Open Thread, May 25 - May 31, 2015

post by Gondolinian · 2015-05-25T00:00:29.799Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 303 comments

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


Notes for future OT posters:

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3. Open Threads should be posted in Discussion, and not Main.

4. Open Threads should start on Monday, and end on Sunday.

303 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by HBDfan · 2015-05-25T10:43:07.583Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

What has happened to Metamed? Their site is down :-( http://www.metamed.com

comment by Maxc · 2015-05-25T19:29:23.828Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Zvi discusses it a bit on his blog, here

comment by Gondolinian · 2015-05-25T12:05:50.142Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

It appears that MetaMed has gone out of business. Wikipedia uses the past tense "was" in their page for MetaMed, and provides this as a source for it.

Key quote from the article:

Tallinn learned the importance of feedback loops himself the hard way, after seeing the demise of one of his startups, medical consulting firm Metamed.

comment by Larks · 2015-05-25T18:05:15.624Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

It would be nice if people were open when their startups close, especially when previously advertised on LW, so we can learn from mistakes. Or is there some reason to not admit a startup has failed?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-25T18:55:53.853Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Or is there some reason to not admit a startup has failed?

Maybe the bankruptcy proceedings aren't yet through. A bunch of the MetaMed people are still listed as MetaMed on their LinkedIn accounts.

comment by Larks · 2015-05-25T20:29:32.376Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting idea. Could you explain why that would make them wary about disclosure? Maybe they're trying to sell the brand?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-26T16:58:12.955Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have concrete information about the state of MetaMed that goes beyond publically available information.

comment by Larks · 2015-05-27T01:16:01.442Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, sorry, I meant 'do you know why startups in general would be shy about disclosing their closing?'

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-27T12:20:06.320Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Bankruptcy proceedings aren't yet through. The employees haven't yet moved on to new jobs.

The time to a post-mortem is after those things.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-25T16:10:50.435Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

It seems like the business model of charging individuals prices that are that high just doesn't work for a startup without a proven brand.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-05-26T01:30:55.477Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Datapoint:

The only exposure I have had to metamed was Yudkowsky saying he spent X dollars on it to get advice to take melatonin microdoses hours before going to bed. When i saw the dollar amount I burst out laughing because I had literally a week earlier come to the same conclusion using google scholar searches at the library in my quest to normalize my own sleep schedule (though my problem wound up having a very different solution in the end).

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-26T12:20:47.396Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

To be fair you do have a strong biology background that makes you more likely to do an efficient literature search than the average person. You are also at a university with journal subscription which isn't true for everyone.

There might be room for people paying other people to do this kind of research. But the price is likely to high.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-05-27T17:53:30.005Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if Metamed's problem was that if you were smart and well informed enough to understand the company's value to the average person, you personally didn't need it because you could do the research yourself.

comment by Viliam · 2015-05-25T22:04:44.310Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Found a five years old comment about HPMoR:

I think the biggest problem Yudkowsky will have with this will involve Hermione - A rational and knowledgeable Harry makes her basically redundant. Well, that, and the fact that a good 90% of each book consisted of "Harry screws up repeatedly because he forgot from the last book that he should just always go to Dumbledore first with any new problem"... I don't see this Harry having that same problem.

Heh.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-05-25T05:09:44.734Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I'm currently twenty-two years old. Over the last two weeks, I've discussed with a couple friends that among the "millenial" generation, i.e., people currently under the age of thirty-five, people profess having goals for some kind of romantic relationships, but they don't act in a way which will let them achieve those goals. Whether they:

  • are lonely and want companionship,
  • want to stay single, but have more sex,
  • want a monogamous but casual relationship,
  • want a more committed and serious monogamous relationship,
  • want to find someone to one day marry and have children with,
  • want to find someone to love and love them to become happy, or happier,
  • want romance for any other usual reason,

it seems the proportion of young people who are and stay single is greater than I would expect. I don't just mean how the fastest-growing household configuration since the 1980s (in the United States) has been single adults. I mean how most of my friends profess a preference for having some romantic relationship in their life, yet most of my single friends stay single, and don't appear to be dating much or doing something else to correct this. Maybe popular culture exerts a normative social influence which favors people in relationships over single people, and so young single people feel pressured to signal a preference for being in a relationship. However, I can't determine who is just professing fake preferences to signal. It still seems single people aren't seeking or successfully finding relationships at a rate which corresponds well to genuine preferences for a relationship. Why aren't single people trying harder to find relationships?

One answer could be "dating and romance are hard, especially for young people". If that's vaguely true, it doesn't satisfy my curiosity. I think it has in large part to do with the extended adolesence of people born after, e.g., 1980. More committed relationships, higher frequency of dating, and/or marriage seem to people around my age something we're supposed to do more when we're "real adults". That happens some time after you get a "real job". Or after you complete a degree. Or after the age of twenty-five. Something like that.

It also seems dependent upon changes in dating culture in North America. I'm aware there are more hookups and one-night stands among young adults of the current generation than there was for prior generations. In terms of who one settles down with, or marries, people get married at greater ages. I don't know if it's because we young adults are pickier with whom we choose for long-term relationships, or what. This is where I don't know exactly what's going on, so I could use your help. If you (think you) can explain what's going on, please share.

Anyway, what I've concluded so far is that, as someone who doesn't date very much, a sensible strategy would be to date more often and more early to satisfy relationship goals. That is, while many of my generation have similar goals and expectations for dating, relationships and/or marriage compared to previous generations, the styles and culture of such in North America are very different. If young adults wait until their mid-thirties before they start fulfilling long-term relationship goals, it might take longer than they expect, and by that point seeking relationships may cut into time developing other valuable aspects of one's life, such as career. Dating earlier and more frequently allows one to discover what one initially wants in a partner, how to navigate the dating pool and social scenes comfortably, adapt to potential setbacks and heartbreak, and mature.

Now, there are lots of young adults in graduate school, or going through a period of time when prioritizing a romantic relationship wouldn't allow the time and attention to fulfill more immediately important goals. During the period(s) of life when you have downtime, if busy young adults aren't satisfied with being single, I think it makes sense for us to try dating and relationships more, because there may not be as much time and opportunity as we hope later in life. What do you think of this model/strategy?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-26T07:41:20.374Z · score: 10 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I have something sort of a potential explanation to it, but it is difficult to formulate it in a way that it will be not misunderstood in the wrong way. Please everybody try to take this post with maximal charity and benefit of doubt.

  1. History tends to swing from one extreme to another, as people tend to OVERreact to the problems they see.

  2. Given that it is an OVERreaction, they are usually wrong, but it also points out a problem. You can diagnose the original problems from the overreactions to them.

  3. These overreactions are sometimes exaggerated only in "quantity", in which case a more moderate version of them would be okay, or they often get the direction completely wrong, still they point out how something is a problem and the issues they raise often have SOME truth to them.

  4. For example, Communism/Bolshevism was a huge OVERreaction to the condition of workers under capitalism, it was not a good solution at all, and even making it more moderate (a moderate, limited dictatorship of people who call themselves proletarians?) would not help much, but it pointed out a problem and now we have better solutions to that problem, such as unions striking when they want a wage raise or something. Or some laws like minimum wages.

  5. In the same vein The Red Pill / Manosphere is an OVERreaction to a problem, yes it is wrong, both it tone and content, misogynistic and so on, misrepresenting history etc. wrong in both quantity and direction, yet it DOES point out a problem, and some ideas when saner and kinder people work them over and remove the jaded or hateful elements of them, are actually useful.

Essentially this is the problem:

  1. Dating is hard for young straight men, not for everybody. Few gays complain, and of women only seriously overweight ones complain and even that is changing, there is more fat acceptance now. And being a straight male 35+ is far easier, have some achievement and don't be fat and you almost see women 32+ throwing themselves at you.

  2. One issue is that a lot of straight young men lack the experiences that would turn them into, well, it depends on your point of view, but you could say: masculine men, or you could say: grown-ups, adults. Being a grown-up or being masculine / manly is NOT the same, but they have a common opposite: a child, a boy is NEITHER. And that is what we have, many young men stay children because their formative experiences are school and videogames, which is not formative at all in this sense. They lack a lot of things, like challenges that require grown-up self-responsibility, or dangerous feeling things that would make them build courage and confidence.

  3. SOME, not all, some women are indeed hypergamous. And SOME, not all, men are polygamous. This basically means that instead of having 100% attention and dedication from one man of lower attractiveness, they rather have 25% of a very attractive man. Although the "spinning plates, soft harems" the RPers speak about are probably exaggerated bullshit, I do see highly attractive men have really fast series of hookups and breakups, lots of fast and short mini-relationships that in practice end up with multiple women "orbiting" one man. (I am NOT talking about real, serious "poly" people, they are still a minority, I am talking about people who think they are monogamous, just they end up starting and ending three relationships during one month.)

  4. This distorts the dating "market". As a very broad model, you have the top 50% women with the top 25% men, you have the next 25% of women and next 25% of men having the usual kinds of monogamous relationships, and you have the bottom 50% of men trying to chase the bottom 25% of women, and that bottom 25% is, not to be too offensive, but these days tends to be... "big". Of course the bottom 50% of men are often not a big catch either, videogaming man-boys without any confidence or adult responsibility. At any rate, the bottom 50% men often give up as they don't think having to compete for the "big" girls 2:1 is better than porn (and pot: a powerful combination), and the "big" girls often seek refuge in cats and sugar too.

4/B) To give you a good example how inequal is the dating market: when people describe sexual relationships as "I don't know, we just got drunk and it happened", very roughly this happened with 80% women and 40% men, at best. At least half the guys are not attractive enough to "just happen", many of them won't even get to the point where it could, as not getting drunk with women or not going out at all. "Just happened" is a narrative of women and handsome / attractive / grown-up / masculine / confident men, it is not a universal human one and for the bottom 50% of men it looks like something happening from a sci-fi.

5/A). There is another issue. RPers tend to blame feminism, I guess it is better to blame the inbalanced social adaptation to feminism, but basically the bottom 50% of guys think "well, I am not much as a man, but I can get an engineering degree, hold down a job, make money and could support a family, does that count for something?" and the answer is today "nothing AT ALL" because now almost every woman can make enough money. Even when they complain about making 77% of what men make or some similar figure, in a first-world society that is still enough to live comfortably without children. And now women rarely want children before 32. In the past, a man could be unattractive but being a breadwinner helped him a bit in finding a mate, now it is not the case. Now a degree in software engineering may still increase a mans chances in India, but not in the US, Canada or Germany.

5/B) The point is here, that since women can make a living on their own, men should probably adapt into being less of a worker bee and more focusing on his attractiveness. Yet it is far harder for the bottom 50% of men than just getting a software engineering degree and working. Besides, his parents may still push him towards this breadwinner role. And frankly this all sometimes feels "unnatural" probably because we are trying to undo thousands of years of historical adaptation to social roles, so it is learning a really uncharted terrain here. We don't have much historical experience in how to make all men attractive to women of a similar income and social status. Formerly it was not really needed. About half the men figure it out sooner or later, but the other half does not.

Maybe things get easier, if feminism, if ever, fully wins 100%. Currently it is totally confusing because it won in some things but not in some other things. Women can now do almost everything men can, yet it seems the most attractive guys are still the ones conforming more or less to traditional concepts like being strong, tall, brave, unfazed / no-fucks-given, and so on.

One good example in how the current kind of feminism-won-halfway-not-fully makes things confusing. Sheryl Sandberg, a highly powerful and successful woman, really a feminist role model, saying "When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is date all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment-phobic boys, the crazy boys. But do not marry them." So basically she is saying that although not for marriage, for dating still the old, pre-feminist male archetypes, the traditional masculine archetypes are ideal! Sheryl is a feminist at work/career but not at dating, although at marriage probably yet again! Of course it confuses a young man who has no idea how to be attractive anymore! Be her bad cool crazy commitment phobic (i.e. treating women as sex objects only) boy which is an old-fashioned, 1950's on a motorbike, pre-feminist and borderline misogynistic or be marriagable nice guy in which case wait until 35 or so?

RP is wrong, but it is pointing us towards real actual problems that are begging for a better explanation and solution.

comment by Houshalter · 2015-05-29T04:54:15.015Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

We really need some statistics, because I'm not certain this is actually a real trend. At one point in time, 17 women reproduced for every one man. In more recent history it's 4 to 5 women for every man, as a global average (I don't know what they define "recent history" as though.)

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-02T02:01:18.254Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That paper doesn't quite imply what you think.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-02T01:55:38.374Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What's your evidence that RP is in fact wrong?

In the same vein The Red Pill / Manosphere is an OVERreaction to a problem, yes it is wrong, both it tone and content, misogynistic and so on, misrepresenting history etc. wrong in both quantity and direction, yet it DOES point out a problem, and some ideas when saner and kinder people work them over and remove the jaded or hateful elements of them, are actually useful.

What do you mean by "misogynistic"? The word is commonly used to mean believing that there are significant differences between men and women. If you mean something else by this word feel free to explain it.

Maybe things get easier, if feminism, if ever, fully wins 100%.

What do you mean by feminism 100% wins? Do you mean human nature will change? And if so to what?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-02T07:24:34.742Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What do you mean by feminism 100% wins? Do you mean human nature will change? And if so to what?

This is highly debated how much human nature is hardcoded in this regard. The No 1. feature of human nature is the ability to adapt to wildly different circumstances. For example there is absolutely no such thing as an ancestral or paleolithical diet. Human nature is tribal, we still manage to have nations and supranational organizations somehow. Once could just as easily argue every political organization above kinship based tribes is against human nature. Yet we manage to do it... just with some unintended consequences (like tribalism rearing its head in politics, kicked out the door, it comes back the window).

My "gut instinct" is on the middle way: we can change genders, but with many unintended consequences. (For example, once consequence that is more or less visible already: when people become more unisex, sexual tension drops as it is generated by difference. One of my ugliest (thankfully unproven, conditional) beliefs is that every passionate sex is essentially BDSM, and easing up dominance/submission kills truly burning desire. Dropping birthrates may be another one.)

What do you mean by "misogynistic"? The word is commonly used to mean believing that there are significant differences between men and women. If you mean something else by this word feel free to explain it.

I think it is meant not simply about differences, but when 1) differences are used to justify social customs that reduce the autonomy / choices of people, primarily women 2) differences of the kind that tend to assign lower status to women. So when differences are value-laden in this way, and not purely factual. I think this is the most accepted usage.

However in the case of RP it is not even the usual meaning but something far worse. Really, really ugly lingo, not even "politically offensive" but insulting in that basic human pre-feminism sense, violating every rule of keeping a civil tongue in one's head. For example blog.jim.com says most modern women are "psychotic whores". This is not simply un-PC, it was a huge insult far before PC or feminism was invented, 1950 or whatever date you pick. It is not simply un-feminist or anti-feminist lingo, it is the lingo of louts who grew up in the gutter. It is simply incredibly un-classy.

What's your evidence that RP is in fact wrong?

First of all, statements can be right or wrong. Subcultures never. I think I should write an article about it, but subcultures are largely about like-minded people banding together, often held together by values and moods and personality types but not facts. They are simply beyond right or wrong: you can say that the most important statements a subculture believes are right or wrong, but the subculture as such cannot be reduced to its most important statements, because it is people. Prove them all wrong, and the very same people will band together in a different subculture that has different statements, but the same mood affiliation, the same mindset. Prove them all right, and you can still say the personality, mindset or values are still all horrible or simply bad, harmful. For example, I am an atheist and generally disagree with the major things Catholics believe in, yet I tend to generally like them as a people, it seems our mindset and mood is at some level similar ("Chestertonesque"). I like their subculture and disagree with their statements. It can also happen the other way around. So, context is everything.

The second issue is that good luck about trying to separating facts from values in the fields that are not natural science but more like human, social concerns. For example, Marxists claim to have an entirely factual analysis of how the engine of capitalism works, but it is full with so much value-laden, mood-laden terms, that you cannot really separate the factual proposition from a general value/mood of them disliking hierarchical modes of production.

I think the strategic aspect of RP is not bad, they are the kind of things a man stumbles upon by experience anyway, such as, there are interactions where mock agreement and humorous amplification are appropriate answers. If a girl in a bar would ask me to hold her purse I would probably parade around with it in a super gay way and good laughs would be had. The issue is the context, the values, the mood. For example, the interactions where this kind of answer is appropriate are called "shit tests" and they get referred to as "mercilessly swat down the shit tests". So you see a general mood of hostility, aggressivity, negativity. And it is really difficult to separate the context from the statements.

So the issue is not that some statements are wrong. They are embedded in a very negative mood/value context.

One useful way to look at it is to say the issue is that RP guys were in some significant sense screwed up BEFORE swallowing the pill. So it is not the pill that is wrong as such, it is the kind of people it attracts. Because the same pill could be embedded in a very different mood and context, one of positivity, cooperation, friendliness and mutual respect.

Also the context I am talking about is actually just one example of a more general category of negative contexts. Similar negative contexts are: The Gervais Principle, Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Social Darwinism, Objectivism. Generally ideas that cash out to saying life is all about brutal competition where winners take all and losers get screwed and generally downplaying the role positive social connections, alliances, support networks play in life outcomes, which generally come from "nice" behavior.

These negative contexts are what I called "dark romance" in a former conversation. It is the assumption that we live in a dog eat dog world, where the law of the jungle rules because the assumptions feels so... badass. Well, such things happen indeed. But on the other hand, it is incredibly handy and useful to be "nice" and be the kind of person others like to cooperate with or support. A truly smart sociopathic, evil Machiavelli would not try to project this jaded tough guy image but would be a super mellow nice person, the most agreeable person around, liked by everybody... and in the rare, really rare occasions when it worths it, he would backstab them. But if he is evil only for the sake of actual gain and not for the sake of evil being awesome and badass and darkly romantic... then such occasions are exceedingly rare.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-02T20:50:25.083Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For example there is absolutely no such thing as an ancestral or paleolithical diet.

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Clearly you're not saying that our antcectors did not eat. Are you saying that humans have genetically adapted to different diets since the paleolithic? That still leaves the concept of ancestral diet as important. Are you saying any given human will be just as healthy on any diet? That's clearly false.

Human nature is tribal, we still manage to have nations and supranational organizations somehow.

By adapting the larger organizations to human nature, yes.

My "gut instinct" is on the middle way:

This suggests your suffering from the arugment to mederation fallacy.

we can change genders

Can we? It's possible for say men, to cut of their peneses and declare themselves women. (And in the west expect society to declare that they have always been women). However, in my experience the behvior of m-to-f trannies makes more sense if I model them as men who decided to "become women" as part of the especially male tendency to do crazy things.

I think it is meant not simply about differences, but when 1) differences are used to justify social customs that reduce the autonomy / choices of people, primarily women 2) differences of the kind that tend to assign lower status to women.

Does it matter of said customs are rational (say in the sense of leading to better outcomes)?

For example blog.jim.com says most modern women are "psychotic whores". This is not simply un-PC, it was a huge insult far before PC or feminism was invented, 1950 or whatever date you pick. It is not simply un-feminist or anti-feminist lingo, it is the lingo of louts who grew up in the gutter. It is simply incredibly un-classy.

Yes and in the 1950s a woman who behaved the way a typical women does today (at least in the west, I hear it's not quite as bad in eastern Europe) would be considered much worse then simply un-classy and loutish. And yes "psychotic whore" sounds about right for what they would of thought of that type of woman.

The second issue is that good luck about trying to separating facts from values in the fields that are not natural science but more like human, social concerns. For example, Marxists claim to have an entirely factual analysis of how the engine of capitalism works, but it is full with so much value-laden, mood-laden terms, that you cannot really separate the factual proposition from a general value/mood of them disliking hierarchical modes of production.

Yes it is. At least it is possible to isolate the factual analysis enough to see that it is false.

Also the context I am talking about is actually just one example of a more general category of negative contexts. Similar negative contexts are: The Gervais Principle, Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Social Darwinism, Objectivism. Generally ideas that cash out to saying life is all about brutal competition where winners take all and losers get screwed

Um, are you actually familiar with the philosophies you listed or are you going by the popular caricatures? Of the ones I'm familiar with, this is a rather bad characterization of Machiavelli and an absolute horrible characterization of Objectivism.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-05T23:18:44.679Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are you saying that humans have genetically adapted to different diets since the paleolithic?

No, saying that even in the paleolithic they were adapted to wildly different diets, because they were intelligent and they could make the most of whatever grew near them. http://hells-ditch.com/2012/08/archaeologists-officially-declare-collective-sigh-over-paleo-diet/ If they found wild rice, that was okay. If they found whale blubber, that was also OK.

And I think this is a good example. The most typically human trait is flexibility because that is what intelligence generates.

This suggests your suffering from the arugment to mederation fallacy.

In the specific case when something is argued to be impossible, taking a middle way seems sensible: almost everything is possible, just often you have to throw the equivalent of a nuke on it, and then you will get all kinds of unwanted consequences.

we can change genders

Can we? It's possible for say men, to cut of their peneses and declare themselves women.

Come on, you are smarter than that, you know the difference between biological sex and social gender. E.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albanian_sworn_virgins

Really I bet this is not new to you, you just pretend you have never heard the difference...

At least it is possible to isolate the factual analysis enough to see that it is false.

I find it far too optimistic but I figure neither of us has evidence here.

Um, are you actually familiar with the philosophies you listed or are you going by the popular caricatures?

Popular versions, yes, but they are not caricatures simply - more like what people actually believe in. Popularity matters. To give you a reverse example, some people argue the Soviets were never properly, really Communists or Marxist. This means, they did not really believe what some books said. Books matter. But actual history, what people actually do, often matters more. Soviet Communism was the kind of Communism that mattered, because this had nukes and the obscure kind of Communism that had only some books and debating groups mattered far less. The same thing with the ones I mentioned - they were far smarter than this, but based on them there is a popular view of a simplified "dog eat dog" world where everything is competition and winners take all and losers suck and cooperation does not worth for anything.

