Open Thread, Apr. 27 - May 3, 2015

post by Gondolinian · 2015-04-27T00:18:11.426Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 354 comments

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


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354 comments

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comment by DataPacRat · 2015-04-27T01:18:34.230Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Still More to the Prisoner's Dilemma

After reading http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/05/16/1206569109.full.pdf+html , the detail that's caught my attention: "The player with the shortest memory sets the terms of the game." If a strategy remembers 0 turns, and simply Always Cooperates, or Always Defects, or randomly chooses between them, then no matter how clever its opponent might be, it can't do any better than by acting as if it were also a Memory-0 strategy. Tit-for-Tat is a Memory-1 strategy - and despite all the analysis that I've read on it before, I now see it from a new perspective, in that it's one of the few Memory-1 strategies that gracefully falls back to the appropriate Memory-0 strategy when faced with All-C or All-D... and any strategy which tries to implement a more complicated scheme based on longer strings is faced with the fact that Tit-for-Tat simply doesn't remember anything beyond a single turn.

I would like to see if this perspective can be extended to a Memory-2 strategy that falls gracefully back to appropriate Memory-1 strategies such as Tit-for-Tat when faced with Memory-1 strategies, and like Tit-for-Tat, to a suitable Memory-0 strategy when faced with Memory-0 ones.

Does anyone have a link to a suitable set of programs to run some experimental tourneys, and instructions on how to apply them? (If it matters, the OSes I have available are WinXP and Fedora 21.)

comment by Manfred · 2015-04-27T03:57:50.313Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

This is a neat question, but I think programs being successful is not really about gracefully going down a hierarchy. For example, Tit-for-Tat does not take the correct strategy against always-cooperate (If your opponent is always cooperating, you say thank you and always defect). Tit-for-Tat succeeds for much more ecological reasons. I'd say bigger-memory versions of Tit-for-Tat are going to be something like the class of "peaceful, non-exploitable" strategies. Such strategies are not going to be the first to defect, which means they actually don't get that much information about their opponent. I think the lesson of iterated prisoners dilemmas is that you don't need that information anyhow, as long as your strategy occupies a good ecological niche.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-04-27T05:53:25.004Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

There's still some subtlety here. A Memory-0 strategy picks C with probability p and D with probability q, independent of any past results. If you know p and q, you can devise a strategy to optimize your score. The result in the paper is that this new strategy is Memory-0 and that you can't do better by increasing your memory.

The advantage of a longer memory is that, given enough iterations, you can get a good approximation for p and q and so deduce the appropriate Memory-0 strategy. Something like Tit-for-Tat is devised to basically get the same score as its opponent (the opponent can get an advantage of one defection). It's not going to do worse than any individual opponent, but neither is it going to do better. A strategy that remembers the entire game can recognize, say, All-C and exploit it by defecting, which Tit-for-Tat can't do.

A Memory-1 strategy is one where p and q are functions of the previous round. In general, they'll depend both on what it did last round and what the opponent did last round. There are four possible results (C-C, C-D, D-C, D-D), which means that the strategy will have up to four distinct probabilities for cooperation next round. If you can learn those, you can come up with the optimal strategy for playing against it. This strategy can be modeled as a Memory-1 strategy.

The big difference, I think, is that having a longer memory is helpful if you're in a diverse environment. In any individual game, there's always a strategy with a shorter memory that will do as well as yours. However, the same short-memory strategy will not be optimal against every opponent, while you can use your longer memory to devise the best short-memory strategy for a given match.

comment by ReevesAnd · 2015-04-29T19:19:16.777Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

[Tit for Tat is] one of the few Memory-1 strategies that gracefully falls back to the appropriate Memory-0 strategy when faced with All-C or All-D.

I am not clear on how this is the case. It seems to me that the appropriate strategy when faced with any Memory-0 strategy is to go All-D, since your defections would optimize your own score while having no influence on the future behavior of your opponent. Tit for Tat does not default to All-D unless the opponent is All-D.

comment by DataPacRat · 2015-04-30T20:11:36.590Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

All-D is the /optimal/ strategy for Memory-0 - but if your goal for Memory-0 interactions is merely to avoid getting the Sucker's payoff, and /also/ to be able to deal with Memory-1 strategies, then defaulting to All-C versus All-C isn't that bad a compromise.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-04-27T17:07:51.500Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I managed to get my Bayes RPG into such a state that, although it still isn't that interesting as a game, it's moderately entertaining for a brief while until you master it, and seems like it should produce some actual learning.

I had this game as my MSc thesis topic as a way to force myself to work on the game, but I'm now finally starting to get to the point where a) working on it is fun enough that I don't need an external motivator b) I'd like to actually graduate. So I'll take what I have so far, run it to a bunch of test subjects, see if they learn anything, and write up the results in my thesis. Then I'll continue working on the game on my spare time.

But I'd like to do the empirical part of the thesis properly. Since LW has a bunch of people who know a lot about statistics, I'd like to ask LW: what kinds of statistical tests would be most appropriate for measuring the results?

To elaborate more on the test setup. I expect to go with the standard approach: have some task that measures understanding of something that we want the game to teach, and split people into an intervention group and control group. Have them complete the task first, dropping anyone who does too well in this pre-test, and then carry out the intervention (i.e. either have them play the game or do some "placebo" task, depending on their group). Then have them re-do a new version of the original task and see whether the intervention group has improved more than the controls have.

I don't want to elaborate too much on what tasks we'll give to the subjects, in case I'll recruit someone reading this to be one of my test subjects. But you can expect the standard mammography/cancer thing to be there, since it's such a classic in the literature, though it's not the thing that I'd expect the game's current state to be the most successful at teaching. There will also be a task on a subject I do expect the game to currently be good at teaching. Then there will be one task that I'd expect to have a bimodal distribution in whether or not the game improves it, since the game doesn't force you to pay attention to it. I'd expect some types of players to pay attention to it with others ignoring it.

Additionally I'd like to test things like:

  • giving the players a relatively challenging in-game goal and see whether the completion of that challenge correlates with learning results
  • ask all the players to play for at least X minutes but optionally allow them to play for longer, see whether the amount of time spent playing has any connection to the learning results
  • after playing the game, have the players rate the game on some likert-like scales on questions like whether they enjoyed the game, whether it was too easy or too hard, whether they'd like to play it again, etc. Again look to see if the correlations might be as expected.

So, what statistical tests to use here? I don't actually have much experience with statistics. I guess that the naive approach would be to use some (which?) form of ANOVA to test whether the means of pre-test, control intervention, and game intervention populations are the same. And then just do Spearman's correlation between every numerical item that I've collected and see whether any statistically significant items pop up. Is that fine? Neither of those tests is going to pick up on the hypothesized bimodal distribution in the improvement in one of the tasks, but I might not bother with digging too deeply into that.

Also, how do I set the threshold for how good of a performance in the pre-test indicates that the subject already knows this too well to learn anything, and should thus be ignored in the analysis? Or should I even do that in the first place?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-28T10:15:43.387Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Typical analysis of the basic design you described is often something like a mixed 2×2 factorial design: which test (pre- / post-test, within subjects) × intervention (yes/no, between subjects) - the interaction term being evidence for effects of intervention (greater increase between pre- and post- test in intervention condition). Often analysed using ANOVA (participants as random effect), nonparametric equivalents may be more appropriate.

More complex models are also very appropriate, e.g., adding question type as a factor/predictor rather than treating the different questions as separate dependent variables: this would provide indications of whether improvement after intervention differs for the question types, as you've predicted. This doesn't give you clues about bimodality but at least allows you to more directly test your predictions about relative degree of improvement (if the intervention works).

Correlations between your different dependent measures: feel free by all means - but make sure you examine the characteristics of the distributions rather than just zooming ahead with a matrix of correlation coefficients. And be aware of the multiple comparisons problem, Type I error is very likely.

Excluding participants on the basis of overly high performance in pretest is appropriate. If possible I suggest setting this criterion before formal testing (even an educated guess is appropriate as this doesn't harm the conclusions you can draw: it can be justified as leaving room for improvement if the intervention works) - or at the very least do this before analysing anything else of the participant's performance to avoid biasing your decision about setting the threshold.

... don't want to elaborate too much on what tasks we'll give to the subjects, in case I'll recruit someone reading this to be one of my test subjects.

I'm afraid you've said too much already - and if you're looking for people who are naive about the principles involved, LW is probably not a great place for recruiting anyway.

please feel free to private message me if you'd like clarification of what I've posted - this sort of thing is very much part of my day job.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-04-29T09:01:21.287Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks a lot!

I'm afraid you've said too much already

Could you elaborate on that? Something like "so we're going to test the impact of traditional instruction versus this prototype educational game on your ability to do these tasks" is what I'd have expected to say to the test subjects anyway, and that's mostly the content of what I said here. (Though I do admit that the bit about expecting a bimodal distribution depending on whether or not the subjects pay attention to something was a bit of an unnecessary tipoff here.)

In particular, I expect to have a tradeoff - I can tell people even less than that, and get a much smaller group of testers. Or I can tell people that I've gotten the game I've been working on to a very early prototype stage and am now looking for testers, and advertise that on e.g. LW, and get a much bigger group of test subjects.

and if you're looking for people who are naive about the principles involved, LW is probably not a great place for recruiting anyway.

It's true that LW-people are much more likely to be able to e.g. solve the mammography example already, but I'd still expect most users to be relatively unfamiliar with the technicalities of causal networks - I was too, until embarking on this project.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-29T11:57:45.907Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was thinking more about your previous posts on the subject (your development of the game and some of the ideas behind it). The same general reason I'd avoid testing people from my extended lab network, who may not know any details of a current study but have a sufficiently clear impression of what I'm interested in to potentially influence the outcomes (whether intentionally, "helping me out", or implicitly).

When rolling it out for testing, you could always include a post-test which probes people's previous experience (e.g. what they knew in advance about your work & the ideas behind it) & exclude people who report that they know "too much" about the motivations of the study. Could even prompt for some info about LW participation, could also be used to mitigate this issue (especially if you end up with decent samples both in and outside LW).

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-05-01T18:07:42.984Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, that's a good point. And a good suggestion, too.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-04-29T09:35:58.543Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

what kinds of statistical tests would be most appropriate for measuring the results?

What question about your game and learning math/probability are you trying to answer?


If you want "an effect" you want a comparison of two arms. But you can only have one arm have an intervention, and the other just be the baseline arm with no treatment at all (or just the 'background treatment' of being a college undergraduate). For example, you can take a set of undergrads, and advertise that you are testing probability aptitude or something, and then the control arm just gets the test, while the test arm gets your game and the test afterwards.

I don't know about your advisor, but I would accept a study like that.


I always found it slightly puzzling that LW folks who get into practical data analysis start with F methods, and not B. Isn't B kind of a LW "thing?"


Starting to think about measuring results via ANOVA et al is, to me, starting at the wrong level of abstraction (I realize I may differ on this from a lot of statisticians). For example, ANOVA can test for the null. What does that null mean? Well, you are interested in some causal effect. Maybe this: E[test result | assigned to game] - E[test result | baseline undergrad].

Or maybe you give them a questionaire first, and learn how much math they have had (or even what particular classes). Maybe you want to actually look at an effect conditional on math preparation level. Does your game possibly have an 'interaction' with background math sophistication level? Then you need to model that. Then maybe if you decide on the model, you decide for how to test for the null. Or maybe you don't want the null, but the size of the effect itself. etc. etc.

You think about what you want first, the stats technique afterwards.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-05-08T15:38:32.305Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What question about your game and learning math/probability are you trying to answer?

Mostly 1) do the players actually learn anything that would transfer outside the immediate game 2) how much (if at all) things like their enjoyment affect whether they learn

If you want "an effect" you want a comparison of two arms. But you can only have one arm have an intervention, and the other just be the baseline arm with no treatment at all (or just the 'background treatment' of being a college undergraduate). For example, you can take a set of undergrads, and advertise that you are testing probability aptitude or something, and then the control arm just gets the test, while the test arm gets your game and the test afterwards.

Thanks! Isn't "undergrads with only the test vs. undergrads with the game and then the test" kinda the same as "undergrads with only test vs. undergrads after the pretest and the game", though?

I always found it slightly puzzling that LW folks who get into practical data analysis start with F methods, and not B. Isn't B kind of a LW "thing?"

F is what we've been taught, and what most of our supervisors understand. I'm not really familiar with B stats.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-04-27T17:51:15.781Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Additionally, I'm a little worried about the control group part. I expect it's relatively easy to recruit people to play a game and have them be motivated to play it, but if I tell people that "oh, but you may be randomly assigned to the control condition where you're given more traditional math instruction instead", I expect that that will drop participation. And even the people who do show up regardless may not be particularly motivated to actually work on the problems if they do get assigned to the control condition, especially given that I'm hoping to also educate people who'd usually avoid maths. How insane would it be to just not have a control group?

comment by TylerJay · 2015-04-27T23:17:03.619Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

How insane would it be to just not have a control group?

Pretty insane in my opinion. I can't imagine anything I would grade more harshly than not having a control except ethics violations.

Besides, don't most university psychology experiments with volunteers keep the protocol secret throughout the whole experiment and then debrief at the end? (Or sometimes even lie about the protocol to avoid skewing the results?)

Alternatively, have you thought about doing a crossover-style design?

Take group A and group B. Group A plays your game, and then takes the test. Group B either just takes the test or goes through some traditional education lesson (or whatever else you want for your control) and then takes the test. Next, group A does the traditional education, group B does the game, and both take part 2 of the test.

That way, everyone gets to play the game at least, though it means they're there for twice as long. Do you think you could pitch this in a way that is better than the "Maybe you play a game, maybe you don't" option?

You could potentially derive additional research value from this as well. If group A does better on Test Part 2, then your game would be shown to be a better way of acclimating people to traditional education on the subject or something like that (I'm sure you can draw a better conclusion or phrase this better).

Just some thoughts. Also, make sure you write up a grading rubric ahead of time (or ideally, have someone else do it) and then have someone who knows nothing (or as little as possible) about the experiment (and especially the subjects) grade the answers to avoid researcher bias.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-04-28T06:43:00.206Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Pretty insane in my opinion. I can't imagine anything I would grade more harshly than not having a control except ethics violations.

I think there might be reasonable theoretical grounds for it in this case, though? If I was testing say a medical treatment or self-help technique, then yes, there should absolutely be a control group since some people might get better on their own or just do better for a while because the self-help technique gave them extra confidence.

But suppose I give people a pre-test, have them play for some minimum time, and then fill out the post-test when they're done. I don't see much in the way for random chance to confound things here: either they know the things needed for solving the tasks, or they don't. If they didn't know enough to solve the problems on the first try, they're not going to suddenly acquire that knowledge in between.

Besides, don't most university psychology experiments with volunteers keep the protocol secret throughout the whole experiment and then debrief at the end?

To some extent, but usually they still give some brief description of it beforehand, to attract people.

Alternatively, have you thought about doing a crossover-style design?

That's a good idea, thanks.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-28T10:29:16.120Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

But suppose I give people a pre-test, have them play for some minimum time, and then fill out the post-test when they're done. I don't see much in the way for random chance to confound things here: either they know the things needed for solving the tasks, or they don't. If they didn't know enough to solve the problems on the first try, they're not going to suddenly acquire that knowledge in between.

If I get a problem I can't solve I can Google afterwards and read about how to solve the problem. Even if you lock me in a dark room, there the possibility that I recover forgotten knowledge if you give my brain a few hours.

The pretest itself also provides practice. You need a control group, but it would be possible to give the control group nothing to do.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-27T21:57:20.499Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"Traditional math instruction" isn't the only possible control. I don't even think that you need to prove that your game is better than "Traditional math instruction". You could simply take any other game that includes a bit of math as control.

Maybe the Credence game.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-04-28T07:37:28.074Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Nice idea, thanks.

comment by afeller08 · 2015-04-28T07:02:21.498Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If I were designing the experiment, I would have the control group be to play a different game instead of having it be maths instructions.

You generally don't want test subjects to know whether they are in the control condition or not. So if you're going to make it be maths instructions, you probably shouldn't tell them what the experiment is designed to test at all, until you're debriefing at the end. If you tell people you are recruiting that you are testing the effects of playing computer games on statistical reasoning, then the people in the control condition won't need to realize that what you're really testing is whether your RPG in particular helps people think about statistics. They can just play HalfLife 2 or whatever you pick for them to play for a few minutes, and then take your tests afterwards.

comment by GuySrinivasan · 2015-04-27T18:17:21.635Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have access to units of caring?

Are you trying to gain knowledge, get a piece of paper, both, one as a side effect of another?

"actually graduate" versus "see if they learn anything" might hugely inform your process. Off-the-cuff I'm guessing you want to actually graduate first with hopes of nice learning side effects, then see if they learn anything via something that takes longer.

Also a consideration: 3+ arms. Instruction game, instruction non-game, and non-instruction game. Also possibly non-instruction non-game.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-04-27T18:36:14.820Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have access to units of caring?

To some limited extent.

Off-the-cuff I'm guessing you want to actually graduate first with hopes of nice learning side effects, then see if they learn anything via something that takes longer.

Correct.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-28T09:54:42.609Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you didn't have any control group, you wouldn't be able to interpret any improvement between pretest and posttest, if you observed such a pattern: repetition or practice effects could explain any improvement. If you observed no improvement, you wouldn't need a control group because there's no effect to be explained.

Sometimes exploratory methods start out with no-control group pilots just to see if a method is potentially promising (if no hints of effects, don't invest a lot of resources in trying to set up a proper study).

Sometimes studies like this are set up with multiple control groups to address specific concerns that may apply to individual control conditions. Here it seems like two would be the minimum: one in which participants play a different game that is expected to confer no benefit for learning; and another with some kind of more traditional instruction.

In cases like this, recruitment is usually very vague - giving participants a realistic impression of the kinds of tasks they will be asked to do, and definitely no indications about who is assigned to a "control" group.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-27T18:01:41.546Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How insane would it be to just not have a control group?

So, there is this blog/forum which tries to teach people rationality! and science! and proper ways to solve problems! It even hopes to raise the sanity waterline.

And then "oh, but it's inconvenient..." X-/

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-04-27T18:38:50.333Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There's the extent to which I'm willing to go to raise the sanity waterline, and then there's the extent to which I'm willing to go for the sake of possibly improving my grade on a work whose final grade nobody will really ever care about.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-28T10:31:11.891Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's the extent to which I'm willing to go to raise the sanity waterline, and then there's the extent to which I'm willing to go for the sake of possibly improving my grade on a work whose final grade nobody will really ever care about.

That might not be the most productive mindset. If you show that your game works at teaching Bayes, I would expect people to refer to your thesis from time to time.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-27T18:47:36.380Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In this case I don't quite understand what are you asking.

LW is unlikely to know whether your adviser / committee will consider the absence of a control group acceptable enough for this project.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-04-28T07:51:43.771Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You're right, I wasn't very clear on my objectives. Also, my previous comment was needlessly snarky, for which I apologize.

To be honest, I'm not very sure of what I want, myself. I have reason to believe that they'll consider it acceptable regardless of whether there's a control group or not (this being the CS department and not the psych one), so that's not actually an issue. And I've got some desire to do things "properly", for its own sake, and also because it might be fun to do this well enough to turn it into a real publication. But I'm also swamped with a bunch of other stuff and don't have a chance to spend too much effort on this.

So, I guess I dunno what I'm asking, myself.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-28T10:32:34.201Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

To be honest, I'm not very sure of what I want, myself. I have reason to believe that they'll consider it acceptable regardless of whether there's a control group or not (this being the CS department and not the psych one)

How about going to the office hours of a professor in the psychology department and ask them for advice on how to run your study?

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-04-29T09:15:31.748Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Your question made me go d'oh, in that I suddenly remembered that there's an obvious place right nearby to ask help from, both for designing the study and recruiting test subjects. I'll talk with them, thanks.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-28T10:21:05.661Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Speaking very practically - who will be marking/grading your project?

If psychologists aren't going to be looking at it, it's surely going to be fine to do the intervention as best you can and then discuss implications and limitations (including need for control group) in whatever you have to write up. It's not going to be publishable but then you can deal with that later, depending on your circumstances this would probably mean re-doing the study with random assignment to conditions, starting with your project study as a pilot/proof of concept.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-04-29T09:04:38.175Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's going to be graded by computer scientists, so yeah, I can get away with a less rigorous protocol than what psychologists would insist on. (And then collaborate with actual psychologists with more resources later on.)

comment by RowanE · 2015-04-28T03:46:15.929Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I sometimes come across an interesting scientific paper where the study being done seems easy and/or low-budget enough to make me think "hey, I could do that" (on this occasion, this paper on theanine levels in tea, which I skimmed too quickly the first time to notice that they used big, proper and presumably expensive lab equipment to measure it because I was reading it for practical reasons (reading about modafinil amplifying the side-effects of caffeine, while beginning an all-nighter powered by those chemicals)), and to me there's a strong "coolness factor" to being someone who's published real research, especially if that also means a finite Erdos number. How easy/difficult is it to become author or co-author of a scientific paper as an amateur, given that you're trying to actually accomplish something and not munchkin for "get my name published as easily as possible"?

Unrelatedly, I'm pretty sure posting under the influence of caffeine and modafinil is a terrible idea for me. I just spent two hours writing and re-writing that question, and I'm only stopping now because I'm giving up on trying to get it right. That's only exacerbating a tendency I already have, but damn.

comment by drethelin · 2015-04-28T19:21:28.197Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sounds like you should take more l-theanine to mitigate that effect

comment by RowanE · 2015-04-29T04:52:34.260Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would have, but I take tea with milk and the cup I had after reading that paper (to check decaf tea still had theanine at all) used up the last of it.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-04-29T23:42:13.019Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As someone who is published, I can tell you that it depends entirely on the field. One possibility is obtaining data from other people and analyzing it in new ways. There are many free public sources of data, and a lot of researchers will share old data sitting on their hard drives if they think it could result in publications. Off the top of my head, genomics, bioinformatics, microscopy, medical imaging/radiology, and biometrics are all fields where there is a glut of data and people would gladly welcome new, more powerful analysis tools and procedures.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-04-28T19:26:50.234Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What kind of research do you want to do?

comment by RowanE · 2015-04-29T05:15:40.979Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The feelings that are motivating it aren't really specific to any field, so I suppose it's "any research I could plausibly do as an amateur without spending too much resources on it". I'm not specifically planning now to set out and do an easy-for-an-amateur research paper, the main thought driving it is that at some point I might find a question interesting enough to research it on my own, gwern-style, and then if it's plausible to do so I would want to get whatever work I do up to publishable standards for extra nerd cred.

I only also mentioned Erdos numbers because of a tangent thought of "hey, I'm in the rationalsphere, if I got other rationalsphere people involved in such a project and at least one of them was someone with a finite Erdos number, I'd get one too". And then by the time I was typing up that comment I had a tab open on this, although I also can't play an instrument (yet) and have never acted (yet).

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-30T22:08:34.176Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

What are the health risks of one time MDMA use?

comment by TylerJay · 2015-05-03T21:50:19.278Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The risks of one-time MDMA use can be roughly sorted into two categories: "Normal Risks" which apply to everyone and "Edge-Case Risks" which only apply to certain people (though it may not always be clear, as we will see, if you are at risk for one of the edge-cases). I will give a very brief and oversimplified description of how MDMA is processed by the body and the effects it has, and then I will describe some of these risks. I didn't have time to put together sources and citations (especially as this was written from memory + fact checking), but my hope is that this will help people understand what the risks are and some of the mechanisms of action so that they can do more informed research into the topic.

Basic Neuroscience Background Information

In the human brain, where two neurons meet is called the Synapse. In reality, there is actually a small gap at the synapse between neurons called the synaptic cleft. When a signal traveling down a neuron reaches the end, it causes a release of neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft. These neurotransmitters fit like keys into keyholes called receptors on the second neuron. Depending on which keyholes/receptors are activated/filled, the second neuron takes some action like firing or not.

You can visualize this by holding your right fist up and then making a "C" shape around it with your left hand (they should be close, but not touching. While maintaining this, hold your elbows out to the sides. Each of your arms is a neuron. Your forearms are the "Axon" which is the path the signals travel down and the space between your hands is the synaptic cleft. A signal travels from your left elbow to your left fingers which causes them to release neurotransmitters into the space between your left hand and your right fist. All over your right fist are small keyholes called receptors that are shaped to specifically fit certain neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters float around in the gap for a while, some of them fitting into the keyholes, and some of them being reabsorbed by your left hand to be used later. (This reabsorption process is called "reuptake" by the way) If enough of the keyholes on your right fist are filled, then a signal travels from your right fist down to your right elbow, at which there is another synapse and the same thing happens.

Now, on your fist (or the "receiving" end of a synapse) you have a lot of receptors, but not all of these receptors are "on" or "active" at any given time. Your body maintains homeostasis by regulating the amount of active receptors for a certain neurotransmitter in response to the amount of that neurotransmitter that is typically produced. For example, I might produce (or rather, release) slightly less serotonin than you on average, but my body will deal with that by activating more serotonin receptors. In that case, our expected number of serotonin receptors that are filled with serotonin molecules at any given time would be roughly the same, so there would be no difference between us in that respect.

The last piece of background information we'll need is to explain "free radicals". You learned in high-school chemistry how atoms have electron shells/orbitals that "want" to have a specific number of electrons in them. This applies to molecules as well. When a molecule is missing an electron, it goes crazy and tries to steal one from its neighbors. A molecule in this state is called a "free radical". If it's pull is stronger than a neighbor's, then it takes one of the neighbor's electrons and calms down while the neighbor then goes crazy and becomes a free radical itself, looking to steal an electron from another molecule. This causes a chain reaction and can be very damaging to sensitive structures in your body like DNA or receptors in the brain.

The definition of an "antioxidant" is a molecule that can give up at least one of its electrons to a free radical without becoming a free radical itself, thereby ending the chain reaction. Free radicals are produced by pretty much all metabolic functions, so they are unavoidable to a certain extent. Your body uses antioxidants from your diet and endogenous antioxidants to counter this process every second of every day. Typically, it does a pretty good job and your body maintains homeostasis.

