, or the difference between the top men and the top women.

Between-group differences can be small relative to within-group differences (certainly significantly smaller than the difference in average athletic ability between men and women,) while still dominating representation of the groups at the tail ends of an activity.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-10-07T20:13:45.456Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Excellent!

Oh, and, um, I just remembered that I'm supposed to make my comments more valuable because someone is periodically downvoting them in blocks and the ones that don't get upvoted are, thus, effectively costing me karma to post

Um...

What a meta comment this has been! Selfawareness!

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-07T22:44:58.527Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoted for off-topic whining. There are places where I'd consider it appropriate to complain about karmassinations (e.g., the open thread), but I can't see how a reply to Ishaan's comment would be such a place.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-10-08T16:19:37.403Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I, um, wasn't complaining. I just wanted to add a little more content than "excellent". I guess it's hard to get tone across in text ... anyway, I'm sorry if the digression annoyed you, I'll bear that in mind next time.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-07T20:17:43.967Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Assuming this is primarily a problem because it makes your comments less likely to be read, why not just change your handle? That'll throw them off your tail.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-10-07T20:28:33.657Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yup. It also gives people a slight impression that the comment was mildly unpopular - not sure what effect that has - and, this is the big one, means that I can't downvote because of anti-troll measures. Which, of course, I always forget, which is annoying.

OK, so it's not that bad. Still.

But believe it or not, I actually set up another account under a different name and posted some constructive comments to give it a positive karma score (I had a vague plan to use it for stuff that was more affected than average?) Something I said gave it away, at the same time I discovered this wasn't a one-off thing on my regular account.

Or, alternatively, I'm so annoying that I was both the first and second people to be karmassasinated (AFAICT). Can't forget that possibility.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-07T17:43:24.309Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My Roman example was intended as satire; playing with how "superstition" is applied only to the beliefs of the enemies of the faith. In the same way, you can find as many accounts as you care for of Catholic missionaries talking about the "superstitious" animism of native peoples and almost none talking about the superstition inherent in the idea of transubstantiation. It's pure self-serving hypocrisy.

My view of superstition is simply this; if you believe something flatly contradicted by the evidence of both scientific inquiry elementary logic and your own eyes, that belief is superstitious in character. If you throw a finger-pinch of salt over your shoulder to hit the devil in the eye, that is a superstition. If you throw vast numbers of unqualified blacks at a university system to "fight racism," that is just as superstitious and much more resource intensive. Even when salt was worth more than gold people only threw away a few dozen grains at a time.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-10-07T19:05:46.485Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My view of superstition is simply this; if you believe something flatly contradicted by the evidence of both scientific inquiry elementary logic and your own eyes, that belief is superstitious in character.

You might want to replace "superstitious" with "obviously wrong", then, to prevent confusion.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-07T18:17:34.807Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, okay. I didn't catch the satire. Are you saying that my definition of "superstition" declining is akin to Catholics saying that "superstition" is declining among pagans?

if you believe something flatly contradicted by the evidence of both scientific inquiry elementary logic and your own eyes, that belief is superstitious in character.... If you throw vast numbers of unqualified blacks at a university system to "fight racism," that is just as superstitious and much more resource intensive.

Can you explain why it should be obvious to a non-superstitious layperson that this won't work?

Even if a belief is false, it isn't superstition. Believing in Santa Claus is not superstition if your parents told you that there is a Santa Claus and you are a child and consider them trustworthy - it's just bad epistemic luck.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-10-07T19:13:40.598Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can you explain why it should be obvious to a non-superstitious layperson that this won't work?

Speaking as a Devil's Advocate ... if someone is not qualified for a university, they are more likely to fail than the qualified, non-black students in the example. If your evidence for the existence of racism demons is that black people fail more often, then you will continue to receive said evidence and thus, presumably, continue throwing endless streams of black people.

On the other hand, hey, if spilling salt really was taken as a sign of weakness by salt-vulnerable extradimensional vampires, and they enter our world and sneak up behind you to drain your vitality; then hitting them smack in the eye with some salt should show 'em who's boss. Right?

EDIT:

Believing in Santa Claus is not superstition if your parents told you that there is a Santa Claus and you are a child and consider them trustworthy - it's just bad epistemic luck.

Under the definition you cited, Santa seems more designed to create superstition - I was good and then I got presents!

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-07T19:27:14.754Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, I am now going to give you not my own views, but the views of the average liberal layperson on this matter. This is meant to illustrate why it's not obvious to laypeople that AA doesn't work, not a defense of AA.

if someone is not qualified for a university, they are more likely to fail than the qualified, non-black students in the example.

"The point of affirmative action is to uplift the entire group. It doesn't matter if minority students fail out at higher rates - if the net effect is more minority students with degrees who have come into contact with college culture and gotten education, they will go home and have a positive impact on their families (especially younger siblings) and wider community. Even if they don't impact anyone else, said minority students can get a higher paying job. They will have left the poverty cycle. If these benefits in any way transmit to their direct progeny, racial inequality will be reduced in the long run. "

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-10-07T20:16:01.071Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Clearly the racism demons will ensure they still get worse jobs and continue the poverty society regardless.