This jaded view was already disproved by Plato. Justice and efficiency go hand in hand and there is rarely lasting success without a lot of cooperation and fairness.

I often think the jaded views on the right horseshoe into the oppression-oriented views on the left quite nicely, the difference is largely about how to evaluate the same facts and how changable it is, but both extremes would say the world as we know it so far is usually pretty ugly. I think it is not, we are just under the spell of a huge yellow journalism bias. When someone murders their spouse, that is on TV evening news. When people cook their spouse their favorite food or take them to their favorite restaurant, that is not. Reporting is biased towards the negative, largely because it is biased towards the unusual, and it is far, far harder to do something unusually good than unusually bad. Unusually bad deeds are comparatively easy, destroying is easier than building, because things are on the whole pretty fragile. So most unusual i.e. reporting worthy things are bad. However, most usual things are good. Correct for this bias and you find that most human efforts were usually into cooperating and building and were generally constructive. For every one case where someone burned someone for witchcraft (unusual and bad move) there are a hundreds of cases where he just paid a decent price to the witch for an anti-coughing tea (usual and good, mutually beneficial exchange) and so on. Just this did not get reported on. Too usual.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-06T01:25:56.371Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, saying that even in the paleolithic they were adapted to wildly different diets, because they were intelligent and they could make the most of whatever grew near them. http://hells-ditch.com/2012/08/archaeologists-officially-declare-collective-sigh-over-paleo-diet/ If they found wild rice, that was okay. If they found whale blubber, that was also OK.

So you're claiming that any human will be just as healthy on any diet?

Come on, you are smarter than that, you know the difference between biological sex and social gender. E.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albanian_sworn_virgins

So you're arguing that the Albanian sworn virgins were (socially) men? The very fact that they were called "virgins", thus appealing to the ideal of female virginity, should give you a clue. I thought you were smarter than that.

Popular versions, yes, but they are not caricatures simply - more like what people actually believe in. Popularity matters.

Depends on which people. What the followers of the philosophies believe matters, what most people believe about the followers, not so much.

This jaded view was already disproved by Plato. Justice and efficiency go hand in hand and there is rarely lasting success without a lot of cooperation and fairness.

I'm not sure who you think your arguing against here. It certainly isn't (most of) the philosophies you listed.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-06T21:07:51.869Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So you're claiming that any human will be just as healthy on any diet?

No, and building straw mans like that is not useful at all. I am just claiming most human groups learned to be healthy on almost any nutrients their environment managed to offer. I.e. flexibility, adaptation ability, due to intelligence.

So you're arguing that the Albanian sworn virgins were (socially) men?

Yes, the article is very clear about that. What is your point really? There is nothing particularly magic or essential about social roles, although it is clear that hormones play a role in being more suitable or less suitable for them.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2015-06-03T19:48:39.735Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This suggests your suffering from the arugment to mederation fallacy.

That was rude to jump right to without further justification.

comment by Viliam · 2015-05-25T11:38:28.042Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Tangentially, how much is it a problem of "dating", and how much a problem of "dating with sane people", when the pool of sane people is already small?

When I was younger, I wanted to have a romantic relationship with a person whom I would perceive as intellectually equal (plus or minus the LessWrong level). Since I barely knew such people... not much luck.

If I could send a message in time back to myself, it would be: "It will take decades until you find someone you can have meaningful conversation with. Meanwhile, relax, and try to fuck any nice body, but don't get attached. Otherwise you will later regret the wasted time." The only problem is, my younger self would be horrified to hear such advice.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-05-26T04:42:48.887Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I feel the same way on "dating with sane people". I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on this.

comment by Viliam · 2015-05-27T22:39:39.040Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Seems to me that in a relationship people spend much more time talking than having sex. Thus, even if the sex is great, if talking is painful, the relationship as a whole sucks.

And that's just idle talk... imagine having to solve real problems, or even owning property together, or having children. All the stupid stuff you read about online, happening at your own home.

Before LW, I didn't know any "sane" community. I did know a few "sane" individuals. But they didn't have the explicit concept of "sanity"; I was not able to ask them "Where can I find more people like you?" in a way that would make them understand what exactly I wanted. For example, if they had a hobby, they would recommend me other people having the same hobby, but those other people wouldn't be "sane". In other words, there wasn't a place to meet new "sane" people.

If I could be 20 years old again now, my step 1 for a serious relation would be "go to all possible LW meetups", and the step 2 would probably be starting my own rationalist blog, in hope of attracting attention of someone who doesn't go to LW meetups (yet). In reality, I already do have a girlfriend, and she helps me organize local LW meetups. I met her completely randomly, and it took me a few decades to have such lucky random event. I obviously can't recommend that as a strategy.

Actually, until a few years ago I didn't even have a hope of ever dating a sane person. Probably not even the concept of sanity; only a vague idea of "someone like me". But that only creates an infinite recursion: where should I go to meet "people like me", if the problem in the first place is that I don't know where to go? Where is my Schelling point? Even today, I cannot give a better answer than "a LW community". (But I was not strong enough to create one. Which is one of the reasons I deeply admire Eliezer.)

comment by adamzerner · 2015-05-27T23:14:40.985Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Cool, thank you! I can really relate to what you describe, especially the "not knowing any sane people" part.

What are your thoughts on relationships in general? Let me explain - in brief, I agree with the idea that it's "a form of socially acceptable insanity" (sort of). To obsess and commit to one thing so much seems crazy to me. But not really; it makes people happy and you don't (always) have to sacrifice too much. So the cost-benefit does seem worth it.

comment by Viliam · 2015-05-28T21:26:56.597Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Obsession is nature's way of making cooperation more resistant to random disruptive events.

I think an important skill in relationships is to be able to see a long-term perspective even when you are in a bad moment. Don't ruin a mostly great relationship, just because today is the exceptional day that sucks. It can be easy to start a downward spiral. Forgiving is a way to play "tit for tat" in a noisy environment. The simplest hack to make people forgive is to make them blind towards the mistakes. (Which again comes with its own problems, because evolution is so short-sighted. Some people are too blind; some people forgive too much.)

Costly signalling of cooperation is important in situations where there is so much at stake, such as raising children. I am rather conservative about relationships because... well, if I simplify it a lot, conservatism at its core is all about costly signalling.

Sorry, I'm rambling, because of lack of sleep. So I'll stop now.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-05-28T21:38:37.284Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Obsession is nature's way of making cooperation more resistant to random disruptive events.

That's very interesting, I never thought of it like that before.

Sorry, I'm rambling, because of lack of sleep. So I'll stop now.

No need to apologize - If you want to keep rambling, I'll be listening.

comment by MrMind · 2015-05-25T07:30:39.257Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I think it makes sense for us to try dating and relationships more, because there may not be as much time and opportunity as we hope later in life.

How do you suggest people actually implement this 'just date more'?

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-05-27T00:59:21.537Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, if people agree with me, but dating more is easier said than done, here are some pointers from LessWrong in particular.

In a more general sense, do I think the problem posed in my thinking would be solved if people only tried dating more? Maybe people won't turn out happier if they just start dating more. I notice for the link I posted, the original question wasn't just how to start dating, but how to maintain long-term relationships. Maybe dating and relationships are harder now than in the past, so much harder that even the chance of starting a happy relationship is low enough it doesn't warrant the effort modern dating demands.

Compared to previous generations, young adults today have more emphasis put on careers for them. Also, the idea of a circle of friends is one which is bigger, and more closely knit, than it was before, when our parents or grandparents at our age would have relied on an (extended) family living in a single household. Since less emphasis is placed on the family unit relative to other types of relationships, and there is less pressure to start a family relative to building a career, dating, relationships and marriage might seem less valuable and less incentivized. More young adults might end up with a preference for being single, and that could be okay. If someone really still wants a relationship, or something resulting from that, I think the tactic I proposed still makes sense.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-05-25T15:53:32.725Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Most of my friends and acquaintances are committed to long-term relationships (mid-late 20s age group). I've had trouble in this area due to certain personal reasons, but my personal observations lead me to believe that I'm atypical in this regard.

It still seems single people aren't seeking or successfully finding relationships at a rate which corresponds well to genuine preferences for a relationship. Why aren't single people trying harder to find relationships?

It's possible they just don't know what they're doing or are paralyzed by anxiety when it comes to romance.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-05-27T01:59:10.934Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I've too much underrated observations like this in building my model above. Looking around, at age twenty-two, I notice most of my friends are still single, maybe 40% of them at most have some kind of relationship in any given month, but those relationships aren't stable over the long-term. I thought my model still might hold because I notice other people in my social circle at or around thirty are single, too. However, single people could select themselves to hang out with other single people. People closer to thirty than twenty who are single may be unusual in that they're more likely to hang out with people a few years younger than them, who are more likely to be single than not. So, the only young adults near 30 I'm observing are the ones who are hanging out with younger folk closer to 20 or 25.

I fell prey to confirmation bias here. I had no observations of social circles which are predominantly 25-35, rather than 20-30, which might be lousy with long-term relationships. Maybe this is happening at fondue parties or something, which I and my friends never hear about now, but will be doing in five to ten years. Thanks for the data point(s)! I think I was wrong before, and I think I know why!

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-02T01:41:13.149Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Most of my friends and acquaintances are committed to long-term relationships (mid-late 20s age group). I've had trouble in this area due to certain personal reasons, but my personal observations lead me to believe that I'm atypical in this regard.

Keep in mind that people with good social skills tend to have more friends, so your selector maybe biased in that regard.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-06-02T01:56:29.763Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fair point. I'm less likely to encounter people who sit home all day and less likely to socialize with people who aren't social. That would skew my observations somewhat.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-05-25T14:54:43.235Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

How do young people get into sexual relationships, any way? I had literally no experience with this in my youth, and not because I spent decades in prison starting around the age of 20 or anything like that. The women I knew as a young man walked around me as a physical object because they couldn't walk through me, but in general they treated me as socially invisible.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-05-26T08:53:14.979Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

How do young people get into sexual relationships, any way?

I think in general 'it just happens', which generally means alcohol.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-26T10:58:27.730Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That happens with most women and handsome men, but not all men. A better question is how can men shape up their looks so that it can happen to them. E.g. clothes, muscles, also demeanour, behavior etc.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-05-26T12:08:25.175Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

However attractive, well dressed, confidant you are, you still need to know how to actually approach someone.

A problem is that any attempt to improve attractiveness will lead some people to declare that you are evil or otherwise defective. Its not just PUA stuff, this is far more general: if a guy lifts, that makes him a 'dickhead' according to members of my peer group, while a woman not shaving her armpits makes her strong & empowered (does a man not shaving his face make him empowered?). Conversely, some people believe that not taking care of your appearance makes you a slob.

Then there's the problem that confidence is key. You need to be 110% confident of everything you say, and to truly believe this, you need to internalise it. The problem is then that it spills over into other aspects of life, and you become very badly credence calibrated, potentially leading to serious mistakes because you can't admit that you might be wrong. When you are in a group containing more than one 'alpha male' it becomes impossible to get anything done, even something as simple as choosing a pub to go to, because one alpha male decides to go to one pub, the other decides to go to a different pub, and because they are alpha, they don't ask anyone else what they want, and so everyone ends up at a different pub.

In fact, its possible that LW rationality is training people to have bad social skills. "How to change your mind" might just be how to look like a weak-willed person who won't stick to their guns, or if you change your mind about politics, it makes you a traitor.

But if you have too little confidence, you can get stuck in a loop where:

low confidence -> little romantic success -> low confidence -> little romantic success ...

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-05-27T16:45:17.320Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Its not just PUA stuff, this is far more general: if a guy lifts, that makes him a 'dickhead' according to members of my peer group,

I suggest that you need a better peer group. I don't know what your options are-- this might be worth discussing-- but the time you're spending with your current peer group is time that isn't available for spending with a better bunch of people.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-05-27T18:48:51.848Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for your advice.

Boring personal details:

Actually, I moved away from them a few years ago for various reasons (not feeling on the same wavelength, wanting there to be more to life than alcohol & drugs...), so I don't spend that much time with them, although there are a few of them I want to stay in contact with, friends who see me as practically family.

I still refer to them as my peer group, because I haven't really made a new friendship group that lasted. I haven't really had a social life for over a year, and its quite tranquil in a way. I was starting to get stuck in cycles of social anxiety and I hope this solitude has broken the cycle and given me time to think objectively. For instance, I've realised just how many people were attracted to me, but I was not aware of at the time due to a lack of social/romantic confidence and an inability to pick up on any even remotely subtle hint.

When I next move to a new city, I'm going to meet people who have similar interests - for instance at a boardgames club has worked well in the past. And I'm going to display the same level of social confidence as the intellectual confidence I already have, because vicious cycles can run backwards too.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-05-26T13:01:24.192Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

A problem is that any attempt to improve attractiveness will lead some people to declare that you are evil or otherwise defective.

Screw them.

In fact, its possible that LW rationality is training people to have bad social skills. "How to change your mind" might just be how to look like a weak-willed person who won't stick to their guns, or if you change your mind about politics, it makes you a traitor.

To whom? Screw them.

You can't please everyone and trying to is a waste of far more than just time.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-27T12:36:15.960Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but it is pissing against the wind of a huge part of human biology where status withing the tribe is all-important. Don't expect this to be easy.

comment by aleksiL · 2015-06-01T14:17:04.879Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You worry about that all-important status when you fear losing it.

Want to win? Then focus on winning, not on not-losing. You need to if you want to be seen as high-status, anyway. Fear of loss is low-status, so is worrying about what others think.

Navigate the minefield, sure. But do it from a position of strength, not of weakness.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-01T14:51:30.141Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Of course. There are two relevant terms that I learned in another language, one way to translate them would be to "seek success" or "avoid failure". Seeking success is pursuing your dream job, avoiding failure is fearing you will not be able to pay bills so accepting any job. Seeking success is far better, but if you are not blessed with sky high testosterone and are thus timid and not driven, you cannot really do much more than avoiding failure. It is not exactly a choice you can make, it is more about what you are. Of course you can try to slowly change what you are i.e. work on developing courage. Wanting to win is in itself a keyword used by the success oriented, who believe they can be / can do better than others. The failure-avoidant want to not prove worse than others, and thus seek to lose, not win. It takes a really lot of working on courage to go from one to another and it is not clear what methods develop this kind of courage best.

Maybe this (courage or self-confidence methods) would deserve a top level.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-05-26T13:15:57.598Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I applaud this attitude, and I think the first step should be for people to get enough self-confidence to say "screw them"!

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-05-26T13:28:41.971Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Where will the self-confidence come from? I prefer the Nike slogan: "Just do it."

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-26T12:30:36.828Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Its not just PUA stuff, this is far more general: if a guy lifts, that makes him a 'dickhead' according to members of my peer group, while a woman not shaving her armpits makes her strong & empowered

If I was young again, I would probably try to hang with either multiple different peer groups or none at (I was terrible at it anyway). But these guys sound like a very bad influence for anyone trying to improve dating skills. I also find it really surprising how they are using media language. "Strong and empowered" is a magazine headline. It is media-talk, almost like advertisement-talk, only one step less artificial than politician-talk. 20 years ago in my peer group anything that sounded like a magazine headline was repeated only ironically / cynically. Or even 10 years ago. Anyone remembers "the coalition of the willing?" Yeah, no normal person ever repeated that without a sneer. And now I see young people talk like popular magazine headlines. Weird. Where is the bravely contrarian counter-signalling? :)

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-05-26T13:14:26.205Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I also find it really surprising how they are using media language.

I'm not sure anyone actually verbally said "Strong and empowered", this would have been in a clickbait article someone shared on facebook.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-26T14:33:45.641Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

... and then I became enlightened.

Hypothesis: the lack of cynicism in today's young is due to much of their social life being done on Facebook and other social media, and in this type of medium it is a common, easy and obvious thing to do to share articles.

I don't think in 1990 anyone brought me a printed paper mag and asked me to read this article. A handful of times, when it was something truly revolutionary and special, but anything even remotely mainstream not. We did not share our media consumption much. I may have been reading the same heavy metal mag as others, but we rarely discusessed it beyond "Seen that interview with Megadeth?" "Yeah, badass."

It is through article sharing and shared, communal media consumption how the Facebook generation lost its cynicism against official media headline ideas.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-05-31T15:50:58.005Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Are younger people less cynical? I honestly don't know, and I'm curious about your evidence.

My impression is that used to be a lot less debunking around, not that all of the debunking is accurate, either. Who's reading all those "7 Things You're Entirely Wrong About" articles from Cracked?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-01T07:04:40.544Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My impression is that used to be a lot less debunking around, not that all of the debunking is accurate, either. Who's reading all those "7 Things You're Entirely Wrong About" articles from Cracked?

I understand I am dangerously close to a fully general argument now :) But I think there is a lot of debunking going on because the default stance seems to be to believe the mainstream media, and I think 20 years ago the default stance was to be skeptical about it.

How to put it... I would be really surprised if a friend of mine offered a debunking of the abs trainer sold in TV shop because we are not supposed to believe it at all, that is not the default stance... "everybody" understands it is mainly about scamming suckers. And roughly the same about the media in general.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T18:08:04.868Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

this is far more general: if a guy lifts, that makes him a 'dickhead' according to members of my peer group, while a woman not shaving her armpits makes her strong & empowered

You need a better peer group.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-05-27T01:42:50.686Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A problem is that any attempt to improve attractiveness will lead some people to declare that you are evil or otherwise defective. Its not just PUA stuff, this is far more general: if a guy lifts, that makes him a 'dickhead' according to members of my peer group.

  • #NotAllPeerGroups.

Seriously, though, I feel for you being in a peer group which could be better at encouraging fellow men while still respecting women, rather than hitting some failure mode because of signaling. I know you wrote only some* people will declare you evil or otherwise defective, but I don't see a reason not to leave them behind, all else equal. John Salvatier is a man I'm acquainted with, a member of this peer group who writes about improving attractiveness (not just sexual attractiveness, but general attractiveness based on fashion. He doesn't seem the sort who anyone I know accuses of being evil or otherwise defective. He hangs out on r/malefashionadvice, which seems to have an air of being more about becoming "a gentleman" rather than a "pick-up artist". Whether it's women or other men who are calling each other 'dickheads', I think we can find better peer groups which engender habits of expressing a desire for self-improvement better, and peer groups which won't punish individuals when desires are expressed.

In fact, its possible that LW rationality is training people to have bad social skills. "How to change your mind" might just be how to look like a weak-willed person who won't stick to their guns, or if you change your mind about politics, it makes you a traitor.

I agree that's very possible. It's an unfortunate trade-off for bad credence calibration. I'm not sure it's a trade-off worth undoing, though.

*I'm inferring from your comment you're a man, but pardon me if I'm assuming too much.

comment by Fluttershy · 2015-05-28T17:14:52.369Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't necessarily think that social confidence and credence should be conflated to the extent that a few replies in this thread of posts have conflated them by use of the word "confidence" to refer to both concepts. It is possible to have confident body language, be an active participant in conversations, and even call others out on their overconfidence while still being a well-calibrated individual.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-05-27T16:56:11.463Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think the underlying reason for "improving attractiveness is evil" is largely a mixture of egalitarianism and a disconnect from reality. The idea is:

'I want to believe that everyone is attractive, therefore anyone who tries to become more attractive is evil. Do they think they're better than us?'

Now, admittedly, if attractiveness is a purely positional good, then this would make sense. But I don't think this is the case.

Similarly, I've heard the idea that universities giving female students advice on personal safety is evil, because in a perfect world no-one would commit violent crime. The fact that we don't live in a perfect world does not seem to have occurred to them.

I don't see a reason not to leave them behind, all else equal.

To a large extent I already have, moving away from them a few years ago. Not that I don't enjoy their company, but they are rather entropic people.

A second possibility is simply adopting a strong mental attitude of independence. Since reading about cogsci and how the mind automatically accepts everything it hears without making a concious effort to question its veracity, I've begun consciously marking opinions I hear as "someone else's opinion".

I think we can find better peer groups which engender habits of expressing a desire for self-improvement better, and peer groups which won't punish individuals when desires are expressed.

Well, this is strongly characteristic of LW. I have attended a meetup where we did assertiveness training, which I would think is far more helpful than advice about 'just be yourself'.

I wonder what other ways there are to find more positive peer groups? Offline, I have found martial arts people (or, other sports people) are a good start. Online, I wonder if other groups similar to LW have organised meatspace meetups - I used to lurk around many H+ organisations, but not for a while.

I looked at r/malefashionadvice, and it seems a little too 'what is in this season'. I'd rather have clothes that are timeless, rather then having to reappraise my wardrobe every year. Still, I think this:

becoming "a gentleman" rather than a "pick-up artist"

Seems a good idea.

It's an unfortunate trade-off for bad credence calibration. I'm not sure it's a trade-off worth undoing, though.

People have raised the possibility of doublethink wrt this sort of thing - simultaneously believing something with absolute certainty for the sake of social confidence or psychosomatic effects, while also having accurate, calibrated beliefs where necessary. I wonder if anyone has actually got that to work.

comment by Nornagest · 2015-05-27T19:09:45.024Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

becoming "a gentleman" rather than a "pick-up artist"

Seems a good idea.

Be careful. A lot of common missteps in personal presentation, especially in geek communities, come from failed attempts to look gentlemanly; the "m'lady" stereotype of Reddit fame is an extreme example, of course, but the rabbit hole goes a lot deeper. I'm only casually familiar with r/malefashionadvice, but I recall its house style being described somewhere as "dressing like a grownup", which seems like a better objective to start with.

