Open thread, Apr. 01 - Apr. 05, 2015

post by MrMind · 2015-03-31T10:06:16.996Z · score: 5 (8 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 180 comments

If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post (even in Discussion), then it goes here.


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180 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by palladias · 2015-03-31T13:54:50.916Z · score: 26 (26 votes) · LW · GW

I've just started a job as a news writer at FiveThirtyEight (author archive here), I'm really looking forward to this, and I'd love for folks to think of me as a possibly-summonable research person. If you have a question/dataset/etc related to American news, send me an email (leahDOTlibrescoATgmailDOTcom) and I may wind up researching it and covering it.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T10:12:22.693Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I have no idea what possibly-summonable research person means, but now I imagined a Lvl 3 wizard spell "Summon Researcher" where a demon in lab coat appears and answers every question with "I will reply in 2 weeks, if I find statistically significant studies" and it sounds mildly amusing. I know you meant news research but it is funnier this way :) BTW congrats!

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-02T22:33:32.228Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Summon Researcher" where a demon in lab coat appears and answers every question with "I will reply in 2 weeks, if I find statistically significant studies" and it sounds mildly amusing.

That's MetaMed.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2015-04-02T09:42:12.373Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Due to the repeated exposure effect in marketing, it might be a good idea to follow up on John Oliver pieces (or other popular pieces that are potentially high leverage) with easily shareable via social networks infographics. Examples: Civil Asset Forfeiture, Criminal Justice Reform, Municipal Violations, etc. The nice things about topics like these is that they have some headline stats that are inflammatory and attention getting. Like how badly the US is doing relative to insert developing country or how many people are getting screwed over. This should align with 538's incentives since creating these while the iron is still hot makes them more shareable.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-03-31T14:25:15.644Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This is great for the bragging thread.

comment by Toggle · 2015-03-31T16:51:41.059Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Congratulations!

Also you should remember that LW has a fairly wide knowledge base. If you're looking for a place to get started on a complex topic, I'll bet that this site would be a good place to ask a few initial questions and establish a broad research outline.

comment by palladias · 2015-03-31T17:20:35.477Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm sure you'll see me pop up while researching :)

comment by James_Miller · 2015-03-31T16:11:52.290Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You should feel free to post on LessWrong requests for help in writing future articles.

comment by Artaxerxes · 2015-04-01T02:54:11.650Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Baidu CEO Robin Li interviews Bill Gates and Elon Musk.

Key takeaway: Bill Gates has read Superintelligence, and liked it enough to recommend it.

The segment where they talk about AI starts at ~17 mins.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-01T19:52:56.097Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

There a nice segment where Bill Gates get's asked how I wants to be remembered in 100 years. He answers that he still wants to be alive in 100 years.

comment by William_Quixote · 2015-03-31T19:18:29.392Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Some paleo diets and blogs claim that people should avoid plants from the nightshade family (tomatoes, eggplants etc). Some inflammation and auto immune blogs claim the same thing. Does anyone know if these claims have a scientific basis and, if so, what mechanism is purportedly driving the effect?

I figure there has been enough interest on paleo here, that before I invest hours into digging through Google scholar it makes more sense to ask if anyone already knows the answer. Thanks in advance

comment by agrughglum · 2015-03-31T21:52:04.673Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

In the spirit of asking personally important questions, what jobs are there where high intelligence is useful but that also provide structure? Structure is fairly successful at circumventing my akrasia.

Of course, I'd also like the work not to be boring, the pay to be good, there to be independence (this may be in conflict with the structure, in which case my desires may just be incoherent), etc.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-02T19:32:41.048Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For jobs inside bigger corporations have burocratic structures.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T10:37:55.231Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Military-style stuff if it is compatible with your ethics and with your sense of independence. I have no idea about them but as they are getting more and more high-tech, there must be more and more brain-jobs there. Is it a linguistic coincidence that figuring out what (potential) enemies are up to is called "intelligence service" in English? So there is a potential idea there.

Too late for me plus I am from a part of the world that has joke for military, but I think I would have liked it as long as I am not really treated like a grunt who always must stand at attention but more like a satellite photo analyist who may be just a lieautenant but still respected by the gold-shoulders for his skills. Things like making physical exercises mandatory and not having to worry about the next meal even if I blow all my pay could be cool.

comment by agrughglum · 2015-04-02T00:33:15.225Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. Something I hadn't thought much about. Definitely interesting, though a quick search doesn't turn up anything too promising.

Also, not sure how compatible it is with my ethics.

Still, a useful idea. Thank you (& upvoted).

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-02T07:27:11.832Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if military-style but non-aggressive organizations exist? They would make sense... wait a bit, I have an idea. Are there backoffice, analytical jobs in the fire service? Not a frontline fireman/firewoman, but something sort of a strategist. Making plans for national disasters, stuff like that, but still a bit uniform-wearing stuff with ranks and whatnot.

comment by MathiasZaman · 2015-04-02T09:58:14.611Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Those jobs exist in the police force and I would be very surprised if most countries didn't have something like what you describe.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-02T11:10:04.172Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But even the police can be ethically problematic in a way that the fire service isn't. It is debatable if all laws are worthy of enforcement. The fire service (and related, disaster mitigation services etc.) does not really have such dilemmas, I think they clearly accumulate so much positive karma that even if some aspects of their acitvities are questionable they are still having a very positive sum.

comment by MathiasZaman · 2015-04-02T11:56:53.188Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh yes, absolutely. That's the main reason I'm not in law enforcement right now. Just wanted to point out that the analogue position exists and that it seems likely that such coordination positions exist within other (sorta similar) organizations.

comment by CronoDAS · 2015-03-31T19:11:28.931Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I have a small problem. My girlfriend (that I've been with for almost a year, and hope to be with for more years to come) has something of a New Age/unscientific worldview, which I find slightly disturbing, but I don't know how to attempt to "convert" her to something, well, less wrong, without upsetting her or making her feel stupid or something like that, or even how to react to her talking about her more "unusual" experiences.

A trivial example: She once mentioned that a certain kind of stone (it may have been hematite) had "healing powers". I expressed vague skepticism but didn't press the issue any further.

More seriously, my girlfriend has told me stories about seeing and interacting with "spirits", although she's asked me not to repeat any of them, and I've had to reassure her that no, I don't think she's crazy. For example, she said that whenever she goes to a particular railroad crossing, she always sees a woman riding a bicycle along the tracks that nobody else sees, and that one side of the woman's head looks horribly injured. There's another spirit, which she says reminds her of me, that usually hangs out on the roof outside her second-story window on nights when I'm not there, and sort of stands guard. He's asked to come in, but she says that spirits can't come in if you don't let them and she's always said no, except once when she was in a hotel and he spent the night on the side of the double bed she wasn't sleeping on.

I'm not sure how to react or deal with this. She feels kind of fragile emotionally to me, so I have to tread lightly; her father died when she was seven and her mother died when she was thirteen, and she says she's always afraid people are going to leave her. She also has something of an inferiority complex and is hypersensitive to perceived slights. She worries that, because didn't do well in school, people (including me) will treat her like she's stupid. She's also fat and she thinks it makes her ugly. I, of course, think she's beautiful and sexy, but she doesn't quite believe me when I tell her that.

Any advice? ("Break up with her" will be ignored.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-01T11:31:02.083Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Changing someone's world view that's backed up by experiences isn't easy, so it's likely not the best target. Even if you could destroying the fantasy world in which an emotionally fragile person withdraws is no good idea.

I would rather focus on making her feel safe and helping her to be emotionally stable.

But what do you do when she tells you about "unusual" experiences? I would recommend to listen and ask her questions like: "How does it make you feel that the spirit stands guard?", "How does it make you feel to tell me this story?" and "Is there something new in this experience that you didn't experience in the past?"

That can help her order her thoughts. Not focusing on the content but how she feels about the content is likely to help you to listen in a nonjudgemental way because you can be genuinely care about her emotional experience.

If she doesn't do any sports I would encourage her to do some physical activity to get more in touch with her body.

More seriously, my girlfriend has told me stories about seeing and interacting with "spirits", although she's asked me not to repeat any of them

Then repeating them in this way in a public forum is quite a breach of trust.

comment by CronoDAS · 2015-04-01T22:24:28.820Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But what do you do when she tells you about "unusual" experiences?

Mostly I just listen and reassure her that I don't think she's crazy.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-04-02T14:30:50.085Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Mostly I just listen and reassure her that I don't think she's crazy.

So, the Litany of Gendlin and Litany of Tarski seem relevant here. If she were actually 'crazy,' in that she experiences vivid hallucinations for physiological reasons, is this how you would want to respond?

To elaborate, is her true question whether or not you trust her senses, or whether she is lovable? If she thinks the two of those are related, is that a belief you can change?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-02T08:04:38.126Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

reassure her that I don't think she's crazy.

I'm not sure how convincingly you can do that.

The best response is likely to lead the conversation to how she feels about those things. If you want more of a script, look up focusing.

comment by CronoDAS · 2015-04-01T22:23:37.562Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Then repeating them in this way in a public forum is quite a breach of trust.

