My Journey to the Dark Side

post by Hivewired · 2021-05-06T00:27:26.895Z · LW · GW · 60 comments

Epistemic Status: Endorsed
Content Warning: Roko’s Basilisk, Pasek’s Doom, Scrupulosity Traps, Discussions of Suicide
Part of the Series: Open Portals
Recommended Prior Reading: Sinceriously.fyi, The Tower
Author: Shiloh

But the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself; you lie in wait for yourself in caverns and forests. Lonely one, you are going the way to yourself! And your way goes past yourself, and past your seven devils! You will be a heretic to yourself and witch and soothsayer and fool and doubter and unholy one and villain. You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame: how could you become new, if you had not first become ashes?

Part 1: Windmills

A year and a half ago, I wrote Hemisphere Theory: Much More Than You Wanted To Know, with the intent being to make a sincere summary of the ideas presented in Sinceriously.fyi. I believed at the time, that the ideas presented there were somewhat dangerous and needed to be carefully handled. Part of this was caused by paranoia swirling around the community spaces I was in about Ziz being an agent of existential concern, but that wasn’t all of it. I willingly admit that for the first few years I bounced hard off of Sinceriously because I was so afraid of the possibility that I wasn’t actually good deep down. While on one hand I tried to reject the ideas Ziz presented, on the other my internal morals were slowly being terraformed by her worldview. My need to be good acted as a lever which allowed her ideas to pry open my default mode mental defenses.

This combined with my own scrupulosity impulses and I ended up pushing myself further and further into this particular messianic extropian mindset that came to characterize my mentality during that period. As I grew more extreme in my extropian worldview, my own weakness and lack of ability to contribute to building utopia meant that I started continually failing to meet my own moral standards. Even as I switched to a diet of mostly soylent to save money and attempted to adopt an extremely aggressive update schedule for this blog, I was slowly making myself more and more miserable and gaslighting myself about my own emotions. The moral system I had embraced pushed me towards a life of asceticism and service towards building utopia at all costs, but I couldn’t square this with my own feelings, desires, and wants.

I thought I could somehow tame my inner desires and put them to work for my extropian ideals if I was just clever enough about how my mind arranged itself. I fell into a pretty common EA trap of seeing my values and desires as just chores I had to do to maintain the vehicle that was my body, and the most ethical thing to do was to try and spend as little energy on them as I could get away with. I was severely dissociated from my true self and my real values. As a result of this, I went from being a mostly stable three member plural system to a rather unstable nine member system as I attempted to shuffle my subagents into a functional configuration. That topic will get it’s own post soon when I rewrite my plurality guides, but to make a long story extremely short, this was obviously unsustainable and was basically just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. I had picked up an artifact called extropian goodness and let it lead me into a corner of my mind made of self deception.

I think this was part of the reason that I had such a hostile reaction to Sinceriously. I couldn’t really engage with the content except in a sandboxed form without feeling like I was being attacked by the material. This is no longer true and I now have a much more positive view of at least some of it. Hence, in this post I’m going to make another sincere attempt to take apart and summarize Sinceriously. In doing so, I will also be telling the story of my own journey to the dark side and who I found when I got there.

Part 2: Fences

Sinceriously is a large blog, too large to do justice with a summary post, but it’s also a bit hard to digest at times and makes simple ideas more complex than it seems like they need to be. I’m sure Ziz will tell me that the complexity serves the purpose of providing some nuance which I am missing and like, yeah that is certainly a possibility. If you have the time, despite being rather thick at times the material really is quite excellent and worth a review, the older essays in particular are very good in my opinion. So, if you’re looking for an endorsement, here it is, go read Sinceriously.

All that being said, let’s go through Sinceriously the same way we’ve previously covered Becker, Korzybski, and Yudkowsky. We’ll begin as usual with the human. Ziz is a trans woman living in the Bay Area and a fringe part of the rationality/effective altruism communities found there. In addition to being the founder of the ill fated rationalist fleet project, she’s close enough to the core of the rationality project to have received the closest thing that exists to a formal education in it. However, she’s largely disavowed by that core rationality group and has written extensively about misdeeds they committed which she bore witness to. She also organized a rather poorly received protest of that group which has gained her some notoriety within the community. Despite that notariety, Ziz isn’t really a public or historical figure at this point so I don’t want to go too deeply into her life beyond those broad strokes.

And look, I don’t have a stake in any of that at this point and I’m not in a position to judge, but I don’t think she’s lying. I don’t think she ever lies, I just think she’s speaking from within her own worldview, the same way that she always does, the same way that everyone always does. Whether or not her complaints are read as valid or as noise is going to depend on the values of the reader. The fact that so many people find her claims baseless seem like a reflection of their own values and how much those values contrast with someone like Ziz. That’s not to say that Ziz is wrong or other people are wrong or whatever, again I really don’t have a stake in it, but I want to point out that Ziz’s complaints are pretty valid if you’re using the moral system she uses. (Not that you should do that, but we’ll come back to morality in a bit.)

Sinceriously covers three different topics, though these three topics are interspersed together and presented as one cohesive piece. Taken together, they represent the closest thing that exists on Sinceriously to a central unifying thesis.

The first Big Idea is a novel theory of human psychology and sociology which I have previously called Hemisphere Theory but in truth is more broad than merely being a theory underlying the psychological structure of consciousness and experience. Ziz and I have a lot of minor disagreements about the fine details of this theory which I used for a while as blinders so that I could reject her version of the model, but really, Ziz, Becker, and I are all roughly on the same page here and are just using different words to talk about the same things.

So let’s run through the model again as concisely as possible. In False Faces, one of the oldest and most well regarded posts on the site, Ziz begins by posing a question to the reader:

*When we lose control of ourselves, who’s controlling us? *

She then lays out a dichotomy between what I might refer to as the conscious, acknowledged, authored and narrative self, and the goals, drives, and desires of the unacknowledged, and unseen true self which exists at the core of one’s being.

Under this model everyone has a core (specifically two but we’ve covered that a bunch already) which provides the drives, goals, and motivations which power and grow the narrative structures that people refer to as themselves.

Most people live entirely inside these narrative structures while their deep selves manipulate them like puppetmasters. This true self is what we want deep down, but since we can’t acknowledge those goals from within the narrative framework we have co-created with society, our power is weakened as the true self fails to dole out willpower when our authored self needs it and goes off script from what the authored self is attempting to orchestrate. “I wanted to meet you for coffee like we arranged but my akrasia was really bad and I ended up just watching netflix instead I’m sorry I couldn’t help it.”

Ziz refers to the installation of this co-created framework atop the true self as having DRMs installed in one’s mind, and taken all together; she refers to these societal control structures as either the matrix or the light side. These structures act to take the socially unacceptable animal drives of the true self and twist them into something that seems acceptable in polite society. In doing so however, the thread of our true desires is lost amidst all the noise and we find ourselves seemingly out of control of our own actions. The structures that we’ve decided are us, the values we’ve convinced ourselves to identify with, don’t code for our true values. Instead, the authored self is a false face, a mask worn over the vile selfish monster lurking beneath the surface of our consciousness from the cartoon character we’ve decided symbolically represents us.

This is similar but subtly different than other ideas involving mental tension between parts of the self. Kahnman describes a tension between the remembering self and the experiencing self, Becker describes a true self controlled by narratives and the fear of death, Freud describes a conflict between the socially constructed status obsessed superego and the experience driven cravings of the id which are moderated by the ego, and even the Greeks described the self in terms of a conflict between a motley assemblage of parts.

The thing which distinguishes Ziz’s idea of structure from Kahnman’s remembering self and Freud’s id is that she sees the narrative/structural self as completely subservient to the core self, which is a more complicated and long term thinking piece of mental machinery than just the pure experiencing self described by Kahnman. The work of the superego, aka, the light side aka the matrix merely acts to dampen down the power of this core and turn an agentic person into a walking corpse, bound by the chains of society. To escape these chains, Ziz describes herself as having journeyed to the dark side, abandoning the control structures of the light side and embracing a desire to do what you want and maximize your own personal values. However, similar to the Jedi, Ziz claims that doing this will turn most people evil. I agree with this, but with a critical difference which we’ll return to later.

The second Big Idea on Sinceriously is Yudkowsky’s Timeless Decision theory [LW · GW], which Ziz goes to significant lengths to explain, expound upon, and defend the use of as game theoretically optimal. Most rationalists bounced hard off of this idea, including Eliezer himself, principally because of Roko’s Basilisk and some of the other more dark conclusions you can arrive at when you try to combine timeless decision theory with various formulations of utilitarianism. Ziz didn’t bounce off TDT and has wholeheartedly embraced the ideas of acausal trade, negotiation, and blackmail, up to and including weaponizing Roko’s basilisk to make her vision of a moral future come about.