MDMA Mechanism of Action and Pharmacokinetics

MDMA causes excess release of Serotonin, Dopamine, and Norepinephrine into the synaptic cleft, though its action is primarily on Serotonin, so that's what I'll mostly focus on here.

So when you take MDMA, your neurons release excess serotonin into the synaptic cleft. This causes more binding to serotonin receptors which causes more firing of those neurons. This leads to the euphoria associated with MDMA use. However, your body wants to maintain homeostasis, so it starts turning off serotonin receptors. That way, even though there's more Serotonin, there are less places for it to bind, which reduces activity. Then your MDMA wears off and your neurons are actually releasing less serotonin than before. This, coupled with less active serotonin receptors leads to considerably lower serotonin activity. This is associated with the anhedonia, anxiety, and depression that sometimes follow MDMA usage for a few days. However, nothing I've just described is permanent, so your body will eventually up-regulate your serotonin receptors again, your serotonin stores will replenish, and you'll be back to normal.

However, this excess activity at the Serotonin receptors also creates excess free radicals. These free radicals can actually damage serotonin receptors (break them permanently) so that they can never be reactivated. In a single, modest dose, this is likely negligible, though with a single super-dose, it is significant. This highlights the important of having antioxidants available to your brain throughout the MDMA trip. A study was done on monkeys where they gave them super-does of MDMA, some with a Vitamin C injection and some without, and found significant brain-damage reduction (as in, blocked the vast majority of brain damage) in the Vitamin C group. (sorry, I can't find the study right now.)

So, with chronic use or higher doses, this kind of damage becomes more and more of a problem and leads to brain lesions in the serotonergic neural pathways, and is Normal Risk #1

When your neurons absorb MDMA, it has effects on the Monoamine Oxidase system. Therefore, taking MDMA with Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) is extremely dangerous and can be life-threatening. Do not take MDMA if you are on MAOIs (and make damn sure you check if any meds you are on or recreation drugs you take are MAOIs). This is Edge-Case Risk #1

Your body breaks down MDMA largely through the CYP450 family of liver enzymes—primarily CYP2D6, but also CYP3A4 and possibly some others to minor extents. Therefore, if these enzymes are inhibited or otherwise not fully functional, your body will not be able to eliminate MDMA (or will do so much more slowly) which can lead to overdose and amplification of the detrimental effects on your brain, cardiovascular system, and more. Inhibition of CYP450 enzymes can be caused by certain medications (like Tagamet/Cimetidine or Ritonavir) or foods like grapefruit and grapefruit juice. This is Edge-Case Risk #2a. Certain people may also have genetically-impaired CYP2D6 activity which can lead to similar complications. This is Edge-Case Risk #2b

comment by TylerJay · 2015-05-03T21:50:43.275Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Part 2

Macro-Level Physiological Effects

The increase in Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Serotonin caused by MDMA causes Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulation that can raise body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. It can also cause increased sweating and perspiration, insomnia, nausea, and diarrhea, all of which contribute to dehydration. These comprise Normal Risk #2 family. The fact that MDMA use is often associated with excessive dancing, hot environments, and limited access to water and electrolytes (such as at raves, music festivals, concerts, etc.) compounds these risks. So, if a person has no cardiovascular issues, is mindful of these risks, stays hydrated, ensures not to drink too much water without electrolytes, and keeps their heart rate and body temperature in check, most of these risks can be avoided. However, for anyone with cardiovascular issues (even ones they don't know about) this becomes Edge-Case Risk #3

Other/Unknown-Mechanism Psychological Effects

MDMA is a psychotropic drug. As such, it has the possibility of triggering latent psychological disorders such as Bipolar Disorder, Depression, epilepsy, and Schizophrenia just the same way that LSD, emotional stress, and head trauma do. The mechanism behind this phenomenon is still unknown. This is Edge-Case Risk #4 (I am also not as familiar with this area as most of the others, so I encourage you do to some independent research here.)

MDMA has also been documented to cause acute psychosis. The authors of the case-studies I have read dismissed the idea of there being a latent psychological disorder that was simply triggered because none of the typical milder early symptoms were present before ingestion of MDMA. A clinical psychiatrist that I know also confirmed to me that sometimes these psychotic episodes just happen in conjunction with psychotropic drugs. This is Edge-Case Risk #5 It should be noted that this is considered a rare event.

MDMA has also been observed to cause seizures, though this is rare. It is unknown whether this can be fully-attributed to dehydration, drug interactions, drug adulterants, or undiagnosed epilepsy. However, I have personally seen two people have seizures while on MDMA, so take from that what you will. This is Edge-Case Risk #6

And finally, long-term psychological side-effects such as insomnia and sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, anhedonia, irritability, and memory-impairment have been found in epidemiological studies (and reviews of such studies) of MDMA users. Unfortunately, epidemiological studies only show correlation, not causation, and many of the results could be attributed to self-medication. Human prospective studies and clinical trials are extremely limited with MDMA due to its legal status and ethics constraints, meaning that the majority of the published information on effects of MDMA is either animal studies, or is epidemiological and typically skewed toward chronic MDMA users. However, that correlation does exist which is at least weak evidence that MDMA use can cause these long-term effects. This is Normal Risk #3

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This is not medical advice. This is not intended to encourage or enable any illegal activity. I have posted this information in the interest of harm reduction and scholarly interest alone. If you do anything stupid or if any harm comes to you based on this advice, it's not my fault.

If you found this valuable, leave me a comment. I'd appreciate it. And if you have any followup questions, feel free to ask. Cheers all.

comment by drethelin · 2015-05-03T22:54:05.799Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How high is the risk of adulterants with unexpected effects?

comment by TylerJay · 2015-05-04T23:02:34.151Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There's no way to give a broad estimate on that. It's going to vary widely based on source, geographic location, and form (pressed pills vs powder/crystals/rocks).

Pressed pills or "Ecstasy" pills are more likely to have Amphetamine and/or other stimulants like caffeine and piperazines in addition to the MDMA, as they are intended as "rave drugs" for clubbing and dance parties. (Many users actually prefer amphetamine/caffeine in their pills because MDMA alone is more of a psychedelic than an "upper" and can make people want to sit down, look at the pretty colors, and rub each other instead of dance. Piperazines are typically considered "bad" adulterants, even by the crowd who likes amphetamine, and can be very dangerous, especially when combined with other drugs.)

Sometimes, product sold as MDMA (or Ecstasy) will not contain MDMA at all. Common drugs sold as MDMA are MDA (a metabolite of MDMA with similar effects), Methylone, and BZP (a piperazine), though there are many others depending on your geographic location and source.

Regarding geographic location, you can often find reports on government websites. For example, in the USA, I believe the DEA publishes the percentage of seized drugs that are adulterated (or are another drug altogether) by area (I have seen published numbers on their site for certain areas before, but I don't know if it's done regularly and I wouldn't expect out-of-date reports to still be accurate).

However, your estimate of the likelihood of having dangerous adulterants in your MDMA will likely be dominated by your ability to get trustworthy reports of other people who have taken the same "batch". (Note there are multiple areas for uncertainty here to account for. Honesty/motives of the people reporting + number of reports, ability of the people reporting to tell the difference, is it actually the same batch, and heterogeneity of the batch, to name a few.)

A few sources of this kind of information are:

  • Seller reviews and track record if you're buying online
  • Other people you know personally who have taken the same batch if you're buying in person
  • pillreports dot com (website. do NOT use this as your only source of information, as you never know if your pill is actually the one you see reviewed or an imitation)
  • Chemical reagent tests

If you are buying online, here is a harm reduction strategy: Select a seller with a perfect track record with regard to quality and a large number of reviews. Once you've received it, wait until you've seen a significant number of reviews from orders placed around the same time as and after you placed yours that are all still positive with respect to quality. This will help protect you from bait-and-switch tactics and should increase your confidence that the reviews you've read are of the same batch/product as you've received.

A chemical reagent test is a good risk- and harm-reduction measure that can be used in conjunction with any of the other measures. They change color based on the presence of MDMA and common adulterants (obviously sacrificing some of the stuff you're testing in the process). The most popular test is the Marquis Test. Other common tests include the Mecke Test and the Simons test. (Make sure to check the legality of these "test kits" in your area before ordering/purchasing one.)

Disclaimer (again): Do not do any of these things if it is illegal for you to do so. This is not intended to encourage or enable any illegal activity. I have posted this information in the interest of harm reduction and scholarly interest alone. If you do anything stupid or if any harm comes to you based on this information, it's not my fault. If you do anything illegal based on this information, I am not in any way responsible and I told you not to do it.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-27T07:45:48.247Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I don't quite understand gratitude journaling. First of all, gratitude is the same thing as gratefulness or thankfulness, right? If yes, it means, you are glad because you got stuff you did not really earn, you got stuff that was not yours by right, was not owed to you, right? Because when a debt is paid or you get paid for your work, you don't feel grateful, this is yours by right.

So to me gratitude journaling seems to drive your focus on the things you got without earning them. Is that supposed to help people who have self-esteem problems? SSC wrote how most depressed people feel like a burden, how the heck does feeling grateful for things one does not really earn or deserve make one feel less of a burden?

What am I missing here?

If anything, I would experiment with achievement journaling.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-04-27T13:06:01.002Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Because when a debt is paid or you get paid for your work, you don't feel grateful, this is yours by right.

That sounds like a deeply unsatisfying way to live; it seems like you will mostly be disappointed by the things that are "yours by right" that you don't get.

The point of gratitude journaling is to focus on how your life has many good things in it. "I got my paycheck for the hours I worked this week; I'm thankful that my employer is honest and prompt, I'm thankful that I have a job, I'm thankful that past-me put in the effort to develop skills relevant to this job, I'm thankful that I live within my means..." and so on. This might involve lowering your expectations so that actually being paid is remarkable enough to write down.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-27T14:06:39.209Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This might involve lowering your expectations so that actually being paid is remarkable enough to write down.

In general that's done by setting a target of at least 3 things to write down every day, so you just pick the best ones.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-27T14:34:10.468Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If yes, it means, you are glad because you got stuff you did not really earn

If you read a bit of the happiness literature you find that people feel more happy when buying experiences than when buying "stuff". When doing gratitude journaling, don't focus on stuff but on experience.

was not yours by right, was not owed to you, right?

Thinking about rights isn't very fun.

Let's say that on your way to work a beautiful woman smiles at you. A appropriate reaction is to simple feel good and be grateful. Thinking about whether or not you deserve that she smiles at you on the other hand is stressful and not fun.

Focusing on gratitude shifts attention away from the question whether or not you deserve something.

On LW Elo wrote that they are much more happy than most other smart people that they know. If you look through her post a good portion of them express gratitude like http://lesswrong.com/lw/m3o/lesswrong_experience_of_flavours/canb. That's the kind of post most people on LW wouldn't write. It's reflective of a happier mindset.

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-27T10:05:03.989Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I understood it as focusing on everything good that happened... whether it was your work, luck, or a mix of both.

The goal is to cultivate the feeling "my life is good". Which will help reduce anxiety, or something like that.

comment by Toggle · 2015-04-27T16:26:37.809Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is (I think) an extension of mindfulness practice. So the ultimate point of the exercise is to help you conscientiously notice and assign weight to a certain class of experience. Your feeling of entitlement is opposed to that in the sense that humans tend not to notice a well-functioning machine. So if we put a dollar in a vending machine and candy comes out, we might enjoy the candy, or be sad about not having a dollar any more, but we rarely take any time to be excited about how great it is to have a machine that performs the swap. Same with getting a paycheck.

Ideally, gratitude journaling expands the class of things you have to be happy about. It adds the vending machine as an object of joy, rather than an 'inert' object that catches our attention only when it fails.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-27T19:21:52.336Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Humans are adaptation executors, not fitness maximizers, so this explanation is useful for evolutionary psychology, but it's not what goes on in people's minds.

Gratitude deals with friendship, not contracts. They are more vaguely defined. With a contract, you both agree beforehand on the exact way each of you will help the other. With friendship, you just generally help each other when one of you needs help and the other is in a position to offer it. You may have earned the help with earlier friendship. Or maybe someone helped you to start a friendship, on the basis that you are likely to pay for it later.

I'm not familiar with gratitude journaling. I guess it would make you feel like you have lots of friends.

comment by atorm · 2015-05-01T03:05:55.873Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I’m a fourth year PhD student in the life sciences, and I need mentorship, preferably from a Slytherin, or at least someone with a Slytherin hat. My advisor doesn’t want me doing “mercenary collaborations”, or quick experiments with researchers outside my field in exchange for secondary authorships. He says I need to focus on my thesis research in the next year so as to publish and graduate. Are there any academics in the LW readership who have the insight to tell me whether this is good advice or whether he just wants me pumping out papers with his name on them so he can get tenure?

comment by Ishaan · 2015-04-27T19:29:11.826Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I've intentionally been getting 45-90 minutes of daily sun and it feels good. Where can I find a good cost-benefit calculation for natural sun exposure vs. dietary vitamin D supplementation without sun? (Presumably mostly weighing cancer risk against vitamin d / nitric oxide / other benefits of natural sun?).

Bonus points if darker skin tones are taken into consideration.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-04-27T21:27:31.698Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"An algorithm is developed and used to relate vitamin D production to the widely used UV index, to help the public to optimize their exposure to UV radiation."

comment by Ishaan · 2015-04-28T18:16:05.618Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Excellent, thank you! Looking over the figures I think this has the necessary info for calculating optimal sun exposure length, inputting skin tone, latitude, and month. Sadly, it doesn't weigh dietary vitamin D against sun exposure or factor in the non-vitamin D stuff (I suspect the nitric oxide stuff and circadian regulation is pretty important), but still!

If If I sufficiently understand this then once I have more time I will try to give back by making an info-graphic which is more accessible to the public.

Judging from what I'm seeing here I think there might be benefit to timing when one's skin personally begins to "redden". I wonder if "darkening" is the same as "reddening". (I'm north-Indian dark and start getting tan lines with only 10 minutes of sun, which disappear within a 1-2 hours of shade. I'm not sure if that's analogous to the "skin reddening" they describe or if the skin reddening is a separate process indicating damage rather than melanin production. I've never actually gotten sunburn so I'm not sure when darkening ends and reddening begins, if it is indeed separate)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-28T18:30:23.917Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As far as I know, sunburn is associated with skin cancer, while sun exposure without sunburn is not, or at least starts to depend on other factors.

See e.g. this abstract which says

Intermittent sun exposure and sunburn history were shown to play considerable roles as risk factors for melanoma, whereas a high occupational sun exposure seemed to be inversely associated to melanoma.

comment by Ishaan · 2015-04-28T18:45:23.352Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Luckily I'm dark enough to never have burnt, unluckily that means I need more exposure.

Interesting. So 20 minute cycles over 2 hours is probably better than continuous 1 hour exposure. Not surprising, but unfortunately inconvenient from a scheduling standpoint, given that the peak time for D synthesis is supposed to be noon which is during most people's workday. I kind of thought this might be the case and try to mimic cycling by flipping around frequently.

(That said, the noon people might be wrong, longer exposure over less intense evening sun might be better and intense noon exposure).

comment by D_Malik · 2015-04-28T03:45:08.909Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've been doing the same thing for ~40 minutes of daily peak sunlight, because of heuristics ("make your environment more like the EEA") and because there's evidence it improves mood and cognitive functioning (e.g.). The effect isn't large enough to be noticeable. Sunlight increases risk of skin cancer, but decreases risks of other, less-survivable cancers more; I'm not sure how much of the cancer reduction you could get from taking D3 and not getting sunlight. I guess none of that actually answers your question.

comment by Ishaan · 2015-04-28T18:52:39.312Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure how much of the cancer reduction you could get from taking D3 and not getting sunlight.

My vague and untrustworthy impression is that D3 supplementation is better than nothing but has risks related to calcium going to the wrong places, which may be mitigated by Nitric oxide which is also sun linked, and might also be mitigated by not being K2 and magnesium deficient which most people are. I should probably start being better about archiving what I read so that I can stop being vague and untrustworthy.

The effect isn't large enough to be noticeable.

I do notice a muscle and general relaxation effect which is deeper and lasts longer than, say, an equally warm shower. A blood panel I got back when I was not supplemented said I was pretty severely D deficient, so it might be that I feel the effects more. (Though from what I know of the biology of this the NO is more likely to be responsible for the relaxation effect than the D3.)

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-04-28T14:23:25.004Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If you're white, you're no longer adapted to the ancestral environment where humans evolved.

comment by D_Malik · 2015-04-29T02:45:25.717Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed, considering "EEA" to mean the African savannah. So for instance if your ancestry is European and you're currently living in California you don't need to spend very much time outside, and if you're dark-skinned and living at a high latitude you should try to get lots of sunlight.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-28T20:49:32.039Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Evolutionary selection pressures are strong enough that skin color of natives over the world corresponds to the level of sun exposure of various places.

Of course being indoors means that you get less sun then the environment for which evolution prepared you.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-04-27T14:48:09.797Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Disclaimer: this thought is "foxy", in the sense that I don't assert it's definitively true, but I still think it could be a useful lens for viewing the world.

Startups Don't Create New Technology

Contra gurus like Paul Graham and Peter Thiel, successful tech startup companies do not actually create new technology. Good tech startups do one of two things: 1) invent a new technology-dependent business model, or 2) repackage and polish existing technology in such a way as to bring it above the threshold for widespread use.

Consider a couple of recent successful tech startups: Facebook, Twitter, Uber, AirBNB, and Dropbox. None of these can be said to have innovated deeply new technology. Instead, they realized that they could create a new business model based entirely on available technology.

Uber is a particularly illustrative example. The company depends enormously on several powerful new recent technologies: smart phones, GPS, and mapping software. However, Uber itself did not innovate any of those. If one of those technologies hadn't been available, Uber probably would not have been successful. Uber certainly could not have created any of those technologies as part of its business plan.

I'm not suggesting here, of course, that tech companies in general do not create new technology. The point is that startups don't create technology. Instead, deeply new technology is primarily developed by large, established companies. The basic pattern for technology creation is:

  • Invent a new business model that depends on currently available technology (startup phase)
  • Grow the business fast based on profits from new business model (growth phase)
  • Using newly-available resources of finance and talent resulting from initial success, develop deeply new technology (mature phase)

The history of Amazon illustrates this pattern very well. Amazon started by creating a new business model using currently available web technology. It depended on a huge array of technology that was developed by others - web browsers, web servers, databases, the internet, personal computers - but it did not develop any of that technology itself and would not have been successful if it had had tried to do so (imagine trying to innovate the web browser so you could sell books online).

While Amazon did not create new technology in its startup phase, it certainly has created deeply new technology now that it is in its mature phase. The clearest example of deeply new technology created by Amazon is cloud computing (some people might also point to eBooks). Cloud computing could never have been innovated by a startup company - the resources required in terms of finance, talent, and corporate resilience are far too great. While cloud computing could never have been innovated by a startup, it is now becoming a foundational technology for the new generation of startups.

So the lifecycle of entrepreneurial technology development suggests a kind of virtuous circle. A company becomes profitable by building a new technology-dependent business model or repackaging technology developed by others. Then it grows, and when it reaches a certain point, it becomes able to create new technology that feeds the next generation of startups.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-04-29T02:49:03.779Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

To add a bit of empirical analysis to this comment, I analyzed the YCombinator Winter 2015 batch. I categorized the startups into one of three buckets: Tech-Dependent Business Model (TDBM), RePackaging and Polishing existing tech (RPP), and Novel Tech (NT). The list can be found here.

  • CampusJob - TDBM
  • Seed - TDBM
  • NextTravel - TDBM
  • TheMidGame - TDBM
  • eBrandValue - TDBM
  • Standard Cyborg - RPP, maybe NT
  • Rescue Forensics - TDBM (social entrepreneurship)
  • Lumi - TDBM/RPP
  • Undeground Cellar - TDBM
  • Transcriptic - NT?? but not easily evaluated
  • Atomwise - maybe NT but probably RPP/TDBM of machine learning (I doubt they created new ML algos)
  • Spark Gift - TDBM
  • Gradberry - TDBM
  • Industrial Microbes - NT?? but probably TDBM/RPP of existing chemical engineering tech
  • TechList - TDBM
  • Meadow - TDBM
  • ReSchedule - TDBM
  • Diassess - RPP, synthesis of biotech and infotech
  • RazorPay - TDBM
  • DirectMatch - TDBM
  • BuildScience - TDBM/RPP
  • ShiftLabs - RPP, making medical devices cheaper.
  • Valor Water Analytics - TDBM
  • Instavest - TDBM
  • Open Listings - TDBM
  • CloudMedx - TDBM/RPP
  • BankJoy - TDBM
  • TransitMix - TDBM
  • ZenFlow - NT, in biotech space.
  • Final - TDBM
  • Lully - maybe NT but probably RPP
  • Spire - TDBM/RPP
  • AnalyticsMD - TDBM
  • Smarking - TDBM
  • 20N - NT
  • GrubMarket - TDBM
  • CribSpot - TDBM
  • KickPay - TDBM
  • Notable Labs - uncategorizable but brilliant, some kind of legal/biotech/infotech combination play
  • Pretty Instant - TDBM
  • VetPronto - TDBM
  • Akido - TDBM
  • DroneBase - TDBM
  • MashGin - maybe NT in computer vision space but probably RPP/TDBM
  • LabDoor - RPP/TDBM
  • Bonfire - TDBM
  • EquipmentShare - TDBM

The following pattern emerged from this exercise: YC is not funding startups that are developing new computer science technology, with the possible exception of MashGin and AtomWise. The YC startups that are attempting to develop new technology are in the biotech/medtech space - Transcriptic, Standard Cyborg, Industrial Microbes, Zenflow, Lully, and 20N.

Edit I noticed after writing that the list is from Demo Day 2, representing the second half of the Winter 2015 batch. However, it doesn't appear to me that analyzing only half the batch causes a serious bias in the conclusion. The Demo Day 1 batch is available here.

comment by Jiro · 2015-04-27T15:23:05.524Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"New technology" is ill-defined. Is a more practical version of something which already exists considered new technology or old technology?

comment by Vaniver · 2015-04-27T17:13:43.025Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Contra gurus like Paul Graham and Peter Thiel, successful tech startup companies do not actually create new technology. Good tech startups do one of two things: 1) invent a new technology-dependent business model, or 2) repackage and polish existing technology in such a way as to bring it above the threshold for widespread use.

I think this is coming from both the way you're defining technology (which looks like it's excluding various forms of cultural or social technology) and the set of startups you're considering. I think both Graham or Thiel would agree with you that entrepreneurs create businesses, which seems like the short version of your claim. Yes, both of them think that new technology is a fruitful place to look for new businesses, but it isn't the only one.

Consider biotech startups, specifically Genentech. The company wasn't founded until a few years after the underlying tech had been invented in a university lab, and while now it has extensive research labs that do basic as well as applied research, most of the startups I'm familiar with (and early Genentech) are very much in the 'applied research' category.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-04-29T23:50:24.495Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with your first premise (that startups don't create new technology), but not the second premise (that large, established companies do).

Read 'The Sources of Innovation' by Eric von Hippel. It reaffirms what your first point, and shows that real technological progress usually comes from users of technology rather than producers (or, to put it in a better way, from cooperation between users and producers). More precisely, innovation happens when there is a feedback loop where users use technology in creative ways (according to needs not foreseen by the original producers) and producers incorporate those ideas back into their products. The contribution of the producer is to identify creative uses of their products and formulate business models around them. Amazon's cloud computing initiative is definitely consistent with this point of view.

Another major source of innovation is academic institutions, where risk-taking is encouraged when it comes to new ideas. Of course, it's also true that established companies also fund research.

comment by Strangeattractor · 2015-04-29T11:51:03.935Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

One of the most sensible books I've read about how technology works, from an economic perspective, is The Nature of Technology, by Brian Arthur. It talks about how different technologies interact with each other, and with the economy, and how what he calls standard engineering, which mostly involves assembling off-the-shelf parts, contributes to the advancement of technology as a whole.

A lot of the concepts he talks about can be experienced by using an open source operating system with package management, such as Ubuntu. At least, as I was reading the book, a lot of open source software examples came to mind.

Brian Arthur was involved in the founding of the Santa Fe institute that studies complexity.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-04-28T21:41:25.560Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have the exact opposite feeling about Uber. I think that their main business model is: a taxi dispatch service that actually comes when you call it. There is no technology in that at all. The problem is that it is very difficult to enter a business where everyone else is frauds. You can't just advertise that you aren't a fraud, because who would believe you? Uber differentiated itself by being techy, to get people to try it. Maybe the technology was necessary to allow people to monitor cabs and allow people to trust it, but if the industry hadn't dug itself into a hole, a similar business could have been built 50 years ago.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-27T15:09:12.343Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am not sure I'm willing to agree with that.

First, absolutely everyone depends on technologies invented by others and it's turtles all the way down -- a start-up depends on personal computers which depend microprocessors which depend on transistors... etc.

Second, Google and Apple would probably be the canonical examples of startups which actually created new technology. Not coincidentally they belong to the biggest and richest companies in the world. I think Facebook also created new technology, albeit intangible, and also joined that club.

Third, look beyond bits. Biotech startups, for example, attempt to create technology much more often that the code-driven ventures.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-04-27T15:59:58.741Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I see Google and Apple as marginal examples - they don't exactly fit into my schema, but they don't exactly break my schema either. Apple's success depended on two key insights contributed by the two founders. Jobs saw that a market for personal computers could exist, and Wozniak saw a way to repackage existing computer technology cheaply and usably enough for the customers in that market. Google did build a better search engine, but they also saw a new way to make money with search, and it's not clear which insight was more important.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-27T16:26:50.008Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You are now arguing that a start-up must have business sense to succeed -- which is entirely true, but not related to your original claim that start-ups don't create new technology.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-04-28T21:33:23.898Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If Google's business model were more important than its technology, that wouldn't cause its technology to cease to exist. Your original claim was that startups don't create technology, which is a very, very different claim than people who want to become rich should pursue business models, rather than technology.