This is me hoping not to get caught. :(

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-04-02T13:05:51.565Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

To expand on izolende's point: changing details would not be the only useful thing here. It also would have made sense to use a throwaway account rather than your usual account.

comment by ilzolende · 2015-04-02T01:08:28.710Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For future reference changing specific details may be a good idea, such that if your girlfriend reads the post stripped of its username she would not say "the poster is describing me". This is what Yvain does when discussing specific patients.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-02T15:23:53.959Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yvain is a doctor and knows something about pathology and knows many different patients. When he blends multiple stories together, the resulting picture makes sense.

If CronoDAS would make up details than it would be quite easy to add details that don't make sense. Winning ideological turing tests isn't easy.

Simply leaving out details would make more sense.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-03-31T20:16:06.874Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

When I was in college in small-town New England in the late '90s, one year a group of freshmen became convinced that the woods near campus were haunted by a malicious evil spirit — a wraith. This upset them greatly; they reported feeling the wraith as an oppressive and disturbing presence. Practical advice such as "there's no such thing as wraiths; you are all just working each other up into a tizzy over nothing" was ineffective to relieve their upset.

Eventually, a friend of the group got a friend of his, who was an initiated practitioner of ritual magick, to send them a spell to banish the wraith. The spell was cast, and the people who had felt the wraith's presence reported that it was no longer bothering them.

Now, one self-consistent description of these events is that wraiths literally exist, and banishing-spells literally work. Another is that when people become caught up in playing out an upsetting story, bringing that story to a close within its own rules can work to end their upset.

Other possibly relevant tales:

comment by Lumifer · 2015-03-31T19:55:51.378Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Any advice?

Let it be.

comment by CronoDAS · 2015-03-31T22:26:23.475Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is probably what I'll end up doing...

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-03-31T21:22:11.516Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

There's a massive difference between thinking that certain stones have "healing properties" and claiming to see spirits. The first is regular New Age junk beliefs, the second is substantially more disturbing and may indicate serious mental health issues, or some form of special-snowflake syndrome. Has seen anyone for counseling?

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-03T18:49:42.720Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

IANAD, but from what I understand, hallucinations are symptoms of mental illness, but aren't much of a problem on their own. The part of schizophrenia that I'd be worried about is that people start making nonsensical logical leaps in a manner that seems pretty indistinguishable from explanations for new age beliefs.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-04-03T20:57:25.679Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That seems valid, but it may help to note that the sort of leaps in logic made by schizophrenics are generally much more personalized and confused than typical New Age explanations, whereas the NA explanations at least fall into large forms where if you recognize the broad patterns. For example, "nuclear powered rats in the sewer" is clearly schizophrenic (that's an actual paraphrase of a statement from a schizophrenic) whereas "obsidian helps centering the chakras because its black character absorbs the negativity" is pretty clear New Age. Schizophrenics also much more frequently involve things like very strange wordplay and puns in their logic. I'd point to this paper, but the paper is in German. At one point, I had a summary of the paper in English, but that was a very long time ago and I don't know where it is now. This paper seems to give similar examples in English (with no comment about the correctness of their thesis on my part since I haven't had time to look at that aspect).

Note also that schizophrenia isn't the only mental illness with hallucinatory elements.

comment by CronoDAS · 2015-03-31T21:56:31.614Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Has seen anyone for counseling?

Not in a long time - she says that she had an informal diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but the psychiatrist she saw was "obsessed" with her weight and put her on Topamax to get her to lose weight but she stopped taking it because the side effects were awful and the doctor just insisted that she take it anyway. She hasn't seen a psychiatrist in years because she works as a part-time cashier and has really awful health insurance.

And she probably wouldn't tell this to a doctor anyway...

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T10:26:56.091Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

As for weight, try getting her on aikido as it is a very "spiritual" form of exercise (not bad for self defense either) and veganism, probably she is open to the idea (not eating stuff with souls etc.) and while it is not the best diet out there it tends to keep the calorie count low. Another idea is to explain how refined sugar is an industrial product and not natural. This does not actually matter, but it may matter for her, and it is a good idea. I.e. to get her sugar from natural or dried fruits only, it can make her feel more close-to-nature at eating and actually gives a better satiety / sugar ratio and an overall calorie reduction probably.

comment by Miguelatron · 2015-04-01T15:32:43.876Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I find it curious that this post is being down voted. While the weight issue doesn't address the new age or spiritual stuff, it does impact self esteem (which may or may not be intermingled with some of the more far out things she's confessed to experiencing). Besides, being healthy is just a generally good thing.

I feel that tailoring your approach to be more new age-y as Hollander suggested would be more effective - as in the wraith example above, it's within the rules she seems to operate by. However, I'm not sure how you would broach the subject without causing more problems. You kind of need her to want this for herself before you can do anything.

In any case, good luck Crono.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-01T19:47:37.739Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Solving eating issues isn't just about making a person think that eating sugar is bad. The girl likely already considers sugar to be bad.

But understanding that sugar is bad for you and having the will power to avoid eating sweets are two different things.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-01T16:54:34.115Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I find it curious that this post is being down voted.

It gives bad advice. Aikido isn't particularly spiritual, it's a grappling martial art. Even things like internal styles of Chinese martial arts which pay a great deal of attention to the flow of chi are not likely to be considered "spiritual" in the American South. And I doubt that she'll actually like aikido.

Advice to go vegan is suspect, too. Vegans actually have to keep track of their nutrition to avoid deficiencies, if you just blindly stop eating anything animal you are likely to have health problems soon enough.

comment by Nornagest · 2015-04-01T17:41:12.628Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Aikido isn't particularly spiritual, it's a grappling martial art.

That really depends what branch of aikido you study and how deeply into the fluffy bits your teacher is. Ueshiba sensei changed his methodology quite a bit over his life, and students of his that studied at different points came away with very different levels of emphasis on technique vs. Shinto-derived esoterica; generally speaking, chronologically later branches tend to be softer and to have more esoteric emphasis. I've seen aikido schools that spent half or more of their mat time on lecture and meditation.

But yeah, it's probably not great advice in context. Even the most physically demanding branches of aikido probably aren't going to do much as far as controlling weight is concerned, unless she's willing to spend large chunks of her free time on them, and those also tend to be the hardest and least "spiritual".

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-01T18:36:27.342Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm... I was going to say that I haven't seen an aikido school that focused that much on the fluffy bits, but then I realized that it's probably the result of my own selection. I tend to be suspicious of martial arts schools that pay great attention to "esoteric" things because I think that it ends up being mostly bullshit and their students can't actually do things. At least that's how it usually works for the American suburban-mall schools -- my approach would be different in Hong Kong or Singapore. In places like NYC/LA/SF, well, my impression is that it's possible to find senseis/sifus who know what they are talking about, but the default "fluffy bits" school still isn't the place to go to.

comment by Nornagest · 2015-04-01T18:41:54.501Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

To be fair, I haven't seen many of them. They exist, but I don't think they tend to be very successful in the West; there's a market for martial arts steeped in mystical fluff, but the Omoto-kyo Shintoism that the more esoteric aikido branches are rooted in is deeply weird even by Japanese standards, and it doesn't fit particularly well with the watered-down holism-and-wellness narrative that Western students who're so inclined tend to expect.

The branch of aikido I'm most familiar with is Yoshinkan, which is one of the earlier, harder ones.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-01T19:00:34.651Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. I looked up Omoto-kyo and it seems I have underestimated its weirdness. Zamenhof as a kami is an... unusual idea :-/

But returning full circle, it doesn't seem wise for a girl who sees spirits to start a practice the mystical bits of which involve possession by spirits...

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-02T02:49:18.298Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

a New Age/unscientific worldview, which I find slightly disturbing

Why?

comment by banx · 2015-03-31T20:34:56.775Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Does she know that you (presumably) don't believe in supernatural things? Does she know why? How do you explain (to yourself) her stories about seeing spirits. Those seem to be a lot more serious than simple beliefs in absurd things like "healing powers" (or astrology, etc). Do you really believe she's not crazy? Is she making it up? (If so, why?) Using drugs? Believes they're there but doesn't actually see them, just "senses" them or something?

comment by CronoDAS · 2015-03-31T21:08:19.573Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Does she know that you (presumably) don't believe in supernatural things?

Yes.

Does she know why?

She might have a vague idea, but I've never gone over it in detail.

How do you explain (to yourself) her stories about seeing spirits.

Mostly, they sound like hypnagogic/hypnapompic hallucinations, also called "waking dreams" - the same kind of thing that inspires "I was abducted by aliens" experiences. For example, my aunt tells a story of seeing a red traffic light over her bed one morning when she woke up: she thought "The light is red, I should stay home" and went back to sleep rather than get up and try to be on time. My girlfriend also frequently complains of insomnia and often texts me in the middle of the night.

Those seem to be a lot more serious than simple beliefs in absurd things like "healing powers" (or astrology, etc). Do you really believe she's not crazy? Is she making it up? (If so, why?) Using drugs? Believes they're there but doesn't actually see them, just "senses" them or something?

