Where does our community disagree about meaningful issues?

post by ChristianKl · 2016-02-12T11:34:37.075Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 56 comments

Yesterday at our LW Berlin Dojo we talked about areas where we disagree. We got 4 issues:

1) AI risk is important
2) Everybody should be vegan.
3) It's good to make being an aspiring rationalist part of your identity.
4) Being conscious of privacy is important

Can you think of other meaningful issues where you think our community disagrees? At best issues that actually matter for our day to day decisions?


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by James_Miller · 2016-02-12T16:29:33.756Z · score: 20 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Cryonics, supporting free market policies, and the value of the social justice movement.

comment by V_V · 2016-02-12T23:37:00.593Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW
  • "Bayes vs Science": Can you consistently beat the experts in (allegedly) evidence-based fields by applying "rationality"? AI risk and cryonics are specific instances of this issue.

  • Can rationality be learned, or is it an essentially innate trait? If it can be learned, can it be taught? If it can be taught, do the "Sequences" and/or CFAR teach it effectively?

comment by gwern · 2016-02-12T17:53:35.291Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

You could look on the surveys: what questions are closest to 50%?

comment by AspiringRationalist · 2016-02-13T05:23:57.788Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

From the 2014 Survey:


  • 51.8% prefer monogamous, 15.1% prefer polyamorous (a lot uncertain)
  • But only 5.3% have more than 1 partner


  • 36.1% want more child(ren), 28.3% uncertain, 34.3% don't want more


  • 38.9% Social Democratic, 27.7% Liberal, 25.2% Libertarian
  • Taxes: 3.14 +- 1.212 (1 = should be lower; 5 = should be higher)
  • Minimum Wage: 3.21 +- 1.359 (1 = should be lower; 5 = should be higher)
  • Social Justice: 3.15 +- 1.385 (1 = negative view; 5 = positive view)


  • 60% accept or lean towards consequentialism
  • Out of constructivism, error theory, non-cognitivism, subjectivism and substantive realism, none had more than a third


  • 24% don't want to, 36.7% considering, 30.8% signed up or want to be
  • Probability that a person frozen today will be revived: 22.3 +- 27.3% (median 10%)


  • p(many worlds) = 47.6% +- 30.1%
comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-13T11:23:27.875Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

My desire is to find questions that aren't already well surveyed that matter.

comment by SolveIt · 2016-02-12T17:36:12.866Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

The actual effectiveness of MIRI

comment by Gram_Stone · 2016-02-12T17:40:16.606Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I support MIRI, but I would be particularly interested in discussion of the objection that the impact of existential risk mitigation is not measurable.

EDIT: I wrote an article on this.

comment by username2 · 2016-02-14T00:34:00.671Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Moral realism, apparently

comment by username2 · 2016-02-12T12:51:42.860Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Everything except the value of probability theory and statistics?

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-12T13:35:34.455Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's useful to actually be explicit about disagreements. What do you consider to be the most important disagreements?

comment by Elo · 2016-02-13T14:06:05.137Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

what "the garden" (of LW) should ultimately look like. (we enjoy that topic more than actually bringing about the version of the garden we think is best)

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2016-02-13T02:05:49.658Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The historical importance of the modern era.

comment by Viliam · 2016-02-14T20:51:13.828Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Really? What exactly is "historical importance" supposed to mean here? Even if we avoid both Singularity and self-destruction, this era will still be remembered as the one that burned all the easily available fossil fuels.

comment by Gleb_Tsipursky · 2016-02-13T00:50:41.647Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

How/whether to do rationality outreach

comment by Elo · 2016-02-13T14:03:09.365Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Explicitly both of "how" and "whether or not" as independent topics/

comment by iceman · 2016-02-12T21:37:39.633Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The value of the Effective Altruism movement.

comment by AspiringRationalist · 2016-02-14T00:23:41.202Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

How important is money?