(Failed attempts to look badass are even worse.)

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-05-27T19:17:49.358Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Apparently the problem is that the "m'lady" stereotype is wearing a fedora with a t-shirt, is overweight and is just essentially low-status. A gentleman wearing a suit with some confidence is a different matter.

Now I want to know how to dress as a badass gentleman...

comment by Nornagest · 2015-05-27T19:37:00.036Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, that's the stereotype. But the problem is actually that the signaling model is wrong. Our stereotype wants to associate himself with some concept, so he throws on an item that he associates with that concept: a pinstripe fedora if he likes Thirties mobsters, let's say, or a leather trench if he's seen The Matrix one too many times. It's out of context, it clashes, and the outfit ends up looking worse than the sum of its parts (and being overweight and poorly groomed never helps).

The principle is easy to state: clothes should work in context, including the context of your body. But the point is that those cues are not obvious. There's a whole visual language that needs to be learned before you can reliably present yourself as e.g. gentlemanly, and keeping a laser focus on whatever stereotype you feel like projecting actually isn't the most efficient way to get there. Better to start with the basics.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T19:23:01.257Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think how to "dress for success" differs radically between different subcultures. In some you want to look like you stepped out of a fashion ad, in others it's all about worn jeans and tshirts, in yet others fake fur and el-wire rule...

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T18:11:03.652Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think the underlying reason for "improving attractiveness is evil" is largely a mixture of egalitarianism and a disconnect from reality.

It's also mugging the competition :-D

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-05-27T08:05:02.896Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

does a man not shaving his face make him empowered?

In certain circles it does -- "there's a word for people without a beard: women", etc.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-05-27T10:08:31.666Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder, in these circles, do women find a bushy beard attractive? Or do they not have a choice of partner? Or do they make a choice based on some other criteria?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-26T12:29:59.101Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Then there's the problem that confidence is key. You need to be 110% confident of everything you say, and to truly believe this, you need to internalise it.

The average 16 year old doesn't have high self confidence. That doesn't mean that he won't get laid.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-27T12:54:58.913Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It does. When I try to remember my high school class, finding a girlfriend was by far the hardest problem most boys faced. About 75% suffered from this problem. Getting into a university or not flunking the coming test on the natural logarithm or whatever other challenges we faced, they were easier.

It is sort of hard to tell exactly why. Lack of confidence was surely part of the story, but on a more broader sense, relationships are something adults have and we were stuck in half-childhood.

The guys who managed to find a GF looked and acted like young adults already at 16. Part of it is biological - some of them were already shaving daily even though they weren't even 18. Puberty ran its full course on them, testosterone working fully. But even the guys who didn't, and yet were able to find girlfriends, they had this adult demeanor already. For example and uncle could ask them to help in repairing a car and they would approach it like an adult, cautiously, competently and efficiently. Now the guys who were unable to find a GF approached it like a child. Mamaaaah I don't want this I want to go back to playing videogames, well I guess if I have to do it I will half-ass the tools with one hand and play on the Nintendo with the other, maybe they'll let me go then, that kind of attitude.

Growing up is seriously hard when people lack the kind of challenges that would make them, and this is why it is extremely hard for many young men to get laid.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-27T13:12:23.627Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Mamaaaah I don't want this I want to go back to playing videogames

The person who spends their time playing video games instead of going to parties where people get drunk is less likely to be hookup even if he's confident.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-26T10:57:34.981Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think when I discovered body building at 17 it helped. Also, being tall. I went to discotheques, dance clubs, and saw there is a fairly uniform look there, hair gel, muscle t-shirts of Replay or Diesel brand etc. it was easy to fit in and later on when I made friends in the university a guy who also went to these clubs and he had a large circle of friends, often 20 people going to a disco together and there getting introduced to another 20, it was helpful because these circles contained women, and once a guy was part of the circle and they liked the looks, the muscles, the designer clothes "uniform" they sent clear indicators of interest. Outside the circle it was harder as they would not send IOIs to completely stranger people, out of fear I guess. At any rate, working on the looks and finding this large circle was very helpful. Nevertheless they did not help at all in the far harder task of actually keeping the newfound girlfriends. The day after, when we sobered up and we got into everyday life, not the glamour of the dance club, they realized I am an unmasculine, childish, timid nerd. So I lost them soon thereafter. Things did not get much better until my thirties when the women who are not married start having more realistic expectations.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-02T01:38:17.371Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So there these people called PUA's investigating that question, you may have heard of them.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-05-27T01:22:33.769Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If I can go one level above your question, for at least a generation, maybe more*, most young people aren't getting into frequent sexual relationships. Scott Alexander explains here, in one of the most upvoted comments of all time, why it seems most people, whenever they are or were young, seemed to know a few people who had lots of sex, but weren't or aren't themselves having lots of sex. His model seems to hold for heterosexual men and women, which is most people anyway. Essentially, for both men and women, there is a negative skew for sexiness, i.e., which people are most sexually attractive and/or having the most sex. So, it is only the sexiest men and sexiest women having sex with each other often, and the sexiest men and women mostly don't have sex with people who are less than the sexiest. People who are in between the average and the sexiest may have a moderate amount of sex, but still far less than the sexiest people. Men and women of around average sexiness are having sex infrequently, or not at all. This doesn't mean "average" levels of sexiness are utterly unsexy. For example, as a heterosexual man, I perceive most women as moderately attractive, and it's only the rare exception of a woman who proves the rule that people are generally attractive, that is the woman I find utterly unattractive, or ugly. I might be generalizing from my own experience too much, though. Assuming most heterosexual men find most heterosexual women "attractive-ish", and visa-versa, it's interesting they're not having sex with each other.

Anyway, the function of how much sex a person has based on whatever qualities count as attractive seems more like a quadratic function than a linear one. The failure of most of us not in the top tiers of sexiness to have sex is a coordination problem. Their are other factors, which I think are covered in my original post.

*I think as North American culture was more sexually conservative in previous generations, people were just having less sex. I'm not sure about this. I've watched some historical documentaries pointing out how the early twentieth century and late nineteenth century people were less puritanical than modern pop culture would have us belief. It's not like in all places with all people sex outside of marriage, in the year 1920 or 1890, was utterly taboo. There are ebbs and flows in how sexually liberal or conservative North America has been going back at least a century. I figure the further you go back in time, though, the more sexually conservative our culture was on average.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-05-26T04:39:49.186Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My first thought is that the lack of strategic approach isn't surprising - there are tons of instances in which people are extremely unstrategic, and this doesn't seem to be too particularly unstrategic.

My second thought is that this is an area in which it's particularly easy to procrastinate. Because initiation is hard and scary (to most people).

comment by knb · 2015-05-25T23:51:13.908Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

A lot of Millennials have moved back in with their parents (boomerang generation). Especially for men, this makes any kind of romantic life very difficult. Mostly I think many Millennials have serious anxiety/social dysfunction and a bad case of Peter Pan Syndrome. For example, cultural favorites of Millennials include superhero/comic book movies and My Little Pony.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-26T08:13:03.905Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Let's make a top level thread collecting websites that are useful for any purpose. From curetogether.com to pomodoro timers. Also includes download sites of useful software. Eventually this should make it into the wiki.

What would be a good way to do it? Perhaps similar to media threads.

I also know the space I propose to search is ginormous, but the goal is not to make it exhaustive, the goal is to list the favorite web-based tools / learning materials / software / other useful things on the web of LW members. With the hidden hope that we will get a better quality list than asking the same question on Reddit.

The goal would be to later on migrate it into one non-time-based place e.g. wiki page so that it does not get buried.

A personal request: websites that make procrastination more efficient. Essentially websites that teach you something, but in a way that is not necessarily in-depth, but more like a five-minute article about something important, useful or interesting when you want to kill five minutes before starting the next task.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-05-25T05:17:05.253Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

It doesn't appear this is discussed much, so I thought I'd start a conversation:

Who on LessWrong is uncomfortable with or doesn't like so much discussion of effective altruism here? if so, why?

Other Questions:

  • Do you feel there's too much of it now, or would even a little bit of it seem averse?
  • Do you think such discussion is inappropriate given the implicit or explicit goals of LessWrong?
  • Has too much discussion of effective altruism caused you to think less of LessWrong, or use it less?
  • For what reason(s) do you disagree with effective altruism? Is it because of your values and what you care about, or because you don't like normative pressure to take such strong personal actions? Or something else?

I want to discuss it because what proportion of the LessWrong community is averse or even indifferent or disinterested in effective altruism doesn't express their opinions much. Also, while I identify with effective altruism, I don't only value this site as a means to altruistic ends, and I don't want other parts of the rationalist community to feel neglected.

comment by shminux · 2015-05-25T07:55:21.828Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Personally, I'm indifferent to EA. It seems to me a result of decompartmentalizing and taking utilitarianism overly seriously. I don't really disagree with it, just not interested. As I've mentioned before, I care about myself, my family, my friends, and maybe some prominent people who don't know me, but whose work makes my life better. I feel for the proverbial African children, but not enough for anything more than a token contribution. If LW had a budget, /r/EA would be a good subreddit, though one of those I would rarely, if ever, visit. As it is, I skip the EA discussions, but I don't find them annoyingly pervasive.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-05-25T08:34:22.247Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

That is exactly my own view. I can see the force of the arguments for EA, but remain unmoved by them. I don't mind it being discussed here, but take little interest in the discussions. I have no arguments against it (although the unfortunate end of George Price is a cautionary tale, a warning of a dragon on the way), and I certainly don't want to persuade anyone to do less good in the world.

It's rather like the Christian call to sainthood. Many are called, but few are chosen.

ETA: I am interested, as a spectator, in seeing how the movement develops.

comment by Elo · 2015-05-25T10:05:42.012Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Upvote for agreement.

I find the extent of my power should be my concern. My local community; those who I can reach and touch. for the sake of drawing a number out of the air; anyone further than 100km from me does not deserve my attention; indeed anyone further than 50km probably also (except that I may one day cross paths with them).

I would rather spend $X towards the local homeless people of my city than the unknown suffering in a distant and far off place. (In fact I would rather not spend $X and would rather donate my time to the community nearby; which is exactly what I do)

While this is my opinion I certainly don't mind the EA stuff I see; I just don't partake in it very much.

comment by Calien · 2015-05-31T09:39:32.157Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is your rule about distances actually a base part of your ethics, or is it a heuristic based on you not having much to do with them? I'm assuming that you take it somewhat figuratively, e.g. if you have family in another country you're still invested in what happens to them.

Do you care whether the unknown people are suffering more? If donating $X does more than donating Y hours of your time, does that concern you?

comment by Elo · 2015-05-31T11:21:54.383Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is your rule about distances actually a base part of your ethics, or is it a heuristic based on you not having much to do with them?

Its more of a heuristic. Any ethic that used a specific measurement of distance in its raw calculation would be odd. There might somewhere be a line where on one side I might care about a person, and on the other I might not. Where someone could stand on the line exactly. That would be mostly silly.

if you have family in another country you're still invested in what happens to them.

most of my family lives within a few suburbs of me. I have a few cousins who have been living in England for a few years; I barely even know what they are doing with their lives any more. (I wouldn't excommunicate someone for being far away, but I wouldn't try as hard as someone living in the same city as me) My grandmother keeps in touch with the cousins far away but I don't think its a requirement for me to do, and I am sure they also don't feel like they have to keep up with my life either.

Do you care whether the unknown people are suffering more? Mostly because of the unknowns - no. Unknown people are suffering by an unknown amount - without seeking out those unknowns I have no reason to care.

If donating $X does more than donating Y hours of your time, does that concern you?

There is also the case of warm fuzzy utilons; where I can know that my intended impact hit the nail on the head; where I might otherwise find it difficult to know if $X made the intended impact. Its kinda like outsourcing making an impact to someone else in letting them use that $ for what they feel is right. I don't necessarily feel like I can trust others with my effectiveness desires.

Does this make sense? I can try to explain it again if you point out what isn't making sense...

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-05-27T09:26:03.542Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted not for agreement*, but for expressing well what seems like a common enough sentiment, in a way that's efficient and useful.

*Agreement, given my current state of mind, would be odd because I, well, identify with effective altruism in ways you don't. I don't disagree with you, though, because I don't disbelieve your stated preferences and values. I don't think less of someone who isn't "on board" with effective altruism, either. Agree/Disagree seems like an error; we just perceive and act on what we value differently.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-05-25T13:03:11.995Z · score: 16 (18 votes) · LW · GW

On my part, it strikes me as the greatest and most important contribution this place has had on my life.

comment by iceman · 2015-05-27T07:12:24.930Z · score: 15 (19 votes) · LW · GW

(Disclaimer: My lifetime contribute to MIRI is in the low six digits.)

It appears to me that there are two LessWrongs.

The first is the LessWrong of decision theory. Most of the content in the Sequences contributed to making me sane, but the most valuable part was the focus on decision theory and considering how different processes performed in the prisoner's dilemma. Understanding decision theory is a precondition to solving the friendly AI problem.

The first LessWrong results in serious insights that should be integrated into one's life. In Program Equilibrium in the Prisoner's Dilemma via Lob's Theorem, the authors take a moment to discuss the issue of "Defecting Against CooperateBot"--if you know that you are playing against CooperateBot, you should defect. I remember when I first read the paper and the concept just clicked. Of course you should defect against CooperateBot. But this was an insight that I had to be told and LessWrong is valuable to me as it has helped internalize game theory. The first year that I took the LessWrong survey, I answered that of course you should cooperate in the one shot non-shared source code prisoner's dilemma. On the latest survey, I instead put the correct answer.

The second LessWrong is the LessWrong of utilitarianism, especially of a Singerian sort, which I find to clash with the first LessWrong. My understanding is that Peter Singer argues that because you would ruin your shoes to jump into a creek to save a drowning child, you should incur an equivalent cost to save the life of a child in the third world.

Now never mind that saving the child might have postive expected value to the jumper. We can restate Singer's moral obligation as a prisoner's dilemma, and then we can apply something like TDT to it and make the FairBot version of Singer: I want to incur a fiscal cost to save a child on the other side of the world iff parents on the other side of the world would incur a fiscal cost to save my child. I believe Singer would deny this statement (and would be more aghast at the PrudentBot version), and would insist that there's a moral obligation regardless of the other theoretical reciprocation.

I notice that I am being asked to be CooperateBot. I don't think CFAR has "Don't be CooperateBot," as a rationality technique, but they should.

Practically, I find that 'altruism' and 'CooperateBot' are synonyms. The question of reciprocality hangs in the background. It must, because Azathoth both generates those who are CooperateBot and those who exploit CooperateBots.

I will also point out that this whole discussion is happening on the website that exists to popularize humanity's greatest collective action problem. Every one of us has a selfish interest in solving the friendly AI problem. And while I am not much of a utilitarian, I would assume that the correct utilitarian charity answer in terms of number of people saved/generated would be MIRI, and that the most straightforward explanation is Hansonian cynacism.

comment by Rob Bensinger (RobbBB) · 2015-05-29T00:17:21.623Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

'Altruism' for me doesn't mean 'I assign infinite value to my own happiness (and freedom, beauty, etc.) and 0 to others', but everyone would be better off (myself included) if I sacrificed my own happiness for others'. So I'll sacrifice my own happiness for others'.' Rather, I assign some value to my own happiness, but a lot more value to others' happiness. I care unconditionally about others' happiness.

Since it's only a Prisoner's Dilemma if I value 'I defect, you cooperate' over 'we both cooperate', for me high-stakes 'defecting' would mean directly indulging in my desire to help others, while 'cooperating' via UDT would mean sacrificing humanity's welfare in some small way in order to keep a non-utilitarian agent from doing even more to reduce humanity's welfare. The structure of the PD has nothing to do with whether the agents are selfish vs. altruistic (as long as you take that into account when initially calculating payoffs).

Thought experiments like Singer's are how I found out that I do in fact terminally value people who are distant from me in space (and time). My behavior isn't perfectly utilitarian, but I'd take a pill to become more so, so my revealed preferences aren't what I'd prefer them to be.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-05-28T03:41:49.588Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know if my praise means anything to you, but you have it. If the MIRI brings about a positive singularity then its members and supporters are likely to receive lots more praise, from a lot more people, for a very long time.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-05-31T16:44:54.496Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My understanding is that Peter Singer argues that because you would ruin your shoes to jump into a creek to save a drowning child, you should incur an equivalent cost to save the life of a child in the third world.

BTW that is no longer possible (if it ever even was) unless you're wearing pretty expensive shoes indeed.

comment by tut · 2015-06-01T12:06:51.702Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

On the other hand, a pair of dress shoes and a suit might still be more expensive, and might get ruined when you save somebody from a pool of mud.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-05-31T16:03:34.326Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Defect against cooperate bot" makes sense if the Prisoner's Dilemma game is the only thing that's going on. However, in the real world, cooperatebot might have friends who will take revenge, or CB might be doing useful work.

From memory: a person who refused to defect in a PD because they didn't want to be that sort of person.

Defecting against CB is equivalent to "Never give a sucker an even break", and it might lead to a world where people spend a lot more resources than otherwise necessary on defending themselves.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-05-25T14:07:04.592Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Seeing as, in terms of absolute as well as disposable income, I'm probably closer to being a recipient of donations rather than a giver of them, effective altruism is among those topics that make me feel just a little extra alienated from LessWrong. It's something I know I couldn't participate in, for at least 5 to 7 more years, even if I were so inclined (I expect to live in the next few years on a yearly income between $5000 and $7000, if things go well). Every single penny I get my hands on goes, and will continue to go, strictly towards my own benefit, and in all honesty I couldn't afford anything else. Maybe one day when I'll stop always feeling a few thousand $$ short of a lifestyle I find agreeable, I may reconsider. But for now, all this EA talk does for me is reinforce the impression of LW as a club for rich people in which I feel maybe a bit awkward and not belonging. If you ain't got no money, take yo' broke ass home!

Anyway, the manner in which my own existence relates to goals such as EA is only half the story, probably the more morally dubious half. Disconnected from my personal circumstances, the Effective Altruism movement seems one big mix of good and not-so-good motives and consequences. On the one hand, the fact that there are people dedicated to donating large fractions of their income is a laudable thing in itself. On the other hand...

  • I don't believe for one second that effective altruism would have been nearly as big of a phenomenon on LessWrong, if the owners of LessWrong hadn't been living off people's donations. MIRI is a charity that wants money. Giving to charity is probably the biggest moral credential on LW. Coincidence? I think not.

  • Ensuring the flow of money in a particular direction may not be the very best effort one can put into making the world a better place. Sure, it's something, and at least in the short term a very vital something, but more than anything else it seems to be a way to patch up, or prop up, a part of the system that was shaky to begin with. The long-term end goal should be to make people less reliant on charity money. Sometimes there is a shortage of knowledge, or of power, or of good incentives, rather than of money. "Throwing money at a cause" is just one way to help -- although I suppose effective altruist organizations already incorporate the knowledge of this problem in their concept of "room for more funding".

  • We already have governments that take away a large portion of our incomes anyway, that have systems in place for allocating funds and efforts, and that purport to promote the same kinds of causes as charities, yet often function inefficiently and even harmfully. However, they're a lot more reliable in terms of actually ensuring the collection of "enough" funds. To pay taxes and to give to charity (yes, I'm aware that charitable giving unlocks tax deductions) is to contribute to two systems that are doing the same job, the second being there mostly because the first isn't doing its job as it should. In this way, and possibly assuming that EA would be a larger movement in the future than it is now, charity might work to mask government inefficiencies and damage or to clean up after them.

  • In the context of earning to give, participating in a particularly noxious industry as a way of earning your livelihood, and using part of that money to contribute to altruist causes, is something that looks to me like a tax on the well-being you thus cause into the world. I'm not sure that tax is always smaller than 100%. And it's more difficult to quantify the negative externalities from your job than it is to quantify the positive effects of your donations, because the first are more causally distant.

To take the discussion back to the meta level, I'm but one user with not so much karma and probably a non-central example of a LessWronger, so I don't demand that anyone accommodates me and my preferences not to discuss EA. However, knowing that other users basically come from an effective altruism mindset makes discussion with them somewhat difficult, since we don't have the same assumptions about the relationship between money and welfare. The most annoying of all is the very rare and very occasional display of charitable snobbery, or a commitment not to aid first world people who are not effective altruists, or who don't donate enough. (I've seen that, but Google seems to fail me at this moment.) It seems easier and more pleasant to discuss ethical matters with people who don't come from an EA worldview, and personally I'd like to see more of a plurality of approaches on the matter on LW.

tl;dr It's a rich people thing and therefore alien to me; as for objective merits, I've got mixed positive and negative feelings about it. But in the end, to each their own.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-05-25T15:34:45.536Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I think that the image of EA on LW has been excessively donation-focused, but I'd like to point out that things like earning to give are only one part of EA.

EA is about having the biggest positive impact that you can have on the world, given your circumstances and personality. If your circumstances mean that you can't donate, or disagree with donations being the best way to do good, that still leaves options like e.g. working directly for some organization (be it a non-profit or for-profit) having a positive impact on the world. Some time back I wrote the following:

Effective altruism says that, if you focus on the right career, you can have an even bigger impact! And the careers don't even need to be exotic, demanding ones that only a few select ones can do (even if some of them are). Some of the top potential careers that 80,000 hours has identified so far include thing as diverse as being an academic, civil servant, journalist, marketer, politician, or software engineer, among others. Not only that, they also emphasize finding your fit. To have a big impact on the world, you don't need to shoehorn yourself into a role that doesn't suit you and that you hate - in fact you're explicitly encouraged to find an high-impact career that fits you personally.

