Open Thread, October 7 - October 12, 2013

post by Thomas · 2013-10-07T14:52:51.109Z · score: 5 (6 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 318 comments

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

318 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T21:18:15.870Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

The Brain Preservation Foundation has (finally) started evaluating their first candidate brain!

"Update: We've begun our 1st X-ray microscope imaging of our 1st competitor-submitted chemopreserved mouse brain! (Shawn Mikula, Denk Lab) :)" - Oct 1

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-10-07T15:45:27.578Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

We like our referencing here on Less Wrong. Reference-heavy people (gwern, Yvain, lukeprog, I'm looking at you), do you have some system for keeping track of your common go-to references that you use over and over again in multiple pieces of work?

I'm kind of expecting "yes, I have a dirty great text file" as a response to this, but perhaps hoping for something more awesome.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-07T16:50:52.870Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not super reference heavy but I myself use evernote quite a lot.

Whenever I find something that I probably want to reference in the future I clip it into evernote.

Evernote has the advantage that there a google plugin that searches through your evernote everytime you do a google search. Finding a reference again takes searching. Sometimes more sometimes less. If you want to reduce the time it takes you to refind information, evernote tags or simple hashtags help.

Back in Google Reader days Google Reader search was also quite central, because I often used to quote stuff that came into my RSS feed on some way.

If you want to go more high tech there are options like http://www.mendeley.com/ to manage references. Zotero and CiteULike are similar solutions that are specifically designed for references management.

I personally still use Evernote over single purpose reference management systems because I can simply dumb all information that I might need later into evernote.

Evernote happens to be a cloud service of a US company, so it not 100% secure for all types of information. If I could get a similar service that's hosted safely I would switch, but at the moment convenience wins over data privacy for myself for most data.

There also information that so important that I want to have it available in brain memory. That information goes into Anki.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-10T15:26:54.159Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I second the recommendation of using Evernote for saving references and Anki (or other spaced repetition software) for brain storage.

As for Google Reader, I miss it a lot, but I've found that feedly is a full replacement. Subscribing to pro I now save everything I read there directly to Evernote since it offers integration with it.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-10T15:40:41.372Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Subscribing to pro I now save everything I read there directly to Evernote since it offers integration with it.

Do you mean manual saving of posts or is there a setting to automatically redirect all posts into a special Evernote notebook?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-11T09:08:35.596Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Manual saving, there is a keyboard shortcut and clickable icon that saves whatever you are reading to Evernote.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-10T15:38:50.659Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Subscribing to pro I now save everything I read there directly to Evernote since it offers integration with it.

It does? Awesome!

comment by Suryc11 · 2013-10-08T01:17:42.783Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Seconding Evernote for managing both citations and information in general.

The ability to tag content is indispensable, and combined with a powerful search, Evernote becomes an external hard drive for your brain.

One thing to keep in mind is that this is one of those things that becomes progressively more useful the more you use it and invest in it (e.g., clip anything of interest, tag religiously).

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-12T06:05:43.002Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm writing a literature review at the moment, and use Evernote to organize the references. I tag them with year, subject, type, language. I give each reference a number. I abbreviate the conclusions of the references in the notes that contain the original articles as pdf files, and will finally use those snippets to construct the review article.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-07T16:05:37.360Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A dirty great text file is awesome: http://xkcd.com/208/

Yes, seriously.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T09:44:17.713Z · score: 7 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Do you know why the age of consent for sex is 18? What would your sexual ethics be if it happened to have been raised to 21 not 18? Indeed this almost happened. Think about a wide array of questions, relationships, policies and norms you approve or disapprove of in light of this.

Even better, when you next time find yourself making judgements on them, try for a short time seeing them from the perspective of world-21-you instead of world-18-you. Applying the reversal test can be fun, but other people might not see it your way if you point it out.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-10-08T18:32:27.567Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I went to an early college program — a residential four-year college where most students entered at age 15 or 16, after two years of high school. This was in a state where the legal age of consent was (and is) 16. As a consequence, many sexual relationships among first-year students were illegal. However, they were also very common.

The culture at this institution was such that students were treated as "college students who happen to be two years younger", not as "gifted young teenagers who happen to be doing college-level academics". As such, the age-of-consent law was basically regarded as an inappropriate technicality. Students were cautioned about it, but along the lines of "Technically, if someone really wanted to hurt you, they could charge you with this ..."

So far as I know, the only time while I was there that anyone was even seriously threatened with legal charges over an "underage" relationship was one case where a freshman boy (age 15) cheated on his girlfriend with another guy (age 17). The girlfriend initially wanted to report this as "child abuse" but changed her mind before doing so.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-09T03:53:04.237Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

While I'm not particularly in favor of age-of-consent laws setting such high bars as they do in most states, I suspect that this particular environment selected for a significantly higher-than-average degree of emotional maturity for that age range.

I would suggest that our teens would be better off if adults would offer them guidance in how to handle sexual relations responsibly, given the exceptional potential they can hold for interpersonal strife, rather than simply declaring them off-limits until a certain age and then assuming they're mature enough to conduct themselves responsibly, except that it occurs to me that most adults probably aren't competent to offer good advice on the subject even if they were willing to discuss such matters with teenagers.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-10-09T22:49:48.820Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect that this particular environment selected for a significantly higher-than-average degree of emotional maturity for that age range.

The lore — I have no sources for this; it was word-of-mouth at the time — was that when psychologists had once tested the student body for emotional maturity, what they found was that entering students were no more mature than comparable teenagers, but that graduating students were as mature as other college graduates. IOW, it was believed to be not a selection process, but an "if you treat 'em like adults, they'll act like adults" process.

(Of course, this also neatly fits the institution's founding ideology, which was opposition to the sustained infantilization of mainstream schooling.)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T15:39:39.242Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would suggest that our teens would be better off if adults would offer them guidance in how to handle sexual relations responsibly, given the exceptional potential they can hold for interpersonal strife, rather than simply declaring them off-limits until a certain age and then assuming they're mature enough to conduct themselves responsibly, except that it occurs to me that most adults probably aren't competent to offer good advice on the subject even if they were willing to discuss such matters with teenagers.

I once saw someone on the Internet proposing that ability to consent should be granted after an exam, rather than after a given age, much like we don't grant everyone who reaches a certain age a driving licence.

comment by shminux · 2013-10-09T16:08:57.664Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If everyone had a built-in car automatically activated at puberty, there would be no driving tests, either.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-09T16:18:58.124Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I was going to dispute that, but you know, you're probably right. The death toll would be tremendous, but it wouldn't be the government's place to regulate people's god-given right to use the cars they were born with.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-10T11:20:46.150Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You want to make it easy for people to know whether another person has the legal ability to consent. If consent is about whether the person had taken an exam, it would be hard to know.

A twenty five year old woman who doesn't want to have sex before marriage for religious reasons could simply avoid taking the test. People who take the test before getting married could be expelled by the local church.

The proposal seems to give fundamental Christian's a ugly tool for charging people who engage in premartial sex with rape.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-11T04:10:42.221Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You want to make it easy for people to know whether another person has the legal ability to consent. If consent is about whether the person had taken an exam, it would be hard to know.

Although you raise some compelling arguments against the proposition of an exam, I'll note that in cases in the vicinity of the borderline, legal ability to consent by age is already quite hard to judge; people rarely card prospective sex partners.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-10T22:54:56.057Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Actually it was written by a self-declared pedophile (who had chosen not to act upon his urges) who argued that arbitrarily young people should be allowed to consent to sex provided they demonstrably know what they're doing.

It must have been taken down, because I've found that blog but that post no longer seems to be there, and the blog is not on archive.org.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-09T18:00:50.551Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Written exam, or practical?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T18:31:24.674Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

:-)

Oral (no pun intended!) IIRC.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-09T20:29:23.313Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I was carefully avoiding that one.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-08T12:14:37.816Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Do you know why the age of consent for sex is 18?

The age of consent differs over the world. Even within the US. Kansas has one of 16 while it's 18 in Florida.

According to Wikipedia Spain even has an age of consent of 13 (with some exceptions) and the government recently announced that it wants to raise it to 15.

I don't think my morals on sexuality would change much by living in Spain.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T14:19:15.612Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The age of consent differs over the world.

I know this of course, I live in Slovenia where it is 15. However nearly everyone here assume it is 18. I think this is because:

  • It is 18 in the most culturally important state in the world: California
  • People treat 18 as Schelling point for legal adulthood.

The second is probably why they people here are surprised the drinking age is 21 in much of the United States. 18, rather than the more traditional 21 (see Roman laws) likely exists as a Schelling point for legal rights, because during the 20th century men of that age where judged useful for military service, not because it was determined as the age where people generally become capable of making all decisions on their own behalf.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-08T15:50:06.020Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The second is probably why they people here are surprised the drinking age is 21 in much of the United States. 18, rather than the more traditional 21 (see Roman laws) likely exists as a Schelling point for legal rights, because during the 20th century men of that age where judged useful for military service, not because it was determined as the age where people generally become capable of making all decisions on their own behalf.

Hitler started drafting people of age 22 when he reintroduced the draft in Germany. Later he drafted even people under 18.

I would rather think 18 it's the time where most people leave high school or the local equivalent and go to college or take a job. Taking a job means that you have to be able to make contracts while people act school don't have to make their own contracts.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-08T18:24:19.823Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Historically the first conscription in modern times was done by the French:

"Conscription in its modern form arose in revolutionary France, where universal military service was regarded both as a Republican duty, based on the principles of equality and fraternity, and as a necessity for national survival. In August 1793, a law limited liability for service to men between the ages of 18 and 25" (source)

In those times most people did not go to high school or the local equivalents.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T17:51:51.995Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Hitler's social order isn't the direct ancestor of our current social order.

British and Americans drafted at 18. British starting in WW1 as far as I can tell, Americans in WW2. The voting age in the United States was lowered for all states to 18 around the time of the Vietnam war (1971 to be exact), specifically on the notion it being unfair to draft 18 year old to fight in a war they couldn't vote on.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-08T19:29:24.679Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The US seems to have lowered it from 21 to 18 in 1942.

With googling I can't find easily when the US made 18 the year in which people can engage in contracts. But I think that's generally more central than voting and draft.

I would expect that age to be at 18 in the US before WWII.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T07:23:25.023Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But I think that's generally more central than voting and draft.

Maybe, I certainly think it matters more than voting. But I suspect voting carriers more symbolic weight in people's minds.

I would expect that age to be at 18 in the US before WWII.

This is an interesting question, If I have some time I'll check it out as well. Is there a lawyer who happens to know the answer here?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T04:07:13.804Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

AFAIK few people stayed in school that long when the age of majority was set at 18, and many started working earlier.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T04:35:35.310Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's another example I thought of including in the post I've been thinking of writing but never got around to about what happens when the central example of a category for someone isn't the same as the central example of the same category for someone else.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2013-10-10T03:27:13.353Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is this the post you want to write?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-19T19:24:33.366Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not exactly.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T14:28:24.011Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think my morals on sexuality would change much by living in Spain.