  • To have
  • To earn
  • To donate

Are EA causes bottlenecked on money or talent?

comment by buybuydandavis · 2016-02-12T23:57:22.815Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Politics, if you consider it meaningful.

Maybe not so much in Berlin - I'm guessing the libertarian count there is lower than in Brit derived countries.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-13T11:31:14.530Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Politics, if you consider it meaningful.

Why had a discussion a while ago about whether we should do something to get mariuanah legalized in Berlin. In that background I would consider political questions about drug legislation meaningful questions. I don't think that political disagreement that's more about tribal affiliations then about beliefs that effect real world actions are strongly meaningful.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2016-02-14T23:16:13.422Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why had a discussion a while ago about whether we should do something to get mariuanah legalized in Berlin.

So the discussion wasn't about whether pot should be legalized, but whether you should do something to make that happen?

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-15T00:13:54.071Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So the discussion wasn't about whether pot should be legalized, but whether you should do something to make that happen?

Yes, it was about actually affecting the politcs. A person from the Giordano Bruno Stiftung (GBS) thought about starting a project for drug legislation. The Giordano Bruno Stiftung has a decent stories in getting media stories published but not that much of actually getting policy into law.

I think there are basically two reasonable ways to affect the topic politically:

(1) Pushing for a referendum on effectively decriminlizing pot in Berlin by adding a zero or two to the limit of mariuanah that can be carried around without persecution. It's not exactly clear cut that such a referndum can be started for complex legal reasons but I believe it can and that other people are not seeing the possible move of starting a referendum.

(2) Actually thinking through how an alternative system should ideally work. If you simply legalize the all the drugs, then that also affects pharmaceutical drugs and companies might want to sell the drugs without doing the expensive trials needed for evidence-based medicine. It potentionally very valuable to have a group of smart people think through a design of an alternative system and write it down in a whitepaper.

The GBS might be well positioned to do (2). Work like that is unfortunately strongly neglegted. The track record of the Pirate party of actually engaging into thinking up practical policies was unfortunately very disappointing.

The think tanks which actually manage to think up practical policies unfortunately are largely driven by corporate interests. There some money from influential people in drug legalization but I think we are still lacking serious investigation of the alternatives and that's why instead of drug legalization countries like Portugal just have decriminalization.

comment by LessWrong (LessWrong1) · 2016-02-12T18:15:01.247Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I've deleted my previous post here but I'd like to point out the relationship elephant in the room.

It's seemingly a never-ending topic and looking at it from aside, it reminds me of an Escher painting - some sort of strange loop where people continuously argue about what's effective in a relationship with only one gender involved.

comment by Manfred · 2016-02-13T00:27:48.860Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What's so different about relationships with only one gender involved?


comment by LessWrong (LessWrong1) · 2016-02-13T05:34:37.163Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Those dialogues are usually about M/F relationships, with demographics taken into account.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2016-02-15T15:52:47.169Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Genetic determinism.

comment by seuoseo · 2016-02-14T09:41:33.539Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Keeping costly promises/contracts after changing into someone who no longer would have agreed to them.

comment by AspiringRationalist · 2016-02-14T00:25:00.474Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Should we try to grow the community? How? How much?

comment by fubarobfusco · 2016-02-13T00:20:07.338Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

When, if ever, is it morally acceptable to lie or deceive?

comment by Curiouskid · 2016-02-12T21:38:46.552Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'll add some sub-points:

1) AI risk is important

2) Everybody should be vegan.

  • Veganism is healthier than other diets (e.g. paleo, keto)
  • Even if veganism is less healthy, it is still morally superior to other diets.

Other people have mentioned:

  • Cryonics
  • Relationships / PUA

Political topics:

  • Free Market Policies
  • Social Justice Movement
  • The importance of environmentalism
comment by Elo · 2016-02-13T14:25:52.018Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Whether we should encourage more motivated growth or appreciation and contentment with what we have. (for reasons of overpopulation maybe we shouldn't grow outwards across the galaxy. Especially when we haven't figured out how to stop destroying this planet yet)

comment by qmotus · 2016-02-18T11:57:15.954Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Quantum/big world/mutliverse immortality? (Whether it's true, whether it's relevant, whether it's good or bad, what implications it has if any)

comment by OrphanWilde · 2016-02-16T17:45:23.074Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Communalism versus individualism.