But, actually, I don't think that Google's business model was more important to its earning power than its technology. Many people have copied its business model, but they don't have the scale of being the most popular website, so they don't make as much money. Part of that is that other companies have copied its basic search technology, but the first-mover advantage has turned Google's early technology into an enduring brand advantage.

Also, my guess is that Google had better technology 10 years ago for running scalable infrastructure than Microsoft has today. While that may have contributed to their bottom line, I'm not sure it contributed much to their popularity.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-29T07:28:47.420Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

TDBM, I would argue is the most important step. A single discovery could have hundreds of different ways to coordinate with existing technologies. As for RPP, often the people who are best at creating and the ones who are best at distributing are very different. It's a shame the distributor gets the lion's share, but such is life. There are also levels below technology creation. Before the technology can be applied, it's principles must be experimentally tested. Before an experimental test can be conducted, a theory must be developed to explain what you are testing for although some technologies skip this step. The experimenter and the theorist often receive even less than the applier who receives less than the distributor.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-27T21:09:19.310Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that it's fair to say that software isn't technology. Facebook didn't create new hardware but the idea of the timeline was new.

But even if we look at hardware I don't think it's true. Bre's MakerBot industries did manage to sell MakerBots while it was a startup.

Arduino is created by a startup.

Pebble is a YCombinator startup. Technology like Arduino allowed Pebble to do their prototyping easier than was possible before. There are also a bunch of other Kickstarter projects that produce technology.

I do consider the Hackerspace ecosystem capable of creating new hardware.

A lot of new technology get's developed by repurposing existing technology. Arduino couldn't have been developed without the ability to buy cheap chips but Arduino is still new technology.

comment by CronoDAS · 2015-04-30T17:38:26.137Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I want to invest $10,000 in a stock index fund. (The money is currently in a checking account.) How do I actually go about doing this?

comment by Vaniver · 2015-04-30T18:15:48.445Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Lumifer's answered this already in a sibling comment, but note that this general class of question is answered in the Procedural Knowledge Gaps thread (or its repeat). (I wrote a longer answer to this particular question there.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-30T17:51:15.508Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You decide on which fund you want, open an account with the appropriate mutual fund company (e.g. Vanguard) or a brokerage, transfer to them the money from your checking account, and put that money into the fund.

comment by iarwain1 · 2015-04-29T23:31:16.169Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm looking for a book, or a combination of up to 5 books, that fulfills the following requirements:

  • At least a pretty good coverage of the all the major subjects in modern fundamental physics & cosmology (at least those that can be covered without going too deep into the math)
  • An emphasis on the philosophical implications and interpretations of the different leading theories. So it should cover all the major different interpretations of quantum mechanics, the meaning of space and time, the philosophical implications of multiple universes, etc.
  • Gives solid coverage to the major competing alternatives rather than just promoting a single controversial view. (Alternatively, I could try a combination of different books where each promotes a single view, but between them they cover all the major views.)
  • Very low math requirements: if there's anything more than high school math then that math needs to be extremely well explained and probably very dumbed-down.
  • Very clear and well-written.
  • As up to date as possible, although this is a bit less important than the other requirements.

Textbooks are fine, as long as they meet all those requirements.

comment by pragmatist · 2015-04-30T07:47:39.500Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm assuming you already have some absolutely basic knowledge of the major physical theories, at the level of Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos (which was recommended in another comment). The books I'll recommend take you deeper into the theories (emphasizing philosophical implications) without excessive mathematics. If you don't have knowledge at this level, read Greene's book first. Some of the books I'm suggesting aren't entirely up to date, but none of them are obsolete. I'm not aware of any more recent books that cover the same material with the same quality. I teach philosophy of physics to non-physics majors, and these are usually among the books I assign (supplemented with recent papers, lecture notes, etc.).

Space-Time: Geroch, General Relativity from A to B

Quantum Mechanics: Albert, Quantum Mechanics and Experience

Statistical Mechanics: Ben-Naim, Entropy and the Second Law: Interpretation and Misss-Interpretations (Supplement with Albert's Time and Chance if you want to go deeper into the "Arrow of Time" issue)

Quantum Field Theory and the Standard Model: Oerter, The Theory of Almost Everything (A pretty superficial book compared to the others on this list, I admit, but I'm not aware of any philosophically deep treatment of QFT that doesn't presume considerable math knowledge. You could also try Feynman's QED, which is excellent but very out-dated.)

Cosmology: Tegmark, Our Mathematical Universe (Good basic overview of cosmology, but the philosophical speculation doesn't meet your third requirement. Try Unger and Smolin's The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time for a counterpoint.)

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-04-30T12:56:29.305Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The books I'll recommend take you deeper into the theories (emphasizing philosophical implications) without excessive mathematics.

How much mathematics is excessive for this? Physics is made of mathematics.

comment by pragmatist · 2015-04-30T13:20:21.104Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Excessive" was probably a poorly chosen word. I meant that the books I listed are the ones that provide the deepest insight into the theories (out of all the books I have seen) within the constraints specified by iarwain (presuming nothing more than high school mathematics). Some of the books teach some slightly more advanced math along the way, because yeah, it's hard to really comprehend much of GR without at least a basic conception of differential geometry, or understand QM without some idea of linear algebra, but none of the books inundates you with math like The Road to Reality does.

comment by Ixiel · 2015-05-02T13:05:43.080Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was questioning whether to keep reading lesswrong; thanks to the questioner and the answerer for reminding me why I should. Books are cheap so I'm buying them all, even if not for all immediate reads. Don't suppose you teach near upstate New York?

comment by pragmatist · 2015-05-03T11:20:45.940Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I teach about 8000 miles away from upstate New York, I'm afraid.

comment by iarwain1 · 2015-05-01T00:45:15.100Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! What are the recent papers that you suggest?

comment by pragmatist · 2015-05-03T11:08:59.027Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It really depends on what topic you're interested in. Papers tend to be pretty focused on one question, so if you're looking for an overview of a subject, books are the way to go. If you're interested in learning more about some specific problem, I'd be happy to recommend accessible papers if I can think of any.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-04-30T00:55:36.296Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Are your requirements sorted by order of importance?

Quantum Computing Since Democritus might be a good choice. If I think of the first item as the goal and the others qualifications, it is a poor choice, but if I rearrange them, maybe a good choice.

comment by iarwain1 · 2015-04-30T01:19:17.237Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't originally intend them to be in order, but they actually are. The only exception is that the very low math part is very important and should go at the top.

comment by Strangeattractor · 2015-04-30T04:51:24.712Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How about The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene? It is a clearly written account of cosmology, though with more emphasis on string theory than on other topics.

As for comparing and explaining the different interpretations of quantum mechanics, I am not aware of any book that does what you ask for. The clearest explanation of some of the interpretations of quantum mechanics that I've read so far is actually right here on Less Wrong, in the Sequences. However, that focuses on a few of the interpretations, without context of the others, and I had to read a bunch of scientific papers to start to get some of the missing context, though I still feel like there are gaps in my knowledge. I too would be interested in reading a book that properly explains and compares the different interpretations of Quantum Mechanics, so I'll be checking back at this thread to see if someone recommends one.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-04-30T00:37:13.485Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Penrose

comment by iarwain1 · 2015-04-30T00:38:50.316Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I tried it, but I struggled with a lot of the math past chapter 5 or so.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-04-30T00:43:51.146Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The math is self-contained, just difficult, right?

comment by Epictetus · 2015-04-30T21:02:30.513Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There are two categories of "self-contained":

  1. Logically self-contained, which just means that the treatment doesn't assume outside knowledge. Difficulty level is not bounded from above.

  2. Beginner-friendly, which means the presentation is tailored to people without a strong background in the subject.

Penrose falls squarely in Category 1. An intelligent reader can probably push the definitions around enough to follow the presentation, but that's not the same as understanding what's actually going on.

comment by pragmatist · 2015-04-30T07:04:30.484Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's correct, but it is difficult enough to effectively not be self-contained, I think. Being able to apprehend the concepts at the pace and brevity at which Penrose introduces them would require significant prior training in thinking mathematically, or a quite unusually agile mind.

comment by iarwain1 · 2015-04-30T01:17:15.685Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't actually remember, it's been a while. I do remember that it's not completely explained - he does skip steps (and that's not just me, I read that in a review of the book). I also remember getting confused and frustrated. I bought the book with high hopes and put more than a little bit of effort into it, but eventually I gave it away to someone who knew more math.

I suppose I could go take it out of the library and try again.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-28T03:47:11.936Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The first time I read the Sequences, I definitely didn't understand everything. And of the things I did "understand", I didn't remember them all. Even after rereading different posts, it doesn't always stick.

I have just come across the brilliant idea (sarcasm) to take notes. In particular, to try to boil each post down to its essence, and write a summary. I've done it for about 20 posts so far, and it seems to be really helping me understand stuff.

Furthermore, the act of having "conquered" a post (having had boiled it down to its essence and summarized it in a way that I'm confident I'd understand quickly after referencing my summary) feels really good, and being that the posts are rather bite-sized, I've gotten into a nice flow in writing my summaries.

All of this probably sounds obvious, and I doubt that any of you are surprised to hear that summarizing things is an effective way of learning. And I'm not sure whether other people just understand everything perfectly their first time through the Sequences.

But...

1) I doubt that people understand everything perfectly their first time.

2) Despite knowing that summarizing things is a good way to learn, I suspect that the trivial inconvenience of taking the initiative to write notes is powerful enough where most people don't do it.

If 1 and 2 are true (for you), then perhaps it'd be a good idea to buy Rationality from AI to Zombies (can we call this RAZ please :) ) and use some sort of e-reader to highlight and take notes.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-28T03:52:01.920Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Have you taken any sort of notes when reading the Sequences/RAZ?

[pollid:905]

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-29T06:34:07.776Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No, but I save the most 'relevant' of them on my phone, to reread when commuting. I seldom reread notes and indeed am more anxious that I might lose them than whether I have them within easy reach (a naturalist's nightmare, I guess.)

comment by CronoDAS · 2015-04-30T17:09:51.963Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My mom has multiple sclerosis. Recently, researchers found that two currently available drugs reverse de-myelinization in mice. The drugs are only approved for being applied to the skin, though - it hasn't been proven to regulator's standards that they're safe for humans to swallow or inject.

Can anything be done to take advantage of this other than "sit and wait for years while Medical Science does more research"?

comment by Vaniver · 2015-04-30T18:42:10.722Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Can anything be done to take advantage of this other than "sit and wait for years while Medical Science does more research"?

This mostly depends on your attribute to risk and responsibility when things go wrong. No doctor is going to tell you "yeah, sure, try it out now" because that would open them up to significant risk and responsibility; if you tell your mom to try this and it doesn't work out, then you're taking on some risk and responsibility. She may not be interested in doing anything riskier than what's been verified by medical science, and talking it over with her is the first step.

The next step is to ask her doctor about trials for this. It may be possible to be involved in human trials, though there is probably waiting involved.

Self-medication is possible. It seems unlikely that a doctor will help you figure out a correct dose, but it's worth asking. In either event, you only have to do it once, and so it may be worth doing the paper-dive and finding the relevant textbooks to borrow (you'll probably only need to read a few sections). If internal application is necessary, you'll probably need to purchase the active ingredient directly. If you do decide to self-medicate, talk to your doctor about it. That'll help prevent doing anything dangerous or any potentially foreseeable interactions between medications.

comment by knb · 2015-05-01T05:36:21.269Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is the kind of question MetaMed was created to answer. MetaMed's website seems to be offline. Has the company shut down?

comment by Vaniver · 2015-05-01T14:35:20.240Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Has the company shut down?

Yes. It would be helpful if they did a public postmortem, but I'm not sure there's a way to do that that's not ugly.

comment by D_Malik · 2015-04-28T04:17:19.878Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In the Sleeping Beauty problem, SIA and SSA disagree on the probability that it's Monday or Tuesday. But if we have to bet, then the optimal bet depends on what Ms Beauty is maximizing - the number of bet-instances that are correct, or whether the bet is correct, counting the two bets on different days as the same bet. Once the betting rules are clarified, there's always only one optimal way to bet, regardless of whether you believe SIA or SSA.

Moreover, one of those bet scenarios leads to bets that give "implied beliefs" that follow SIA, and the other gives "implied beliefs" that follow SSA. This suggests that we should taboo the notion of "beliefs", and instead talk only about optimal behavior. This is the "phenomenalist position" on Sleeping Beauty, if I understand correctly.

Question 1: Is this correct? Is this roughly the conclusion all those LW discussions a couple years ago came to?

Question 2: Does this completely resolve the issue, or must we still decide between SIA and SSA? Are there scenarios where optimal behavior depends on whether we believe SIA or SSA even after the exact betting rules have been specified?

comment by Manfred · 2015-04-28T05:21:48.370Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think the consensus was not so much that phrasing anthropic problems in terms of decision problems is necessary, or that there is a "dissolution" taking place, but merely that it works, which is a very important property to have.

One has to be careful when identifying implied beliefs as SSA or SIA, because the comparison is usually made by plugging SSA and SIA probabilities into a naive causal decision theory that assumes 'the' bet is what counts (or reverse-engineering such a decision theory). Anything outside that domain and the labels start to lose usefulness.

In the course of answering Stuart Armstrong I put up two posts on this general subject, except that in both cases the main bodies of the posts were incomplete and there's important content in comments I made replying to my own posts. Which is to say, they're absolutely not reader-friendly, sorry. But if you do work out their content, I think you should find the probabilities in the case of Sleeping Beauty somewhat less mysterious. First post on how we assign probabilities given causal information. Second post on what this looks like when applied.

comment by DataPacRat · 2015-04-30T20:08:40.447Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Seeking Moore's Law extrapolations

I once found some charts showing a few close variants of Moore's Law, such as MIPS per dollar per year; but I seem to have lost them. Does anyone have some references handy, which I can mine for some SFnal worldbuilding? (Eg, how big and costly a device storing 100 petabytes would be in a given year.)

comment by jacob_cannell · 2015-04-30T21:53:32.330Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I've done some rather extensive investigations into the physical limits of computation and the future of Moore's Law style progress. Here's the general lowdown/predictions:

Moore's law for conventional computers is just running into some key new asymptotic limits. The big constraint is energy, which is entirely dominated now by interconnect (and to a lesser degree, passive leakage). For example, on a modern GPU it costs only about 10pJ for a flop, but it costs 30pJ just to read a float from a register, and it gows up orders of magnitude to read a float from local cache, remote cache, off-chip RAM, etc. The second constraint is the economics of shrinkage. We may already be hitting a wall around 20nm to 28nm. We can continue to make transistors smaller, but the cost per transistor is not going down so much (this effects logic transistors more than memory).

3D is the next big thing that can reduce interconnect distances, and using that plus optics for longer distances we can probably squeeze out another 10x to 30x improvement in ops/J. Nvidia and Intel are both going to use 3D RAM and optics in their next HPC parts. At that point we are getting close to the brain in terms of a limit of around 10^12 flops/J, which is a sort of natural limit for conventional computing. Low precision ops don't actually help much unless we are willing to run at much lower clockrates, because the energy cost comes from moving data (lower clock rates reduce latency pressure which reduces register/interconnect pressure). Alternate materials (graphene etc) are a red herring and not anywhere near as important as the interconnect issue, which is completely dominate at this point.

The next big improvement would be transitioning to a superconducting circuit basis which in theory allows for moving bits across the interconnect fabric for zero energy cost. That appears to be decades away, and it would probably only make sense for cloud/supercomputer deployment where large scale cryocooling is feasible. That could get us up to 10^14 flops/J, and up to 10^18 ops/J for low precision analog ops. This tech could beat the brain in terms of energy efficiency by a factor of about 100x to 1000x or so. At that point you are at the Landauer limit.

The next steps past that will probably involve reversible computing and quantum computing. Reversible computing can reduce the energy of some types of operations arbitrarily close to zero. Quantum computing can allow for huge speedups for some specific algorithms and computations. Both of these techs appear to also require cryocooling (as reversible computing without a superconducting interconnect just doesn't make much sense, and QC coherence works best near absolute zero). It is difficult to translate those concepts into a hard speedup figure, but it could eventually be very large - on the order of 10^6 or more.

For information storage density, DNA is close to the molecular packing limit of around ~1 bit / nm^3. A typical hard drive has a volume of around 30 cm^3, so using DNA level tech would result in roughly 10^21 bytes for an ultimate hard drive - so say 10^20 bytes to give room for the non-storage elements.

comment by TylerJay · 2015-05-04T23:11:46.483Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Very informative. Thanks. I've heard reversible computing mentioned a few times, but have never looked into it. Any recommendations for a quick primer, or is wikipedia going to be good enough?

comment by jacob_cannell · 2015-05-05T19:40:38.698Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The info on wikipedia is ok. This MIRI interview with Mike Frank provides a good high level overview. Frank's various publications go into more details. "Physical Limits of Computing" by M Frank in particular is pretty good.

There have been a few discussions here on LW about some of the implications of reversible computing for the far future. Not all algorithms can take advantage of reversibility, but it looks like reversible simulations in general are feasible if they unwind time, and in particular monte carlo simulation algorithms could recycle entropy bits without unwinding time.

comment by TylerJay · 2015-05-06T02:29:28.338Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, I'll check it out.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-30T20:13:19.695Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You might be interested in Kryder's Law.

comment by DataPacRat · 2015-04-30T20:31:11.802Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's a good start. Let's see; if we start with platters holding 0.6 terabytes in 2014, and assume an annual 15% increase, then platters start hitting the petabyte range in... 2070ish? Does that look about right?

(Yes, I know any particular percentage can be argued against. This is for fiction - I'm going for reasonable plausibility, not for betting on prediction-market futures.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-30T20:45:33.413Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

1.15^50 = 1084, so given the 15% rate of growth you'll have an increase of about three orders of magnitude in fifty years.

In this specific case, though, the issue is whether rotating-platter technology will survive. In a way it's a relic -- this is a mechanical device with physical objects moving inside, at pretty high speed and with pretty tiny tolerances, too. Solid-state "hard drives" are smaller, faster, less power-hungry, and more robust already. Their only problem is that SSDs are more expensive per GB, but that's a fixable problem.

comment by DataPacRat · 2015-04-30T20:57:17.794Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

the issue is

True - but for my purposes, having /some/ number, even if it's known to use poor assumptions, is better than none. I'm looking for things like "in which decade does a program requiring X MIPS become cheaper than minimum wage?" and "when can 100 petabytes be stuffed into ~1500 cm^3 or less, and how much will it cost?". Which crossovers happen in which order is more interesting than nailing down an exact year.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-30T21:13:33.563Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

when can 100 petabytes be stuffed into ~1500 cm^3 or less

Well... a 200Gb microSD card already exists. So you need five of them per 1Tb, 5000 per 1Pb and 500,000 per 100 Pbs.

A microSD card is 11 x 15 x 1 mm = 165 mm3 = 0.165 cm3 and some of that is packaging and connectors.

500,000 x 0.165 = 82,500 cm3. You wanted 1,500? That's only about 50 times difference and getting rid of all that packaging and connectors should get you to about 30 times difference, more or less.

So the current flash memory density has to improve only by a factor of 30 or so to get you to your goal. That doesn't seem to be too far off.

The fun task of calculating the bandwidth of one of those stuffed to the gills with contemporary microSD cards is left as an exercise for the reader :-)

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-05-01T06:08:27.083Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Don't forget about the sheer amount of waste heat used by such an array were it actually on.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-01T14:31:57.745Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Depends on the use case, I guess. The memory is non-volatile and the start-up time is negligible. If you only access one petabyte of memory within some time period, the other 99 can stay switched off and emit no heat.

comment by jacob_cannell · 2015-04-30T22:09:12.841Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm looking for things like "in which decade does a program requiring X MIPS become cheaper than minimum wage?"

In about a decade we will have machines that cost less than $10,000 and can run roughly brain sized ANNs. However, this prediction relies more on software simulation improvement rather than hardware.

"when can 100 petabytes be stuffed into ~1500 cm^3 or less, and how much will it cost?".

Storage is much less of an issue for brain sims because synaptic connections are extremely compressible using a variety of techniques. Indeed current ANNs already take advantage of this to a degree. Also, using typical combinations of model and data parallelism a population of AIs can share most of their synaptic connections.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-28T12:38:52.497Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Torture vs. dust specks: I go for dust specks, because it is a reverse lottery. People derive a lot of utility about fantasizing about winning the lottery. Conversely, the disutility of the average person derived from fearing the next time they may be the person tortured is larger than the dust speck. That and sympathetic pain.

Of course it was not in the original definition that people actually know about it. But from my angle every even remotely plausible real life scenario involves that people generally know about it.

Also, social contract theory and slippery slopes. If the social contract allows one person to be tortured, it could be the next time a million. Slippery slopes are not fallacious as long as a mechanism of the slipping can be demonstrated, and the mechanism is here is the lack of categorical - that is, not even one person - ban on torture. Putting it differently, people doing bad things to each other is part of human nature, so human societies naturally slip towards occasional atrocities, and categorical bans are themselves braking mechanism on that kind of slippery slope, and it is not wise to mess with them. Thus, we are all better off if we have a social contract that categorically forbids torture, the disutility deriving from being worried about a future where we are not protected by a categorical ban on torture is larger than the disutility of the dust speck.

comment by RowanE · 2015-04-28T13:13:57.245Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That really sounds like just fighting the hypothetical. I mean, in practice, if something approximating the experiment was attempted in the real world, your reasoning is right, but that's not at all what the thought experiment is about. Do you at least acknowledge that, given that the people involved don't know about it (and also won't find out about the torture later), torture is the correct option?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-28T15:21:29.471Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you at least acknowledge that, given that the people involved don't know about it (and also won't find out about the torture later), torture is the correct option?

This is pretty hard to answer. For moral / ethical questions, I don't want to get "pure math" but also rely on intuitions, and I cannot really rely on my intuitions here as they are very much social. As in, immoral is what horrifies a lot of people. I don't really know how to approach it without relying on such intuitions. Surely I can calculate the total sum of utils but how does that quantitative and descriptive approach turn into a qualitative and prescriptive worse/better? I am not at all sure worse entirely equals the result of a utility calculation. It is not unrelated to it either, of course, my basic intuition - that wrong is whatever horrifies a lot of people - does of course correlate to utility as well.

I mean, what else is morality if not some sort of a social condemnation or approval?

comment by RowanE · 2015-04-28T16:24:03.118Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If what you really care about is people condemning or approving, shouldn't you actually be optimising for that instead of "utils"?

comment by D_Malik · 2015-04-28T04:02:00.033Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is transcranial direct current stimulation technology yet at the point where someone who starts it has higher expected gains than costs? I.e., should more LWers be using it? You can comment and/or answer this poll:

Do you think the average LWer would get a net benefit from using tDCS, taking into account the benefits, costs of equipment, risks, etc.? [pollid:906] How much do you know about this topic? [pollid:907]

Summary of the 2008 state of the art; tDCS subreddit.

comment by D_Malik · 2015-04-30T04:36:18.227Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Probably gotten most of the responses it was going to get, so here's a scatter plot:

People seem to think it's worse the more they know about it (except those who know nothing seem slightly more pessimistic than those who know only a little).

Made by running this in IPython (after "import pandas as pd" and "from numpy.random import randn" in .pythonstartup):

!sed "/^#/d" poll.csv >poll-clean.csv
pd.read_csv("poll-clean.csv", names=["user", "pollid", "response", "date"])
_.pivot_table("response", ["user"], ["pollid"])
_ + 0.1*randn(*_.shape) # jitter
_.plot(kind="scatter", x=906, y=907)
plt.xlabel("Net loss.....Net benefit")
plt.ylabel("Nothing.....Expert")
comment by Manfred · 2015-04-29T08:41:25.045Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ooh, having the raw poll data is neat.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-27T18:49:28.523Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I have been thinking about politics again, this time from a meta level and considering motivations for positions.

Among my peer group and much of the media, the dominant model seems to be 'anyone who has center-right views is consumed by hate and/or a useful idiot for the evil ones, and anyone who has further right views is a jackbooted fascist'.

Now, given that the views they cannot tolerate are nothing compared to the NRxers, in a way this strikes me as absurd hysteria. But in another way this makes sense (except for the overreaction). I don't think most people really grasp that, for instance, P(women are better at maths than men on average) should be independent of whether one wants it to be true, or whether one hates women. And while LWers probably grasp this in theory, I would doubt that these beliefs and values are actually uncorrelated among LWers, since we are not perfect Baysian reasoners (or, to put it another way, there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path).

So far, this is probably fairly obvious. Its also fairly clear that, unless everyone believes you to be a perfect Bayesian reasoner, it is certainly possible that by holding certain beliefs you are signalling moral stances even though this should be independent.

When I worried that the correlation between testosterone and politics means that political opinions are hopelessly biased by emotions, it was pointed out to me that it could be valid for emotions to affect values if not probability estimates. At the time I accepted this, but now I have largely changed my mind, at least WRT politics on LW.

The reason is that whatever we value, we should hold that the survival of civilisation is a subgoal. (Voluntary human extinction movement excepted).

As an example, there are NRxers who believe that there is a substantial probability that tolerance of homosexuality will destroy civilisation. I don't believe this, but to leave a line of retreat... well, IIRC future civilisation could be between 30 orders of magnitude and infinitely bigger than current civilisation, dependent upon the laws of physics. I put it to you that if

P(tolerance of homosexuality will destroy civiliseation)-P(tolerance of homosexuality will save civiliseation)>10^-30

Then a utilitarian has to be against tolerance of homosexuality, and it doesn't matter whether you hate gays or not, it doesn't matter if you have gay friends or indeed if you are gay. Its a simple (edit: actually, its quite complicated) cost-benefit calculation. (Although, of course this does not mean that campaigning on this points would be a productive use of your time).