I bet they would. At least if you grew up in Spain. Though probably not because of this law.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-08T15:38:12.596Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I bet they would. At least if you grew up in Spain.

On what moral question do you predict I would have a much different opinion if I were from Spain?

comment by philh · 2013-10-08T21:03:24.333Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If there is a question of sexual morality on which:

  • You grew up in a culture in which people tend to give one answer, which you agree with, and

  • People who grew up in Spain tend to give a different answer,

Then I think there's a reasonable chance that: in the counterfactual world in which your parents moved to Spain shortly before you were born, and you grew up there, you would give the Spanish answer instead of your current one.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-08T21:09:54.561Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's an obvious point.

I don't think such questions exist to the extend that the answer is much different.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-10-09T23:31:39.017Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is it usually wrong for two 13-year-olds to have sex with each other? What about a 16-year-old and a 13-year-old? 20 and 13?

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-10T00:16:07.935Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In general I don't believe in a moral system where the central criteria of whether something is right or wrong gets decided by a straight rule.

What I do believe is wrong is when 16-year-old or a 20-year-old projects power in order to make the 13-year-old decide to have sex with them. Additionally I see responsibility to act afterwards in a way that the experience creates no emotional wounds or other damage.

Pregnancy would be damage because even if the 13-year-old gets an abortion getting a child killed inside himself leaves some emotional trauma. That means the older person would be responsible for seeing that the 13-year-old is on the pill and use condoms.

In practice I think there probably some level of wrongness in most cases where a 20-year-old has sex with a 13-year-old.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-10-10T20:19:42.942Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In practice I think there probably some level of wrongness in most cases where a 20-year-old has sex with a 13-year-old.

I suggest that, due to the anchoring effects of formal law, there exists some combination of ages such that you (and probably the average German) would say this and the average Spaniard, including hypothetical-you who grew up in Spain, would not. It may not be precisely 20 and 13, but I strongly suspect that such a pair of ages exists.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T09:27:07.936Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To make a specific answer I would first have to know which country you are from and then check the social data on differences of opinion from Spain.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-09T11:11:22.756Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's in my profile that I'm from Germany, specifically from Berlin. In case It helps you, I'm born here.

comment by MrMind · 2013-10-10T09:20:15.359Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

In Italy the age of consent is 14, it can go down to 13 if the partner is at max 15 years old, but it raises to 16 if the partner is a temporary or permanent authoritative figure, like a coach or a teacher.

18 is the limit at which it is allowed to publicly show or sell pictures/movies about that person naked or performing sexual acts.

I frankly feel that this is one of the very few cases where Italian laws get the facts right: thirteens would still (try to) have sex wether or not it was allowed.
I remember that I believed too that the age of consent was 18, and felt fine with it, so it was a little shock to discover that the limit was much lower. I later however got various data about how sexual expression/desire/maturity starts around that age (mine too, FWIW), so I reconsidered that this was indeed a case of a law just making common sense: you don't throw in jail a teenager just because of his/her natural impulses.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-10T16:02:31.836Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

you don't throw in jail a teenager just because of his/her natural impulses

Well, in the general case, of course you do... at least, if you throw them in jail at all. Adults, too. Most crimes are natural impulses, at least for people raised in a given culture; acts that we are neither naturally inclined to do nor explicitly taught to do tend not to be common enough to be worth the effort to pass laws against.

With respect to age of consent laws in particular, I would say there's more than one relevant age threshold if we're going to bother regulating this stuff by age at all; a typical thirteen-year-old is not equivalent to a typical 17-year-old, but neither is s/he equivalent to a typical 9-year-old.

I would also say that the kind of relationship matters more to capacity for consent than age, though I understand the "bright line" reasons for using the latter.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-11T15:28:11.928Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Most crimes are natural impulses

No, most crimes have "natural" motivations. If you, say, plan and execute a bank robbery that's not an impulse.

acts that we are neither naturally inclined to do

Most acts are instrumental -- you do them to reach a goal, not because you're "naturally inclined" to do them just so.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-11T17:31:40.685Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure MrMind would class two teenagers lying to their parents about where they're going to be and finding somewhere private to have sex as obeying precisely the sort of "natural impulses" referenced in their post. And, yes, agreed, most of the acts involved are entirely instrumental.

I would class that as the same kind of planning demonstrated by a bank robber (although one hopes that successful bank robbers require more sophisticated planning skills).

If you would say neither of those are "natural impulses" because they require instrumental planning, that's fine, I won't argue with you... I'm talking about the thing MrMind is talking about, and using their langauge to refer to it, but if y'all can agree on a different word to use I'll happily use that word instead.

Semantics aside, if there's an actual disagreement here, can you say more about what it is?

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-11T19:23:01.425Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I do agree with you that people are certainly thrown in jail because of their "natural impulses" -- not all crimes are like that, but some are.

However the remainder of that paragraph ("Most crimes are natural impulses...") makes no sense to me at all, I think it's wrong because you're completely ignoring instrumentality. Consider a trivial example: running a red light. Are people naturally inclined to do that? No, I don't think so. Are they explicitly taught to do that? Nope. But is it common? Fairly common, I'd say and there are certainly laws against it.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-11T19:57:50.431Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(nods) Thanks for answering my question.

As I say, I certainly agree that most of the acts people perform, whether criminal or not, are instrumental rather than... um... whatever the alternative is. (Reflexive? Instinctive?)

And yes, I guess you're right that I'm ignoring that fact... precisely because it seems irrelevant to me.

Similarly, I'm happy to say that eating is a natural impulse. If someone objected that the overwhelming majority of the actions we perform in order to satisfy that impulse are instrumental and deliberate, I would certainly agree that this is true, but would find it strange to conclude that eating was therefore not a natural impulse. Instrumentality of acts just seems entirely beside the point.

Your position makes more sense to me as applied to running red lights, though. My (natural?) inclination is to extend the same reasoning to that case as well but I can definitely appreciate the criticism that at this point I'm just being metaphorical and could just as easily classify anything as "natural," and I'll accept that I over-reached with my original claim. People don't run red lights in the wild.

But murder? Rape? Battery? Nah, in response to certain stimuli these are as natural as eating and having sex. The psychological and social structures we've constructed to prevent those stimuli from arising, and to prevent us from responding with those impulses when the stimuli do arise, and to prevent us from implementing those impulses when we do experience them... those structures are wonderful things, and in many contexts they enable us to do much much better than our natural impulses would lead us to do... but to therefore claim that those impulses don't exist just seems bizarre to me.

I wonder whether what's underlying the inferential gap here is some unstated assumptions relating to the moral implications of something being a natural impulse. Does it help at all if I say out loud that many of our natural impulses are utterly abhorrent?

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-11T20:11:51.955Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think the word "impulse" is providing more confusion here than light.

I'm happy to say that eating is a natural impulse

Let's unpack. You have a biologically hardwired desire/instinct to eat. That provides you with a "natural" goal that you may reach through a variety of instrumental ways. Some of them are more acceptable (either from a psychological or from a cultural standpoint), some of them less.

Similarly, there is a desire/instinct to, say, have sex. That, however, doesn't make rape "natural" as what's "natural" is desire, not a particular way to satisfy it. There are ways to have sex other than through rape -- just as there are ways to eat other than by stealing food and ways to assert dominance other than by punching someone in the face. That's why distinguishing between the underlying desire and the specific way chosen to satisfy it is important.

many of our natural impulses are utterly abhorrent?

No, I don't think so. Do you have any particular examples?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-11T23:41:39.160Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

OK.

So going back to the OP I responded to... when two 14 year olds have sex, is that a specific way, or an underlying desire?

When the OP says it's common sense not to imprison teenagers "just because of his/her natural impulses", is it referring to specific ways, or underlying desires?

comment by MrMind · 2013-10-11T08:36:04.688Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

acts that we are neither naturally inclined to do nor explicitly taught to do tend not to be common enough to be worth the effort to pass laws against.

So would you say that murder is either: 1) a natural inclination of human being; 2) explicitly taught; 3) not regulated by the law.

3 is clearly not the case, so I'm curious to know what would you pick between 1 and 2.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-11T14:56:47.207Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Murder is very much a natural inclination of humans.

It sounds like you disagree with this claim; can you say more about why? (I'm willing to defend it, but right now I feel like someone has incredulously said to me "Wait, you're saying humans consume organic matter for fuel?"... I don't know where to start addressing your disagreement.)

There are also contexts in which killing people is explicitly taught, but they are relatively rare and we tend not to label them "murder" and they tend to be legal.

comment by Nornagest · 2013-10-11T18:22:31.215Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Murder is very much a natural inclination of humans.

I don't think this is true, for most values of "natural inclination".

Indications are that it's very hard to reliably convince people to kill. First-world militaries base quite a bit of their training methods and tactics on working around this; training reforms suggested by S.L.A. Marshall and contemporaries took the US Army from about 25% of front-line soldiers firing their weapons in WWII (!) to a ratio of around 55% in the Korean War, and near 90% by Vietnam. But modern tactics still lean quite heavily on indirect fire and other less personal methods of killing enemies.

Even more tellingly, research into PTSD and related conditions seems to point to a stronger link with responsibility for violence than with exposure to personal danger. Granted, shooting strangers in warfare is rather different from, say, knifing someone in a bar fight; but the evidence seems to suggest that people without sociopathic traits need to overcome substantial psychological barriers before killing's considered as an option.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-11T18:37:18.284Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I would expect that most people need to overcome substantial psychological barriers before they are willing to kill someone, especially before they are willing to kill complete strangers. If that is inconsistent with something being a natural inclination, well, OK, then I'll agree that murder isn't a natural inclination.

As you suggest in your first sentence, this has more to do with the meaning of "natural inclination" than with anything related to my original point.

Trying to get away from the purely semantic issue... do you disagree with any of this? If so, what?

comment by MrMind · 2013-10-11T16:59:22.125Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Murder is very much a natural inclination of humans.

Then it is very possible that we intend with "natural inclination" wildly different things.
I see "natural inclination" as whatever innate impulse is strongly present almost universally in humans, such that not meeting it creates a sense of urgency and/or frustration: eating, company, sex, etc.
That's why what you say feels to me like "Of course humans eat truck tires for breakfast!" :)
Do you (I hope) intend something much less... coercive.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-11T17:25:07.273Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Barring the socializing influences of culture, I expect typical humans to intermittently experience urges to eat, to socialize, to have sex with each other, and to kill each other.

I also expect that every successful human culture has established cultural norms that govern those urges so that they don't become too dangerous to the group. Consequently we mostly don't go around eating whatever we want, having sex with whoever we want, or killing whoever we want... instead, we follow social rules that govern what and when and how it's OK to do those things.

In some cases we internalize such rules and adopt them as values of our own ("I respect the property rights of others and will therefore not eat food that isn't mine", "I respect the bodily autonomy of others and will therefore not have sex with them unless the desire is mutual," "I respect the social rules that govern acceptable sex partners and will therefore not have sex with socially unacceptable partners whether or not the desire is mutual", "I respect the lives of others and will therefore not kill them even when they deserve it," etc.). In other cases we don't internalize them, but we follow them because it's more practical to do so.