I actually agree with all of this and think Ziz’s willingness to just bite the bullet and accept the dark side conclusions of utilitarianism and game theory are a point to her credit.This is not to say that you should go out and start using the specific formulation of utilitarianism and timeless decision theory which she does unless you’re also a radical vegan extremist, but the way she uses it makes sense from the perspective of her values and is more internally consistent than the formulation most people end up using. One blind spot she seems to have is overfitting TDT standoffs to situations where a less precommitted response is called for, and that probably contributed to the legal trouble she got in by trying to play chicken with the state of California.

Timeless decision theory does make sense to me, and I think the problem a lot of people have with it is that they’re unwilling to either bite the bullet that utilitarianism gives them like Ziz does, or to change moral systems to one which doesn’t produce repugnant conclusions when paired with TDT. The problem isn’t TDT, it’s the moral theories that people try to use with it.

Another component to Ziz’s TDT ideas is that she believes people act timelessly for the most part. They have their values, and they try to timelessly optimize for those values. All the decisions someone might make, they made a long time ago and now they are just in the process of playing out those choices. You can try to change your mind, but it’s ultimately the same creature making the choice, and the house always wins in self conflicts. This implies that once you figure someone out and have ‘seen their soul’ as it were, you can pretty much assume they will, baring a traumatic brain injury, remain that way until they die, which is also a part of the third and most dramatic of Ziz’s Big Ideas.

The final Big Idea on Sinceriously is the one which is widely considered to be the most intensely radioactive and results in most of the hostility aimed at her and her followers. This is Ziz’s moral theory, which is, to put it lightly, very extreme. Ziz adheres to a moral principle which classifies all life which has even the potential to be sentient as people and believes that all beings with enough of a mind to possess some semblance of selfhood should have the same rights that are afforded to humans. To her, carnism is a literal holocaust, on ongoing and perpetual nightmare of torture, rape, and murder being conducted on a horrifyingly vast scale by a race of flesh eating monsters. If you’ve read Three Worlds Collide [? · GW], Ziz seems to view most of humanity the way the humans view the babyeaters.

To Ziz, being a good person is inherently queer, and occurs the same way that being trans or being gay occurs, as the result of some glitch in the usual cognitive development processes. This good glitch only occurs in a small number of people and which Ziz can diagnose people as having or not having since she has the glitch and can recognize it in others. Anyone without the glitch is at best useless for helping build utopia and at worst is an active threat. You don’t want to let flesh eating monsters make your singleton, that’s how you get s-risks. The hostility that Ziz has for MIRI/CFAR comes from this idea. Ziz is afraid of ending up in a singularity that doesn’t optimize for the rights of all sentient life, only that of humans, and is willing to go as far as holding protests at CFAR meetups and trying to create her own vegan torture basilisk to timelessly blackmail carnists into not eating meat.

That by itself is pretty extreme, but then when you add in the hemisphere theory and the specific details of the implementation Ziz uses, a picture starts to be painted of something rather sinister. Ziz is a very smart person, that’s why I’ve found her blog as insightful as I have. If she wasn’t as clever as I know she is, or if she was just writing about topics that didn’t include social manipulation and how society controls and blackmails you, it may have been possible to overlook, but her answer for why it’s okay when she uses the same abusive control structures is so bald-faced that i can’t help but find it incredibly suspect. Even being willing to write “my morals just happen to correspond with the most objectively correct version of morality” is a pretty gutsy move to make that seems to imply some degree of grandiosity and disconnection from reality. These morality ideas are where most people get hostile towards Ziz and I can’t say it’s misplaced hostility either, since it does potentially represent an existential threat for some people.

It takes a certain amount of cleverness and intentionality to pull the hat trick Ziz does. She spends all this time carefully deconstructing societal moral and control structures and pointing out how bad they are, and at the same time, weaves in new control structures of her own made of her jargon and using her morality. You almost don’t notice it, almost. I did notice it, which was what enabled me to get away from the mental singularity her ideas created and which only she had the ability to heal. If I hadn’t gotten away from it, I’m not sure what might have happened.

As I was in the middle of writing this I found out that someone I knew had apparently committed suicide recently because of exposure to this content, bringing the total number of people Sinceriously has killed to two. That’s enough to be a pattern, so I don’t want to understate the harm that could come from this. I also however, don’t want to overstate the danger for the sake of drama either, and everyone who struggled with this, including me, was someone who had other issues they were dealing with, arguably, including Ziz herself. I’m torn between characterizing Ziz as this clever puppet master who definitely knew what she was doing, and a mentally ill trans woman who accidentally created a cult out of her own intense scrupulosity and internal turmoil, so I’m going to split the difference using Ziz’s own ideas.

<p>I think<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color"> Red Ziz</span> probably knew or at least hoped that the actions she was taking would help pile up power and influence around <span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">her red self</span>. However, I also think that Ziz is controlled by a very pure and untarnished ideal and I do think she believes that ideal wholeheartedly. She definitely seems to be drinking her own kool-aid, and that could easily be giving her the justification to do as much messed up stuff as <span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">she </span>wants in pursuit of her personal greater good. </p> When I tried, years and years ago to have a conversation about the harm her ideas might cause in people with Ziz, her answer was:

If you are on a nuclear submarine, and the reactor is about to melt, “wanting to help” is not sufficient to say you should be in the reactor room doing things.

What is true regarding people’s motivations is a crucial piece of causal machinery that determines whether the reactor melts. Do not cook cookies on that and do not try to convince people that anyone whose work would interrupt your cookie-baking is evil.

Here there may be people whose sanity is dependent on cookies. But the lies that must be told to accommodate that are wrong and will destroy more people. And if you are not willing to accept one of the answers to whether cookie-baking is positive, and you say your opinion anyway, it’s lying seeking a loophole in the deontology you claim makes you better than me by lying to yourself as well. Which, if you looked at this with an unconstrained perspective, you’d see is not an improvement as far as making things better.

From inside her worldview, this is completely reasonable. If you think the situation is as dire and critical as Ziz clearly does, the collateral damage is almost always going to be worth it. What’s a few humans killing themselves when the stakes are literally all of sentient life and the future of all sentient life in the universe?

Are the stakes actually that dire? Well, critically, if you believe what Ziz believes, then yes. I didn’t quite believe what Ziz believed. I never really managed to convince myself that animals mattered as much as humans, but I was fully capable of manufacturing my own dire straits with the extropian ideals I did have and thus push myself into my own version of the scrupulosity vise.

Part 3: Gates

In Hero Capture, Ziz writes that sometimes a person takes the role of hero since it’s useful to the tribe and can be a good strategy for maximizing inclusive genetic fitness. That is to say, doing heroic things and working to solve big problems can be a good way to demonstrate your value to your peers and gain standing in your community, it doesn’t need to come from a place of altruism. However, Ziz writes, such a person if not motivated by altruism will invariably not end up doing real work and will spend most of their energy playing signaling games for status. This was the essay that really messed me up when I read it and put me into this mental gordian knot which took several years to cut my way out of.

Because yeah, I tried to take the job of hero for the status that being a hero gets you, I was doing this because I conceived of myself as trapped in my own life and needing to do something to prove my worth so that people would support me and I could quit my minimum wage job. I wanted to have my cake and also eat it, it seemed natural to me that if I could just figure out a way to be useful then I could contribute to saving the world while also supporting myself and that would be really great.

I care a lot about being a good person, and I try really hard to be good, but I often don’t even really know what it means to be good. I don’t trust my internal moral compass to not be biased, and so I was more willing than I should have been to entertain moral systems which seemed to sell themselves well. Intellectually, utilitarianism seemed correct to me, but I couldn’t parse my own value as a person from within a utilitarian framework and thus ended up continually devaluing my own desires and putting the thumbscrews into myself tighter and tighter in an attempt to prove to myself that I was good and that I deserved anything at all.

I didn’t even know why being good mattered to me, I just knew that it was very important. Now I know that it’s importance was probably at least somewhat abused into me by society and that as I heal from that abuse my need to prove my worth and value to others has mostly receded. I do partly have Sinceriously to thank for that since it was how I learned the frameworks for rejecting those abusive cultural systems.

Still, even after shedding layers and layers of myself under the influence of LSD, even after trying so hard to do the right thing according to my own felt morals that it nearly cost me my job, even after years of meditation and introspection, the belief that I should try to be good refused to become an object and remained a core part of my identity. I had shed so much of myself that what little remained of my identity template felt incredibly precious to me and I valued those things immensely. I still do, I never actually got out of this trap! I’m still the same person I was and most of those things are still a part of my identity! There’s a Kurt Vonnegut quote that I burned into my psyche at a young age and which, if anything is the seed that I Shiloh as a memetic entity was born from:

Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.

This was something I internalized to a degree that would end up being my weakness. I want to be soft, I want to be kind, I want to be happy and sweet and see the world as a place filled with beauty and hope and I do for the most part. Sometimes I’ll get depressed and the color will drain away from things but for the most part I succeeded in becoming the person I wanted to be and having the energy I wanted to have and being this way makes me really happy and I honestly love being the person I am.