Well, she doesn't act crazy, and I'm not qualified to give a psychiatric diagnosis.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-03-31T20:10:35.521Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Seeing people who aren't there sounds like schizophrenia. It's possible a traumatic childhood experience still has a great effect on her psyche even to this day, but unlikely. The desire to study new age research or alternative therapy methods isn't necessarily irrational. It simply requires much greater care, and is much, much more likely to lead to errors than traditional science. Even if some therapy she really likes is completely useless, if she believes it works, the placebo effect can still be quite powerful. Whether or not she is schizophrenic would require an independent evaluation. If she's not prepared to accept this possibility, broaching the subject is going to be very difficult.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-03-31T21:04:19.307Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Seeing people who aren't there sounds like schizophrenia

No, it sounds like watching too many paranormal "reality" shows on TV and OH DEAR LORD THERE ARE A LOT OF THEM.

comment by CronoDAS · 2015-04-01T22:20:35.027Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's worse than that. She has "nonfiction" BOOKS on that stuff in her bedroom.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-04T05:48:45.302Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Convincing her to see a psychologist would be good. I'm not sure how you'd manage that. You could try asking a psychologist, but you'd want to avoid more of that breach of trust. You could just try convincing her to go based on being afraid of people leaving her and having an inferiority complex.

comment by Squark · 2015-04-03T19:19:43.167Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You can try to engage her regarding rationality through examples she is not personally invested in. That is, avoid spirits and healing stones and discuss more "neutral" applications of rationality. Discuss cognitive biases, Bayesian probabilities, mind changing techniques etc. Let her rethink her specific "new age" beliefs at a much later stage when she has tools for dealing with it.

Also, I second the thoughts of other people that seeing spirits might be a sign of a serious problem. However, pushing her into seeing a psychiatrist sounds also very risky. Maybe consult with a specialist discreetly? Specifically, I would worry whether she has a condition that will deteriorate if not treated. Otherwise, it can be ignored for a while.

comment by bbleeker · 2015-04-02T12:02:48.787Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Try and discuss https://xkcd.com/808/ with her.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T10:22:51.346Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Stone of healing powers: I think what you need to do here is not necessarily suggesting empirical testing, but more along the lines of explaining the map-terrain problem: that a medicine merely changes the body, and whether we call that change healing or harming is a map thing, a thing in the human mind, an interpretation. Nothing has healing properties as such, not even official medical treatments, they just have body-changing properties which we interpret as beneficial i.e. healing. Healing is a mental thing, and it is reducible to causal chains of changing bodies out in the terrain plus the value judgements we associate with them here in the map. Thus ascribing generic healing properties to a stone is the category mistake of putting a mental, map property to a piece of terrain. You can explain it this way: a natural disaster does not harm people and is not evil, it merely changes things around and we interpret this change as harmful and bad. Same for healing.

Anyway, a more pragmatic idea. Get her on Zen. This is vaguely in the same cultural category as New Age and similar things, she will probably not dislike the idea, but it is an excellent rationality tool as it creates precisely this kind of distance in the mind, to see the map-terrain problem, to see the difference between reality and intepretations etc. Make her read Alan Watts. He was a hippie god. He was no the best Zen teacher around, but culturally compatible with New Age stuff and then she can go to a proper Zen meditation center.

Osho is another idea, he is a huge mystic and and easy for purely-rational people to dislike, but again he is that kind of mystic who is good at explaining map-terrain problems and this really helps in such cases.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-01T12:44:17.459Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Nothing has healing properties as such, not even official medical treatments, they just have body-changing properties which we interpret as beneficial i.e. healing.

That's a debate of semantics. If the store would empirically create health benefits than it doesn't matter much whether the label of "healing powers" is semantically correct.

He was no the best Zen teacher around, but culturally compatible with New Age stuff and then she can go to a proper Zen meditation center.

I would be vary of bringing a person who sees spirits to spend more time meditating. I wouldn't do anything that encourages the girl to detach from reality.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T13:05:28.734Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Those benefits would have to be specific instead of a general healing potency. It had to work for migraine and not work for diarrhea.

Same way how "eating vegetables is healthy" is only a broad approximation. It does certain things, that are useful in certain circumstances, those circumstances being largely general unless one has specific medical conditions when not, such as undigestible fiber cleaning out the guts (not a good idea for Chron's), such as slow digestion meaning a slow insuline release (useful in general for most modern people, not so useful for eating directly before a hard workout), and so on.

Meditation doesn't detach from reality. Where did you get this idea from? It detaches one from one's interpretations of reality. Like you meditate and hear a sound. It teaches you to not instantly go and think "hey, that is a dog barking" and thus replacing the experience of a sound with a concept, with a mental category, but simply experiencing the sound directly without attaching any label to it.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-01T14:54:56.495Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Where did you get this idea from?

A variety of experiences.

It detaches one from one's interpretations of reality. Like you meditate and hear a sound. It teaches you to not instantly go and think "hey, that is a dog barking" and thus replacing the experience of a sound with a concept, with a mental category, but simply experiencing the sound directly without attaching any label to it.

The effects of meditation a bit more complex. I don't want to go to much in the detail here because that would mean that I would have to use words like "energy" with I don't use on LW.

Meditation is a beautiful thing, but it has effects. When it comes to a person who already sees spirits I would treat very careful.

comment by Jiro · 2015-04-01T16:11:23.457Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If the store would empirically create health benefits than it doesn't matter much whether the label of "healing powers" is semantically correct.

The problem is related to the definition of "supernatural" as referring to ontologically basic mental things. "Healing" is a very high level human concept, but involves a variety of different low-level things happening under a variety of circumstances. A stone that does "healing" would be like having a type of acid that only dissolves shirts--it has no way to know whether something is helpful or harmful any more than the acid has a way to know that something is a shirt.

And since it doesn't know that something is helpful or harmful, there will be situations in which it is harmful. It's not going to "empirically create health benefits" all the time--that's impossible. Frankly, any stone that was powerful enough to "heal" is something I wouldn't trust since pretty much any singificant "healing" effect could cause really bad harm under the wrong circumstances.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-01T18:00:17.364Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The problem is related to the definition of "supernatural" as referring to ontologically basic mental things.

Not everyone who believes that a stone is healing power believes that they are ontologically basic.

A stone that does "healing" would be like having a type of acid that only dissolves shirts--it has no way to know whether something is helpful or harmful any more than the acid has a way to know that something is a shirt.

If you have an ill person telling them to get a good nights sleep, helps them heal in a fairly diverse set of circumstances. The advice isn't helpful in every case.

Frankly, any stone that was powerful enough to "heal" is something I wouldn't trust since pretty much any singificant "healing" effect could cause really bad harm under the wrong circumstances.

The question whether or not you trust the stone is irrelevant to the question of what's a useful way to check to CronoDAS girlfriend.

In practice she might tell you: "Duh, of course I check with a trustworthy spirit whether the stone is right for the particular occasion."

A quick googling for hematite suggests that it's supposed to grounding and balancing energy. Given that the girl is ungrounded to the extend that she sees spirits, from her perspective getting a stone to ground herself makes a lot of sense.

comment by Jiro · 2015-04-01T18:46:27.444Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not everyone who believes that a stone is healing power believes that they are ontologically basic.

But she is actually treating healing as an ontologically basic concept, even if she doesn't understand that she is doing so. That's enough.

She thinks it's possible for a stone to heal and do nothing else. It's not possible, unless the stone contains an intelligence that can determine whether a physical change made by the stone is "healing". It's every bit as absurd as having an acid that only dissolves shirts.

In practice she might tell you: "Duh, of course I check with a trustworthy spirit whether the stone is right for the particular occasion."

Does she believe that the stone causes harm if used in a way that doesn't match the judgment of the spirit?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-01T19:19:57.803Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

She thinks it's possible for a stone to heal and do nothing else.

She likely doesn't. It's something you project into her without good reason.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-03T02:03:50.484Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/opinion/sunday/so-youre-not-desirable.html?smid=fb-nytopinion&smtyp=cur

The sort of desirability which can be evaluated quickly becomes less important as people get to know each other-- a study of 350 college students.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-03-31T13:59:18.652Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

My dentist causes me pain, so why don't I hate him? The rational part of my brain certainly has no reason to hate him, but the emotional, caveman part does. My model of myself would predict that my emotional brain would generate feelings of dislike for my dentist that my rational part would suppress, yet there is nothing to suppress. Do other people respond this way as well? If so, what's the cause?

comment by Dahlen · 2015-03-31T16:40:15.390Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

You should give more credit to the emotional part of your brain :) It's not that stupid. There's a little extra something in-between the pain and the person causing it, that triggers the reaction of hatred against the person -- probably the expectation of hostile intentions. It's likely not a simple two-item person+pain=hatred association arc; even our emotional selves know this.

comment by 4hodmt · 2015-04-03T15:37:51.933Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Further evidence for this: people often become good friends with sparring partners in combat sports.

comment by emr · 2015-04-03T23:58:06.700Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Even a dog knows the difference between being kicked and being stumbled over.

-- Oliver W. Holmes

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-04-04T02:32:30.062Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Dogs have been specifically bred for many thousands of years to respond to human signals.

(So have humans.)

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2015-03-31T14:50:45.592Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I don't hate my dentist either, but I do put off seeing him.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-03-31T14:49:34.643Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think that's because you have control -- you choose yourself whether to go to the dentist or not (and you can stop and leave at any time), so the dentist is seen as an NPC and not as an independent agent.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-03-31T16:14:11.069Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting, since I have unwanted anger towards my computer when it causes me bother, I should try to think of my computer as an NPC.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-03-31T14:26:13.901Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Would you allow someone you hate to take a drill to your teeth? It's needs a lot of trust. The fact that you go into a situation where you have to trust very strongly leaves little room for hating the dentist.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-03-31T16:04:30.835Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes if my emotional brain hated everyone, including my dentist, who caused me pain.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-03-31T21:41:31.413Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes if my emotional brain hated everyone, including my dentist, who caused me pain.