That doesn't mean the impulse isn't there.

That having been said... I would agree that the sense of urgency that arises from, for example, not eating for a day is very different from the sense of urgency that arises from, for example, not murdering someone who violates me.

But I would also say that the sense of urgency that arises from not having sex with someone really attractive is not very much like either of those, and more like the latter than the former.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-11T15:23:17.947Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I guess one question is what do you mean by "natural inclination".

Humans are clearly capable of murder. They also, clearly, engage in it quite rarely (regardless of the degree of law & order around, I might add). Evolutionary speaking, the capability to murder is beneficial, but needs very strong constraints on it -- a tendency to murder those (of your species) around you is likely to wash out of the population pretty quickly.

So yes, there is a biologically hardwired ability to murder, but there are also hardwired brakes on it. These brakes are pretty powerful.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-11T17:33:34.423Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I would agree with all of this.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-11T19:20:40.930Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This will inevitability turn into a nature/nurture discussion about what is and is not natural. Let's dissolve it.

Most humans instinctively understand how to inflict harm, possess emotions that can trigger violence under certain conditions, and also have an innate desire to prevent harm from occurring.

Cultural mechanisms can prevent the conditions of murder. Cultural mechanisms can also override the instinct of harm avoidance so that murder can be more easily committed.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-11T18:36:54.730Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm going to come at this from descriptive ethics, rather than a prescriptive ethics, because I find that more interesting for this particular case.

The popularly termed "age creepiness rule" (don't date under age/2+7) appears to be a weirdly accurate reflection of what most OKCupid men proclaim is reasonable (see: male chart, youngest allowable match) and this is despite the human male inclination towards choosing younger mates (as okcupid shows, actual messaging rates differ from declared values)

Let's just suppose that outwardly stated preferences on OKCupid mimic (at the very least) the moral intuitions of Western men, and that the "age creepiness equation" is not well known enough to actually alter anything.

What would we predict about our laws, given age/2+7?

14=14/2+7

Making 14 the age at which people can start exploring sex without violating the equation.

18=22/2+7

Making 22 the age at which it is inappropriate to have sex with anyone under 18.

Another equation conforming pair which seems to correspond to legally important ages: 16 & 18.

Does this information hold any predictive value for how nations tend to make laws? Does the equation change based on cultural variables? Do you think that the equation reflects anything important about human maturity levels? Does it reflect anything about which behavior would be adaptive ancestrally? Does the equation makes sense from a proscriptive ethics perspective?

My answer to these is generally "yes" with increasing uncertainty and qualifying for each successive question.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-10-12T05:05:42.847Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'd be weary of applying these kinds of "rules of thumb" at extreme ends of the scale.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-12T06:06:35.423Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was less "applying" and more observing the way this "rule of thumb" conforms to many people's moral intuitions, and its possible implications. I'm not denying that at the older ends of the scale there comes a point at which increasing age does not mean decreasing vulnerability to exploitation. For example, I wouldn't say 35 and 55 is an immoral pairing, despite violating the equation.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-10T15:03:45.898Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Probabilistically your question makes sense. It doesn't make much sense if I think about my personal experience. I don't think my ethics are determined by the law and I don't give much thought to it when thinking about right and wrong. Then again, I know myself imperfectly. My mom was generally obeying the law and my dad was breaking it. I learned from both of them.

In Finland, the age of consent is 16. I disagree with it, but don't really care to elaborate how. I find it really hard to be judgemental about sex.

comment by Bakkot · 2013-10-07T15:51:07.730Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I'm told, and quite willing to believe, that your salary has more to do with the five minutes of salary negotiation than the next several years of work. I am also told that salary negotiation is very much a skill.

As such, it seems it would be worth a fairly substantial amount of time and money to practice and/or get coaching in this skill. Is this done? That is, how likely am I to be able to find someone, preferably someone who has worked on the business end of salary negotiation at somewhere like Google, who I can pay to practice salary negotiation with?

ETA: I've read extensively about how to negotiate (though of course there's always something more). What I'm interested in is practice.

comment by SatvikBeri · 2013-10-08T21:42:43.657Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Referrals are the best source for finding someone involved in negotiation at a specific company. I believe that Google has HR negotiate salaries, so if you know any Googlers, asking them to introduce you to someone in HR will probably work.

If you haven't done so already, you can get ~80% of the value here just by practicing with a random friend playing the role of hiring manager. As you mentioned, most of the value is in ingraining the behaviors through practice, not in the extra knowledge you get. So you don't necessarily need a specialist for this.

If you are interested in Effective Altruism (donate 10% or more of your income or work at an EA organization) then I would be happy to help. I have successfully negotiated 80%+ raises before, and taught 7 people to negotiate with average results of 30% or more raises. About half of the teaching was role-played practice. Feel free to email me at satvik.beri@gmail.com .

comment by Vaniver · 2013-10-07T16:36:16.891Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I believe Ramit Sethi is the general recommendation here.

comment by Dagon · 2013-10-07T17:57:02.762Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Note that the comparison (more to do with X than Y) isn't very helpful for cases where X and Y are not exclusive, and/or related. For this particular topic, the quality and quantity of work in many fields has a direct effect on your ability to negotiate for salary (for three reasons: your actual ability to positively impact the business, your confidence in asking for what you're worth, and your (prospective) employer's comfort level in treating you differently from your nominal peers).

Also, 5 minutes of salary negotiation is bull crap. There is no excuse not to spend dozen hours of research and have multiple 30 minute conversations every year or two. Of course, you should put the same level of thought and effort into other areas of job-satisfaction (commute, hours, duties, etc.) as well.

comment by SatvikBeri · 2013-10-08T23:55:33.127Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Note that the comparison (more to do with X than Y) isn't very helpful for cases where X and Y are not exclusive, and/or related.

I find it helpful to model salary as

(value contributed) X (percentage extracted through negotiation)

in most cases. For a huge swathe of people a marginal hour in negotiation is worth much more than a marginal hour in contributing value. And "a marginal hour invested in Y produces more than a marginal hour in Z" is very useful information.

Also, 5 minutes of salary negotiation is bull crap. There is no excuse not to spend dozen hours of research and have multiple 30 minute conversations every year or two. Of course, you should put the same level of thought and effort into other areas of job-satisfaction (commute, hours, duties, etc.) as well.

I agree that you should be willing to spend a lot of time on negotiation, but would like to clarify that investing even an hour is often exceptionally valuable.

comment by Dorikka · 2013-10-07T20:50:13.108Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You might be interested in this article.

comment by niceguyanon · 2013-10-07T19:23:02.772Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

What are some facts that would cause, an immediate update in beliefs and non trivial daily life application? I am looking for things that are relatively uncontroversial, things that people just aren't aware of and if they knew about it, they would change they way they feel about it immediately.

For example I just found out that 2/3rds of imported extra virgin olive oil is adulterated or not actually olive oil. Some brands that I recognize and have bought my whole life is not really extra virgin olive oil, therefore I never got the health benefits. Consumer reports and UC Davis tests show corroborating evidence that most cheap evoo is not what it claims to be. Knowing this, I will probably never again buy those brands who do not undergo voluntary quality testing and seek out to buy authentic evoo or at the very least attempt avoid overpaying for fake olive oil when I could just go with regular cooking oil. This article has information and links to the UC Davis testing results.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-07T19:40:36.062Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

While I agree that you have to be careful about olive oil you buy in a supermarket, I am somewhat wary about the UC Davis results. My wariness is a function of two sentences. One is on the front page of http://olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/ -- it says "Enhancing the quality and economic viability of California table olives and olive oil" (emphasis mine). The second one is in the report and it says "We are grateful to Corto Olive, California Olive Ranch, and the California Olive Oil Council for their financial support of this research."

Also, an observation. EVOO ages. If you really want the freshest tastiest yummiest EVOO you need to buy it around December, a month or two after the harvest (the bottle should have the harvest date on it). If you take the same EVOO and try it after a year has passed, it will be different, certainly by taste. Note that it's still "true" EVOO -- no heating or adulteration or anything. It's just that time has passed.

To try real fresh EVOO buy a bottle of what's called Olio Nuovo and make sure it's not more than a couple of months after the harvest.

comment by niceguyanon · 2013-10-07T20:18:57.174Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

To try real fresh EVOO buy a bottle of what's called Olio Nuovo and make sure it's not more than a couple of months after the harvest.

This is now on my to do list.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-07T20:32:01.490Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am not sure about the calendar of California olive growers, but Italian olio nuovo is not available right now -- this year's harvest will arrive in late November or December. Look for it e.g. here or here.

comment by D_Malik · 2013-10-09T07:10:49.256Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure I've saved time on net by looking through http://www.reddit.com/r/LifeProTips/top?t=all

I think we need some sort of wiki page to list high-value practical advice, where people could e.g. look under "health" and they'd be directed to Shangri-La for weight-loss, or a list of what supplements they should take for general health, with direct Amazon links, or melatonin, red light, red glasses, sleep masks, etc. for sleeping better, and so on. (I am not going to create such a page.)

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-11T18:05:12.196Z · score: 5 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Candidate for a forbidden topic: Celibate pedophilia

I saw a post somewhere (can't find it again) asking if there were forbidden topics on LessWrong, with the implication that this would be undesirable.

This post I made to the Discussion section was seriously downvoted: http://lesswrong.com/lw/it3/assertion_a_large_proportion_of_pedophiles_are/ There is no attribution behind downvotes, so the reasons can't be determined.

Perhaps it belonged here in the open thread; I'm not experienced enough to judge that. There are also complaints that it was obvious and had no significant rationality-related issues, but I humbly invite people to consider whether these may be rationalizations -- when evaluated against the relevance of posts in this open thread.

However, there are also comments that have upvotes:

"The existence of the article has potentially severe downsides for the site, and while we may wish this wasn't so, reality is what it is."

"taints reputation of LW"

"Writing about low-status topics is low-status. This topic is low-status. Making LW low-status goes against the goals of most readers, I guess."

Let's think civil liberties issues here. All the interesting civil liberties issues are about low-status cases -- if a group or some idea is popular with the majority, then no one is complaining and the "civil liberties" concept never comes up. Sometimes you might want to override your ordinary feelings about status to consider an oppressed group.

I speculate that what commonly comes to mind when "pedophilia" is mentioned is child sex abuse. Discrimination against (and punishment of) child sex abusers is entirely appropriate. I have ruled out that case by calling the topic "celibate pedophilia", but after that restriction is in place I suggest these associations: a desire to change society so that adult-child sexual activity is legal and accepted (e.g. NAMBLA), a desire to inflict harm on children, looking at pictures of children being harmed, and perhaps insisting to others that they shouldn't be disgusted by these desires.