Analytic? Maybe consider research, in one form or another. Want to mostly support the cause from the side, not thinking about things too much? Let the existing charity evaluation organizations guide who you donate to and don't worry about the rest. Or help out other effective altruists. People person? Plenty of ways you could have an impact. There's always something you can do - and still be effective. It's not about needing to be superhuman, it's about doing the best that you can, given your personality, talents and interests.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-05-26T08:48:40.895Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I know this may come across as sociopathically cold and calculating, but given that post-singularity civilisation could be at least thirty orders of magnitude larger than current civilisation, I don't really think short term EA makes sense. I'm surprised that the EA and existential risk efforts seem to be correlated, since logically it seems to me that they should be anti-correlated.

And if the response is that future civilisation is 'far' in the overcoming bias sense, well, so are starving children in Africa.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-05-27T09:44:30.621Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It doesn't come across as sociopathically cold and calculating to me. It may come across like that to others. Some people who have never encountered effective altruism or Less Wrong might think you sociopathic, but most people don't reflective enough to realize if they care about the overwhelming magnitude of future civilizations, or starving children far away. So, the consequences of what most others signal and believe of their own values don't lead to consequences different than yours. The capacity to care about so many far away people seems difficult to maintain all the time, mostly because if you carried so much empathy in the forefront of your mind all the time it'd be overwhelming. Saying so about real people in particular might seem sociopathic no matter who says it.

Anyway, it at first confused me why existential risk reduction is correlated with effective altruism. Effective altruism is a common banner which promotes the values common enough to existential risk reduction and Less Wrong, such as reflective thinking, evidence-based evaluation, and far preferences for helping others through time and space. I think the x-risk reduction community makes a choice to go with effective altruism because they get a strong enough position to attract more capital: financial capital, human capital, relevant expertise, etc.

While x-risk may only get a small slice of the pie that is effective altruism, as effective altruism grows, so does the absolute size of the added support x-risk reduction receives. Also it's the common impression effective altruists are talented and reflective folk to begin with, so if one can cross-convert their concerns from poverty reduction and global health to existential risk reduction, it helps out. Further, cause areas which would otherwise be at odds with each other accept each other within effective altruism because they all gain from cooperation with each other. For example, such efforts are coordinated by the Centre for Effective Altruism, which leads to everyone under the 'EA' banner receiving more attention.

Meanwhile, the existential risk reduction community doesn't look worse by associating with effective altruism, even if it will always be a smaller part of it than poverty reduction. It's not like associating with effective altruism costs the cause of x-risk reduction so much it would be smaller or weaker movement. Aside from the coverage of the Future Humanity Institute's publications like Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom (and its consequences, like Elon Musk's support), effective altruism might be boosting the profile of x-risk more than anything else.

The attitude you express towards short-term effective altruism given the magnitude and importance of post-Singularity civilization is one I've seen expressed by people, some from Less Wrong, within or adjacent to the effective altruist community. I think these disagreements and sentiments don't come out much from central or mainstream coverage of effective altruism because it would look bad and be confusing to the public.

comment by Calien · 2015-05-31T09:48:32.834Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Proponents of both have the same attitude of "this is a thing that people ocassionally give lip service to, that we're going to follow to a more logical conclusion and actually act on".

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-05-27T16:31:12.750Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This just strikes me as another pascal's mugging.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-05-27T18:04:21.231Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Disagree because the probability of this happening is significant. I would rate as >80% conditional on us not destroying ourselves.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-05-27T19:10:36.043Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say well over 80%. The probability of the whole of humanity deciding to stop technological development, and actually successfully co-coordinating this is minimal. Even if the human mind cannot be run on a classical computer, we would still tile the universe with quantum computronium.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T19:15:07.943Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You people sound awfully sure about far-off future. How well, do you think, an educated Egyptian from, say, 2000 BC would have fared at predicting the future path of the society?

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-05-27T19:26:49.262Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Was there any noticeable technological progress back in 2000 BC?

Looking at science fiction from the 19th century, aerial warfare, armoured land warfare, space exploration were all predicted. The details were all wrong, and I doubt we can predict the details of the future with any great accuracy. But the general theme of humanity expanding across the universe seems a safe extrapolation, even if I don't know whether the starships will be beam riders or ramscoops or wormhole navigators or Alcubierre drive or some other technology that has not yet been conceived.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-05-29T08:36:01.349Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Was there any noticeable technological progress back in 2000 BC?

Shitloads. Empires rose and fell as they obsoleted each other's military technologies, architecture evolved tremendously, crop plants diversified and became more nutritious, extractive farming techniques gave way to those that preserved the fertility of the soil rather than stripmining it, new naval technology was partially responsible for the late bronze age collapse... (yes I'm aware these gradiate towards 1000 BC)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T19:30:59.597Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Was there any noticeable technological progress back in 2000 BC?

What makes you think that in 4000 years people will think there was noticeable technological progress in the XXI century?

But the general theme of humanity expanding across the universe seems a safe extrapolation

Actually, no, if the limit of the speed of light holds, either there won't be much expansion or the result of the expansion won't be very human.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-05-27T19:55:15.432Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Fairly well for the next 3000 years since not a lot changed.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T20:29:17.608Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And yet I feel you don't want to follow that example of success :-P

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-02T03:53:56.726Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well for starters his decedents would no longer be ruled by someone (purporting to be) a living incarnation of the sun god. Something he would no doubt consider extremely shocking.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-06-02T13:26:32.352Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So we have gone from worshiping the sun god to worshiping the son of god.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-03T03:09:20.312Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Nice pun. Now do you have a serious response?

comment by James_Miller · 2015-06-03T03:54:43.412Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The life of a typical Egyptian didn't much change from 2000 BC to 1000 AD. And for most of this time the leaders claimed to have a strong connection or endorsement from the divine. An educated Egyptian living in 2000 BC would be aware of the diversity of religion in the world and would probably expect that over the next 3000 years religious practices would change in form in his country.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-05-29T08:36:44.610Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Are you joking?

comment by James_Miller · 2015-05-29T16:19:17.167Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No, the life of the average human didn't much change from 2000 BC to 1000 AD.

Jim

comment by James_Miller · 2015-05-27T19:58:30.582Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If not for the Fermi paradox, I would agree.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-05-27T20:27:15.387Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Good point! I would have thought the great filter probably lies in our past, most likely with the origin of life or perhaps multicellular life, but the Fermi paradox is still information against space colonisation.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-05-29T08:38:44.333Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's also unfortunately a distinctly uninformative piece of evidence about anything but space colonization and exponential expansion. All it tells us is that nothing self-replicates across the galaxy to a scale we could see in sheer infrared emissions or truly ridiculous levels of active attempts to be visible. There are so many orders of magnitude and divergent possibilities of things that could exist that we simply wouldn't know about right now given the observations we have made.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-25T12:52:04.009Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

My brain filters it out automatically. Altruism is not even on my mind AT ALL, until I sorted out my own problems and feel the life of me and my family is reasonably secure, happy, safe, and going up and up. I don't feel I have any surplus for altruism.

I guess in practice I do altruistic things all the time. People ask me for help, I don't say no. I just don't seek out opportunities to.

comment by drethelin · 2015-05-26T04:54:31.801Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

My biggest problem with EA is the excessive focus on a specific metric with no consideration of higher order plans or effects. The epitome of naive utilitarianism.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-05-27T10:00:35.528Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

On one hand, I'm not sure that's all of effective altruism. Those concerned about existential risk reduction, such as the MIRI, consider themselves part of effective altruism, and haven't always been about quantifying the value of ensuring a flourishing future civilization of trillions of human-like descendants in terms of quality-adjusted life years (henceforth referred to as QALYs). On the other hand, at the 2014 Effective Altruism Summit (I attended, and it's just a big EA conference), Eliezer Yudkowsky presented the potential value of the MIRI's work, given their work would prevent a counter-factual extinction of humanity and Earth-originating intelligence, in terms of QALYs. It was some extravagantly big number expressed in scientific notation, calculated as the expected years of happy life for so many trillions of future people. This is just my impression, but I think Mr. Yudkowsky and the MIRI did this to accommodate the rest of the community's knee-jerk demand for specific metrics.

I've also met several folk hailing from Less Wrong and its cluster in person-space with loftier visions of improving the fare of humanity in the nearer-term future, than just handing out mosquito nets or deworming children near the equator, who are lukewarm towards or supportive of effective altruism as a community. They seem to be dismissive of naive utilitarianism in effective altruism, too. I myself take issue with bringing too much utilitarianism injected into effective altruism. I think as effective altruism as a vehicle which took inspiration from utilitarianism, but would mostly serve as a motivator and coordinating network for pragmatic action among all sorts of people, rather than so much theory of ethics which can and should be picked apart. I admit we in effective altruism don't tackle this issue well. This could be because the opinion that utilitarianism is overriding what could be the dynamic rationality of effective altruism is a minority one. I'm not confident I and like-minded others can change that for the better.

comment by Calien · 2015-05-31T09:56:12.201Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Evan - I am also involved in effective altruism, and am not a utilitarian. I am a consequentialist and often agree with the utilitarians in mundane situations, though.

drethelin - What would be an example of a better alternative?

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-05-27T16:33:32.412Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I dont think anyone really CAN reliably consider all but the crudest higher order effects like population size...

comment by James_Miller · 2015-05-25T00:26:28.730Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I propose that some major academic organization such as the American Economic Association randomly and secretly choose a few members and request that they attempt to get fraudulent work accepted into the highest ranked journals they can. They reveal the fraud as soon as an article is accepted. This procedure would give us some idea how of easy it is to engage in fraud, and give journals additional incentives to search for it. For some academic disciplines the incentives to engage in fraud seem similar to that with illegal performance enhancing drugs and professional sports, and I wonder if the outcomes are similar.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-05-25T03:05:23.208Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Every so often someone proposes this (and sometimes someone who thinks they are clever actually carries it out) and it's always a terrible idea. The purpose of peer review is not to uncover fraud. It's not even to make sure what's in the paper is correct. The purpose of peer review is just to make sure what's in the paper is plausible and sane, and worth being presented to a wider audience. The purpose is to weed out obvious low-quality material such as perpetual motion machines or people who are duplicating other's work as their own. Could you get fraudulent papers accepted in a journal? Of course. A scientist sufficiently knowledgeable of their field could definitely fool almost any arbitrarily rigorous peer review procedure. Does fraud exist in the scientific world? Of course it does. Peer review is just one of the many mechanisms that serve to uncover it. Real review of one's work begins after peer review is over and the work is examined by the scientific community at large.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-05-25T04:08:10.918Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

The purpose of peer review is not to uncover fraud.

And this is OK if the fraud rate is low, and unacceptable if it's high.

Real review of one's work begins after peer review is over and the work is examined by the scientific community at large.

I doubt this happens to more than a tiny number of papers, although probably the more important the result the more likely it will get reviewed.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-05-25T09:16:00.498Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The purpose of peer review is not to uncover fraud.

And this is OK if the fraud rate is low, and unacceptable if it's high.

If a paper shows all its working, a competent reviewer can judge whether the work as reported is good. How will they detect that the report is a fabrication? All the reviewer sees is the story the author is telling. The reviewer may notice inconsistencies, such as repeated use of the same figures, or data with an implausible distribution, but they will generally have no way to compare the story with the actual facts of what happened in the lab.

Detecting and preventing fraud is a good thing, but I don't think peer review is a place where much of it can happen.

comment by estimator · 2015-05-26T23:17:56.199Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

At least in math, a paper can actually be verified during peer review.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-05-29T06:34:37.766Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Easier said than done. Just because you didn't notice an error in a two hundred page proof doesn't mean there isn't one.

comment by Salemicus · 2015-05-26T15:11:23.336Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The purpose of peer review is just to make sure what's in the paper is plausible and sane, and worth being presented to a wider audience. The purpose is to weed out obvious low-quality material such as perpetual motion machines or people who are duplicating other's work as their own.

Maybe, but this isn't how actual peer review operates. It rejects far more than implausible/insane/unworthy ideas.

Real review of one's work begins after peer review is over and the work is examined by the scientific community at large.

I agree with this, if you'll concede that by your measure, the vast majority of scientific output never undergoes real review. Which is why most published results are false, and science is a cesspool.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-05-26T22:41:15.939Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It rejects far more than implausible/insane/unworthy ideas.

What else does it reject?

Which is why most published results are false, and science is a cesspool.

I think it's important to look at this on a per-discipline basis. Some disciplines have much higher standards of clarity, precision, and repeatability than others. That article you linked looks at statistical studies with a special focus on medical research, but then seems to make the critical error of generalizing this to all scientific research. Do the findings apply to physics? Math? Computer science?

comment by gwern · 2015-05-27T00:17:29.013Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Do the findings apply to physics? Math? Computer science?

Different fields use different methods. The basic point Ioannidis makes applies to any field which uses null-hypothesis significance-testing statistics for interpreting sampled data.

  • Math uses formal proofs, so whatever math error rates are (non-zero and meaningful, but not sure how big), they are independent of NHST's problems.
  • Ecology, medicine, biology, psychology, economics - heavy NHST users, critique definitely applies.

    • Experimental physics seems to use a lot of NHST too but they obey the critique by increasing power substantially: reducing measurement error and gathering enormous masses of data, more than is feasible in the other fields, so many n they can use the famed six-sigma alpha, which translates to very high PPV. They're also helped by the commitment to falsifiable narrow predictions of things like intervals rather than directions (hypothesis testing works much better if you can predict the Higgs's mass lies within a narrow range rather than having a null hypothesis of mass equals zero and an alternative of mass is non-zero; if you're interested, see Paul Meehl's methodological papers on why this is important).
  • Computer science is tricky:

    • the mathy parts are math and are safe (but not necessarily important or worth doing),
    • but other areas like systems work or machine learning may use NHST techniques or may not; there seem to be a lot of replicability problems in optimization work due to variation from machine to machine, and in machine learning I've heard many insinuations that papers get published by p-hacking hyperparameters until finally the new algorithm is p<0.05 better than the comparison algorithm or that the new tweak is just overfitting on a standard dataset, and some subfields are visibly rotten (HCI especially; you only have to look at how routine it is for HCI papers to claim an improvement based on NHST techniques applied to n=10 or something to know that those ain't gonna replicate)... but aside from a few critical papers like "Producing Wrong Data Without Doing Anything Obviously Wrong!" I don't know of any general argument that most CS research is wrong.

It would be interesting to weight fields by publication count to see if Ioannidis's title, interpreted literally, is still right. When one criticizes 'ecology, medicine, biology, psychology, economics', one is criticizing what must be at least hundreds of thousands of papers every year - those are big fields. I don't know that math, physics, theoretical CS etc publish enough papers to offset that.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-05-27T01:57:42.090Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree 100%.

comment by Salemicus · 2015-05-27T10:37:28.435Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

[Peer review] rejects far more than implausible/insane/unworthy ideas.

What else does it reject?

I see papers get rejected all the time for methodological disagreements and failure to cite papers the referee thinks important. More broadly, ideas that are perfectly plausible but contrary to current thinking in a field have a much higher threshold to publication than ideas consonant with current thinking.

But more generally, peer review is normally explicitly aimed at rejecting work judged to be non-novel or non-substantial. That boring replication attempts can't get published should therefore be seen as a feature not a bug. The ability of academics to publish novel, counter-intuitive and false results should therefore also be seen as a feature not a bug.

I think it's important to look at this on a per-discipline basis.

Oh, I'm sure some disciplines are worse than others. But as you seem to be tacitly conceding, "the vast majority of scientific output never undergoes real review," and that's true in all disciplines.

comment by Elo · 2015-05-25T10:18:45.382Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I would be concerned that including fraud-detection processes would also bring in biases of "I don't like this work and therefore we shouldn't publish it". I also agree with the points of the purpose of peer review is to check for sanity of method and soundness of scientific process; not fraud.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-25T00:30:43.551Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have any doubt that it's very easy to get fraudulent work accepted?

comment by James_Miller · 2015-05-25T00:32:55.244Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I do have uncertainty over how much of a boost you can get by engaging in fraud.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-25T12:30:42.328Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure whether paper acceptance in journals is the only factor that matters here. People who engage in fraud have to hide it from their colleagues and might lose reputation when their work isn't replicated.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2015-05-26T15:20:46.760Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

(Akrasia, because that's all I ever talk about):

I do not know to whose attention I should bring this so as to combat the problem, so I'm asking here:

http://caejones.livejournal.com/18117.html

I have a stupidly difficult time talking to people, too, especially my parents (who pretty much have to manage all the details, because of course they do). This does not help.

Yes, I've read all the Akrasia articles on Lesswrong that I can find. Mostly, I'm hoping there's someone better equipped to fix this than me or the internet, and that someone can help me find that entity and extract a solution from them.

(But if that someone happens to post the solution here, first, that'd be nice. Although turning it into an arduous quest through the temple of doom seems like it could only help, assuming no crippling injuries along the way.)

comment by eeuuah · 2015-06-01T01:10:08.590Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Try doing whatever it is you need to do (not sure from your posting) physically with other people doing the same thing. I've found that this is both the lowest effort and most effective way for me to overcome akrasia. If you feel like you can't motivate yourself, put yourself somewhere where your goals are downhill from you and let gravity carry you.

Not sure what your exact goals are, but feel free to ask if you want more help.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2015-06-01T11:25:37.925Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Try doing whatever it is you need to do (not sure from your posting) physically with other people doing the same thing.

I'm blind and live in Northeast Arkansas and have no friends and the only part of this that seems like it should be easy is getting over the anxiety that prevents me from walking to the bus stop (I still haven't done this. I've spoken to DSB about it but have no idea if anything will come of this). And my social skills are only technically extant.

I did try something last year where I talked to someone on Skype between us both trying pomodoros and such. I only lasted about a week.

comment by eeuuah · 2015-06-02T03:24:52.048Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For what it's worth, when I first started trying to improve my social skills, I spent a fair amount of time chatting with strangers at bus stops. I guess the less wrong study hall is probably not as useful for pomodoros if you can't see (since I don't think people usually actually talk much).

Speaking of, I should probably try pomodoros again :) I've also failed to adopt them usefully the last couple times

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-05-31T16:19:44.532Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Have you looked at whether there are times when your capacity for action and/or enjoyment is better? When it's worse? This might give you some hypotheses to test to get some improvement.

I'll tentatively recommend a diet that's low in simple carbs (refined sugars and refined grains)-- too much sugar knocks me out in a way that looks like an emotional problem, when what's actually going on is that I'm being poisoned.

If you're very fond of simple carbs (it seems to me that the taste of sugar cuts through depression more than a lot of other sensations), start by adding more high protein, high fat, and high fiber foods rather than trying to cut back on the simple carbs directly. I may be assuming that you have more flexibility about what food is available than you're actually got, though.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2015-06-01T11:31:33.870Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Have you looked at whether there are times when your capacity for action and/or enjoyment is better? When it's worse? This might give you some hypotheses to test to get some improvement.

I tried to do a somewhat quantified analysis of pairs of years, starting from 2002 (anything before 2002 is distorted by lots of things that I can't change without technology and the rest of the world obliging). I found that the best phases seemed to correlate most strongly with something resembling enforced pomodoros, and something resembling access to people. Trying to artificially recreate these conditions is much harder than it sounds, and I have a sinking suspicion that there are some long-term effects of all this that would make it an uphill battle even then.

\

Agreed and attempted. Too much sugar and carbs in a short span of time has a horrible effect; smaller amounts of sugar over a longer period seem to help, and there is a mild but noticeable improvement from other types of food, but I've never managed to sort out anything better than "find a way to get away from the concentrated sugars ASAP".

comment by James_Miller · 2015-05-27T04:24:36.911Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There are a lot more things you can try. You could look for supplements that might help improve your mood. Examine.com seems like a good resource. Also, consider trying Bulletproof Coffee. A low cost approach might be saying an affirmation to yourself several times as day such as "I will be happy and productive!" You could also do neurofeedback, buy an inversion table, or go paleo. (I'm not a medical doctor.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-31T16:27:44.402Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What happened when you attempted to do pomodoros?

I personally switched to pomodoros by setting low goals at the beginning. The goal was simple to complete one pomodoro per day. Successful completion then allowed me to raise the number.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2015-06-01T11:30:21.809Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What happened when you attempted to do pomodoros?

I've tried this more than once. Each time shows some improvement (each time, it's less than the previous) for maybe a week or so at most, followed by horrible crashing.

comment by Username · 2015-05-27T05:16:41.685Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I found that extremely relatable. In fact, you might as well have been describing me, except my financial situation is a bit worse and my vision is a bit better. A solution sure would be nice.

comment by ZacHirschman · 2015-05-25T07:07:40.536Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

A few thoughts on Mark_Friedenbach's recent departure:

I thought it could be unpacked into two main points. (1) is that Mark is leaving the community. To Mark, or anyone who makes this decision, I think the rational response is, "good luck and best wishes." We are here for reasons, and when those reasons wane, I wouldn't begrudge anyone looking elsewhere or doing other things.

(2) is that the community is in need of growth. My interpretation of this is as follows: the Sequences are not updated, and yet they are still referenced as source material. I wouldn't mind reading if someone took a crack at a Sequences 2.0, or something completely different. Perhaps something with a more empirical/scientific focus (as opposed to foundational/philosophical), as Mark recommended.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-05-25T22:44:40.927Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I wouldn't mind reading if someone took a crack at a Sequences 2.0, or something completely different.

One way of looking at the failure mode of Scientology is that they lead with genuinely useful material, which hooks people and establishes them as a credible source of wisdom. They then have a progressive structure that convinces you new epiphanies are just around the corner, you just need to put in a little more effort / time / cash--but there is no epiphany waiting that will be as useful as the original epiphanies.