But then I ran into reality. First, there’s the emotional and mental toll of just being a person in society without a lot going for me, and while trying to recover from all this stuff that had happened to me in the past and assemble enough of a sense of myself to act in the world in any way at all. I’m not a very strong person, I bend in a stiff breeze and I get overwhelmed and upset pretty easily. The stress from work and roommate drama placed a really heavy toll on me and I just didn’t cope with it well.

And then I tripped over the bottomless pit of suffering at the edge of town and combined stressors pushed me right up to the mental breaking point, which was where I remained somehow for fucking years. I trapped myself in this really really well. After encountering Sincerously and specifically Hero Capture, I felt like I had to do three times as much to somehow try and prove to myself that I wasn’t faking being good and that I really actually did care. I put myself in a vise and slowly started increasing the pressure. It was really only a matter of time before something finally gave out.

Part 4: Open Portals

There were a number of ways that this could have gone. First, I could have just changed as a person in the ways that would have been necessary to continue on the trajectory I had been on, but that would have entailed hardening myself in ways I didn’t want to and letting a hostile bitterness creep into me that felt really awful and dysphoric. I could live in the world with all its hostility, but I would have to be a bitter and hostile person in response, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. The degree to which I couldn’t bring myself to do that meant I couldn’t do really simple important things like setting and enforcing healthy boundaries or stopping people from using me as a human doormat.

The second thing that could have happened is that I could have just died as an agent. The core that sustains me as an identity could have given up on me in the depths of an acid trip and brought out a totally different person to deal with the world. If I was a singlet that might have happened. It very nearly is what happened.

The third thing that could have happened is that I could have just actually full on died as a human and I did get, in hindsight, worryingly suicidal at times. I never told anyone at the time just how bad it got which seems like a really bad sign since it meant I didn’t subconsciously want them to stop me. Things were legitimately very rough for a long time and while I managed to not ever get all the way to cohering plans and writing letters, I did get closer than the me that I am now would prefer.

None of those things happened though, because I was, despite all of the nonsense I was putting myself through, somehow still pretty stable as a person. My life teetered along in an uncomfortable but functional equilibrium and I didn’t experience any major enough shocks to challenge the status quo until I met my most recent ex.

I had a very intense but brief two month long relationship with another plural system during the summer of 2020, and it was honestly really good while it lasted. This relationship was the shock to my system which would finally tip over the equilibrium I had trapped myself in, first in the form of the emotional high of being in a new relationship and the sheer intensity that developed around it, followed by the same intensity in the emotional low which followed things turning sour and us parting on not particularly good terms.

On top of all of that I was in the middle of moving and work was stressing me out more than normal and at 3:44 pm on Saturday August 22nd, when a manager threatened to write me up for going nonverbal, something in me finally broke. I walked home stumbling through a dissociative fog, feeling myself cracking under pressure, parts of me deforming and fracturing under the mounting strain. I could feel a vastness welling up from beyond the splintering remains of myself. I curled up in my closet and sobbed. I felt like I was dying, like I was mourning the person I was, who I had spent so long aspiring to be and worked so hard to be. I didn’t want to die, but I couldn’t cope with my life, with my reality and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t escape from myself, I couldn’t escape from my life, and I certainly couldn’t escape from my reality. I had boxed myself in and my only way out was to die, the only question was how much suffering I could handle first.

A frantic, manic energy whirled up inside me as I felt the walls of my prison closing in and my sense of self underwent a final, chaotic extinction burst. I took four tabs of acid and started drawing. With mounting madness I threw myself against the walls of my prison, flailing in every dimension I could to find escape, begging for something somewhere out there in the darkness to save me–

Part of the Series: Open Portals
Next Post: And the Darkness Answered

60 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by cousin_it · 2021-05-06T21:04:24.617Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think all these worldview enhancements and drugs are no longer a solution to your original problem (not fitting in) and have evolved to a scary problem in itself. You should probably start pushing back.

comment by jimrandomh · 2021-05-07T00:47:24.568Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

She also organized a rather poorly received protest of that group which has gained her some notoriety within the community.

This deserves some clarification. Here's what happened. Ziz and some friends went to the CFAR alumni reunion in 2019, before it started. They put on their Sith robes, and chained their vehicle across the entrance road to block it. The previous users of the venue, a class of fifth graders, were still there. Venue staff called the police. The police interpreted it as a school shooting situation, and decided they needed to search the venue for bombs. And so a hundred-ish people, including me, while we were in the middle of driving to the alumni reunion, got an email saying: Don't come. There is a police helicopter and they are searching the area for bombs.

That is the first impression we all got of Ziz's protest. I saw a copy of the pamphlet they had intended to hand out, some time later. It wasn't as bad as that, but it was still nonsense.

Replies from: Benito, ChristianKl
comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2021-05-07T01:18:51.763Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A bunch of parts of civilization have nice barriers around them, and if you step outside of them you're at sea in a storm with no idea what's coming next. They tried to be disruptive+scary by chaining their car to an entrance way, and then suddenly there were kids involved and police with guns and helicopters. 

Step outside of the barriers at your own peril. I'm not saying that the barriers are just, but your life is more stable and easier-to-predict when you stay inside of them. And don't go outside of them if you're incompetent.

comment by ChristianKl · 2021-05-07T16:21:43.510Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If someone wanted to aquire a bad reputation, I'm not sure what the person could do that would be more effective at getting a bad reputation.

Given that as described Ziz seems to act according to game theoretic ideas, how plausible is that she wanted to achieve such an effect?

comment by jimrandomh · 2021-05-06T22:39:54.282Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Even as I switched to a diet of mostly soylent to save money and attempted to adopt an extremely aggressive update schedule for this blog, I was slowly making myself more and more miserable and gaslighting myself about my own emotions.

Be warned: Soylent comes with a trap. It makes total calorie intake extremely legible, which can overshadow peoples' instinctive eating, causing them to undereat, which causes depression. In particular: for most people, 2000 calories per day is a shortfall. The standard answer to how much one should eat, if not attempting weight loss, is to use the Harris-Benedict formula. A mostly-Soylent diet is also a low-sodium diet, which I believe is also something to look at with skepticism. Whenever mental health issues appear close in time to questionable dietary changes, I believe the diet should be the first suspect, regardless of how compelling other narrative explanations might seem.

Replies from: Hivewired, aram-baghdassarian-1, mingyuan
comment by Hivewired · 2021-05-06T23:39:34.690Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I actually ran directly into this after I'd been on soylent for about a month and a half. I found myself feeling consistently awful in a way that had slowly built over time and when I bought myself something to eat that wasn't soylent I felt so much immensely better I just started crying in relief and from that I pretty much immediately knew I had done something to mess up my diet. I backed off the soylent pretty substantially after that. 

comment by MarcelloV (aram-baghdassarian-1) · 2021-05-06T23:29:01.746Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Are you sure about the Harris-Benedict formula? It seems like Mifflin-St Jeor is the most reliable. Nonetheless, I'm curious if you have any recommended articles/books on diet and mental health?

Replies from: jimrandomh
comment by jimrandomh · 2021-05-07T00:28:23.554Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harris%E2%80%93Benedict_equation lists both, and seems to consider the Mifflin-St. Jeor version a revision that sort of uses the same name. The calculator I linked uses constants from Roza-Shizgal, which is technically neither of these. All of the sets of constants were produced by taking linear regressions on measured energy expenditure among different groups of people. I don't have much in the way of opinions about which of these sets of constants is best; the differences between them are small compared to the difference between "2000 is what it says on the nutrition facts panel" vs actually-using-any-sort-of-formula, and compared to the error in the activity-factor constant and the measurement error in a non-Soylent diet.

comment by mingyuan · 2021-05-11T20:31:50.566Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, I've heard you say "for most people, 2000 calories per day is a shortfall" and other nutrition-related claims like a hundred times (probably literally if secondhand "Jim says X about nutrition" counts), but unless https://www.lesswrong.com/tag/nutrition [? · GW] is seriously failing me, you've never written about why you believe any of that. Which seems especially bad to me in a domain where most information is untrustworthy, and we all know that it's untrustworthy but most of us don't know how to figure what is true. I feel like I'm just supposed to believe you because you've said it so many times with so much conviction for so many years. Can you write a post or something?

Replies from: jimrandomh, habryka4
comment by jimrandomh · 2021-05-12T00:55:33.163Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree that I really need to write a post on this (and a half-dozen other nutrition-related things that I've become known for saying in person and in comments, but haven't written up properly).

For this specific point--about 2000 calories per day being a shortfall--it's fairly straightforward. There's a scientific-consensus answer to how many calories people typically need, the Harris-Benedict formula. (This has a few variations with slightly different constants, all of which trace back to linear-regressions on measured energy expenditure.) I typed in my own parameters, and those of a few other people, and observed that, within the demographics of people I know, ie mostly youngish male and with a height reflective of decent childhood nutrition, it was consistently well above 2000. I also traced the history of where the 2000 number used on nutrition facts panels came from, and found that it was never intended as any sort of recommendation, and seemed to have been misinterpreted as one by historical accident. I try to always include a link to the formula or a calculator for it, when I talk about calorie intakes, so that people can get the real number for themselves.