But you say it doesn't do that. So I am not clear what your point is.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-03-31T22:51:40.728Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I was asked the question "Would you allow someone you hate to take a drill to your teeth?" My answer is that I can imagine under certain circumstances.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-04-01T06:04:30.911Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My answer is that I can imagine under certain circumstances.

One can imagine almost anything under certain circumstances.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-04-01T06:25:34.492Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Aren't you aware that it's a cliche that people do hate their dentists?

(Not that I recall anyone in particular claiming to hate their dentist.)

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-03-31T14:15:52.664Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My dentist causes me pain, so why don't I hate him?

The obvious answer is that you want him to do the work that is required on your teeth, and the pain is merely a necessary discomfort that is worth enduring.

My model of myself would predict that my emotional brain would generate feelings of dislike for my dentist that my rational part would suppress, yet there is nothing to suppress.

You have observed that your model is faulty. You should therefore update it. What is the problem?

Do other people respond this way as well?

I do not.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-03-31T22:46:43.332Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What's your dentist's emotional style like?

comment by James_Miller · 2015-03-31T22:49:43.420Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No idea, plus I've had three dentists in the last decade. The first one die, and the second one retired.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-03-31T23:02:01.059Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was thinking that if your dentist gives the impression that he's competent and careful, you're more likely to not blame him for causing you pain.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-03-31T12:49:29.689Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

LW and related blogs are basically spoiling fantasy fiction to me. DAE have an experience like this? How to overcome it?

My formerly existing but weakly skeptical atheism and generic anti-supernaturalism got really strengthened here. I bought into the idea that the supernatural means the propositon that some mental things are are not reducible to nonmental things and from that it is only a small jump to say that mental things are entirely in the map, not in the terrain, it is a useful shorthand model to think of some things as mental but they are never irreducibly so in the terrain. So irreducibly mental things i.e. supernatural things are always, in principle, map-terrain mistakes. So we can on the map level think of medicine having healing properties, because the effect they have on a certain condition is what we put into a mental category of making us "healthier", but the medicine does not actually heal bodies, it just changes bodies. From this viewpoint, a Potion of Healing is map-terrain mistake, as it suggests a substance could have a real healing property. But healing is a mental property, a property of models, maps, not real things. You could say the same about a magic sword that has an bloodthirsty evil spirit in it. The real world has only change, certain things can effect certain changes, but it is entirely a mental model that we call that change helping, harming, healing, good, evil, cruel, nice, killing, purifying etc.

Sh1t, now it seems to me the single most important step from the medieval-alchemical world to the world of science was understanding the map-terrain problem! That a Philosopher's Stone (which does not simply turn lead to gold but improves everything) cannot exist in principle and not just empirically doesn't, because the idea of improvement itself is a mental category that does not exist in the terrain!

And now my beloved Dragonlance novels feel utterly stupid to me.

(Note: I haven't read HPMOR beyond the first few chapters, the conflation of the two worlds, rational and fantasy, made me feel uncomfortable and dizzy somehow.)

For fun, what is the worst fantasy or other fictional offender of mistaking mental phenomena for something essentially real? My proposal: the ideas that goodness or evil are substances and they can formed into magic objects such as sword made of pure evil. Not sure where I've read that but pretty sure some novels proposed something like that.

If you can recommend any further reading even if only tangentially relevant to what I wrote here I will be grateful. Am I no the first one to notice the all-improving Philosopher's Stone could not exist in principle because improvement is a mental category and not real, right?

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2015-03-31T13:54:36.103Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

In a world where magic exists, magic exists. We can imagine a plan for making one, given uploading or better brain-perception interfaces and much better computing hardware. So it can exist both in principle and in practice. It might be that there is not much evidence for magic to shift expectation away from matter-is-dumb-stuff, as in our world, but even that doesn't necessarily rule it out.

Before evolution was figured out, unobserved living and perhaps thinking causes of life might have seemed a possibility, a reasonable expectation of nonvanishing probability. Future capability for making simulations with magic increase probability that a given medieval-like society is inhabiting one, although that argument probably wouldn't occur to its inhabitants, and capability isn't sufficient without motive, which seems tenuous. In any case, for practical purposes of building a technological civilization it shouldn't have mattered for our world, as not all probability went there and even in a magical world a technological civilization might be possible if there is no systematic/purposeful supernatural interference against that very outcome.

Our present certainty in the absence of magic is based on overwhelming evidence from the last few centuries of science and engineering, evidence about our world. Some of this evidence acts indirectly, for example once life was explained by evolution and no other settled evidence of supernatural (i.e. minds other than human or animal minds) or processes that could originate it turned up, there was no reason to expect anything further. Noticing biases of projecting mind-like properties on other things and social processes that create unfounded status quo belief systems should also retract some of the belief in other things having mind-like properties. This is of particular interest in modern times when it's about the only reason that a smart person can still manage to hold this misconception.

But for an inhabitant of a magical world, there is evidence of magic, sometimes overwhelming evidence, and there is no contradiction with our world having no magic.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-03-31T17:57:23.602Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A fantasy where magic exists it may well exist. For story-telling purposes that is all fine and well but I can relate to the feeling that a story which is so at odds with real physics can feel too unreal to keep suspension of disbelief working.

One way out is the humorous route as e.g. taken by Terry Pratchett.

comment by MathiasZaman · 2015-04-01T14:05:25.805Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If someone throwing fireballs (or otherwise messing with real physics) is enough to stop your suspension of disbelief, it's probably just badly-written fantasy. In fiction, the author (often implicitly) decides the rules of the world, up to and including the rules about physics. A competent author writes in such a way that (most) readers accept their rules.

If the problem exists on your end, rather than the author's, I'd advice you to either tell yourself that your laws of physics are not their laws of physics or to try to enjoy the work on a more emotional level. That is, try to relate more to the emotions of the characters, rather than the action. Being said because your friend was killed by a stray fireball is the same kind of sad as your friend being killed by a bullet.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-04-01T14:55:06.152Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I can enjoy fantasy sure. But it was easier when I was younger. Nowadays I can't stand magic that has insufficient structure ("you the reader haven't studied magic so I have to explain it in laymans terms" doesn't cut it for me). I liked Rothfuss' Name of the Wind as there is logic and depth in it and clearly understood limitations - and not just a deus-ex-machina if needed by the author.

comment by Miguelatron · 2015-04-01T16:05:20.873Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This. I love consistency in the rules as laid out by the author. It's inconstancy that breaks my suspension of disbelief, and that applies to fantasy, scifi, or a story of any genre where the characters suddenly do something out of character (especially if it's obviously for the purpose of driving the plot). Iron Man 3 made my skin crawl as the rules constantly changed throughout the movie for the sole purpose of driving some aspect of each fight sequence. Or the ridiculousness that was Gravity, just so much of that movie... ugh, doesn't help to have a working knowledge of orbital mechanics. (movie, book, w/e the suspension of disbelief rules are the same regardless of media)

As an interesting aside, once something has rules, even if the rules involve some level of unpredictability, then that something ceases to be magic in the way described by Less Wrong. It can be studied and it can have useful predictive models built around it. The problem with magic is the "because magic" explanation. If you imagine a world with "magic" and are able to deconstruct the reason for some magical occurrence in that world according to a reliable predictive model then the explanation is no longer "magic" at all.

Another interesting aside, just think about how magical things in the modern world would seem to someone without the background knowledge needed to understand it. Is that box shoving electrons back and forth to flip binary switches allowing me to store, manipulate, and search the internet for information? More likely that box is hosting a malevolent spirit. The first explanation is just too absurd.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T09:21:03.562Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure we understand each other. It is easy to imagine worlds where the paranormal exists. But it is something deeper - it is about inrreducibly mental phenomena. To stick to my example, a potion or fountain of healing depends on the mental model of what changes in the body do human minds consider beneficial. It is conceivable as something designed by a human mind e.g. nanomachines, but as a naturally, paranormal-naturally, supernatural-naturally occuring phenomenon it is simply a logical contradiction in all logically conceivable worlds, unless a non-human mind designed it, such as a gods.

From this angle, of course, any mental thing can be made irreducible and thus truly supernatural by simply referring to poly-or monotheism, i.e. a universe inherently imbued with mental things that do not reduce to anything else because their source, their creator is mental. Putting it differently, fantasy can be rescued by making it more unashamedly theist than the average Krondor type stuff. You can have e.g. trees with irreducibly mental souls without a structure as long as they are created by an irreducibly mental god I guess.

But if you leave it out, it becomes logically contradictory in all imaginable universes. A good example is Star Wars. The Force is too mental to be a non-designed phenomenon. But in all non-designed phenomena their mentality is not their inherent characteristic, but our part of our model of it, part of the map. A non-designed Force should work in ways that does not fully make sense for humans.

Interestingly, as far as I can tell, Wiccans for example understand something like this, they see their magick as something akin to a prayer, directing divine force. Non-theist magic would be a paranormal phenomenon acting in the terrain yet following the rules of the map, following mental concepts like healing, which is a contradiction. But of course by simply adopting theism this is fixable, as it comes with the assumption mental concepts made the terrain too, so mental things can be real forces.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2015-03-31T14:16:21.295Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Then don't define magic as 'that which disturbs the map-territory distinction', but rather 'awfully (in)convenient physics'. The map-territory distinction still works. Just, fundamental physics is much, much harder to work out there.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T10:31:10.176Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, I don't think it is the case. They take mental things and make the part of the terrain. It is not just paranormal physics.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2015-04-02T13:11:22.616Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But mental things are already part of the terrain. Our minds are implemented in matter.

