Rationality Quotes Thread August 2015

post by bbleeker · 2015-08-03T09:50:08.880Z · score: 6 (7 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 226 comments

Another month, another rationality quotes thread. The rules are:

226 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-08-13T23:08:10.756Z · score: 23 (25 votes) · LW · GW

can we have a moratorium on the suggestion that, in order to fix the system, “people have to get more involved”? This is not a solution, it is a restatement of the problem. (Saying that a problem requires massive, broad-based, spontaneous, decentralized collective action in order to be resolved is equivalent to saying that it cannot be resolved. We need to think institutionally about social problems.)

--Joseph Heath

comment by Sarunas · 2015-08-15T12:47:33.947Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Similarly, I often remind myself that, as a general rule, I should avoid using third person imperative mood in my thinking and speech.

comment by 27chaos · 2015-08-14T00:11:07.365Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with the sentiment that there are cases where people are lazy about problem solving, asserting essentially that the solution is that the problem ought to spontaneously solve itself. So this quote is a useful approximation. The following is just a nitpick.

Empirically, are there not cases of broad-based semi-spontaneous decentralized collective action that have solved problems? I think they're rare, but real, especially as you get closer to the microlevel. Even within the macrolevel, it's important, because good macro depends on micro. Thinking institutionally would not work, unless individual decentralized people would act in certain useful and/or predictable ways, for example in ways that make institutional action a possibility in the first place, like being willing to cooperate sometimes. And formal institutions are really just a special case of more general things, other things which are not institutions can nonetheless take advantage of similar things to what institutions take advantage of. A sports team can behave somewhat institutionally, and so can a church, or a community, or even a nation. Even without enforcement mechanisms, this is somewhat true - for example, miraculously enough, a non negligible percentage of the population is willing to vote in elections, even without good individual incentives for their marginal vote.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-22T21:01:19.080Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Saying that a problem requires massive, broad-based, spontaneous, decentralized collective action in order to be resolved ...

... is often an excuse to avoid pointing out the institutions who could actually take action and the reasons they don't want to.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-08-15T11:46:55.611Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Have there ever been no problems actually solved by massive, broad-based, spontaneous, decentralized collective action? (I can think of none off the top of my head and I agree it's extremely unlikely to happen, but have there even been coutnterexamples?)

comment by Sarunas · 2015-08-15T12:58:59.369Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Even if there were problems that were solved by such collective action, you should not create plans that rely on things like that happening (by definition, you cannot create a spontaneous action). Your plans should not rely on the problem having to solve itself. Edit: unless the type of spontaneous collective action you need is known to happen often or the problem you want to solve is of the type that are known to often solve themselves.

Actions of the crowd during the fall of the Berlin Wall seems to be an example of an event that fits the description, as it wasn't centrally organized, many people simply tried to make use of opportunity that suddenly appeared due to actions of East German government and other circumstances.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-16T02:18:47.898Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

An interesting property of that example is that each individual was taking an action, attempting to escape to the west, that would benefit him personally. This is different from typical examples of "collective action" that have mass prisoners' dilemma/free rider problems.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-08-22T09:49:53.071Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If the words are interpreted broadly enough then the non-existence of a free online encyclopedia is an example of a problem that was solved in such a way.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-16T00:41:01.316Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Have there ever been no problems actually solved by massive, broad-based, spontaneous, decentralized collective action?

The defeat of the Evil Empire, aka the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics :-D

comment by James_Miller · 2015-08-05T01:10:19.944Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

ShanksTheTruthSeeker: "Back in the days, what motivated you to decide to cure aging ?"

Aubrey de Grey: "The correct question is, what the hell is wrong with everyone else that stops them from being motivated to cure aging? It's responsible for the overwhelming majority of global suffering. WTF?"

From a Reddit AMA.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-05T12:37:16.907Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Most people can't imagine what a world without ageing would be like, and they can't want what they can't imagine.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-08-06T16:01:50.459Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Speaking personally, I'm motivated to cure aging for obvious reasons, but demotivated by the immense complexity of the task. To cure aging we need to essentially devise a way to remove most forms of decay from an extremely complicated system. Remove some forms of decay and other forms arise. The body has natural mechanisms to fight decay but the mechanisms themselves suffer from decay.

comment by 27chaos · 2015-08-06T19:23:45.990Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't understand why brain transplants don't seem to be a high priority for anti-ageists. It seems putting an old brain into the head of a clone would solve like half of all medical issues all at once. The other half would be extremely messy to deal with, maybe impossible, but first things first, no? Is there any serious work that's been done on this that I've overlooked? If not, why? Ethics boards, maybe?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-06T20:38:10.321Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Look at the prevalence of Alzheimer's as a function of age:

Until you solve that particular problem, transplanting brains seems to be pointless.

comment by IffThen · 2015-08-09T02:31:49.632Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is consistent with 27chaos's statement, though. If you get a body transplant at 65, you have solved a number of medical problems, and the chance of living the next 30 years without having to worry about Alzheimer's is ~70%. Of course, Alzheimer's disease accounts for only 60-80% of cases of dementia. But still, I think there would be a market.

It is also worth noting that cardiovascular factors, physical fitness, and diet contribute to the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's. These are not the greatest risk factors (as you might have guessed, age is the greatest risk factor), but these can be managed if you are motivated to do so -- in fact, getting a new body should be a fairly effective way of managing cardiovascular fitness.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-11T10:55:47.100Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you get a body transplant at 65, you have solved a number of medical problems

You also add additional medical issues that come up with transplantation. Likely you won't get all nerves to be perfectly lined up.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-10T15:23:27.409Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think there would be a market

I am sure there would be a market. And if someguy just showed up and said "Hey, look, I can do brain transplants, this is how it works, ain't it great?", everyone would go Yeah! That's great! Huzzah!

But the issue is with two words in the (grand)+parent post: "high priority". Given limited resources, are brain transplants what people should be working on?

comment by Username · 2015-08-07T12:26:11.156Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why are USA and Brazil higher than China and Europe? Is something different about Western Hemisphere? Indian curses or something.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-07T16:15:46.663Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect that China underreports the prevalence ("My uncle Xi who lives in a remote village became a bit strange as he got old, but it's OK, there is no need to take him to a doctor in the city..."), but I have no idea why Europe is different from US/Brazil. I think it would be easy to google up more data if you want to explore this further.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-08-06T20:29:50.075Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you could clone yourself, you would kill your copy for spare parts? I think more than just ethics boards have trouble with that.

(I also get the sense that brain transplants are neither feasible nor projected to be before uploading, basically.)

comment by Dagon · 2015-08-07T03:27:18.680Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If I could clone myself (including brain-state), I'd of course pre-commit to roshambo amongst myselves for organs. And then clone more.

If the clones didn't include brain-state, I'd probably look for ways to make brain-free partial clones to avoid the question of who I'd be killing to live extra years.

comment by tut · 2015-08-07T10:30:26.048Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, the answer to OPs question is that action flick "clones" are not possible with near future technology, and most likely making them (with Drexlerian nanotech or something) is strictly more difficult than just fixing your present body. Your real world clone would take 20 years to "make" and be a separate person, like you would be if you grew up when they did.

comment by IffThen · 2015-08-09T02:52:32.089Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Your real world clone would take 20 years to "make" and be a separate person, like you would be if you grew up when they did.

This is partially missing the point. The goal is to make a separate body, compatible with your biology. There is no need to grow a clone with a functioning brain -- any medical science sufficient to clone a human would be able to clone an acephalic human (WARNING, NSFL, fetus with head damage), and growing a clone with a fully functioning brain (i.e., not driven insane by being grown in a de facto sensory deprivation chamber) would be much more expensive, even if you kept education to a minimum.

Still, all this is ethically questionable, something that would need a lot of advance planning, and will be a long time in the future. It is true that fixing your body piecemeal will almost surely be a better option -- even if it does end up involving some limited form of cloning organs.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-08-05T15:33:15.385Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Most people do want to live forever in heaven

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-05T23:57:26.908Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

And they can't really imagine what that would be like.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-28T03:14:29.595Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There's a quote I haven't turned up about people praying for eternal life in heaven when they don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy afternoon.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-28T13:02:51.389Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The downvote isn't mine. On the other hand, my reply to that quote is that I can pretty easily keep myself occupied on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Susan Ertz

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-28T14:14:39.897Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you.

It may be worth noting that the quote is from before the internet. It's a lot easier to have something to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon than it used to be.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-29T00:22:58.706Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have shelves. They hold books, and board-games, and occasionally even DVDs. I live with my girlfriend and another friend. At last resort, we have alcohol.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-05T15:04:24.387Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Most people can't imagine what a world without ageing would be like

Why not? That seem to be a very trivial exercise of imagination.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-05T23:57:09.981Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Really? What are the trivial demographic trends?

Also, it's emotionally threatening to say that they're suffering the ravages of ageing meaninglessly.

comment by IffThen · 2015-08-09T03:07:28.588Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Most people can't imagine what a world without ageing would be like, and they can't want what they can't imagine.

I have to agree with Lumifer -- most people can imagine (and want) a world without aging, because they would not bother to think about the demographic trends. I would compare this to asking someone to imagine a world in which no one was living below the average income level; I think most people would agree that this is easy to conceive of, and desirable. It's only the select few who would think this through and wonder how the powers that be are going to achieve this without doing something very drastic to a lot of people.

comment by David_Bolin · 2015-08-09T15:33:55.802Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Imagine a world in which no one was living below the average income level."