:P

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-07T23:53:10.348Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Are you saying that my definition of "superstition" declining is akin to Catholics saying that "superstition" is declining among pagans?

More or less, although I don't mean it venomously; I am glad to see Christianity and Islam weakening even if I do find I prefer them to their replacements.

Can you explain why it should be obvious to a non-superstitious layperson that this won't work?

The mean IQ for an American Black adult is 85, and since adult IQ is 60-80% heritable this is fairly strong evidence to start with that race itself is the cause. Attempts to test that have controlled for SES education level and other factors in early childhood, income and education level in adults, even multiple twin adoption studies where one twin was raised by higher-class whites. Consistently it has been found that not only is this gap a question of genetics, but that the degree of the gap can be predicted by knowing the proportions of the individual's racial admixture.

So, what does that mean in practice?

About 2% of Blacks will have an IQ of 115 or above, which is considered "bright" and about the level of the average undergrad or white-collar worker. Only the top 1% will have an IQ of 120 or above, which is considered "gifted" and about the level of the average college graduate. The very best 0.1% will have an IQ of 130 or above, which is considered "borderline genius" and is both the mean for PhD recipients and is the very lowest IQ Mensa will accept.

In other words, in a perfectly fair system a maximum of one in every fifty Blacks would go to college at all and half would drop out before graduating, with a tenth of those remaining being able to pursue higher degrees. About eighteen times that many Blacks enroll in college today (~38%), seventeen times that many graduate college (~17%) and four times as many are given PhDs (0.4%). Unsurprisingly most of the latter are unemployed or work in higher education themselves. These figures are proudly attributed to Affirmative Action and represent one of the biggest wastes of time and energy ever undertaken by our government.

TL;DR: There are Black Americans who are capable of benefiting from a college education, but they are the exception, and this fact is patently obvious to anyone who's even glanced at the statistics or has lived/worked on a college campus.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-08T00:57:20.567Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

IQ is 60-80% heritable

But this is modulated by SES.

The heritability of IQ reduces with socioeconomic status. Primary source. So lets go with 60%.

this is fairly strong evidence to start with that race itself is the cause

How? If it is 60% heritable, and if the mean is 100, is a loss of 15% due to environmental factors really that unlikely?

Attempts to test that have controlled

Attempts to control for things do generally reduce the gap, but yes, you are right that they do not completely eliminate it. This is the reason why we can't dismiss the idea that behavioral differences of genetic origin exist, not a reason why we should accept the idea. It isn't possible to control for all factors. It could easily be something weird and unexpected (say, vitamin D deficiency, or maternal health) that creates the difference.

Consistently it has been found that not only is this gap a question of genetics

No: Consistently, attempts to control for things have not accounted for the entirety of the gap. There is a difference.

fact is patently obvious to anyone who's even glanced at the statistics or has lived/worked on a college campus.

I've done both. My anecdotal experience disagrees. My glances at statistics haven't settled anything.

PhD

African immigrants to the US (not African Americans, recent voluntary immigrants) are currently one of the most impressive model minorities in the US, outperforming both Asian and European immigrants in educational achievement. (I know that the "race realists" will say that this is because only smart people can immigrate. That explanation is not be sufficient to extinguish the doubt the evidence raises, especially since we're comparing immigrants to immigrants)

Keep in mind, I'm only maintaining that there is cause for uncertainty. The evidence I provide is not meant to refute your claim - only to reduce what I perceive as your overconfidence and to dispute your claim that any layman could see that you are right, but for their biases. Mine is the weaker claim.

We can keep putting data back and forth, but the very fact that a reasonable argument can be made for either case is my evidence for the claim that uncertainty is warranted.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T06:25:47.426Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

African immigrants to the US (not African Americans, recent voluntary immigrants) are currently one of the most impressive model minorities in the US, outperforming both Asian and European immigrants in educational achievement.

Wat. Citation needed. As a racist, that breaks my model. Please explain.

(La Wik says brain drain)

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-09T17:23:26.935Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Here is one source which lays them out cleanly. Click on the first table.

http://www.asian-nation.org/immigrant-stats.shtml

Note that even though the educational achievement goes African immigrant >Asian immigrant > European immigrant > US-born, most of the metrics of financial and economic success go European immigrant > US-born > Asian Immigrant > African Immigrant.

I've seen findings to the effect that with each successive generation after the second, non-white immigrants tend to become poorer and less educated, though i don't remember which group they were looking at. If this interests you enough for me to go find them, let me know.

There are various possible explanations for this...