If physics happens to notice any mental activity and react to it, then that's weird physics - REALLY weird - but it's not like it's suddenly impossible to conceptualize a thing without that thing being instantiated, and it's really really possible to discover that you were wrong about a thing.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-03T07:41:10.550Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Our minds are implemented in matter.

Except it absolutely does not feel so from the inside, which is precisely the issue. Mental things are internal map-representations. For example how a dark forest feels threatening or a storm viciously raging.

comment by Toggle · 2015-03-31T17:17:03.844Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Who's to say that evil isn't a substance? Or at least, couldn't be? It seems perfectly reasonable to write a story in which that map and the territory are not wholly distinct (and of course, even in the real world, maps are ultimately made of atoms...)

The real problem with much of the modern Extruded Fantasy Product is that it doesn't deal creatively with the implications of its own claims and genre tropes. They allow evil to be a substance, but then use that to justify certain patterns of storytelling rather than actually treating evil like a substance. If you are dissatisfied with that, then you might enjoy fantasy roleplaying games like D&D, where you can construct your own narratives around the assumptions of a fantasy setting.

For example, you might have a village that casts 'detect evil' spells on every newborn infant, and kills all evil babies through exposure- thus creating a harmonious society of only good people. Or a whole metropolis of extremely weak gods that exist by enforcing a quota of five believers per god, and explore the interpersonal relationships between the weak gods and their private family of believers. Perhaps a whodunit, in which the players must track down a murderer who is spreading atheism.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T09:11:09.772Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

To be frank I found D&D's alignment system too unrealistically moralistic, the good/evil angle. (Somehow I had this feeling that when New England Puritans turn halfways atheist, that is what results in this Drizzt Do'Urden type strictly moralistic TSR-fantasy.) There is a Hungarian more-or-less-D&D-clone RPG called M.A.G.U.S. (made when TSR rejected the request to allow translating 2nd ed) which kept law/chaos but replaced good/evil with life/death. Having a life alignment means both enjoying life and respecting the lives of others, basically not being a murderer. Having a death alignment both means not respecting the lives of others, and one's own life neither, being something sort of a depressed goth. I found this more plausible because they are more philosophical stances that you could adopt yourself from the inner view, while good/evil is a judgement others cast on you from an outer view. Nobody thinks they are evil, but having a death-alignment is more plausible that someone could adopt it from the inner view, I have seen some fascinating analyses that fascism/nazism had a certain death alignment i.e. it was not merely about murdering others, but seeing a heroic death as the best thing for one's own self too. (Churchills remark: any ideology that glorifies its followers dying runs out of people sooner or later. Warmbodyonomics.) Of course it is an oversimplified system too but it made alignments flesh out better - some evil folks would come accross more as tragic heroes, while unlike in the Puritan TSR-fantasy good heroes would not be self-denying half-monks but people who live with largesse, enjoy fun, sex, etc. (Note to self: get around to reading The Witcher, see if this is less tighter morality is a common characteristic of fantasy written in Central-Eastern Europe or not.)

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-04-01T12:16:07.917Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, when I've run D&D campaigns, I've generally thrown out the alignment system for exactly this reason. I wanted a universe with a much grayer morality, not one where the fundamental laws of the universe tell you if an action is moral or not.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T12:39:52.748Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That works with mature players. I think it was invented largely because immature players wanted to have it both ways, both bask in the glory of heroes but also feel free to murder that merchant they just saved and take his gold.

Also, really beware the gray, it can easily creep up in situations like that. Like Shadowrun - no alignment system and basically everybody bad to some extent. In the Shadowrun's world, you cannot really tell the shades of gray apart.

comment by ilzolende · 2015-04-02T01:31:01.507Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you just want some stuff full of fantasy themes that LessWrong will not spoil, read The Steerswoman and its sequels.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-03-31T13:49:28.629Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

LW and related blogs are basically spoiling fantasy fiction to me. DAE have an experience like this? How to overcome it?

Interesting. I haven't had this experience much at all, primarily because the entire genre is occurring specifically in universes where all these lessons we know don't apply, where there somehow really is no clear line between the map and the territory, or where the basics of the default versions of the map match the territory so closely that it doesn't make a difference.

I'm not sure the potion of healing example is actually a good one though: a healing potion could "heal" in specific changes that we simply label healing as such. I've read at least one fantasy series where cancer was specifically called out as something that regular healing magic couldn't help with and the implication was that (although the characters didn't understand it) that healing magic accelerated cell growth of cells similar to the human cells already present, and the magic couldn't differentiate between healthy human cells and the very small changes that make cells cancerous.

There seems to be a sliding scale of fantasy in how much the universe resembles our own or how much careful thinking goes into the nature of magic in that context. Dragonlance seems to be somewhat on one end while maybe some of Brandon Sanderson's novels might be closer to the careful thinking end.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-03-31T22:42:43.789Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You might find Brin's The Practice Effect to be maximally irritating. Entropy works backward-- the more a person uses a thing, the better (for human purposes) it becomes.

If only GAI could be developed there....

comment by Kindly · 2015-04-03T16:09:51.449Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My proposal: the ideas that goodness or evil are substances and they can formed into magic objects such as sword made of pure evil.

Of course, some novels also subvert this delightfully. Patricia Wrede's The Seven Towers, for instance, is all about exactly what goes wrong when you try to make a magical object out of pure good.

(Edit: that is, Wrede does not literally spend the whole book talking about this problem. It is merely mentioned as backstory. But still.)

comment by [deleted] · 2015-03-31T19:06:48.356Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

LW and related blogs are basically spoiling fantasy fiction to me. DAE have an experience like this? How to overcome it?

Stop reading fantasy.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2015-03-31T14:47:51.202Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

[Originally an innocent throwaway gag which could plausibly be interpreted as mean or hurtful, so removed]

comment by Vaniver · 2015-03-31T13:10:31.834Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

LW and related blogs are basically spoiling fantasy fiction to me. DAE have an experience like this? How to overcome it?

That which can be destroyed by the truth...

Am I no the first one to notice the all-improving Philosopher's Stone could not exist in principle because improvement is a mental category and not real, right?

To some extent the "value aligned agents" problem, formerly known as "friendly AI," boils down to "how would we actually check our 'improvement-map' for validity and create agents that will actually enforce that improvement-map on reality, rather than something else?"

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2015-04-01T20:26:36.973Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

On the assumption that there's some overlap between LW and readers of Mencius Moldbug, this report on how to improve the monetary system, commissioned by the government of Iceland, might be interesting. It seems the author has been reading some Moldbug; his favoured suggestion, the "Sovereign Money Proposal", is closely related to Moldbug's suggestion that fractional-reserve banking with a lender of last resort might just as well be replaced with a sovereign lender of first resort, and banks that do not issue demand deposits.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-04-02T19:30:00.511Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are you sure that is the particular Moldbug post you meant to link to?

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2015-04-03T03:40:52.174Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There may be a better one; Moldbug's financial ideas are spread over so many words that I gave up on finding the perfect link and just posted one that at least gestures in the right direction.

comment by banx · 2015-04-01T03:41:41.191Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What do folks here think about blood donation? Is the consensus that it's not an efficient way to help people?

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-04-01T14:16:40.279Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see what's the inefficiency in it. Currently it's the easiest way to obtain an otherwise irreplaceable resource.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2015-04-01T09:53:59.800Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It might not be an "efficient way to help people" in the sense of having high marginal value. It's still a positive pro-social activity that addresses an important problem which isn't easily solved by other means.

comment by Barry_Cotter · 2015-04-01T05:56:16.910Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It may not be an effective way to help people but it sure as hell helps you up to do it up to three times a year. All hail longevity! I regret I am in a rush so I can't link but I believe RomeoSteverns' post on optimising your health has the references.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-04-01T09:05:32.908Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is RomeoSteverns' post on optimising your health. See the section under "blood donation". Note that this advice only applies to males.

In response to that I started donating blood once a year (thus by now twice).

comment by Izeinwinter · 2015-04-05T15:43:01.011Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sure it is, if you are in the vicinity of a donation site on a regular basis anyway. Pop in, donate, read while doing so, pop out again. Warm fuzzies during pleasure reading time.

Warning, my opinion on this may be influenced rather heavily by the fact that I essentially don't notice the donation, nor do I mind needles.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-01T21:30:04.698Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think it's efficient. If you work for the amount of time you'd be spending giving blood and donate the money, you'd do much more good.

comment by Zubon · 2015-04-03T14:32:27.147Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Possible, conditional on your income. Assuming we need blood, unless your work creates an efficient blood replacement alternative, someone must donate blood. Less Wrong's readership skews young with a lot of college students, who presumably have low income. If you're reading this, you are probably someone who has a comparative advantage in donating blood rather than money.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-03T18:40:51.670Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Someone needs to donate blood. Someone needs to donate mosquito nets. But there are already enough people donating blood. We still need more mosquito nets.

Just because you have a comparative advantage in donating blood doesn't mean it's worth it. It just means that it's not a bad idea by as many orders of magnitude.

comment by Zubon · 2015-04-05T01:05:36.189Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But there are already enough people donating blood.