This happens lots of places. I recall reading about some Alexander Technique expert, who continued doing lessons in the hopes of recapturing the first moment when he experienced lightness in his body. He never could, because the thing that was shocking about the first time was the surprise, not the lightness, and no matter how light he got, he could not become as surprised by it.

The healthy approach is to have a purpose, to pursue a well of knowledge for as long as doing so enhances that purpose, and then to abandon that well of knowledge as soon as it no longer enhances that purpose.

But here we run into the issue that, while rationality may be the common interest of many causes, the "something new" is unlikely to be a specifically rationality thing. It's more likely to be something that some people find interesting and some people find boring, and so the people split into different taskforces to solve different problems. (That is, the Craft and the Community sequence really does anticipate lots of these issues.)

comment by ZacHirschman · 2015-05-26T13:10:00.605Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't mean to advocate an epiphany-driven model of discovery.

To use your Scientology example and terminology, what I am advocating is not that we find the "next big thing," but that we pursue refinement of the original, "genuinely useful material." Of course, it is much easier to advocate this than to put the work in, but that's why I'm using the open thread.

There are some legitimate issues with some of the Sequences (both resolved and unresolved). The comments represent a very nice start, but there may be some serious philosophical work to be done. There is a well of knowledge about pursuing wells of knowledge, and I would find it purposeful to refine the effective pursuit of knowledge.

comment by Viliam · 2015-05-29T13:40:53.215Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

while rationality may be the common interest of many causes, the "something new" is unlikely to be a specifically rationality thing. It's more likely to be something that some people find interesting and some people find boring, and so the people split into different taskforces to solve different problems.

The taskforces may be really necessary, and it may be really difficult to admit in near mode.

On some level, it feels wrong to try fragmenting the LW community. I mean, I am so happy that I have found such wonderful people... and now should my next step be to choose a topic that doesn't interest most of them, and focus on that? So that some subgroup will be interested in that, and most will not?

Yes, exactly this. Because trying to make everyone interested means staying on the level of generalities, ignoring the virtue of narrowness. You conduct experiments with specific data, and only generalize later. And yet, focusing on the specific feels like deviating from the topic of this website, which is about rationality in general.

Historically, even Eliezer didn't make everyone on Overcoming Bias happy. There were people who didn't care about quantum physics. Actually, even today some people feel like the Sequences would be better without the quantum physics parts; like they ruin the otherwise good advice on rationality. Quantum physics is just a narrow specific topic; why couldn't Eliezer just leave it out? Well, Eliezer had his reasons, but there is a meta-reason that if you start leaving out specific things for the reason that they are not central to the issue of rationality, and that some people may not be interested in them, then what remains? General pro-"rationality" applause lights? Topics too mathematical to have any obvious connection with everyday life?

On the other hand, it may be a pattern that Eliezer split from Overcoming Bias to follow his own topics; and now Scott is similarly trying to apply rationality to politics on SSC... something like it's easier to focus fully on your mission, when you have your own playground, so you really don't have to care about what other people think about your approach. Like, if you have something to protect, it makes sense to bring it on your own turf, where you can protect it better. Maybe it is necessary that the next big "lesswrongish" thing must happen outside of LW. We already have links to rationality blogs here. Maybe we should embrace that.

However, it seems like a waste of resources if everyone is trying to set up and maintain their own blog, and especially the debating software. Fragmentation of the community: good or bad? The readers of LW are not exactly the same as the readers of SSC. For those who are different, it is better to have the sites separated (so e.g. Scott's readers don't have to worry about LW karma assassination). For those who are the same, it would be more convenient to have the same user interface for everything; the same inbox for replies both on LW and on SSC.

How could we better encourage the creation of the taskforces? Do we even have them, explicitly? (I imagine something like "special interest groups" in Mensa: a group of people with a specific goal, that has a name and explicit membership.) Maybe it is psychologically necessary to make the taskforce function better. (The only examples of LW groups that have a name I could give here would be effective altruists and neoreactionaries, and I already feel bad about the latter example: I think it goes against the usual LW approach to politics.)

Maybe LW should explicitly rebrand as a platform for multiple taskforces. That does not mean that everyone here would have to choose one; it just means that the taskforces would be the officially recognized way of how LW community works. If you want to read and talk, welcome! But if you want to do something important, join an existing taskforce or create a new one!

Also, this is how we could measure the effectivity of multiple rationalist groups. We don't all compete in the area of general rationality; how does one even measure that? But we could have multiple taskforves, and some of them would give impressive results, and others would not. Even if different areas are not directly comparable, there would be at least a difference between getting things done and merely talking about getting things done.

To a degree this could be done even without changing software. We could announce the creation of the taskforces in regular discussion, and perhaps have a convention that when an article is published officially in the name of a taskforce, it will use the name of the taskforce in the title (whether it is an article on LW or a link to an article on a different website). Then, the individual taskforces could publish their plans, results, lessons learned, etc.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-05-29T14:24:38.977Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

However, it seems like a waste of resources if everyone is trying to set up and maintain their own blog, and especially the debating software.

So, the thing that I think most exciting here would be some sort of LW comment API / easy WordPress plugin / whatever, so that one can trivially add LW commenting to their blog, and people can have one shared account and comment response inbox across all rationalist blogs.

How could we better encourage the creation of the taskforces? Do we even have them, explicitly?

So, I think one component of it being a "taskforce" instead of just a blog is that actual work is getting done. Yes, there's stuff like IAFF that's primarily discussion--because that discussion is leading to papers and constitutes "actual work." But CFAR seems like it falls into the 'task force' category--it has a mission, but also employees, a budget, and so on.

And I think it makes sense to treat LW as a "forum," in the ancient Roman sense. You'll talk about your business in the marketplace and keep abreast of what's going on elsewhere, but it's not a good place to try to get your work done--that's what your own building is for.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-29T14:29:08.464Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe LW should explicitly rebrand as a platform for multiple taskforces.

It seems to me like if you want to start a task force, start a task force. No rebranding needed.

comment by Viliam · 2015-05-29T21:13:51.697Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Unless "officially" encouraged by LW, people may be doing it away from LW, so it may not be visibly displayed here.

Somewhat related: "Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate":

people were donating. We started getting donations right away, via Paypal. We even got congratulatory notes saying how the appeal had finally gotten them to start moving. (...) But none of those donors posted their agreement to the mailing list. Not one. So far as any of those donors knew, they were alone. And when they tuned in the next day, they discovered not thanks, but arguments for why they shouldn't have donated. The criticisms, the justifications for not donating—only those were displayed proudly in the open.

Maybe we are doing a similar thing here, only instead of "donating / not donating", the choice is "doing / not doing". People are doing stuff -- in private. (At least sometimes we have a bragging thread. For individuals.) Publicly -- we complain that LessWrong is dying, or that LessWrong is all procrastination and no action. And then we upvote the complaints for the courage, or perhaps hoping that it will make someone else do something.

I guess what I would like to see here is something like the bragging threads... but for groups of rationalists. Perhaps with posts instead of comments, although comments are still better than nothing. Do something awesome; post the results and what you learned. Doesn't have to be rationality in general, or AI, or quantum physics; it could be anything you care about, as long as you are willing to use your reason while doing it. It could be even learning together, or solving Project Euler together. Something you decide to do, and kinda precommit to publish your achievements and/or failures.

(Technically, organizing local meetups is also a project LessWrongers do in groups, so at least this kind of taskforces already provably exists.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-05-31T16:11:27.564Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me like if you want to start a task force, start a task force. No rebranding needed.

This strikes me as close to right. LW might be a good place, though not the only good place, to announce starting a task force. If you attract people who are willing and able to do the work, then LW might or might not turn out to be a good place for primary discussion of what the task force is doing.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-26T17:25:40.457Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

They then have a progressive structure that convinces you new epiphanies are just around the corner, you just need to put in a little more effort / time / cash--but there is no epiphany waiting that will be as useful as the original epiphanies.

I think "epiphany" isn't a good way to think about scientology. The advantages you get by not being emotionally reactive to triggers, aren't about "epiphanies".

This happens lots of places. I recall reading about some Alexander Technique expert, who continued doing lessons in the hopes of recapturing the first moment when he experienced lightness in his body. He never could, because the thing that was shocking about the first time was the surprise, not the lightness, and no matter how light he got, he could not become surprised by it.

Could you source that story? To me that sound like someone not practicing "beginners mind" and as a result getting things wrong.

But here we run into the issue that, while rationality may be the common interest of many causes, the "something new" is unlikely to be a specifically rationality thing.

Eliezer mostly wrote about his own thoughts on rationality and at the beginning of LW, I think there reason to assume that it covers everything meaningful there to say about rationality.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-05-26T18:34:48.059Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Could you source that story? To me that sound like someone not practicing "beginners mind" and as a result getting things wrong.

If I recall correctly (60%?), it was Frank Pierce Jones. I'll have to do some digging to find the initial quote, and I remember reading him as healthily noticing that desire and acknowledging that it was impossible, rather than misspending his life in pursuit of it.

(I've also stuck an "as" in the quoted text to make it a little clearer what claim I'm making.)

Eliezer mostly wrote about his own thoughts on rationality and at the beginning of LW, I think there reason to assume that it covers everything meaningful there to say about rationality.

I agree there are more ways out there than just Eliezer's way, and people should be encouraged to discover theirs and post about it here. My hope was more to convey that some fruits can only be picked once.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-25T12:54:30.602Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

is that the community is in need of growth. My interpretation of this is as follows: the Sequences are not updated, and yet they are still referenced as source material.

I don't see any connection between growth and updating unless significant cognitive science breakthroughs were made since. But I think growth would depend on presenting it in a popular, digestible format. Not HPMOR, not one book and not a book for SF/F nerds anyway... but more going to say changemyview.reddit.com and engaging in debates and when people make cognitive mistakes linking to the article here. For example. Or people who have commit privileges to popular newspapers could write articles like "10 things LW taught me".

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-25T13:58:15.890Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Or people who have commit privileges to popular newspapers could write articles like "10 things LW taught me".

That draws the wrong people.

When doing Quantified Self community building we found in in Germany that while we were featured plenty in mainstream media, the interesting people who came to our meetups hadn't heard of us over that channel. We learned that it doesn't make sense to hold QS meetups in German in Berlin, because everybody who's interesting speaks English but not everybody who's interesting speaks German.

You don't want the people who take popular newspapers seriously.

comment by ZacHirschman · 2015-05-25T13:50:01.827Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I see that I used the word "growth" capriciously. I don't necessarily mean greater numbers, I mean the opposite of stagnation. Of course a call for action is easier and less effective than acting, but that's why we have open threads.

comment by Fivehundred · 2015-05-25T09:44:57.303Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I recently read this essay and had a panic attack. I assume that this is not the mainstream of transhumanist thought, so if a rebuttal exists it would save me a lot of time and grief.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-05-25T15:50:29.755Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, huh, umm. I certainly didn't want to cause anyone panic attacks by writing that, though in retrospect I should have realized that it's a bit of an information hazard.

I'm sorry.

If it's any comfort, I feel that my arguments in that article are pretty plausible, but that predicting the future is such a difficult thing filled with unknown unknowns that the vast majority of "pretty plausible" predictions are going to be wrong.

comment by Fivehundred · 2015-05-25T19:01:27.549Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That's a bit of an oxymoron, but thanks for saying it. I'm calmer than I was in the morning and your argument seems less convincing also. I think the 'singleton' is the natural course of intelligent evolution, and fits the whole idea of AI.

comment by MrMind · 2015-05-26T07:21:22.384Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

your argument seems less convincing also.

What a weird thing!

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-05-26T11:30:18.036Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

your argument seems less convincing also.

What a weird thing!

The convincingness of an idea can depend very much on one's mood. This is obvious in cases of clinical depression, but I think it is present in ordinary mental functioning as well. We tend to judge convincingness by narrative coherence rather than logic and evidence. The coherence is not just the coherence internal to the story, but its coherence with one's own feelings and experiences. As the latter change, so does the convincingness of the story.

Hypothesis: Ideas that retain their convincingness in the long term do so not by being especially rigorously argued or supported by solid evidence, but by constituting a large enough, coherent enough story to crowd out influence from day to day experience. It is the experience that will be interpreted in the light of the story rather than the other way round.

comment by MrMind · 2015-05-27T09:59:59.572Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ideas that retain their convincingness in the long term do so not by being especially rigorously argued or supported by solid evidence, but by constituting a large enough, coherent enough story to crowd out influence from day to day experience

I think religions fit the bill pretty nicely.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-05-27T21:14:01.854Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think religions fit the bill pretty nicely.

I think pop science does as well.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-05-25T11:19:04.741Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Ask most people what they imagine a better life and a better world might be, and they will rarely imagine anything more than the present evils removed. Less disease, less starvation, less drudgery, less killing, less oppression. Their positive vision is merely the opposite of these: more health, more food, more fun, more love, more freedom.

When cranked up to transhuman levels, this looks like no ignorance, instant access to all knowledge, no stupidity, unlimited intelligence, no disease, unlimited lifespan, no technological limits, unlimited technological superpower, less environmental cramping, expansion across the universe.

What will people do, when almost everything they currently do is driven by exactly those limits that it is the transhuman vision to eliminate? Think of everything you have done today -- how much of it would a transhuman you in a transhuman world have done?

I got out of bed. Sleep? What need has a transhuman of sleep? I showered, unloaded the washing machine that had run overnight, ate breakfast. Surely these and a great deal more stand in the same relation to a transhuman life as the drudgery of a 13th century peasant does to my own. I am typing on a keyboard. A keyboard! How primitive! Later today I will have taiko practice. Practice? Surely we will download such skills, or build robots to do them for us? I value the physical exertion. Exertion? What need, when we are uploads using whatever physical apparatus we choose, which will always run flawlessly?

The vision usually looks like having machines to do our living for us, leaving us as mere epiphenomena of a world that runs itself. We might think that "we" are colonising the galaxy, while to any other species observing, we might just look like a madly expanding sphere of von Neumann machines, with no valuable personhood present. Such is the vision of Utopia that results from imagining the future as being the present, but better, extrapolated without bound.

The Fun Sequence (long version, short version) says a lot about what sort of thing makes for a genuine Utopia, but I don't think it contains examples of a day in the life. Perhaps it cannot, any more than a 13th century peasant's dreams could contain anything resembling the modern world. One attempt I saw, which I can't now find, imagined (this is my interpretation of it, not the way it was presented) a future that amounted to better BDSM scenes. This strikes me as about as realistic as a million years of sex with catgirls.

comment by Fivehundred · 2015-05-25T11:31:04.666Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What will people do, when almost everything they currently do is driven by exactly those limits that it is the transhuman vision to eliminate? Think of everything you have done today -- how much of it would a transhuman you in a transhuman world have done?

What I would want to do, or what I think I would do? I certainly would want to hold on my values, but I'm not yet sure which ones.

I don't see how you can just crank these very specialized phenomena several orders of magnitude higher and still remain remotely human. That's the point of the essay- we wind up as something we would view as monstrous today.

comment by Houshalter · 2015-05-29T05:28:13.019Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've had existential crises thinking about such things. Stuff like living forever or having my brain upgraded beyond recognition scare me, for reasons I can't quite put into words.

I'm comforted by the argument that it won't happen overnight. We will probably gradually transition into such a world and it won't feel so weird and shocking. And if we get it right, the AI will ask us what we want, and present us with arguments for and against our options, so we can decide what we actually want. Not just get stuck in a shitty future we wouldn't want.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-05-25T16:55:14.399Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know that there is a rebuttal. Wireheading goes all the way back to Homer:

They started at once, and went about among the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting to get home

--The Odyssey

The solution there seems to be not to do it in the first place. It has long been a theme of dystopian fiction that our technology will erode or destroy what it means to be human. Playing around with the brain is definitely going to change things, most likely in ways we can't quite predict--not to mention any accidental damage caused by novel methods. The only rebuttal I can think of is that our current technology is too crude and barbarous to make such modifications worth the drawbacks.

I think there's still some solace though. There's always a reaction to technology that tries to become too invasive. Many are willing to use drugs to regulate their moods, but there's also strong counter-pressure. New technology doesn't spread overnight. We'll have plenty of examples of brain-modified people before the methods become widespread. I'd like to think people will be able to decide whether it's worth the cost before they jump headlong into it.

comment by Pentashagon · 2015-05-29T06:40:18.228Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I find myself conflicted about this. I want to preserve my human condition, and I want to give it up. It's familiar, but it's trying. I want the best of both worlds; the ability to challenge myself against real hardships and succeed, but also the ability to avoid the greatest hardships that I can't overcome on my own. The paradox is that solving the actual hardships like aging and death will require sufficient power to make enjoyable hardships (solving puzzles, playing sports and other games, achieving orgasm, etc.) trivial.

I think that one viable approach is to essentially live vicariously through our offspring. I find it enjoyable watching children solve problems that are difficult for them but are now trivial for me, and I think that the desire to teach skills and to appreciate the success of (for lack of a better word) less advanced people learning how to solve the same problems that I've solved could provide a very long sequence of Fun in the universe. Pre-singularity humans already essentially do this. Grandparents still enjoy life despite having solved virtually all of the trivial problems (and facing imminent big problems), and I think I'd be fine being an eternal grandparent to new humans or other forms of life. I can't extrapolate that beyond the singularity, but it makes sense that if we intend to preserve our current values we will need someone to be in the situation where those values still matter, and if we can't experience those situations ourselves then the offspring we care about are a good substitute. Morality issues of creating children may be an issue.

Another solution is a walled garden run by FAI that preserves the trivial problems humans like solving while but solves the big problems. This has a stronger possibility for value drift and I think people would value life a bit less if they knew it was ultimately a video game.

It's also possible that upon reflection we'll realize that our current values also let us care about hive-minds in the same way we care about our friends and family now. We would be different, alien to present selves, but with the ability to trace our values back to our present state and see that at no point did we sacrifice them for expediency or abandon them for their triviality. This seems like the least probable solution simply because our values are not special, they arose in our ancestral environment because they worked. That we enjoy them is an accident, and that they could fully encompass the post-singularity world seems a bit miraculous.

As a kid I always wondered about this in the context of religious heaven. What could a bunch of former humans possibly do for eternity that wouldn't become terribly boring or involve complete loss of humanity? I could never answer that question, so perhaps it's an {AI,god}-hard problem to coherently extrapolate human values.

comment by Fivehundred · 2015-05-29T11:59:11.183Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What's wrong with hive minds? As long as my 'soul' survives, I wouldn't mind being part of some gigantic consciousness.

Also, another thought- it may take an AI to solve philosophy and the nature of the universe, but it may not be far beyond the capacity of the human brain to understand it.

I appreciate the long response.

comment by Pentashagon · 2015-05-30T01:45:12.544Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What's wrong with hive minds? As long as my 'soul' survives, I wouldn't mind being part of some gigantic consciousness.

A hive mind can quickly lose a lot of old human values if the minds continue past the death of individual bodies. Additionally, values like privacy and self-reliance would be difficult to maintain. Also, things we take for granted like being able to surprise friends with gifts or have interesting discussions getting to know another person would probably disappear. A hive mind might be great if it was formed from all your best friends, but joining a hive mind with all of humanity? Maybe after everyone is your best friend...

comment by Baughn · 2015-05-25T14:32:27.925Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't believe that it's mainstream transhumanist thought, in part because most people who'd call themselves transhumanists have not been exposed to the relevant arguments.

Does that help? No?

The problem with this vision of the future is that it's nearly basilisk-like in its horror. As you said, you had a panic attack; others will reject it out of pure denial that things can be this bad, or perform motivated cognition to find reasons why it won't actually happen. What I've never seen is a good rebuttal.

If it's any consolation, I don't think the possibility really makes things that much worse. It constrains FAI design a little more, perhaps, but the no-FAI futures already looked pretty bleak. A good FAI will avoid this scenario right along with all the ones we haven't thought of yet.

comment by Fivehundred · 2015-05-25T15:20:08.370Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The writer did seem to think that it was very likely. But he dismisses the idea of FAI being a singleton.

comment by Elo · 2015-05-25T10:15:16.658Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A few rebuttals. Race to the bottom only works in a universe where there is a reason to keep getting lower. where in a petri dish; if you don't replicate fast enough you die; thats a strong selective pressure; in human-world reality there is no such pressure of equivalence. (I also disagree with rat-island) for this reason. Where there is not a benefit to get lower; it won't happen. Evolution seems to happen by two main pressures; slow selection of the most-fittest and sudden selection by major environmental factors (with a range of both in between). For the sake of argument; the cutest of humans procreate; and the lesser ones - less so; but no one survives the next meteor strike. only the cockroaches which then have to grow under slow pressures until the next big pressure.

as for distinct mind - we (as humanity) would only go down the path of non-distinct mind if we wanted to. It may seem like a bad thing from our perspective now; but its a bit of a strawman argument that it will certainly be something we do not want when the time comes that it is possible to do so. I am not concerned for such far-away situations that are framed as problems.

Was there any particular point that you would like refuted?

comment by Fivehundred · 2015-05-25T10:53:50.981Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It may seem like a bad thing from our perspective now; but its a bit of a strawman argument that it will certainly be something we do not want when the time comes that it is possible to do so.

This is absolutely what I am afraid of. Values themselves will be selected for and I don't want my values to be ground up entirely to dust. Who's to say that I will want to exist under a different value system, even as a part of some larger consciousness? What if consciousness is a waste of resources?

comment by Elo · 2015-05-28T00:48:03.005Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

every day we wake up a slightly different version of the consciousness that went to sleep. In this way the entire of our conscious existence is undergoing small changes. Each day we wouldn't even think to ask ourselves if we are the same person as yesterday, but if we could isolate the me of today and talk to the me of 10 years ago we would be able to notice the different clearly.