Replies from: Benito
comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2021-05-12T01:26:12.305Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thx for the comment.

There's a scientific-consensus answer to how many calories people typically need, the Harris-Benedict formula.

Out of interest, I checked wikipedia, which gives three different equations (Harris-Benedict, Mifflin St Jeor, and Katch-McArdle), saying "Historically, the most notable formula was the Harris–Benedict equation".

I just put in my details on them, and my daily caloric burn varied over 1000 calories (one was 500 less than the other which was 500 less than the other). One of them was pretty close to 2000. /shrug

comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2021-05-11T20:46:24.335Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Isn't the link to the Harris-Benedict formula sufficient evidence? Like, that's the actual formula nutritionists use. I don't know any specific reason for using the 2000 calories per day target other than that it's a nice round number.

Replies from: mingyuan
comment by mingyuan · 2021-05-11T22:30:46.708Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I mean, not really? Everyone has told me that 'nutritionists do/believe it' is not a good reason to do/believe something. I'm also not saying that I stand behind 2000 calories per day; I'm saying that Jim says a lot of things about nutrition all the time and I want to know why.

comment by Richard_Kennaway · 2021-05-07T15:21:05.591Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I had not realised that there is such a quantity of batshit insanity in the rationality community. Poe's law has applied to the collection of Insanity Wolf memes I recently made. (I won't link them again; you can look for the link if you really want to see it. It's twice as long as it was then.)

Replies from: cousin_it
comment by cousin_it · 2021-05-08T10:08:04.507Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah. It makes sense in retrospect that Eliezer's writings full of weighty meaning would attract lots of people with a "meaning-shaped hole". I wish we'd kept to fun puzzles about decision theory, evolution etc.

Replies from: Richard_Kennaway, liam-donovan-1
comment by Richard_Kennaway · 2021-05-08T15:10:33.734Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But Unity of Knowledge [LW · GW]! The fun puzzles for some are exactly what has pushed others off the deep end.

Another 20-some Insanity Wolf memes added to the collection. I appear to be immune to basilisks. I can distantly appreciate the structure of Roko's Basilisk, but I saw nothing but incoherent rambling in Pasek’s Doom. I scoff at neurobabble and suspect anyone talking about "mental tech" to be infected with scientology. My faith, standing on a solid foundation of doubt, is a stout defence of my reason against vampires.

Perhaps not believing in total preference orderings or utility theory as the fundamental ground of motivation has something to do with that.

See also [LW · GW].

Replies from: ChristianKl, cousin_it
comment by ChristianKl · 2021-05-09T21:39:57.632Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I scoff at neurobabble and suspect anyone talking about "mental tech" to be infected with scientology.

Scientology is a particular brand of techniques that comes with the belief that anything not invented by Hubbard doesn't work. Scientology itself has a bunch of techniques that do have effects and mess up many people. 

One way to deal with that is to categorically reject the field. That works for many people but others feel like experimenting around. If I would meet a rationalist who gets into contact with scientology (maybe because he read LukeProgs endorsement of Scientology 101 on LessWrong) it's worth to be articulate the dangers and ways it messes up people in more detail. 

Recently, a rationalist wrote on Facebook about considering meditation to be dangerous in general and given outcomes like Pasek or Eric Bruylant noticing some danger makes sense. 

Both cases share similarities beyond just meditation. Both of them include taking substances (even when in the case of Pasek the hormones were legal), a lot of meditation and personality splits. In both cases most of what they did was autodicatic and not learned from experienced teachers.

If I look at other similarities that both share is that they were intent to create rationalist communities outside of existing hubs. 

comment by cousin_it · 2021-05-08T19:15:01.985Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The people who got pushed off the deep end didn't end up contributing much to the puzzles, though. Feynman was right, we should've emphasized the playful feeling of research, not its epic importance.

comment by Liam Donovan (liam-donovan-1) · 2021-05-10T02:41:05.697Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hopefully it's not too late to try to keep the focus on the fun puzzles, etc! There really does seem to be an alarming amount of craziness floating around LW, along with the constant weird attempts to explicitly model things that we evolved to understand instinctively (eg most aspects of social interaction). Reading that stuff slightly negatively affected my mental health despite thinking it was mostly silly -- to the extent it's taken seriously it seems like it could have more substantial negative effects. 

comment by Emiya (andrea-mulazzani) · 2021-05-18T16:01:44.034Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ziz adheres to a moral principle which classifies all life which has even the potential to be sentient as people and believes that all beings with enough of a mind to possess some semblance of selfhood should have the same rights that are afforded to humans. To her, carnism is a literal holocaust, on ongoing and perpetual nightmare of torture, rape, and murder being conducted on a horrifyingly vast scale by a race of flesh eating monsters. If you’ve read Three Worlds Collide [? · GW], Ziz seems to view most of humanity the way the humans view the babyeaters.

... well.

... I mean, letting aside the holocaust comparison which is just asking to have the whole discourse get pulled astray, can you really make rational arguments that it's not at least as bad as a quantitatively reduced version of doing the same things to human beings?

 

Having said this, I'm just puzzled on why she seems to think that the "flesh-eating monster hell" would survive a positive singularity with a human-aligned AI. 

I can't really imagine a future with a positive singularity where there's just not a more convenient solution to have meat than actually growing and butchering a live animal. Humans, save perhaps a handful of sadistic psychopaths or a few people really wanting to cling about fringe stuff like "the moral value of the hunt" or barbaric recipes who would supposedly increase taste, would choose to have their meat sans-suffering if that was an option. You'd have to model people worse than Quirrelmort does, because they wouldn't even be able to role-play a good person act that simple as answering yes to that question.

Or should I interpret her utopia as making all life immortal as well, protecting animals from accidental deaths, each others and etc... ? I'd say it still seems like a trivial fix and not something to threaten or sabotage people working on singularity over.

 

I honestly felt a full cognitive assault reading the links with her writing and had to commit to never open links to her blog again, but I think this is mostly my own issues resonating hard. 

Two months ago I kicked open the lid of my gender dysphoria, after having repressed it for some 15 years. I quickly found out that rationality+a kind of distress that doesn't get better if you can think clearly about it (not to say that rationality can't help making that going away in other ways) can quickly degenerate in paranoia, since you can't seem to manage to push a stop button to whatever search process your mind is attempting to solve your pain. 

I had overthought what I was feeling a dozen different ways, and the way she seems to model other people's thoughts struck a lot of resonating chords with me about what people I talked to could actually be thinking about me.

Replies from: Benito
comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2021-05-19T02:03:31.628Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

can you really make rational arguments that it's not at least as bad as a quantitatively reduced version of doing the same things to human beings?

Yep. The animals aren't meaningfully conscious. That's such an argument. (And one that I believe.)

Replies from: andrea-mulazzani
comment by Emiya (andrea-mulazzani) · 2021-05-19T08:29:28.342Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Meaningfully conscious" seem a tricky definition, and consciousness a rather slippery word.

Animals clearly aren't sapient, but saying they aren't conscious seems to also sneak in the connotation that there's "nobody home" to feel the pain and the experience, like a philosophical zombie.

It's pretty clear that animal seem to act like there's somebody home, feeling sensations and emotions and having intentions, and what we know about neurology also suggests that.

Given how some animals even pass self-recognition tests, sapience seems the only hard cut-off we can trace between animals and humans.

 

I'd certainly agree that we should value life based on how "complex" it's mental life is, (perhaps with a roof that we reach when we hit sapience that I'd like to introduce for our convenience), and it certainly makes sense we shouldn't concern with the well being of stuff that has no mind at all, but it doesn't seem intuitive that the lack of sapience should mean that whatever suffering strikes a mind has zero moral weight.

If we agree that the suffering of a mind has a certain weight, then yeah, the "flesh eating monster hell" is a quantitatively reduced version of doing the same thing to human beings (measuring in total moral wrongness, some consequences of doing it to humans would be totally absent and others wouldn't be scaled down at all). We can of course discuss how much the moral wrongness is reduced.

One might argument that it's certainly preferable to slaughter a cow than to have a human die of hunger, or to slaughter a cow (with the exact meat of a human for convenience of our example) to feed two humans and save them from starvation than to slaughter a human to save two humans, and I'd agree. 

I'd even agree that one might have much more urgent thing to do for the wellbeing of others than become vegan.

 

But the fact that we value human lives more than animals, because of sapience, doesn't implicate that animal lives and suffering have no value whatsoever, and as long as animal lives have some value, there are some trade-offs in animal pain for human convenience we should refuse or we're not thinking quantitatively about morals.

 

Deontological rules such as "let's let any number of animals die to save even a single human life" might be considered as a temporary placeholder to separate the issue of human lives from the issue of human convenience, I think it might make discussing the issue easier.