1) Self-Selection effects cause immigrants to seek education in greater numbers. interpersonal racism distorts market forces (see: various race-resume and job interview studies) to counteract the benefits of higher education. After the 2nd generations any self selection effect dies out and members of non-white racial groups drift economically downward.

I consider [1] to be the strongest hypothesis for the cause of race-related differences in socio-economics regardless of whether or not race-correlated-genetically-based differences in intelligence exist. I think there is plenty of evidence that racism is sufficient to create economic disparities - the mechanism is parsimonious and the steps are well-supported.

Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that there are not also genetic differences. Just because racism is sufficient to explain socioeconomic disparity doesn't mean it's necessary. Furthermore, we can't just assume that socioeconomic disparities alone can create the observed trends in behavioral intelligence testing. I don't think it's silly to have suspicions that genetic differences exist, but I still feel that it is really silly to be confident that they exist and claim high certainty concerning the magnitude, direction, and nature of these differences when we don't currently have much general insight into the mechanisms behind genetics and intelligence. It's even more overconfident to be certain that said supposed genetic differences have large-scale economic consequences. In general, one aught to be suspicious of big ideas with no well-understood mechanisms.

I was going to have a 2) and a 3) alternative hypotheses arguing devils advocate for the race realist side (invoking regression to the mean, affirmative action, etc) as well as a non-race-realist but also non-racism side, but as there appear to be a sufficient number of people who disagree with me present maybe I should just wait for someone who actually holds that opinion to supply those arguments.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-10-10T17:07:08.470Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think there is plenty of evidence that racism is sufficient to create economic disparities - the mechanism is parsimonious and the steps are well-supported.

If racism is sufficient, then we should not see examples of groups who suffered racism but did not have economic disparities (or had economic disparities which favored them). Are there no such examples?

(I think it's important to separate out sufficiency- an if-then relationship- and a strong direct effect. It seems likely that the direct effect of racism is to lower economic standing, but to claim sufficiency argues that its direct effect is larger than any other possible combination of total effects.)

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-10T19:05:17.933Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Very well.

Racism is sufficient to lower SES, but if other factors are involved it may be insufficient to induce a negative disparity.

comment by ygert · 2013-10-09T08:19:45.941Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The cause of this seems highly separated from the topic of discussion (heritable intelligence) though. I think it is more than obvious that the main cause is selection bias; that is in general why immigrants in general often outperform those who already live there. If you have the drive, determination, and consciousness to be able to go through such a major life change, that itself says something about you. So this filter lets in only those who are talented in this regard.

This model makes the prediction that immigrants from countries that are harder to migrate from will be smarter than those who can migrate more freely. This is seen in the real world: As stated here, African immigrants to the US are currently one of the most impressive model minorities in the US. They beat out, say, Asian immigrants (who also overperform on average.) And Asian immigrants beat out, say, Canadian immigrants, who no one really claims are all that special or particularly distinguished (as migrating from Canada even easier.)

comment by Randaly · 2013-10-09T07:16:07.236Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

See here.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-09T08:11:09.886Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

See here.

Fascinating. Full marks to the US Human Resources department for their recruitment efforts in this area. The difference in achievement between those various groups of immigrants suggest some powerful selection effects. Simply because that amount of difference in achievement dwarfs the intelligence difference between racial groups no matter which direction that difference goes.

comment by Randaly · 2013-10-09T07:23:32.183Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

FWIW, your model is really badly broken if you didn't expect this- I would expect even most racist models (or, at least, my Turing-test-passing attempts at racist models) to predict this.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T15:33:04.164Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Are you sure you could have correctly predicted beforehand whether African immigrants would outperform other immigrants?

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-09T08:26:22.557Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

FWIW, your model is really badly broken if you didn't expect this- I would expect even most racist models (or, at least, my Turing-test-passing attempts at racist models) to predict this.

Why are you so confident that even most racist models would predict this? Prior to acquiring domain specific knowledge about trends or immigration policies in the United States it doesn't seem especially likely. Until Randaly provided the relevant link I knew next to nothing about the particulars of which racial groups successfully immigrate to the US at which education level. In the absence of such information it seems reasonable to guess that the patterns would tend toward following the trends for IQ among the groups as well as correlating with the distribution of educational qualifications for individuals in the respective countries. ie. I'd guess that East Asian groups would have more educational achievement than African groups.