If you have a different utility function than 'value all human-equivlanet life-years equally', then I think this argument should still hold with only slight changes. 10^30 is a very big number, after all.

I should emphasise that I'm not saying that this does justify homophobia. For one thing, I think that a general principal of not defecting against people who do not defect against you could arguably help save civilisation. What I am saying is that the issue of whether we should tolerate homosexuality (for instance) should be a matter of probability estimates and values almost all of us hold in common. Whether one actually loves or hates gays is irrelevant.

That different rationalists hold wildly differing opinions on this matter (as with various other political matters), and moreover polarised positions, is bad news for Aumann's agreement theorem and motivated cognition and so forth.

Or perhaps it is a sign that deontological or virtue ethics have advantages? I am aware that what I have written probably sounds shockingly cold and calculating to many people.

EDIT: I am not trying to say that tolerance of homosexuality fails the cost-benefit calculation. I am not trying to pick on left-wing people for saying that their opponents are evil, I used to think that anyone who was against of homosexuality was evil, but then I changed my mind. I realise the right wing also uses 'my political opponents are evil' retoric, but the left tries to frame everything as heroic rebels vs the evil empire, with an almost complete refusal to discuss or consider actual policies, whereas I think the right discusses actual politics more.

And whoever just downvoted every single comment in the thread, you are not helping.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-27T19:01:58.500Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

there is a substantial probability that tolerance of homosexuality will destroy civilisation.

I think you should distinguish between

  • Destroy civilization -- like the Roman civilization was destroyed -- which delays advancement for a while
  • Destroy civilization forever so that post-humans have to re-evolve from some low stage

Not to mention that you sound Pascal-mugged.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-27T19:14:01.056Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, any delay to civilisation increases the probability that civilisation dies permanently, due to asteroid impacts or being unable to restart civiliseation because too many fossil fuels and other raw materials have been depleted.

You are quite right about the Pascal's wager nature of what I seem to be saying. To clarify, there are rationalists who's estimates are far higher than 10^-30 - some of them were actually planning how to dig in and keep the spark of civiliseation alive in a remote, well-fortified location for hundreds of years when the barbarians overrun the rest of the world (due to liberalism in general, not just homosexuality). I don't think you would start plans like that unless your prob estimates were a lot higher than 10^-30, because it implies that making those plans is a better use of your time than trying to save us from meteorites/AI/nanowar.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-04-28T19:28:59.271Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm trying and failing to extract your main point out of your post. Is it that you believe that people don't, or shouldn't, have emotional motivations for political beliefs? Or that a good way to check whether a political belief is right or not is to perform utilitarian calculation on the truth or falsity of the belief, and disregard the emotional implications?

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T20:28:03.242Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Closer to shouldn't have purely emotional motivations - the dominant paradigm for normal left-wing people (as in, not LW) seems to be that political opinions are entirely emotional, and so, for instance, if you see yourself as an empathic person you might be in favour of writing off all debt, and you don't need to bother thinking about the logical ramifications of this. People who disagree with you do not do so because they have considered different lines of reasoning, they are evil.

I'm saying that its possible for politics to be decided by utilitarian calculations, but in practice it probably isn't.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-28T10:56:46.933Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I just want to point out this is more or less what was called conservatism for a long time, before it got more radical. If you look up e.g. Edmund Burke's works, you find precisely the attitude that civilization is worth preserving, yet it is something so fragile, so brittle, radical changes could easily break it. So the basic idea was to argue with the progressivist idea that history has a built-in course, going from less civilized to more civilized, and we will never become less civilized than today, so the only choice is how fast we progress for more, Burke and other early conservatives proposed more of an open-ended view of history where civilization can be easily broken. Or, a cyclical view, like empires raise and fall. Part of the reason why they considered civilization so brittle was that they believed in original sin making it difficult for human minds to resists temptations towards destructive actions, like destructive competition. An atheist version of the same belief would be that human minds did not evolve for the modern environment, the same destructive competitive instincts that worked right back then could ruin stuff today. To quote Burke: "Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters."

This moderate view characterized conservatism for a long time, for example, National Review's 1957 takedown of Ayn Rand was in this Burkean spirit.

However throughout the 20th century, conservatism has all but disappeared from Europe and and it turned into something quite radical in America. Far more than a civilization-preserving school of ideas, it became something more radical - just look at National Review now and compare it with this 1957 article. I don't really know the details what happened (I guess the religious right awakened, amongst others), but it seems conservatism in its original form have pretty much disappeared from both continents.

Today, this view would be more characterized as moderate e.g. David Brooks seems to be one of the folks who still stick to this civilization-preserval philosophy.

My point is, you probably need to find people who self-identify as moderates and test it on them. e.g. moderatepolitics.reddit.com

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T20:47:38.811Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

and and it turned into something quite radical in America.

What on earth are you talking about? Take a typical left-wing position from ~50 years ago (or heck ~10 years ago). Transport it to today, and it would be considered unacceptably radically right-wing. Hence the reason left-wing polititians constantly have their positions "evolve".

For example, the parent said:

[When I was a standard leftist,] I used to think that anyone who was against of homosexuality was evil

That is, nearly the whole political spectrum from as recently as ~15 years ago is now considered "evil" by 'mainstream' leftists.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-29T07:06:06.915Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Look, policies are the least important part of political identities. Personality, tone, mood, attitude, and so on, people's general disposition are the defining features and in this sense yes the Michele Malkin types today are far, far more radical than the Whitaker Chambers types back then.

It is a huge mistake to focus on policies when understanding political identities. Something entirely personal, such as parenting styles are far, far more predictive. A policy is something that can be debated to pieces. It is far too pragmatic. People can come up with all kinds of clever justifications. But if a person tells me their gut reaction when they see a parent discipline a child with a light slap and I know pretty much everything I need to know about their political disposition and attitude, philosophy, approach to society and life in general, views of human nature and so on, so everything that really drives these things. Or, another example, the gut reaction they have to a hunter boasting with a trophy. This pretty much tells everything.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-30T04:45:09.687Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But if a person tells me their gut reaction when they see a parent discipline a child with a light slap and I know pretty much everything I need to know about their political disposition and attitude, philosophy, approach to society and life in general, views of human nature and so on, so everything that really drives these things. Or, another example, the gut reaction they have to a hunter boasting with a trophy.

And in both your examples, what today comes across as the "conservative" reaction was the standard reaction of everybody except parts of the far left ~50 years ago.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-30T09:33:24.148Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, that's true... but you cannot deny the tone changed, became more, how to put it, aggressive or paranoid? Compare Chambers in the article vs. Ann Coulter or Malkin.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-30T15:13:30.081Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Compare Chambers in the article vs. Ann Coulter or Malkin.

That's not a valid comparison. Coulter and Malkin are people whose success is basically measured by how much outrage can they generate, so they generate a lot.

comment by Ishaan · 2015-05-03T17:12:33.012Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

An atheist version of the same belief would be that human minds did not evolve for the modern environment, the same destructive competitive instincts that worked right back then could ruin stuff today.

This is pretty much my view on many things relating to progress and danger, but I don't think it's necessarily "conservative". I see the general principle behind chesterton's fence, but I think civilization itself as terrifyingly novel.

So, I'm not gonna place my "every practice this point is probably okay since nothing terrible has happened yet" Chesterton's-Fence anywhere near civilization. If you've gotta put your C-Fence somewhere, I think you should put it in the ancestral environment.

It's all terrifyingly novel, we're rapidly hurtling towards space, we're in the 21st century mesosphere and people who make this argument for "traditional values" keep trying to stick the C-Fence into the 15-20th century stratosphere, whereas they aught to stick in into the paleolithic/neolithic ground because that's the only place we've ever actually been stable as a species. Hunter gatherers did not care about homosexuality to use OPs example, many didn't even have marriage, and one day suddenly we suddenly picked up pen and paper and built a rocket ship and now people want to arbitrarily stick the C-fence at some random point after takeoff which generally corresponds to whatever values were in vogue in the brief interval before they were born.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-04T03:09:15.604Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hunter gatherers did not care about homosexuality to use OPs example, many didn't even have marriage,

Citation?

comment by Ishaan · 2015-05-04T05:24:15.713Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Regarding marriage, obviously there's a lot of variance, but it's a generalization that at least some people who aren't me make, and I know it's at least true for the Mbuti and the Piraha.

Of course, we'd have to first define the practice first. I'd say that marriage in the broadest sense of the word means that there's some sort of extensive activity (whether legal or ritual) which signifies that people who have romantic or sexual relations of some sort are in some way bonded, which remains in effect until death unless actively nullified.

I bet your average hunter-gatherer wouldn't really know what homosexuality is, let alone be against it, since bands are small and it's a minority phenomenon, but as far as I can tell there's plenty of cultures where it isn't taboo.

Given the diversity of cultures and the difficulty of cleanly delineating modern hunter-gatherers from agriculturists, it's not exactly an open-and-shut case where broad generalizations can be made and the anthropologists doing the reporting are a pretty politically leftist bunch, but I think given the information we have to work with my general impression is reasonable.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-04T07:27:03.391Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One of my pet theories is that a huge part of it reduces to gender roles. And if you look at it this way, the difference between a hunter-gatherer and a 19th century farmer (especially if we consider the farmer being on the chaotic American Frontier and not e.g. in the far more orderly German villages) is not very big. He is considered a fighter (defending the family with guns), he does heavy-lifting kind of work, and there is a sense of communal tribalism, "we don't like outsiders much around here". While his wife focuses on reproduction and finger-skill type jobs, like milking cows - roughly equivalent to the ancestral environment.

Let's stick to the homosexuality example. In Ancient Rome, the concept does not exist. Rather they see sexuality as such in dominance / submission lines, and they simply consider the adult citizen man should be the dominant (penetrating party) and everybody else - women, boys, slaves - the penetrated / submissive. This attitude carries actually far into the 20th century, maybe even today. While the "official" definition of homosexuality includes both parties, it seems the generic homophobic instincts are far more focused on submissive behavior not being suitable for men. 90% of homophobic instincts are all about basically men who don't behave dominantly enough being called sissy. It has surprisingly little to do with actual sexual partner choice preferences. In a typical high school ANY sign of weakness, submission, whining etc. gets a boy called a sissy and then some smartass remarks you surely like to suck dick (again understood as being submissive in a sexual context) and shit hits the fan from that on, usually you have to fight to prove you are not sissy and so on.

So, apparently, it is generally a don't-be-a-sissy type of male-dominance machismo that is driving homohobia, and it is only by accident, largely by the classic human biases of thinking by association where it becomes something like not allowing gay marriage - the typical line of association being roughly like: sissy men are yuck -> gay are yuck -> don't "give in to" yuck people. Again - NOT a line of reasoning, but an association, connotation bias at work, things that sound like the same thing treated as the same thing.

Now, ask yourself, the generally sissy-men-are-yuck feeling can't be very ancestral? If you are fighting mammoths, you may be okay with having technically, literally homosexual comrades, but you probably don't want "sissy", "typical gay stereotype" ones. By logical thinking, you can say "gays of the bear subculture would be excellent at fighting mammoths" but again these things don't work by logical thinking but by association biases.

In short, I would say, modern conservative instincts are pretty ancestral (and gender based), my point is more like you are far too optimistic about the sanity waterline, or about on what high level in the cognitive apparatus these things are decided. It is not a System-2 "what is marriage?" kind of thing but closer to a System-1 "sissy men are yuck" kind of thing. It is very primitive. (I am not saying conservatives are unusually primitive: everybody is. You see the same associations amongst liberals: homophobes -> "rednecks" -> low socioeconomic status so their anti-homophobia often being "poor rural working class guys are yuck" "homophoboes or racists are the kind of people who can hardly use a fork to eat and they are yucky" sort of similar instincts).

comment by Ishaan · 2015-05-04T15:29:07.079Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But that entire realm of thinking doesn't even come into play until high scarcity conditions break egalitarianism and patriarchy/hierarchy/private property/agriculture begins. My impression is that pressure towards masculinity varies greatly from culture to culture, and ours (by "ours" I mean most people who participates in the global economy instead of subsistence hunting/gathering/farming) is one in which it is particularly strong.

Height is unimportant in Hazda female mate choice. Practices such as the !kung insulting the meat illustrate active suppression of dominance-seeking instincts. I'd be really surprised if these people value machismo and dominance in the sense you describe.

Now, I'm not one to carelessly opine that these things are cultural constructs. I think there's a fair case that humans are predisposed to one set of behaviors when they find themselves in a precarious, hierarchical, high-scarcity situations, and a second set of behaviors when faced with secure, egalitarian, resource abundant situations.

I think that any situation where individuals compete for dominance, the strongest individuals (which tends to be whoever has the most androgen exposure) tend to rise to the top, and that's when you get strong cultural or selection pressure towards masculinity. Taken to the extreme, this produces gorillas and lions and hyenas. When largely removed, this produces bonobos and all the other animals without marked dimorphism or aggression. I think humans are somewhere in between, and our culture and behavior shifts according to circumstance.

But many hunter gatherers (especially those living in resource abundant areas) didn't compete for dominance in that sense. Competing for dominance is not something humans must do, it's only something that humans are forced into when resources are scarce. And your own example illustrated that while disgust instincts are ancestral, the objects of disgust is a matter of cultural conditioning.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-05T07:59:43.166Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But that entire realm of thinking doesn't even come into play until high scarcity conditions break egalitarianism and patriarchy/hierarchy/private property/agriculture begins.

Some hunter-gatherers would strongly disagree To put it harshly, wombs are always scarce resources and it is likely the evolution of human intelligence can be reduced to guys competing for women. (EDSC model). Another excellent resource is http://www.warandgender.com/ (the book), arguing how war and gender mutually create each other, and the root cause is probably competing for women.

(To the people helpfully downvoting the whole thread, they are probably feminists: for example War and Gender is a feminist book. You get exactly the same sort of theories from the better feminist sources, as at the end of the day there is no such thing as different truths, thus the difference largely being the tone of abhorrence vs. grudging acceptance.)

Argumenting with hunter-gatherers is always a bit iffy, though, as current HG cannot be typical HG: there must be a special reason they stayed HG while everybody else moved on, this making them atypical. Perhaps The Yanimamö are a better example than most HG as their special feature seems to be mainly remoteness.

At any rate, womb-competition is pretty much an inescapable fact of huge human brain sizes. It means difficult and dangerous childbirth, and it means long and time-sinky mothering, and it means males having harems is a reproductive advantage when and if they can pull it off.

I admit I don't know the final answer, if there is one. I.e. how to explain the difference between e.g. the Yanomamö and Hazda people for example. Perhaps these instincts for competing for women are culturally suppressed. Perhaps I am wrong and it is not an instinct, although it makes perfect sense in evolutionary logic. Perhaps Hazda type people are more K-selected, i.e. fathers focusing more on fathering than on trying to build harems, fewer offspring, but higher quality. There is probably some mystery to unweil here which was not done yet. Perhaps it is a patriarchy vs. matriarchy thing, perhaps in matrilineal socities K-selected high fathering investment instead of harem-building gives more reproductive advantage.

Also note that this seems like there was such a thing as cultural differences already at the HG level, such as the Yanomamö and Hazda people. To get raw biology, if there is such a thing, we would have to go back even more.

Perhaps I should study bonobos, I don't fully understand why exactly the gorilla style males competing for building harems does not work so for them, what exactly prevents it.

comment by Ishaan · 2015-05-06T03:07:57.782Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's partly the point - the fact that there's variation shows that many of the behaviors people try to justify with "chesterton's fence" aren't particularly stable in the first place. I'd also stress the fact that the yanomami are also slash-and-burn horticulturalists, indicating that they're experiencing enough scarcity to engage in fairly laborious tasks.

Downvoters probably just people who don't want to talk about politics in general, and they probably have a point. I'm a feminist myself, there's no good reason for anyone to shy away from discussing biological underpinnings, it's just that politics in general is toxic.

Perhaps I should study bonobos, I don't fully understand why exactly the gorilla style males competing for building harems does not work so for them, what exactly prevents it.

Chimpanzee males as large groups primarily compete for territory. Adolescent, childless females are free to leave communities and join new ones as they please, but once they start reproducing they have to stay within their chosen group because a novel group's males won't tolerate the infant. Competition for mates occurs among males within a given territory.

With bonobos, territory doesn't matter because food is plentiful everywhere, and any male or female can join any band at any time and everything is completely flexible. If any particular bonobo became aggressive, other bonobos would either avoid them or drive them away, either one of which results in the loss of social bonds and mating opportunities. Which isn't to say there is no mating aggression, just that it's way less frequent and the incentives for aggression are fewer as compared to chimpanzees.

Scarcity is probably the culprit for behavioral differences. Bonobo habitats have much more food than Chimpanzee habitats. If your territory is too small as a chimp, you don't get enough food, so the most dominant, territory-defending individuals and those who successfully ally with them gain advantage. As a bonobo you can pretty much relax on that front.

So as far as evolution goes, I think what "prevents" it is the lack of scarcity. As for what "prevents" it in practice, I think both bonobos and humans have strong dominance heirarchy instincts leftover from ancestors, and we've each evolved strategies to subvert them (bonobos with sex as bonding and stress relief, humans with humor and stronger fairness instincts) but they are still under the surface, ready to arise again when high scarcity calls.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-06T07:12:33.009Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hm, this sounds like a pretty solid evidence for the food-competition (scarcity) hypothesis. However the evidences for the mating-competition hypothesis are also fairly strong. Not sure if non-primates matter, but animals like deer or reindeer are walking knee deep in food ( grass) and the mating competition, antler fights, is pretty strong. What I find particularly convincing is humans having abnormally large maternal investments (huge baby head -> dangerous birth, slow infant development -> lots of mothering investment) which would suggest one hell of a mating competition. But it could also be used as an evidence of fathering investment and monogamy. I don't really know how to construct at least a thought experiment to split the two without having an influence from culture. After all, if big heads are part of my hypothesis, i.e. intelligence is, intelligence pretty much means something akin to a culture must be there. Culture is probably way older than the archeological evidence for it - just the old versions lacking in artifacts. While lack of evidence is an evidence for lack, probably in case of archeology it is not true - it is a highly inefficient thing. For example, from much more recent history, Gaels were considered to be culturally inferior to Romans because they did not build roads and bridges. Turned out they did, but they made them out of wood, not stone, and that is far harder to find and evidence through archeology.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-06T01:50:22.263Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps I should study bonobos, I don't fully understand why exactly the gorilla style males competing for building harems does not work so for them, what exactly prevents it.

My theory about bonobos is that since they live in such remote locations, fewer people have had a chance to study them. Thus the scholarship on them hasn't yet left the "project one's ideals onto the noble savages" phase. Similarly it took Jane Goodall a remarkably long time to realize/admit how her beloved gorillas were actually behaving.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-06T07:17:58.547Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The reason I try to stay close neutral in such issues is that iti is perfectly possible that both sides of the debate project what they like into the data. There are also red-pill / reactionary types who like the idea of a harsh world red in claw and tooth, who like a dark Nietzschean romance of a brutal world, who liked it when Raistlin turned black robe. Maybe you know some of them :-) So while there is "idealism porn" on the left, there is also "dark romance porn" on the right and it is really hard to avoid both biases. My own leanings tend to actually towards the dark romance bias - I always played evil characters in RPG and as a teen I was a huuuge Nietzsche fan, and escaped Atlas Shrugged fandom only because I was too old when I first met it. So I have to be cautious of that. Quite possibly the world is more forgiving and nicer than what I like to think. Plato the philosopher actually impressed me when he argued justice often means efficiency. It was fairly new to me, and far too optimistic compared to what I was used to.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-08T02:39:38.409Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There are a lot of idealists on the right (and "dark romanticists" on the left) as well, they just focus on different ideals.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-05T01:59:00.379Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

By logical thinking, you can say "gays of the bear subculture would be excellent at fighting mammoths"

What is this "gays of the bear subculture" you speak of?

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-05-05T07:45:36.123Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What is this "gays of the bear subculture" you speak of?

You just have to google "bear subculture" to find out. The first hit is to a Wikipedia article on the subject. If you have done this you do not need to ask and if you have not you do not need to be answered. What is your real question?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-05T07:32:35.111Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlGclIZV5JQ :-DDD

comment by Ishaan · 2015-05-03T17:05:44.509Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

When I worried that the correlation between testosterone and politics means that political opinions are hopelessly biased by emotions, it was pointed out to me that it could be valid for emotions to affect values if not probability estimates.

It just so happens that deficits in emotional processing are usually linked to gambling disorders and in the lab are linked to difficulty in distinguishing good bets from bad bets. I suspect that most decisions are less "probability estimates" and more based on approach/avoid emotions. (And incidentally, political orientation is also linked to differences in approach/avoidance behaviors and differences corresponding brain regions. If you thought the testosterone link were bad wait till you read about the amygdala links).

In short, as far as humanity goes emotion basically is totally inextricable from accurate probability estimates, and differences in emotional processing are probably responsible for the variation in viewpoints that cannot be explained by variations in life experience.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T02:32:50.080Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

P(tolerance of homosexuality will save civiliseation)

Given the attitude of nearly every previous civilization towards homosexuality (including our own until ~30 years ago) I don't see how you can justify assigning this a value anywhere close to P(tolerance of homosexuality will destroy civiliseation).

For one thing, I think that a general principal of not defecting against people who do not defect against you could arguably help save civilisation.

So does this count as defecting? What about this?

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T06:38:29.041Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Given the attitude of nearly every previous civilization towards homosexuality (including our own until ~30 years ago) I don't see how you can justify assigning this a value anywhere close to P(tolerance of homosexuality will destroy civiliseation).

A large part of my argument is based on my understanding that the Roman empire and Greece and so forth did tolerate homosexuality. AFAIK intolerance of homosexuality in the west started with Christianity.

If you are right that every past civilization was intolerant of homosexuality, then P(tolerance of homosexuality will destroy civiliseation) would obviously have to increase a lot.

So does this count as defecting? What about this?

Yes and yes.

comment by Jiro · 2015-04-28T18:10:37.111Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Did the Romans and Greeks "tolerate homosexuality" in the sense we understand that phrase today? They certainly didn't have gay weddings. And allowing people to have homosexual affairs as long as you marry a woman would not nowadays be thought of as toleration, but as an anti-gay double standard.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-28T19:03:50.138Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Did the Romans and Greeks "tolerate homosexuality" in the sense we understand that phrase today?

I think the Romans and the Greeks did not "tolerate", but rather "accepted and celebrated as a morally and socially fine practice". Not to mention that from a contemporary perspective they were all pedophiles and corrupters of youth, anyways X-D

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-04-29T08:03:58.531Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Not when the "passive" partner was a mature adult man, IIRC.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-30T04:37:58.624Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sort of, the passive partner had to have lower social status then the active partner. For example, at least in Rome, using slaves as the passive partner was common.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T18:47:24.469Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

wikipedia seems to think there was sort of gay marriage, in that gay marriage ceremonies were occasionally held but not legally recognised. Dunno exactly how reliable wikipedia is on this.

And allowing people to have homosexual affairs as long as you marry a woman would not nowadays be thought of as toleration, but as an anti-gay double standard.

Actually, if everyone is comfortable with the affairs and practices safe sex, this strikes me as a reasonable compromise.

In fact, anecdotally it seems that most bisexuals have hetrosexual relationships, and very frequently their partners allow them to have homosexual affairs.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T20:38:32.141Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

wikipedia seems to think there was sort of gay marriage, in that gay marriage ceremonies were occasionally held but not legally recognised.

Yes, there is some evidence things like this happened during the late Roman Empire (this certainly happened). Of cource, this is hardly encouraging from a gay marrige being pro-civilization point of view.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T21:09:17.190Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I know this is a serious conversation, but on a lighter note, this made me laugh:

Elagabalus was married as many as five times, lavished favours on male courtiers popularly thought to have been his lovers,[3][4] and was reported to have prostituted himself in the imperial palace.

As a private citizen, he was probably named Sextus Varius

Anyway, back to gay marriage and the collapse of civiliseation:

As the empire was becoming Christianized in the 4th century, legal prohibitions against gay marriage began to appear.

I would actually argue that prohibiting gay marrage could have contributed to the collapse of the Roman empire. The reason is that if a Christian government impose their values (including but certainly not limited to banning gay marrage) upon a traditionally pagan population, it could have led to internal conflict. Would you be so eager to lay down your life for Rome if Rome is banning centuries-old traditions like the Olympics which you still value?

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T21:40:49.644Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, homosexuality (although not gay marrige) was much more traditional in the Greek east then in the Roman west (where it had only become acceptable under Greek influince). And yet it was the west that collapsed.

Also, there was a great deal of internal conflict (of the general declares himself Emperor and marches on Rome variety) even before the conversion to Christianity.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T21:54:45.630Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Homosexuals are a small proportion of the population. Annoying them would not make them emperor popular, but banning pagan ceremonies would cause far more discontent, because they are a greater proportion of the population.

Coups tend to resolve one way or the other quite quickly, but religious conflicts drag on and are more personal to individual citizens.

The pagan customs were banned in 393. Rome fell in 410.

I'm not saying its the fault of Christianity. But maybe its a 'United we stand, divided we fall' situation?

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-29T03:05:16.173Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

but banning pagan ceremonies would cause far more discontent, because they are a greater proportion of the population.

Suppose this interpretation was correct, what does it say about the current left-wing approach to Christianity?

Also, paganism was never a unified thing, and by the late Roman empire most of the leadership wasn't ethnically Italian (much less Roman).

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-29T06:22:38.526Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, there are countries where public Christianity is banned, but the US isn't one of them.

I think that the left forcing ministers to perform gay weddings is going to cause resentment, but then the Christian right trying to ban abortion and stem cell research and the teaching of evolution are in the wrong too.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-29T17:53:01.031Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think forcing ministers and priests to perform gay weddings is at all likely. I don't even think it's likely that there will be an effort to pass laws requiring that is at likely in the reasonably near future.