I am opposed to all of those things, and I know there are many other celibate pedophiles like me. Some of the points seem irrelevant from a civil liberties point of view, but they are relevant from a status point of view.

So there are questions here of whether people want to personally change their status judgment based on those clarifications.

With regard to "tainting the site", there is an issue as to whether those clarifications can be conveyed in some way to avoid the fears of harm to the site based on low status. Does anyone want to clarify the risk of harm to the site?

Perhaps the net judgment of the LessWrong community is that it should be a forbidden topic. But if so, I think it's worth making a conscious note of that fact.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-10-11T18:31:08.276Z · score: 23 (25 votes) · LW · GW

Folks, this is what "things you can't say" looks like. This is what a real social taboo looks like.

Notice how different the community response is to this, versus to some of the things that are claimed by their proponents to be "things you can't say" but which are actually merely explicit statements of common beliefs in the cultural mainstream.

When someone triggers a social taboo, the response isn't so much "I will argue against this person!" — not even in the "someone is wrong on the Internet!" fashion. That's just disagreement (sometimes ideological or partisan disagreement), not taboo.

When someone triggers a social taboo, the response is more to try to stifle or exclude it quickly. This sometimes ends in trying to pretend that it never happened.

(I am not asserting that the taboo response is right or wrong on this subject. I am pointing out that it is different.)

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-12T03:50:21.389Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

While I did not upvote the original post itself, I'll note here my disagreement with all the comments taking issue with the post for being "off topic." We entertain topics related only very tangentially to rationality on a regular basis, and the issue is not that this subject is off topic beyond our usual tolerances, it's that practically any community will get the screaming heebie jeebies the moment it's raised. This is one of our existing taboos which is still strong enough for people to be hit by social splatter damage just by being near it and not protesting.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-12T05:06:08.486Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The point is, if it were on topic, taking the status hit of exploring the subject matter might be justifiable. As it stands now its value is completely negative to the community.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-12T09:57:54.380Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I bet the exact same argument if it was in a open thread comment would have been upvoted and would on net be considered a gain.

Claims like this when well argued are welcomed even outside threads for taboo topics (and even if they where only welcomed there that still leaves room for discussion). I recall the topic being discussed on the unofficial IRC channel and other comments.

Pedophilia is a legitimate sexual orientation, even if it expressing it IRL is bad (which it is not). Child porn should not be suppressed (tho some of it is documentation of crime and should be investigated).

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-12T11:06:56.107Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, I think I had missed or forgotten that. That thread you linked seems awesome.

It's hard for me to believe the difference was just that he didn't post in the open thread. He seems monomaniacal with his cause, and planned to post more of the same. He hasn't discussed any other topic here, even introduced himself as a pedophile in the introduction thread.

Can you think of any other ways he could have been better received?

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-10-12T11:58:36.203Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

It's hard for me to believe the difference was just that he didn't post in the open thread.

Well, it is a huge difference. An article has a name, it can be linked independently, and it appears on a new web page with the logo of LessWrong above it. The only context it has is "this is the article published on LessWrong".

A comment is just a comment. Yeah, in LW software it can also be linked separately, but at least the web page starts with saying that this is just one article and you can click here to see the whole context. And that specific article says that this is the place for controversial topics, so it's like any comment posted there is automatically labeled as controversial. (It's like coming with a monster costume on Halloween; everyone knows it's a monster constume for Halloween.)

Imagine how newspaper websites look like, because many people have more experience reading them. The articles are written by editors; the newspaper owner is responsible for them. The comments are written by anyone, and it is obvious they don't represent the opinion of the newspaper owner. Criticizing a newspaper for the article they published is reasonable, but people usually don't criticize the newspaper for a random comment below it's article, because they understand the comment was made by someone else. -- LessWrong is not like this, but if you send a hyperlink to people used to deal with newspapers and one-person blogs, they may have similar assumptions.

He seems monomaniacal with his cause, and planned to post more of the same.

Because he has no good place to post them elsewhere and expect a reasonable discussion. :(

Unfortunately this just makes the whole things worse. If LW becomes the rare place where this topic is treated reasonably, we can expect dozens of new members coming to express the same feelings here. That's the horrible effect that if some kind of people are unwelcome at most places, any place that becomes tolerant to them faces a huge risk to become crowded by them disproportionately.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-12T14:30:49.188Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Because he has no good place to post them elsewhere and expect a reasonable discussion. :(

Which suggests there's a market for a web forum whose policy is that controversial topics are welcomed and discussion of those topics must be reasonable no matter how reprehensible one considers the position one is discussing, and the moderators assiduously ban/delete violations of that policy.

As you say, LW is not that forum, and does not wish to be.

Incidentally, I would be astonished if such forums didn't exist already. Were I looking for one, I would probably ask around on someplace like FetLife.

Admittedly, there are some mainstream-controversial topics that get discussed in that way here, with that sort of social norm, and I expect that in some communities the opinion of LW is tainted by those discussions in the same way you discuss. But the consensus opinion of LW seems to be that the opinions of those communities don't really matter very much.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-10-12T22:55:56.355Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

there are some mainstream-controversial topics that get discussed in that way here, with that sort of social norm, and I expect that in some communities the opinion of LW is tainted by those discussions in the same way you discuss

One difference is a different degree of taboo. Another one, I suspect more important, was the timing. The controversial topics didn't start by someone posting a full article out of the blue. They first appeared as comments in other articles, somewhat related to their topics. Only later someone would write an article about it. And at least I didn't have an impression that someone is on LW only to talk about the taboo topics.

In other words, if you want to talk about controversial topics, don't start by shocking everyone. (Unless it's a "door in the face" technique, when the shocking article gets heavily downvoted, but then people feel kinda guilty and become more tolerant in the discussion.)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-12T22:59:45.670Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

One difference is a different degree of taboo. Another one, I suspect more important, was the timing.

Yes, those are two differences, agreed. My suspicion is that the importance ranks the other way, but you might be right.

, if you want to talk about controversial topics, don't start by shocking everyone. (Unless it's a "door in the face" technique

Agreed, including the caveat and a few other caveats in the same vein.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-12T12:11:37.551Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it is a huge difference. An article has a name, it can be linked independently, and it appears on a new web page with the logo of LessWrong above it. The only context it has is "this is the article published on LessWrong".

You convinced me. Just vividly imagining this caused an availability bias.

It's like coming with a monster costume on Halloween; everyone knows it's a monster constume for Halloween.)

That's a great analogy. I'm going to steal it!

Unfortunately this just makes the whole things worse. If LW becomes the rare place where this topic is treated reasonably, we can expect dozens of new members coming to express the same feelings here.

This is a good point, and wouldn't be limited to just pedophiles. Permitting all taboos in the name of rationality is just going to lead to more taboos being discussed. Good luck selling rationality to people after that. Then again, if rationality simply doesn't appeal to regular citizens, perhaps attracting controversy would be a great marketing strategy ;)

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-12T15:38:04.703Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A comment is just a comment. Yeah, in LW software it can also be linked separately, but at least the web page starts with saying that this is just one article and you can click here to see the whole context.

Not to mention that it is, in my experience, a huge pain to locate any individual comment via site search unless they're either highly upvoted or found on some of the most trafficked pages.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-12T16:45:48.645Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it is, and it isn't. If I were trying to find these discussions, I would google site:http://lesswrong.com "child porn" pedophilia or something of the sort, and it would work all right. But yes, one still has to look around a little; it isn't the same as a link to an article.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-12T17:35:37.765Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, when I've attempted that method while trying to track down old comments on the site, I've often found that the comments I'm looking for do not come up as results, even when a sufficiently thorough search through the archives of the site is sufficient to find them, but if the keywords match to few enough other results, it might be more effective.

comment by drethelin · 2013-10-12T05:26:26.492Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There's nothing wrong with selfish intent. Most of my intents are selfish.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-12T05:34:23.972Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I see I had a more constrained idea of selfishness in mind than you did. I'm not interested in arguing semantics (or maybe I am?). Removed the part about selfishness. It wasn't the point anyways.

ETA: Here's what I think is selfish: pushing your goals without concern for others. Perhaps you assumed a more general interpretation where looking for pleasure and avoiding pain is selfish. In that case, you've made the word useless, because it applies to everyone.

comment by drethelin · 2013-10-12T17:59:50.919Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

your definition of selfishness does not seem to apply here, as he seems to want to help everyone else in his own situation.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-12T21:06:19.370Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So he says. He belongs to the group he's trying to help. He seems to have no concern for LWers. Was I correct about your definition?

comment by drethelin · 2013-10-12T22:37:35.691Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Pretty much. I think the use of the word selfish as a pejorative is usually bad.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-12T22:56:57.456Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I used to think so too.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-13T00:01:06.671Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What changed your mind?

And, relatedly, is there a difference between pushing my goals without concern for others, and pushing my goals in situations where I expect others to be harmed by my doing so?

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-13T00:20:41.635Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think the word selfish ever has had a positive connotation, and rarely a neutral one. I used to argue about word definitions, but then I realized it's less frustrating to use words the way people usually do. I think self-interest is a similar word usually used in a more neutral manner.

I think a good rule of thumb is to assume people don't mean to use words in ways that describe everything or nothing in the reference class i.e. "everyone is selfish and nobody is an altruist", "no love is unconditional". Don't think people are as stupid as their language is.

pushing my goals in situations where I expect others to be harmed by my doing so?

I think people use stronger words for this, but selfish is used too. Evil comes to mind.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-13T02:18:41.562Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

a good rule of thumb is to assume people don't mean to use words in ways that describe everything or nothing in the reference class

Agreed.

people use stronger words for [pushing my goals in situations where I expect others to be harmed by my doing so]. Evil comes to mind.

Do you mean to imply that you consider this evil, in addition to being selfish? Or do you just mean to make a statement about how people use words?

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-13T07:41:38.759Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Both. Depends on the extent of harm, obviously. I also don't mean to imply it's the only way people use the word evil. I steelmanned your question a bit. I assume you mean net harm, not minor collateral damage.

The norms here are probably a bit different, and adapting to the local language is desirable.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-13T11:13:55.032Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's nothing wrong with selfish intent.

Except, of course, if they go against my inclusive interests in any way that my social influence can hope to impact. In that case it is Wrong, Other-Tribalish, sinister, naive, uncouth, dirty and generally low status.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-12T09:56:18.303Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I recall making very similar arguments on pedophilia and generally being up voted. I think this is best explained by there being a stricter standard of avoiding taboo topics for main compared to the comment section.

I recall other controversial subjects such as the effectiveness of terrorism to stop Moore's law (was upvoted) and racial differences in intelligence (was downvoted) in main articles. And an article where lukeprog basically took any claim of the PUAs he found plausible and could find academic backing for and presented it divorced from the subculture, that was supposed to be the beginning of a series, but was probably seen as not desirable for the site and discontinued (despite it being upvoted).

I have made arguments about as controversial as the ones in your linked article in comments on pedophilia and they have generally been well received. The same is true of my arguments in favor of there being a hereditary component to the measured racial differences in intelligence. Alas I haven't commented on terrorism.