I'd call the model possessed by myself of the recent past wrong and also ignorant of that and related pieces of trivia but I'd hardly call it "really badly broken". Perhaps you consider this and related information far more important or fundamental than I do?

comment by Randaly · 2013-10-09T11:50:48.264Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am Randaly; I didn't know that specific information before, but it did not surprise me. My understanding was that phenomenon of brain drain is fairly well known.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T14:47:21.332Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't usually refer to brain drain in my understanding of things. If this is true, I should. But why expect differential brain drain between Africa and Asia, which is what is necessary to explain this.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-09T14:58:58.389Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

But why expect differential brain drain between Africa and Asia

Here is a throwaway guess: because Asia is rapidly developing and Africa is not. If you're very smart and in (ex-Japan) Asia, you can stay and be successful (make millions / cure cancer / become a pop star / etc.) locally. It's a fluid growing environment. But if you're in Africa, your chances of local success are much smaller and, correspondingly, your incentives to emigrate are much higher.

comment by Randaly · 2013-10-09T16:51:39.859Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I endorse Lumifer's reason. Other reasons would include less patriotism (as I understand, loyalties in much of Africa are to tribes/clans/families rather than a nationstate, religion, or ideology, so bringing your family abroad of going abroad to look for money would be less of a shift) and less perceived safety (e.g. apparently 75% of Ethiopia's skilled laborers moved abroad during its famines).

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-09T18:15:09.115Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am Randaly; I didn't know that specific information before, but it did not surprise me. My understanding was that phenomenon of brain drain is fairly well known.

Brain drain is familiar to me... it's even what I attribute most of the success of the US to, especially when it comes to silicone valley. What I had no information about (and little need to collect information about) was the specific details of which countries the US attracts and permits immigrants from most freely. Without those details knowledge of brain drain is irrelevant, it doesn't distinguish between drain-sources.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T14:45:07.281Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Really? A racist model take the base IQ of africans, compares it to that of eurasions, notices that the latter is ~2 std devs higher, and predicts superior achievement by eurasions. You would only expect such over-achievement if Asian immigrants were average folks and African immigrants were the cream of the intellectual class, but why would I predict that, a priori?

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-09T15:09:56.376Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Because the Nigerian "middle class" makes on average about $6,000 a year while the Japanese middle class on average makes $52,000 a year? The average African might very well want to come to the US, but only the very wealthiest (and since g correlates strongly with wealth, brightest) actually can.

In the last half century, as Subsaharan Africa's population has skyrocketed to nearly a billion people, we've had about 900,000 African immigrants come to the US and those immigrants have shown exceptional talent; both are entirely consistent with the numbers we'd expect if we're taking people with an average IQ of 115-120 (AKA, at or above the Ashkenazi Jewish mean).

Edit: Also, racist is a fairly charged (if hardly inaccurate) word and absolutely adds more heat than light, to use that delightful turn of phrase. Sticking with the generally-preferred term "Racial Realist" or even the milder British epithet "Racialist" might help reduce the reflexive opposition that tends to crop up in these discussions.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-09T15:24:32.558Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Consistent given the base IQ assumptions if the majority of all the most intellectually outstanding Africans are emigrating and coming to America specifically.

(America is not the most common destination for African immigrants, a majority of them go to Europe.)

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-09T15:36:53.437Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The numbers are only weird if we assume they all came this year; remember, we're talking about a period of more than five decades here.

Edit: Also, Continental Europe and the Anglosphere have two entirely disparate experiences with African Immigration these days. It's hardly fair to focus on the small numbers legal immigrants to the vast numbers of illegal ones given Europe's current position. It would be like saying that America's Latin American population was predominantly middle-class or wealthy republicans; from a legal standpoint it's arguable, but the demographics favor the illegal immigrants.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-09T15:47:18.818Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

However, about half that number actually does emigrate from Africa on a yearly basis.

I'd add that sticking to the term "race realist" is unlikely to moderate responses here, since the majority of Less Wrong is already quite familiar with "race realism," and speaking for myself at least, that sort of self-promoting name scheme, in the vein of pro-life or pro-choice (implying that those who hold it are the realists and those who do not are thus in some way deluded) serves only to move it from the realms of the empirical into the political.

Edit: If we're looking at legal immigration to America alone, we were up to about 85,000 a year eight years ago, with trends moving upwards at that point (I haven't found any more recent data yet,) and while a majority of immigration to America is legal, America doesn't get a majority of the legal immigration.

That does bring the levels to statistical consistency assuming a sufficiently high level of retreat from Africa among the intellectual elite, but the more of the top people in Africa who leave, the less competition those who stay are going to face. It becomes a choice, not between being middle class in Africa or middle class in America, but between being the top of the heap in Africa versus middle class in America.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-09T15:55:38.818Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think you missed my edit, so just a restatement; comparing modern illegal immigrants to Europe with legal immigration is not a useful comparison, as it's apples to oranges in terms of demography.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-09T16:06:47.529Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Your edit came after I wrote up my comment, but I did read it, and edited my own comment in response.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-09T16:41:19.769Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, but I hope you don't mind if I respond to it here for coherency's sake.

the more of the top people in Africa who leave, the less competition those who stay are going to face. It becomes a choice, not between being middle class in Africa or middle class in America, but between being the top of the heap in Africa versus middle class in America.

Don't forget a lot of African immigrants are here mid-term or have a dual citizenship; they come here to get educated and make enough money to set themselves up back home and become millionaires, then bring the kids back to the US for round two. I know a sweet Nigerian girl who came here for exactly that purpose, since a doctor with an American MD can run their own hospital in Africa.