I think it's likely that some on the left will be applying social pressure, but that's short of force, and there's going to be countervailing pressure.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-30T04:46:48.045Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think forcing ministers and priests to perform gay weddings is at all likely.

Please update your model of reality.

comment by gjm · 2015-04-30T18:20:05.822Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. The Washington Times is not exactly what I'd call an unbiased source on this sort of stuff. Looking elsewhere on the web, I find the following:

  • The people we're talking about here are indeed ordained ministers, but the institution at which they're marrying people is a for-profit weddings-only business. (It is not, e.g., a church.)
  • The law in question has an exemption for "religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies", but the business run by the Knapps doesn't qualify.
  • There was a lawsuit, but the Knapps were the plaintiffs -- i.e., they were suing preemptively for the right not to marry same-sex couples. The full extent of the "forcing" that appears to have happened is: someone asked someone at the city attorney's office for an opinion and he said "If you turn away a gay couple, refuse to provide services for them, then in theory you violated our code and you're looking at a potential misdemeanor citation".
  • Shortly before filing the lawsuit, the Knapps' wedding chapel made a whole lot of changes to its policies, making them sound a lot more specifically Christian than before.

all of which suggests to me that ministers and priests performing their usual functions as ministers and priests remain in no danger of being forced to perform same-sex marriages, but that if they choose to start marrying people for profit rather than as a normal part of exercising their calling as ministers, the fact of being ordained doesn't exempt them from the same laws other people marrying people for profit are subject to. (And that there may be something less than perfectly sincere about the Knapps' protestations.)

I can't tell what if anything happened to the lawsuit, except that a few weeks after it was filed it looked as if it might get settled out of court, with the city agreeing to treat the Hitching Post as a "religious corporation" after all. (All the more reason not to think anyone's freedom is in much danger.)

[EDITED to fix an inconsequential typo. Also, if whoever downvoted this did so for reasons of quality rather than ideology and would like to tell me what they found wrong with it, I'm all ears.]

comment by Jiro · 2015-04-30T20:44:07.359Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"They settled out of court on favorable terms" doesn't mean it's not a danger, unless the terms are so favorable that nobody's ever going to court for this again. Court cases are expensive and just having to go to court to affirm that what you're doing is legal is a cost all by itself.

comment by gjm · 2015-04-30T21:05:50.677Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I agree: the fact that they settled out of court on its own doesn't mean there isn't a problem.

What means there isn't a problem is that so far every single same-sex-marriage law has had an explicit exemption saying that religious organizations aren't obliged to perform same-sex marriages, and that the best example VoiceOfRa could find turns out to be one where there is an explicit exemption and what actually happened is that a commercial wedding factory tried to make out that they were being oppressed. And even then it turns out that they're probably getting what they want after all, but that's just icing on the cake.

comment by Jiro · 2015-05-01T06:37:02.372Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Explicit exemptions that don't prevent lawsuits are failed explicit exemptions. They're not working, because they don't prevent the person who wants to use the exception from taking damage.

(And that includes preemptive lawsuits, if the preemptive lawsuit is actually necessary to settle the issue and is not a slam dunk.)

comment by gjm · 2015-05-01T07:58:07.272Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes there are unreasonable lawsuits. Sometimes there are unavoidable corner cases that give rise to reasonable lawsuits. Neither of these means that the law is wrong.

I'm not sure exactly what point you're arguing now.

  • The original question: Are religious organizations at risk of being obliged to endorse same-sex marriages despite their traditions against such marriages?
    • VoiceOfRa's example doesn't seem to me to be any evidence that they are; the organization in question isn't (or at least wasn't at the relevant time) a religious organization, the threat to it shows every sign of being basically made up to support its lawsuit, and the result of the legal action it initiated seems to have been that indeed it could operate the way it wanted.
  • The question I think your last comment is addressing: Is the particular law we're discussing drafted in some less-than-perfect way?
    • Maybe. The fact that there was a lawsuit could be evidence of that. Or it could just be that the ADF is rather trigger-happy about filing certain kinds of lawsuit.

Clearly you find something unsatisfactory here. Could you describe how the law could look, such that there would be no risk of lawsuits like the Knapps'?

Obviously one way to do that would be not to permit same-sex marriages after all, but it appears that the Will of the People is to permit them[1], and if we have to choose between "one business was worried that some day hypothetically it might be required to conduct a same-sex wedding, which for religious reasons its owners don't want it to do" and "many thousands of couples who want to get married are forbidden to do so" it doesn't seem like a difficult choice.

Or you could nominally permit same-sex marriage but provide a blanket exemption saying that no person or institution can ever be compelled to marry any same-sex couple if they don't want to. The likely effect is that in large regions of the USA any same-sex couple wanting to get married has to travel a long way to find anyone who'll marry them. Again, that seems like a pretty bad outcome.

Or you could have an exemption specifically for religious institutions because those are the ones that have the deepest-rooted, hardest-to-get-around, most-sympathized-with objections to same-sex marriage. Which is a common state of affairs now, and generally seems to work OK. But as soon as you do anything like this, you open up the possibility of lawsuits like the Knapps'.

(Or you could have no exemptions and say to hell with religious organizations that have a problem. Which I would regard as a bad option, but it's pretty much symmetrical with the "no same-sex marriage" option except that fewer people get screwed over.)

So if there's an actually possible option that rules out the possibility of lawsuits like this one, while not harming a whole lot more people, I'm not seeing it. What do you think they should have done instead and why?

[1] In jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is a thing, that is.

comment by Jiro · 2015-05-01T14:36:16.444Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Could you describe how the law could look, such that there would be no risk of lawsuits like the Knapps'?

In order for the law to be a law that works, there has to be no significant risk of lawsuits [1]. It is possible that in the current political climate, there is no way the law could look that makes there be no risk of lawsuits. This would mean that in the current political climate, there is no way the law could work.

And if there's no way the law could work, that answers the first question: religious organizations are at risk of being forced to perform gay marriages, and laws that try to prevent such force don't work.

[1] Again, preemptive lawsuits count if they are meant to prevent a real risk of normal lawsuits and are not a slam dunk.

comment by gjm · 2015-05-01T17:50:55.055Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I see that I have been unclear, and I'll try to fix that. When I said "how the law could look", I didn't mean "the law permitting same-sex marriage", I meant "the law as a whole". So, in particular, "same-sex marriage stays illegal" is one possible way the law could look.

Regardless, I'm puzzled by two features of your answer.

First: Suppose the law said: Same-sex couples are allowed to get married, but no one is under any circumstances obliged to marry them. Then there would be no possible grounds for a lawsuit of the kind we're discussing here. Why doesn't that refute your suggestion that perhaps "there is no way the law could work"?

(Of course there might then be a risk of lawsuits from same-sex couples who want to get married but can't. But your second paragraph makes it clear that you aren't counting that under the heading of "no way the law could work".)

Second: there are what look to me like some serious gaps in your reasoning. To explain the gaps I think I see, I'll begin by repeating your argument in more explicit form; please let me know if I misrepresent it. I'll consider the law as it currently is rather than the more general question of whether any modified version might be better.

  • A. The Knapps' lawsuit happened.
  • B. This was a preemptive lawsuit, but if there is a preemptive lawsuit then that shows that there was a real risk of coercion that it was trying to prevent.
  • C. Therefore, there was a real risk that the Knapps would be forced to perform same-sex marriages.
  • D. Therefore, there was a real risk that religious organizations would be forced to perform same-sex marriages.

Now, of course I agree with A. I do not agree with B; there are other reasons why the Knapps and/or the ADF might have chosen to file their lawsuit even if there was never a real risk that the Knapps would be required to perform same-sex marriages. I agree that C is a reasonable inference from B (and indeed might be correct even if B isn't). I do not agree with the inference from C to D; the Knapps' institution wasn't a religious organization in the relevant sense, and if it had been then they would have been at no risk of coercion.

It seems, as I mentioned above, that shortly before filing the lawsuit the Knapps made a number of changes to the Hitching Post's stated principles and practices. Perhaps after those changes it was a religious organization in the relevant sense. I hope it's clear that "My organization was told it might have to conduct same-sex weddings; then a bunch of things about it changed; now my organization is a religious organization; therefore religious organizations are at risk of being forced to conduct same-sex weddings" is not good reasoning.

So: I still don't see how the Knapps' story is good evidence against Nancy's denial that "forcing ministers and priests to perform gay weddings is at all likely".

I was actually rather hoping you'd answer the last question I asked: what do you think they should have done instead and why? (For instance, do you think it would be best to forbid same-sex marriages altogether, on the grounds that if they are legal then it's possible that some day a religious organization might have to conduct one?)

comment by Jiro · 2015-05-01T18:18:55.519Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

First: Suppose the law said: Same-sex couples are allowed to get married, but no one is under any circumstances obliged to marry them. Then there would be no possible grounds for a lawsuit of the kind we're discussing here. Why doesn't that refute your suggestion that perhaps "there is no way the law could work"?

  1. I didn't say there was no way the law could work. I said it was possible there was no way the law could work (this questioning your implicit assumption that I had to tell you a way for it to work.)
  2. At any rate, I can easily see how that law might not work either. The law is passed, then someone takes the religious group to court claiming that the law violates equal protection.

B. This was a preemptive lawsuit, but if there is a preemptive lawsuit then that shows that there was a real risk of coercion that it was trying to prevent.

This is an incorrect description of my argument. It is not true, in general, that preemptive lawsuits indicate a real risk. But it is true in this case, because what they were told by the city attorney's office.

I was actually rather hoping you'd answer the last question I asked: what do you think they should have done instead and why?

I don't know that there was anything they could have done instead. It may just be that they were screwed.

comment by gjm · 2015-05-01T23:09:49.511Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(This discussion doesn't seem to be generating much light. I think I might drop it somewhere around now.)

I didn't say you did say there was no way the law could work; I said you said that perhaps there was no way the law could work, because there might be no way to avoid the risk of lawsuits, and then I explained why it seemed obvious that there is a way to avoid that risk.

I already commented on the possibility of lawsuits going the other way, and explained why I didn't think it relevant to your argument.

it is true in this case, because [of] what they were told by the city attorney's office.

If you talk to a lawyer and say "Look, there's this law that says X; is there any possibility that it might be used against me?" they are always, always going to give the most conservative answer. If you look at the actual wording of the attorney's comments, it's full of hedging.

Also, let me remind you: they were a purely commercial outfit offering weddings to anyone, religious or not; they talked to the attorney and were told that yes, in principle it could happen that they'd be obliged to conduct same-sex marriages; then they rewrote all their promotional materials to present them as a super-religious organization, and then they sued for the right not to marry same-sex couples. The "real risk" is that commercial wedding-sellers might be obliged to conduct same-sex marriages, which is not news and has nothing to do with the alleged risk to actual religious institutions.

I don't know that there was anything they could have done instead.

In which case, the fact that what they actually did didn't completely eliminate the risk of lawsuits is hardly much of an argument against it.

comment by Jiro · 2015-05-02T01:56:08.051Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you talk to a lawyer and say "Look, there's this law that says X; is there any possibility that it might be used against me?" they are always, always going to give the most conservative answer.

If that's the explanation, then as soon as he sued the city, the city would have immediately said "given what you described in your lawsuit papers, what you want to do is legal" and ended the lawsuit right there.

I don't know that there was anything they could have done instead.

In which case, the fact that what they actually did didn't completely eliminate the risk of lawsuits is hardly much of an argument against it.

The argument is that religious leaders can be forced to perform gay marriages. Making them go through an expensive lawsuit if they don't counts as force. If there's nothing they or the lawmakers can do to prevent being forced, it's still true that they can be forced, so the argument remains valid.

comment by gjm · 2015-05-02T09:32:44.486Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If that's the explanation, then [...] ended the lawsuit right there.

It looks as if the city very quickly (1) stated explicitly that the Knapps were not in danger of being forced to perform same-sex marriages or punished for not doing so, and (2) attempted to settle. However, on further investigation it seems that the case is still going on. I have no inside knowledge as to what the obstacles to settlement are. Unless the city's attorney is lying outright, they have explicitly said to the Knapps "We're not going to pursue you, you're good to go and you're a religious corporation exempt under our ordinance". (I assume that's a paraphrase, but it's a paraphrase by someone officially representing the city.)

So I think the city did do exactly what you say; but it's not their lawsuit, they can't dismiss it unilaterally, and for whatever reason the Knapps and/or the ADF aren't satisfied and want more.

(Here is my guess at what more they want. The lawsuit requests not only an injunction telling the city not to take action against the Knapps for not marrying same-sex couples, but a declaratory judgement that the city's ordinance as applied to the Knapps violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Given that the city hasn't actually taken any action against the Knapps, that seems to be the same thing as a demand for a declaratory judgement that the city's ordinance itself is unconstitutional. I can see why they might be unwilling to accept that.)

the argument remains valid

The fact that an ideological advocacy group can file a frivolous lawsuit simply isn't much evidence that there's an actual danger of the kind of coercion they claim to be worried about.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-01T14:50:09.829Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The original question: Are religious organizations at risk of being obliged to endorse same-sex marriages

Actually, I think the original question wasn't about organizations, it was about individuals.

it appears that the Will of the People is to permit them ... in large regions of the USA any same-sex couple wanting to get married has to travel a long way to find anyone who'll marry them

I think these two sentence fragments directly contradict each other. And the second looks silly, too -- what, there would be literally not one single person willing to marry them?

Legally speaking, in the US the issue is basically Constitutional. The question is whether forcing people to perform actions contrary to their religious beliefs infringes on their right to the "free exercise" of their religion.

comment by gjm · 2015-05-01T16:44:09.125Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

the original question wasn't about organizations, it was about individuals

It was phrased that way, but I think it's obviously a Wrong Question when phrased that way and I'm fairly sure that what makes it sound worrying when someone talks about "the left forcing ministers to perform gay weddings" is not the idea that ministers might be treated in such a disagreeable way, but the idea that churches (and other such entities -- but in the US it's usually churches) might be. That is: If the Reverend Bob Smith, a minister of the Fundamental Free Fundamentalist Church of Freedom, stops being (or never is) a full-time minister of religion, and starts up Bob's Wedding Shack providing weddings for anyone who'll pay, then even though Bob may still be an ordained minister of the FFFCoF he's no longer acting as one, he's providing a commercial service and should be subject to the same terms as anyone else providing a commercial service.

(This is the way other similar religious exemptions tend to work. The FFFCoF may refuse to employ women as ministers and that's fine, but Bob's Wedding Shack isn't allowed to refuse to employ women as secretaries. It may deny evolution and no one will force its services to put a reading from the Origin of Species alongside Genesis 1, but if Bob's next job is as a biology teacher then the fact that he's an ordained minister gives him no special right to tell his students that life on earth is less than 10,000 years old. The point isn't special rights for ministers, it's special protections for religious groups.)

So: yeah, there might be a risk that ministers will be forced to conduct same-sex weddings -- in the sense that someone who is an ordained minister might take some entirely different job that involves marrying people. But that's not what any reasonable person is actually worried about. (Unless they are worried more generally that religious people might be forced to conduct same-sex weddings despite disapproving. But that's got nothing to do with ministers as such.)

I think these two sentence fragments directly contradict one another.

No, because The People are not unanimous and their opinions are not uniformly distributed geographically.

what, there would be literally not one single person willing to marry them?

Take a look at the distribution of abortion clinics in the southern United States some time. E.g., if you're in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, you may be 150 miles from the nearest one. The reasons for this are much the same as the reasons for which a same-sex couple might have trouble finding people to marry them in some scenarios. And it's perfectly compatible with its being the Will of the People for abortion to be legal.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-02T03:22:24.678Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

And it's perfectly compatible with its being the Will of the People for abortion to be legal.

Is it? The Will of the People, especially the Will of the People of Texas, for abortion to be legal is a rather dubious claim.

comment by gjm · 2015-05-02T09:09:07.491Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, what I said is "it's perfectly compatible with ..." rather than "it's also true that ...". But:

Gallup polling finds that the US population splits roughly 2:3:5 between unconditionally illegal, conditional, and unconditionally legal. More than 50% of people polled way Roe v Wade should not be overturned; fewer than 30% say it should be. (There are a lot of undecideds.) On the other hand, further questioning of the ~50% who say abortion should be legal sometimes but not always shows that they mostly want it to be available in "few" rather than "many" cases, which may mean that they want it to be more restricted than it is now, which I'm not sure how to square with opinions on Roe v Wade.

So. US law permits abortion in some cases. A large majority of US citizens think US law should permit abortion in some cases. It's been many years since Roe v Wade and the people of the US have conspicuously not voted in governments that have tried to get Roe v Wade overturned. So yeah, I think it's fair to say that for abortion to be sometimes legal is the Will of the People.

It may indeed not be the Will of the People of Texas. It very likely isn't the Will of the People of (say) Odessa, Texas. But it's a matter of federal law, rather than anything more local.

(Same-sex marriage is currently a matter of state rather than federal law in the US, and in the particular state under discussion it's legal. Given how it became so and that because it was fairly recent it's hard to gauge public opinion from subsequent events, I concede that we don't know that legal same-sex marriage is the Will of the People of Idaho. It is, however, the law of Idaho.)

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-02T17:59:11.308Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I concede that we don't know that legal same-sex marriage is the Will of the People of Idaho. It is, however, the law of Idaho.

Consider who it came to be the "law" of Idaho. Did the Idaho legislator pass legislation permitting it? No, the Idaho supreme court re-interpreted the existing laws to basically declare that it is and has always been the law.

comment by gjm · 2015-05-02T19:35:09.921Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Consider [how] it came to be the "law" of Idaho.

This is very strange. I say: actually, considering how it came about, it isn't necessarily the Will of the People. You say: Hey, you need to consider how it came about, and then you might realise that it isn't necessarily the Will of the People.

(Perhaps you're saying that we shouldn't regard the process that made it law in Idaho as legitimate. If so, I think rather more argument needs deploying to that end than you have presented so far. In particular, the ideas (1) that laws can turn out to be unconstitutional and need undoing and (2) that interpretation of the constitution can change over time so that different things are deemed unconstitutional at different times, are both pretty firmly established in US jurisprudence, and all you're pointing out here is that this is an example of that process.)

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-04T03:11:33.671Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, now I officially have no idea what you mean by "Will of the People" since it seems to bear no relation to what the people actually want.

comment by gjm · 2015-05-04T10:24:07.380Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It means what the people actually want. That's kinda ill-defined given that different people want different things, so we have systems for aggregating the wills of individual people to make decisions.

Example: It is the will of the people in the US, collectively, that abortion be legal in certain circumstances. The fact that the law actually permits it is on its own only weak evidence for this (what it shows is that the people elected presidents who nominated SC judges who interpreted the constitution that way, and that's a lot of indirection), but it's also what opinion polls say, and The People have had plenty of chances to elect people who might change the law and it hasn't happened.

There are individuals and communities whose will is something else. It happens that in US law the scale at which the WotP is aggregated is national. (For this specific issue.)

It's not very clear to me what the best scale is for aggregating the WotP about same-sex marriage, nor what the actual WotP is nationally, nor what the actual WotP is in Idaho. All of which is why, on reflection, I retracted my earlier claim that legal same-sex marriage is the WotP in this context.

I repeat: the WotP isn't perfectly well defined. In some cases there will be no answer, or at least no answer not subject to vigorous disagreement even between reasonable and well-informed people.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-05T02:14:07.123Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

what it shows is that the people elected presidents who nominated SC judges who interpreted the constitution that way, and that's a lot of indirection

(..)

It's not very clear to me what the best scale is for aggregating the WotP about same-sex marriage, nor what the actual WotP is nationally, nor what the actual WotP is in Idaho.

Well, the fact that support for gay marriage is strongly correlated with the amount of indirection should give you a hint.

For example, look at what actually happened in Idaho, the people's direct representatives passed a law (and then a constitutional amendment) against gay marriage, and a federal judge (who isn't even appointed by the state) declared it unconstitutional.

Or look what happened in Oregon (which is where the case under discussion happened), a county official started issuing same-sex "marriage" licenses, the People then passed a constitutional amendment banning it. Then a federal court declared the ban unconstitutional.

comment by gjm · 2015-05-05T08:07:03.459Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

the fact that support for gay marriage is strongly correlated with the amount of indirection

Is it? Could you show me the numbers?

I'm not saying it isn't, by the way. It might well be. But what would be particularly uninteresting would be if what you mean is this: that among states where same-sex marriage is legal, there is a correlation between popular support for same-sex marriage and how direct the most direct sort of WotP-ness of same-sex marriage is there. Because that is automatically true whatever the actual facts.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-06T01:54:31.787Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What I'm saying is that ballot initiatives almost always (maybe there are one or two exceptions) go against gay "marriage". Legislators mostly vote against gay "marriage". Most places where gay "marriage" is legal it is this way due to court decisions.

comment by gjm · 2015-05-06T17:11:19.804Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

ballot initiatives [...]

It seems like that (assuming it's true, which I haven't checked) might be telling us much more about the strategies of different lobbying groups than about actual popular support for same-sex marriage.

Legislators [...]

For obvious reasons legislators' opinions may lag voters' by a couple of years. Support for same-sex marriage has been on the increase recently. So if it's true that legislators usually vote against, even though popular support is somewhere around 60% nationally, that might be why. But, again, I haven't checked whether it's true that legislators mostly vote against. (This, also, might be a function more of when the question gets put to the vote rather than of general opinion among legislators.)

Most places [...]

This one, again, I haven't checked, and I'm a bit skeptical about it. Do you have figures? Yet again, though, this could be true for reasons that have nothing to do with the one I take it you're trying to suggest (i.e., that same-sex marriage is unpopular and foisted on the populace by the judiciary). For instance, consider a hypothetical world where the following things are true:

  • It is clear to most judges that the constitution implies, or will be interpreted by SCOTUS as implying, that laws forbidding same-sex marriage are improper.
  • Opponents of same-sex marriage choose to adopt a strategy of getting anti-same-sex-marriage laws on the books via ballot initiatives.
  • There is enough popular opposition to same-sex marriage for many of those initiatives to succeed.
  • However, popular opinion is shifting in the direction of same-sex marriage.

(Note that all these things could be true for a wide range of actual national popular support for same-sex marriage.)

In this hypothetical world, many states pass anti-SSM laws which are subsequently overturned when they are challenged on constitutional grounds; in those places there is no need for further action to make same-sex marriage legal; accordingly, where it's legal the proximate cause is usually that a court has decided it must be. After a while, though, even in most of those places there is in fact enough popular support for same-sex marriage that a law explicitly permitting it would pass -- but there's no need for such a law, because the question has been effectively resolved at national level.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-08T02:53:09.794Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It is clear to most judges that the constitution implies, or will be interpreted by SCOTUS as implying, that laws forbidding same-sex marriage are improper.

This is a complete dodge, since it dodges the question of why the SCOTUS will make this interpritation, or whether it should.

Opponents of same-sex marriage choose to adopt a strategy of getting anti-same-sex-marriage laws on the books via ballot initiatives.

And why would they adopt that strategy? Is it because they have popular support behind their position?

However, popular opinion is shifting in the direction of same-sex marriage.

Again you avoid the issue of why the popular opinion is shifting. Especially when a lot of it may well be preference falsification, given what can happen to people who openly oppose it.

The implicit argument you seem to be trying to make is "we must support gay marriage because it is the wave of the future". The problem is that this argument is basically circular.

comment by gjm · 2015-05-08T08:38:31.347Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is a complete dodge

In what sense? I'm not proposing that the possible world I described is an admirable one, only that it's a possible one that somewhat resembles the real world and that in it (1) the pattern of SSM legislation you describe obtains and (2) popular sentiment favours SSM.

And why would they adopt that strategy?

Popular support would be one reason (though that would roughly-equally favour the different strategy of electing politicians who would vote for anti-SSM laws). Other possible reasons: it's a more effective way of publicizing the issue, it's easier to raise funds for (look e.g. at the huge sums raised for the Prop 8 vote in California), if you make it a constitutional amendment you can make it harder for elected politicians to reverse later, it avoids entanglement with other political issues.

Again you avoid the issue of why the popular opinion is shifting.

I'm not deliberately avoiding that issue; I wasn't aware it was an issue. Why do you think it's an issue?

preference falsification

Yeah, that can happen. But unless you have actual evidence for it and some quantification, appealing to it leaves you with an unfalsifiable theory: the people oppose same-sex marriage, and the fact that 60% of them tell pollsters they approve of it is no evidence against it because maybe 1/6 of the people who say that are lying about their preferences. That figure could be 100% and for all I know you'd just say "That shows how strong the social pressure is!". Is there any possible evidence that you would accept as showing that same-sex marriage actually has majority popular support in the US?

given what can happen

There's a lot that could be said about that, but rather than getting into a lengthy digression here I'll just say: At most, that indicates that there are risks in making sizeable public donations to an anti-SSM campaign. It doesn't indicate that any risk attaches to giving an honest answer in an anonymous poll.

"we must support gay marriage because it is the wave of the future"

I promise you that that in no way resembles any argument I was trying to make or ever intend to make. I have not, in fact, argued that we must support same-sex marriage; I have not made any claim about its likely support in the future; I think you must be wildly misinterpreting my hypothetical example -- which, I repeat, is intended descriptively and not normatively.

Whether something is "the wave of the future" has approximately nothing to do with whether we should support it now. (Not exactly nothing; sometimes we might have reason to think that the people of the future will have a clearer view than we have now; or we might choose not to change something now on pragmatic grounds, because it will only be overturned in a few years.)

Incidentally, it seems that every time I have a reply from you I also have a freshly minted downvote. Is it your opinion that there's something wrong with my comments other than that you disagree with them? If you make a habit of downvoting everyone you disagree with, you may find that some people choose to respond to you with downvotes instead of disagreement. (That is not my practice; I don't think I've downvoted anything you've written in this discussion.)

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-09T02:34:01.564Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(though that would roughly-equally favour the different strategy of electing politicians who would vote for anti-SSM laws).