I think there is a general norm for things you can't talk about:

"this is ok to discuss, however opening it as a topic in itself on main makes the site looks bad and may attract the wrong kinds of attention".

The lesson I think really is to bring these kinds of topics up when they are one relevant example among several. If one wants them discussed as a standalone topics, open threads seem best or discussion section topics at most (hey we need something there besides meetup threads anyway).

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-12T11:42:19.265Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is best explained by there being a stricter standard of avoiding taboo topics for main compared to the comment section.

The post wasn't downvoted at first actually although it was commented on, and I didn't downvote it, but it was sent to oblivion after the first high status commenters arrived saying he was political, low status, discussing a taboo topic to disgrace LW on purpose, a troll.

I have made arguments about as controversial as the ones in your linked article in comments on pedophilia and they have generally been well received. The same is true of my arguments in favor of there being a hereditary component to the measured racial differences in intelligence.

You have a reputation. I bet it helped.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-10-14T08:03:20.954Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Folks, this is what "things you can't say" looks like. This is what a real social taboo looks like.

It looks to me more like what happens when someone uses "taboo" as a Power Word: Stun on a group of people with an excessive identity as rationalists. It's this, especially item #1, translated to discussion forums.

I notice that JoshElders original posting has gone. Good.

I've said pretty forthrightly that I believe he's just a troll, and I stand by that. But suppose I take him at his word. What is to be said? Sucks to be him, yay for not kiddle-fiddling (but he doesn't get any prize for that), and -- what? Certainly, there are discussions to be had about laws and mores around age, consent, and pornography. There are also places to have these discussions. LessWrong is not one of them.

LessWrong has a specific focus, without which it becomes merely MoreWrong and AveragelyWrong imagining they're LessWrong because they're posting on a site called LessWrong and have learned how to dress up as pretend rationalists. Nothing is made relevant to LessWrong just by being posted here. Framing discussions of whether the latest irrelevance should be here at all in terms of "exclusion", "taboo" and "open-minded" is somewhere between clueless and Dark Arts.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-10-17T06:47:40.140Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've said pretty forthrightly that I believe he's just a troll, and I stand by that.

I want to say publicly that after initial disbelief (motivated by the #1 Geek Social Fallacy), I have updated towards Richard's judgement of the situation. If you read carefully the comments, they are optimized for drawing attention to their author and prolonging the debate infinitely.

I have made the mistake of feeding the troll, thereby decreasing the quality of this website. It's even more embarassing to realize that it is a mistake most readers avoided. I have learned my lesson, and hopefully it will make me stronger in future internet debates.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-15T15:24:15.506Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The substantive posts I brought up are about matters of fact under conditions of great uncertainty -- for instance, drawing conclusions about a largely invisible group. I brought up the ideas of "civil rights", "taboo", etc. only in response to people saying it shouldn't be discussed here -- that wasn't my idea. And it looks like the predominant view among the regulars is that it isn't irrelevant to the mission of rationality, it isn't off topic, and that I am making cogent arguments. It's to be downplayed because it's too hot to handle, due to the expected reactions (quite possibly very much at odds with rationality) of the general reading public. I think there's considerable benefit on being clear about that.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-10-16T10:30:44.007Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I brought up the ideas of "civil rights", "taboo", etc. only in response to people saying it shouldn't be discussed here -- that wasn't my idea.

It was your idea to bring up "civil rights" as a response to "this does not belong here". An idea as old as the Internet.

It's to be downplayed because it's too hot to handle, due to the expected reactions (quite possibly very much at odds with rationality) of the general reading public. I think there's considerable benefit on being clear about that.

I have just reread this entire thread, from which it appears to me that this has been clear to all from the start. I agree that there would be considerable benefit from you, also, being clear about that.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-11T20:01:23.441Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, if any of those 5 or more people who upvoted this think it's interesting enough to kick it up the chain rather than erasing the issue, you'll have to be the ones to do it. I couldn't even if I wanted to with my current karma ranking, and I don't really have the standing to, being a new member and being a member of the taboo group.

The community could end up deciding that it is a taboo topic, that's the way it is, end of story. Or perhaps there is fear that it could create a damaging controversy that would hurt the community? Or various other things that I can't predict.

But something feels wrong with a conclusion that "A public discussion about whether it's OK to talk about celibate pedophilia is taboo".

comment by Dentin · 2013-10-13T09:14:09.351Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'd rather it be erased. The potential for social 'splash damage' to LW is high, and the gain is very low (or possibly negative.) Further, I believe that your agenda is to push this topic to your preferred conclusion, not to use it as an example which can aid in the core mission of LW.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-10-13T14:48:16.207Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But something feels wrong with a conclusion that "A public discussion about whether it's OK to talk about celibate pedophilia is taboo".

First, this is kind of misleading. The question is not whether it's "OK to talk about celibate pedophilia", but rather whether LessWrong is the proper place for this discussion. I am okay with this topic, I just think it would be a huge PR damage for LessWrong to have it here.

As an analogy, I have absolutely no problem with celibate pedophiles meeting in person and discussing their problems. But if you asked me whether you could organize this meetup at my home, I would certainly say no. It's not because I want to take away your right of free speech or whatever. I just don't want to be publicly associated with this cause.

Second, the discussion about whether we want to discuss celibate pedophilia here isn't "taboo". You just didn't ask this question before posting the article. You didn't ask it even in the top comment in this thread; at least not directly. The only sentence ending with question mark is: "Does anyone want to clarify the risk of harm to the site?". Okay, I admit it is related. So, let's break the taboo and ask openly here:

Dear readers of LessWrong, do you want to have celibate pedophilia discussions on LessWrong, and how specifically?

[pollid:560]

Third, I think the votes on the article and comments already express the opinions of the community.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-13T15:49:03.700Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I am interested in perceptions of the damage expected to be caused to LW from discussion of this topic and wonder if people can be more precise in their thinking about this. Here are some other scenarios:

If some established members discussed pedophilia and their opinions were within the commonly accepted range of views on the topic, would that reflect poorly on LW? For instance, suppose there was a debate where one pole of opinion was the status quo, and others were that child sex abusers should never be released from prison, or that execution would be an inappropriate punishment.

If some established community members who swore they were not pedophiles held a discussion where they expressed views similar to what I have been presenting, would that be damaging to the community? I gather people have now and then questioned whether adult-child sexual activity always causes harm.

In the above cases, would tagging posts "pedophilia" or "childsexabuse" cause damage?

Suppose a member made posts on ordinary LW topics that were of high quality, but noted now and then that they were a celibate pedophile and would like to remind people that such people are among us all the time, would that cause damage?

Typically in a community the people who care about a subject discuss it and those who don't do not. If a poll revealed that 90% of the community did not want the topic discussed but a small group kept discussing it, would that insulate the community from damage to any extent?

comment by Dentin · 2013-10-13T18:01:46.173Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Typically in a community the people who care about a subject discuss it and those who don't do not. If a poll revealed that 90% of the community did not want the topic discussed but a small group kept discussing it, would that insulate the community from damage to any extent?

To an extent, but not enough to matter. The topic of child porn is one of the most socially toxic subjects out there, and even being peripherally associated with it can be a life-ending event. Careers have been destroyed, men have been unmade, and Bad Stuff Has Happened in the name of this topic. It does not have to make sense; it does not matter why. What matters is that it is so.

If for no other reason than self defense, I feel these discussions should be blackholed and discouraged with prejudice. We are a rationalist forum, with a specific goal, and the very presence of this topic risks our work. Again, it does not matter that it is unfair, it does not matter that it does not make sense: what matters is that it risks our work, in a nontrivial way.

Your goal is to discuss these topics. Our goal is to spread rationality. These two goals are in conflict for reasons beyond the control of either party, reasons which may or may not make sense but which nevertheless are powerful enough to unmake both of us.

I will not help you in your goal, as it conflicts with mine. I will encourage LW against helping you with your goal, as I feel it conflicts with and is damaging to theirs.

And finally, I recommend you push your agenda on a different forum. I would prefer you not return until you are willing to contribute positively to the core mission of LW - that core mission being the spread and improvement of rational thought processes in the general population. As it stands right now, I feel you have contributed net negative utility to the core mission of LW with your posts, and it disturbs me that you seem unable to see that or understand why.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-13T19:29:50.385Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It seems we have one key difference. Some of you believe that having this topic discussed in the open thread risks serious damage to LW because of the danger of a poor reputation. I am not convinced of this.

If it is not true, then I don't think anyone has suggested any other reason for harm. If this is true, then my participation may have been harmful, though the marginal harm from a little more discussion seems very small.

So far I made one post in the discussion thread suggesting some pedophiles do not molest children. Following advice there, I made my next post in the open thread, which is this current post. I made one more post in the open thread titled "Assertion: Child porn availability does not increase child sex abuse". I have responded to comments in all of these threads. My current plan, in response to community concerns, is to reply in these threads but not open any new ones. (I note that because of my low karma, I can't see the results of the poll, a side effect of the entirely reasonably restriction that I can't vote in it.)

The topic of child porn is one of the most socially toxic subjects out there, and even being peripherally associated with it can be a life-ending event. Careers have been destroyed, men have been unmade, and Bad Stuff Has Happened in the name of this topic.

For possession this is most assuredly so. Conceivably it's so for arguing in favor of looser restrictions on it. It's hard for me to believe that it is so for arguing against such changes or for being a contributor on the same forum where it is discussed. If anyone has such cases, I'd love to hear about them -- by private message is fine.

Your goal is to discuss these topics.

I have raised two specific cases where facts aren't clear and there are issues of different kinds of evidence to weigh in reaching a factual determination under conditions of uncertainty. Others have characterized this as my dressing up my concern for the topic in the guise of rationality. I disagree, and suggest that the reason may be mind-killer reactions -- but on your side only. It's hard to tell if they are representative opinions. There are many, many other ways I could have discussed this topic not related to rationality, and I didn't, and wouldn't.

Our goal is to spread rationality.

It would seem that your goal would be advanced by seeing how rationality considerations apply to any area of human endeavor, especially where they have not been widely discussed before. If rationality considerations could apply to the debate on incarceration policies for drug offenders, for instance, it would advance the goals of LW to discuss them. If this isn't true for celibate pedophilia, it is only because it is a taboo topic. That may be a sufficient reason, but I think it's worth being clear about that.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-10-15T20:30:06.110Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The results of the poll, at this moment... rot-13'd to prevent spoilers...

V cersre n frdhrapr bs negvpyrf - mreb; mreb creprag
V cersre bar negvpyr bayl - bar; frira creprag
V cersre ab negvpyrf, bayl n qvfphffvba va bcra guernq - svir; guveglfvk creprag
V cersre abg gb qvfphff guvf gbcvp ng nyy - svir; guveglfvk creprag
Fbzrguvat ryfr (cyrnfr rkcynva va n pbzzrag) - mreb; mreb creprag
V ershfr gb ibgr ba guvf gnobb gbcvp, whfg fubj zr gur erfhygf - guerr; gjraglbar creprag

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-15T22:38:47.721Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That's very interesting. At what point can one start talking about implications of a poll without it being a spoiler?

