The Nanny State Didn't Show Up, You Hired It [LINK]

post by RomanDavis · 2012-09-18T21:07:00.140Z · score: -11 (25 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 27 comments

http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2012/09/the_nanny_state_didnt_show_up.html

Saw this and I thought it went so well with Beyond the Reach of God and Blue and Green on Regulation that I just had to post it here. It definitely articulates some of the frustrations I've had with  people who break out in a rash of Libertarianism over one (on the surface) silly law being passed and reported on and then not:

A. Using the Principle of Charity to see what the opponent is really about. Even if it's silly, it shouldn't be *that* silly. See Policy Debates Should Not Appear to be One Sided.

B. Considering how it applies in the larger context. You should be free to buy big sodas but not [insert literally anything the government regulates here, which is a ton of stuff]. Why is this sillier than the other thing? See anything Less Wrong has written about the absurdity heuristic.

C. Thinking about your source of information, noting the feeling it's giving you, why it's giving you that feeling. Then realizing that it was specifically designed to give that feeling. If they did this, then dropping the line of thought or, deciding that they're so much smarter than the people in charge. *And then forgetting that the fact that they feel that was part of the plan of those who reported it, too.* Seriously, The Last Psychiatrist is great for that stuff.

 

27 comments

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comment by prase · 2012-09-18T21:37:05.150Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

After skimming through the linked article I am quite confused by its author's bizarre writing style. And almost complete lack of order among its many conclusions and assumptions (hard to tell them apart). Isn't there a clear way to state the same thing without forcing the reader to wade through silly dialogues and pointless digressions?

comment by Eneasz · 2012-09-18T22:13:03.431Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's his standard writing style. It's not to everyone's taste, but I find it captivating. It creates a sort of mental soundscape that other ideas can echo off of.

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-19T01:02:40.699Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, he makes the assumption that you've read other stuff by him, which creates a decent sized inferential distance. This alllows him to cover more material per post. This is a pretty common trope among blogs, including this one. But it can be confusing.

I tend to just ride the wave of confusion until something later clarifies it, but that makes skimming nearly impossible. I like styles that make me read every word as important as it helps me remember what I'm reading.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-19T03:54:33.148Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, he makes the assumption that you've read other stuff by him, which creates a decent sized inferential distance.

A style altogether unfamiliar to LessWrong, I assure you.

comment by knb · 2012-09-19T05:33:27.343Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I followed the link, and wow that was a bad article. After sampling some of the structureless, self-indulgent writing, I realized I've actually read a few posts from him before. My personal favorite is this, where he takes a break from rambling about some internet celebrity to explain that we are all sheeple for not turning widescreen monitors sideways.

But what makes The Last Psychiatrist really awful is that he pretends to be wise. One very easy way to establish oneself as Wise and Profound is to baldly make some seemingly self-contradictory or obviously false statement. It's important not to actually argue for this claim, simply make it, and sneer at anyone who disagrees. A great example:

What you don't understand consciously is that your judgment of risk is based on the fact that you believe in God, and this is even more true if you think you don't believe in God. I can sense your resistance to this idea because you think you don't believe in God, but sadly for your immortal soul, you do.

Heh, you think you don't believe in god? Think again, sheeple! The Last Psychiatrist doesn't need evidence, he just makes reality up as he goes.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-19T11:26:32.477Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

For what it's worth, The Last Psychiatrist used to be interesting, but then he started ranting about how everyone (else) is a narcissist without giving any clue about what a non-narcissistic approach to life would be like.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-19T22:51:24.730Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

For what it's worth, The Last Psychiatrist used to be interesting, but then he started ranting about how everyone (else) is a narcissist without giving any clue about what a non-narcissistic approach to life would be like.

Replace "narcissist" with "hypocrite" and that's a good description of Robin Hanson.

comment by gwern · 2012-09-20T01:20:56.361Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Which raises the question - if Hanson turns out to be massively hypocritical on something, does that undermine or support his whole Homo hypocritus paradigm?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-20T02:57:27.485Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think Hanson's been showing more variation lately.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-20T21:51:21.192Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Possible, I stopped reading him several years ago.

comment by taelor · 2012-09-20T16:41:23.276Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Hanson's whole point that everyone is naturally hypocritical, and has been made that way via millions of years of evolution optimized to handle social politics in small forager bands? Wouldn't a "non-[hypocritical] approach to life" be something that Hanson's theory would predict wouldn't exist?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-20T21:52:13.859Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In that case what cluster in thing-space does the word "hypocrite" cut out?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-20T16:44:13.806Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

sheeple for not turning widescreen monitors sideways

Why on Earth would I want to do that? By keeping it horizontal I can see two pages of the book I'm reading at once, as I would if I was reading a printed copy!

comment by knb · 2012-09-21T07:15:01.549Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've noticed a lot of older users tend to have only one application maximized on their screens. I suspect that's because they got used to using computers when displays were smaller and it was impractical to keep more than one application open on the desktop. These days displays are huge and cheap, so most people use them with the originally intended "desktop metaphor". Like widescreen monitors, desks are typically wide rectangles, that let you view multiple documents/applications at a time.