Citation?

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-05T03:37:36.371Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It costs $130 to $150 for a pint of blood. You have about ten pints, so even if you needed to replace all of your blood, that would still only be $1,400 or so. If it was life-or-death, people would be willing to pay far more than that.

comment by ilzolende · 2015-04-03T22:48:11.906Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe it's not, but it's super-conspicuous and might be useful for reputation-building. Also, if you want to practice dealing with blood draws in a not-being-sick context it could be useful. (I haven't donated yet though because age restrictions.)

comment by sediment · 2015-03-31T17:47:01.185Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

On putting all one's charitable eggs in one basket:

I note that GiveWell recommend splitting one's charitable giving between their top charities in a certain ratio. But it seems that this would reduce the expected value of one's giving. Is this considered by others to be the best way to donate, or is it better to give all of one's donation to that single charity estimated to be most effective? I imagine this is the sort of thing that has already been discussed, so pointers to any previous discussion would be of use.

comment by banx · 2015-03-31T19:57:41.030Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

From GW's perspective, each of their top charities can consume a certain amount of additional money before the expected value of an additional donation decreases by some amount. Their goal is to move money such that each charity hits that target, and then they'll reassess. So they recommend donors split donations so that, as a whole, these targets are hit and EV is maximized. From your perspective, you may decide that concentrating your entire donation in one organization has a higher EV, since that organization has a generally higher EV relative to the others and since your action isn't going to affect the actions of the rest of GW's audience.

comment by satt · 2015-04-02T02:30:33.858Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The comments on "A Mathematical Explanation of Why Charity Donations Shouldn't Be Diversified" might be of interest.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2015-04-01T15:28:16.438Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There's a fairly specific subset of coding theory that I feel should exist, but I don't know what it's called or how to find it. It's best characterised by needing to obliquely embed subchannels of communication in human-readable text.

Here are some examples of problems that exist in this area:

1a) How do I pass arbitrary concealed data in a body of English text? Let's say I have a message of length n bits. What would be the most efficient way of obliquely encoding that message so that it passes for plain English text? For example, if I had the message 11001001, I could use a Markov text generator, and for each word, check and force the parity of a checksum of that word, picking eight words whose parities corresponded to [1, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 1]. This wouldn't be very efficient, and it probably wouldn't be astonishingly comprehensible English, but it starts to address the problem.

1b) Say I have an existing body of well-formed English text, and want to somehow transform it so that it encodes the message 11001001. What variety of transformations would still yield well-formed English text?

2) Given a body of English text, how can I obliquely clue in a knowing observer (or a regex pattern) to the fact that this text is somehow distinguished and worthy of scrutiny for some predetermined purpose? Motivating case: I've just encoded the very important message 11001001 as a body of English text, using a method for solving problem #1 above. I want to do something to it so that my confederate will recognise it as containing this message. One way of doing this would be to wrap it in a known initiating and terminating phrase, a bit like ASCII-armour for a PGP key block. For example, I could begin with "Once upon a time..." and end in "...and they all lived happily ever after".

3) A group of conspirators want to adopt aliases on an anonymous forum. They want to be able to reliably recognise each other by their online aliases so they can collaborate, but don't want their affiliation to be apparent to other observers. They could, ahead of time, come up with one or more highly selective rules to which their aliases must conform. The identities of all conspirators would then be known to each other.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-01T16:27:34.938Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You are talking about steganography.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2015-04-02T08:44:44.543Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you.

comment by ilzolende · 2015-04-02T01:03:12.697Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I know that sixes_and_sevens probably wants a software solution here, but if they are willing to put up with sending lots of extra data they could just declare the third letter of every sixth word or use some other similarly arbitrary rule to determine which letters were pieces of data in the secret message.

There's also lots of tools to steganographically embed data in images.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2015-04-02T09:33:06.066Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So, my actual motivation is solving a specific problem I set myself: if I have two or more processes running on different machines, with access to the public internet, but no guarantee of locally open ports beyond 80 and 443, no knowledge of any existing sibling processes, and no guarantee that any previously-established communication channel (like a mail server, message queue or coordinating service) is still active, how do they form a peer group?

The first not-completely-terrible solution I hit upon was for them to monitor existing chatter-heavy online services such as Reddit or Wikipedia, use some sort of pre-established scoring rule to identify esoteric topics, and obliquely pass data to one another in comments or discussion of that topic whenever it arises. Image steganography is a good inroad here, since Reddit is very image-heavy and doesn't draw too much attention to itself, but most services you can use to anonymously host images (like imgur) strip metadata from the images, so dumping some cyphertext in the image header won't work.

I'm still keen on putting together a text solution, because it interests me, and I find the idea of Reddit bots carrying out human conversations while passing covert information to each other highly appealing.

comment by philh · 2015-04-02T10:01:55.409Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If cyphertext in image metadata would be acceptably well-hidden, this should be as well: you can hide four bits per pixel using the least significant bits of the RGBA channels. A human won't be able to tell the difference between #FE007BFE and #FF017AFF.

(This assumes .png. I don't think it would work very well, if at all, for either jpeg or gif.)

comment by ilzolende · 2015-04-02T10:17:47.568Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It seems like other people have built solutions that use steganography with the image pixels themselves, given that I see examples on Wikipedia.

I can't be remotely useful with the text stuff, though, my coding skills are such that I still have trouble generating token frequency histograms from text files and my most persuasive "chatbot" relayed an entirely pregenerated script to the user, only took 1 bit of user input, and was written on a graphing calculator. (I still got my Theory of Knowledge to feel empathy for it and be unwilling to let me delete it in exchange for a cookie, though, so it did prove my point that people can feel empathy for morally irrelevant things, like a program shorter than your above comment.)

comment by Illano · 2015-04-01T17:49:30.860Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think it is not very hard writing something which will encode a hidden phrase using odd and even counts. (But length is key).

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-03-31T14:21:02.000Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I recently encountered this very disturbing blog post arguing that there's an "energy trap" in using energy sources like wind, solar and nuclear because even as they may have high enough energy return on energy investment, since the energy return is spread out over many years, switching to them results in an energy investment that doesn't pay back quickly enough if one is trying to switch to a non-fossil fuel based economy. I'm not completely sure I buy into it: it seems like it assumes a very narrow range of EROEIs and even small improvements in the efficiency end might not lead to this problem. It is also possible that other improvements in energy use (e.g. more efficient cars and better battery technology) could help evade this sort of thing. But I'm not sure enough to evaluate the argument strongly one way or another. Thoughts?

comment by Baughn · 2015-03-31T19:03:20.809Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

We won't run out of coal anytime soon. It has other issues, but I think that invalidates his conclusion—coal power plants are pretty cheap, and are already being built.

I'm also more optimistic about politicians. Ten years may be beyond their reelection horizon, but it's not beyond their "This place is going to hell"-horizon.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-03-31T14:39:54.431Z · score: -1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

The observation that the manufacture, delivery, installation, and maintenance of "clean" energy devices can, and on a regular basis does, cost more energy than the device is expected to return over its lifetime is not new and regularly features in sources which you probably do not read.

It's a well-known problem that people of a particular ideological persuasion tend to studiously ignore.

comment by gjm · 2015-03-31T15:07:13.130Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That may be true, but it also isn't at all the problem being discussed by the article JoshuaZ linked to.

  • The (alleged) problem you describe: implementing "better" sources of energy may cost more energy than they ever deliver, so that by any reasonable criterion they make things worse rather than better overall.
  • The (alleged) problem the linked article describes: implementing "better" sources of energy, even if in the long-enough run they save much more energy than they cost, may cost more in the short term than we can afford to use.

(So the article is both more optimistic than you, because it doesn't consider the possibility that "clean" energy sources might have negative net energy return; and more pessimistic, because it observes that even then introducing these energy sources may be a big problem because doing so may use more energy than we have available, or more than we are willing to use.)

Your assertion is of independent interest, though I think it would have been better without the my-team-is-better-than-yours element. My impression is that "people of a particular ideological persuasion" might not so much "studiously ignore" the problem as claim that in fact it isn't real[1]. Can you suggest a somewhat-apolitical source of information on this that might allow people of any political persuasion to determine how real and how severe the problem is?

[1] Meaning not that they would claim it never happens, but that they would claim that if you make sensible choices of "clean" energy sources, and make appropriate allowances for economies of scale -- e.g., 10 years ago there were a lot fewer solar panels being made than there are now -- there are plenty of "clean" energy sources around that can reasonably be expected to return substantially more energy than is used in getting them running.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-03-31T16:22:14.611Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

it would have been better without the my-team-is-better-than-yours element.

I am not a team player :-D this was just a your-team-doesn't-want-to-look-there element :-)

I don't have links handy, sorry. I also suspect the research in this sphere is heavily politicized, so extra caution is warranted.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-03-31T14:43:59.563Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The observation that the manufacture, delivery, installation, and maintenance of "clean" energy devices can, and on a regular basis does, cost more energy than the device is expected to return over its lifetime is not new and regularly features in sources which you probably do not read.

The claim here is not that the energy use won't make return over its lifetime is not the claim being made here. (And that's incidentally false: the EROEI for wind and solar and nuclear are all much greater than 1. See e.g. the table here). What's being argued here is much more interesting and subtle, namely that there's a separate problem because the energy return is occurring over a long period of time.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-03-31T15:02:34.357Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is this then what you are talking about?