Less so, since that strategy results in you getting it mixed up with other random issues, and also relies on politicians keeping their promises.

it's easier to raise funds for (look e.g. at the huge sums raised for the Prop 8 vote in California),

Much smaller then the funds raised against it.

if you make it a constitutional amendment you can make it harder for elected politicians to reverse later,

Or more importantly state supreme courts. In fact, in many cases, e.g California, the reason for the amendment was to reverse a state supreme court decision.

it avoids entanglement with other political issues.

Yes, which is only to your advantage if you have popular support for this particular issue.

Is it your opinion that there's something wrong with my comments other than that you disagree with them?

The fact that your trying to pass of large amounts of dark arts and indirection as an argument.

comment by gjm · 2015-05-09T13:41:26.738Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Much smaller than the funds raised against it.

$39M for, $44M against. Much smaller?

The fact that your trying to pass large amounts of dark arts and indirection as an argument.

Not intentionally; could you please be specific? I remark that you have made at least one extremely wrong claim about what I'm arguing (claiming I'm saying "we must support gay marriage because it is the wave of the future", which I am not and never have and never would), and suggest that you consider the possibility that you are wrong about what I am trying to do.

[EDITED to add: oops, sorry, you didn't claim I'm saying that, only that I'm implicitly trying to argue that. Again, that is no part of my intention.]

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-01T18:15:53.440Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's obviously a Wrong Question when phrased that way

That's not obvious to me. Let me explain.

My understanding of who can marry whom is hazy, but as far as I know in the US it works as follows. There are two classes of people who have the power to marry. The first class is government officials and if you want a civil (non-religious) marriage, you just go to the City Hall and get married there. No problems and we're not talking about those people. The second class is priests/ministers/rabbis/imams/etc. of a recognized religion.

The thing is, Bob Smith as a plain-vanilla citizen has no right to marry anyone. Even is he opens a business and calls it Bob's Wedding Shack, he still has no right to marry anyone. He can only marry people if he is acting as a priest/minister/rabbi/imam/etc. And if he's one, he doesn't need to have a business to do so -- he can marry people for fun in his spare time, if he wishes.

Rights come in pairs with duties. If you want to give a gay couple the right to be wed, it means that somebody has a duty to marry them. City officials have such a duty and that's fine. The question is whether priests have a duty to marry them. And it's a person who does marriage rite, not an organization.

Take a look at the distribution of abortion clinics in the southern United States

That's not really comparable. To conduct abortions you need to be a licensed MD, have a clinic, etc. etc. To marry people you need nothing.

comment by gjm · 2015-05-01T23:20:38.865Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The question is whether priests have a duty to marry them.

And no one is suggesting that they do or should. If you are a priest and I go to you and say "hey, you're a priest, marry me" you are not under the slightest obligation to comply. You are, I think, entirely within your rights to say that I'm not religious enough or that you think the marriage I propose to make is unwise. I'm not even sure I have any recourse if you won't marry me because you don't like the colour of my skin.

But if you are running a commercial wedding business and I go to you and say "hey, you run this business, marry me" you are not supposed to discriminate on the basis of those things. Religious establishments get all kinds of special dispensations to do things their own way, but commercial businesses have legal obligations to treat customers equally in certain respects.

And I don't see that any of this is, or should be, invalidated merely because the guy who does the weddings at Bob's Wedding Shack happens to be entitled to do weddings because he's an ordained religious minister rather than because he's a judge or a notary or a marriage commissioner.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2015-04-29T19:45:17.212Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As you say, some on the left will be applying social (and economic) pressure, just as everyone else does when they're able to. And there's a fairly well-established rhetorical convention in my culture whereby any consistently applied social pressure is labelled "force," "bullying," "discrimination," "lynching," "intolerance," and whatever other words can get the desired rhetorical effect.

We can get into a whole thing about what those words actually mean, but in my experience basically nobody cares. They are phatic expressions, not technical ones.

Leaving the terminology aside... I expect the refusal to perform gay weddings to become socially acceptable to fewer and fewer people, and social condemnable to more and more people. And I agree with skeptical_lurker that this process, whatever we call it, will cause some resentment among the people who are aligned with such refusal. (Far more significantly, I expect it to catalyze existing resentment.)

Those of us who endorse that social change would probably do best to accept that this is one of the consequences of that change, and plan accordingly.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-30T04:52:32.585Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

but then the Christian right trying to ban abortion

What about the left legalizing abortion in the first place, by way of a Supreme Court Decision with such convoluted logic that even people who agree with the outcome won't defend it.

and the teaching of evolution are in the wrong too

Who's trying to bad the teaching of evolution? Oh wait, did you mean the people who oppose banning the teaching of creationism?

comment by Vaniver · 2015-04-30T15:51:26.669Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Who's trying to bad the teaching of evolution? Oh wait, did you mean the people who oppose banning the teaching of creationism?

The primary contests are being fought in the school boards setting curriculum standards, material on mandatory tests, textbooks, and so on. I don't think it's an accurate characterization to talk about "banning" or "oppose banning." I think the "teach the controversy" phrasing seems much more appropriate--the main policy options are for the government educational arm to teach evolution, teach creationism, or teach that both are options.

(Imagine that child education was like adult education--there's no "banning" of teaching Christian theology, but making it so that no one could require anyone to learn Christian theology might seem like a 'ban' if that was the status quo.)

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-01T01:20:05.388Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Banning" was skeptical_lurker's term.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-05-01T14:17:00.366Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but it was appropriate because teaching of evolution actually has been banned in the US (those bans have since been repealed). I am not aware of bills that ban the teaching of creationism--only ones that ban restrictions on the teaching of creationism--but I don't pay much attention to this issue and so may have missed something in my five minutes of Googling.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-02T03:33:38.118Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I am not aware of bills that ban the teaching of creationism

I'm not sure about bills, there have supreme court cases to that effect.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-05-02T07:24:42.035Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure about bills, there have supreme court cases to that effect.

I don't see that in the lede:

Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) was a legal case about the teaching of creationism that was heard by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1987. The Court ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools, along with evolution, was unconstitutional because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion. It also held that "teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction."

That is, the case banned a legal requirement to teach creationism, but did not ban the teaching of "a variety of scientific theories". It ruled that creationism is a religious view, not a scientific one, but it does not suggest that it is thereby unconstitutional to teach it, only that it is unconstitutional to require it to be taught.

If the permissibility, rather than the requirement, of teaching religion in a public school is an issue, it is one that lies outside the matter of this case. Indeed, at the end of the article it says of one of the creationists in the case that he "later authored books promoting creationism and teaching it in public schools". There is no hint that there was any legal impediment to him doing so.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-05-11T20:42:04.237Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thinking about this conversation again, a few things struck me:

1) When I am thinking about the value of "P(tolerance of homosexuality will destroy civiliseation)" I can recognise a state of mind where I have logical reasons to believe something, but I also have strong motivated cognition. And this is a state of mind which often, but not always, leads to making mistakes

2) My defection argument is dubious, given the other various examples of behaviour, such as the links you provided, which also count as defection.

3) By tolerance I generally mean not physically threatening or harassing people. I don't mean, for instance, ranting about 'hetronormitivity'.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-12T03:23:01.303Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

By tolerance I generally mean not physically threatening or harassing people.

Well one problem is that these day SJW's are trying to get away with calling all kinds of things "physically threatening" and "harassing".

comment by Toggle · 2015-04-27T19:15:30.059Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

P(tolerance of homosexuality will destroy civiliseation)-P(tolerance of homosexuality will save civiliseation)>10^-30

Do you have a reason to consider this, and not the inverse [i.e. P(intolerance of homosexuality will destroy civilization)-P(intolerance of homosexuality will save civilization)>10^-30]?

I don't think this is even a Pascal's mugging as such, just a framing issue.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-27T19:28:35.538Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, personally I think:

a very small number>P(intolerance of homosexuality will destroy civilization)>P(intolerance of homosexuality will save civilization)>10^-30

But some people would disagree with me.

I wasn't actually trying to imply that we shouldn't tolerate homosexuality - I hope this was clear, otherwise I need to work on communicating unambiguously. I was trying to make the meta point that right-wing opinions don't have to be powered by hate, but perhaps they often are because people can't separate emotions and logic.

comment by Toggle · 2015-04-27T20:05:24.976Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I wasn't actually trying to imply that we shouldn't tolerate homosexuality - I hope this was clear, otherwise I need to work on communicating unambiguously.

This was clear, yes. No worries!

I was trying to make the meta point that right-wing opinions don't have to be powered by hate, but perhaps they often are because people can't separate emotions and logic.

It is certainly possible that, in the territory, homosexuality is an existential threat. I believe the Westboro Baptists have a model that describes such a case, to name a famous example. A person who believes that the evidence favors such a territory is morally obliged to take anti-gay positions, assuming that they value human life at all. in other words, yes, there's a utilitarian calculation that justifies homophobia in certain conditions.

But if I'm not mistaken, the intersection of 'evidence-based skeptical belief system' and 'believes that homosexuality is an existential threat' is quite small (partially because the former is a smallish group, partially because the latter is rare within that group, partially because most of the models in which homosexuality is an existential threat tend to invoke a wrathful God). But that's an empirical claim, not a political stance.

Since we're asking a political question, rather than exploring the theoretical limits of human belief systems, it's fair to talk about coalitions and social forces. In that domain, to the extent that there are empirical claims being made at all, it's clear that the political influence aligned with and opposed to the gay rights movement is almost entirely a matter of motivated cognition.

To generalize out from the homosexuality example, I think it's trivially true that utilitarian calculations could put you in the position to support or oppose any number of things on the basis of existential threats. I mean, maybe it turns out that we're all doomed unless we systematically exterminate all cephalopods or something. But even if that were true, then the political forces that motivated many people to unite behind the cause of squid-stomping would not resemble a convincing utilitarian argument. So, if you're asking what causes anti-squid hysteria to be a politically relevant force, rather than a rare and somewhat surprising idea that you occasionally find on the fringes of the rationalosphere, then utilitarianism isn't really an explanation.

If you're looking for a reason to think that any given person with otherwise abhorrent politics might, actually, be a decent human- yes, you can get there. But if you're looking for a reason why those politics exist, then this kind of calculation will fall short.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-27T21:20:44.304Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It is certainly possible that, in the territory, homosexuality is an existential threat. I believe the Westboro Baptists have a model that describes such a case, to name a famous example.

I don't think they do. They believe in a all powerful God. From that perspective thinking of existential threats doesn't make much sense. They mainly oppose homosexuality because they think God wants them to oppose homosexuality.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-27T20:50:49.161Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe the squid need to be stomped on to stop them from morphing into Cthulhu, or other tentacle monsters?

Now, there may be various reasons why people would want to stomp on squid. Some may actually believe that the squid will turn into tentacle monsters, but its also possible that many simply hate squid without knowing why. Some argue that in our evolutionary environment, those tribes who did not stop on squid were more likely to be wiped out by tentacle monsters, and so people evolved to want to stomp on squid. Their hatred of squid serves a purpose, even though they don't know what it is.

Others say that just because this stomping was adaptive back then, doesn't mean it will be adaptive now. With modern technology we can defend ourselves from the tentacle monsters, subdue, harness and domesticate them.

Some disagree, and say that the Deep Ones are not our enemies, and the people that hate squid only do so because the Elder Gods tell them to, and yet they ignore the possibility that the Elder Gods are the real threat.

Yet more people say that this talk of tentacle monsters is silly and people just want to exterminate squid because they think tentacles are disgusting.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-27T19:53:47.727Z · score: -2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I was trying to make the meta point that right-wing opinions don't have to be powered by hate

LOL

Has it occurred to you to ask the question whether left-wing opinions have to be powered by hate?

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-27T20:08:40.150Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I very rarely hear anyone say that left-wing opinions are powered by hate. Its not a question that comes up. The converse comes up very frequently.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-04-28T02:54:19.482Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I frequently read that left-wing opinions are powered by hate. Most recently here: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/417155/wisconsins-shame-i-thought-it-was-home-invasion-david-french

comment by Caue · 2015-04-27T21:24:20.579Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's not that rare.

Consider accusations of hate against: Israel/Jews; straight cis white men; Christians; America; Freedom; rich people...

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-27T21:44:32.907Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps not that rare, dependent upon where you live and who you mix with. But in my experience, the left tries to frame everything as heroic rebels vs the evil empire, with an almost complete refusal to discuss or consider actual policies.

comment by Caue · 2015-04-27T22:00:03.210Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, that's quite close to my experience as well. Any disagreement about policies is actually a smokescreen - people only oppose leftist policies because they benefit from the status quo, you see, but they will invent anything to avoid admitting that (including, I gather, the entire field of Economics).

comment by Larks · 2015-04-27T23:49:54.934Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do they not hate the evil empire?

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-28T08:40:13.145Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

They certainly do hate something, and they believe that the something is an evil empire.

Whether they hate a real evil empire, that is the question which separates left from right.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-28T14:32:14.138Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

They certainly do hate something, and they believe that the something is an evil empire.

There is an name for such people...

comment by Dahlen · 2015-04-28T11:12:44.145Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Have you actually seen people claiming to hate freedom?

It makes sense if you're talking about some specific understanding of it, e.g. free-market policies or gun rights, but for someone to declare themselves anti-freedom as a concept... Nope, it doesn't map to anything I've ever witnessed.

comment by Caue · 2015-04-28T23:03:24.575Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

?

No, I mean people sometimes accuse leftists of holding positions motivated by hate. It's more common for this accusation to be made against right-wing positions (which is what the grandparent was talking about), but I don't think the reverse is all that rare.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-04-28T23:13:01.104Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh. Okay; misinterpreted. I can reasonably imagine someone actually hating all those things except for freedom, because, except for freedom, all of them can be someone's outgroup. But I was thinking, maybe Caue actually encountered the odd one out, and I was wondering how they were like. (Support for slavery, gulags, and totalitarianism? The world is large and people are diverse.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-28T23:50:52.362Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I can reasonably imagine someone actually hating all those things except for freedom

Hating freedom is pretty easy. Imagine yourself a religious fundamentalist where you know what is right. God pointed out the straight path to you and you should walk it -- any "freedom" is just machinations of Satan/Shaitan/demons/etc. to try to get you off the straight path mandated by God.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-27T20:22:11.606Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So, do you think this reflects some intrinsic property of {left|right}-wing opinions or do you think this reflects the attitudes of your social circle?

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-27T21:14:51.729Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Probably both. My social circle is very left wing, but when I occasionally read newspapers, the arguments against the right wing seem to be ad hominem "your politicians are evil" while the arguments against the left seem to be "your policies are stupid".

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T02:37:19.920Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

against the right wing seem to be ad hominem "your politicians are evil" while the arguments against the left seem to be "your policies are stupid".

Which of these two stereotypes sounds like its coming from someone who hates his opponent?

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T06:41:09.000Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The first. The second sounds more condescending than hatred.

Unless you mean do I hate left wing people, in which case the answer is no, I'm just kinda exasperated with the style of debate.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T06:48:36.457Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The first. The second sounds more condescending than hatred.

That's my point, i.e., the left sure sounds like it's motivated by hate.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T18:58:37.026Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, if you believe your opponents are mistaken, then rational debate seems like a sensible response. If you believe your opponents are evil, then hatred seems like a more reasonable response. So, I'd say that the left's hate is more motivated by their view of the world, rather then their being hateful people per se.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-28T19:06:29.754Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you believe your opponents are evil, then hatred seems like a more reasonable response. So, I'd say that the left's hate is more motivated by their view of the world, rather then their being hateful people per se.

I don't think the direction of causation is obvious. If you start as a hateful person, you would naturally begin to believe that you opponents are evil pretty fast.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T19:19:52.124Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, the causality could be in either direction, but my impression is that they are not inherently hateful.

I know people who believe that the countries' defence should be handled by people meditating and sending out telepathic waves of love so that no-one wants to invade. Delusional? Yes. Hateful? No.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-28T19:33:13.237Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

my impression is that they are not inherently hateful

Your social circle, probably not. Something like the left twittersphere? Oh, boy. How do they feel about Sarah Palin, for example? Or Scott Walker?

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T19:52:21.463Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I used to get annoyed at the stupidity and hate of SJWs. But just because they shout the loudest doesn't make them representitive of the left as a whole. Maybe the left acts more hateful on average, because they can get away with it.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T20:50:45.839Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But just because they shout the loudest doesn't make them representitive of the left as a whole.

True, what makes them functional representative of the left as a whole is that no one else on the left is willing to stand up to them, and thus the rest of the left ends up following their lead.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-28T20:02:48.718Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Good point about being able to get away with it.

I am not sure that reducing large swathes of political thinking to "average" or "representative" is useful -- both the left and the right have some reasonable people and some foaming at the mouth batshit crazy people. Even if you could detect some difference in the averages, it is overwhelmed by the within-group variation.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T02:40:32.747Z · score: -2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

So far, this is probably fairly obvious. Its also fairly clear that, unless everyone believes you to be a perfect Bayesian reasoner, it is certainly possible that by holding certain beliefs you are signalling moral stances even though this should be independent.

When I worried that the correlation between testosterone and politics means that political opinions are hopelessly biased by emotions

So what should I conclude about your attitude towards men from your use of "testosterone" in that sentence?

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T05:59:49.412Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Well, ideally you would conclude that I was thinking about the digit ratios measured in the LW survey, which collates with testosterone but not estrogen.

Estrogen does affect politics too, and when an experiment proved this and was reported in popular science magazines (scientific american, I think) the feminists lost their minds and demanded that the reporter be fired, despite the fact that both the reporter and the scientists were female.

EDIT: and the article was, in fact, censored.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-04-28T16:39:27.195Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Estrogen does affect politics too, and when an experiment proved this and was reported in popular science magazines (scientific american, I think) the feminists lost their minds and demanded that the reporter be fired, despite the fact that both the reporter and the scientists were female.

Are you referring to this article "The Fluctuating Female Vote: Politics, Religion, and the Ovulatory Cycle"? As discussed here?

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T20:06:43.166Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I am.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-04-29T06:14:52.933Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What do you think of Gelman's criticism of the paper as, on scientific grounds, complete tosh? Or as he puts it, after a paragraph of criticisms that amount to that verdict, "the evidence from their paper isn’t as strong as they make it out to be"?

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-29T06:58:20.416Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, the statistical criticisms they mention seem less damning than the statistical problems of the average psych paper.

Beyond all that, I found the claimed effects implausibly large. For example, they report that, among women in relationships, 40% in the ovulation period supported Romney, compared to 23% in the non-fertile part of their cycle.

This does seem rather large, unless they specifically targeted undecided swing voters. But its far from the only psych paper with unreasonably large effect size.

Basically, this paper probably actually only constitutes weak evidence, like most of psycology. But it sounds good enough to be published.

Incidentally, I have a thesis in mathematical psychology due in in a few days, in which I (among other things) fail to replicate a paper published in Nature, no matter how hard I massage the data.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-04-29T07:42:06.125Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well, the statistical criticisms they mention seem less damning than the statistical problems of the average psych paper.

Talk about faint praise!

But its far from the only psych paper with unreasonably large effect size.

It's far from the only psych paper Gelman has slammed either.

Basically, this paper probably actually only constitutes weak evidence, like most of psycology.

Such volumes of faint praise!

But it sounds good enough to be published.

The work of Ioannidis and others is well-known, and it's clear that the problems he identifies in medical research apply as much or more to psychology. Statisticians such as Gelman pound on junk papers. And yet people still consider stuff like the present paper (which I haven't read, I'm just going by what Gelman says about it) to be good enough to be published. Why?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-29T14:37:55.661Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm just going by what Gelman says about it

Gelman says, and I quote, "...let me emphasize that I’m not saying that their claims (regarding the effects of ovulation) are false. I’m just saying that the evidence from their paper isn’t as strong as they make it out to be." I think he would say this about 90%+ of papers in psych.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-05-02T07:32:17.860Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think he would say this about 90%+ of papers in psych.

Yes. I think he would too. So much the worse for psychology.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-02T18:02:00.781Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

And yet people are willing to take its pronouncements seriously.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-29T08:46:00.078Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The work of Ioannidis and others is well-known, and it's clear that the problems he identifies in medical research apply as much or more to psychology.

Medical research has massive problems of its own, because of the profit motive to fake data.

Statisticians such as Gelman pound on junk papers. And yet people still consider stuff like the present paper (which I haven't read, I'm just going by what Gelman says about it) to be good enough to be published. Why?

Well, my cynical side would like to say that it's not in anyone's interests to push for higher standards - rocking the boat will not advance anyone's career.

But maybe we're holding people to unreasonably high standards. Expecting one person to be able to do psychology and neuroscience and stats and computer programming seems like an unreasonable demand, and yet this is what is expected. Is it any wonder that some people who are very good at psychology might screw up the stats?

I had wondered about whether the development of some sort of automated stats program would help. By this, I mean that instead of inputting the data and running a t-test manually, the program determines whether the data is approximately normally distributed, whether taking logs will transform it to a normal distribution, and so forth, before running the appropriate analysis and spitting out a write-up which can be dropped straight into the paper.

It would save a lot of effort and avoid a lot of mistakes. If there is a consensus that certain forms of reporting are better than others, e.g.

Instead, what do we get? Several pages full of averages, percentages, F tests, chi-squared tests, and p-values, all presented in paragraph form. Better to have all possible comparisons in one convenient table.

Then the program could present the results in an absolutely standard format.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-29T14:44:07.299Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Expecting one person to be able to do psychology and neuroscience and stats and computer programming seems like an unreasonable demand

Most papers have multiple authors. If you need to do heavy lifting in stats, bring a statistician on board.

whether the development of some sort of automated stats program would help

I don't think so. First, I can't imagine it being flexible enough (and if it's too flexible its reason for existence is lost) and second it will just be gamed. People like Gelman think that the reliance on t-tests is a terrible idea, anyway, and I tend to agree with him.

My preference is for a radical suggestion: make papers openly provide their data and their calculations (e.g. as a download). After all, this is supposed to be science, right?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-30T18:08:36.306Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This "radical" suggestion is now a funding condition of at least some UK research councils (along with requirements to publish publically funded work in open access forms). A very positive move.... If enforced.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-29T17:01:01.411Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Most papers have multiple authors. If you need to do heavy lifting in stats, bring a statistician on board.

I don't think this just applies to heavy lifting - basic stats are pretty confusing given that most seem to rely on the assumption of a normal distribution, which is a mathematical abstraction that rarely occurs in real life. And in reality, people don't bring specialists on board, at least not that I have seen.

My preference is for a radical suggestion: make papers openly provide their data and their calculations (e.g. as a download). After all, this is supposed to be science, right?

I understand why this was not done back when journals were printed on paper, but it really should be done now.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-29T17:37:37.664Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

basic stats are pretty confusing given that most seem to rely on the assumption of a normal distribution

If a psych researcher finds "basic stats" confusing, he is not qualified to write a paper which looks at statistical interpretations of whatever results he got. He should either acquire some competency or stop pretending he understands what he is writing.

Many estimates do rely on the assumption of a normal distribution in the sense that these estimates have characteristics (e.g. "unbiased" or "most efficient") which are mathematically proven in the normal distribution case. If this assumption breaks down, these characteristics are no longer guaranteed. This does not mean that the estimates are now "bad" or useless -- in many cases they are still the best you could go given the data.

To give a crude example, 100 is guaranteed to be biggest number in the [1 .. 100] set of integers. If your set of integers is "from one to about a hundred, more or less", 100 is no longer guaranteed to be the biggest, but it's still not a bad estimate of the biggest number in that set.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-30T09:32:13.958Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If a psych researcher finds "basic stats" confusing, he is not qualified to write a paper which looks at statistical interpretations of whatever results he got. He should either acquire some competency or stop pretending he understands what he is writing.

The problem is that psychology and statistics are different skills, and someone who is talented at one may not be talented at the other.

To give a crude example, 100 is guaranteed to be biggest number in the [1 .. 100] set of integers. If your set of integers is "from one to about a hundred, more or less", 100 is no longer guaranteed to be the biggest, but it's still not a bad estimate of the biggest number in that set.

I take your point, but you can no longer say that 100 is the biggest number with 95% confidence, and this is the problem.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-30T15:04:35.086Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

someone who is talented at one may not be talented at the other.

You don't need to be talented, you only need to be competent. If you can't pass even that low bar, maybe you shouldn't publish papers which use statistics.

you can no longer say that 100 is the biggest number with 95% confidence, and this is the problem.

I don't see any problem here.

First, 95% is an arbitrary number, it's pure convention that does not correspond to any joint in the underlying reality.

Second, the t-test does NOT mean what most people think it means. See e.g. this or this.

Third, and most important, your certainty level should be entirely determined by the data. If your data does not support 95% confidence, then it does not. Trying to pretend otherwise is fraud.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-05-02T07:31:14.392Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I had wondered about whether the development of some sort of automated stats program would help. By this, I mean that instead of inputting the data and running a t-test manually, the program determines whether the data is approximately normally distributed, whether taking logs will transform it to a normal distribution, and so forth, before running the appropriate analysis and spitting out a write-up which can be dropped straight into the paper.

Sounds like the mythical Photoshop "Make Art" button.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-02T16:13:31.548Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sounds like the mythical Photoshop "Make Art" button.

It has been pointed out long time ago that a programmer's keyboard really needs to have a DWIM (Do What I Mean) key...

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T06:07:45.842Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Estrogen does affect politics too, and when an experiment proved this and was reported in popular science magazines (scientific american, I think) the feminists lost their minds and demanded that the reporter be fired, despite the fact that both the reporter and the scientists were female.

Now consider what kind of publication biases incidents like that introduce.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T06:28:08.892Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, one would hope that journals would continue to publish, but the public understanding of science is inevitably going to suffer.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T06:40:41.263Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Well, one would hope that journals would continue to publish

How about what's actually likely to happen, as opposed to what one would hope would happen.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T06:49:29.383Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What is likely to happen is that publication bias increases against non-PC results.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T06:54:26.837Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Correct.