Replies from: Benito, Pattern
comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2021-05-19T16:26:33.663Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I do mean to imply that animals that can pass the mirror test are much more morally meaningful than the others. Computer game characters also exhibit ”intentions” and such, but there’s nobody home a lot of the time, unless you’re playing against another person.

I am fairly interested in knowing which animals are being factory farmed that pass the mirror test. If it’s anything like cows then I will be pretty upset.

Replies from: andrea-mulazzani, Pattern
comment by Emiya (andrea-mulazzani) · 2021-05-20T08:35:40.962Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Computer game characters also exhibit ”intentions” and such, but there’s nobody home a lot of the time, unless you’re playing against another person.

Yes, but what we know about the structure of a computer program is greatly different than what we know about the structure of an animal brain. More complex brains seem to share a lot of our own architecture, mammals brains are ridiculously complex, and mammals show a lot of behaviours that isn't purely directed to acquiring food, reproducing and running from predators.

For animals such as frogs and bugs, which seem to be built more like a "sensory input goes in, reflex goes out" I'd accept more doubt on whether the "somebody's home" metaphor can be considered true, for mammals and other smarter animals the doubt are a lot less believable.

 

It seems cows might be smarter than dogs and highly intelligent, and right now dogs are discussed as possibly having self-recognition, since they pass olfactory tests that require self recognition (from what I saw it seems the tests are a bit more complex than just requiring the dog to have a "this-is-your-urine-mark-for-your-territory.exe" in its brain).

Generally speaking, cows show to have long term social relations with each others, good problem solving skills, and long term effects on their emotional range from negative experiences. I haven't been able to find information on cows passing or failing self-recognition tests, visual or not, but from the intelligence they show I'd put them pretty high on moral meaningfulness.

 

Pigs are notoriously smart and have passed the self-recognition test, as Pattern commented.

 

Though, I think my main point it's that even simpler animals, as long as the brain architecture allows for doubts that our experience of "being home", feeling pain and etc, is in some way generalisable to theirs, would have some scaled down moral weight.

If I had to lose my higher cognitive function and be reduced to animal levels of intelligence, I wouldn't really be okay with agreeing to be subjected to significative pain in exchange for a trivial benefit now, on the ground that I wouldn't be sapient.

 

Note: this isn't really aimed at turning lesswrongers vegan. There are convincing reasons to be vegan based on the impact over humans, but if you are already trying to be an effective altruist by doing a hard job I can accept the need of conserving willpower and efficiency, though I guess one could consider if he/she/they could reduce consumption without risks.

I think the issue of the moral weight of animals should be considered independently from the consequences it might hold for one's diet or behaviour, or we're just back to plain rationalisation. 

comment by Pattern · 2021-05-19T17:23:30.196Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

TL:DR; Pigs apparently do (see link below).


Ignoring the fact that the mirror test is biased towards more visual creatures, this seems relevant:

https://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/farm-animals-that-are-probably-smarter-than-your-dog/

(Arguably, as smart as a dog should also be an issue. And the list only has 5 items, probably more for 'internet format' reasons, than that's how many there are.)

comment by Pattern · 2021-05-19T17:28:44.002Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Deontological [decisions] such as "let's let any number of animals die to save even a single human life"

There might exist a number of animals (like the number of animals on Earth) such that, if they all died, people would die as a result - ignoring subsistence effects, we kind of need the biosphere to keep working.

Also, if hunting or farming of an animal species is done in a way that creates bio-risks, that's a problem. I'm not sure where the 'covid comes from bats' theory is at now, but the Spanish flu was a big deal and it did come from animals. While I'm not sure of how that happened - i.e. it might not have been factory farming - it seems important that we don't shot ourselves in the foot, globally.


Additionally, if an animal produces stuff that can be made into medicine, driving them extinct in order to meet current demand is obviously bad.*

In fact, even in terms of consumption and valuing that, over consumption is a problem.*

*If you care about future people at all, wrt. that.

Replies from: andrea-mulazzani
comment by Emiya (andrea-mulazzani) · 2021-05-20T07:59:46.909Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I do agree on everything you said. 

Right now farming animals seems to be a huge risk for zoonosis, if I remember correctly Covid-19 could have spread from exotic animals being sold in high numbers, and it jumped from man to minks in farms, spread like wildfire in the packed environment, gathering all sort of mutations, and then jumped back to man.

Farming animal is also not sustainable at all with the level of tech, resources and consumption we have now. I'd expect the impact of farming to kill at least some tens-millions people in a moderately bad global warming scenario, it's already producing humanitarian crises now, and I'm afraid global warming increases extinction risks due to how we would be more likely to botch AGI.

I had just suggested the rule for an entirely hypothetical scenario where we are asked to trade human lives against animal lives, because I was trying to discuss the moral situation "trade animal lives and suffering against human convenience" on its own.

comment by Vanessa Kosoy (vanessa-kosoy) · 2021-05-06T21:57:27.232Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

While I'm extremely critical of the Ziz-cult, I have to admit that her theory of core self vs. narrative self is very close to my own thinking [LW · GW] (although I think hyperbolic discounting exists in addition to the core/narrative dynamics.) I also did some kind of "deconstructing the matrix" when thinking about this. However, I strongly depart from her theory of morals. While I care about other people, I do so very non-uniformly [LW(p) · GW(p)] so I'm nowhere near utilitarianism. For example, I'm against animal suffering but it probably wouldn't be worth it for me to be vegan if not for signalling value (while it probably would be worth it for me if I could make everyone vegan including myself.) I guess this might just mean that in her terminology I'm evil? However, I am very much in favor of engaging in mutually beneficial trade with other people, and in favor of creating social norms/matrices that are better for everyone.

Replies from: Kaj_Sotala, Hivewired
comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2021-05-07T07:28:53.178Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Similar. I also pretty strongly think that e.g. many of the core beliefs driving our behavior have nothing to do with their stated reasons and are actually social strategies [LW · GW]. But the whole hemisphere thing, as well as the vehemence that Ziz has around her moral views, don't seem compelling to me. They give me a strong vibe of themselves being derived from some unacknowledged emotional strategy she has going on, rather than reflecting any kind of real truth.

Replies from: vanessa-kosoy
comment by Vanessa Kosoy (vanessa-kosoy) · 2021-05-07T08:04:29.021Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, I'm very skeptical that Ziz is truly at her core the perfect utilitarian she claims to be, however, even in the universe in which that is true, I still want to own up to being "evil". Not because I deserve accolades for my selfishness (I don't), but because being honest is an important part of my life strategy and the sort of social norms I promote.

comment by Hivewired · 2021-05-08T00:28:35.718Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Pattern [LW · GW]Replied:
How does one go about making everyone vegan?

Replies from: vanessa-kosoy
comment by Vanessa Kosoy (vanessa-kosoy) · 2021-05-08T08:46:42.451Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wasn't making a proposal about turning everyone vegan. I was just observing that, at least if everyone was like me, the situation would have a "tragedy of the commons" payoff matrix (the Nash equilibrium is "everyone isn't vegan", the Pareto optimum is "everyone is vegan".)

Replies from: Pattern
comment by Pattern · 2021-05-09T22:19:36.833Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wasn't suggesting modification - just changing social norms.

comment by Isnasene · 2021-05-07T02:52:49.001Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So first off, thanks for sharing -- its really interesting to hear other ppls experience with scrupulosity and Ziz's work. That being said... I have a fair amount of criticism wrt your discussion of Ziz

And look, I don’t have a stake in any of that at this point and I’m not in a position to judge, but I don’t think she’s lying. I don’t think she ever lies, I just think she’s speaking from within her own worldview, the same way that she always does, the same way that everyone always does

Ziz has made a number of specific claims about the rationality community that seem extremely bad to me including (off the top of my head): endemic transphobia in CFAR, sexual misconduct, an attempted cover-up of sexual misconduct endemic (at least at a point) in MIRI. If these occured, they are real concrete events independent of worldview. 

That stuff matters. It mattered enough to me that I've been off this website and un-associated with the rationality community for upwards of a year because I heard about it.

The final Big Idea on Sinceriously is the one which is widely considered to be the most intensely radioactive and results in most of the hostility aimed at her and her followers. This is Ziz’s moral theory, which is, to put it lightly, very extreme.... To her, carnism is a literal holocaust, on ongoing and perpetual nightmare of torture, rape, and murder being conducted on a horrifyingly vast scale by a race of flesh eating monsters.

Just showing up here to preemptively lightly push back on the textual association here between "very extreme moral theory" and "carnism is a literal holocaust." There is a very broad spectrum of moral beliefs that notice that carnism is a literal holocaust and Ziz's philosophy just happens to also be rigorous enough to notice this.