I've also tried to follow three links from the Wikipedia on EROEI for solar panel and couldn't find anything accessible. You don't happen to have a link handy for the calculations and underlying assumptions?

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-03-31T15:19:41.285Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is this then what you are talking about?

What he's talking about here is a little different than energy cannibalism but they are definitely related. Energy cannibalism occurs due to rapid growth. The observation here is that the problem of this nature occurs even with slow growth of the solar, wind and nuclear.

Not off the top of my head. Heinberg's "Searching for a Miracle: ‘Net Energy’ Limits and the Fate of Industrial Society" has some calculations and references- he gets a slightly more pessimistic numbers but still well over 1 for both photovoltaic solar and wind question. I'd also point to this source. There's disagreement over what the EROEI of most of these is, but there's no serious argument that they aren't greater than 1.

comment by MrMind · 2015-03-31T10:06:55.816Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

META

See this for the dates not covering the entire week.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-04T10:10:37.708Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It will be worse for ems. It's still possible to do simulated identity for the fun of it now.

comment by higurashimerlin · 2015-04-01T18:31:45.964Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone know how long will it take for uploading to be possible? We don't have the computing power to simulate the uploaded brain but if you have the patterns you can be restore sooner or later. What about other ways to restore the upload such as altering an existing brain?

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-03-31T21:42:39.654Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm considering to make a poll post for value judgements. Questions would include the trolly one, comparison of saving a human life vs. 10, 1000, a million animals (of differnent kinds) and others. has this been done? Where? Do you have recommendations for such?

I googled for empirical ethics but didn't turn up anything that asking for value judgements online. Do you know anything about this?

My interest was spurred by a discussion that left this part out. My motivation is mainly to get some (non-representative) sample of such value judgements. Could be interesting for limits on the breath of the complexity of value question.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-01T12:23:58.354Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's the World Value survey: http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/wvs.jsp

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-04-01T13:51:12.924Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting site. And interesting map: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inglehart%E2%80%93Welzel_cultural_map_of_the_world I wouldn't have expected such a clustering.

The questions asked in that surveys include only a small fraction of the ethical decisions I have in mind. Some which ask for specific choices are included e.g. the sections "Justified: " and "Would not like to have as neighbors: ".

But actually I didn't mean an online viewer for results but and online survey.

comment by Gondolinian · 2015-04-02T16:37:42.962Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

[META]

MrMind, I'm just letting you know that I'd be happy to take over posting the majority of OTs in case you ever want a break. To be honest, I'm interested in the karma, but I can get karma elsewhere, and I definitely don't want to feel like I'm taking yours. (Also, it was rude of me before to post OTs without checking with you.) If you think our preferences are approximately equal, perhaps we could try posting on alternate weeks or something like that?

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-03-31T22:16:16.767Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

On the quality and enjoyability of elementary school:

"Money in the future should not obscure well-being in the present."

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T11:10:25.118Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I get completely confused by these individualistic attitudes. Are they really that widespread in America? “Ready? Ready for what? Ready to make something of themselves." So it is for their own sake? I am more used to attitudes that education is not ultimately about something for the benefit of the student, but more like something for the benefit of a society, of a nation, to form people who serve it well, who contribute well to it, who are, if I want to put it brutally, useful assets of the state, or less brutally, contributing members of society. So I am more used to explanations like "you must learn this in order to fulfill your social duties better" than explanations like "it gives you a leg up".

But the funny part is that in both cases they essentially teach the same things! All these individualistic leg-up schools still don't teach personal finance and my social-duty schools don't or hardly teach ethics or first aid or basic military stuff.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-01T18:23:02.947Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But the funny part is that in both cases they essentially teach the same things! All these individualistic leg-up schools still don't teach personal finance and my social-duty schools don't or hardly teach ethics or first aid or

The problem with teaching ethics is that most well intentioned attempts at teaching ethics don't do much.

basic military stuff.

Why should it be good for society if the average student learns military stuff?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-02T07:58:19.177Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why should it be good for society if the average student learns military stuff?

Let's put it it this way: a culture that either still has or only recently eliminated conscription would see it as a good thing to be a bit prepared for that.

The problem with teaching ethics is that most well intentioned attempts at teaching ethics don't do much.

Don't help much with instinctive decision-making, but there are other things, such as long-term planning.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-02T08:13:31.014Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Let's put it it this way: a culture that either still has or only recently eliminated conscription would see it as a good thing to be a bit prepared for that.

Training people with guns has effects that go beyond just being useful in the case of war.

Don't help much with instinctive decision-making, but there are other things, such as long-term planning.

How do ethic courses help with long-term planning?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-02T09:49:27.596Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am confused how even guns come here. I hope you don't imagine a military as a hunter band where personal weapons are the most important aspect. Rather it is largely about installing a hivemind, overcoming chaos and what I had in mind is scout / pioneer kind of stuff which can be seen as a premilitary.

How do ethic courses help with long-term planning?

Such as choosing professions for prestige vs. social utility / altruism value. Even though ethics courses cannot override instinctive feelings they ought to have an effect on carefully thought out plans like this. If you spend hours and hours wondering whether pimping around an BMW X7 should be one of your long-time goals or not, perhaps something a teacher said about zero-sum goals may have an effect.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-02T13:37:54.869Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Even though ethics courses cannot override instinctive feelings they ought to have an effect on carefully thought out plans like this.

Why?

If you spend hours and hours wondering whether pimping around an BMW X7 should be one of your long-time goals or not, perhaps something a teacher said about zero-sum goals may have an effect.

Did you change anyone's plans considering buying a BMW X7 by telling them about zero-sum games?

comment by drethelin · 2015-04-05T19:49:27.634Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Just because a game is zero sum in total does not make it irrational for an individual to compete. That in fact is the big problem.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-01T16:40:37.199Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Are they really that widespread in America?

Compared to Germany (and, probably, Austria), yes.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-03-31T15:09:11.477Z · score: -4 (28 votes) · LW · GW

No doubt this post will drop into downvoted oblivion. But I would like to explore the following, for personal reasons:

Have you ever used the services of a legal prostitute, like the ones who operate in bordellos in some Nevada counties? Did you have your sexual debut with a legal prostitute because you couldn’t make it happen in your organic social situation while growing up, for example, with girls you knew in high school or college? And did that experience somehow make it easier to develop the skills for having sexual relationships with women through dating? Or does it still leave you relatively incompetent in that area because prostitutes don’t really solve the sex problem you thought you had?

I don’t know of any research into this. But then professional sex researchers in general seem strangely incurious about the problems of sexually inexperienced and excluded adult men, judging from the absence of this topic in the recently published Human Sexuality 101 textbooks I’ve seen.

BTW, I find it interesting that over a decade ago, Eliezer described himself in a news story as a “volunteer virgin,” though he has since become sexually active. That implies he had opportunities for sexual relationships that he had simply declined until something happened to change his mind about pursuing them. Perhaps he realized that sexual experience would elevate his “armor class” in the male status hierarchy. It would also improve his social relationships with women in other areas; women can pick up on the “tells,” as Texas Hold’em players call them, of sexually inexperienced men, and they tend not to respect them.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-03-31T18:07:15.263Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

No doubt this post will drop into downvoted oblivion.

If posts on certain topics are getting downvoted repeatedly, maybe it may make sense to pay attention to that feedback that the community is either not interested in the subjects in question or strongly objects to the presentation of the posts in question.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T10:54:19.039Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

No doubt this post will drop into downvoted oblivion.

This is a rhethorical move IMHO. It's like when you say "I know it is a stupid question, but " then everybody expects something really bad, and in comparison finds your question not so stupid at all. Lowering expectations.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-04-01T12:12:49.254Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Possible. But a number of the users comments have been actually downvoted to oblivion.

comment by seer · 2015-04-02T04:13:57.537Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Has Villiam, or whoever is in charge now, investigated this?

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-04-02T13:08:43.843Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This is almost certainly not something that merits investigation. Many different users have expressed that the posts are posts that have issues, and the posts have clearly gained their negative votes over a long time period. This isn't votebombing or the like, this is the Karma system doing what it is supposed to.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-02T15:24:57.617Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm the current moderator.

Individual posts or comments getting a lot of downvotes isn't something I investigate. It's vague, but if there's a suspicious pattern of receiving downvotes-- particularly if a person's karma is dropping fast for no apparent reason, that's what I look into.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-03-31T15:31:22.369Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps he realized that sexual experience would elevate his “armor class” in the male status hierarchy.

Yes, sure, that's the #1 reason why people date.

comment by sediment · 2015-03-31T17:56:43.803Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ambiguous between sarcasm and sincerity :(

comment by bbleeker · 2015-04-01T18:05:09.238Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say it's 100% pure, unadulterated sarcasm.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-03-31T16:14:59.522Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If you ask the question for personal reasons, is interacting sexually really the most relevant skill you are lacking? From what I read from you it seems like you don't have the ability to have a simple friendship with a woman. As long as you lack those skills any focus on sexuality is unlikely to yield much.

BTW, I find it interesting that over a decade ago, Eliezer described himself in a news story as a “volunteer virgin,” though he has since become sexually active.

In general drawing a lot of information out of such a statement in a news story is a bad idea. You have little idea about the context of the conversation between the journalist and Eliezer when Eliezer used the term “volunteer virgin”.

