comment by LoganStrohl (BrienneYudkowsky) ·
2022-05-09T19:35:50.748Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
proto essay on defense against strong frames and false n-chotomies
I claim that most (all?) concepts are imperfect, by the nature of conceptualization.
I expect we should be especially wary of concepts that lead us to break what were once a myriad of largely undifferentiated perceptions into exactly two categories—especially when we did not ourselves come up with those categories while trying to make sense of our own observations, especially when we did not previously make any effort to make sense of our own observations, and especially especially when we notice ourselves employing the dichotomy all over the place immediately after gaining the concept.
This happened to me today, so i've been thinking about how to respond.
What is it to "be wary" in the relevant sense? What should a person do, when they notice that this has happened to them? When they notice that someone has just handed them a strong frame and now they're thinking in terms of that frame when they've never even attempted to deliberately observe the bit of territory that the frame supports, and have never tried to make sense of those observations themselves?
I think this kind of situation calls for cognitive first aid. There's a crucial moment in which you can either lock in your new unexamined and highly compressed way of perceiving the world, or you can become grounded in your own competence as an observer and thinker, thereby gaining the space needed to examine the new frame from the outside.
(Here's some space where you can pause to think of at least one way you might establish grounding in your own competence as an observer and thinker, before I tell you about my own way.)
I think a good thing to do is to leave the room (or close the book, or the tab, or the video, whatever) and spend at least five minutes attempting to get in direct contact with something. ANYTHING. It does not have to be relevant to the domain of the concept. Best of it's not. Get out a pencil and sketch the tissue box in front of you. Find something growing in a crack in the sidewalk outside. Derive de morgan's law using a minimalistic set of derivation rules (like, just assumption plus operator introduction and elimination).
Then, once you're definitely in direct contact with a real thing that is not whatever concept has just been thrust upon you, spend at least five minutes working toward your own completely original taxonomy.
DO NOT START FROM THE CONCEPT YOU'VE JUST LEARNED AND ADJUST AWAY FROM THERE.
Start instead with some reference experiences: search your memory for specific things that actually happened to you, or that you heard about once, that seem like they might be sort of relevant. Better yet, make some brand new observations, if possible. Then try to build your own taxonomy of those experiences.
In my case today, this would be a taxonomy of social utterances. I've just produced a whole bunch of them myself, so these sentences are a fine place to start. I also remember my dad saying, "I'm your father, not your friend." I remember my neighbor telling me it's fine to leave the pothole filling party any time and that he's grateful for any amount of time I can contribute. Facebook, Wikipedia, Reddit, and every book I own are made almost entirely of social utterances. If I go downstairs to say "hello" to my fiance, social utterances will almost certainly pour out of both of us. I can use any of these sources to sketch taxonomies.
Here is a brainstorm of things that might belong in a taxonomy of social utterances, which I've not yet begun to organize into a rough hierarchy:
- stuff people say because they want you to feel something
- stuff people say because they want you to know something
- stuff people say because they want you to believe something
- stuff people say because they want you to be aware of some things
- stuff people say because they want you to __not__ be aware of some things
- stuff people say because they want you to conceive of your relationship to them in a certain way
- stuff people say that has nothing to do with you
- stuff people say because they want you to say something to them
- stuff people say to change your expectations about what they will do
- stuff people say when they want everyone in earshot to know that everyone in earshot has heard what they have said
I cannot make a list like this without at least beginning to accumulate questions. That's part of Thinking, for me. Here are some accumulated questions.
- what is shitposting?
- how are Facebook utterances different from Wikipedia utterances?
- when am I most often confused about why a person is saying a thing?
- why do almost all of my categories include "because" and "want"? what if I made a taxonomy of social utterances that does not involve whatever's behind "because", or whatever's behind "want"?
- why do I dislike certain kinds of social utterances?
- what are non-social utterances?
- why do people say things to make other people feel certain ways? (eg humor to make people feel amusement)
- why would someone want everyone in earshot to know that everyone in earshot has heard the thing?
- why do we talk?
- what can talking do that slapping cannot?
- what is fiction?
- what is playing pretend?
- how does sarcasm work? when does it not work? what is it good for?
- when is gossip useful? when is it harmful? why do the first things I think about gossip involve valuations?
The point of this exercise I've just done is not that I may come up with a better conceptualization than the one that lead me to seek cognitive first aid to stay cognitively healthy and strong (though that certainly happens now and then).
The point is that I've reminded myself that the world is complicated, that any given conceptualization of it attempts to compress an enormous amount of information, and that I am capable of finding my own ways to think about the world. I am now grounded in my own abilities as an observer and thinker, and I remember what it feels like to do something besides capitulate to some big concept I was just handed.
This proto-post has been brought to you by Anna's essay on Narrative Synching [LW · GW], which I found something-like disturbingly compelling.Replies from: BrienneYudkowsky
↑ comment by LoganStrohl (BrienneYudkowsky) ·
2022-05-09T19:38:45.124Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
To be clear, I'm not claiming Narrative Synching is wrong or a bad essay. I just sort of, found myself feeling constrained/compelled/hypnotized/something after reading it, and then I wished that the five nonexistent paragraphs preceding the body of the essay had gone slower, giving me time to look at the world for myself before shoving a particular color of glasses in front of my face and then pointing at where I should look. I've felt the same thing a lot of times, so I thought I'd try writing something about it.Replies from: Duncan_Sabien