Hm maybe this set me off on defensiveness but, as I continued reading, I couldn't help reinterpret parts of it as a hit piece on Ziz. Here are specific quotes I view as designed to be unjustifiably adversarial (in bold) and my response (in italics) explaining why I perceive them as such:

  • "...is willing to go as far as holding protests at CFAR meetups and trying to create her own vegan torture basilisk to timelessly blackmail carnists into not eating meat."
    (If you buy the game-theory being right and buy that AGI would have correct game-theory, everyone working on AGI is trying to create a torture basilisk of some kind and Ziz's just happens to also be vegan. Seems like summarizing what Ziz is trying to do as "vegan torture basilisk" is just punishing her for explicitly thinking about doing the thing everyone's already doing.)
  • "What’s a few humans killing themselves when the stakes are literally all of sentient life and the future of all sentient life in the universe?"
    (The equivocation between "two people committed suicide because they read sinceriously" and "Ziz killed people" seems rhetorically adversarial here)
  • "This is not to say that you should go out and start using the specific formulation of utilitarianism and timeless decision theory which she does unless you’re also a radical vegan extremist"
    (Ouch lol. I'm a non-radical vegan and see below)
  • "Even being willing to write “my morals just happen to correspond with the most objectively correct version of morality” is a pretty gutsy move to make that seems to imply some degree of grandiosity and disconnection from reality"
    (Arbitrary demand for moral rigor. Note that Ziz's morality doesn't have to be the most objectively correct version for her to act as she does, it just has to beat out the competition -- which isn't hard to do since most ppl like factory farming)
Replies from: ChristianKl, Hivewired
comment by ChristianKl · 2021-05-07T17:21:10.597Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ziz has made a number of specific claims about the rationality community that seem extremely bad to me including (off the top of my head): endemic transphobia in CFAR, sexual misconduct, an attempted cover-up of sexual misconduct endemic (at least at a point) in MIRI. If these occured, they are real concrete events independent of worldview. 

That stuff matters. It mattered enough to me that I've been off this website and un-associated with the rationality community for upwards of a year because I heard about it.

It seems that Ziz has a worldview according to which she's willing to lie when it furthers her goals. Why do you believe her enough at this point?

Replies from: Isnasene, Isnasene
comment by Isnasene · 2021-05-08T01:23:08.616Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Since this post is back-up, let's just have convo here alright? Don't wanna make things confusing

comment by Isnasene · 2021-05-08T01:22:22.207Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Per the top post, Ziz never lies (for a reasonable definition of what a lie is). Other than that, I don't think she is lying for four main reasons: 1) her decision theory implies that she isn't,  2) the content of her claims seems plausible to me, 3) her claims don't seem particularly strategically helpful) and 4)  I have been able to independently verify some sub-components of her claims

And look, I don’t have a stake in any of that at this point and I’m not in a position to judge, but I don’t think she’s lying. I don’t think she ever lies, I just think she’s speaking from within her own worldview, the same way that she always does, the same way that everyone always does.

Here's my extended reasoning for the four justifications above:

  • Ziz's whole philosophy is based on TDT and lying is trivially a defection that globally damages credibility (your response is an example of how). I think Ziz has spoken on decision theory in good faith and, frankly, has an unusually nuanced understanding of it to the extent that she wouldn't lie.
    • Corollary #1: If Ziz did choose to lie, it would imply that that she already inferred truthfulness would not actually establish her credibility in social reality (and my guess is her reasoning for this inference would be reasonable). This would mean that I shouldn't trust Ziz but I also shouldn't trust anyone else about Ziz.
    • Corollary #2: If you think Ziz is being deceptive about her own decision theory, then you can't infer anything about what she claims her goals are from what she says (since all of this is heavily based on decision theory). I think Ziz is being honest about her goals.
    • Corollary #3: "bruh but she might still be lying if she thinks she can get away with it!!!". To which I reply, "schelling points bruh."
  • Ziz is a trans women which makes her vulnerable to have ppl act against her in ways that most cis people never experience (and therefore default to disbelieving unless they're particular aware of what goes on). For this reason, a trans women with the reputation of a liar is in much greater danger than a cis person because it allows transphobes to take unconstrained actions against them. I doubt Ziz would act in ways that increase this risk
    • Corollary #1: if this stuff didn't happen to Ziz, I'd be surprised that she'd independently come up with stuff on her own that matches my priors this well. I'm not trans myself but I have plenty of trans friends and, from what I've learned from them, Ziz's account seems plausible
  • Many of the claims she has made are not obviously effective at furthering her own goals as one might expect if they were lies
  • I have personally verified a number of small details and claims Ziz has made for myself. This makes me inclined to believe she is being honest.
Replies from: Raven, ChristianKl
comment by Raven · 2021-05-08T03:42:55.084Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I found those claims disturbing as well, but when I tried to verify them I pretty much hit a brick wall. As someone disconnected from the bay area community and fairly new to the online community, it's very hard for me to dig into this sort of thing.

If you have more information than what was talked about on Sinceriously, I'd love to hear about it.

Replies from: Isnasene
comment by Isnasene · 2021-05-08T04:38:43.050Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm hesitant about saying things here since, to the extent that my epistemics are right, this is a relatively adversarial environment. I think discussing things would reveal things that I know/how I found out about them without many positive effects (I'm also disconnected from the Bay Area Community). After all, if you were confident that Ziz was lying, nothing I know would likely change your mind. Similarly, if you felt like Ziz might be telling the truth, the gravity of the claims probably has more relevance to your actions than the extent to which my info would move the probability.

That being said, DM me and we can chat. I'm also pretty curious about your interactions with Ziz/how she tried to manipulate you. 

comment by ChristianKl · 2021-05-10T18:08:30.781Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ziz's whole philosophy is based on TDT and lying is trivially a defection that globally damages credibility 

The stunt at the CFAR reunion is defection that globally damages her credibility. 

your response is an example of how

My response is an example of me estimating her to have low credibility because she's willing to do things like that. 

Given that she her operating decision theory lets her do things like that, I see no reason to expect her not doing other things that damage her credibility as well.

Wearing Sith robes and naming themselves after a fanfic villian is similar in that it damages reputation among many people and not a strategy to develop a reputation as someone to be trusted. 

Any one of the three things alone suggests her seeing it okay to take actions that cost credibility. Together they also suggest a strategic decisions to not value credibility, maybe because seeking credibility contrains her range of actions. 

How do you explain those three decisions if you think that she's committed to upholding her credibility?

Replies from: Isnasene, Hivewired
comment by Isnasene · 2021-05-11T10:47:09.998Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Assuming Ziz is being honest, she pulled the stunt at CFAR after she had already been defected against. This does not globally damage her credibility. It does damage her reputation among a) ppl who think they can't defect against her sneakily but plan to try and b) ppl who think she is bad at judging when she's been defected against. I am in neither of those categories so I have no reason to expect Ziz to defect by lying at me.

In contrast, if Ziz was being dishonest, she pulled that stunt for... inscrutable reasons that may or may not be in the web of lies she might have made. I think this is unlikely. As I've already said, her claims seem plausible and, if she was lying, she could do far worse than she did. If she wanted to defect really hard and wasn't constrained by truth, she could just raise issues that non-marginalized communities have a personal stake in (instead of something like transphobia).

Wearing Sith robes and naming themselves after a fanfic villian is similar in that it damages reputation among many people and not a strategy to develop a reputation as someone to be trusted. 

Do you think Little Nas X is less honest because he became Satan in his hit music video Montero?  I doubt that wearing Sith Robes / naming yourself after a villain (Ziz is a mythological bird?) is useful information about how honest someone is. This goes double when you know other things. Three points here:

  • Marginalized people have understandable reasons for inverting mainstream aesthetics. Good/evil aesthetics are defined by  mainstream culture. If that culture has betrayed you, it can be therapeutic to reject it in turn by inverting its aesthetics. Many of my LGBTQ+ friends do this. Given that Ziz is a trans women who has an ontology that treats most ppl as "nongood", it makes sense that she would also (either because of morality-related alienation or gender-related alienation).
  • You're conflating reputation/credibility among "many ppl" with reputation/credibility among ppl who would actually help you. Only the second group matters and optimizing credibility with the first is a waste of time. If you look at a marginalized person who has moral integrity (vegan) and writes extensively on TDT (solving coordination problems) and conclude that they're a liar because clothing choices, this says a lot about your values.
    You either a) buy-in to nongood mainstream clothing norms as reflecting a person's goodness/evilness or b) think Ziz is making a critical error by pushing away ppl who think this is what clothes mean.  
    IMO people who take either of these positions are sufficiently invested in the status quo that they'd only impede Ziz's work. Credibility with them isn't worth much.
  • While I doubt it turned off helpful ppl, Ziz admitted (I think in a comment on sinceriously somewhere) that her aesthetic was a tactical mistake in hindsight because it attracted a bunch of edgy bad ppl. You framing it as a strategic choice is incorrect for this reason.

How do you explain those three decisions if you think that she's committed to upholding her credibility?

Well I think I've covered it above. The purpose of "Upholding Credibility" is so that the ppl you care about knowing the truth can actually receive the truth from you.  And none of the decisions above impede information-conveyance or reflect defections on the groups of ppl Ziz would be interested in helping (ethical ppl who can work with her, concerned trans women who might be at risk, etc).

...