But yes, in any remotely stable country there should be an equilibrium point where permanent immigration lets off entirely. That's a perfectly reasonable observation.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T04:38:05.545Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

How? If it is 60% heritable, and if the mean is 100, is a loss of 15% due to environmental factors really that unlikely?

Given the way the modern IQ scale is defined, it makes little sense to say that 100 to 85 is "a loss of 15%". You can only say it's a loss of one standard deviation.
comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T06:30:09.358Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

To quote moldbug on this issue:

The leopard’s name is human cognitive biodiversity. While the evidence for human cognitive biodiversity is indeed debatable, what’s not debatable is that it is debatable. Since it’s also the case that everyone who is not a white nationalist has spent the last 50 years informing us that it is not debatable, we have our leopard one way or another.

May or may not be relevant.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-08T02:03:12.731Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Your primary source is measuring IQ heritability in children, which is typically held as 20-40% rather than the 60-80% for adults I mentioned. Children are in a constant state of flux, and their IQs hard to norm due to maturation rates, but when they hit the late end of puberty you can see the effect of genes really shake out.

In terms of African immigrants I need to look at the actual data more closely but it sounds like a fairly simple case of Brain Drain. The Bantu mean IQ is typically scored in the 70s range, so if we're able to skim the top 0.04% that's a group more than 400,000 strong with a higher average IQ than Ashkenazi Jews. Normal Distributions + Huge Populations = Lots and lots of outliers.

Keep in mind, I'm only maintaining that there is cause for uncertainty. The evidence I provide is not meant to refute your claim - only to reduce what I perceive as your overconfidence and to dispute your claim that any layman could see that you are right, but for their biases. Mine is the weaker claim.

We can keep putting data back and forth, but the very fact that a reasonable argument can be made for either case is my evidence for the claim that uncertainty is warranted.

Look at this from a different perspective; how much evidence of climate change would I have to reject as "just indicative," how many discipline's consensus's would I have to ignore, how much special pleading and goalpost-moving would I have to do before you gave up on reasonable argument and called me a climate kook?

Probably not much, and I'd have the same lack of patience for anyone else doing that whether it's a Creationist arguing against Evolution or a Whole Foods junkie pushing Vitalist nonsense.

Why does the game completely change when it comes to the intersection of psychometry and biology? Doesn't it make you even a little suspicious how unprecedentedly low our priors drop as soon as we hear the word race? Why are the conclusions of more than a century of exhaustive psychometric research, backed up by our recent advances in genetics, still so completely unpersuasive?

I can guess the answer, and I think you can too.

comment by satt · 2013-10-28T02:18:53.806Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

We can keep putting data back and forth, but the very fact that a reasonable argument can be made for either case is my evidence for the claim that uncertainty is warranted.

Look at this from a different perspective; how much evidence of climate change would I have to reject as "just indicative," how many discipline's consensus's would I have to ignore, how much special pleading and goalpost-moving would I have to do before you gave up on reasonable argument and called me a climate kook?

As far as I can tell, the implied analogy here between Ishaan's position and climate kookery is an unfair one. I am not aware of a consensus on the aetiology of between-race IQ differences comparable to the consensus on global warming.

Of course, even if there aren't synthesis reports written by hundreds of scientists, or statements from national scientific societies, there are smaller-scale reports & surveys on the IQ controversy. But what Ishaan wrote turns out to broadly agree with those.

The two obvious examples here are the research summaries published in the wake of the commotion around The Bell Curve. One is "Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns", a report by an 11-member panel approved by the American Psychological Association.

For IQ's heritability the panel reports values "of the order of .45" in childhood and "around .75" "by late adolescence" (p. 85). On the possibility of environmental factors entering into the white-black IQ gap it suggests that socioeconomic status "cannot be the whole explanation", but pays respectful attention to other cultural explanations of the gap (pp. 94-95) while acknowledging that they "have little direct empirical support" (p. 97). As for genetic factors: "There is certainly no such support for a genetic interpretation. At present, no one knows what causes this differential." (p. 97); "There is not much direct evidence on this point, but what little there is fails to support the genetic hypothesis." (p. 95). These conclusions are compatible with Ishaan's, except for the review's estimate of adult IQ heritability being higher than Ishaan's 60%.

The other research summary is Linda S. Gottfredson's "Mainstream Science on Intelligence: An Editorial With 52 Signatories, History, and Bibliography". It goes into less detail on IQ's heritability, but where it gets quantitative it says "estimates range from 0.4 to 0.8" (p. 14), which brackets Ishaan's 60% estimate nicely. As for the cause of lower black IQ, it says:

22. There is no definitive answer to why IQ bell curves differ across racial-ethnic groups. The reasons for these IQ differences between groups may be markedly different from the reasons for why individuals differ among themselves within any particular group (whites or blacks or Asians). [...] Most experts believe that environment is important in pushing the bell curves apart, but that genetics could be involved too.