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-19T06:57:25.781Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In context it refers to the very same fallacy mentioned in Beyond the Reach of God just put into psychoanalytic terms. I understand if you dislike the style. I completely understand if you think psychoanalysis has a really shitty use of words, but that's really what he's saying, and you would have known if you were paying attention.

The point made in Beyond the Reach of God, that the universe can really hurt, kill and maim you without moral limit, that cancer isn't only allowed to happen to you in theory, but really to you, at any moment, that catastrophies like the holocaust, and the collapse of science in the middle east, and really can and do happen, is a real point that deserves to be made again and again. And again. And again.

comment by knb · 2012-09-19T10:11:37.661Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're actually citing evidence that supports my position. Yudkowsky makes it explicit in his essay that he didn't "get it" before, but that he does now. That goes against The Last Psychiatrist's claim that everyone (everyone!) makes decisions as thought they believe in God

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2012-09-19T11:56:51.421Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The hyperbole of "everyone" you're focusing on doesn't really seem a significant argument against him, when a bias so widespread is being discussed. The purpose is to get his ideas across with a sharp style, not to be 100% accurate, and if he were to say that this happens not to you necessarily, but rather to 99.9% of people, then 99% of his readers would probably think they personally fell inside the 0.1% that was immune to such thinking...

I'm likewise now pulling those numbers out of my ass, btw, for the purposes of illustrating my point, not the purpose of being 100% accurate.

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-19T11:45:34.312Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not literally God, just faith in the idea that bad things above a certain threshold somehow aren't allowed to happen to you. Sometimes the power is thought to be in some other, real or unreal entity, like the state or the fed or democracy or science or whatever. And sometimes it's not. It's just a bias, floating around in your thoughts in ways you aren't terribly aware of.

He wasn't generalizing from one example. He cites many example of people talking and thinking like this.

I'm going to go ahead and take his side on this one. It's just a bias. It's a cognitive malfunction of your brain that you might be able to work your way around by reframing if you remain vigilantly aware of it, or you construct a formula (like an actuary would) and operate according to that formula with as little input from the relevant buggy software in your brain as possible, but the bias is still there. For the vast, vast, vast, majority of people that bias is here to stay.

Like scope sensitivity, I really don't think there's much fixing it (without upgrading the hardware) and I just basically don't believe people who think they have accomplished this via mental discipline. It's possible, but it seems extremely unlikely. What's more, a claim like that seems motivated by exactly the same kind of optimistic bias.

comment by bramflakes · 2012-09-18T21:16:53.519Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm having trouble parsing this:

It definitely articulates some of the frustrations I've had with people breaking out some people who break out in a rash of Libertarianism over one (on the surface) silly law being passed and reported on and then not

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-09-19T01:34:03.970Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I did too. I'm guessing

It definitely articulates some of the frustrations I've had with people who break out in a rash of Libertarianism over one (on the surface) silly law being passed and reported on and then not

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-19T01:04:42.621Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Typo. Fixed.

comment by Eneasz · 2012-09-18T22:50:25.309Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Alone points out that humans create institutions to make their environment safer, and then offload their own responsibilities onto these institutions. He accuses us all of shirking our Heroic Responsibility. I’m not sure this is fair. An individual human can only do so much. I’ve avoided vulnerability to a somewhat silly degree in the past (avoiding caring for others or owning much more than I can carry at a dead run… caring for too much makes you vulnerable). Turns out too much independence can be far more harmful than not enough, because individual humans are weak and small, and we can do things of Power only by combining our efforts. To do something noteworthy, we much focus on our specialty and trust others to do focus on theirs. To create a strong meta-individual, we cannot all be completely responsible for everything – we need some specialists in responsibility as well. Not every cell in the human body can fight off hostile invaders, most of them have other vital tasks.

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-19T01:11:08.334Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, I agree, at least to a certain extent. Don't be so green and blue. We really are shirking responsibility. If your morality has responsiblity as the highest virtue, than it might be bad to have a nanny state, but there a serious advantages to having one, such as, as you point out, specialization.

The libertarian in me says it'd be ideal to have a third party, like an advocacy group, or a religion or whatever, taking that responsibility for those who need it while the government did the minimum against fraud and such. But as long as people don't realize they're Beyond the Reach of God, that's going to have problem of it's own.

comment by earthwormchuck163 · 2012-09-18T22:38:25.874Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for reminding me that I should be following this guy.

comment by prase · 2012-09-18T21:16:34.511Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

frustrations I've had with people breaking out some people who break out

Looks like a typo.

Edit: when I am already at this, another typo:

absurdity hueristic

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-19T01:05:01.180Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fixed both.

comment by Eneasz · 2012-09-18T22:19:52.221Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This article is very much in the same vein as the discussion about Heroic Responsibility So good!

Thanks for this, I haven't read Last Psychiatrist in a while, it was nice to be reminded of it again.