It may sound vague, but it is the difference between Effective Altruists and people like me whose response to EA is basically, "Well, that's better than what you had before, good luck with that." Which is to say, I harbor no animosity towards EA, I just see no point in participating, because it starts from an axiom, or perhaps set of axioms, I don't share.

Which isn't to say I haven't donated money to causes, but rather that I donate money to causes which I think will make my life better. I have some kind of interest in AI risk, for a Less-Wrong appropriate example, but little to no interest in malaria in third-world nations.

comment by Dagon · 2016-02-12T17:53:44.058Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect we disagree on what is a meaningful disagreement. Until you can state a proposition of future experience, you don't know if you're disagreeing about anything, or only affiliating with a general idea.

comment by LessWrong (LessWrong1) · 2016-02-12T12:54:43.659Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

1) AI risk is important

Not sufficiently informed. My general idea which might be flawed is that it's significant risk, as in an AI can incrementally improve itself rather quickly, but that's all intuition.

2) Everybody should be vegan.

I'd like to say something here. People might feel a little bit of hostility toward pro-vegan propaganda which is completely justified. I'd explain further, but it'll be great if people separate the agenda and the people.

More often than not I see manipulative nonsense which is basically propaganda. Examples include altruism abuse ('Eating animals is bad and terrible!'), scientific abuse ('Meat is bad for your health!'), and truth misrepresentation ('This roidhead lives on a pure diet of vegetables!').

I believe that probably gives rise to plenty of contempt toward vegans. They didn't do anything wrong, but personally it gives me the "Go to the libraby and look for Cialdini" vibe; I'd have to use some exotic mind trick to actually convince them that the evidence is wrong or just plainly bad. The difference between talking with a wall that talks back to these type of arguments are, from a consequental point of view, not that much different.

TLDR too much propaganda, absolutes are bad, and this is one of the dieting culture 'fields of belief' - isomorphic to relationships and PUA.

3) It's good to make being an aspiring rationalist part of your identity.

Not going to answer this because it's vague. What does aspiring rationalist mean? I don't know enough math? Haven't read the sequences? I'm not psuedo-omniscient? The mental models in my head don't have clear shapes? Are there any levels and does the Dojo hand out belts?

There's no reason to push it too strongly, but there's no reason not to pursue it either, so I can't really come up with a good enough answer. Maybe if 'identity' could be unpacked I could give one.

4) Being conscious of privacy is important

Is there a reason not to? Go ahead and tell me where you live. 'No'? Then privacy is important.

Here's a nice essay on it though: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=998565

comment by [deleted] · 2016-02-13T15:08:24.077Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW


Users of Krokodil are highly likely to die as the result of their use, often within a year of starting (a few have made it as long as five, although this is very rare), and the few addicts who make it into rehab face around a month of severe withdrawal symptoms; the pain is so horrific that people frequently need to be put in an induced coma.

-Krokodil on rationalwiki

If you knew someone was going to try krokodil, would you stop them?

Would you support a law to stop them?

I feel like the schizophrenic opinions that arise around paternalism here owe to claims that it is politics. I think that's a bit of a cop-out personally.

Second level consequentialism

Does smoking cost as much as it makes for the Treasury?. Just one of many high quality articles on full fact. What, if anything, can they do better?

Given that smoking costs the legitimate decision makers more ('bad for the economy'') and hurts the population ('bad for society'), is that sufficient reason to intervene in the market?

Why even think through such things! We ought we pander to those who don't understand these issues and keep away, since if we didn't understand them intervention in the market sounds pretty scary?