23. Racial-ethnic differences are somewhat smaller but still substantial for individuals from the same socioeconomic backgrounds. To illustrate, black students from prosperous families tend to score higher in IQ than blacks from poor families, but they score no higher, on average, than whites from poor families.

This too is consistent with what Ishaan wrote.

(A shorter petition, "Behavior and Heredity", appeared in American Psychologist in 1972 over the names of 50 researchers. But it doesn't make any claims specific enough to compare to Ishaan's.)

I also know of a couple of surveys. The more recent is Charlie Reeve & Jennifer Charles's "Survey of opinions on the primacy of g and social consequences of ability testing: A comparison of expert and non-expert views", but that didn't ask its respondents about heritability or causes of interracial IQ differences. The older survey is Mark Snyderman & Stanley Rothman's "Survey of Expert Opinion on Intelligence and Aptitude Testing", which did ask.

In fact, it broke the heritability question down further, by asking about IQ's heritability among American whites and American blacks, considered separately:

7. White heritability estimate. Despite a consensus that there is a significant heritability to IQ in the American white population, experts disagree on the issue of whether there is sufficient evidence to arrive at a reasonable estimate of this heritability. Thirty-nine percent feel that there is sufficient evidence, compared to 40% who do not. Twenty-one percent do not feel qualified to answer. Only those respondents who feel there is sufficient evidence were asked to provide a heritability estimate. The mean estimate for the 214 received is 0.596 (SD = 0.166), meaning that these experts believe, on the average, that 60% of the variation in IQ within the American white population is associated with genetic variation.

8. Black heritability estimate. Experts are much less inclined to believe that sufficient evidence exists for an estimate of IQ heritability among the American black population. Twenty percent feel there is sufficient evidence, and 54% feel there is not. The mean heritability estimate for 101 received is 0.571 (SD = 0.178).

Those averages are very close to Ishaan's. As for the black-white IQ difference:

12. The source of the black-white difference in IQ. [...] Forty-five percent believe the difference to be a product of both genetic and environmental variation, compared to only 15% who feel the difference is entirely due to environmental variation. Twenty-four percent of experts do not believe there are sufficient data to support any reasonable opinion, and 14% did not respond to the question. Eight experts (1%) indicate a belief in an entirely genetic determination.

There was no majority opinion in the survey. Even after cutting out the non-responses, only a bare majority (about 53%) felt confident in saying the IQ difference had a genetic component. Meanwhile, about 45% of those who responded took either the same position as Ishaan (insufficient data) or a more environmentalist one.

All in all, Ishaan's views are about as hereditarian as the expert consensus, where that consensus exists. I don't understand which "discipline's consensus's" Ishaan's meant to be ignoring. (I'm leery of the suggestion of "goalpost-moving", too, since I can't spot any substantial drift in the claims Ishaan made over time.)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T04:57:10.580Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In other words, in a perfectly fair system a maximum of one in every fifty Blacks would go to college at all and half would drop out before graduating, with a tenth of those remaining being able to pursue higher degrees. About eighteen times that many Blacks enroll in college today (~38%), seventeen times that many graduate college (~17%) and four times as many are given PhDs (0.4%). Unsurprisingly most of the latter are unemployed or work in higher education themselves. These figures are proudly attributed to Affirmative Action and represent one of the biggest wastes of time and energy ever undertaken by our government.

Not all the abilities measured by IQ are that important to education; see the last two sentences in this comment. Calculations like yours would underestimate the ideal number of women and Jews in academia, and for all I know (admittedly little) that may also apply to African-Americans.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-08T13:52:46.698Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Not all the abilities measured by IQ are that important to education; see the last two sentences in this comment. Calculations like yours would underestimate the ideal number of women and Jews in academia, and for all I know (admittedly little) that may also apply to African-Americans.

My measure is a little crude; it uses IQ scores without dividing them into fluid/crystallized or verbal/nonverbal and that does have a cost in terms of accuracy. Unfortunately I don't have the time or energy to do much better than a back-of-the-envelope calculation, not to mention my access to census data blows now that the Federal Government is shut down. This is part of why I didn't bother looking at Asian-White or Male-Female differences where the numbers are smaller and the breakdown of scores is messier.

But at the same time; a 1sd difference (either the -1 for Black Americans or the +1 for Ashkenazi Jews) in a highly g-loaded test is such a heavy finger on the scale that I can't imagine how my numbers would be off by the order of magnitude required to call the modern proportions "reasonable."

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T03:13:00.085Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But at the same time; a 1sd difference (either the -1 for Black Americans or the +1 for Ashkenazi Jews) in a highly g-loaded test is such a heavy finger on the scale that I can't imagine how my numbers would be off by the order of magnitude required to call the modern proportions "reasonable."