This is a world where everyone has exactly the same income. I don't see any special reason why it would be desirable, though.

comment by IffThen · 2015-08-12T20:58:19.497Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That was sort of my point. Most people are going to imagine it as a more perfect world. But if they were to think through all of the implications, they would see that it probably involves massive taxation and a very very strong central government, with less motivation for people to do dirty and difficult jobs.

They want something they can't, or don't, accurately imagine.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-05T23:59:40.300Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, really. We're talking about imagining a world, not about writing a paper on the likely consequences.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-06T12:41:46.662Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So what are the trivial demographic trends?

comment by Viliam · 2015-08-06T08:48:58.007Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

what a world without ageing would be like

Less ageing, people still dying from starvation, diseases, wars -- should be easy to imagine.

Ironically, if you would cast a magic spell that makes everyone on the whole planet stop ageing at 30, the situation in undeveloped countries would probably remain similar. It's the developed countries that would have a problem.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-08-06T21:59:59.175Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In the long run, Malthus wins.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-07T06:46:08.762Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

With birthrates of 1.5 children or less per woman that might not be true.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-08-07T13:23:30.705Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If a population has an average birthrate of 1.5 children but a small subset, say Amish or Hasidic Jews have a much, much higher birthrate, then in the long-run the population birthrate will likely be much higher than 1.5.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-07T13:40:47.140Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The Amish are a problem that's quite separate from curing aging. They likely wouldn't use it.

comment by DanArmak · 2015-08-09T16:08:59.988Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A population with a high birth rate grows exponentially even without curing aging.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-03T14:52:26.715Z · score: 16 (20 votes) · LW · GW

So much of debate, including political and economic debate, is about which groups and individuals deserve higher or lower status.

Tyler Cowen

comment by Username · 2015-08-07T12:22:00.866Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What else would you debate if not distribution of limited resources? And there are better ways to gain wealth than politics.

comment by DanArmak · 2015-08-09T15:47:33.132Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Most policy issues are not about allocation of resources, but about rights and duties, what is allowed and forbidden, rewards and punishments.

Should we imprison murderers for 10 years or 15? Should the minimum wage be set at $10 or $15 per hour? Should same-sex marriage be legalized? Should churches be tax-exempt? Should the NSA be allowed to spy on citizens? Should the Iran nuclear deal be accepted? Should a profession or a market or a monopolist be regulated, and how? When and how should people be allowed to keep pets, build houses, design gardens, prepare food, take medications, copy books, have sex? What are people legally allowed to say and do and how should transgressors be punished? What is good art, and when is art illegal?

These are all random examples off the top of my head of issues referring to (recent) matters of political debate; they are probably not very representative. None of them seems to have a simple framing in terms of resource allocation.

Resource allocation is also debated, of course. But even then, some of the time, the different sides don't have different viewpoints on correctly balancing resources, e.g. with one party wanting 40% to go to medicine and 60% to welfare, and another 50% to medicine and 50% to welfare. Instead, one party wants (ideally) 100% to go to medicine, another wants 100% to go to welfare, and the actual split is determined by the political balance between them and not by object-level quantitative considerations.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-07T16:13:09.300Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What else would you debate if not distribution of limited resources?

How the world works, for example.

comment by Username · 2015-08-07T21:21:14.246Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That is something usually better settled by experimentation than by argument.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-07T23:40:31.595Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You usually need both. Experiments need a conceptual framework and besides in some cases (e.g. politics or macroeconomics) running experiments is pretty difficult.

comment by Viliam · 2015-08-07T08:52:03.969Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW · GW

When something impossible happens, there are only two possibilities. Either your assumptions are wrong or you have gone crazy.

Psycho Pass S02E07

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-08T16:34:57.916Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

A shorter, though narrower heuristic is 'if a horse tells you that you are crazy, you are.':)

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-22T21:04:08.511Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That's not a very helpful test. I know I'm crazy. I'm crazy even when my assumptions are right and only ordinary things are happening.

comment by knb · 2015-08-23T01:18:58.762Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Psycho Pass is a pretty good show, definitely on my "recommend list." Also a pretty good example of something Yvain mentioned recently, a dystopia that isn't necessarily as bad as it is depicted.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-08-03T16:06:54.020Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I think one of the most important rules of ethics is that you might be the baddies.

Ozymandias who links to this YouTube comedy clip.

comment by WalterL · 2015-08-04T21:12:24.850Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

The chess-board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance.

Thomas Huxley, Collected Essays Volume 3 Science and Education A Liberal Education (p. 82)

comment by 27chaos · 2015-08-06T19:25:23.709Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How are you liking the book, assuming you're reading it at the moment?

comment by WalterL · 2015-08-06T20:21:22.146Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, the temptation not to correct a favorable impression.

I haven't read the original source, I saw the quote in a Batman comic and thought it sounded cool so I Googled it.

comment by 27chaos · 2015-08-06T19:19:28.311Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.

Nietzsche in Daybreak: Reflections on Moral Prejudice.

http://www.lexido.com/EBOOK_TEXTS/DAYBREAK_.aspx?S=156

I wasn't aware of this quote at the time, but similar views were influential in my deconversion from Christianity. I decided that if I believed in God, that meant I needn't be afraid to subject that belief to fair tests of evidence or argumentation. In hindsight, I'm very grateful this was my view, unlike so many others I was lucky enough to avoid getting stuck in a stagnated belief system.

I now try to randomly change my priors every now and then, to the extent that I am able. I figure that either they'll repair themselves over time, or they weren't worth having in the first place. This means that I am less likely to get trapped in models at local maxima or to become stuck within any biasing cognitive finger traps. In addition to its utility as a tool, this emotionally involves a quite enjoyable sense of freedom for me. I don't have to be afraid of losing the truth, because reality is consilient. I highly recommend this technique for everyone here.

comment by Stephen_Cole · 2015-08-16T19:29:40.398Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Have you read Nietzsche? I read Beyond Good and Evil. He seemed like a misogynist asshole, but perhaps just a product if his time.

comment by 27chaos · 2015-08-16T22:02:06.560Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

His real attitudes weren't exactly modern, but some of the things he said are intended to be interpreted symbollically, interacting with the abstract idea of Woman rather than with all women as a group of human beings. In that sense, he might be interpreted as criticizing their culturally specific gender role more than their sex-imposed characteristics. He probably wasn't all that interested in distinguishing between those, because he views people who are controlled by their culture as contemptible anyway. I think that lack of interest in understanding or sympathizing with (apparent) weakness is a common flaw of his work. Fundamental attribution error, basically. Similarly, he only rarely praises those who try to cultivate strength in others, which is unfortunate if he really despises weakness so much. I think he might have cut himself off from empathy due to feeling as though it overwhelmed him, some of his writings on Schopenhauer hint at this.

In my opinion, if someone views women's behavior within 19th century gender roles as admirable they're in a way more misogynistic than someone who views it as ugly and broken. Had he sympathy or understanding in addition to his contempt though, or if he'd been more willing to distinguish between a person's internal states and their external behavior, then the balance of his attitudes would have been far better calibrated.

It's also worth keeping in mind that using caveats and qualifiers wasn't Nietzsche's rhetorical style and arguably would have ruined his impact. He sometimes deliberately exaggerates and is inflammatory; he is writing to people's hearts as much as their minds, since one of his main beliefs is that people have broken value systems. Overall, I think he's misogynist, but I don't think he's as extreme a misogynist as he is sometimes perceived. A product of his times, who only partially transcended them. If he saw the way women tend to behave today in Western countries, I like to think he'd be much happier with them.

Also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Nietzsche%27s_views_on_women has some things to say.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-28T13:07:09.273Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For me, some of this is personal. I remember reading Nietzsche when I was a teenager or possibly early twenties. I got to "When you go to women, forget not your whip", and closing the book because I'd just read a recommendation that people like me should be physically attacked.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-17T05:02:19.156Z · score: -2 (14 votes) · LW · GW

He seemed like a misogynist asshole

Care to define "misogynist asshole". These days it seems to mean "someone who believes there are behavioral differences between men and women and takes these differences seriously". Of course these beliefs appear to be true, or at least well supported by evidence. So the term ultimately seems to cash out as "someone who has a certain class of (true) beliefs that I don't like". If you meant something else by the term please specify and keep in mind you're using it in a way that is highly likely to be misunderstood.

comment by Anders_H · 2015-08-21T20:12:15.923Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I am going to publicly call for banning user VoiceOfRa for the following reasons:

(1) VoiceOfRa is almost certainly the same person as Eugene_Nier and Azathoth123. This is well known in rationality circles; many of us have been willing to give him a second chance under a new username because he usually makes valuable contributions.

(2) VoiceOfRa almost certainly downvote bombed the user who made the grandparent comment, including downvoting some very uncontroversial and reasonable comments.

(3) As I have said before in this context, downvote abuse is very clear evidence of being mindkilled. It is also a surefire way to ensure you never change your mind, because you discourage people who disagree with you from taking part in the discussion and therefore prohibit yourself from updating on their information. I do not understand how someone who genuinely believes in epistemic rationality could think this is a good strategy.

I will also note that I was the first person to publicly call out Eugine_Nier under his previous username, Azathoth123, at http://lesswrong.com/lw/l0g/link_quotasmicroaggressionandmeritocracy/bd4o . Like I said in that comment, I continue to believe he is a valuable contributor to the community. Like many other people, I have been willing to give him a second chance under his new username. However, this was conditional on completely ceasing and desisting with the downvote abuse. And yes, any downvoting of old comments made in a different context is a clear example of abuse.