That implies he had opportunities for sexual relationships that he had simply declined until something happened to change his mind about pursuing them.

"Simply" is very likely wrong. Declining opportunities for sexual relationships is seldom simple and accepting them isn't either. Both are complicated.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-03-31T16:33:49.923Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

"Simply" is very likely wrong. Declining opportunities for sexual relationships is seldom simple and accepting them isn't either. Both are complicated.

Eh. All of the opportunities for sexual relationships that I've declined have been for reasons that seemed simple to me. But that may be because I'm unpacking "simple" as "easily comprehensible" instead of "easily communicable."

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T02:58:45.086Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Having a friendship and a relationship are incredibly different but overlapping skillsets. If you simply set out to be very good friends with woman, but not have sexual relationships, you'd probably learn a lot of bad habits you'd have to unlearn when you decided you wanted to have a physical relationship.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-03-31T16:46:21.369Z · score: -4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Declining opportunities for sexual relationships is seldom simple

LOL. Really? Listen to Nancy Reagan and "Just say NO" :-)

comment by shminux · 2015-03-31T15:20:52.167Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Dan Savage encouraged straight up paying for sex if you have trouble getting it the usual way. Also, sex surrogate services are available for those in need. The problem is the unfulfilled need for emotional intimacy and companionship, which are not currently easy to purchase or rent.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-03-31T16:27:36.011Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, I suspect that if the person in question has reasonable looks and is willing to be somewhat submissive, he can get a certain type of women to pay him for the privilege of teaching him sex :-)

which are not currently easy to purchase

I think they are not hard to purchase, the problem is that they are REALLY expensive :-/

comment by knb · 2015-03-31T20:39:46.215Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Did you have your sexual debut with a legal prostitute because you couldn’t make it happen in your organic social situation while growing up, for example, with girls you knew in high school or college? And did that experience somehow make it easier to develop the skills for having sexual relationships with women through dating?

It seems likely that a virgin male who patronizes prostitutes will wind up with an unhealthy transactional (rather than relational) attitude toward women. If anything, I would expect hiring prostitutes to exacerbate the john's relationship failures.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T11:04:35.351Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It's complicated. A lot of virgin guys have pedestalizing attitudes, and it means they are alredy transactional AND think the price to pay for the transaction is enormous, like you must be a world-champion hero and bring her the Moon for birthday to deserve her attraction. This is very visible on how many virgin guys fall over themselves to try to give favors to hot girls in order to try to win their attraction that way: they really think a man must work his butt off to earn the attraction of a woman, and that is a transactional attitude, and with a very high price.

Lowering the transaction price can be a step in the right direction, it can remove the pedestal and put them on more of an equal footing, basically it can replace the imagined goddess to be worshipped that lives in the virgin guys mind with a mere human, and that can make in his mind women more relatable and thus more able to form relationships.

After all the man is used to whoring out everything that is valuable in himself anyway (work, intelligence, creativity, muscles, shoulder to cry on etc.) so prostitution can be how a woman becomes relatable for men, it can create a more equal footing and thus a higher chance to form relationships.

However it is nowhere sure to cause this, it can easily confuse people by getting completely contradictionary signals (s.x with a hot woman not very valuable but her real attraction very valuable as a source of validation).

comment by knb · 2015-04-01T20:03:07.891Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I want to emphasize that a transactional attitude toward relationships is itself inherently pathological. Someone with this attitude will always either feel resentful that they aren't getting a better "deal" in the relationship or anxiety that the other person feels that way about them.

It's complicated. A lot of virgin guys have pedestalizing attitudes, and it means they are alredy transactional AND think the price to pay for the transaction is enormous, like you must be a world-champion hero and bring her the Moon for birthday to deserve her attraction.

I don't think this is really the problem for many long-term male virgins. Really, emphasizing the virginity aspect is a mistake in itself. If you're forming stable romantic relationships, sex happens. It's a secondary effect. A 25 year old virgin's real problem is not that he isn't having sex, it's that he's not forming stable romantic relationships which are consequences of normal social/psychological development. Patronizing a prostitute or trying to seduce a girl in a nightclub isn't going to solve the underlying problem that has prevented him from normal social/psychological development. I think likely it will feed into the bitterness and futility they feel.

Mostly, the "pedestal" concept is part of a self-serving narrative that a lot of men who are suffering from social failures find appealing. They tell themselves their problem is that they are to respectful and nice to women, and women are cruelly victimizing them for that. This seems to be a completely pathological attitude.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-04-02T07:16:58.127Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A 25 year old virgin's real problem is not that he isn't having sex, it's that he's not forming stable romantic relationships which are consequences of normal social/psychological development. Patronizing a prostitute or trying to seduce a girl in a nightclub isn't going to solve the underlying problem that has prevented him from normal social/psychological development.

Well, it's complicated. There are several different problems that lead to one being a 25 year-old virgin and what works in one case need not work in another. Sex surrogates are a thing and have been used to help people overcome certain inhibitions and anxieties. I have heard anecdotes of some people getting a similar benefit from prostitution. On the other hand, others have expressed regret at stooping to prostitution. Caveat emptor.

Some people have more fundamental social problems or harbor toxic attitudes and for them it's not likely to work.

Mostly, the "pedestal" concept is part of a self-serving narrative that a lot of men who are suffering from social failures find appealing. They tell themselves their problem is that they are to respectful and nice to women, and women are cruelly victimizing them for that.

I think you're mixing it up with Nice Guy syndrome. The pedestal concept is the observation that a lot of these men have an unrealistic view of women as pure, virtuous beings, which ends up inhibiting their ability to form meaningful relationships.

This seems to be a completely pathological attitude.

Honestly, it's hard for a virgin in his 20s to develop a non-pathological attitude without stumbling upon it through pure chance. What attitude he does develop is born of inexperience and distorted by the lens of whatever problem led to him remaining a virgin in the first place.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-14T09:14:21.245Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is there some further info about the concept of "transactional attitudes in relationships" ? I tried to google it, little avail. I would like to know more about it, because IMHO some amount of transactionality is inherent (even in friendships, people will not give forever without getting anything in return), and it sort of makes sense from the different libido of the two genders that the major exchange is women giving sex, men giving something else, but probably too much short-termist attitude in that (expecting instant repayment instead of an ongoing mutual happiness goal with both getting what they want) is probably indeed unhealthy, but it would be good to have something more than opinions on it. At least a detailed analysis. My hunch is that only martyrs can be 100% non-transactional so it is probably something about flexibility and time-frame.

Interestingly, googling transactional vs. relational brings seemingly unrelated results, it is about how businesses can treat customers.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T10:50:21.528Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

So I know a neighbor of a neighbor who was once high on grass in Amsterdam where the ladies sit in shop windows and gave it a try. He said despite that said substance is a known aphrodisiac and despite she was hot, seriously kind and sweet, and eager to please, it is not good at all because due to the lack of love or lack of real attraction on her part - despite faking it - it was very much like doing a warm lifelike rubber doll. However this neighbor of a neighbor have never really had very high libido so it should be compared to him being "moderately pleased" 6/10 with normal intercourses and 3/10 with it.

However, this neighbor of a neighbor also learned that s.x with a hot body in and of itself is not a valuable thing, you can buy it for roughly the same price for twenty mins as a hotel room for a night, so you don't put the p..y on a pedestal, you don't worship it, and you are no longer scared by hot women as such.

However, this neighbor of a neighbor also learned that compared to how worthless s.x is, the love of a woman and the loving s.x or s.x with real attraction on the womans part is incredibly valuable and well deserves being put on a pedestal. Love is obvious enough and even not loving attraction on her part is valuable because it gives the man validation.

As a result, this neighbor's neighbor's feelings about hot women got kind of confused. After the encounter, he did not value s.x itself as a highly valuable and pedestal-worthy commodity, but he still valued the attraction of a hot woman and the kind of validation of she offering s.x for free because she finds the man hot highly valuable, and of course love too.

He also started wondering if this is how women tend to think about it too.

This neighbor of a neighbor spent years trying to figure it out, with fairly low motivation to chase women.

He ended up saying to the hell with it, let's find a smart and funny and kind and really loveable-as-a-person woman and fall in love with each others brain and person, even if she does not look very hot, and there will be the occasional s.x too but it is not really a high priority aspect of the relationship.

comment by kingmaker · 2015-03-31T15:58:40.404Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I love the way that advancedatheist assumes that we're all guys. That, or lesbians.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-03-31T15:21:49.484Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Have you ever

These aren't really questions, are they? Any more than that was.

comment by Xerographica · 2015-04-01T09:49:54.606Z · score: -13 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Right now I have -126 Karma!!! w00t! And... screw all you all! Except for that one guy who likes orchids. He's cool.

Feel tempted to downvote this? Might want to think twice because... Data Mining Reveals How The “Down-Vote” Leads To A Vicious Circle Of Negative Feedback.

Therefore, you're irrational if you downvote this. Maybe it's because you've been mind-killed by politics?

Is economics also a mind killer? Perhaps that would explain what happened to me. Because I'm all about the economics... Let a thousand markets bloom.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T10:21:28.252Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

...I'm not a guy.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-01T11:22:11.228Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I used to have about 20 accounts on Reddit (serially, not paralelly) before I got bored of it. Just a thought. No point in being too attached to a nickname, easy to start over. That is why I chose my current one from a popular story. Easy to discard if too unpopular.