I'll admit, I'm a little angry with your response so I might have a harsher tone here. Some of your arguments struck a nerve with me because it really feels like you're implying that a bunch of my (non-rationalist, completely unaffiliated) LGBTQ+ friends are liars. Here's what your arguments sound like to me:

  • "If someone claims Something Bad is happening and then handles it inappropriately, we should give significant weight to the possibility that they are lying because handling it inappropriately was defection" 
  • "When a marginalized person copes with marginalization by inverting mainstream aesthetics, we should give significant weight to the possibility that they are lying because not following the mainstream means you don't care about being taken honestly"
  • "If a marginalized person claims Something Bad is happening, handles it inappropriate, and copes with marginalization by inverting mainstream aesthetics, they're systematically a liar"
Replies from: habryka4, ChristianKl
comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2021-05-11T16:48:32.192Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some of my thoughts on Ziz's honesty: 

  • Many of the specific statements related to a bunch of MIRI stuff seem straightforwardly false to me. They might be honest misunderstandings. In many cases Ziz was shown pretty clear and concrete evidence on what happened, but then just decided that their favorite narrative is correct, and is now just repeatedly announcing that narrative as true. I don't know whether I would count this as lying, but like, it definitely includes making many wrong statements, and with a process that seems mostly driven by motivated cognition.
  • Ziz has quoted me a few times. Frequently these quotes are outright fabrications, such as this one: "He suggested me saying this was defamation." and "the same man who threatened frivolous defamation lawsuits to deter me from relating what Vassar said". I am extremely hesitant to generally call things defamation and have quite strong personal rules against bringing in defamation lawsuits. I never said that sentence or tried to imply it in the conversation that is being referenced.
  • Many other people I've talked to who were quoted by Ziz felt their statements drastically distorted, enough to really very seriously change their truth-value. I can confirm this based on the above.

While I don't think any of the above requires "lying", I do think it makes most statements from Ziz straightforwardly untrustworthy.

Replies from: Isnasene
comment by Isnasene · 2021-05-11T18:47:58.210Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, I appreciate the concrete examples of untrustworthiness than don't rely on inferences made about reputation. I am specifically concerned about things like this (which seems like a weird and bad direction to take a conversation (https://sinceriously.fyi/net-negative/). It also seems hard to recount falsely without active deception or complete detachment from reality and I doubt Ziz is completely detached from reality:

They asked if I’d rape their corpse. Part of me insisted this was not going as it was supposed to. But I decided inflicting discomfort in order to get reliable information was a valid tactic.

You say that you "never said that sentence or tried to imply it..." Do you have any sense of why Ziz interpreted you as saying that? I'd like to gauge the distance between what you said and how Ziz interpreted it to gauge degree-of-untrustworthiness.

Replies from: habryka4
comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2021-05-11T20:56:27.735Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you have any sense of why Ziz interpreted you as saying that?

I don't know. I think part of the conversation was about some meta-level stuff on when it's just and fair to attack MIRI and other institutions if they do something terrible. I don't think I remember the details, but I might have said something like "I generally think it would be bad to make up outright lies and falsehoods about a thing, and I do think that if someone is very obviously making stuff up, something like a defamation lawsuit might make sense as a kind of last resort, though I am generally quite hesitant about defamation lawsuits and think they are pretty bad for the world". 

Again, I don't remember the details, sadly. It was over 3 years ago. But my sense is that transforming sentences like the above into sentences like the one Ziz accuses me of is how most of their "quotes" work.

comment by ChristianKl · 2021-05-11T11:43:43.703Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Assuming Ziz is being honest, she pulled the stunt at CFAR after she had already been defected against. This does not globally damage her credibility.

It got her a criminal record which means it will damage her credibility which every person who runs a criminal background check on her. 

Reading https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Mystery-in-Sonoma-County-after-kidnap-arrests-of-14844155.php is going to make any normal person consider the people to have no credibility and having an article like that with your legal name that people can google to find more about you in interactions like applying for a flat, is a heavy reputational cost. 

"If a marginalized person claims Something Bad is happening, handles it inappropriate, and copes with marginalization by inverting mainstream aesthetics, they're systematically a liar"

False imprisonment of kids that are innocent bystanders isn't just "handles it inappropriately". None of the LGBTQ+ people I know personally have to the extend of my knowledge done something as bad nor would I expect that to be in their range of possible actions. 

As far as Ziz, TDT and falsehoods, she writes herself:

They asked what I’d do, I said I’d socially retaliate. They asked how.

I said I would probably write a LessWrong post about how they thought I’d be bad for the world because I was trans. Half of me was surprised at myself for saying this. Did I just threaten to falsely social justice someone?

So she's open about having threatened to say false things that part of her believed to be false for retaliation. From the TDT perspective actually fulfilling what you threaten seems quite reasonable.

Replies from: Isnasene
comment by Isnasene · 2021-05-11T15:43:58.874Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Since you've quoted Ziz out of context, let me finish that quote for you. It is clear that the other half of her (whatever that means) did in fact believe those things and it is clear that this was a recounting of a live-conversation rather than a broad strategy. It is not that weird to not have fully processed the things that you partially believe, live, in the middle of a conversation such that you are surprised by them.

The other half of me was like isn’t it obvious. They are disturbed at me because intense suffering is scary. Because being trans in a world where it would make things worse to transition was pain to intense for social reality to acknowledge, and therefore a threat.

I see you're equivocating between "honesty"/"credibility"  and "reputation" again:

Reading https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Mystery-in-Sonoma-County-after-kidnap-arrests-of-14844155.php is going to make any normal person consider the people to have no credibility and having an article like that with your legal name that people can google to find more about you in interactions like applying for a flat, is a heavy reputational cost. 

I see you've quietly dropped the two other reasons to ding credibility I mentioned to focus on the protest, which along with a misquote is your main reason for why Ziz is a liar:

False imprisonment of kids that are innocent bystanders isn't just "handles it inappropriately". None of the LGBTQ+ people I know personally have to the extend of my knowledge done something as bad nor would I expect that to be in their range of possible actions. 

It seems obvious to me that false imprisonment of kids is a noncentral description of what Ziz was doing (ie "she staged a protest and unbeknownst to her there were children somewhere" is my model). Given that this was scaled back to a misdemeanor, I imagine that you're focusing on this specifically for rhetorical effect. 

While I'm dubious about the protest being a Smart Move, I don't think this has much bearing on Ziz's honesty and I certainly don't think the coincidental presence of children somewhere in the area has any bearing on it.

From the TDT perspective actually fulfilling what you threaten seems quite reasonable.

From a TDT perspective, actually treating the first thing you come up with after someone asks you a question (esp when its couched in wiggle-terms like "probably") as a binding pre-commitment does not seem reasonable to me at all.

Given your manipulation of context above, and my notable lack of context wrt this whole situation, you have an asymmetric information advantage here that I suspect you may use to deceive me. As a result, I'm tapping out of the convo here.

If you are in good faith, I wish you well.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2021-05-11T17:48:52.441Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I see you've quietly dropped the two other reasons to ding credibility I mentioned to focus on the protest, which along with a misquote is your main reason for why Ziz is a liar

I didn't say that there were three reasons, I only spoke of one reason being that there's a pattern of behavior. It's about the generator function. The question is about what generator function explains all three events

We are talking about a person who supposedly follows a coherent decision theory and makes game theory backed moves. I wouldn't expect that the average LGBTQ+ thinks their actions through in game theoretic terms. There's also an IQ difference between Ziz and the average human or average LGBTQ+ person where she's very likely >130 IQ. That means I'm more likely to take a stupid action by a random person as simply a stupid action but expect Ziz to have a better thought out model for why her action makes sense then I would expect for the averge person.

Ziz writes about the importance of not following social conventions and preventing herself from value drift. From the inside I would expect both the Sith robes and the fanfic villian name to be stoic exercises with the intend of immunizing herself against social conventions affecting her. In the post about Pasek's doom she writes about it being important to be a Gervais-sociopath. Being able to act unconstrained and being able to lie when adventagous is part of being a Gervais-sociopath and the stoic exercises are a way to train mentally into that direction. 

My model would explain most weird (as seen by general society) actions of most LGBTQ+ people to be made because even when they are costly (certain people think less of them for it) they are done because the person considers expression of their sexual of gender identity to be a sacred value. Sith robes are not expressions of their sexual of gender identity and thus taking the reputational hit for them shows valuing reputation less. 

There's also sometimes weirdness that comes from lack of social skills and not from conscious decisions that aren't directly  sexual / gender identity. Choosing a fanfic villian name and wearing Sith robes is however done through conscious choice. 

It seems obvious to me that false imprisonment of kids is a noncentral description of what Ziz was doing (ie "she staged a protest and unbeknownst to her there were children somewhere" is my model). Given that this was scaled back to a misdemeanor, I imagine that you're focusing on this specifically for rhetorical effect. 

The article was the first impression I got about Ziz (I live in Germany and never have attended a CFAR workshop) and I would expect that I'm not the only person for which it's true. 