The following links provide background material for readers who are unfamiliar with Eugine_Nier and the context in which I am requesting a ban:

http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/kbk/meta_policy_for_dealing_with_users/ http://lesswrong.com/lw/kfq/moderator_action_eugine_nier_is_now_banned_for/ http://lesswrong.com/lw/ld0/psa_eugine_nier_evading_ban/

Edited to add: If I see clear evidence that VoiceOfRa is not Eugine_Nier, or that he was not behind the most recent downvote abuse, I will retract this message and publicly apologize

comment by hairyfigment · 2015-08-22T17:57:38.480Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It is clearly the same person. And yes, he's actively trying to drive away people for disagreeing with his politics (and/or correctly predicting the presence of neo-reactionaries in a conversation, based on past experience). He also seems to use multiple sockpuppets for upvotes, although I suppose lots of people could just be functionally illiterate.

Giving him a "second" chance seems like a clear failure at reflective decision theory. The punishment should discourage the crime, not just stop the crime. So far it's done neither.

No doubt Nier believes the whole "Cathedral" has defected against him - but unless you think he started out responding to some credible abuse on LW, I really don't care. His beliefs are not Bayesian evidence.

comment by Anders_H · 2015-08-23T03:35:56.759Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

His beliefs are not Bayesian evidence.

If argument screens of authority (http://lesswrong.com/lw/lx/argument_screens_off_authority/), then argument clearly also screens off lack of authority. Moreover, when someone has a repeated history of making arguments that stand on their own, it would be foolish to make the claim that that person's opinions carry a likelihood ratio of 1. Repeated history of sound arguments is pretty much the definition of authority.

I am the one who called for banning VoiceOfRa, and I stand by that judgement. It is more important to me that we don't give veto power over who joins this community to a lone neoreactionary. However, it would be disingenious to claim that it wouldn't be a difficult trade-off. The community would clearly lose something valuable.

comment by hairyfigment · 2015-08-23T20:33:13.343Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I meant the implied beliefs about persecution. Though I could quibble about the rest. Again, you could think the evidence linked in the grandparent shows that LW is too rewarding of contrarianism and/or conservatism, without checking to see if a complaint is based on reality; you could also think instead that Nier is using sockpuppets to reward himself. But you can't think everything is fine.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2015-08-29T00:18:40.454Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why is it clearly the same person?

comment by hairyfigment · 2015-08-29T19:03:48.121Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Here's a start.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-10-19T07:54:00.509Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ahem.

  • May I point out that the link above links to a post with negative karma
  • I decided to investigate the Voice of Ra issue after seeing an apparently baseless accusation elsewhere (not this thread) that he was downvoting retributively
  • The logic given in the above link for his allegedly multiple identities is extremely poor. I am entirely unconvinced and shame all those who have both accused him or naively accepted those accusations without good reason
  • Both his contributions that I have stumbled across in say rationality quote threads or his over all contributions are overwhelmingly high quality.
  • I wouldn't go as far as to counter claim that other rationalists are retributively accusing him, since I have no reason to privellage that hypothesis. It is interesting, however, that the claim is made that it is well known that he uses multiple identities for nefarious purposes. I dare say that if it was the case that he was so dodgy, I suspect Nancy or another moderator would take action, as has been done before and has recieved considerable karma in consequence.
  • I call for all the accused to substantiate their claims thoroughly, or apologise to both VoiceofRa and his alleged secondary accounts.
  • I call for any higher status users in our community to really critically consider such claims the same way you might critically look at other privellaged areas and not accept bullying and slander where it may exist. I hope some of the unofficial LW leadership take some initiative here.
comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-22T19:41:36.645Z · score: -5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

he's actively trying to drive away people for disagreeing with his politics

No, I don't think so.

In the context of online debates, "actively trying to drive away" means things like threats, discussion of sexual inadequacies, and expressed desires for someone to die in a fire. That is not the case here.

And people who are that sensitive to their karma score are unlikely to be comfortable in LW anyway.

comment by Viliam · 2015-08-23T08:45:30.758Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

And people who are that sensitive to their karma score are unlikely to be comfortable in LW anyway.

There is a huge difference between mass downvoting happening to an experienced user or to a new user. The experienced user has a lot of karma to waste; and they also have a long history of feedback that their contributions are welcomed by the community. The new user will more likely evaluate the feedback incorrectly (as a dislike by community, as opposed to by a single user who happens to be not representative of the community), and in extreme cases can even lose the ability to post.

My main concern is the abuse of downvotes against new users, which happened in the past, and where in most cases we will never know it happened, because the new users will disappear without giving feedback to the community.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-24T02:42:06.007Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

As I mentioned before, this is a technical problem that should have a technical solution.

The relevant political question is how do we get the ability to do something about the code base of LW.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-28T03:26:24.650Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an efficient way to get information about karma voting patterns.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-28T09:35:18.615Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

An inefficient way would do. But maybe "shockingly inefficient" is as good as it gets. The Reddit database architecture (which IIRC LW uses) is ... unusual.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-28T13:09:10.790Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

And people who are that sensitive to their karma score are unlikely to be comfortable in LW anyway.

That seems to be factually mistaken.

You seem to be engaging in a typical mind fallacy, or some variant of it. If something doesn't bother you, no one else should be bothered by it.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-28T14:25:48.626Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am sure I'm not immune to the typical mind fallacy, but LW is known for not being particularly gentle with posts it disagrees with. It's pretty far away from a circle jerk. People who are uncomfortable with disapproval are likely to find it unpleasant, regardless of whether it is expressed as a downvote or as a contrary comment.

Note that I'm not arguing that LW should deliberately drive away the thin-skinned, that's certainly a bad idea. However I don't think that someone who is upset by a downvote is going to react well to a comment (or two, or many) telling him he's wrong.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-28T15:24:27.961Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

And people who are that sensitive to their karma score are unlikely to be comfortable in LW anyway.

The thing is, a downvote campaign isn't just a losing a point or two, it's more like losing 30 points for no apparent reason in a day. Or, as happened to me for a while, having a downvote appear just about as soon as I posted much of anything. I like LW pretty much, but that really did take away some of the sparkle for me.

A downvote carries much less information than a comment. It's possible to think about whether a comment is reasonable.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-28T01:42:14.400Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect that you're underestimating the psychology behind Karma. The first time Eugine_Neir did this was a natural experiment, and we saw several very valuable members leave from the mass downvoting.

comment by Tem42 · 2015-08-29T14:02:02.015Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Actively trying to drive people away" means doing something with the intention of trying to drive someone away. That could mean screaming at them, overusing the word 'moist', or agreeing with them when they want an argument. It could also mean downvotes. It may be hard to judge if someone is trying to drive someone away, but defaulting to "they are not openly being abusive blowhards" is not really useful unless the only thing you care about is abusive blowhards.

However, I would argue that "actively trying to drive people away" is less important that "driving away productive contributors".

comment by entirelyuseless · 2015-08-30T15:28:08.294Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't gone back and checked, but I seem to remember hearing that Eugene_Nier, when contacted by a moderator the first time, said he was trying to drive away people that he considered unproductive. So if it's the same person it's likely that he still tries to drive people away.

comment by satt · 2015-09-01T01:45:58.246Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I arrive late but with a link to the Kaj_Sotala post you're probably thinking of:

I sent two messages to Eugine, requesting an explanation. I received a response today. Eugine admitted his guilt, expressing the opinion that LW's karma system was failing to carry out its purpose of keeping out weak material and that he was engaged in a "weeding" of users who he did not think displayed sufficient rationality.

comment by entirelyuseless · 2015-09-01T13:08:59.425Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, that's what I remembered.

comment by Username · 2015-08-22T23:06:27.868Z · score: -3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If Ra sees this as a voting game, getting into politically charged arguments with newbies and then down voting them is efficient.

They give him a target that lets him post a lot of replies, and with low karma they can't down vote him back.

He can use a second account to vote up 30% of his replies, giving him a good amount of karma at low risk of discovery.

He gets a chance to run off a newbie that doesn't agree with him.

And we all gain from this. We don't need users that can't ignore a troll.

comment by Viliam · 2015-08-23T08:46:46.302Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I'd rather not have a forum de facto moderated by a troll.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-24T02:38:21.801Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

getting into politically charged arguments with newbies and then down voting them

I don't pay any particular attention to whom VoiceOfRa replies or does not, but it is not my impression that he specifically targets newbies. In the current case under discussion he seems to have been triggered by the phrase "misogynist asshole".

We don't need users that can't ignore a troll.

Your sarcasm needs a lot of work :-P

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-28T03:35:04.802Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Would people who think they've been subject to a down-voting campaign please get in touch with me?

Thank you.

(The send-a-message link is accessible by clicking on people's names.)

comment by Stephen_Cole · 2015-08-22T04:27:27.620Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think people should vote how they believe, up or down. But I feel very strongly that we should each have 1 vote.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-22T16:34:47.903Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The accusation is not of sockpuppetry, the accusation is that VoiceOfRa downvotes comments regardless of their content as a "punishment" for the poster. It's still one vote, but some people feel it's... misused.

comment by Stephen_Cole · 2015-08-22T16:40:19.711Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, I see. But how does one decide whether someone believes something about the comment, or is just punishing generally? I guess we might require a comment if there is a down vote? Or the moderators could look at voting patterns overall, or in special cases where attention has been called. I am new to LW so I have little sense of context.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-22T16:59:20.835Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

But how does one decide whether someone believes something about the comment, or is just punishing generally?