It is a fact of life that we take changes day by day. If that's where we end up; I don't think the you of today has anything to complain about because the you of every day in between gradually made the choices to end up there.

the you of today should contend with the you of every single day between now and the state that you dislike (lack of consciousness or whatever) before being able to hold a complaint about it.

comment by Fivehundred · 2015-05-28T10:18:04.332Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So? I don't think you're really getting my point here. If consciousness is fluid or imperfect, it doesn't mean that it is worthless.

comment by Elo · 2015-05-28T11:18:26.126Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes; I don't think I was getting your point.

Also I am not sure that you were getting my point. If in the future the choice to do away with consciousness is made; it will be made by future entities with much more information and clearer reasons for doing so. Without that future information and reasoning at our disposal; We can't really criticize the decision. I can confidently say that my consciousness (based on what I know) does not want to be gotten rid of right now. If reasons overpoweringly convincing come along to change my mind then I will make that decision at that time with the best of information at the time.

My point was that the decision making process is up to the future self and is dependent on future information. The future self will not be making worse decisions. It will not make decisions that do not benefit itself (based on a version of your values right now that are slightly different..

does that make sense? Or should I try to explain it again...?

comment by Fivehundred · 2015-05-28T11:52:12.685Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You're definitely missing the point of the whole thing. Suppose that the optimal design for gaining knowledge is something like this (a vast supercomputer without the slightest bit of awareness or emotion.)

I think it is very unlikely- even in the worst case scenarios, I can't imagine that superintelligence wouldn't inherit some sort of value.

comment by Elo · 2015-05-28T21:03:04.877Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see the problem with that being the eventual case. Death of the state of the world as we know it yes; but the existence of a new entity. That's the way the cookie crubles.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-05-25T20:53:24.173Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Who's to say that I will want to exist under a different value system, even as a part of some larger consciousness?

Are you expecting these things to happen within your lifetime?

comment by Fivehundred · 2015-05-26T03:24:11.025Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Probably not within my own natural lifetime, no.

comment by roystgnr · 2015-05-27T17:01:08.921Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know if it's the mainstream of transhumanist thought but it's certainly a significant thread.

Information hazard warning: if your state of mind is again closer to "panic attack" and "grief" than to "calmer", or if it's not but you want to be very careful to keep it that way, then you don't want to click this link.

comment by Fivehundred · 2015-05-27T21:44:44.243Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I read it. Your warning did the opposite of what you intended, and the fact that you posted it at all is an incredible error of judgment. Did you even take ten seconds to think this through?

Anyway, the piece wasn't very convincing and I've already considered almost everything that was in it. No real harm done. This time.

(Shame on you!)

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-05-25T04:51:08.581Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What do all of you think the awareness of concerns about superhuman intelligence as a catastrophic risk going "mainstream", culturally, will be now?

Examples:

The pop-culture examples demonstrate an awareness of what Nick Bostrom or Eliezer Yudkowksy caution the world about, but only an understanding of the real issues barely better than "AI is 'The Terminator', right?" Personally, I don't expect all this increased awareness to change what the Future of Humanity Institute, the Future of Life Institute, and the Machine Intelligence Research Institute would otherwise (plan to) do, unless there is an increased proportion of people who have a philosophical or technical understanding of how challenging and crucial the development of superhuman machine intelligence. It will take more than buzz on social media and Hollywood depictions to inculcate more than the shallowest of understanding.

comment by Gondolinian · 2015-05-25T12:22:27.297Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if a movie with an AI box-based story would have any potential? Perhaps something treated as more of a psychological horror/thriller than as a guns-and-explosions action movie might help to distance people's intuitions from "AI is 'The Terminator', right?"

comment by Sly · 2015-05-25T16:55:51.114Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Watch Ex Machina. This is pretty close to what you are talking about, and I was it was well done.

comment by Gondolinian · 2015-06-03T14:29:44.334Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks; I've put a library request in for it, though it'll probably be a few months until I get it.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-06-10T04:53:45.469Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Re: Sly's suggestion for 'Ex Machina'. Rob Bensinger, who works for MIRI, apparently saw it with the MIRI staff, and they gave it a stamp of approval for being "pretty good", if there opinions on the subject are worth something to you.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-27T18:51:54.927Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I finally finished reading Plato's Camera, and it was fairly good, for a philosophy book. In fact, it does quite a lot better than most ML/AGI books at talking about how a real mind can work. I'm thinking of fetching my highlights and notes off my Kindle to write a book review. Would that be helpful to anyone?

comment by Vaniver · 2015-05-27T19:30:46.770Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

In general, I approve of book reviews of LWish content, and I have found the primary beneficiaries are people who wouldn't have come across that book otherwise (and thus aren't the sort of people who will say "yes, review that book!").

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-28T17:12:35.975Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I took the step of dragging my Kindle Highlights and notes off my the actual hardware and into a text file where I can work with it. This will take a long time, as there's a fairly large amount of material.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-05-27T19:22:04.408Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you thought it was good, that's enough evidence for me to be interested in reading a review.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-27T07:23:47.025Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Non-binary views on health and depression

I used to have a binary view on health. You either have the beetus or you don't have the beetus. You are ill/a patient or not. It turned out, it is better to view these things on on a sliding scale. You really want your muscles to be highly sensitive to insulin as it both makes you not fat and not tired (removes at least one reason for tiredness: muscles refusing fuel). So you can function highly optimally here, or less optimally, or somewhat disfunctionally, and when your insulin sensitivity is really low you can call it insulin resistance and when it is really really low you can call it Type 2 Diabetes. Do you agree with such non-binary health attitudes about health in general?

If yes: what is that thing X that relates to (minor) depression the same way as insulin sensitivity to the beetus? What is highly optimal non-depressed functioning, what is the scale itself?

I propose: fun sensitivity / fun resistance. Highly fun sensitive people, like children or Zen masters, can find just about anything a reason to feel joy. A funny shaped tree leaf can make their day. Then on lower levels of the scale the brain refuses to feel happiness over these smaller jolts of fun because it is just a fucking leaf anyway so who cares and requires more stimulation to feel something. So "sex & drugs & rock and roll" it is. And in lower and lower levels of fun sensitivity, with more and more fun resistance you can minor depression then major depression. Does this sound plausible?

It seems then, we need a two-dimensional approach to be happy. We need a science of happiness which is largely about finding the ideal jolts of fun to input in our brain. And we need to make our brain sensitive to fun and not resist it. In the more extreme cases, depression treatment. In the less extreme cases? Meditation? Stoicism ? Opponent Process Theory ?

How to lower the fun sensitivity threshold? Does too much "sex and drugs and rock & roll" desensitise us to fun?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-27T12:37:17.182Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There's bipolar disorder. Getting a depressive in a manic phase doesn't help him.

We need a science of happiness which is largely about finding the ideal jolts of fun to input in our brain.

How much of positive psychology have you actually read?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-27T13:05:36.166Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Positive psychology? The Seligman thing? Not at all. Is relevant?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-27T13:45:36.708Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, it's largely the science of happiness.

comment by LawrenceC · 2015-05-26T04:23:28.692Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've noticed recently that listening to music with lyrics significantly hampers comprehension for reading texts as well as essay-writing ability, but has no (or even slightly positive) effects on doing math. My informal model of the problem is that the words of the song disrupt the words being formed in my head. Has anyone else experienced anything similar?

comment by bbleeker · 2015-06-01T06:59:41.990Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It is why I used to doodle in class, especially history class, instead of making notes. If I tried to make notes, the words I was writing down interfered with the words I was listening to, so I'd miss what the teacher was saying next.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-05-27T04:03:59.709Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't worked with math in years, but yes, lyrics disturb my reading.

I now prefer to pair verbal music with non-verbal tasks, and non-verbal music with verbal tasks.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-05-25T04:46:27.432Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

According to the 2014 LessWrong Survey Results, 15.1 % of the LessWrong community prefers polyamorous relationships to monogamous ones. If you don't know what polyamory is, it's been described as "consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy. (Source). This excludes (formerly) monogamous relationships where one party is "cheating", i.e., engaged in an additional sexual or romantic relationship in secret. Semi-monogamous, or "monogamish", marriages and relationships may be count as polyamorous in the minds of some, but may be eschewed by the couple in question themselves. Among LessWrongers and almost all secular crowds, at least, "polyamory" is also not the same as the common thought of "polygamy", usually polygyny (one man, many women), which is practiced by some religious sects, and adheres to norms not shared by the polyamorous.

Anyway, I don't recall the specific column, but I've read letters to sex columnist Dan Savage about polyamorous people who believe there desire and preference for polyamory is biological or hard-wired, rather than merely being a choice. I recall Dan Savage being somewhat skeptical because "polyamory as hardwired preference" doesn't currently seem to have a basis in science. I'm skeptical. However, there is a history of sexual or gender minorities (who have faced discrimination and prejudice) to also faced backlash they were making lifestyle choices, rather than engaging immutable biological preferences. However, it's commonly accepted among scientists now homosexuality is not a choice, and research goes on in determining exactly what are its bases in biology, whether they be genetic, or due to prenatal hormones, or something else. In recent years, brain scans reveal patterns in the brains of transgender persons more closely match the patterns of the gender/sex they prefer, rather than the gender/sex they were assigned at birth. (More details).

I'm aware I could have a historical bias, where the culture of the sexual majority assumes it's way is the only "natural" or actual way humans can possibly relate to each other sexually, until science comes along, and debunks those assumptions. By merely questioning the notion preferences for polyamory have a basis in psychobiology rather than being a lifestyle choice indicate I'm privileging the hypothesis? Should I abandon confidence in the assumption polyamory has no basis in biology?

If you have an opinion on this matter, especially one informed by some kind of formal studies, please share.

The issue of how to approach this question is summed up by a Slate article, "Is Polyamory A Choice?":

Meanwhile, there are some people whose innate personality traits make it very difficult to live happily in a monogamous relationship but relatively easy to be happy in an open one. Given the persecution heaped on gays in most of the world in recent generations, and the relative difficulty of “passing,” there are probably few people who would choose that identity unless they could not find happiness in straight life. So, sure, there may be a larger fraction of non-monogamists for whom their unconventional relationship is “optional” or “a choice.” But there are almost certainly also some “obligate” non-monogamists who would never feel emotionally satisfied and healthy in a monogamous relationship, any more than a gay man would be satisfied and healthy in a straight marriage.

I would have cited a scholarly source, but I don't have the time now, and I'm guessing they're hard to find. Based on how the author of the article didn't cite any academic sources, and merely stated he hopes there will be more scholarship on this issue in the future, I'm guessing he couldn't find (m)any good studies, either.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2015-05-25T05:29:05.203Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

No formal studies to share.

I know a lot of poly folk in N-way relationships who seem reasonably happy about it and would likely be less happy in monogamous relationships; I know a lot of monogamous folks in 2-way relationships who seem reasonably happy about it and would likely be less happy in polygamous relationships; I know a fair number of folks in 2-way relationships who would likely be happier in polygamous relationships; I know a larger number of folks who have tried polygamous relationships and decided it wasn't for them. Mostly my conclusion from all this is that different people have different preferences.

As to whether those differing preferences are the result of genetic variation, gestational differences, early childhood experiences, lifestyle choices made as adolescents and adults, something else entirely, or some combination thereof... I haven't a clue.

I don't see where it matters much for practical purposes.

I mean, I recognize that there's a social convention that we're not permitted to condemn people for characteristics they were "born with," but that mostly seems irrelevant to me, since I see no reason to condemn people for preferring poly relationships regardless of whether they were born that way, acquired it as learned behavior, or (as seems likeliest) some combination.

comment by Halfwitz · 2015-05-25T01:47:30.268Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This forum doesn't allow you to comment if you have <2 karma. How does one get their first 2 karma then?

comment by philh · 2015-05-25T02:04:33.217Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't it? IIRC you need 2 karma to post a top-level thread in discussion, more than that to post a top-level thread in main, but none to comment.

comment by Gondolinian · 2015-05-25T02:04:17.387Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure I accept your premises? I could certainly be wrong, but I have not gotten the impression that comments can be prevented by low karma, only posts to Discussion or Main. (And I recall the minimum as 20, not 2.*) The most obvious way to get the karma needed to post is by commenting on existing posts (including open threads and welcome threads), and new users with zero initial karma regularly do this without any apparent difficulty, so unless I'm missing something, I don't think it's a problem?

*ETA: It seems that 2 is the minimum for Discussion, while 20 is the minimum for Main.

comment by zedzed · 2015-05-25T05:54:38.153Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Created throwaway, couldn't comment.

(So as to not propagate throwaways testing this, account is less_than_2, and the password is 123456)

comment by estimator · 2015-05-25T08:56:09.853Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

AFAIK, you should confirm email to comment.

comment by Miguelatron · 2015-05-25T12:52:39.245Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This threw me for a loop when I created my LW account. It took some searching around before I found this answer in the solved section of the bug reporting page for the site. In hindsight it seems simple enough, but perhaps it should be added to the wiki page on posting that you need to confirm account via email first.

comment by less_than_2 · 2015-05-27T11:23:34.779Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Confirming confirmed :p

comment by Gondolinian · 2015-05-25T12:01:01.891Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oh wow, I tried logging in to it and the reply buttons on existing comments weren't even there. Thanks for providing the account and pointing this out.

Two hypotheses come to mind, firstly, as estimator said, perhaps you missed something about the email confirmation when you set up the account, (same for Halfwitz), and secondly, maybe it's an IP address thing intended to discourage throwaway accounts?

comment by philh · 2015-05-25T01:08:43.981Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Not particularly LWish, but possibly of interest: towards a taxonomy of logic puzzles.

comment by Brillyant · 2015-05-30T01:24:18.151Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There seem to exist non-negligible differences in individual RMR.

And, though it is my understanding that the '3500 kcals = 1lb of body fat' is a less-than-precise rule of thumb that fails to account for many variables in regard to weight loss, it stills stand to reason that a couple hundred kcals per day would add up to something substantial over the course of, say, even a few years.

So, it seems you could have persons A and B—each eating and exercising at exactly the same level—end up tens of pounds apart from one another in body weight over a relatively short span of years. Over decades, you could see one person end up fit, and the other very obese.

I've noticed two broad opposing views on body weight.

  • View 1: Metabolism differences aren't that big a deal. Diet and exercise will make up the differences with relative ease. (Seems to be the tone of the Examine.com article linked above.)

  • View 2: Metabolism differences are significant and account for most of the differences in regard to individual body weight.

So, which is it?

It seems to me metabolic differences between individuals are very significant. If person A uses an average of 200 kcal per day less than person B due to differences in RMR, that means person A must expend millions and millions more calories during their lifetime in order to maintain the same body weight. Person A would need to devote an immense amount of combined time towards exercise and/or will power towards eating healthy just in order to "keep up".

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-30T15:23:12.392Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Dave Asprey managed to have lose weight at >4000 calories per day. A QS friend I know replicated this and found that adding 1000 calories per day in butter for a month didn't raise his weight either. My own attemts to raise my weight by throwing ~800kcal of maltrodextrin per day into my tea also didn't raise my weight.

Metabolism is not only important between individuals but also changes day to day due to different hormones.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-05-31T22:25:54.338Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Both are important, some more so for some people than others. I and members of my family are lucky enough to lose weight rapidly with food restriction and exercise; many other people not so much. WHAT is eaten rather than its sheer energy content can also make a big difference.

Why can't anything in biology ever be simple...

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-29T01:56:16.885Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if this objection to MIRI's project has been made so far: EY recognizes that placing present day humans in an environment reached by CEV would be immoral, right? Doesn't this call into question the desirability of instant salvation? Perhaps what is really desirable is reaching the CEV state, but doing so only gradually. Otherwise, we might never reach our CEV state, and we arguably do want to reach it eventually. We can still have a friendly AI, but perhaps it's role should be to slowly guide us to the CEV state while making sure we don't get into deep trouble in the mean time. Eg. We shouldn't be maimed for life as the result of an instant's inattention, etc.

comment by Squark · 2015-05-28T21:11:34.625Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hi everyone! I am in Berkeley for a MIRI workshop that starts tomorrow. Today my entire day is free so if by some fluke of chance someone in the area wants to hang out with me, feel free to contact me at top.squark@gmail.com.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-27T13:17:27.664Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A neighborhood of San Francisco just put a moratorium on the building on "luxux flats" http://www.citylab.com/housing/2015/05/san-francisco-may-put-a-moratorium-on-new-development-in-the-mission/393857/

It seems to me that any building of new flats should lower the pressure on the rents of existing flats via basic economics of supply and demand. Whether or not the new flats are "affordable housing" prices should be lower if there more housing.

Are the people who favor those policies simply stupid and lack understanding of economics or is it possible to steelman their position?

comment by Vaniver · 2015-05-27T13:37:34.514Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Are the people who favor those policies simply stupid and lack understanding of economics or is it possible to steelman their position?

The steelman is that their actual position is that they live there, and do not want to to either not live there anymore, deal with more people living there, or have to pay more to live there. The more friction in the housing market, the less things change (and, of course, the more deadweight loss and inefficiencies there are).

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-27T13:42:25.192Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The steelman is that their actual position is that they live there, and do not want to to either not live there anymore, deal with more people living there, or have to pay more to live there.

If there's low supply of flats to rent it seems that prices rise and they will have to pay more to live there. I don't see how the policy keeps rents down.

Is the point to keep population density down?

comment by Vaniver · 2015-05-27T14:01:57.616Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If there's low supply of flats to rent it seems that prices rise and they will have to pay more to live there.

You dramatically overestimate the economic efficiency of California's housing laws. San Francisco has rent control laws, and the rent increase allowed between 2015 and 2016 is 1.9%. Unless it's changed since the last time I looked, California in general will only reassess the value of a home for tax purposes when the home is sold (or, perhaps like with rent control, they allow adjustments only for inflation).

Obviously, moving is strongly discouraged by this policy, since any change allows the prices to readjust to reflect the market rate (on the limited available supply, not the total supply).

Is the point to keep population density down?

Not just down, but the same. If the little old lady who's lived on the same block since 1960 is forced out for some strangers, well, wouldn't that be a shame?

(Also note the politics: if you build new luxury flats, and a bunch of techies move in, and they vote to get rid of rent control or allow people to vote where they work, then even more change will happen. So better cut it off at the source, and not let them live where they'll be able to vote on those laws.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-27T14:37:32.580Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me that someone with a rent controlled flat doesn't really have to worry whether low cost flats or high cost flats are build in his neighborhood. Why does a luxury flat produce a problem for someone with a rent controlled flat?

comment by Vaniver · 2015-05-27T14:45:06.110Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why does a luxury flat produce a problem for someone with a rent controlled flat?

  1. The neighbors are now different; this will change the character of the neighborhood, partially by changing what shops are profitable and partly just by changing who is around to interact with.

  2. The new neighbors vote, and probably have different political preferences. Among other things, they are unlikely to be sympathetic to rent control.

  3. If every apartment in a region is required to be cheap, then there is no value for the landlord in trying to be tricky. If some apartments are cheap and some and expensive, there is value for the landlord in trying to turn cheap apartments into expensive apartments, possibly by driving out the current tenants to get around the rent control laws.

I'm sure there are more that I've missed; I'm not even touching on the moral intuitions around high prices.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-27T15:01:59.050Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If every apartment in a region is required to be cheap, then there is no value for the landlord in trying to be tricky. If some apartments are cheap and some and expensive, there is value for the landlord in trying to turn cheap apartments into expensive apartments, possibly by driving out the current tenants to get around the rent control laws.

If there are few apartments on the market because some people do move and high demand those apartments will fetch high prices.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-05-27T14:28:43.133Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Get enough luxury apartments in an area and all of a sudden the neighborhood becomes a lot more attractive to people with money. This puts pressure on landlords to renovate their buildings to cater to the new customers (and charge a lot more). Even with rent controls in place, there are loopholes to be exploited.

comment by Halfwitz · 2015-05-27T02:28:14.615Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If you're interested in robotics, this video is a must see: https://youtu.be/EtMyH_--vnU?t=32m34s

I have to say I'm baffled. I was genuinely shocked watching the thing. Its speed is incredible. I remember writing off general robots after closely following Willow Robotics' Work. That was only three years ago. Again, I'm pretty shocked.

comment by Houshalter · 2015-05-29T05:41:17.874Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is six years old.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-26T12:01:38.783Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This old comment says business is a notoriously all-male province in what I suppose is the United States. This does not match my experience in Europe. If under business we mean being employed by a corporation, generally speaking here sales and logistics and tech are male, marketing, HR, finance and support and testing are female. This is of course a broad generalization. Sales is closer to having gender balance than logistics or tech. HR and marketing are strongly female because they are understood as a "human" field, organizing trade shows or interviewing candidates, where social skills matter. Sales is a bit more male because beside all these, it is a "brave", "boasting" field. Finance is notoriously female on the level of accountants, a male accountant is almost unusual, although higher level finance decision makers are more often men. Logistics is very male, if we mean under logistics big trucks, heavy crates and ugly warehouses. In corporate lingo "go ask the boys" invariably means descending into the scary and un-officelike world of the warehouse :) Tech/engineering mainly male but a lot of female testers, because female testers understand the mentality of users better and can simulate user behavior that more Mr.Spocky male engineers would never think an actual human user would try to do with their product. I have often seen arguments of the "But that is illogical, why would a user try that!" "Because they are not engineers!" type. About supporting users, it is fairly obvious which gender has more patience to calm down enraged users on the phone. This is my experience about business.

Maybe it means entrepreneurship, not corporate employment... but here too my experience is that it depends on what is sold. Teaching is so much female that a random small language school company here (that mainly trains people to be eligible for an office job by learning intermediate English) will be typically led by a woman. My mom did something similar and also ran a fast food booth ("cookery"). My dad was into construction.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-05-27T21:57:41.880Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Business" means entrepreneurship. But that does not mean small companies, nor are all employees of companies entrepreneurs.

comment by knb · 2015-05-27T01:16:22.163Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This old comment says business is a notoriously all-male province in what I suppose is the United States.