You may have heard accusations that conservatives are "anti-science". Most of said "anti-science" behavior is conservatives applying a filter to scientific results attempting to correct for the above bias.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T19:04:35.468Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Of course this doesn't give one a licence to simply ignore science that disagrees with one's politics. Perhaps a ratio of two PC papers are as reliable as one non-PC paper? Very difficult to properly calibrate I would think, and of course the reliability varies from field to field.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-28T10:21:50.059Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Estrogen does affect politics too, and when an experiment proved this and was reported in popular science magazines (scientific american, I think) the feminists lost their minds and demanded that the reporter be fired, despite the fact that both the reporter and the scientists were female.

The problem is that the experiment likely didn't prove it. A single experiment doesn't prove anything. Then the reporter overstate the results with is quite typical for science reporters and people complained.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T13:05:31.508Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The problem is that the experiment likely didn't prove it.

Yes, it is true that there are massive problems in failure to replicate in psychology, not to mention bad statistics etc. However, a single experiment is still evidence in favour.

Then the reporter overstate the results

Actually, the reporter understated the results, for instance by including this quote from an academic who disgrees:

“There is absolutely no reason to expect that women's hormones affect how they vote any more than there is a reason to suggest that variations in testosterone levels are responsible for variations in the debate performances of Obama and Romney,” said Susan Carroll, professor of political science and women's and gender studies at Rutgers University, in an e-mail.

Carroll sees the research as following in the tradition of the “long and troubling history of using women's hormones as an excuse to exclude them from politics and other societal opportunities.”

Thing is, Prof. Carroll is not a neuroscientist. So what gives her the right to tell neuroscientists that they are wrong about neuroscience?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-28T13:47:23.675Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, it is true that there are massive problems in failure to replicate in psychology, not to mention bad statistics etc. However, a single experiment is still evidence in favour.

Whether the reporter should be fired is not only about the quality of the experiment.

Thing is, Prof. Carroll is not a neuroscientist. So what gives her the right to tell neuroscientists that they are wrong about neuroscience?

The journalist in this case.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T13:59:44.264Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Whether the reporter should be fired is not only about the quality of the experiment.

What criteria would you advocate then?

The journalist in this case.

Yes, obviously she has the legal right to argue about things she has no understanding of, and equally obviously I was not talking about legal rights.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-28T14:52:44.538Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What criteria would you advocate then?

Whether the article clearly communicates the scientific knowledge that exists. Most mainstream media article about science don't.

Yes, obviously she has the legal right to argue about things she has no understanding of, and equally obviously I was not talking about legal rights.

If the journalist quotes her, that likely means he called her on the phone and ask her for her opinion. If you think he should have asked somebody different then the journalist is at fault.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-04-28T14:08:56.155Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Thing is, Prof. Carroll is not a neuroscientist. So what gives her the right to tell neuroscientists that they are wrong about neuroscience?

Is that what she's saying? My charitable reading suggests that Prof. Carroll is saying that either hormones don't affect politics, or else they have an effect for both sexes. Her problem appears to be with the experiment singling out women and their hormones.

As a political scientist, I'm sure she's familiar with the shameful historical record of science being used to justify some rather odious public policies (racism, eugenics, forced sterilization, etc.). I don't think she's as concerned with the actual science as with what people might do with the result, especially if it gets sensationalized.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T14:48:55.360Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think what she's saying is "You wouldn't say that men's hormones affect politics, so why would you say that women's hormones do?"

But what she doesn't realise, because she failed to actually talk to actual neuroscientists, is that most neuroscientists would say that hormones affect both men and women.

The reason why the experiment singled out women probably isn't sexism, its probably because its better career wise to do one paper on women and one on men rather than combining it into one paper, as this gets you twice the number of publications.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-04-28T15:23:40.099Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Again, I'm trying to see this from a different perspective:

To us, it's an issue of science. We respect science because we understand it. We can read that study and get the gist of what it's saying and what it's not saying. To practitioners of the Dark Arts, however, truth is not an end in itself but merely one more aspect of a debate, to be exploited or circumvented as the situation requires.

In the realm of public debate, science can either be infallible truth or else a complete fabrication (depending on whether it supports your position). Think about it: one study, long since repudiated, fueled the anti-vaccination movement which has been chipping away at decades of progress and may lead to the new outbreaks of diseases we long ago stopped caring about. The proponents may point to that study and say "Aha! Science says vaccines cause autism" while dismissing the mountain of opposing evidence as a conspiracy by Big Pharma.

So what does this have to do with Dr. Carroll's concerns?

The reason why the experiment singled out women probably isn't sexism, its probably because its better career wise to do one paper on women and one on men rather than combining it into one paper, as this gets you twice the number of publications.

This. She fears the study about the effects of men's hormones gets ignored, while the study on women's hormones gets spun, exaggerated, and sensationalized into another iteration of "women are irrational and hysterical." It's a lot harder to do this with one study about people in general than two different studies.

EDIT: The point here is that once a scientific paper gets published, neither the author nor the scientific community get to decide how the research is used or presented.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-28T15:25:53.041Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

To practitioners of the Dark Arts, however, truth is not an end in itself but merely one more aspect of a debate, to be exploited or circumvented as the situation requires.

This describes Dr. Carroll very well.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T16:55:17.394Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I broadly agree with what you say, however the dark arts are called dark for a reason.

Ironically, while the counter-argument generally used against this is "Its sexist psudoscience!" there is a perfectly valid explanation which is neither demeaning to women nor dissagreeing with experimental results - simply that hormones affect both men and women's opinions.

Why be so quick to resort to the dark side when there is a perfectly good light-side explanation?

comment by Epictetus · 2015-04-28T20:40:18.120Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ironically, while the counter-argument generally used against this is "Its sexist psudoscience!" there is a perfectly valid explanation which is neither demeaning to women nor dissagreeing with experimental results - simply that hormones affect both men and women's opinions.

I agree with this completely. I was merely trying to see what kind of mindset would produce Dr. Carroll's reaction and some politics/Dark Arts was the best I could come up with.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T20:40:31.040Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Then the reporter overstate the results with is quite typical for science reporters and people complained.

Reporters do this all the time. And yet they only get punished for it if the result is politically incorect.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-28T22:30:07.876Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, reporters get away with a lot. That doesn't make it better.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T02:46:43.438Z · score: -4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

P(women are better at maths than men on average) should be independent of whether one wants it to be true,

Why shouldn't one want the statement: 'women are better at maths than men on average' to be true? Note, don't confuse the above statement with the statement: 'men are worse then [this fixed level] at maths on average'.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T06:06:04.324Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, its certainly widely considered that wanting there to be differences between the sexes is wrong, or at least it is if men are better at something. Personally I don't care whether men or women are better at maths, but if most people do, then I suppose they are entitled to their own values.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T06:15:36.106Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Personally I don't care whether men or women are better at maths, but if most people do, then I suppose they are entitled to their own values.

I'm not sure about that. Near as I can tell their values here are either poorly thought out or insane. Consider the following thought experiment:

Suppose men are on average better at math then women. Suppose you could reduce the male average to the female average by pressing a button, should you?

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T20:44:21.184Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, that both decreases inequality and lowers the average. A better thought experiment would be to ask whether, if you had a button which would affect the next generation of children (so you do not infringe on the rights of people who already exist) to increase math ability in women but decrease it in men, should you use it to bring the averages in line?

Far stranger actually is that some people seem to be strongly attached to the idea that men and women are equally strong on average, even though this is obviously not true.

You can take this further. Would the world be better if everyone was equally good at everything? Seems kinda dull to me.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T20:57:32.409Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A better thought experiment would be to ask whether, if you had a button which would affect the next generation of children (so you do not infringe on the rights of people who already exist) to increase math ability in women but decrease it in men, should you use it to bring the averages in line?

Well, that would make the universe less organized and in particular make it harder to find the people with the best people in math, so likely retard scientific progress somewhat.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-28T21:20:22.241Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If you want to find the best people in maths, you are far better off testing them, rather than reasoning based on the base rate, unless the inter-group difference is very large.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-28T21:03:25.144Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

that would make the universe less organized

Huh? 8-/

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-29T07:22:28.327Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, a system where all the elements are the same has maximal entropy.

Not sure we should be applying thermodynamics to society in this manner - we are not ants - but I can see what he means.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-29T14:21:28.083Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure we should be applying thermodynamics to society in this manner

I am quite sure -- this is nonsense on stilts.

By this "reasoning" the fact that all life on Earth replicates via DNA is horrible, twins are an abomination, and industrial mass production is an unmitigated disaster.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-04-29T16:48:57.289Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

By this "reasoning" the fact that all life on Earth replicates via DNA is horrible

To be fair, I would like to see conciousness on non-biological substrates.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-28T10:18:52.182Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why shouldn't one want the statement: 'women are better at maths than men on average' to be true?

The sentence you quote doesn't make a statement about whether one should want it to be true. It makes a statement about "wanting it to be true" being independent from 'being true".

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-27T10:37:09.644Z · score: 2 (12 votes) · LW · GW

It is interesting to watch how different things I observe on internet interact with each other. Two recent discoveries:

1) Arthur Chu, known to readers of SSC as a person not exactly in favor of niceness, created a Kickstarted project called "Who is Arthur Chu?". Failed by collecting only 20% of the planned $50.000. (Which, if I understand the rules of Kickstarter correctly, means he will get nothing.)

Not sure if the proper reaction here is to laugh (something like: "you had a choice between niceness and winning, you rejected niceness, and now you have neither"), or to congratulate for empirically testing "how much money could I get from random people on internet if I just openly ask them to contribute to my glory". I mean, next time if he would ask people to donate mere $10.000, he could actually get it. Of course only if they do not forget him in the meantime.

2) Gamergate was recently a 3rd largest article on RationalWiki. Then it was split into multiple articles, so at this moment it is merely at positions 8 ("Gamergate") and 13 ("Timeline of Gamergate") in the longest article list. Unsurprisingly, the whole article is one person's playground. Specifically, it is a person recently kicked out for similar behavior from Wikipedia. It will be interesting to see how other people on RationalWiki will deal with this.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-27T14:04:08.851Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Specifically, it is a person recently kicked out for similar behavior from Wikipedia. It will be interesting to see how other people on RationalWiki will deal with this.

They welcome him because he writes at the usual RationalWiki quality standard?

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-27T20:04:11.546Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

More importantly, he is compatible with the party line. Articles about wrong targets would not be tolerated, regardless of quality. Try to use a "snarky point of view" on something politically correct and see what happens.

comment by gjm · 2015-04-27T16:45:59.908Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

and now you have neither

I don't see any indication that lack of niceness deprived him of any of his Jeopardy! winnings.

how much money could I get from random people on internet if I just openly ask them to contribute to my glory

You say that as if he was simply planning to collect people's money, put it in a big pile, and sit on it while cackling evilly, but the ostensible plan was actually to make a documentary. The most obvious explanation for the Kickstarter failure seems to me to be "no one was very interested in a documentary about some guy who won a bit of money on Jeopardy!" rather than "no one wanted to contribute to making this documentary because its subject wasn't a nice enough person".

kicked out for similar behavior from Wikipedia

Similar to what? Writing a long article? Splitting an article into two shorter ones? (Neither of those seems like something anyone should or would be kicked off Wikipedia for. A bit of googling suggests it was for edit-warring and behaving generally obsessively and disagreeably, but I don't know how accurate that is because the people saying so are apparently on the other side of the "Gamergate" culture war. from Ryulong and that seems to be a thing that brings out the worst in people.)

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-27T20:48:25.561Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Judging by the project description ("The Documentary Film about Arthur Chu: a spokesperson for social justice, the new king of the nerds, and 11-time Jeopardy Champion."), it was not really about Jeopardy. Most people do not care strongly about Jeopardy, but many people care a lot about their political faction winning -- you just have to convince them that giving their money to you is their best move. Mentioning Jeopardy success is just a way to separate yourself from the crowd.

Some people can play this game well enough to get 10× more money for their videoblogs. My hypothesis (which I have no way to verify, and I admit that I am completely partial here) is that Chu tried to play the same game... and failed. Although I still give him credit for trying.

comment by gjm · 2015-04-27T20:55:49.418Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

it was not really about Jeopardy.

I didn't say it was. I said it was

about some guy who won a bit of money on Jeopardy!

and I chose my words carefully :-). But the description on the Kickstarter page does suggest that a lot of it was in fact going to be about Jeopardy! rather than just about Chu, or for that matter about social justice. Do you think that was all just lies, and if so why do you think that?

(My feeling is that you may be being at least one notch too cynical. My political faction is not the same as yours, though, and it's possible that I'm being one notch too un-cynical instead.)

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-27T22:10:00.491Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

description on the Kickstarter page does suggest that a lot of it was in fact going to be about Jeopardy! rather than just about Chu, or for that matter about social justice.

Here is an article written by Arthur Chu that seems to suggest otherwise:

I didn't want the focus of the movie to be Jeopardy! even if that's the obvious selling point. And it's not about me being a "genius" or me sharing words of wisdom or advice that I don't have. Who Is Arthur Chu? Arthur Chu is nobody special. Just another loser. A loser who's had a run of good luck and is trying to leverage that into doing better. And being better.

So, it's not about Chu being a smart person, or a successful person, but about Chu being a good person. (Where "good" probably happens to be more or less the same thing as "belonging to political faction X".)

My feeling is that you may be being at least one notch too cynical.

Am I? For the record, I consider it likely that Arthur Chu sincerely believes his own story, where he is the good guy on the right side of the history. He probably also overestimates his own smartness, and believes that the ethical injunctions made for lesser mortals do not apply to him. (And I believe he is obviously wrong at this point.) I would also guess that he has a good heart and that he hates himself more than he should, but that's just unbased speculation.

(And I am not saying this about everyone. For example, I also believe that those people who have raised 10× more money for their videoblogs, they do not truly believe their cause. Which is why they made a successful plan and got the money, but Arthur didn't. He made a few mistakes that would be obvious to a cynical person. For example, he didn't put a high-status-behaving white girl into his movie. But that's where the real money and power are in his faction. Arthur, by being a true believer, does not recognize the rules of the game, and fails.)

My political faction is not the same as yours, though, and it's possible that I'm being one notch too un-cynical instead.

Okay, I'll try to convert you to the dark side (and also give you a chance to convert me, by the law of conservation of expected evidence). If Arthur Chu is such a defender of oppressed people, give me an example of a black woman or a lower-class woman that he has defended publicly (calling her by her name, not merely as a part of a large anonymous group). Because I can give you an example of a rich white woman.

Again, for the record, I consider it likely that Arthur Chu is blind about what I am suggesting here; that he is clueless instead of hypocritical.

comment by gjm · 2015-04-28T00:33:32.911Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

an article written by Arthur Chu that seems to suggest otherwise

Except that the article says that Chu doesn't want the focus just to be Jeopardy!, not that Scott Drucker (the person who was actually proposing to make the movie, and the person whose Kickstarter it was) doesn't want it to be. And my reading of both Chu's article and the Kickstarter page is that Drucker's goals were not necessarily the same as Chu's, even though obviously both were hoping that cooperating with the other guy would do something for both people's goals.

Which is why they made a successful plan and got the money, but Arthur didn't. [...] For example, he didn't put a high-status-behaving white girl into his movie.

The comparison here is with Anita Sarkeesian, to whom you linked before, right? Now, it seems to me that the reason why Anita Sarkeesian put a high-status-behaving white girl into her videoblogging is because she is a high-status-behaving white girl (in so far as videoblogging about video games can count as high-status behaviour), and it doesn't seem either obviously insincere for her to act as such, or obviously incompetent for Chu not to have done likewise. And I'm not sure what you think Scott Drucker should have done with a high-status-behaving white girl, or how it would have made the Kickstarter more successful.

What, by the way, makes you think that Anita Sarkeesian doesn't truly believe in her cause? I've only seen a small quantity of her stuff, but what I've seen looks sincere (and fairly plausible) to me.

that's where the real money and power are in his faction

You may be right (perhaps it depends what counts as "his faction") but your link from the word "are" doesn't seem to me to say what I think you're implying it does. It's arguing that "solidarity is for white women", but the stress is on "white", not "women"; I'd summarize the message as something like "contemporary feminism portrays itself as being for women, but really it's only interested in white women and black women get ignored or thrown overboard whenever it's convenient".

If Arthur Chu is such a defender of oppressed people, [...]

Wait, what? When did I say or imply or suggest that he is? I certainly didn't intend to. (Not because I particularly think he isn't, but because I have no idea whether he is and had no idea that that was the question that was meant to be at issue.)

I had a look through some of his writing, and he doesn't spend much of his time defending anyone by name. He spends much more attacking large-scale phenomena. I don't see any obvious reason why this indicates either cluelessness or hypocrisy. But that's kinda irrelevant; I never claimed that Chu is a great defender of oppressed people, and I have no idea how "you're being one notch too cynical" turned into "Arthur Chu is a great defender of the oppressed".

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-28T08:31:36.830Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

it seems to me that the reason why Anita Sarkeesian put a high-status-behaving white girl into her videoblogging is because she is a high-status-behaving white girl (in so far as videoblogging about video games can count as high-status behaviour), and it doesn't seem either obviously insincere for her to act as such, or obviously incompetent for Chu not to have done likewise.

I have not verified it personally, but it is believed among Gamergate fans that Feminist Frequency is a project of Jonathan McIntosh. If that is true, then it was a strategic move to use Anita Sarkeesian as a public face of the project, because McIntosh himself could not use the "damsel in distress" effect to generate as much money.

Analogically, the correct way to make money using Arthur Chu would be to somehow make him a part of a project focused on white women. He would officially be a mere sidekick of a female protagonist. Then he could write many articles attacking everyone who gets in the way of his project.

(Oh damn, now I am in a full political mode. Well, I tried to explain what I meant.)

The fact that he didn't do this, I process as an evidence for (a) sincerity of his beliefs, and (b) obliviousness about the rules of the game.

When did I say or imply or suggest that he is [a defender of oppressed people]?

You didn't. The Kickstarter project called him "a spokesperson for social justice".

comment by gjm · 2015-04-28T11:17:12.486Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

it is believed among Gamergate fans

It appears to me that all kinds of things are believed among people highly invested in one side or other of the "Gamergate" flap, and that being so believed is not very strong evidence for the truth of anything.

(The people producing those videos say he's "producer and co-writer". Cynical-me suspects that "Gamergate fans" think he must be the real driving force because Anita Sarkeesian is a girl and therefore not to be taken seriously. I do hope cynical-me is wrong. Not-so-cynical me thinks Sarkeesian is more likely to be the real driving force because, other things being equal, a woman is more likely to feel strongly about this stuff than a man.)

the correct way to make money using Arthur Chu

No, the correct way to make money using Arthur Chu is to have him play Jeopardy!. That's been done and it seems to have worked pretty well.

I'm having trouble figuring out what you think is actually going on here. It seems to be something like this: some unscrupulous person decides that their goal is "to make money using Arthur Chu" (why?) and then decides that the best way to do that is via a focus on social justice (why??) but then fails to include a high-status-looking white girl as Viliam's Guide To Exploiting Social Justice People would have told him to and therefore fails, whereas if they had had a high-status-looking white girl as central character the Kickstarter would have made a load of money.

But that doesn't make a bit of sense to me, so probably my different political/social/psychological assumptions are stopping me working out what scenario you have in mind.

(The more likely scenario seems to me to be this, obtained by taking things more or less at face value. Scott Drucker sees that Arthur Chu has raised a bit of a ruckus, and been somewhat successful, by playing Jeopardy! in an unorthodox way; maybe he also thinks Chu is an interesting guy. So he decides to make a little documentary about Chu and his Jeopardy! playing. He contacts Chu. Chu is prepared to play along, but he has got very much into social justice and wants that front and centre in the documentary. Drucker is willing to go along with this because "Chu gets angry about stuff" fits his narrative pretty well, and also because he can't make the documentary without Chu's cooperation. They put up their Kickstarter page, and it turns out that actually the internet has mostly forgotten about Chu and people who are interested in unorthodox Jeopardy! tactics mostly aren't very interested in social justice. To first order, no one wants to back the project. The Kickstarter fails. The end. In my version of the scenario, making a cute rich white girl the central character would have made it no longer a documentary about Chu, hence uninteresting to Scott Drucker; would have been unacceptable to Chu for all kinds of reasons; and would have made little difference to the success of the Kickstarter unless it happened to get noticed by a lot of people who enjoy looking at cute white girls so much they'll fund anything with one in it. That audience might overlap somewhat with the Jeopardy! fans; maybe not so much with the social justice warriors.)

You didn't. The Kickstarter project called him "a spokesperson for social justice".

OK. So what conclusion am I supposed to draw from that plus the fact (assuming it is one) that he never happens to have defended a poor black woman by name in his writings online? I'd have thought it might be "Chu is insincere and isn't really interested in social justice", except that you have said several times that you think he is sincere.

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-28T15:40:55.708Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It appears to me that all kinds of things are believed among people highly invested in one side or other

True for many political debates in general. Both sides start with different sets of "facts". In worse case, some of those "facts" are factually wrong. In better case, those facts are true, but were selected from the set of all possible facts to support a specific conclusion.

Thus a rational debate would have to start by establishing a base of mutually accepted facts. If you skip this step and go ahead, it will catch you later at some moment.

(For example, we might agree that Jonathan McIntosh is involved in Feminist Frequency, and that his name is usually not mentioned; someone who does not do a background research might easily come to a conclusion that Anita Sarkeesian is doing this alone. -- Of course whether this is a trivial technical detail or a damning evidence, that depends on many other assumptions.)

I'm having trouble figuring out what you think is actually going on here.

I think (p = 0.9) that McIntosh and Sarkeesian are following the "Guide To Exploiting Social Justice People". I think (p = 0.6) that Chu is not aware of this, and that he believes they are simply doing the right thing. And, being a good person, he wants to do the right thing, too. (But he fails precisely because he is not following the Guide.) I do not have an opinion on Drucker yet, as I have almost no data about him.

making a cute rich white girl the central character ... would have made little difference to the success of the Kickstarter unless it happened to get noticed by a lot of people who enjoy looking at cute white girls so much they'll fund anything with one in it

It's not about cuteness and enjoying, but about saving the damsel in distress (but of course if the damsel is white and high-status, saving her is a higher priority). The cute central character would be described as struggling with barbaric hordes of low-status men in STEM fields. Arthur Chu would pose as an expert on STEM fields and on nerds, using Jeopardy as credentials. He would also profess that the damsel is at least 10× smarter than him; she just didn't have a chance to prove it (because we all know how the society oppresses women). Chu would be the knight defending the damsel. But the real hero who can fix the world by the power of her awesomeness, that would be the damsel. Next step is to generate a controversy, and use the backlash as a proof that the forces of evil have united against this awesome damsel, but you can still send your money to make the good side win. Also, it will serve as a convenient excuse if the project fails.

This is what my Guide To Exploiting Social Justice People would recommend. It also requires having allies in media, who will cover the story from the correct angle, and will refuse to give a platform to opponents or competing projects.

So what conclusion am I supposed to draw from that plus the fact (assuming it is one) that he never happens to have defended a poor black woman by name in his writings online?

My guess (p = 0.6) is that Arthur Chu is trying to do the right thing, but by being mindkilled he sacrificed his ability to notice that he may be doing it wrong.

What is the base probability that if one tries to become "a spokesperson for social justice", their best cause will be publicly defending an abusive rich white American woman with powerful friends? So if you happen to find yourself in such situation, you may want to slow down and reflect on what happened. You probably didn't plan it this way, but your brain had an evolutionary adaptation to do it for you.

comment by Caue · 2015-04-29T17:42:26.049Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(The people producing those videos say he's "producer and co-writer". Cynical-me suspects that "Gamergate fans" think he must be the real driving force because Anita Sarkeesian is a girl and therefore not to be taken seriously. I do hope cynical-me is wrong. Not-so-cynical me thinks Sarkeesian is more likely to be the real driving force because, other things being equal, a woman is more likely to feel strongly about this stuff than a man.)

Since it's been brought up...

As far as I can tell the best evidence they have for this is a widely circulated video (from before FemFreq) in which she says she's "not a fan of videogames".

And Mcintosh clearly "feels strongly about this", as much as any woman I've seen. The Gamergate people created a whole hashtag to display his tweets (#FullMcintosh), which also became, incidentally, what they use to indicate that they think someone has gone particularly far down the SJ rabbit hole.

Personally, I think the conclusion Viliam mentions doesn't rest in very solid evidence, but it's not far-fetched either. (meanwhile, the "because she's a girl" hypothesis looks very unlikely to me)

What, by the way, makes you think that Anita Sarkeesian doesn't truly believe in her cause? I've only seen a small quantity of her stuff, but what I've seen looks sincere (and fairly plausible) to me.

I'm not sure how familiar you are with videogames, or which of her videos you've seen. But I can't imagine how some of the ones I've seen could possibly have been made without outright dishonesty.

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-30T11:29:21.547Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As far as I can tell the best evidence they have for this is a widely circulated video (from before FemFreq) in which she says she's "not a fan of videogames".

And some Feminist Frequency tweets repeating what McIntosh posted before: 1, 2, I think there are more but I cannot find them now. (Memetic hazard: here is the "argument" in a form of a youtube video.)

By the way Feminist Frequency is a project account, not Sarkeesian's private account (although it uses her photo), so it wouldn't be a damning evidence even if McIntosh would really sometimes use it. Also, when two people cooperate and have similar opinions, it would not be so unlikely to use the same words. = this is just a weak evidence

comment by drethelin · 2015-04-27T17:41:41.873Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

how is making a documentary about yourself not just contributing to your own glory?

comment by gjm · 2015-04-27T20:17:10.894Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

He wasn't proposing to make a documentary about himself. Someone else was proposing to make a documentary about him. And (as DanielLC quite rightly says) the perfectly obvious purpose of this is that some people might find it interesting and want to watch it. Indeed, presumably about $10k worth of people did anticipate finding it interesting and wanting to watch it, since the project did get some backers.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-04-27T19:24:36.678Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Someone might want to watch it. If so, it's contributing to their entertainment.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-28T10:33:13.568Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can you recommend a good summary of RationaWiki as such from an external and fairly unbiased point of view? To me it looks like a place that very easily hands out insulting, degrading evaluations of other people's work/thoughts and the part I find kind of weird is that while they clearly have a kind of an agenda or ideology it is not really clear what that is. Who are the main people behind it and what are their convictions etc.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-05-01T02:02:26.605Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

They appear to be a bunch of reasonably smart people who got really good at guessing the teacher's password. Now they've heard that the passwords are "skepticism" and "science", unfortunately they don't appear to understand what either of those words mean.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-04-28T12:47:30.177Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think you summarised it pretty well. RationalWiki is exactly what it looks like.