Because one notices that one's karma went down by like 40 points in the matter of minutes and posts from long ago suddenly acquired -1s.

There already was some discussion/drama about that a year ago or so which ended up with the account of Eugene_Nier being banned for that practice. It involved mods looking up actual patterns of voting.

To give you a bit of context, there is belief that the same person is behind the accounts of Eugene_Nier (banned), Azathoth (banned), and now VoiceOfRa. There is also some political overlay because VoiceOfRa (and previous accounts) is a neoreactionary and an unapologetic conservative which is very visible in his posts. Most of the complaints about VoiceOfRa come from people who think he downvoted them (as the last mod look at the voting patterns showed, some of them are right and some of them are wrong about that) and these people are mostly left-wing.

Normally this calls for a straightforward technical solution along the lines of "if you start downvoting many comments, the system will impose growing time limits on when you can downvote another comment" -- very similar to how many computer systems deal with bad logins. However LW has no one who has both time and authority to work on its code base and thus we're stuck debating stupid political solutions to a technical problem.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-24T08:42:51.609Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

some political overlay

I don't think you've characterized it quite right. It's not just that (1) Eugine/Azathoth/VoR is conservative and (2) most people who think he's mass-downvoted them are liberal. It's also that (3) the mass-downvoting appears to be targeted at people for being liberal: the surest way to get a batch of bonus downvotes from E/A/V is to go into a thread where gender and race and politics are being discussed and say something conspicuously non-neoreactionary.

Your comment (deliberately?) gives the impression that the whole business has been politicized by E/A/V's opponents, but it seems very clear to me that his mass-downvoting was political from the outset.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-24T14:41:15.516Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I did not mean to imply any direction of causality. I think a better statement would be to say that VoiceOfRa downvotes people whose views he dislikes -- and given his own political views, those people are mostly left-wing.

But yes, you are correct in that the politics do not originate from VoiceOfRa's opponents.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-21T20:25:05.996Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

almost certainly downvote bombed the user

I assume the mods can easily look it up. Yo, mods, that's true?

clear evidence of being mindkilled

Is being mindkilled on a particular topic to be punished by forcible expulsion from LW? That's... a dangerous path to take X-/

comment by Anders_H · 2015-08-21T20:32:23.533Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

retracted

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-21T20:50:25.668Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

LW is one of the gentler places on the 'net and I don't really see the need for extra shielding from a decrementing counter in a database somewhere.

comment by iceman · 2015-08-21T22:48:52.659Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I am going to publicly call for banning user VoiceOfRa [...] VoiceOfRa almost certainly downvote bombed the user who made the grandparent comment, including downvoting some very uncontroversial and reasonable comments.

Consequentially...why bother even if this is true?

Assuming you are correct, Eugene's response to being banned (twice!) was to just make another account. It's highly likely that if you ban this new account, he will make a fourth account. That account will quickly quickly gain karma because, as you note, Eugene's comments are actually valuable. You are proposing that we do the same thing a third time and expect a different result.

Possible actual solutions that are way too much work:

  • move LW on to an Omnilibrium like system of voting where Eugene's votes will put him strongly into the optimate cluster and won't hurt as much.

  • give up on moderation democracy on the web.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-08-22T09:46:33.666Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

My proposed solution would be something like this:

  • unban the Eugine_Nier account;
  • completely disable the Azathoth123 and VoiceOfRa account, e.g. replace their passwords with random junk and throw them away so nobody can log into them;
  • implement a feature whereby you cannot downvote more than X comments (or more than X' comments by the same author) in a Y-hour period (or need to solve a captcha to do so).
comment by Jiro · 2015-08-24T02:13:37.841Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My proposed solution would consist entirely of

  • Have an active moderator who will look at suspected cases of mass downvoting in a timely manner (and then punish the downvoter and mod up the victim again)

It is our inability to implement this solution which necessitates all the other ones.

comment by lmm · 2015-08-27T19:37:46.542Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That would be a poor use of human time. If we don't want mass downvoting, remove the ability to do it.

comment by Jiro · 2015-08-28T14:45:37.164Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

We don't want to remove the ability to do mass downvoting. If someone posts 100 random Wikipedia articles in the belief that this provides insight, they should be downvoted. What we want to do is remove the ability to do mass downvoting based on the downvoter's motivation. No automated process can detect motivation, so we can't do that without using a moderator.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-28T15:21:57.449Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If someone posts 100 random Wikipedia articles in the belief that this provides insight, they should be downvoted.

Yes, but not necessarily by one person.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2015-08-29T00:23:45.068Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think you may be using different definitions of "mass downvoting". I think Jiro means downvoting many of one user's comments with just one account. I think several people have "mass-downvoted" Clarity this week, but nobody complained.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-28T15:16:17.884Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think someone who makes a huge mistake like posting 100 random Wikipedia articles will be sufficiently downvoted by a number of different people.

This process won't be blocked by limiting how much individuals can downvote.

comment by tut · 2015-08-29T07:34:23.486Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How about having a limit to what proportion of another user's downvotes are allowed to come from one user? So if clarity gets downvoted by 20 people there are no limits to how many votes they can get from each of them, but if it is only Nier going on a spree against a new user he pretty soon runs into 5% or whatever the limit is, and then can't downvote that user any more.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-08-24T11:29:39.038Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

OTOH a formal definition of what qualifies as mass downvoting could prevent bickering about whether a particular instance does. Dunno if the benefits would outweigh the costs, though.

comment by hairyfigment · 2015-08-22T18:06:22.027Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The captcha seems like a terrible solution when we have someone following Penn Jillette's advice for stage magicians:

Make the secret a lot more trouble than the trick seems worth. You will be fooled by a trick if it involves more time, money and practice than you (or any other sane onlooker) would be willing to invest.

You're effectively suggesting we put up a fence (to use Moody's example) in order to show him we disapprove of what he's doing. He already knows that.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-08-24T11:16:08.465Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, at least a captcha would prevent people from using scripts to downvote each other's comments, but I don't think VoiceOfRa is doing that now (though he probably was when going by Eugene Nier). But yes, blocking people altogether from casting too many downvotes would probably make more sense.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2015-08-29T00:19:51.836Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How does Omnilibrium voting work?

comment by iceman · 2015-08-29T01:47:44.020Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure about the mathematical details, but as described in their FAQ, they presume that it's inevitable that people will form into local Blue and Green tribes, so they attempt to cluster the population into Blue and Green to not just be a better recommendation engine to both Blues and Greens, but also calculate a nonpartisan score of upvotes by the other side and downvotes by your side.

In general, I thought this was fascinating because it gets to the heart about what voting is for on social websites. If we're trying to build a recommendation engine, having an extremely diverse set of viewpoints is probably something that we want in the input stream of links and discussion. However, we then don't want to have everyone's voting then represent a single score variable, because people are different and have different worldviews. Mixing everyone's scores together will make a homogenized mess that doesn't really speak to anyone.

The idea of tracking partisanship not just to Bayes voting to make better recommendations to users, but to get a sense of nonpartisan quality really impressed me as an idea that's totally obvious...in retrospect. I do wonder how well it scales, as Omnilibrium is fairly small right now.

comment by Stephen_Cole · 2015-08-22T04:25:31.466Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Rather than define it, here is a (purported, I don't recall this one from Beyond Good and Evil) quote:

When a woman has scholarly inclinations there is usually something wrong with her sexuality. – Friedrich Nietzsche

comment by Viliam · 2015-08-23T08:52:51.646Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

When a woman has scholarly inclinations there is usually something wrong with her sexuality. – Friedrich Nietzsche

An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex. -- Aldous Huxley

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-22T05:53:30.441Z · score: -4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Well, lesbians certainly seem to be disproportionately represented among women with scholarly inclinations.

Edit: and an even higher proportion of women who stay single.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-08-22T09:37:44.563Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Disproportionately represented" != "usually", but if you interpret "something wrong" more broadly, e.g. not having several children by age 30, that does seem right (at least in the present-day western world -- I have no idea whether that was also the case in Nietzsche's time, and I've heard it wasn't the case in e.g. the German Democratic Republic).

OTOH by such a broad definition there also is usually something wrong with the sexuality of men with scholarly inclinations, too.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-23T08:13:13.823Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

And when a scholarly inclined man marries a scholarly inclined woman...

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-22T18:22:07.587Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

OTOH by such a broad definition there also is usually something wrong with the sexuality of men with scholarly inclinations, too.

Yes, and I'm pretty sure I've heard Nietzsche quotes to that effect as well.

comment by Stephen_Cole · 2015-08-22T13:16:47.488Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Source? Or just your n = 1 observation?

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-08-23T16:31:31.179Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, where would you guess a larger fraction of people to be openly homosexual, in New England or in Appalachia? In which of the two would you guess more people go to college?

comment by Stephen_Cole · 2015-08-24T11:44:51.466Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is not evidence, this is opinion. Granted, good evidence on these points is hard to come by. But treating opinion like fact is detrimental to communication.

Seems my opinions differ from yours. We have different utility functions with respect to these issues. You get yours, I get mine. On any joint decision for a shared utility we each get weight 1/n.

