Rationality Attractors in Personspace

post by atucker · 2011-09-03T21:25:08.952Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 9 comments

These two questions seem to be somewhat interesting, especially for those interested in rationality outreach.

What makes someone more likely to study rationality?

More likely to become a higher level rationalist?

A few thoughts:

Empirically, rationalists seem to be more into technical fields than average, and more interested in an explicit understanding of social things than most technical people.

People who can more clearly see deficiencies in themselves, and who try to solve problems seem more likely to become rationalists, when exposed to rationality.

People who are motivated to pursue rationality for instrumental goals, rather than for funsies, seem to become better rationalists.



Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-09-04T01:55:37.814Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

May I humbly suggest that "become a rationalist" be replaced with "study rationality" or "improve their rationality", as appropriate (and "higher level" with whatever it means), and "rationalists [that empirically seem . . .]" with whatever group you actually observed?

(As you can tell, I've taken up the word "rationalist" as a pet peeve. I hope I'm not being more annoying than useful by repeatedly trying to dissolve the word.)

comment by atucker · 2011-09-04T21:21:20.629Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Replaced the first, fair point.

The group I observed was LWers who self-identify as rationalists.

I don't think that dissolving the word is particularly helpful in this case though. I rearranged a few parts in order to avoid a (fairly common, fairly justified) peeve, and not doing that much more to elucidate what I mean by it, compared to the similar comment with a similar question w/r/t what a better rationalist means.

On the other hand, I'm somewhat irked with the lack of information on what seems to me to be a non-wrong question.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-09-05T23:50:14.577Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, my peeve with the word "rationalist" is that it has many meanings. It could mean "rationality student", "rationality enthusiast", or "person who is rational", not to mention "person who shuns intuition in favor of reason" and "person who shuns evidence in favor of reason". I think avoiding the word "rationalist", and instead saying what we mean by the word, could make our prose a lot more precise and not much longer.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-09-04T00:03:25.752Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How are you defining what makes a better rationalist and how are you measuring it? What is the difference between instrumental goals and funsies? My long term goals involve having more funsies by most notions of that term.

comment by atucker · 2011-09-04T01:26:29.814Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not particularly measuring it, but what I mostly mean that it's someone who actually thinks about their goals, and successfully changes their actions as a result of such thought.

By for funsies I mean someone who just likes applying rationality because thinking about certain things is fun. Like, how I study physics because physics is awesome, more than for any intended use of physics.

comment by XiXiDu · 2011-09-04T09:22:00.061Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

By for funsies I mean someone who just likes applying rationality because thinking about certain things is fun. Like, how I study physics because physics is awesome, more than for any intended use of physics.

That seems to be the reason for why I am doing it. I suppose that believing that rationality is instrumentally useful would provide a stronger incentive to think about it seriously. But I currently don't expect formal rationality to be worth it when it comes to having success in life, at least not for me. And even if that was the case, I perceive social abilities to be much more important.

comment by InquilineKea · 2011-09-04T17:14:53.061Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My signal is usually someone's beliefs on certain controversial issues that arouse emotional gut responses in most people.

E.g., someone's view of the war on drugs is a pretty good signal of how rational they are - to a limited extent (although opposing it doesn't mean that they'll have Razib Khan or Robin Hanson levels of rationality). Mostly though, it just filters out irrational people (and it does a better job at filtering out irrational people than, say, views on abortion).

I do generally investigate more deeply though - beliefs on the public education system is another measure I use (and one where most academics, unfortunately, really fail on rationality). On that, at least, the "rational" position seems to be supported by a small minority of the population (other possible signals: views on cryonics, the use of mind-enhancing drugs, eugenics - this is actually a strong one, and life-extension)

I also use irreverence as a signal too. If you put too much respect on someone, then you'll get offended if someone points out possible defects in that person's way of thinking. Every statement someone makes must be critically evaluated, and yes, this applies to Razib Khan and Robin Hanson as much as anyone else (even though I highly respect them)


(of course, you also have to consider their "potential" for being rational - even I used to buy into the BS of the war on drugs and increased support for public education in the way it's structured now)

comment by __Emil__ · 2011-09-05T16:12:25.960Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A rational reason for not professing opposition to the war on drugs is that you do not want to lose status. Surely your tests are for identifying contrarians?

comment by InquilineKea · 2011-09-07T02:41:54.968Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Not professing opposition" is different from supporting it. Sorry for not making it more clear.

If someone has no public view on the issue - that's fine. It's a completely different thing if they actively take the irrational view (like supporting it)