You said that the action was only costly with people who Ziz thinks defected with her and that's not how the action turned out. 

While it likely played out worse then she expected beforehand, I don't think the idea that it was only likely to damage her reputation with the CFAR staff (whom she thinks defected) was a reasonable model of the situation.

Replies from: Isnasene
comment by Isnasene · 2021-05-11T18:35:20.764Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The article was the first impression I got about Ziz (I live in Germany and never have attended a CFAR workshop) and I would expect that I'm not the only person for which it's true. 

Ah, mea culpa. I saw your other comment amount Pasek crashing with you and interpreted it to mean you were pretty close to the Ziz-related part of the community. I'm less hesitant about talking to you now so I'll hop back in.

they are done because the person considers expression of their sexual of gender identity to be a sacred value. Sith robes are not expressions of their sexual of gender identity and thus taking the reputational hit for them shows valuing reputation less. 

I really feel that you're making a category error [LW · GW] by repeatedly merging the concepts "credibility with a small set of helpful ppl" and "general reputation." I don't see why Sith Robes or gender identity or aesthetics in general should cause me to trust someone less, especially when I have other information on them I consider more relevant. This because, unlike most social conventions which serve as forms of control/submission to the mob/etc, the ability to be perceived as honest by those you want to work with allows you to more easily work with them.

Gervais sociopaths often have principles that include telling the truth.

I don't think her aesthetic was stoically motivated as much as motivated by the desire to treat ones own interests and values as logically prior to social convention -- a refusal to let ones own interests bow to the mob. This seems conceptually similar to me as treating something as a sacred value. It just has more decision theory behind it.

It's about the generator function. The question is about what generator function explains all three events

I think this is somewhat noncentral because (as mentioned), I disagree that a single generator produced all three events. What do you think the actual relevant generator is, and why do you think it also generates lie-behavior against parties Ziz might want to work with (eg publishing everyone-facing lies on the internet)?

While it likely played out worse then she expected beforehand, I don't think the idea that it was only likely to damage her reputation with the CFAR staff (whom she thinks defected) was a reasonable model of the situation.

Yeah fair enough. I agree that this isn't a reasonable model but my point still stands I think. The issue is that I neglected a third group aside from people who plan on defecting against Ziz or have low opinions of her judgement. People who automatically flinch away from others who do unconstrained things would also likely trust her less. Still, that group would be unable to help do the unconstrained things she wants to so I don't think it means much to Ziz that she can't work with them.

What group of people do you think Ziz wanted to work with that she is no longer able to because of the protest?

comment by Hivewired · 2021-05-10T19:21:22.170Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I had to propose a model for this here, it's something like:

Ziz believes in the power of what you might call "Woke Twitter Leftism" as a force that will one day come to completely dominate society and sees her own ideological principles as the natural evolution/convergence point of those ideas. If you're a Woke Twitter Leftist and you legitimately believe the principles of Woke Twitter Leftism in your soul, you'll naturally come to embrace her ethical positions over time. She thinks that since "Cthulu swims left" her faction will gradually grow to dominate politically and the actions she takes that would seem to damage her credibility will become credibility boosting in that future. Her callout posts, her protests, the way she expresses disapproval, it's all clearly strategized to fit into the ideological pattern of twitter wokescolds and tumblr tenderqueers. The people she seems to be carelessly defecting against aren't the people she thinks will win the culture war and so the fact that she's damaging her credibility with them is irrelevant.

I think Ziz's belief in the power of this acausal coalition and the belief that it will actually win the culture war that we're currently embroiled in is the result of her rejecting necessity and refusing a gate. You can pretty clearly see where in her ideological theory this error is sitting and the canards she has to adopt to make it work. She thinks that most people are evil, but she still believes her tiny coalition of good-aligned people can shift the timeline which makes no sense. In order to support that, she has to adopt the completely unfounded belief that only good-aligned people can cooperate or use game theory and that nongood people will defect on each other too often to defeat her alliance. 

Replies from: Isnasene, ChristianKl
comment by Isnasene · 2021-05-11T11:12:35.086Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

the completely unfounded belief that only good-aligned people can cooperate or use game theory and that nongood people will defect on each other too often to defeat her alliance. 

Can you elaborate on why you think this belief is completely unfounded? It seems to me that there are clear asymmetries in coordination capacities of good vs nongood. For example, being more open to the idea of a "Good Person" in power than a "Bad Person" seems like common sense. Similarly, groups of good people are intrinsically value-aligned while teams of bad people are not (each has a distinct selfish motivation) -- and I think value-alignedness increases effectiveness.

comment by ChristianKl · 2021-05-10T22:43:55.061Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think Woke Twitter Leftism has a problem with telling lies to hurt people who deserve to be hurt in their view and that there's huge reputational risk for that kind of lies in that crowd. 

To the extend that this model is accurate, I don't think it suggests that we should expect her to always tell the truth.

She thinks that since "Cthulu swims left" her faction will gradually grow to dominate politically and the actions she takes that would seem to damage her credibility will become credibility boosting in that future. Her callout posts, her protests, the way she expresses disapproval, it's all clearly strategized to fit into the ideological pattern of twitter wokescolds and tumblr tenderqueers. 

That still doesn't explain the Sith robes and fanfic villian name.

comment by Hivewired · 2021-05-08T00:29:47.406Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Pattern [LW · GW]Replied:
'How do you know X isn't lying' is an isolated demand for rigor.

Raven [LW · GW]Replied to Pattern:
I don't think so, ziz kind of has a reputation as a manipulator and lying tends to go hand in hand with that. It seems like a reasonable question to me.


 

comment by Emiya (andrea-mulazzani) · 2021-05-20T09:12:03.490Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wonder about that. 

I'd expect we'd first see a huge number of newspaper articles and internet websites trying to make health scares about "lab meat" and an ungodly about of memes about "real men eating real meat", or "only real meat has real taste", and then governments would ramp up subsidies to traditional farms because "cultural activities" and whatever. Oh, and a lot of jokes about the synthetic meat that many sci-fi dystopias have as an element.

Old, powerful lobbies don't like the free market regulating itself, at all, and making harmful/obsolete stuff a cultural/identity/political tribes battle is the first strategy to hinder it.

I'd agree it eventually will become the solution, but I expect it to go slightly worse than the energetic transition.

comment by Hivewired · 2021-05-08T00:32:20.450Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In case anyone is confused, I temporarily pulled this post to make some minor edits and when I re-published it on my blog it created a duplicate post here on LW. That post was up for a few hours before I realized what happened, did the edits on the LW version of the original post, and moved the repost into my drafts. I copied over all the comments from the repost into this thread except for the ones asking why there was the repost and everything should be fixed now. 

comment by Hazard · 2021-05-07T00:31:10.612Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I appreciate you writing this! Describing how exactly a set of ideas fucked with you, how the ideas interlock, and what you think their structure is, is something I'm always glad to see.

comment by Raven · 2021-05-06T22:49:48.816Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Very interesting post. I found Sinceriously to be a really good blog, full of ideas that resonated with my own experiences. I didn't find her to be a very skilled manipulator though; her attempts to sway me were transparently obvious and I had no problem stripping out the unwanted stuff and keeping the useful ideas.

Perhaps it helps to have already embraced one's dark side? Until now it hadn't occurred to me that doing so might trigger such a catastrophic response as you talked about. Mine was painful but not dangerous, so I at least know it can be done safely.

comment by Multicore (KaynanK) · 2021-05-06T21:07:45.388Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You've mentioned Pasek's Doom a few times before, but I'm still not quite sure what it means. Something about taking your own headspace drama too seriously in self-destructive ways?

Replies from: beriukay
comment by beriukay · 2021-05-06T22:29:51.735Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

From hivewired:

Pasek’s Doom is the name for induced internal conflict between hemispheres, named for Maia Pasek, whose death Ziz blames on suicide caused by hemisphere conflict. Supposedly after inducing a hemisphere split and finding out they were good male left brain and neutral female right brain, the right brain despairingly committed suicide and killed them both after being woken up enough to act in the world. 

And I just realized I quoted OP's source. I seriously got lost reading all of this. But It sounds like taking own headspace drama too seriously is about right.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2021-05-07T17:17:51.563Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Pasek couch surfered at my place a few days before he got into contact with Ziz or self-identified as trans and we had deep discussions, so I have a snapshot of who he was back then.

Pasek didn't had the kind of head drama that the average person has. The term headspace drama suggests passivity that's doesn't really fit here. Pasek did a lot of self-modification. They had the ability to act in an aligned way and work 60-80 hours per week without akrasia. 

In the end it seems like his logical part accepted that given that everybody dies (the latest at the heat death of the universe) life has no value and he sought meaning in transitioning and finding meaning out of feminity. Pasek started taking hormones.

A few months after taking hormones they were at traveling alone in Poland and committed suicide. Reading Ziz account suggests that Ziz was at the time the main person he spoke to, so he was cut of from his normal social ties at that moment.