I pose we should spend our time/resources not arguing about our utilities, but collecting high-quality evidence to improve the probability portions of our MEU.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-08-24T12:39:44.492Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

We have different utility functions with respect to these issues. You get yours, I get mine. On any joint decision for a shared utility we each get weight 1/n.

I didn't say anything about utilities.

comment by knb · 2015-08-22T06:58:45.186Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Really? Do you have a source for this? I have noticed lesbians seem to be over-represented among stand-up comediennes.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-22T18:23:22.593Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have noticed lesbians seem to be over-represented among stand-up comediennes.

Probably true as well.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-28T03:22:44.245Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

http://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/6532/what-does-you-go-to-women-do-not-forget-the-whip-mean

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-29T00:07:13.488Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, is this supposed to refute my claimed definition?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-29T00:51:17.945Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not as good a refutation as one might hope.

Second try: while it's certainly possible that one can be called a misogynist* for asserting (some) innate differences between men and women, it's also true that there's such a thing as clear expressions of hostility towards women, and I'd say that Nietzsche engaged in them.

*I'm giving "asshole" a rest, as it's just an expression of anger.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-29T01:46:11.107Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Second try: while it's certainly possible that one can be called a misogynist* for asserting (some) innate differences between men and women, it's also true that there's such a thing as clear expressions of hostility towards women, and I'd say that Nietzsche engaged in them.

Ok, what do you mean by "hostility" because the example given in your link certainly doesn't qualify by the definition I'm used to.

comment by Sarunas · 2015-08-03T13:39:35.852Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It is better to solve one problem five different ways, than to solve five problems one way

George Pólya, or at least attributed to him, as I am unable to find the exact source, despite its being widely quoted in texts related to mathematics education or problem solving in general.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2015-08-04T04:56:46.357Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure that generalises outside of math. Is it really better to solve one problem really, really thoroughly, than to have a good-enough fix for five? Depends on the problems, perhaps - but without knowing anything else, I'd rather solve five than one.

comment by SolveIt · 2015-08-04T13:05:43.456Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think the point of the quote is that in the first case you have five methods you can use to attack different problems. In the second case you only have one method, and you have to hope every problem is a nail.

comment by HungryHippo · 2015-08-04T16:35:06.452Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed, this story from Polya emphasises the necessity of trying different angles of attack until you have a breakthrough (via squeak time.com):

The landlady hurried into the backyard, put the mousetrap on the ground (it was an old-fashioned trap, a cage with a trapdoor) and called to her daughter to fetch the cat. The mouse in the trap seemed to understand the gist of these proceedings; he raced frantically in his cage, threw himself violently against the bars, now on this side and then on the other, and in the last moment he succeeded in squeezing himself through and disappeared in the neighbour's field. There must have been on that side one slightly wider opening between the bars of the mousetrap ... I silently congratulated the mouse. He solved a great problem, and gave a great example.

That is the way to solve problems. We must try and try again until eventually we recognize the slight difference between the various openings on which everything depends. We must vary our trials so that we may explore all sides of the problem. Indeed, we cannot know in advance on which side is the only practicable opening where we can squeeze through.

The fundamental method of mice and men is the same: to try, try again, and to vary the trials so that we do not miss the few favorable possibilities. It is true that men are usually better in solving problems than mice. A man need not throw himself bodily against the obstacle, he can do so mentally; a man can vary his trials more and learn more from the failure of his trials than a mouse.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2015-08-06T04:39:19.003Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Nu, but a method that has already been used on five problems seems to be pretty good at converting problems into nails. :)

comment by Sarunas · 2015-08-04T14:41:08.171Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know the exact context of this particular quote, but George Pólya wrote a few books about how to become a better problem solver (at least in mathematics). In that context the quote is very reasonable.

comment by btrettel · 2015-08-08T14:52:44.664Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It might be from Pólya's book How to Solve It. I skimmed my copy and could not find this or anything similar. A search on Google Books also was unsuccessful for this exact quote any some variations I tried. I must admit I have not read the book in full, but when I do I'll post back here with what I found.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-08-04T17:44:57.428Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The first is certainly good for teaching math, but in general they both have advantages and disadvantages. It's good to have a lot of methods for solving problems, but it's also important to have general methods that can each solve many problems.

comment by DanArmak · 2015-08-04T14:21:36.232Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you create a novel way of solving problems, you should spend some time solving lots of previously unsolved problems with it, rather than trying something new every time. Only start looking for new solutions after exhausting the low-hanging fruit.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-28T03:46:14.181Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

To a first approximation, we care much more about whether theories are interesting than whether they are true

Fuck Nuance by Kieran Healy.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-29T14:47:49.536Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How many people do you know order thier theories about things in subsets of decreasing explanatory power of the variance of observed physical and mental behaviour in the universe? The truth value of a theory is just incidental.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2015-08-28T21:55:08.524Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Though this varies by culture. It's more true in France than in England.

EDIT: Now that I've read that part of the essay, I see he meant scientifically interesting, and was speaking mostly prescriptively. I thought he was speaking in condemnation, and meant the irresponsible "we" care most whether a theory is entertaining.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-28T22:22:24.833Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Tetlock's work on whether pundits lose respect for making inaccurate predictions suggests that there's at least a bias towards being interesting rather than being right, at least in America. I'm not sure whether Tetlock was tracking British pundits.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-18T21:32:02.683Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If you’re doing it right -- if what you’re doing is real communication – you should be hearing NO a lot more than you used to. And some things should become more complicated than they were before.

The blog realsocialskills in an article titled Social Skills Considering Communication an Obligation

comment by 27chaos · 2015-08-27T01:53:23.014Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Of course, this should probably be true for both people in the conversation.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-19T19:31:34.913Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I am in competition with no one, I run my own race, I have no desire to play the game of being better than anyone, in any way, shape, or form. I just aim to improve, to be better than I was before. That's me and I'm free.

source, reminds me of this nike ad about measuring yourself on hours of hardwork, and ordinariness, and this other ad with Melo Anthony talking about being your A-game 24/7 (an ad that's really hard to find, but out there on youtube somewhere!)

comment by elharo · 2015-08-15T12:08:34.444Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Only in mathematics is it possible to demonstrate something beyond all doubt. When held to that standard, we find ourselves quickly overwhelmed.

-- Max Shron, Thinking with Data, O'Reilly 2014

comment by Stephen_Cole · 2015-08-15T15:37:27.812Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Beyond all doubt sounds fairly dogmatic, no? Godel proved in 1931 that Hilbert's program for a solid mathematical foundation (circa 1900) was impossible.

comment by ike · 2015-08-16T01:33:06.859Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Not everything can be proven, but those that are are proven beyond (virtually all) doubt.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-22T20:59:40.104Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well no, Goedel proved that nonstandard models of the natural numbers exist. Chaitin went on to prove that any formal axiomatic system, only containing a finite amount of axioms, will eventually face true theorems it cannot prove, for lack of information in its axioms.

That doesn't mean proven mathematical theorems are actually wrong, and unfortunately, Goedel's Platonism has resulted in most of society thinking about mathematics and proof in the wrong way.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2015-08-28T22:04:43.350Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Goedel's Platonism has resulted in most of society thinking about mathematics and proof in the wrong way.

Maybe you should write a post about that.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-29T00:20:25.060Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've got a bunch of, let's call them, philosophical intuitions and positions that I got from reading this book. I've been meaning to do at least one post explicitly about Hierarchical Bayesian inference as a way to express what it is that keeps banging through my head.

First, though, I want to get Venture up and running to actually implement and train such a model, in progress, to make sure that my thoughts about the way it "should" work accord at all with how it actually does work.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2015-08-28T23:18:25.196Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Beyond all doubt sounds fairly dogmatic, no? Godel proved in 1931 that Hilbert's program for a solid mathematical foundation (circa 1900) was impossible.

While I don't quite agree with your claim about what Gödel accomplished, 'beyond all doubt' is an overstatement. The history of mathematics provides many examples of apparent proofs accepted by the profession later being rejected for containing devastating errors. Even a single instance of this occurring would, strictly speaking, rule out a literal 'beyond all doubt' claim.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2015-08-03T19:47:40.419Z · score: 3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

"But listen to me, because I saw it myself: science began poor. Science was broke and so it got bought. Science was scared and so did what it was told. It designed the gun and gave the gun to power, and power then held the gun to science's head and told it to make some more."

-- from Galileo's Dream, by Kim Stanley Robinson

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-04T02:43:53.992Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

The problem with corruption of science is not Power holding a gun to Science's head and saying "make more", it's Power holding a gun to Science's head and saying "declare my claims to be true".

With the former, presumably Power wants the new gun to actually work and doesn't care how it works, thus satisfying Power's requested has the positive externality of increasing human knowledge. On the other hand, the latter has the consequence of polluting the human knowledge pool with falsehoods and polluting epistemology with the anti-epistemology used to justify said claims.

comment by WalterL · 2015-08-04T19:57:10.475Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If we're rewriting the quote I'd say that Power's action doesn't even involve a gun. She glances at Science, sees that labcoat + talk = belief + status, and puts on a labcoat and starts talking. Because she is optimizing for status rather than truth the things that Power declares are much more comfortable to believe, and if pressed for proof she just points out that people who wear labcoats brought us prosperity, and who are you to question them?

comment by PhilGoetz · 2015-08-04T04:29:49.539Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

More scientists can wield a gun than a sword.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-28T03:45:34.313Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Aestheticized theory resembles these institutional spheres because connoisseurship thrives best in settings where judgment is frequent but measurement is hard.