Sure, I didn't mean that modern proportions are reasonable; mine was just a nitpick.

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-10-08T21:24:48.342Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

democracy and marxism are absolutely religious in character

I have 0.75 confidence that you've never read even a review of a book by, say, Jurgen Habermas, or Amartya Sen, or Barbara Ehrenreich, or Eric Hobsbawm. These people have nothing in common, someone might object; their fields are vastly different - that is so, but all are considered eminent scholars, all offer nuanced arguments in favour of greater democracy, and all have explicitly Marxist or at least hard-left views on socioeconomic matters.

Frankly, you strike me as a walking, talking example of Dunning-Kruger.

comment by satt · 2013-10-21T03:44:16.575Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'll cop to not having read much of Sen, but he seems like a clear odd one out in your list. He respectfully tips his hat to a few Marxian ideas in his work (see e.g. pages 14 & 15 of "The Moral Standing of the Market", and the handful of shoutouts to Marx in On Economic Inequality), but I got the feeling he was more of a centre-left liberal than a hard leftist. See also: an actual commie's Amazon review complaining that Development and Freedom is too pro-market, centrist, and wishy-washy.

comment by Protagoras · 2013-10-21T05:44:56.567Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Moss_Piglet claimed democracy and marxism were religious in character. Sen is arguably wishy-washy in his Marxism (though you can be pretty far left and still be very harshly criticized by some communists for not being left enough), but there is nothing remotely wishy-washy about Sen's commitment to democracy.

comment by satt · 2013-10-22T02:45:43.937Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I don't doubt Sen has a staunch commitment to democracy, and I don't care much about Moss_Piglet's claim that democracy & Marxism are religious in character. Taken literally it's obviously true in some sense. (Both democracy & Marxism are popular ideologies, and popular ideologies, like religions, demand broad normative commitments from adherents while making assorted truth claims, at least some of which are false.) What I'm sceptical of is Multiheaded's characterization of Sen.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-06T20:31:19.476Z · score: -5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Personally, my confidence about climate change is based largely around my confidence in the scientific consensus.

That's the problem. Science is supposed to work based on replication, not "consensus". The motto of the royal society loosely translated means "take no one's word for it". The fact that they're now using anti-epistomology to argue for their claims is a big argument against them.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T22:46:28.435Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"My confidence in the scientific consensus" is code for:

"I am confident that If I were to put in the effort to become educated about the mechanisms of climate change and look at all the evidence that is available, I would come to the same conclusion as the scientific consensus".

A lack of infinite resources prevents me from researching everything which is the consensus. Do you believe that beta decay is a real phenomenon? Why?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-07T23:58:13.584Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(I'll charitably assume that by replication you mean something broader, e.g. scientific evidence -- you can't do replications sensu stricto in cosmology either.)

(I was about to type something very similar to what Ishaan said, but about birds being (descended from) dinosaurs instead of beta decay.)

The fact that they're now using anti-epistomology to argue for their claims is a big argument against them.

Can you quote or link to a few examples where you think climatologists use anti-epistomology to argue for their claims?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-12T06:03:36.641Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'll charitably assume that by replication you mean something broader, e.g. scientific evidence -- you can't do replications sensu stricto in cosmology either.

You can replicate experiments. It's hard if said experiment involves say an expensive telescope, but the observation should at least be consistent with what's observed with cheaper telescopes.

(I was about to type something very similar to what Ishaan said, but about birds being (descended from) dinosaurs instead of beta decay.)

I've never heard people arguing for evolution use "the scientific consensus says evolution is true" as their main argument.

I'll charitably assume that by replication you mean something broader, e.g. scientific evidence -- you can't do replications sensu stricto in cosmology either.

Their tendency to rely heavily on appeals to authority, e.g., "the science is settled".

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-19T19:12:38.541Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You can replicate experiments. It's hard if said experiment involves say an expensive telescope, but the observation should at least be consistent with what's observed with cheaper telescopes.

But the same applies if you replace “telescope” with “thermometer”, so replications in that sense are possible in climatology too! (The difference is just that the theoretical underpinnings of cosmology are much more solid than those of climatology.) You'd have a point if you said that you cannot create a new planet to test whether your climatological models are correct, but then again you can't create a new universe to test your cosmological models either, or get a bunch of maniraptorans, wait 150 million years, and see what their descendants look like for that matter. (EDIT: Now I remember that at least one person has said more or less that as an argument against evolution being a scientific theory. Alas.)

I've never heard people arguing for evolution use "the scientific consensus says evolution is true" as their main argument.

Okay.

As a non-palaeontologist who's never dug fossils or anything, the main reason I believe that birds are dinosaurs (in the monophyletic sense of the word) in spite of a small minority of palaeontologists disagreeing is that I think it's far less likely for the consensus to be wrong than for the dissenters to be wrong.