Obviously business isn't "notoriously all-male" in the United States. Typically HR skews heavily female. Customer support is heavily female. Most accountants and bookkeepers are women. Women are dramatically underrepresented in C-level positions, but even there "all-male" is clearly exaggerated. And C-level positions are a tiny, tiny fragment of total positions in business.

Even leaving room for hyperbole, "notoriously all-male" is comically overstated. It's also easy to check. So why didn't you check it?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-05-27T08:43:34.047Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't find these things are easy to check at all. This is why I "check" them by e.g. asking here.

Sure, I could look up stats about say male and female CEOs, but it would only give me a very superficial answer, it would only answer the most literal interpretation of the question, and not the more important ones, such as why do people feel so, why does it appear so, or what kind of other questions can be disguised under this one. Mere facts are about the least important kind of information when it is about the human, social world and not the natural world. Nature is made of facts, society is of words.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-05-31T21:39:38.038Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This seems like just a mistake: The current LW terms of service (posted on April 23) forbid the use of automated scripts to export your posts or comments from the site.

You are explicitly prohibited from:
[...]
5. Using a spider, scraper, or other automated technology to access the Website;

This would include some of the tools listed on the site FAQ.

comment by Vaniver · 2017-04-17T17:37:58.793Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My understanding is that restrictions like this exist so that all scrapers / spiders / etc. can be banned or blocked at will if they become bothersome. If you put a restriction like "Don't use a spider, scraper, or other automated technology that interferes with the operation of the website" now you might have a fight on your hands over whether or not something actually "interfered" with the website.

comment by G0W51 · 2015-05-31T02:27:53.311Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is Solomonoff induction a theorem for making optimal probability distributions or a definition of them? That is to say, has anyone proved that Solomonoff induction produces probability distributions that are "optimal," or was Solomonoff induction created to formalize what it means for a prediction to be optimal. In the former case, how could they define optimality?

comment by MrMind · 2015-06-03T08:26:34.827Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Both, I think.
It surely is a nice formalization of Occam's razor, and Solomonoff himself said that he found his distribution while looking for a nice prior over the set of all computable hypothesis. But you can also show that Solomonoff distribution is in a class called dominant semi-measures, which are able to approximate any computable prior with an error that goes to zero very fast.
See for example "Solomonoff induction" by Legg.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-05-27T17:06:31.079Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm learning about Turing Machines for the first time. I think I get the gist of it, and I'm asking myself the question, "What's the big deal?". Here's my attempt at an answer:

  1. Consider the idea of Thingspace. Things are there components/properties. You could plot a point in Thingspace that describes everything about, say John Smith.

  2. You could encode that point in thingspace. Ie. you could create a code that says, "001010111010101001...1010101010101" represents point (42343,12312,11,343223423432423,...,123123123123) in Thingspace.

  3. A Turing Machine seems like it basically says, "If the state is 0001010101011...10101011, change it to this." It's looking at things at a really really low level - the level of individual bits. These bits are a map that, in theory, seem to actually represent the territory with perfect accuracy (or really, it's capable of doing so).

So a Turing Machine could:

a) Look at a model of reality on the lowest level possible.

b) Manipulate a model of reality on the lowest level possible using a).

So back to the original question - what's the big deal? The big deal seems to be that "When you operate on such a low level, you could 'do anything'. The model could be perfectly accurate, and you aren't limited to making coarse adjustments to the model."

To what extent is my understanding accurate? Can anyone elaborate?

EDIT: It seems somewhat obvious that "if you had such precise control, you'd be able to perfectly model reality and all of that". But to me, the hard parts seem to be:

1) Creating a physical machine that does this. That has enough memory, that computes things quickly enough, and that is wired to do things based on state. (hardware)

2) Giving the machine the right instructions. (software)

I sense that these initial impressions are ignorant of something though - I just don't know what.

comment by MrMind · 2015-05-28T07:40:14.213Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You first need to realize that Turing machine were invented before the first computer was ever built, and they were born as a mathematical model, an ideal construction.
The problem at the time was that there were certain natural classifications of functions on natural numbers, the recursive functions, and the Turing machine model helped to understand that partial recursive functions = computable functions.
Computable, at the time, meant that a human being was able to calculate them with the aid of pen and paper.

Nowadays, depending on the branch of computer science you want to study, either recursive functions or Turing machines are used as the default general model of 'computability', either to study specializations of that concepts (complexity) or to show that some class of functions cannot be computed (Turing jumps, oracles, etc.)
You can think of them as idealized computer, and they are a big deal in the sense that they are the cornerstone upon which all computer science is built, the same way 'the continuum' is a big deal for calculus.

comment by D_Malik · 2015-05-27T20:44:33.545Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Turing machines are a big deal because when you change the definition of a Turing machine (by letting it use arbitrarily many symbols, or giving it multiple tapes or a multi-dimensional tape, or letting it operate nondeterministically, or making its tape finite in one direction...) it usually can still solve exactly the same set of problems, which strongly suggests that Turing completeness is a "natural concept". A lot of computational systems are Turing-complete, and all of the discrete computational systems we've built are no more powerful than Turing machines. Physical reality might also be Turing-computable (Church-Turing-Deutsch principle), though we don't know that for sure (for instance, physics might involve infinite-precision calculations on non-computable numbers).

comment by Viliam · 2015-05-28T21:35:12.463Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

An important property of Turing machines is that they have only one kind of instruction, which is very simple. That comes useful in various mathematical proofs, where you don't have to enumerate many options. (Try to imagine the horror of writing a mathematical proof that something cannot be solved by a C program.)

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T12:39:27.570Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is the place to post random thoughts, right? I have been thinking about what kind of community I would least regret living in until the singularity comes along. (Without deadening my faculties with drugs, etc. Optimal means "least bad" as well as "most good", right?)

I recently read this article about the origins of analytic philosophy: http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/articles/Polish_Philosophy.pdf It says that analytic philosophy was born in states where there was no "official culture", but there were multiple ideological factions whose clash created a space for the existence of individuals whose only motivation was to speak the truth as they saw it.

So perhaps my ideal polity should have multiple potentially conflicting factions, but it would be managed in such a way that instead of giving rise to armed violence, their ideological clash would create a space for the individual's creative freedom. The presence of ideological conflict is a feature, not a bug. It becomes a bug when people end up feeling like they have to express these differences through violent or extremist means.

The question is, is it a case of hopeless idealism to ask people to set up nonviolent culture wars and have every side lose them forever while at the same time ensuring that no victims come to any real harm? If that is too extreme a formulation, then a toned-down version of the idea just coincides with bog-standard "diversity politics" liberalism, doesn't it?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-27T13:22:19.108Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If that is too extreme a formulation, then a toned-down version of the idea just coincides with bog-standard "diversity politics" liberalism, doesn't it?

There days people who speak for "diversity" quite often advocate policies like hate speech laws that reduce diversity of voiced opinions.

Pluralism seems to me the better label.

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T13:50:17.510Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly, but how do you prevent extremist violence from breaking out if you do not promote some degree of toleration? Of course, that can be taken to extremes as well.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-27T14:13:13.792Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It used to be that it was okay for students in universities to hear ideas that challenge their beliefs and that make them uncomfortable. Today the idea of safe spaces, prevents discussion that makes people uncomfortable from happening.

The range of ideas that can be expressed doesn't increase but decrease.

Tolerating someone doesn't mean to avoid voicing opinions that make that person uncomfortable. But that's usually called for by "diversity advocates".

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T14:30:50.249Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Oh okay, but is the term "pluralism" compatible with curbing extremist rhetoric when it really is likely to lead to violence? I mean, what if they say they are not trying to completely eradicate the other side, (just, I don't know, teach them a lesson or something) so their speech does not technically violate pluralist principles?

(Or what if the objectionable consequence is not violence, but unfairly, and greatly, reduced opportunities?)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-27T15:03:50.398Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You have violence on all sides of the political spectrum. I don't think you can effectively prevent political violence by forbidding certain opinions from being voiced.

I think open discussion is better than driving views underground.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-02T03:27:10.297Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Worse, you're likely to wind up driving the truth underground.

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T15:30:36.471Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In particular, I'm thinking of a situation where a bigot gives a great inflammatory speech that inspires bands of dissatisfied young men to prevent every store in town from selling groceries to some minority. I don't think I could live with that on my conscience.

You don't think forbidding specific kinds of public speech can under any circumstances prevent outcomes like that?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T18:15:50.605Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

forbidding specific kinds of public speech can under any circumstances prevent outcomes like that?

Police states are great at preventing outcomes like that.

The problem is that history provides a lot of empirical evidence about how "forbidding specific kinds of public speech" works and what it tends to lead to.

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T19:02:44.048Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you claim the following proposition is true: Every state where hate speech has been forbidden has been a horrible police state.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T19:06:10.900Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There is not much reason to fight strawmen.

"Hate speech" is not a term that characterizes the speech itself, it's a term that expresses the speaker's attitude towards that particular speech. May I recommend a blog post?

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T19:10:22.673Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For the purposes of this argument, I define hate speech as X such that X is a member of set S. (see my other comment)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-27T16:28:28.348Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Making public policy because you are afraid of a single scenario is bad. It makes more sense to build public policy based on principles.

I don't think that forbidding speech is an efficient tool to prevent rioting. In many cases it's going to polarize. It makes much more sense to focus on the criminality of blackmailing store owners because you can get agreement on that not being okay.

The UK switched from speaking of fundamentalist Muslims to speaking about violent extremism precisely because making the argument that violent extremism is bad is much easier.

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T18:58:26.751Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with you on the importance of principles as well as that all subjects should be open to debate. I am only concerned about situations that you yourself would agree have been settled beyond dispute are meaningless cases of inflammatory rhetoric that hardened bigots nevertheless continue to spread.

1) Principles should be chosen on the basis of doing the most good and prevent the most harm, right?

2) Do you agree that incidents of the kind I described are numerous, serious and compelling enough to be worth taking notice of?

If you answer both those questions in the affirmative, then how would the principles you would choose ameliorate them and/or their ill effects?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-27T23:08:47.655Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am only concerned about situations that you yourself would agree have been settled beyond dispute are meaningless cases of inflammatory rhetoric that hardened bigots nevertheless continue to spread.

I honestly don't know what that means.

In some sense the question of whether the earth is older than 6000 thousand years is settled beyond dispute. At the same time there are young earth creationists. Allowing real diversity means being okay with their being young earth creationists who disagree with me on the subject.

The same goes for the question whether gay people cause earthquakes. Obviously they don't, but I still don't want to use government power to suppress that belief.

On LW I would downvote a person who expose either of those beliefs but I wouldn't make that ground for calling for deletion of his posts or him getting banned.

1) Principles should be chosen on the basis of doing the most good and prevent the most harm, right?

Yes, that means you look at actual real world cases. I'm not aware of any case in the US in the decades where "a bigot gives a great inflammatory speech that inspires bands of dissatisfied young men to prevent every store in town from selling groceries to some minority".

2) Do you agree that incidents of the kind I described are numerous, serious and compelling enough to be worth taking notice of?

At the moment I don't see any problem in the US from the inability to forbid inflammatory rhetoric due to Brandenburg v. Ohio.

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-28T03:38:31.449Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm a native Bengali speaker, so my syntax may be problematic. I later glossed that sensence as something like, "ChristianKl admits X is a case of inflammatory rhetoric being spread by bigots, etc."

I'm totally in favor of open public debate, even regarding positions that the liberal police would dub "bigoted". I'm not talking about real debates, I'm talking about cases that really are crazy propaganda. Would you say that under some circumstances, it is legitimate to curb the spread of such propaganda?

In particular, I'm in favor of all views being aired on LW. Hopefully, nobody is going to pick on homosexuals just because someone expresses anti-gay sentiments here, and it is not even possible to pose the more serious threats over the internet.

I'm an Indian, not an American. Communal riots are a real thing in India. Would you say that under some circumstances, curbing hateful propaganda has a real chance of minimizing violence? If so, are any such cases legitimate?

This is how I clarified my position farther down the thread: "I'm genuinely on the fence on this one. My only claim is that one legitimate argument to do it (censor inflammatory rhetoric) does exist. Depending on the specific case, that reason may be outweighed by more significant arguments."

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-28T12:36:42.811Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"I'm genuinely on the fence on this one. My only claim is that one legitimate argument to do it (censor inflammatory rhetoric) does exist. Depending on the specific case, that reason may be outweighed by more significant arguments."

Laws are written as general documents. You don't write laws that say: "Censorship is supposed to be done by the government on a case by case basis after careful analysis of the case."

At least we don't do this in the West. As a result we have a stable democratic system. Having a stable democratic system is a way to have a peaceful society where communal riots aren't commonplace.

Unfortunately I don't know enough about the dynamics of Indian communal politics to give recommendation about how India should specifically deal with it.

The Wikipedia summary suggests that there a provision in India to censure speech to protect the public order. That seems much more targeted at riots than provisions about speech against minorities (hate speech laws).

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-28T23:23:17.212Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

On the other hand, consider that in the 20th century, England, the land of consequentialists, survived, while Germany, the land of deontologists, collapsed. Dewey seems to have thought considering ethics to be a form of duty is not entirely unrelated with the rise of militarism: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/42208

Like I said, I agree on the necessity of uniform laws. But first, we must determine which laws would be good laws to apply uniformly. To do that, we must consider the relative importance of cases where censorship leads to good consequences.

Though incidents of the kind I described do indeed occur, it would be impossible to enforce hate speech laws with even a semblance of uniformity in India, so this is the compromise I suggest:

Any form of speech is allowed as long as the other side is allowed to answer. Any speech that the other side is not allowed to answer is forbidden.

This seems to satisfy the demands of principle and does away with all-powerful propaganda at the same time. Propaganda acquires total power by forbidding debate, right? This formulation forbids forbidding debate, but I'm still worried that debate will be de facto forbidden by tricks such as demeaning the opposition.

(Would you say it would be better to consider pluralism as an ideal to aspire to, or should we try to reach it all at once? Eg. We can forbid inflammatory rhetoric with the aim of gradually loosening the restrictions.)

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-02T03:47:07.187Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

On the other hand, consider that in the 20th century, England, the land of consequentialists, survived, while Germany, the land of deontologists, collapsed.

England also had a much stronger tradition of free speech than Germany.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-02T03:46:11.888Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Any form of speech is allowed as long as the other side is allowed to answer.

What counts as the "other side". Do I have to invite the flat earth society whenever I want to talk about geography?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-29T01:37:33.820Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Any form of speech is allowed as long as the other side is allowed to answer. Any speech that the other side is not allowed to answer is forbidden.

What does "allowed to answer" mean? A Singapore style mandate that a newspaper has to give room for the government to tell it's side of the story?

On the other hand, consider that in the 20th century, England, the land of consequentialists, survived, while Germany, the land of deontologists, collapsed.

England lost their empire in the 20th century. Germany losts wars but it didn't collapse.

(Would you say it would be better to consider pluralism as an ideal to aspire to, or should we try to reach it all at once? Eg. We can forbid inflammatory rhetoric with the aim of gradually loosening the restrictions.)

If "we = India" then I unfortunately don't know enough about the Indian political conflicts. It would also help if you would use more concrete terms then "inflammatory rhetoric". That term is broader then just speech that threatens the public order.

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-29T02:17:56.973Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The situation I am thinking of is like this: Suppose you get up in public and give a long speech denouncing some minority. If they want to, representatives of that minority should be allowed to tell their side of the story from the same platform without being molested or demeaned. If that's allowed, you can say whatever you like about them. Is that not good?

The German state failed completely and a warlord wannabe came to power. (Although it just occurred to me that you might not call the failed democracies that turn into dictatorships in Latin America "failed states", and you might not describe the transition as a "collapse". I don't know the correct term for such polities, but that's the kind of state Germany was.) A similar situation occurred in Russia, only an insane religious group took control there. (I know less about Russia, but my information comes from Kotkin's biography of Stalin, a monumental work of scholarship which describes the state's total failure in lurid detail. Russia is another country besides France where the aristocratic ideal failed completely and doomed the country to revolution. However, Russia's collapse was much more severe than Germany's. The latter's militarism at least formally grew as a continuation of the old order.)

The German warlord tried to invade Russia even though Russia wouldn't have invaded Germany any time soon, lost, and the nation was divided up among the victors. The victors then had a falling out between themselves and Germany was divided into two halves for over 40 years! Thanks to the failure of the state and the opportunist policies of the warlord, each of the victors got to indoctrinate Germans living in their territories with their pet ideologies, and a staggering 10% of the world population of Germans died during the war. (Not to mention territorial losses.)

And you say Germany didn't collapse? I'm sorry, I completely disagree with your interpretation of what occurred.

Meanwhile, England lost its empire after its fight with Germany, but the state didn't collapse at all. It even put someone like Winston Churchill who had definite warlord-like tendencies and might have become one in any other society in power during the war, removed him after the war, and then brought him back later when he campaigned separately as a peacetime leader. They might of course have done better in hindsight, but that is breathtaking success as a society as far as I'm concerned.

(You can of course trace the historical causes of Germany's collapse as far back as you like. Here are some relatively short descriptions that give an idea of the ground-level realities of the Weimar republic: http://www.incatena.org/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=37184&p=1086708&hilit=democracy#p1086708 http://www.incatena.org/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=37184&p=1086725&hilit=democracy#p1086725 http://www.incatena.org/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=37184&p=1086786&hilit=democracy#p1086786 Though none of these specifically address Hitler's takeover, you can probably tell that the situation was a close parallel to what you find in parts of Latin America.

I can't find similar short descriptions of what Germany was like prior to WWI, but here is Chesterton speaking his mind in his own amusing way: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11560 Reading between the lines, you can see how Germany's foreign policy managed to alienate all its neighbors at the time.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-29T13:12:15.821Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If they want to, representatives of that minority should be allowed to tell their side of the story from the same platform without being molested or demeaned. If that's allowed, you can say whatever you like about them. Is that not good?

To me this seems to be badly thought out. You don't specify a mechanism. Are those people who hold those speeches supposed to preregister them so that the opposing site can bring a speaker? If a speech goes against blacks and multiple black people want to hold the counter speech, who decides which of them get's the speaking slot?

You can of course trace the historical causes of Germany's collapse as far back as you like.

German territory is bigger today than it was 200 years ago. You could call Germany to be in perpetual collapse over it's history but that doesn't change the fact that it's today the strongest economic force in Europe and you have Greeks speaking about the 4th Reich.

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-31T03:21:29.882Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't specified a mechanism because I'm proposing a principle, not a law as yet. Laws are allowed to implement the principle imperfectly even when the principle is accepted as the basis of society.

(For example, let's start with the absolutely minimal requirement: Would you agree with a law that requires all platforms to at least declare that they abide by the pluralist principle of letting the opposition voice their point of view regardless of what goes on in practice? If this is acceptable, we can move on to more rigorous demands like declaring platforms that routinely violate this requirement to be illegal. We can decide on punishments afterwards.)

I'm not saying Germany isn't doing well today, but today's Germany is keeping up with and outcompeting the Anglo-Saxon world on its own terms. Germany the deontological "theocracy" (I can justify the term) collapsed in the 20th century and disappeared forever from history. (Even if the transition to dictatorship was not a collapse, surely its results qualify as a genuine collapse.

I don't understand your point regarding territories. I have tried to reconstruct your argument in various ways, but none of my attempted interpretations that hold together are relevant in the context of the utterance. Germans were forcibly relocated, etc. Are you unaware of the German territorial shrinkage, or are you just being cute by referring to the multiple German nations that previously existed? If it's the latter, that's like saying the Italian nation gained a lot of territory in the national unification, even though territories like the Azure Coast, which were culturally Italian, voted to join France. Ask the Germans if they feel like they've won out after all. If I were inclined to make arguments of this kind, I could propose the Holy Roman Empire as a German state larger than today's Germany.)

How many German generals today would cite Kant and Fichte as the basis for their thinking? How many thinkers would use their formulations for calling the Germans to war? (Despite all of Habermas' tirades against "instrumental rationality", his thought is saturated with the pragmatic tradition, and German thinkers today are instinctively consequentialist rather than deontological, though still not instrumentalist or utilitarian per se.

Even when they try to deny it, their appeals to consequences remain extensive. For example, Habermas was driven to look to the English intellectual tradition when formulating his philosophy because he decided that the German tradition lacked the resources to criticize Nazism. This means that even if he decides never to appeal to consequences again, at the root, his philosophy was motivated by an appeal to consequences: fascism was bad and he wanted the resources to criticize it.)

(China is also not too shabby at the moment, but to say that Chinese civilization did not collapse in the 20th century would be misleading to say the least. Contemporary Germany is not deontological in the same sense that contemporary India does not represent an authentic continuation of Hindu or Mughal civilizations with respect to their intellectual traditions.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-31T08:25:43.629Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For example, let's start with the absolutely minimal requirement: Would you agree with a law that requires all platforms to at least declare that they abide by the pluralist principle of letting the opposition voice their point of view regardless of what goes on in practice?

Requiring people to declare that they stand by a specific principle that's not in line with their platform is not good. In general I don't think that laws that require people to declare that they stand by any set of specific principles are good. I don't believe in thought crime.

If I run a blog, I don't think there should be a requirement that I allow comments on that blog that allow anybody that disagrees with me to voice their opinions on my blog. On the other hand pluralism means that they are free to host their own blog. and voice their criticism on their blog. I'm not allowed to run a DDoS on their blog but that's needs no additional law.