Fuck Nuance by Kieran Healy.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-08-26T10:58:25.659Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Meta

I notice that recent -- all? -- rationality quotes threads have been in Main. Have they officially been demoted to Discussion?

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-08-26T10:57:41.391Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The best material model of a cat is another, or preferably the same, cat.

Arturo Rosenblueth and Norbert Wiener, "The Role of Models in Science".

comment by PhilGoetz · 2015-08-28T22:02:35.596Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How is this helpful?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-18T15:31:33.327Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

We name things based upon how we feel about them. We also feel about things based on how we've named them ... Language manages attitude.

Ken White of Popehat

comment by Stephen_Cole · 2015-08-10T14:05:07.761Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

"Irrationality is intellectual violence against which the pacifism of rationality may or may not be an adequate weapon."

  • Jack Good, Good Thinking, page 25.
comment by Username · 2015-08-10T14:08:32.205Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Violence requires at least two people, you can be irrational even when you are alone.

comment by PradyumnGanesh · 2015-08-10T15:28:58.702Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Self-harm counts as violence too, doesn't it? And it's not always accidental. The analogy stands.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-11T23:23:15.429Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Self-harm counts as violence too, doesn't it?

It's a very noncentral example.

comment by PradyumnGanesh · 2015-08-12T11:45:24.256Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

From Wikipedia:

As of 2010, all forms of violence resulted in about 1.34 million deaths up from about 1 million in 1990. Suicide accounts for about 883,000, interpersonal violence for 456,000 and collective violence for 18,000.

Note: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence#cite_ref-Loz2012_107-1\)

So, not that noncentral.

(Although, deaths aren't the only outcome of violence, I haven't read the cited study and there may be a huge availability bias here.)

Also, how often are analogies backed up by statistics?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-22T21:02:40.670Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But again: now you are equating irrationality with deliberate suicide. You're not really drawing a very strong connection here.

comment by Zubon · 2015-08-26T00:39:16.501Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It wanders from the original quote, but "irrationality is slow suicide" is a great connection to make. (And if you want a quote, I'm sure you can find something like that from Rand.)

comment by satt · 2015-09-01T01:35:32.563Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But again: now you are equating irrationality with deliberate suicide.

Whether PradyumnGanesh is or isn't (though I don't think they are), that doesn't change their observation that self-inflicted violence is a relatively common form of violence, at least going by fatal violence.

comment by Stingray · 2015-08-22T17:03:04.548Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Would you call a cutter a violent person? You wouldn't.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-12T18:03:16.170Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What would be an adequate weapon, then? Pavlovian training to follow the rationality to the best of one's abilities?

comment by Stephen_Cole · 2015-08-16T19:26:42.020Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Great question. I believe Jack Good's answer was his "type 2 rationality", which implies a Bayes/non-Bayes synthesis, semiparametric statistics, and nondogmatism.

comment by ZoltanBerrigomo · 2015-09-01T04:36:55.885Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm very fond of this bit by Robin Hanson:

A wide range of topics come up when talking informally with others, and people tend to like you to express opinions on at least some substantial subset of those topics. They typically aren’t very happy if you explain that you just adopted the opinion of some standard expert source without reflection, and so we are encouraged to “think for ourselves” to generate such opinions.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-09-01T18:12:44.776Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson. If you'd like to revive an old quote from one of those sources, please do so here.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-27T12:01:57.050Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

all the things i've been most proud of are the things upon which the threshold I felt most afraid

-female actor with singing background in a Libra ad

comment by GMHowe · 2015-08-21T20:35:33.312Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.

Naval Ravikant

comment by Viliam · 2015-08-23T08:54:07.336Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes you are born into an existing contract.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-09-01T13:25:27.632Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm very busy doing things I don't need to do in order to avoid doing things I'm actually supposed to be doing. - a funny ecard on procrastination you can just google for.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-29T14:46:18.806Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

“Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the ‘someday I’ll’ philosophy.” -Denis Waitley google books

comment by entirelyuseless · 2015-08-30T15:23:17.818Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It seems like most procrastination is just feeling that working right now would be painful. But it is true that there are times when you know that finishing one task will just give you several new tasks, so you put off finishing the one task in order to avoid the work of the new tasks.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-28T03:44:32.385Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

We lose information by adding detail.

Fuck Nuance by Kieran Healy.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2015-08-28T22:01:57.330Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What's it supposed to mean?

We sometimes lose information efficiency when we categorize something more specifically. Information efficiency (IE) = (bits that a proposition implies) / (bits it takes to make the statement or retrieve it from memory).

I have hypothesized that Rosch's "basic level" is the level in an ontology where IE is maximized. For instance, it may take fewer bits to go from "mammal" to "cat" than from "cat" to "American Bobtail cat", yet you get many more bits of information from going from cat to mammal.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-28T22:24:13.423Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I took it to mean that if we're trying to identify what's important, there's an optimum level of abstraction, and there's currently a push in the social sciences to add so much detail that the principle gets obscured.

comment by 27chaos · 2015-08-06T19:41:46.144Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Context: Randy has left his longtime girlfriend and now has a different girlfriend. They are a better match, but his old acquaintances are judgmental, with the following exception of one couple he knows:

Randy hadn't the faintest idea what these people thought of him and what he had done, but he could sense right away that, essentially that was not the issue because even if they thought he had done something evil, they at least had a framework, a sort of procedure manual, for dealing with transgressions.

To translate it into UNIX system administration terms (Randy's fundamental metaphor for just about everything), the post-modern, politically correct atheists were like people who had suddenly found themselves in charge of a big and unfathomably complex computer system (viz, society) with no documentation or instructions of any kind, and so whose only way to keep the thing running was to invent and enforce certain rules with a kind of neo-Puritanical rigor, because they were at a loss to deal with any deviations from what they saw as the norm. Whereas people who were wired into a church were like UNIX system administrators who, while they might not understand everything, at least had some documentation, some FAQs and How-tos and README files, providing some guidance on what to do when things got out of whack.

They were, in other words, capable of displaying adaptability.

Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

I don't think that religious beliefs are intrinsically necessary to this sort of functional moral adaptability. But I do like the illustration provided by it. Heuristics are sometimes valuable even when they cannot be straightforwardly applied, because they at least encourage certain semi-orderly patterns of response, allowing for failures to be more graceful and less chaotic.

comment by 27chaos · 2015-08-06T19:18:11.423Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.

Nietzsche in Daybreak: Reflections on Moral Prejudice.

http://www.lexido.com/EBOOK_TEXTS/DAYBREAK_.aspx?S=156

I wasn't aware of this quote at the time, but similar views were influential in my deconversion from Christianity. I decided that if I believed in God, that meant I needn't be afraid to subject that belief to fair tests of evidence or argumentation. In hindsight, I'm very grateful this was my view, unlike so many others I was lucky enough to avoid getting stuck in a stagnated belief system.

I now try to randomly change my priors every now and then, to the extent that I am able. I figure that either they'll repair themselves over time, or they weren't worth having in the first place. This means that I am less likely to get trapped in models at local maxima or to become stuck within any cognitive finger traps. I highly recommend it to everyone, since in addition to its utility as a tool, it emotionally involves a quite enjoyable sense of freedom for me. I don't have to be afraid of losing the truth, reality is consilient.

comment by 27chaos · 2015-08-06T19:09:55.546Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.

Nietzsche in Dawn: Reflections on Moral Prejudice. http://www.lexido.com/EBOOK_TEXTS/DAYBREAK_.aspx?S=156

I wasn't aware of this quote at the time, but similar views were influential in my deconversion from Christianity. I decided that if I believed in God, that meant I should not be afraid to subject that belief to fair tests of evidence and argumentation. Surely God's might and glory would persuade even the most skeptical of men, so what danger was skepticism really? In hindsight, I'm very grateful that this was my view, it meant that unlike so many others I was lucky enough to avoid getting stuck in a stagnated belief system. That alternative is terrifying to me: therefore I now try to randomly change my priors on occasion until they repair themselves, in order to help minimize my odds of getting trapped in local maxima.

comment by WalterL · 2015-08-04T20:27:29.021Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Context (Hacker is Britain's Prime Minister, Sir Humphrey is his chief subordinate, the Russians are their enemy in the Cold War)

Double Context: This quote is from "Yes Prime Minister", a british comedy show.

Sir Humphrey: Bernard, what is the purpose of our defence policy?

Bernard: To defend Britain.

Sir Humphrey: No, Bernard. It is to make people believe Britain is defended.

Bernard: The Russians?

Sir Humphrey: Not the Russians, the British! The Russians know it's not.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-04T20:56:17.853Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How about adding the source?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-23T13:34:15.332Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"Do not subordinate fundamental principles to minor details." -[here](www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/fundamental-principles-versus-minor-details.html/_

It's like a lay bayes

comment by 27chaos · 2015-08-06T19:47:05.907Z · score: -1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Context: Randy has left his longtime girlfriend and now has a different girlfriend. They are a better match, but his old acquaintances are judgmental, with the following exception of one couple he knows:

Randy hadn't the faintest idea what these people thought of him and what he had done, but he could sense right away that, essentially that was not the issue because even if they thought he had done something evil, they at least had a framework, a sort of procedure manual, for dealing with transgressions.