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-13T21:31:17.261Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Would you support a law to stop them?

That question presupposes a flawed way of thinking about making laws. Laws have many effects and shouldn't be judged on the effect they have on a single case.

In addition most of us aren't faced with consequential decisions about individual laws so it's hot a stronlgy meaningful issue.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-02-13T22:16:14.445Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Just because you don't have strong private incentives for public or group issues doesn't make it not meaningful

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-13T22:33:09.248Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's not about the incentives. It's mostly that most people here don't care about the issue enough to effect the legislative process.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-02-14T11:00:48.124Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What testable reason(s) do you have to believe that and would would change your mind about it?

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-14T16:24:10.360Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The basic test would be to ask people what they actually would do differently when they would hold different beliefs.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-02-15T01:03:09.252Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

what would you actually do differently when you hold different beliefs?

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-15T09:37:45.263Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If I would believe that everybody should eat vegan I would eat a different diet.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-02-15T12:09:09.018Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am so confused right now.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-15T12:59:24.911Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The issue of 2) Everybody should be vegan. is one that I listed as an example of a meaningful issue because it drives choices I make in my life. It's meaningful because I can point to the effect it has on my life to think differently about the issue.

The questions that you posed don't fall into that class.

comment by _rpd · 2016-02-13T16:57:04.065Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Would you support a law to stop them?

Wiki says that desomorphine has been a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the US since 1936, shortly after its discovery. Mere possession is illegal, much less use.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-02-13T22:14:25.157Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So this example is to illustrate something we disagree about, not what society agrees about it generally. See christians comment demonstrating this point...

comment by Dagon · 2016-02-13T17:13:41.164Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you knew someone was going to try krokodil, would you stop them?

I'd likely try to talk them out of it, and certainly wouldn't support them during their extended suicide.

Would you support a law to stop them?

I support laws to make it easy to avoid, and support for the induced coma while getting clean. I wouldn't incarcerate anyone for their choice of self-destruction. I'd probably support charges of attempted murder for giving it to someone without explicit written consent.

comment by bogus · 2016-02-12T19:12:29.175Z · score: -4 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Sanders vs. Trump.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2016-02-12T20:16:52.606Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've noticed most LWers who bother to speak on the matter predict with high confidence a Republican win, whereas I don't see that anywhere in the realm of possibility this year. By contrast, RationalWiki is all for Sanders, it seems.

comment by gjm · 2016-02-12T20:47:26.166Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect this is mostly a matter of who has bothered to speak on the matter.

(I'm outside the US and not watching closely, but FWIW I think more likely Democrat.)

comment by _rpd · 2016-02-12T20:40:54.155Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

predict with high confidence a Republican win

Odd since most prediction markets have a 60/40 split in favor of a Democrat winning the US presidency.

E.g., https://iemweb.biz.uiowa.edu/quotes/Pres16_Quotes.html

Sanders vs. Trump.

The polls have Sanders ahead in this particular matchup ...


comment by JohnGreer · 2016-02-13T01:19:44.949Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I've mostly seen a Democrat favored. I bet two bitcoin on Hilary a year ago based on FiveThirtyEight's posts.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-13T11:35:04.897Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've noticed most LWers who bother to speak on the matter predict with high confidence a Republican win, whereas I don't see that anywhere in the realm of possibility this year.

From predictionbook data I don't get that impression.

comment by Dagon · 2016-02-13T02:53:14.143Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

LWers who bother to speak on the matter predict with high confidence a Republican win

A few examples? I've seen references to betting market odds, but nobody predicting any outcome with anywhere near high confidence (say, 70%+). Maybe I'm just not invited to those threads :)

comment by Old_Gold · 2016-02-13T02:09:25.110Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You seem to be conflating who someone expects to win with who he is supporting.

comment by Nornagest · 2016-02-13T00:19:41.112Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Probably contrarianism talking -- both here and on RationalWiki, actually. I wouldn't take it too seriously.