I don't know the actual reasons why my original Discussion post "Assertion: a large proportion of pedophiles are celibate" was deleted -- I figure the community has its methods of operation and assume it was all done according to regulations. I am aware of reasons that were given in this thread for wanting it removed -- though I don't know the relationship of those reasons to why it was actually removed.

Survey results suggest considerable support in the community for discussing the topic in the Open Thread. A reasonable person might think it would be appropriate to repost that topic in the Open thread (I have the text of my original post). Such a person would also want to make sure that would not be considered hostile behavior, in the absence of knowing the actual reasons it was removed. I also don't know what is supposed to happen here when half a community thinks something shouldn't be discussed and the other half is OK with it.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-10-16T07:29:36.404Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

At what point can one start talking about implications of a poll without it being a spoiler?

I don't know about any specific rule. The general idea is that people should see the poll first (so that they are not influenced how to vote), but I guess three days later it's fair game.

I don't know the actual reasons why my original Discussion post (...) was deleted

Voting means deciding whether members want the article or don't want the article. Your article was extremely downvoted. Like, one of the most downvoted articles ever; probably in the bottom 2%. So if there was any obvious community consensus about removing an article, it was about this one.

Meta: I think it would be more proper to become familiar with norms of a community first, and publish articles later. Comments like this seem to provide further evidence that you are actually not interested in LessWrong per se, just see it as a platform for your topic.

Survey results suggest considerable support in the community for discussing the topic in the Open Thread.

If you interpret "half of members don't want to disuss it at all, and the other half prefers keeping it in the open thread only" as a considerable support... well, I guess you were going to interpret almost any result positively.

A reasonable person might think it would be appropriate to repost that topic in the Open thread (I have the text of my original post).

I guess you are going to do it anyway; just let me say there is nothing "reasonable" about reposting a text that got karma below -20.

I also don't know what is supposed to happen here when half a community thinks something shouldn't be discussed and the other half is OK with it.

Well, if people have a strong desire to discuss something, they will. And each comment is upvoted or downvoted on its merits. Knowing that a large part of community does not want some topic either makes people comment less on it, or become extra careful when writing about it.

At this point I am no longer interested even in meta-discussions of this topic. Tapping out.

EDIT: Must... resist... trolling.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-16T17:56:47.094Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You raise interesting points. One could hypothesize that the downvoting of the original article was due to its placement in the prominent Discussion thread, and seeing it in the open thread people would have not objected to it there. It seems an unlikely interpretation of the bulk of the votes, I agree. The serious downvoting of the original article does weigh heavily on this.

I think those who answered the poll were probably a biased sample in a serious way. Who read it? People who were interested in discussing this topic, and people who were not AND who were still motivated enough to be here to continue arguing for not discussing it. Those who didn't want it discussed were probably underrerepresented.

How my reputation went from -13 to -40 overnight is intriguing. It had been quite stable, and I made a few posts yesterday that were not especially controversial. I speculate that the tapped-out Viliam-Bur in his review of my posts downvoted them all. I guess that's fine, but maybe considered at a meta level gives one individual more power than is ideal? It is of course just speculation. I'm interested in alternative hypotheses.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-10-12T11:41:01.161Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I wrote one of the comments you quote, and I also downvoted your article. Originally I felt I shouldn't upvote it, because it is a PR suicide, but I also shouldn't downvote it, because it is essentially correct. At that moment the article karma was zero, so maybe other people had similar thoughts. So instead of voting I wrote the comment. But then I saw that you also added the tags to the article, and that was the last straw. It felt like one article was just a one-time incident that could be left ignored, but creating tags felt like saying: this is one of the official topics of this website. Also the fact that you announced your intention to write more articles like this. At that moment it wasn't a vote about one specific article, but about whether I want this topic to be regularly discussed on LW. Which I don't.

I completely agree with fubarobfusco that this is what a real social taboo looks like. Quoting Paul Graham's "What You Can't Say":

When you find something you can't say, what do you do with it? My advice is, don't say it. Or at least, pick your battles.

Suppose in the future there is a movement to ban the color yellow. Proposals to paint anything yellow are denounced as "yellowist", as is anyone suspected of liking the color. People who like orange are tolerated but viewed with suspicion. Suppose you realize there is nothing wrong with yellow. If you go around saying this, you'll be denounced as a yellowist too, and you'll find yourself having a lot of arguments with anti-yellowists. If your aim in life is to rehabilitate the color yellow, that may be what you want. But if you're mostly interested in other questions, being labelled as a yellowist will just be a distraction. Argue with idiots, and you become an idiot.

(...) I admit it seems cowardly to keep quiet. (...) The problem is, there are so many things you can't say. If you said them all you'd have no time left for your real work. You'd have to turn into Noam Chomsky. [By this I mean you'd have to become a professional controversialist, not that Noam Chomsky's opinions = what you can't say.]

And this is it. Here is the difference, that for you it is very important to "rehabilitate the color yellow", but for most of the LW community, even if they would agree with your ideas, "being labelled as a yellowist would just be a distraction". The cost seems to be too high, in this case.

Please note that some of us use our real names here. Any bad reputation LW gets, has a risk to be connected with our identities; and for example I really don't volunteer to be connected with this specific cause. Let's say that for people like me, being non-anonymous on LW was perhaps a stupid decision; I could have easily done otherwise. But there are other people, who didn't have the choice: people who are employed or otherwise cooperate with MIRI and CFAR. [EDIT: Removed specific examples.] Their publicity is a tool to get their tasks done more efficiently. Again, I don't know what opinions these people may have on your topic, but as far as I know they didn't volunteer to be publicly associated with it. I want to protect them just as I want to protect myself.

You do have a point. But there are social consequences, and we do have to make a trade-off. I promise to downvote any future article about this topic. [EDIT: Removed some words of encouragement, because I updated towards the author merely trolling.]

If LW has any value for you even without discussing this specific topic, I'd recommend creating a new username and starting again, never linking to the old one. If no, then please leave.

Perhaps the net judgment of the LessWrong community is that it should be a forbidden topic. But if so, I think it's worth making a conscious note of that fact.

I would advise against making too specific list of the forbidden topics. But making a vague notion would just invite more questions. Not sure what kind of a "conscious note" we can have here. I guess we should just remember having this conversation, and move on.

comment by Protagoras · 2013-10-12T17:56:09.429Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is a good point. I do have one thought about the specific topic under consideration, though. Culturally, there's a general inability to talk rationally and sensibly about many sexual topics. Given the importance of sex to human life and human happiness, this seems like a serious problem, and many members of the less wrong community have shown an interest in trying to do something about it. Since the inability to discuss pedophilia rationally seems to be connected to this general difficulty in discussing sexual topics rationally, it seems to be a less than perfect match to the "yellow" example. Strategic questions seem to be relevant; is the general cause of talking more rationally about sex helped or hindered by bringing up the extreme cases? I admit that I find it somewhat plausible that the answer is the latter, that it is more productive to focus on less extreme examples, but plausible is different from definitely true. Thus, there might be some value in trying to investigate the strategic questions, while in the hypothetical "yellow" example there seem to be fewer strategic questions worth asking.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-12T07:24:28.564Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps it belonged here in the open thread; I'm not experienced enough to judge that. There are also complaints that it was obvious and had no significant rationality-related issues, but I humbly invite people to consider whether these may be rationalizations -- when evaluated against the relevance of posts in this open thread.

Most off-topic discussions here are relatively harmless to LW image. You pretty much chose the most taboo subject available, and you didn't even try to justify that by making it relevant to rationality. You could have tested the waters by making comments first, and actually participating in discussions available, but no, you just had to start by pushing your political agenda.

Let's think civil liberties issues here. All the interesting civil liberties issues are about low-status cases -- if a group or some idea is popular with the majority, then no one is complaining and the "civil liberties" concept never comes up. Sometimes you might want to override your ordinary feelings about status to consider an oppressed group.

I feel bad for the oppressed group in question, but pushing a singular political cause is bottom priority. LW doesn't exist to fight for any specific group's civil rights, especially if it happens at the expense of its other goals.

So there are questions here of whether people want to personally change their status judgment based on those clarifications.

The status judgement is based on people in general, outsiders and potential newcomers. LW isn't an isolated bubble.

With regard to "tainting the site", there is an issue as to whether those clarifications can be conveyed in some way to avoid the fears of harm to the site based on low status. Does anyone want to clarify the risk of harm to the site?

You could talk about civil liberties in general, and why pushing rights for marginal groups is more important for rationalists than other things. If you can't do that, then all your other efforts are futile.

comment by Alicorn · 2013-10-11T19:07:21.246Z · score: 7 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Without commenting directly on your topic, I'd like to congratulate you on remaining thoughtful and civil in spite of censure, and not - so far - escalating your interest in discussing this on LW to the point of spam.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-11T19:22:09.977Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks. I try. It is discouraging to get so much negative feedback, and when it gets personal it hurts, but I try to steel myself for it. I feel more than a bit like a sheep in wolves' clothing, though I realize others will suspect the opposite.

comment by Dentin · 2013-10-13T09:21:04.664Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's only personal because you've made this topic part of your identity. That's why other posters were recommending you read through the sequences on identity, and why it may be worth reconsidering what you base your identity on.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-13T15:29:19.121Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

When people say with some heat that they don't believe what I say about my own actions and motivations, that seems pretty personal and has nothing I can see to do with identity.

"Celibate pedophile" is a pretty unusual identity. I think of it more as a description. It's hardly a bandwagon one jumps on. If (as seems true) a fair number of people have never heard of it before, then it doesn't seem like something that reinforces tired old patterns of thought. A far more common identity is more or less "NAMBLA" -- believing adult-child sex is just fine if only it was legalized. I decisively reject that identity.

comment by drethelin · 2013-10-12T05:22:01.818Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think this probably should be a taboo topic because a) the number of people possibly helped by better legislation about this issue is fairly low b) Reputational hazard is extremely high c) it's not actually something that we can easily get RIGHT. I think the balance between protection of children and the happiness of pedophiles is not something this where we'll find the right balance on in a discussion here, which lowers the potential benefit even further. The stigmatization of people who have certain feelings they can't control is likely to be harsher than is good but I can't actually picture reasonable policy changes that will help the situation.

On the other hand I hate having taboo topics. I downvoted your original post because it was poorly argued and also something I think should probably not be a top-level post but I upvoted this comment for reasonability and because I think the issue is somewhat interesting.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-12T14:56:39.004Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think this probably should be a taboo topic because a) the number of people possibly helped by better legislation about this issue is fairly low

Estimates of pedophilia in the male population are in the 1-5% range. That's a lot of people.

c) it's not actually something that we can easily get RIGHT.