To translate it into UNIX system administration terms (Randy's fundamental metaphor for just about everything), the post-modern, politically correct atheists were like people who had suddenly found themselves in charge of a big and unfathomably complex computer system (viz, society) with no documentation or instructions of any kind, and so whose only way to keep the thing running was to invent and enforce certain rules with a kind of neo-Puritanical rigor, because they were at a loss to deal with any deviations from what they saw as the norm. Whereas people who were wired into a church were like UNIX system administrators who, while they might not understand everything, at least had some documentation, some FAQs and How-tos and README files, providing some guidance on what to do when things got out of whack.

They were, in other words, capable of displaying adaptability.

Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

I don't think that such religious beliefs are necessary for such functional moral adaptability. But I do like the illustration provided by them. Heuristics, even bad heuristics, are sometimes valuable even when they cannot be straightforwardly applied. In such situations, they at least encourage certain semi-orderly patterns of response, allowing for failures which are less chaotic and more graceful.

This seems related to the social analysis given at the beginning of Slate Star Codex's essay, "I can tolerate anything except the outgroup".

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-07T06:42:32.081Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Churches do serve that purpose but they aren't the only institutions that do so.

A lot of personal development systems provide you with a series of how-tos and FAQ for dealing with various situations.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-19T05:18:59.168Z · score: -2 (16 votes) · LW · GW

In many cases, one could argue that scientists living in their ivory towers seem to be the least capable ones of seeing certain simple things in the human society.

Luboš Motl

comment by Jiro · 2015-08-19T14:27:40.983Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was going to vote this down, and ended up not doing so after reading the link. It's not what it sounds like; it's a complaint about scientists misusing their scientific credentials to make political statements.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-19T22:00:28.071Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

... In which Luboš Motl, who gains any credibility he has from his scientific background, makes political statements.

In fact, very little of his complaint is about scientists misusing their scientific credentials. It's mostly about his disagreements with them about the politics. The specific bit that VoR quoted is also not about scientists misusing their scientific credentials, it's a standard-issue populist-conservative "those awful elitist liberal intellectuals in their ivory towers don't know what life is really like" complaint. Which, of course, might be right or wrong, but it really doesn't seem like a Rationality Quote.

comment by Jiro · 2015-08-20T14:33:31.566Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Disagreeing with someone's politics and saying "my disagreement should be listened to because being a scientist makes me an authority" is misusing your scientific credentials.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-20T20:58:04.380Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It sounds as if you expect me to disagree with that, but I've no idea why.

(Did you think I was claiming that the people Motl is criticizing were making that claim but not misusing their scientific credentials? I wasn't, and in fact my opinion is almost exactly the opposite: they weren't making quite that claim -- see below -- but what they did say still amounts to misusing their scientific credentials.)

I agree that at one point in Motl's post he argues that the scientists he's disagreeing with have misused their scientific credentials. But most of his post (including the bit quoted by VoR above) is not making any such argument, it's just saying how he thinks their political position is wrong.

To expand on my parenthesis above: The open letter Motl is objecting to doesn't quite say "being a scientist makes me an authority", though it certainly leans in that direction. Its opening section says (I paraphrase): "We are scientists. We ought to be good at thinking clearly". It doesn't take the extra step and say that they are good at thinking clearly, still less that whatever they say must be right.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-20T14:53:29.867Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This is very widespread in global warming debates. "I am a climate scientist, therefore my ideas about economics and politics should be immediately implemented because science".

comment by gjm · 2015-08-20T20:58:40.676Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Could you give a few examples?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-20T21:14:56.389Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Jim Hansen is the most well-known, I think. But you can also take a look e.g. here.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-20T22:39:34.585Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I was hoping for concrete examples of people saying things along the lines of "I am a climate scientist, therefore my ideas about economics and politics should be immediately implemented".

What I see plenty of is climate scientists saying "Here is what I think is the current state of scientific knowledge about the climate. Now here is what I think should be done about it." but there's nothing wrong with that. (I take it we are agreed that climate scientists aren't uniquely disqualified by their scientific expertise from holding political or economic opinions.)

But I don't see a lot of people claiming that scientific expertise gives them the right to prescribe policy. E.g., the first thing I found when looking for what Jim Hansen has said and written in connection with the policy implications of climate science was this near the start of which he says: "I do not attempt to define policy,which is up to the people and their elected representatives, and I don’t criticize policies. The climate science has policy relevance, but I let the facts speak for themselves about consequences for policy-makers." which seems exactly right. (Of course he might be being insincere there, but I don't know of any particular reason to think he is.)

It looks to me as if Hansen (1) has strong opinions about what should be done about climate change, (2) is not shy about expressing those opinions, but (3) doesn't claim that anyone should agree with those opinions because he's a climate scientist. (He does also (4) claim that people should pay attention to what he says about the science because he's a climate scientist; that seems obviously reasonable.)

But I haven't by any means read everything Hansen (or anyone else) has said and written on this theme. Again: examples?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-21T04:05:55.126Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's rare that you have such a direct statement like you see in Ghostbusters :-) Generally there is reliance on the halo effect -- "Here is the problem and this is what should be done about it" implies that if you are an expert in the problem, you are also an expert in solutions to that problem.

Here are a couple of Hansen examples. Notice that in the first one he is very direct about what should be done, while in the second he is arguing against the Iowa coal plant explicitly as a scientist.

Of course most of these people are not stupid. No one claims "the right to prescribe policy".

comment by gjm · 2015-08-21T14:29:37.676Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Imagine that someone is an expert climate scientist, thinks that anthropogenic climate change is a big problem, and has strong opinions about what should be done about it. How, in your view, can they go about agitating for the action they think should be taken, without doing anything you would characterize as "I am a climate scientist, therefore my ideas about economics and politics should be immediately implemented because science"?

It's rare that you have such a direct statement [...] Generally there is reliance on the halo effect [...] No one claims "the right to prescribe policy"

But aren't the things you're now saying "of course" no one does exactly the things that would actually be improper if done? I mean, it's obviously unobjectionable (right?) for a climate scientist who holds strong opinions on these matters to engage in the same sort of advocacy as anyone else might. The point at which what they're doing becomes improper is exactly the point at which they start going out of their way to have people believe what they say about policy because they're expert on the science.

And that's what you claimed was commonplace in discussions of climate change:

This is very widespread in global warming debates. "I am a climate scientist, therefore my ideas about economics and politics should be immediately implemented because science".

but are now saying that of course no one does. What am I missing here?

in the first one he is very direct about what should be done

Indeed he is. And in the first one he at no point says anything remotely resembling "you should agree with me about policy because I am an expert in climate science". What do you think he has actually done wrong here?

in the second he is arguing against the Iowa coal plant explicitly as a scientist

He was asked about his scientific credentials and experience, and he answered the questions as he was legally obliged to do.

The great majority of his testimony is about strictly scientific questions: if we do X, what do we expect to happen? Most of the rest is about what you might term semi-scientific questions: If we want Y not to happen, what do we need to do? (As e.g. on page 26.) In a few places (e.g., on page 31) he goes further and just says "we should do Z". But at no point, so far as I noticed (the document is 59 pages long and I haven't read all of it carefully), did he make any attempt to say "you should agree with me about policy because I am a scientist".

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-21T14:44:14.940Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sigh. I don't have a particular wish to stand around that dead equine again and fisk it :-/

What am I missing here?

Mostly, two things. First, normal non-pedantic use of English language. I am not asking for a charitable reading, I'm asking for a normal reading. Conversations along the lines of "-- Everyone was at that party! -- Everyone? But there are seven billion people in the world..." aren't very useful. Second, many ways of asserting authority that do not involve literally saying "I'm a scientist so you should sit down, shut up, and listen to what I'm telling you".

comment by gjm · 2015-08-21T15:23:11.467Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

normal non-pedantic use of English language

So far as I can tell, that's just what I'm engaging in, and I think you can only portray me as doing something else by reading me much more uncharitably and, frankly, unfairly than I am reading you. I would prefer you not to do that, however useful it may be as a rhetorical technique.

I am not saying "no one has used the literal exact words you specified" or anything like that; I am saying the following things:

  • I do not see lots of people making improper claims of authority in the way you describe, implicitly or explicitly.
  • The examples you yourself have selected don't look to me as if the people involved are doing so.
  • I do see people claiming scientific authority when they make scientific claims, saying explicitly that their scientific expertise doesn't entitle them to make policy, but not taking really heroic measures to stop people weighing their political opinions more highly because of their scientific expertise. I do not think there is anything improper in that.
    • I'm not even sure that if their listeners do that they are making a mistake. Expertise on the underlying facts should confer some extra credibility on opinions about policy. What would be wrong is giving more credence to a scientist's policy opinions than you would give to those of someone else equally well informed about the science. Maybe people do do that, but it's not obvious.
  • (I wasn't formerly saying this out loud, because I'm mostly a polite sort of chap, but it is in fact my opinion:)
    • I uncharitably suspect that what is actually happening is that you regard merely being a scientist and talking about global warming as claiming scientific authority -- at least when what the person in question is saying clashes with your own political position.

I repeat: my disagreement with you is not a matter of observing that no one has used the exact words you put in quotation marks. It is not even a matter of observing that no one has said anything equivalent to those words. We apparently disagree about whether anyone does anything that could without grotesque unfairness be described using those words.

The discussion, recall, was about abuse of scientific authority. To be abusing scientific authority, it is not enough to be a scientist and express strong opinions. Nor even to say "I am a scientist", talk about the science in which one is an expert, and express some opinions on the way. What constitutes abuse of scientific authority (it seems to me) is going out of one's way to encourage people to weigh your opinions more heavily than they would because you are a scientist. And that is what I think you are wrong to claim is commonplace in global-warming debates.