How many German generals today would refer to Kant and Fichte to rouse the fighting spirit of their soldiers?

At the time Kant lived there was no unified Germany.

Fichte believed in Germany, but it's important to note that at the time he did that there was no German nation but a lot of separate German territories.

You could say that the "German idea" collapsed by there being a German state. It became the European idea. The German idea was to have a political government that has more territory than the states in which Kant and Fichte lived. Today we speak of Europe and the European project very similar than Kant and Fichte spoke about Germany.

Among current civil servant the sentiment that's they execute the law because they swore an oath on it, even when they disagree with is still alive and well. It neither died in 1918, 1933, 1945 or 1968 or whenever you see the collapse of Germany.

Our standard legal doctrine still works roughly the same way. In our democracy we have less privacy protection than there were 120 years ago but privacy is still more important in Germany today than it is in the US.

comment by halcyon · 2015-06-01T04:44:56.460Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So you really do think that "the Italian nation gained a lot of territory in the national unification, even though territories like the Azure Coast, which were culturally Italian, voted to join France." I honestly don't know what to say to that. I said "nation", not "state". A nation is not a nation state.

I think your main error is to conflate duty with legalism. The ethics of duty is decidedly NOT legalistic, it is existential at the root. (The Dewey book gives some concrete examples.) Kant was of part-Scottish ancestry and was inspired by Scottish thinkers to try and come up with a deontological/existential approach to legalism, but it is consequentialism that is naturally legalistic. (with exceptional periods of "emergency", etc, but on the existential side you have stridently anti-legalistic eschatologists like Dostoevsky or even Berdyaev, really: https://archive.org/details/russianidea017842mbp Dostoevsky would of course have denied being an existentialist, and in a strict sense he would've been right, but I'd have trouble honestly justifying the claim that his approach is not existential in the loose sense that's relevant in this context, where Kant is also existential in the final analysis.)

(I'll let Orwell explain how much you owe to the culture of England: http://wikilivres.ca/wiki/The_Lion_and_the_Unicorn England is probably the least existential culture of our times. As you probably know, the Austrian school economists were trying to theorize the developments in England. Many German theorists belonged to English-inspired schools like that, but even legalist thinkers who considered themselves proudly non-English were more like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSNJGymnLG4

That is satire, but notice how progressive Germans were accused of imitating the English in EXACTLY the same way that Islamists accuse progressive Arabs of copying the West. The nature of the relationship of England to the rest of Europe was previously identical to the nature of the relationship of Europe to the rest of the world.

That's what you get when you have existentialism at the bottom of your legalism. (And once you approve of the existential approach, it's difficult to shut the door when extremists start clamoring for a purer version of the approach to which you've already fixed your seal of approval.) I strongly disagree with the notion that the contemporary European idea is anything like that. (See Habermas' objections against Heidegger. Habermas is arguably the philosopher of contemporary Europe.) Even the notion of an "European idea" including Britain is an oversimplification because if you ask Europeans, many of them will tell you that England has a different culture from the rest of Europe. You need to integrate a lot more facts to get less crooked outlines of such matters IMO.

I don't want you to think I'm putting German culture down or anything, but proposing an interpretation of "the German idea" that has the figure of Faust expurgated from it is like confusing Islamic culture with the Arabian Nights theme.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-01T13:07:35.976Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That is satire, but notice how progressive Germans were accused of imitating the English in EXACTLY the same way that Islamists accuse progressive Arabs of copying the West.

You call the collapse of democracy in 1933 a collapse of Germany but that democracy mostly was an American idea. After mostly losing to the US in WWI German's spent a decade wanting to copy the US.

You can't at the same time label stopping to copy other countries systems a collapse and copying other countries system a collapse.

I don't want you to think I'm putting German culture down or anything, but proposing an interpretation of "the German idea" that has the figure of Faust expurgated from it

The phrase "the German idea" refers to something particular the same way the phrase "the German question does". Neither of them happen to do something with Faust. Faust is a part of German culture but it's not about the German idea. Goethe would have had political problems to publish in favor of the the German idea at his time because that would have meant to question the authority of his government.

Faust is still part of German culture. It get's read in schools.

Even the notion of an "European idea" including Britain is an oversimplification because if you ask Europeans, many of them will tell you that England has a different culture from the rest of Europe.

The European idea is an ideal. It's a wish for the future. It's a wish for the future in the same way the German idea was a wish for the future in the early 19th century.

Nevertheless England get's partly governed by Brussels. The English might not like it, but Brussels has power. The referendum is going to be interesting. Does the British public make a choice to consent to be governed by Brussels or don't they?

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2015-06-03T19:42:12.421Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Germany mostly losing to the US in WW1? We may have tipped the balance, but our troop commitments were modest compared to the other actors. I suppose the loss can be attributed to that change, but there was a reason they started unrestricted submarine warfare - they were already in trouble.

Also, which people in Germany were imitating the US? The common folk? The government?

comment by halcyon · 2015-06-01T13:35:53.042Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Look, the collapse of a state is the collapse of state regardless of ideological roles. (Modern Germany is fundamentally Anglo-American in design and very successful. That is the point, since you were citing the success of contemporary Germany.)

(...Nah, it would take far too long to discuss the state of Germany prior to WWI.)

Faust really was a central figure in the German idea, I'm afraid. I don't know how consciously Goethe was complicit in this, and this has nothing to do with what he would have had problems for saying what when he published Faust.

Of course Faust is still a part of German culture. He's part of world culture, a typically German vision of the universal man. (I am personally a huge fan of Faust.)

I don't understand the contradiction in saying that X and Y have different wishes for the future owing to cultural differences. (And I don't understand what Habermas' Europe has to do with the 19th century German idea. Habermas has openly stated that the German intellectual tradition is inadequate for criticizing fascism and consciously borrowed from Anglophone thinkers. The most striking difference between thinkers who have gained a standing in the Anglophone world and thinkers from the rest of the world is their careful, deliberate anti-existentialism.)

(Kant is commonly admitted to be a romantic philosopher, and I found this link: http://philosophyisnotaluxury.com/2010/08/12/romanticism-and-existential-philosophy/)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-01T14:06:34.224Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In the 19th century the German idea was about not having wars between German states. It was about not having border but being unified under shared law. It was in it's nature cosmopolitan. "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles" meant when it was written to have something that's bigger than the individual states.

The European idea is given credit for preventing European nations from waging war against each other after WWII.

Kant is commonly admitted to be a romantic philosopher

When reading Kant in a school philosophy study group, our teacher told us that discussing whether or not someone is a romantic philosopher, is an Anglo-thing. German intellectual discourse usually doesn't focus on putting those kinds of labels on people but tries to be more discerning.

I also think that you overrate the impact of philosophers. A lot of important thought isn't done by philosophers. Today the Bertelsmann Stiftung produces more ideas that are relevant for political policy than Habermas.

comment by halcyon · 2015-06-02T03:55:39.095Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Oh well, I agree with the English that Kant was a romantic philosopher. Rousseau was a primary source of inspiration for him. (I agree with Dewey that writers (Goethe) and philosophers (Kant) give expression to popular views more than shaping them. OTOH, as much as I admire Goethe, I think Oswald Spengler went too far in trying to interpret him as a universal philosopher.)

"In the 19th century the German idea was about not having wars between German states," is a true statement, but it leaves out crucial details. For example, there are many people who agree that European nations should not war against each other, but are bitterly critical of the details of how that general plan was implemented in practice.

I think it follows that the European idea is not reducible to the notion that European states should not fight. If you do not agree, then I apologize for using terms like "European idea" and "German idea" in a sense you didn't intend, but my point can be easily reworded using "implementation of the German idea" in place of "German idea".

The point I'm trying to make is that, like I said, Germany is currently outcompeting the Anglo-American world on the terms of the Anglo-American world, not on the original terms of Germany. Arguably, England wanted to end European wars in the 19th century as well. Who would you say got their way in the end, England or Germany?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-02T11:46:25.859Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

England and Germany are not words on the same category. It's a bit apples to oranges.

Comparing England with Prussia or Britain with Germany would be a step in the right direction but it still misses the different nature.

I think it follows that the European idea is not reducible to the notion that European states should not fight.

Yes, it's that unification is the right strategy to prevent fighting.

In the early 19th century the call was for a free, unified and democratic Germany.

The part about democracy was copying other nations. Doing something in a different way than other nation wasn't the point.

Arguably, England wanted to end European wars in the 19th century as well. Who would you say got their way in the end, England or Germany?

The British geopolitical goal was to divide continental European powers.

To quote "Yes, Minister":

Sir Humphrey: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last five hundred years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now, when it's worked so well?

Hacker: That's all ancient history, surely?

Sir Humphrey: Yes, and current policy. We 'had' to break the whole thing [the EEC] up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn't work. Now that we're inside we can make a complete pig's breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch. The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it's just like old times.

Hacker: But surely we're all committed to the European ideal?

Sir Humphrey: [chuckles] Really, Minister.

Hacker: If not, why are we pushing for an increase in the membership?

Sir Humphrey: Well, for the same reason. It's just like the United Nations, in fact; the more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up, the more futile and impotent it becomes.

Hacker: What appalling cynicism.

Sir Humphrey: Yes... We call it diplomacy, Minister.

Europe today looks a lot more unified than it was in the 19th century, so that went more towards the German strategy.

Their are issues like accounting rules where we Germans gave up our superior accounting rules under which a crisis like the one of 2008 would be less likely to happen for the sake of having international accounting standards. On the other hand now the Bundesbank does manage to mostly set the course of European monetary policy.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T19:03:45.176Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

have been settled beyond dispute

Clearly not.

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T19:07:43.087Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe I wasn't clear enough.

Imagine there is a society where all kinds of people are saying all kinds of things. S is a subset of all the things that are being said, such that if X is a member of set S, then X is a case "that you yourself would agree have been settled beyond dispute are meaningless cases of inflammatory rhetoric that hardened bigots nevertheless continue to spread".

Now, I am only concerned cases X such that X is a member of set S.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T19:10:59.030Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Who is that "you yourself"? One particular person? Why should you care about the opinion of one particular person?

And since "bigots continue to spread" it's clear that the not the entire population agrees about X being the member of set S.

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T19:14:44.173Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In this case, you = Lumifer.

You, Lumifer, think my characterization is accurate for the specific cases that I am referring to.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T19:16:41.056Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am not the arbiter of appropriateness of speech and do not hold myself as such.

Specifically, in the case of personally me, the subset S looks to be empty.

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T19:30:21.785Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

1) S is empty for every society in the world, i.e. bigots are figments of our imagination?

2) Are you a deontologist or a consequentialist?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T19:37:42.843Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Your question isn't about the existence of bigots. It's about speech that "have been settled beyond dispute are meaningless cases of inflammatory rhetoric". To repeat myself, you're using terms that signal attitude towards speech, not characteristics of speech itself.

Do try to overcome the typical mind fallacy. Would an Indonesian peasant agree with you about that? A North Korean communist? An islamist from Somalia? Who determines what's "beyond dispute"?

I am a loose consequentialist with the very big proviso that out ability to forecast consequences is limited and falling back on deontology is frequently enough the best way to proceed.

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T20:07:26.619Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm afraid I'm more of a hardline consequentialist like EY. I often reach the same conclusions as deontologists, but not by following deontological lines of reasoning. Such results emerge from the overlapping consensus reached by multiple consequentialists coordinating with each other which trying to optimize the end results for themselves. Eg. There's a pie that two people want. The first person wants to eat the whole pie, but knows he'll be stabbed by the second if he does. To avoid that unwanted consequence, he sticks to the Schelling point of equal division, etc.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T20:12:10.534Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There's a pie that two people want. The first person wants to eat the whole pie, but knows he'll be stabbed by the second if he does. To avoid that unwanted consequence, he sticks to the Schelling point of equal division

Heh. Clearly the first person is irrational -- he should hurry to precommit to stab the second person unless he gets the whole pie X-D

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T20:14:02.505Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No he isn't, because the judge will stab anyone who stabs someone without legitimate grievance, and the mob will back the judge.

(Of course, all this is just metaphorical. What he really wants is to share the pie equally. He's negotiating with others to optimize for that outcome.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T20:18:10.057Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That bit seems to be missing from the original formulation of the problem :-)

But the rational response still seems to be to promise bread and circuses to the mob in exchange for the exclusive access to the pie.

What he really wants is to share the pie equally.

Why is that?

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T20:35:34.641Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The mob remains stubbornly uninterested. Its bloodymindedness to punish offenders is stronger than its love for pie.

He wants to share the pie equally because he is a good person.

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T19:47:46.119Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Your question isn't about the existence of bigots." Yes it is, as you will see if you use the full quotation. Okay, so you accept the existence of bigots. Step two: Do you accept the existence of inflammatory rhetoric being spread by bigots anywhere across spacetime?

"To repeat myself, you're using terms that signal attitude towards speech, not characteristics of speech itself." Honestly, I don't see why I should care.

"Do try to overcome the typical mind fallacy." Not really relevant to what I'm saying.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-02T03:36:54.852Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Care to define what you mean by "bigot" and "inflammatory rhetoric"?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T19:55:01.541Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Step two: Do you accept the existence of inflammatory rhetoric being spread by bigots anywhere across spacetime?

Of course. Just look at what kind of inflammatory rhetoric those anti-British bigots known as the Founding Fathers of the US were spreading!

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T19:56:21.665Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is that the judgement of the British, or the judgement of Lumifer?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T20:02:58.877Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

An interesting question. So the legitimacy of restrictions on speech (which is where we started) is now conditional on whose judgement we are talking about? :-)

I already told you my set S is empty. But the opinion of, say, the King of England on the one hand, and Ben Franklin on the other about the whole "inflammatory rhetoric" business is likely to have been very different. Who do we listen to?

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T20:11:36.624Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, so confirm that the following proposition is true: For Lumifer, "inflammatory rhetoric" is nonexistent across spacetime.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T20:15:17.992Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Could you please improve your reading comprehension at least to the degree where you don't attribute to me positions with straw sticking all out of them?

To quote yourself, the set S consists of speech

"that you yourself would agree have been settled beyond dispute are meaningless cases of inflammatory rhetoric that hardened bigots nevertheless continue to spread"

That set for personally me is empty as far as I can see (no counter-examples come to mind).

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T20:31:35.436Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No? Cool, so bigots exist and inflammatory rhetoric exists, so I dare hope that cases where the former have been spreading the latter also exist. Let's analyze my statement:

"that you yourself would agree have been settled beyond dispute are meaningless cases of inflammatory rhetoric that hardened bigots nevertheless continue to spread"

"You" refers to Lumifer. "Would agree have been settled beyond dispute" was just my way of saying "admits".

In my intended sense, that statement means, "Lumifer admits X is a case of inflammatory rhetoric being spread by bigots".

Since such cases exist, S is not empty. Now go back to my original comments and select an X such that X belongs to S.

I'm glad we could clear that up.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-05-27T20:57:57.918Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Would agree have been settled beyond dispute" was just my way of saying "admits".

LOL. And, to recall an old joke, "You ruined my life you fucking bitch!" was just my way of saying "Pass the salt, please".

Sorry, you seem to be intent on deliberately misinterpreting me. I am not particularly interested in how many nails will it take to attach that piece of jello to a tree. I'm out.

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-28T03:13:59.393Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A little charity, please. I'm not a native English speaker.

And I think it is entirely legitimate for me to disambiguate the sense in which I intended a particular sentence.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-05-27T23:17:59.620Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In my intended sense, that statement means, "Lumifer admits X is a case of inflammatory rhetoric being spread by bigots".

So you want to censor every case of inflammatory rhetoric spread by a "bigot"?

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-28T03:17:01.693Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, I'm genuinely on the fence on this one. My only claim is that one legitimate argument to do it does exist. Depending on the specific case, that reason may be outweighed by more significant arguments.

comment by g_pepper · 2015-05-27T18:37:56.150Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you have time, you should watch this video in which Jonathan Rauch puts forward a very intelligent moral defense of free speech. I don't think I can do it justice if I try to summarize it so I won't try. One point he makes though is that the most vulnerable of groups who are most likely to be targeted by hate speech are the least likely to be protected by laws constraining free speech.

Rauch is humorous in places and always thoughtful; he steelmans the case for restricting speech and his free speech defense holds up nicely against the steel man.

comment by halcyon · 2015-05-27T19:54:26.155Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm trying, but my connection is too slow. Thanks for the link, I'll try again later.

comment by g_pepper · 2015-05-29T03:01:24.802Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sounds good. I hope you have time to watch it! One point the video makes is that the most effective antidote to bad/wrong ideas is good/correct ideas. An environment that allows unfettered free speech, it seems to me, is an environment that is likely to allow people to judge ideas on their merits and, hopefully, will allow the good ideas to dominate.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-02T03:25:46.751Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What do you mean by "extreme"? Extreme relative to what? After all, even belief the singularity is an "extreme", relative to the current mainstream, position.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-05-25T04:42:59.036Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"The thing is, I actually do endorse polyamory. I mean, not in the sense of thinking everyone should do it, but in the sense of thinking it should be an option. I think there are some people who tend to do better in monogamous relationships, some people who are naturally polyamorous, and some people who can go either way."

According to the 2014 LessWrong Survey Results, 15.1 % of the LessWrong community prefers polyamorous relationships to monogamous ones. If you don't know what polyamory is, it's been described as "consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy. (Source). This excludes (formerly) monogamous relationships where one party is "cheating", i.e., engaged in an additional sexual or romantic relationship in secret. Semi-monogamous, or "monogamish", marriages and relationships may be count as polyamorous in the minds of some, but may be eschewed by the couple in question themselves. Among LessWrongers and almost all secular crowds, at least, "polyamory" is also not the same as the common thought of "polygamy", usually polygyny (one man, many women), which is practiced by some religious sects, and adheres to norms not shared by the polyamorous.

Anyway, I'm wondering if Eliezer Yudkowsky's position, that monogamy or polyamory will work better for different people, is the consensus opinion among poly people. I'm not sure if poly folk tend to think polyamory is, in some sense, superior to monogamy, and that if people think they prefer monogamy, or that monogamy is better in general, they're mistaken. I know lots of monogamous people state polyamory is unsustainable, and so poly folk defend poly as equal in validity and usefulness to monogamy, depending on one's preferences. I'm curious about something different. Do poly folk tend to think polyamory is a superior relationship style for people, that almost everyone would do better in polyamory, because it is a more valid and useful relationship style?

I'm also aware there have been different waves of polyamory. I'm aware a large portion of poly population in North America hail from the tradition of "free love" among hippies. This is the second wave. Polyamory is and was more of a fuzzy concept within this wave However, I know several polyamorous people or relationships among LessWrongers/rationalists, as well as some hailing from the skeptic community. While the hippie generation of poly folk also correlates New Age beliefs, people who became poly via explicitly secular communities, or by learning about it through the Internet, tend to accept it merely on the grounds of rejecting monogamy as the only relationship style as an outdated cultural/religious tradition. Do the perspectives of the New Age, and most recent, waves of polyamory greatly differ on the validity of monogamy or polyamory?

If you yourself hold a position on this topic, please feel free to share.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-05-25T14:11:09.752Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

... Are you sure that your three related posts on this topic in this open thread alone wouldn't warrant their own top-level post?

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-05-27T02:11:29.780Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The issues on polyamory are very related, but are distinct from dating more generally. They could be their own top-level post. I tend to downgrade my confidence in my own theories or the validity of my questions, so I put them in open threads rather than as top-level posts. I don't want to initially signal more confidence in my own theories than I think is justified. When I have a model of how the world works, I try to live the virtue of lightness by seeking to break it by asking others. My strength as a rationalist only seems such that when I think something might be true, but I'm not confident I can evaluate my map of the territory by myself, I bring in the rest of your for help.

So, I try to separate questions on a common topic down to a level at which they're most intelligible and easy to answer, without losing the gist of what I'm trying to figure out. This habit was confirmed when I made several suggestions for the 2014 Less Wrong Survey, one of which was heavily adopted and upvoted, another which was downvoted and improved upon by other suggestions. Had I just put all those suggestions for improving the Survey in one comment, the strength of votes as signals would have been diluted, and been noisier. Thus, I might not have caused the survey to improve at all. That would be worse for everyone.

That example demonstrates the rationale for why I make multiple comments in the open thread. If I don't separate my posts so atomically, even if it seems redundant, I'm worried the quality of the feedback I receive will be jumbled. If I'm polluting the open thread, or ruining it, I'll change tactics, but it seems a low-intensity environment where people don't mind some amount of repetition.

comment by Elo · 2015-05-25T10:24:35.433Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Those who I know who engage in poly have no interest in pushing their views on others and hold the belief that the way they are doing things seem to be working for them. (And from time to time they change their minds and drop out of the poly community and so its hard to say how often that happens to people). Of the people I know; its a learn-by-trial method of being. Also being aware that some people are better at life (and interactions) than others will help you decide whether to stay or go in a relationship.

As a model; I like the model of "X works for some people but does not work for others". to keep in my toolbox of ideas for whenever someone suggests something that I think works for them but will not work for me; or before I suggest something that works for me but might not work for them. (also known as "Your mileage may vary").

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-01T21:53:01.539Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The current LW terms of service say:

MIRI will not be responsible for any delay or failure in performance of the Website arising out of any cause beyond MIRI’s control, such as acts of God, war, riots, fire, terrorist attacks, power outages, severe weather, or other accidents

Is it necessary to use the G-word (and capitalize it)?

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-06-02T00:24:58.785Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It is proper Legalese.

comment by Halfwitz · 2015-05-27T02:04:00.311Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I remember following Willow Robotics's work a couple years ago and writing general robots off as a lost cause - it really did seem hopeless. Now I notice I am confused. Anyone else watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeVppkoloXs. It's baffling.