I'm not sure why not. Of course the community doesn't seem eager to do so, but it's because of reputational hazard. Few people may believe me, but the reason I brought this subject up here is because I was genuinely interested in at least a few members of this relatively clear-thinking community here considering the facts and inferences around this issue; it's an issue where as I see it incorrect beliefs about matters of fact play a large role.

I think the balance between protection of children and the happiness of pedophiles is not something this where we'll find the right balance on in a discussion here,

The happiness of pedophiles in certain respects may work in favor of the protection of children. Being able to find a supportive community is likely to reduce offending. Consider http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/08/what-can-be-done-about-pedophilia/279024/

IF one took an interest in this issue, it is a case where a little effort could have a magnified effect. A single voice can have more effect moving from 2% to 4% tolerance for celibate pedophiles than an issue where the issues are widely known and we're trying to move from 40% to 51%.

The stigmatization of people who have certain feelings they can't control is likely to be harsher than is good but I can't actually picture reasonable policy changes that will help the situation.

I can. For starters:

  1. Elimination of mandated reporter laws
  2. Elimination of sex offender registries and residency restrictions
  3. Public education on distinguishing sex abuse from pedophilia -- get to the point where when someone says "He's a pedophile" the question that comes to mind is, "Is he an abuser or a celibate pedophile?"
  4. Decriminalization of child pornography possession.

The first three would help protect children -- I'm not saying it's obvious why, but I think I have arguments that would convince a lot of people. The fourth would save a whole lot of money in criminal justice costs.

I'm not agitating for people doing these things in this community. I'm responding to your assertion that there is nothing that could be done if someone wanted to.

comment by drethelin · 2013-10-12T18:54:43.532Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

all of your examples are tradeoffs, which was my entire point. Each punishes pedophiles in order to (presumably) protect children. Making each of your changes would obviously be better for you and other pedophiles, and you haven't actually made these arguments you say you have so I don't see any reason to think they would protect children rather than put them in more danger.

Second: 1-5 percent of men is 0.5-2.5 percent of humans and there are a lot more PSAs about rationality that I think would help a lot more than that many people. What percentage of people are children? If there are a lot more children than pedophiles doesn't the math say it's fine to ruin some pedophiles lives?

Third: Multiply all these relatively unconvincing arguments by their likelihood of ever being implemented based on them being discussed here. If we spent a long time talking about this and campaigning for it we MIGHT get a legal change that would help a small percentage of the population but we definitely completely ruin our reputation, not to mention it would distract from anything else we want to talk about.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-12T20:50:28.234Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

all of your examples are tradeoffs, which was my entire point. ... you haven't actually made these arguments you say you have ...

Mandated reporter laws and the sex offender registry were intended to be trade-offs, but unexpected consequences have made them bad for kids too.

The discussion here doesn't even mention the effect on pedophiles. Pedophiles who are concerned they might offend against children with low probability know that if they tell a therapist about their attraction, they might be reported, if the therapist decides they are an imminent danger. Most pedophiles don't know what criteria their therapist would use, they don't want to risk it, so they do not seek help.

In some cases victims are discouraged from reporting too. Suppose a girl is being abused by her uncle. She doesn't experience it as terrible but she wants it to stop. But she doesn't want to face a formal investigation, which involves endless interrogations for her, embarrassing publicity, family strife, and perhaps sending her uncle to prison for 10 years. If she knew there could be a way of handling the situation privately in accord with her needs and wishes, she may be more likely to report it and get it to stop.

Sex offender registries often make it very difficult for an ex-offender to find a place to live. Here is Wikipedia's take on it. Here is a specific in-depth example. Once ex-offenders are breaking the law by going underground and feeling maltreated by society, there is less reason to obey other laws too, including ones against molesting children.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-13T05:53:54.862Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Pedophiles who are concerned they might offend against children with low probability know that if they tell a therapist about their attraction, they might be reported, if the therapist decides they are an imminent danger. Most pedophiles don't know what criteria their therapist would use, they don't want to risk it, so they do not seek help.

Robin Hanson or Eliezer Yudkowsky made a post on this, with terrorism substituted for pedophilia. The benefit of having a therapist able to apply influence to the individual would come from the commitment to privacy. As with priests confessionals, etc.

If the choice is between a potential perpetrator talking to a therapist and having a chance of being influenced but not reported and a potential perpetrator speaking to no one then the consequences are in favour of mandated silence... unless most perpetrators are somehow stupid enough to effectively confess to their impulses to the police for the hell of it.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-10-12T23:29:04.907Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

she wants it to stop. (...) If she knew there could be a way of handling the situation privately

She can privately tell her uncle: "If you don't stop, I will tell someone."

What exactly is the problem here? The possibility that the poor uncle doesn't care and won't stop...?

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-13T09:39:48.336Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How it works in Finland:

The law says a doctor has the right to report if he deems he could prevent certain serious crimes by doing so. Rape wouldn't fit the bill, but aggravated rape would. He isn't allowed to report any crimes that have already happened, with the exception of child abuse. Concerning child abuse, even a suspicion obligates the doctor to report. This means social workers investigate the issue first, and a report rarely involves the law enforcement.

Any laws concerning professional confidentiality are easy enough to circumvent by making anonymous calls, and obviously cops want to protect their witnesses anyway and are enthusiastic to put "the bad guys" behind bars. There are also tricks to break the confidentiality without technically breaking the law. I think it's also pretty easy just not to report without facing any consequences in most situations, and this actually happens very often because the current law leads to absurd situations and overloads the system.

All this being said, I don't think changing the reporting laws would change the issue much, and it comes down to personal ethics of the professionals involved.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-13T19:45:24.462Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

An example from a doctor from Finland: [...] All this being said, I don't think changing the reporting laws would change the issue much, and it comes down to personal ethics of the professionals involved.

I don't know the exact laws in the US but I could imaging that changing them to the Finish ones could be an improvement.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2013-10-12T22:18:32.981Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Suppose a girl is being abused by her uncle. She doesn't experience it as terrible but she wants it to stop. But she doesn't want to face a formal investigation, which involves endless interrogations for her, embarrassing publicity, family strife, and perhaps sending her uncle to prison for 10 years. If she knew there could be a way of handling the situation privately in accord with her needs and wishes, she may be more likely to report it and get it to stop.

This scenario sounds a bit fantastical; the rape survivor who doesn't go to the cops isn't doing it because they "[didn't] experience it as terrible" and want to protect their rapist, it's because doing so puts them on the firing line and brings back all the trauma with the added benefit of a negligible chance of actually seeing justice. I would know here; one of my childhood friends was raped by some freak when she was a little girl, and even though she managed to grow up healthy despite it that single attack still left a lot of deep psychological scars. And that is a best-case scenario; a girl like you describe is trapped with their rapist and is unlikely to even be willing to tell their parents what happened, which means they will be raped over and over while being forced to pretend nothing is wrong.

It's not the stigma against pedophiles which hurts these children... it's the pedophiles who rape them.

I realize you claim not to have hurt a child, and if it's true I'm certainly glad about that, but there really is no comparison between the inconvenience of sexual frustration / possible police investigation and being raped. "Coming out" and making sure that society can protect itself is the only moral thing to do if you really are sincere here; the cost of raping children or providing demand for pornography in which children are raped is so much higher than any price a person can pay socially or legally that you would absolutely come out ahead no matter what happened. The highest ideal of a civilized person is to do the right thing even if it's painful, and that means having the courage to accept the consequences of your actions.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-13T05:47:14.109Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

and that means having the courage to accept the consequences of your actions.

Or non-actions, as the case may be.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-12T22:42:06.621Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

In the discussion of mandated reporter laws, I was thinking not one iota of the interests of the perpetrators of the crime. I was thinking only of the best interests of the children.

There are awful situations, that's for sure. All I'm trying to address here is the differential between having a mandated reporter law and not having one. Reporting is of course very often the right thing to do, and it will of course be done a lot of the time without a mandated reporter law as well.

"Coming out" and making sure that society can protect itself is the only moral thing to do if you really are sincere here

This is pretty bewildering. I guess you are assuming that I pose a risk of hurting a child even if I am sure I don't. Or that I am providing demand for child pornography that I've never seen or sought out. For those of you who thought it was obvious that some pedophiles don't abuse children, I guess you've now found someone who doesn't think it's obvious at all.

The highest ideal of a civilized person is to do the right thing even if it's painful, and that means having the courage to accept the consequences of your actions.

What actions do you have in mind here?

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-12T22:02:21.033Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Suppose a girl is being abused by her uncle. She doesn't experience it as terrible but she wants it to stop. But she doesn't want to face a formal investigation, which involves endless interrogations for her, embarrassing publicity, family strife, and perhaps sending her uncle to prison for 10 years.

Most young children wouldn't understand the implications of a formal investigation. Children are not mature enough to decide what the correct way to handle the situation is.

ETA: I'd like to understand the thought process behind the downvotes.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-12T22:18:20.562Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I'll confess that in this case I was thinking of a 14-year-old girl, and I've been mostly focusing on prepubescents in other places. For younger children, their parents are of course much more likely to be involved and key players. They too should be able to get outside help without automatic triggering of mandated reporter laws.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-13T11:24:23.428Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps the net judgment of the LessWrong community is that it should be a forbidden topic. But if so, I think it's worth making a conscious note of that fact.

Strategic observation: It wasn't forbidden, it didn't need to be. It was something that could be (and was) mentioned occasionally. Now it is forbidden (from what I can tell, practically speaking). It needs to be, because frequent posting on the subject would be toxic. In particular frequent high personal and politically motivated advocacy would be a terrible influence, all things considered.

Maximising the impact you personally can have in influencing whatever socially environment you find for yourself requires tact and strategic thinking. Speaking loudly from a soap box doesn't work unless you are advocating for a group that already has sympathy or status.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-12T09:13:59.302Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Let's think civil liberties issues here. All the interesting civil liberties issues are about low-status cases -- if a group or some idea is popular with the majority, then no one is complaining and the "civil liberties" concept never comes up. Sometimes you might want to override your ordinary feelings about status to consider an oppressed group.

Athrelon's argument Against Social Justice Warrioring seems relevant.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-12T14:26:11.248Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you think that celibate pedophiles might be more in the category of "leper" than "someone down on his luck", then this article could be taken as suggesting that celibate pedophiles are the very sort of people you might be trying to help, if you're so inclined to help anyone. Maybe people in general have poor intuitions about who needs help. People in general have poor intuitions about a whole lot of things, but we don't throw up our hands and not try to make anything better.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-12T14:36:53.992Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm wasn't implying that they are the loveable loser of the parable, rather than the leper. Indeed if I had to bet I would bet on the latter. I am invoking the article to point out the language of civil rights or social justice will likely not work for them precisely for this reason. Unless the argument is mistaken in some grave way.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-12T08:52:44.877Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I can't imagine a post that starts out with "Note: If you think the assertion is obvious, then this post may well not interest you." to be a good post on Lesswrong.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-10-17T20:52:54.246Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I can't imagine a post that starts out with "Note: If you think the assertion is obvious, then this post may well not interest you." to be a good post on Lesswrong.