There. Now you've heard one person using the scientific consensus as the main argument. Are you shifting your probability that birds are dinosaurs downwards?

Their tendency to rely heavily on appeals to authority, e.g., "the science is settled".

I asked for a citation and I got a bare assertion. Can you produce a reference where a climatologist says “the science is settled” as if it was itself an argument, rather than a summary of evidence (preferably in a peer-reviewed journal -- surely if you dug long enough you could found some exasperated evolutionist on the internet telling a creationist the same thing)?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-20T23:29:55.698Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I never said it was impossible to replicate climate experiments. The problem is that they tend to use "the science is settled" as an excuse to discourage people from attempting to replicate it. For example, by refusing to share data with anyone who hasn't precommitted to not publishing failed replications, using peer-review and intimidation of editors to prevent failed replications from being published, accusing anyone who has published failed replications of only doing so because he was paid by the oil industry (the fact that said people frequently haven't received any money from the oil industry being irrelevant) after all, if "the science is settled", why else would someone publish a failed replication.

comment by Cyan · 2013-10-12T13:15:01.384Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Their tendency to rely heavily on appeals to authority, e.g., "the science is settled".

...when countering the equally generic claim that the science is not settled.

Specific criticisms receive specific replies; generic criticisms receive generic replies -- not because more specific replies aren't available, but for the tactical reason that a generic criticism is trivial to generate whereas a specific reply to a generic criticism is exhausting to generate.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-10-04T21:57:35.021Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The Cathedral is a less clunky and more memorable way of saying "the bureaucracy of the international Progressive (he prefers Unitarian or Communist, but the territory is the same) movement and aligned criminal organizations." It's not exactly your standard conspiracy theory as there are no leaders, no actual plot, not even a conspiracy per se; just people reacting to a really bad set of incentives which drives politics leftwards and increases governmental entropy.

Huh. The definition I was using - I guess picked up from usage? - was something like "Liberals reframed as overdog, to counter the perception of underdog-ness and apply liberal strategies to themselves. See also: propaganda, censorship."

I suppose there are overlaps, but still ... I'll need to study further if I'm ever to pass the Reactionary Turing Test.

comment by shminux · 2013-10-08T20:32:55.481Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

This subthread deteriorated into an unchecked and fruitless political discussion. How sad.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-08T22:33:29.216Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I have a problem with political stuff when it derails other, important conversations. But my original quote is, at base, about politics. Deterioration implies that the sub-thread was about something "higher and better" than politics to begin with. I do think the ensuing discussion has improved my understanding of the person I quoted, at least. That was the spirit of the main topic, right?

Edit: okay, I just read the sub-sub threads. You're right, it did deteriorate...I just didn't see the extent of it because there weren't many direct replies to me that displayed the deterioration.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-05T13:18:56.453Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Are those the best 15 words that the guy has? If so, that provides me significant information and potentially saves me time.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-05T17:53:57.849Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't assign high confidence to my ability to summarize it accurately because I didn't really get it - I was frequently confused about the meaning. What little I did get out of it doesn't match the praise it gets, and history/political science are not areas that I currently consider myself well informed about, so there is a high chance I'm missing something. Also, keep in mind I'm summarizing someone whose opinions are, superficially speaking, aligned with a group I generally tend to disagree with, so I might have un-adjusted for biases. Also, The Complete Works of Moldbug is frickin' long, and I've only read a minuscule fraction of the work.

I just felt like trying Moldbug because it fit this exercise really well. Moldbug is the writer I've read the most recently who I think could really use some brevity.

I did get one useful meme out of it which I actually agree with ... I generally felt this before reading reactionary literature, but I agreed with it more after:

Progressives should try their best to work within an existing imperfect system rather than against it - because structures are expensive and complicated, and if you're gonna tear one down you'd better be prepared to build another one. In other words - rather than attacking bad things, create good things and let bad things wither away naturally.

comment by apophenia · 2013-10-06T21:36:44.197Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Adding a note because I said "quotes don't belong in this thread" elsewhere. However, this quote belongs in this thread, because

I've tried pretty hard to wrap my head around his ideology (he's incredibly long winded) and this is what I got from it

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-06T21:59:58.245Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oh no, I'm sorry. That wasn't a direct quote, but a paraphrase of a set of long essays. I should not have formatted it like a quote.

I've edited the original comment to better reflect this.

comment by Panic_Lobster · 2013-10-21T05:19:54.481Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Positivism: "Anything that can't be verified is meaningless". This can't be verified. So Positivism is meaningless / false.

comment by augustuscaesar · 2013-10-07T21:24:39.502Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Do you wish to know more about human beings? Then postulate less.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-08T10:34:59.650Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you wish to know more about human beings? Then postulate less.

This seems wrong. Postulating seems to be a necessary part of exploring possibility space.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T05:17:10.659Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That sounds like it should apply to much everything (except pure maths), not just human beings.

“Whenever you ass-u-me, you make an ass out of U and me.”