(I have the impression that you're suggesting not only that it's commonplace in those debates but that it's particularly common on one side of them. At any rate, all your examples just happen to come from one side. My own impression is that people on the other side are at least as likely to exaggerate or outright misrepresent the scope of their expertise, but I have no statistics to back that up.)

many ways of asserting authority [...]

Sure. But only some of the things I think you are characterizing that way are in any way abuses of scientific authority, or in any way dishonest.

If all you're saying is that climate scientists talking about global warming will not usually go far out of their way to stop other people thinking they're credible on policy because of a general halo effect around science, then I think you are being grossly unreasonable in picking them out as an example. It is very unusual for anyone to go far out of their way to discourage other people from thinking them more credible than they should.

On the other hand, if you're saying that they go out of their way to encourage other people to give them more credence on policy matters than they deserve, then I repeat: Show me some concrete examples.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-20T03:15:00.437Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The quote is still true as stated. Namely, scientists by virtue of being in an ivory tower are often in a very bad position to notice things that are obvious to average people.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-05T14:41:23.000Z · score: -3 (13 votes) · LW · GW

The idea that you need to do anything is stupid. And people always used to tell me that, like “oh you need to grow up”. To do what?! To die? To fall into line? To follow a pattern?

You don’t need to do anything. Nobody needs to do anything. You need to breathe. You need to eat food. The rest of it is just a structure that we invented to give ourselves something to do when we wake up in the morning. “Oh it’s 9 am, time to go to work”. Work is not real! The car is not real. Life’s not real.

This is what’s real: heartbeats. And when they stop, all that shit you created and stockpiled and worked for means nothing! It’s just objects that don’t even exist when you’re dead.

When you’re dead you go to another dimension where you can’t take this stuff with you. Or not. Or the lights just shut off.

--Joe Rogan in JRE #466

H/T levels.io

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-06T14:24:47.560Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Kinda curious what people don't like about this quote that it got so heavily downvoted.

comment by tim · 2015-08-07T02:02:18.424Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Because it's a fully general counterargument against caring about or doing anything. That you shouldn't care about something because it is temporary is poison. I can't even imagine the hell we would live in if views like this were widely and earnestly adopted.

comment by bbleeker · 2015-08-07T10:16:34.112Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You're right, of course (have an upvote). OTOH, I do like the start of the quote, because there is a difference between caring about something and believing you need to do something. I see the quote as a reminder that you don't have to do anything in an absolute sense. You have to do some things because you want some other things. 'I need to do ' should be short for 'I need to do because '. And it should be your reason, you shouldn't feel you have to do it just because others tell you to or because your parents told you when you were small.

On the gripping hand, I didn't upvote the quote either, because I don't like the part that's saying 'nothing is real'.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-07T12:45:44.123Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, this is exactly how I understand it as well.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-07T05:14:37.792Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the explanation.

Because it's a fully general counterargument against caring about or doing anything.

Is atheism a fully general counterargument against being a moral person?

comment by Viliam · 2015-08-07T08:35:22.699Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Morality and belief in supernatural are mostly independent. (You can get Stage One morality from believing in God, but that's it.)

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-07T10:43:40.592Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Um, it was actually a rhetorical question, showing the absurdity of the given interpretation of the quote, specifically that saying the quote encourages not to care about something, is akin to making an argument that claiming morality is not objective encourages people to be amoral.

Thank you for that link, though. That's a very nice framework.

comment by cody-bryce · 2015-08-09T10:32:44.129Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW
  1. GP clearly thinks so to, which is why they presented the question, clearly trying to accuse GGP of a similar equivocation.

  2. Your actual claim is ridiculous. It is most certainly not the case that believing in God can only connect to Stage One morality. Even in the face of a punishing god, this wouldn't be true, but not all gods are punishing anyway, making it even more off.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-08T08:02:50.000Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's shallow. It's the kind of thing that get's shared on facebook.

It doesn't propose a sensible way to think about needs and obligations but proposes a black and white solution.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-23T12:34:30.412Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"Everyone tries to find money when they should be busy making money find them. Anyone who gets that sentence should 2x their income."

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-19T11:36:19.491Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

'Never again'

-Various, including more recently, Les Brown and Magneto from that epic scene from X-Men

Emotively evoked when people have strong preferences against historic states of weaknesses or helplessness

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-19T11:34:43.238Z · score: -4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You can have anything in this world you want, if you want it badly enough and you're willing to pay the price.

-Mary Kay Ash

Continuing the tradition of quotes that will probably result in more downvotes than other post or comment I make...

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-08-19T14:59:29.052Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

There are about a dozen people who want to be the next PotUS badly enough to put themselves forward as serious candidates. Exactly one of them will be. At most a few more ever will be. Most startups fail. How many of the refugees trying to enter Europe will succeed? Are the ones who fail just not trying hard enough?

The quote is inspirational, but the idea it is intended to evoke is not well expressed by the actual words. I mean, yay growth mindset and use the try harder, Luke, and ikigai, and tsuyoku naritai, but.

comment by Jiro · 2015-08-19T14:18:49.876Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Your quote is nonsense.

  • The clause "anything in this world" gives you an excuse: anything which I can't have, you can just say "oh, that isn't in this world, it doesn't count". This could make the statement trivially true. It would also exclude a lot of things that most people would think count; for instance, it excludes having a large bank account, because the large bank account doesn't exist in the world at this moment.
  • Ignoring that, some things don't exist. I can't have a visit to the Colossus of Rhodes, because the Colossus of Rhodes was destroyed centuries ago.
  • Some things might not even in theory exist. I can't have a proof that triangles have four sides. Depending on facts about the universe unknown to me, I might not be able to have a faster than light drive or a proof that P=NP.
  • Some things might be physically possible but there's no known way to achieve them. It's not impossible for me to have 150 IQ or a cure for cancer, but I can't just get them by spending a lot.
  • Some things depend on other people's mental states or decisions. Can I have person X's love?
  • People's idea of what counts as "things" is too narrow, eliminating qualifiers. If I say "well, I can't have ISIS disband without killing lots of people", you might reply that I didn't ask for a "thing", I asked for a thing and then added an extra condition, and the quote doesn't apply to extra conditions. But whether something is phrased as an extra condition is purely semantics; it's not impossible to have a single word which means "disbanding of ISIS without killing lots of people".
comment by shminux · 2015-08-19T14:24:05.341Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Consider steelmanning instead of strawmanning.

comment by Jiro · 2015-08-19T14:35:56.481Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Steelmanning this quote would lead me to a definition of "anything in this world" that is gerrymandered so that objections 2, 3, 4, and 5 don't count. It would then be subject to objections 1 and 6.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-19T14:51:22.221Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

definition of "anything in this world" that is gerrymandered

Not necessarily: a straightforward steelmanning would re-define "anything in this world" as "anything in this world I can get by paying an appropriate price (not necessarily in money)". Of course, after that the quote sounds much less insightful :-/

comment by soreff · 2015-08-20T05:15:43.293Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not necessarily: a straightforward steelmanning would re-define "anything in this world" as "anything in this world I can get by paying an appropriate price (not necessarily in money)".

Even with that restriction, the quote would still be false. In terms of things priced financially, there are lots of objects which cost more than many peoples' lifetime earnings (and good luck trying to raise those earnings by a large multiplier). In terms of things priced in terms of time or effort - there are limits on those too. If, for instance, a nonagenarian enrolled in a Ph.D. program which typically took a decade to complete - they might earn their degree, but the odds are against it.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-16T10:08:58.841Z · score: -4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

We wear a mask that grins and lies

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes

This debt we pay to human guile

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile *

emotional honesty

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-28T01:34:20.982Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure why this is getting downvoted, it's a great quote.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-04T09:12:02.839Z · score: -6 (14 votes) · LW · GW

There is a battle of two wolves inside us. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, lies, inferiority and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope humility, kindness, empathy and truth. The wolf that wins is the one you feed.

~ Native American Proverb, Cherokee

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-04T17:45:12.213Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Not only this is general-purpose moralizing, the quote has nothing to do with Native Americans. As far as I can see, it was made up by the well-known evangelical minister Billy Graham.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-03T09:52:15.104Z · score: -7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

"It’s not their pain you are afraid of. It’s yours. The past is a construct of the mind. It blinds us. It fools us into believing it." - Total Recall (movie)

Placeholder for the quote that ends in ' eternal protection until your eternal demise' from the new movie Get Hard. I don't want to post a new quote for this because this adds no value on it's own, and both are from movies.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-03T09:54:51.946Z · score: -10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

"it's immoral let sucker keep his money" -Canada Bill Jones citation

Presumably applicable where the sucker would have had his money taken anyway by a less scrupulous party than the subject of the agent who receives the recommendation to take suckers' money. Or, where the agent taking recommended to take suckers' money is better at maximising individual welfare with that money than a competitor, depending on your ethics.

comment by WalterL · 2015-08-11T20:45:16.611Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Seems like your paragraph is shying away from the spirit of the quote.

Its a fail to let the sucker keep his money because its passing up on an opportunity. Like walking by a hundred laying on the sidewalk.

Not because of the stuff you say. Selfishness isn't some kind of weird judo altruism, where you are doing the world a favor by maximizing the resources in the hands of non fools. Its not like you are gonna take the cash and bring it to someone smarter than you.