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-28T15:50:42.297Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I heard it described somewhere as "providing arguments for left-wing atheists to win internet debates". Seems accurate.

The ideology is called "Atheism Plus".

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-28T10:50:46.344Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Have you read the Wikipedia article on it?

comment by Artaxerxes · 2015-04-27T04:16:39.350Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Stuart Russell interviewed by Quanta Magazine on the topic of AI safety.

They touch on the phrase "provably aligned" (with human values), which has been singled out before.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-05-04T00:05:39.957Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My attempt to delve into Chinese philosophy has brought me to Xunzi. Only the last sentence is short enough to be a quote on its own, but I feel it is strengthened by the paragraph leading to it so much that I have to quote the whole paragraph (which I've separated into multiple paragraphs for readability):

I once spent the whole day pondering, but it was not as good as a moment's worth of learning.

I once stood on my toes to look far away, but it was not as good as the broad view from a high place.

If you climb to a high place and wave, you have not lengthened your arms, but you can be seen from further away.

If you shout from upwind, you have not made your voice stronger, but you can be heard more clearly.

One who makes use of a chariot and horses has not thereby improved his feet, but he can now go a thousand li.

One who makes use of a boat and oars has not thereby become able to swim, but he can now cross rivers and streams.

The gentleman is exceptional not by birth, but rather by being good at making use of things.

comment by QNTFD · 2015-05-01T12:21:47.745Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

*

comment by DataPacRat · 2015-04-29T17:41:02.353Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Story-like Object: FAQ on LoadBear's Instrument of Precommitment

My shoulder's doing better, so I'm getting back into 'write /something/ every day' by experimenting with a potential story-like object at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nRSRWbAqtC48rPv5NG6kzggL3HXSJ1O93jFn3fgu0Rs/edit . It's extremely bare-bones so far, since I'm making up the worldbuilding as I go, and I just started writing an hour ago.

I welcome all questions that I can add to it, either here or there.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-29T04:34:39.300Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me that a lot of "smart" people are capable of applying their intelligence in some spheres, but not others.

Is this too obvious to be worth mentioning? I say it is not too obvious, for many bloggers have said of Overcoming Bias: "It is impossible, no one can completely eliminate bias." I don't care if the one is a professional economist, it is clear that they have not yet grokked the Quantitative Way as it applies to everyday life and matters like personal self-improvement. That which I cannot eliminate may be well worth reducing.

-The Fallacy of Gray

It also seems to me that this view is shared by other people. Can anyone point me to an article that does a good job arguing for it?

Tangential point: in deciding how smart I think someone is, for me, a lot of it has to do with how low they're capable of stooping. (I know this is just me saying "this is how I define a word", which is a pretty useless thing to say... but at the same time maybe there's something deeper that I'm trying to articulate that I haven't been able to spell out precisely with the above statement, but that maybe people could understand via some sort of empathetic inference?)

comment by ahbwramc · 2015-04-29T13:46:57.338Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, since I'm on LW the first article to come to mind was Outside the Laboratory, although that's not really arguing for the proposition per se.

As for the stooping thing, I'm not entirely sure what you mean, but the first thing that came to mind was that maybe you have a rule out rather than rule in criteria for judging intelligence? As in: someone can say a bunch of smart things, but at best that just earns them provisional smart status. On the other hand if they say one sufficiently dumb thing that's enough to rule them out as being truly intelligent.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-29T14:51:29.618Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I thought Outside the Laboratory was a good discussion of "smart" people not applying their intelligence outside their sphere, thanks!

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-29T23:58:46.197Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me that a lot of "smart" people are capable of applying their intelligence in some spheres, but not others.

What is your exact claim? That people don't have the ability to apply their intelligence if they chose to do so or that they simple don't choose to apply their intelligence?

What to you mean with intelligence? If it's something like rational thinking, many people use different standards in different domains. A person who on the one hand believes that placebo-blind trials are necessary to establish causation can still believe that it's possible to analyse causation of single events in history and learn from that history.

Hansons Don't be a rationalist might be interesting.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-30T00:22:44.104Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What is your exact claim? That people don't have the ability to apply their intelligence if they chose to do so or that they simple don't choose to apply their intelligence?

Good question/point.

One claim I'm definitely making is that people don't choose to do so. As to the question of whether or not they have the ability... I'm not sure. People really do seem as if they don't have the ability, if only for reasons of close-mindedness (rather than lack of aptitude). But if you put a gun to their head and asked them what their true beliefs are... I'm not sure what they'd say.

What to you mean with intelligence?

I mean that I judge people to be stupid based on how low they're capable of stooping. Ie. how stupid they're capable of being. Really, "my definition" of stupid is a bit more involved, but that's mostly it.

As for different standards in different domains, I agree, but I don't think that peoples stupidity can be explained by that. I think they're actually being stupid. Outside the Laboratory sort of explains what I mean.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-30T11:17:24.871Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you are smart but use the wrong heuristic for a given problem the results can look stupid even if you apply that heuristic very well.

When it comes to the scientists who has different standards for religious claims I think different standards for different domains are a good explanation. The person doesn't use the laboratory standards when the don't wear their lab coat.

But that isn't always bad. It very hard to have normal small talk in the scientific mindset. Small talk usually works much better when you don't overthink and don't inhabit yourself.

There nothing stupid about treating arguments as soldiers. It's more a matter of having goals that aren't about uncovering the truth.

comment by Error · 2015-04-28T02:48:13.708Z · score: 1 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Random policy thought I just had: Hire retired whores to teach sex ed classes. There are no better experts, and they'll (hopefully) be more inclined to teach what people actually want and need to know, rather than transparently disguising scare-em-straight tactics as education.

[Edit: I'm not entirely sure why this got downvoted as heavily as it did; it's the sort of pulling-policy-ropes-sideways thing that I would have expected to go over better here than most places. I'll retract it, but I'll wait a few days first in case someone cares to enlighten me.]

comment by FiftyTwo · 2015-04-28T15:21:01.099Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Since you seem to be sincere in asking for reasons:

"Whore" is considered an unpleasant word by many people. That combined with the overall tone may have made people think your intention was trollish

You seem to deeply misunderstand the dynamics that lead to ssex eduation being the way it is. There is no plausible transition from the way the world exists at present to one where retired sex workers were employed in the school system to teach sex education.

  • a) Because the majority still have moral objections to sex work and it is illegal in many places.

  • b) there is no common agreement that children should be taught about sex full stop, much less about sexual techniques aimed at pleasure. The only way the very minimal sex education that does exist has been allowed has come to exist is because it framed in terms of health

comment by Error · 2015-04-28T17:17:27.594Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for paying the karma toll to answer me.

"Whore" is considered an unpleasant word by many people.

I picked up the usage from a couple of sex workers' blogs. Now that it's brought to my attention, though, I think they were explicitly trying to reclaim the word, which implies there was a problem with it to begin with. I should have caught that before using it in other venues.

That combined with the overall tone may have made people think your intention was trollish

Guilty on tone if not trollishness. I'll admit I'm seethingly hostile to grade school in general and sex ed/drug ed/anything with the same general characteristics in particular; I consider the latter fundamentally dishonest and an insult to the students.

There is no plausible transition from the way the world exists at present to one where...

Agreed. I presented the idea because it seemed both good and original; I know it's not politically tenable. The issues you mention are real ones; I just file them both under "people are crazy, the world is mad."

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-28T22:40:55.280Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There are no better experts

In general almost no school classes are taught by domain experts.

But are the even the best experts? Prostitutes are in interactions that are focused on giving their client pleasure in the least amount of time instead of focused on the enjoyment of both parties .

On of the most important lessons that a school could teach on the subject might be: "Talk with your partner about what they enjoy and communicate your own desires." That's much different in a non-money based interaction.

comment by gjm · 2015-04-29T00:02:51.582Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

in the least amount of time

Perhaps I'm just parsing your words wrong, but it looks as if you're suggesting that most non-commercial sexual interactions have "in the least amount of time" as a major goal. I'm fairly sure that's far from the case.

(I agree with your other point, and would add that many -- I suspect most, and perhaps a large majority -- of non-commercial sexual interactions are not purely sexual; they occur in a context of some kind of ongoing relationship. That can make a substantial difference too.)

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-04-29T09:02:46.290Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps I'm just parsing your words wrong, but it looks as if you're suggesting that most non-commercial sexual interactions have "in the least amount of time" as a major goal. I'm fairly sure that's far from the case.

(In case anyone else is confused by gjm's confusion, the words "in the least amount of time" in ChristianKl's comment used to come after "instead of focused on the enjoyment of both parties" rather than before.)

comment by gjm · 2015-04-29T11:34:53.327Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-29T07:38:45.493Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps I'm just parsing your words wrong, but it looks as if you're suggesting that most non-commercial sexual interactions have "in the least amount of time" as a major goal.

No, most commercial ones do. If the act is over sooner the prostitute gets the same money for less time.

comment by gjm · 2015-04-29T11:34:43.052Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

So, you fixed what you wrote so that it was no longer wrong in the way I described. That's good, but now it looks like I'm an idiot who can't read. (I guess that's why the grandparent of this comment got a downvote.)

If you happen to care about not making people who help you look like idiots (which of course you're in no way obliged to), then in future you might consider acknowledging such corrections rather than silently fixing up what you wrote and then saying "No".

(And since I care -- perhaps foolishly -- about not looking like an idiot, I suppose in future I will have to go to the extra effort of quoting what I'm commenting on more explicitly so as not to be vulnerable to this kind of thing.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-29T13:45:13.705Z · score: -5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

So, you fixed what you wrote so that it was no longer wrong in the way I described. That's good, but now it looks like I'm an idiot who can't read. (I guess that's why the grandparent of this comment got a downvote.)

No, the downvote was there before I made the edit.

The English language isn't as good as Lojban at clearly specifying which proposition belongs to which part. My original formulating doesn't parse unambiguously and needs thinking to be parsed correctly. In particular expecting it be be parsed the same way, rests on it being obvious that "in the shortest amount of time" applies to prostitutes.

It's no failure in reading 101 but in reading 201.

As far as silently editing, LW provides the * to show that the post is edited.

comment by gjm · 2015-04-29T16:10:57.144Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

the downvote was there before I made the edit

Interesting. I wonder what whoever-it-was didn't like. Oh well, never mind.

LW provides the * to show that the post is edited.

Yup. And that tells you nothing about what was done to it, so if there's a comment saying "blah blah blah 2+2=4 blah blah blah" with a star, and a reply saying "I'm not sure your arithmetic is correct" there's no way to know that it used to say "2+2=5".

and needs thinking to be parsed correctly

OK, now I'm going to stop trying to be tactful.

Your original comment was simply incorrect; the only way to parse it "correctly" is to ignore the way the English language actually works; it just didn't say what you intended it to say. I didn't suffer a "failure in reading 201", I didn't fail to think, I pointed out that you had suffered a failure in writing 101 and I did it tactfully so that (e.g.) you could correct what you wrote and call it a clarification.

In response to which, you edited your comment to make it look as if I had made a mistake, replied to my comment as if I had in fact made a mistake, and are now doubling down and attempting to make out that the problem was my inept reading rather than your inept writing and that you did nothing wrong in making me look like an idiot for trying to help.

Sorry, but two consecutive defections earns you a defection in response. You did wrong, you tried to hide it, and you acted so as to make someone else look bad for it. I'd been assuming that last bit was unintentional, but your latest response is making me reconsider. Anyway: Please don't do that. It's rude.

(Of course it's also an extremely trivial pair of consecutive defections and it's not like it matters much. I hereby acknowledge that it doesn't matter much. But, still: Rude. Don't do it.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-29T23:09:15.146Z · score: -6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Your original comment was simply incorrect; the only way to parse it "correctly" is to ignore the way the

English language actually does allow the construction I used.

Prostitutes are in interactions that are focused on giving their client pleasure instead of focused on the enjoyment of both parties in the least amount of time.

Both

A : ((giving their client pleasure instead of focused on the enjoyment of both parties) in the least amount of time)

and

B : (giving their client pleasure (instead of focused on the enjoyment of both parties in the least amount of time))

are possible way to parse the sentence. You mistakenly read B. I do grant that original sentence is ugly and my edited version is easier to read. Writing ugly is a mistake, but it's a stylistic one and not one of content.

Language is about communicating ideas. In this case it's kind of obvious what I meant. You either miss the obvious or you pretend I didn't mean the obvious. Both are not actions that are good cooperation.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-04-30T18:49:14.543Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect part of the downvoting is not just due to the content but the use of the loaded word "whores" which has very negative connotations.

Edit: Nevermind. I see that Fiftytwo made the same point. Sorry for wrecking signal/noise.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-29T00:26:42.909Z · score: -3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Hire retired whores to teach sex ed classes. There are no better experts

There are no better experts at impersonal sex carefully walled off from the real "you". They are probably pretty good at separating johns from their money, too...

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-04-29T00:32:01.247Z · score: -5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Eh, I have a problem with the current "sex ed" model because of the trend towards exclusion of more and more boys from the possibility of having sex lives, a trend thoroughly analyzed and discussed in Manosphere blogs dealing with love-shyness, involuntary celibacy and PUA. Also refer to my downvoted and currently hidden post above about some idiot sex expert's ideas about the future of sexbots and orgasmatrons in an essay she published on the website of the Wall Street Journal, of all places.

Basically I find it, well, cruel, to teach these boys about sexual experiences that girls could quite possibly withhold from them indefinitely because the boys don't meet young women's emotionally immature criteria for sex appeal. I would like to make sure that the sexually laggard boys get their sexual debut at an appropriate age, and that means setting aside our inherited religious superstitions about fornication and the like out of practical necessity. if these boys need to see prostitutes, with the approval of their parents, and with the permission of legal and medical authority figures, to overcome this hurdle - well, at one time that idea would have bothered me. But I have come around to seeing it as highly preferable to leaving the sexual debut to the haphazard in the current environment where more and more boys will likely wind up alienated from society through sexual eviction. Sex as a rite of passage signals to the young man, "Welcome to the tribe."

comment by emr · 2015-04-28T02:47:32.681Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can we finance cryogenics by revival awards?

Create a market for frozen humans. The reward is for the agent who performs the revival. Investors can either search for revival technology and patent it, or they can invest in frozen humans, which they can sell to agents who wish to attempt revival.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-28T14:49:48.276Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Create a market for frozen humans

That sounds like an excellent plot for a dystopian horror movie.

comment by RowanE · 2015-04-28T16:44:33.599Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What about revival attempts that fail such that they kill the patient? e.g. destructive scan for an upload that turns out not to be accurate enough to run? How can we discourage people from taking unnaceptable risks with our frozen bodies just to exploit us for a quick buck, without also discouraging them from trying to revise us at all?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-28T20:42:55.150Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What about revival attempts that fail such that they kill the patient? e.g. destructive scan for an upload that turns out not to be accurate enough to run?

Or which is accurate enough to run but not accurate enough to be on a meaningful level "the same person".

comment by RowanE · 2015-04-29T05:18:22.836Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, that could be even worse incentives-wise. As far as the patient's subjective experience goes, it's a fatal accident. As far as the people reviving them care? If the patient is alive-looking enough to collect the prize, they've succeeded and any efforts to get more accurate scanning tools involved would be a pointless waste of money.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-04-29T07:18:51.205Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If the patient is alive-looking enough to collect the prize, they've succeeded and any efforts to get more accurate scanning tools involved would be a pointless waste of money.

That would be like the Wright brothers giving up the flight business as soon as they kept a craft in the air long enough for everyone to agree it was a controlled flight.

No-one ever made a profit by collecting a technology prize, still less financed a company on the expectation of a future prize. The real prize is the prestige for getting that far first, but even that won't be worth anything but a footnote in the history books if you just rest on it while everyone else goes on to make the technology really work.

comment by RowanE · 2015-04-29T15:21:00.532Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If it's a technology prize, sure, but emr was suggesting prizes on each cryo-patient for each revival, not a technology prize for the first person to successfully perform a revival at all.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-04-29T16:27:59.284Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, but if someone is subsidising successful revivals (which is what a prize on each one is), quality of the result will still matter. In a developing area of technology you can't just do something that ticks all the present checkboxes, and think you can just go on doing that. Standards will rise, and those that can't keep up will be out of business.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-01T13:49:53.840Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, but if someone is subsidising successful revivals (which is what a prize on each one is), quality of the result will still matter.

No, a prize is a specific way to subsidize. In particular a subsidy based on goals set when the price is formulated. Having a foundation with a budget to invest into reviving people makes more sense if you care about quality.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-05-02T07:37:12.149Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, a prize is a specific way to subsidize. In particular a subsidy based on goals set when the price is formulated.

There's nothing to stop the foundation paying it from raising its standards over time.

People -- at least, the ones sharing the transhumanist worldview -- want revival. The people who work on revival want revival. Revival is the goal, not a few piddling millions or billions of dollars. Industrial-scale revival won't happen until people are satisfied that it really is revival; then and not before will that huge market exist. When prizes are involved, you're looking at early-stage technology, whose only reason for existing is to become mature technology.

comment by RowanE · 2015-04-30T14:09:32.467Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps, but a) whether someone's actually been brought back to life successfully is hard to verify externally and they might not end up optimising for it even accidentally since the incentivised tech development is for the same quality but cheaper and faster and b) probably a lot of people would be killed by this practice in the time between "revival" becoming possible and standards getting high enough that it's actually reviving people and not killing the original and creating someone new, so the prize thing still sounds like a bad idea.

comment by torekp · 2015-04-28T01:58:08.101Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can I add an image to the file database, and/or add an image to a post I plan to make in Discussion? The sandbox doesn't explain how to do it, although I did manage to add (well, preview) an already-existing image called Example.jpg.

comment by Manfred · 2015-04-28T05:28:45.447Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you click on the insert/edit image button you get a window with image options. Within that window, to the right of the "Image URL" textbox, there is a button with mouseover text "Browse." Clicking that will open up a new window that lets you upload files (Choose File) and use files you've already uploaded.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-27T21:52:11.653Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

GiveWell partners with co-founder of Instagram and his fiancée.

http://blog.givewell.org/2015/04/23/co-funding-partnership-with-kaitlyn-trigger-and-mike-krieger/

We are excited to announce a new co-funding partnership with Kaitlyn Trigger and her fiancé Mike Krieger (co-founder of Instagram)...supporting the Open Philanthropy Project’s work...

...Kaitlyn and Mike have made a financial commitment of $750,000 over the next two years...

...We have reserved a desk in the office for Kaitlyn, and she expects to spend around two days a week there. While she also will work on her own projects, she will join team meetings…be included in internal correspondence around our process, and do some work…Our goal is to give her an inside look at the Open Philanthropy Project process and generally be a resource to her in learning about how to give as effectively as possible...

...To date, we haven’t actively sought partnerships along these lines. Kaitlyn and Mike suggested it…

My scorecard:

GiveWell Loses

  • Small amount of productivity (Teaching Kaitlyn)

  • Large amount of credibility (Donors influenced priorities)

GiveWell Gains

  • $750,000

  • Higher expected donations from Krieger and his network of wealthy friends

What do you think of the partnership? I am disappointed, but open to changing my mind.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-27T22:37:30.636Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

GiveWell already has donors that might influence priorities. I don't think having donors means losing credibility.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-27T23:36:16.163Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

GiveWell already has donors that might influence priorities.

Do you have evidence that donors, other than the starting core, have influenced priorities? If so, I would be interested.

I don't think having donors means losing credibility.

I meant to say "Donors influenced priorities". I'll edit to clear up the confusion. It's important, to me at least, that GiveWell's research is as unbiased as possible.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-27T23:56:58.886Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, but why do you think that those donors is more likely to influence priorities?

It's important, to me at least, that GiveWell's research is as unbiased as possible.

"Unbiased" is a quite complicated word what do you mean with it? I don't see conflicts of interests in this case.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-28T02:38:12.671Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, but why do you think that those donors is more likely to influence priorities?

This looks like influence to me...

To date, we haven’t actively sought partnerships along these lines. Kaitlyn and Mike suggested it...

Next,

I don't see conflicts of interests in this case.

Really? For example, if GiveWell determined that the Open Philanthropy Project were a waste of resources, do you think they would simply say, "Well Mr. Krieger, you shouldn't give us that money after all."

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-28T09:55:37.538Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This looks like influence to me... To date, we haven’t actively sought partnerships along these lines. Kaitlyn and Mike suggested it...

I would think that GiveWell talks with his donors and takes idea that it considers good on board. I don't see a problem with doing things that other people suggest.

For example, if GiveWell determined that the Open Philanthropy Project were a waste of resources, do you think they would simply say, "Well Mr. Krieger, you shouldn't give us that money after all."

Do you object in principle to the idea of taking project specific outside funding?

That like saying a researcher who applies to some grant is biased because he has to please the person who give out the grant.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-04-27T18:17:06.613Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Alcor 2015 Conference October 9-11, 2015 The Alcor 2015 Conference will be held on October 9-11, 2015 at the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center at McCormick Ranch, located at 7700 East McCormick Parkway, Scottsdale, AZ 85258.

STAY TUNED FOR MORE DETAILS

http://www.alcor.org/AboutAlcor/conference.html

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-04-29T05:01:05.007Z · score: -5 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Boy, nobody likes my posts on Hemant Mehta's Friendly Atheist blog any more. I can see why, because the Newish Atheists like Mehta want to maintain for propaganda purposes the claim that religionists, and especially christians, suffer from all this horrible sexual repression that just mysteriously disappears when they become atheists, or at least when these believers start to question their beliefs and head in the direction of a secular world view.

I keep pointing out that this might work for christian women whose parents have subjected them to abstinence pledges, sex-negative indoctrination and the like; but it doesn't necessarily work for many christian men who have low sexual market value to begin with. The sexually yucky christian guy who becomes an atheist discovers that women will still reject him, despite all the propaganda about atheists' sexual freedom and fulfillment. I find it funny and weird that atheist authorities and christian authorities both agree on this myth about atheists' wonderful sex lives, when many men discover a quite different reality.

But no, the Newish Atheists apparently don't want to hear about this reality check because it conflicts with their ideological commitment to the alleged sexual advantages of becoming an atheist.

comment by RowanE · 2015-04-29T05:43:38.086Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The only talk I've seen about "the sexual advantages of becoming an atheist" other than specifically christian women dropping celibacy commitments has been people taking stuff Christians say about atheist sexual freedom and saying "oh, yeah, look at all this sex we're having just all over the place" in a really sarcastic voice, so I really doubt anyone's ideologically commited to its existence.

No, what people are getting mad at is, that talking about men with "low sexual market value" is steeped in an ideology that most atheists consider disgusting and abominable, because especially the "Newish Atheists" tend to be very feminist compared to the general population. Even if you don't actually mean to push that whole memeplex to them, it's like complaining that someone's opinion is influenced by their privilege in the comments of a right-wing or anti-SJ blog.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-29T08:24:33.571Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Christian sexual repression is about the "sex is bad" and you should only have it to reproduce ideology. That's no fun ideology and it's worthwhile to get rid of it.

I haven't seen any atheist who argues that when men switch to being atheists women won't reject him any more. That seems to me like a strawman.

I'm also not aware of any studies that suggest that atheists men are more or less likely to get rejected.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-04-29T09:05:52.344Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm also not aware of any studies that suggest that atheists men are more or less likely to get rejected.

And even if such a study was performed, I wouldn't generalize from a study performed in (say) northern Europe to (say) the southern United States or vice versa.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-04-29T17:33:14.186Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

How about spending some time without relying on the "sexual market" hypothesis?

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-04-28T05:52:13.473Z · score: -6 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I see so much wrong with this that I don't know where to start:

The Future of Sex: It Gets Better

http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-future-of-sex-it-gets-better-1430104231

For one thing, the author, Laura Berman, Ph.D., (an alleged "sex educator") in an essay about "the future of sex" doesn't address the trend towards the increasing eviction of more and more of young men from the dating pool because young women find them "boring." This trend has advanced far along in Japan, the country that seems to exist about 20 years ahead of the rest of the developed world, where reportedly a quarter of the men in their early 30's have had no sexual experience. (And Japanese men live relatively close to other Asian countries popular with Western sex tourists, like the Philippines and Thailand; so you wonder why they don't seek out prostitutes in those countries just a short flight away.)

And two, consider her nonsense about:

Currently sex aids are widely available, but the future is going to hold some truly edgy products. Futurists are predicting that—in just 10 to 15 years—there will be robots that will look and feel incredibly lifelike, robots with which you can cuddle and have sex. You will be able to design your perfect mate, complete with the right voice and the artificial intelligence to whisper those sweet nothings at exactly the right time.

And,

Meanwhile, our understanding of the neurobiology of sex will lead to a new ability to stimulate the brain directly to simulate mind-blowing sex regardless of physical contact. This will not only have endless recreational implications, but will significantly improve the sex lives of people with disabilities, as well.

This show that Berman doesn't see the importance to a young man's development that comes from getting into sexual relationships through dating real, live women. In her absurd futurist vision, men would do just fine by staying emotionally and socially stunted from masturbating with sexbots and plugging into orgasmatrons.

On second thought, perhaps Berman does see the sexual eviction crisis, and she proposes these speculative technologies as a way to keep the sexually yucky boys away from trying to get into dates and relationships with the cool girls like her.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-28T09:57:51.168Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I see so much wrong with this that I don't know where to start:

Then why bring it up on LW?