Most of the ones that I can think of are math-heavy. For example, I might write a post about "Value of Information is asymmetric because the different possible worlds are asymmetric," and I would not expect the body of that post to interest someone who thinks that assertion is obvious.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-17T21:08:30.223Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For example, I might write a post about "Value of Information is asymmetric because the different possible worlds are asymmetric," and I would not expect the body of that post to interest someone who thinks that assertion is obvious.

I think that there might be people who think that the assertion is probably true. If I'm however interested in math I care not only about whether the assertion is true but also about whether your proof of the assertion is correct.

P!=NP is in some sense an obvious assertion but it's still very interesting to search for the proof. Proofs are interesting.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-10-12T09:25:14.126Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Still at it. Well.

I have ruled out that case by calling the topic "celibate pedophilia"

You have done nothing of the sort. You have merely drawn a line around the class (a class of unknown size) of those who have such urges but have never acted on them. But is this concept a natural kind? Does it carve reality at a joint? Does this line on the map correspond to any line in the territory? Is it an empirical cluster in thingspace?

I believe the answer is no. The reality appears to be that there are people who, alas, have urges of this sort, some of whom act on them and are caught, some who act on them and have not been caught, and an unknown number who have not acted. Is there anything to distinguish the latter class from the first two that is predictive of whether or not they will offend in future?

Would you hire as a shop assistant a professed non-practicing kleptomaniac? As an accountant, a professed non-practicing fraudster? For childcare, a professed "celibate pedophile"?

The rest is blatant concern trolling. "Ooh, is this a forbidden topic? Help, help, I'm being discriminated against! Shouldn't we have a rational discussion about this? Are we only thinking about status? Think of the civil liberties. Poor little me, all those downvotes, how could I possibly tell what they mean? Does anyone want to clarify this?"

Alicorn gives you far too much credit for "remaining thoughtful and civil". Yes, you are being polite and well-spoken, I'm sure your discourse goes down very well over after-dinner coffee and cigars with like-minded friends, but it's an empty shell. As C.S. Lewis might have said, it is hard work to make a reasoned argument, but effortless to act as though one has just been made.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-12T15:35:56.250Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

You have done nothing of the sort. You have merely drawn a line around the class (a class of unknown size) of those who have such urges but have never acted on them. But is this concept a natural kind? Does it carve reality at a joint? Does this line on the map correspond to any line in the territory? Is it an empirical cluster in thingspace? I believe the answer is no. The reality appears to be that there are people who, alas, have urges of this sort, some of whom act on them and are caught, some who act on them and have not been caught, and an unknown number who have not acted. Is there anything to distinguish the latter class from the first two that is predictive of whether or not they will offend in future?

These are reasonable questions.

Let's consider a parallel plan for dividing the world: men attracted to women who have raped them and been caught, men who have raped them and not been caught, and men who have not raped women.

It seems like the more natural way of dividing the world is into concentric circles. A large group feels an attraction, a subset commits a crime, and a subset of that has been caught for the crime. Whether we can identify traits that might make men rape women isn't the point. The point is that as a matter of human rights, we assume people are innocent until proven guilty. In the case of pedophilia, the immediate goal is to let people entertain the possibility that they are innocent, even if vigilance remains.

Would you hire as a shop assistant a professed non-practicing kleptomaniac? As an accountant, a professed non-practicing fraudster? For childcare, a professed "celibate pedophile"?

I'm not suggesting anyone hire a celibate pedophile as a babysitter. The tolerance that celibate pedophiles seek is far more basic than that. Would you still be friends with one? Keep him on in his office job? Let him go to your church, even if he never goes near the kids? Invite him to the family dinner where there are children? (You are perfectly welcome to make him agree to never go off alone with one of the kids.)

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-10-13T10:15:25.404Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

The point is that as a matter of human rights, we assume people are innocent until proven guilty.

That is a common saying, repeated more often than understood. The police can hardly do their job by actually assuming that everyone is innocent. What the slogan actually means is that they have the burden of proof, and even that only applies to the processes of formal justice. Law enforcement can suspect who they please, for any reason whatever, and direct their enquiries accordingly. And outside of the justice system, everyone is free to use whatever data they have to update their beliefs and actions in whatever way seems justified by the data.

A fundamental theme of this site, if you hadn't noticed. But you're not actually interested in the matter of LessWrong, are you?

In the present context, "innocent until proven guilty" is an irrelevance, another Power Word: Stun. It does not mean that as a matter of human rights (Power Word: Stun again) I must believe that someone avowing their attraction to children has never acted on it and is never going to. I have no reason to assign them to the "celibate" pseudo-category.

The tolerance that celibate pedophiles seek is far more basic than that. Would you still be friends with one?

I would very much keep at least at arms length from any such character, and to the extent it were in my control, keep them away from children. You see, where do I get this supposed knowledge that they are a "celibate pedophile"? Their own word? Why should I believe it? Why should I believe you? The supposed class of "celibate pedophiles" makes about as much sense as "drunk drivers who have never had an accident".

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-13T10:59:14.683Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

And outside of the justice system, everyone is free to use whatever data they have to update their beliefs and actions in whatever way seems justified by the data.

No they aren't. It happens to be legal to act on prejudice against celibate pedophiles. It is not legal to act on prejudice against people for their sex, race or the aspect of their sexual preference specific to whether they are attracted to males or females.

Be as prejudiced as you like. It's almost certainly socially beneficial to you. But you cannot pretend (here) that it is an obvious and natural implication of a generic legal right to do so. The right to discriminate is allowed in some cases (such as this one) but not others.

You see, where do I get this supposed knowledge that they are a "celibate pedophile"? Their own word? Why should I believe it? Why should I believe you?

Presumably you get the knowledge about the second word in the phrase from the same place you got the knowledge about the first word in the phrase. It does not seem to be a particularly unbelievable claim.

The supposed class of "celibate pedophiles"

Supposed class? What? The connotative claim here is that there are exactly zero people with a primary sexual attraction to prepubescent humans who have not and will not rape children.

makes about as much sense as "drunk drivers who have never had an accident".

Bullshit.

Note to JoshElders: I have a personal aversion to conversations riddled with the type of expression described by Frankfurt in the above linked essay. It seems abundantly clear to me that you directly engaging here with RichardKennaway or anyone similarly mindkilled will result in my exposure to such distasteful reasoning. It is likely that I would downvote both sides of such a conversation according to a "do not feed the moralizer" policy. I give you this information so you know the reason you would be getting downvoted is nothing to do with your sexuality and everything to do with the choice to provoke easily avoidable bullshit.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-10-13T16:06:28.652Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

And outside of the justice system, everyone is free to use whatever data they have to update their beliefs and actions in whatever way seems justified by the data.

No they aren't.

You are referring to the contingencies of this and that legal system. I am referring to the rational obligation to properly update on observations. As I said, a theme of this site on occasion, but apparently not on the occasion of your post.

Presumably you get the knowledge about the second word in the phrase from the same place you got the knowledge about the first word in the phrase. It does not seem to be a particularly unbelievable claim.

I am quite willing to believe that there are those with pedophile inclinations who have never acted on them. What I am taking issue with it the idea that "celibate pedophile" is a natural cluster of things, any more than "drunk drivers who have not had accidents". That is why I have called it a supposed class, not because I think it is empty.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-15T21:12:47.054Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the explanation. I was formulating a reply shortly after he made the post. At the time, Richard's post had a -4 karma, so I was actually prohibited from doing so (with my lowly karma ranking). I guess that is the system working as it should. As a newcomer in a situation where most reactions have been negative and none that I recall has moved beyond "grudging tolerance" to "friendly tolerance", it's easy to assume that any given opinion might be shared by lots of others.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-12T09:20:53.880Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think it is important to remember that the current strong sentiments against pedophilia are somewhat anomalous. I wrote several comments touching the subject on Yvain's blog.

I in the past when discussing this with Athrelon proposed that in the 1970s it was not at all obvious Transsexuals would make the ingroup and that Pedophiles wouldn’t.

The ongoing anti-pedophile hysteria, which has now reached the point where adult men talking with children are considered suspect and pedophiles lie why they got into prison lest they be murdered or raped, clouds our view of the past. It can be hard to alieve that traditional society saw this as one sexual perversion among many and that for a short window in the 1970s many respectable people considered a legitimate orientation.

The “between consenting adults all is allowed in sex” coalition cementing deontological law hadn’t yet solidified at the start of the sexual revolution. The now mostly sidelined “free love” one was the key point for coordination.

It was only 1994 that NAMBLA was expelled from “the International Lesbian and Gay Association, having been the first US based organization to be a member.”

Dawkin’s recent gaffe ( http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/magazine/article3858647.ece ) on the subject is a window into how this recent but alien social reality. I call it a gaffe, because those are in the eye of the beholder (the media), if you don’t think it caused on net bad PR for him do a search or two online and then come back.

Of course today, here where we are calm and in Far Mode and have certain LWian norms, we can safely sketch out the basic harm-based explanation. While both Pedophiles and Transsexuals probably don’t chose their feelings and yes we clearly should treat pedophilia, the idea that we would accept children “consenting” to sex with adult men on an alternative earth instead of contributing money so some men are allowed to cut off their penis and have a vagina fashioned is clearly absurd.

I think the question isn’t absurd at all, once you notice just how post-hoc this reasoning is. After all the why would the people in the 1970s not understand the very simple harm based argument I’m sure conservatives made?

Now maybe Pedophiles will make the coalition some day. Perhaps in 20 years. But this doesn’t change they where thrown off the Prog bus and lost the sexual revolution they helped launch. And in line with the linked article, I’m pretty sure their inclusion or exclusion isn’t going to be decided based on any kind of “harm accounting” that is claimed by many intellectuals to guide modern moral change.

In an add on comment I make the basic harm based argument I'm referring to here explicit

“Children are greatly harmed by sex with adults in nearly all circumstances. Thus this should be taboo for their good.”

So I'm making the likely controversial case that this argument is the result of post-hoc reasoning that would not convince us in the alternative timeline I also tried to make alievable, not only believable, with my language.

I should also append this follow up comment to avoid this being understood as an on attack or insult to transexuals per se:

People asked for a plausible example despite being controversial, I gave one.

Now the debate is about pedophilia, sex with teenagers and transexuals. This would not be a problem if people directly used it either to attack or support the argument I advanced.

Some seem to want to have simplified it and are engaging the comment as if I just said “Pedophilia is not bad, transsexuals are bad.” This isn’t what I was saying, nor was it something I wasn’t saying. It isn’t what the argument is about. Indeed I for now refuse to comment on this in the hopes this thread can be salvaged. Or does everyone simply agree with the point I was making as plausible and only debates on this nearby topic remain?

...

Sure the meta arguments often change our opinion on object level political positions… but engaging just the political positions themselves without addressing the arguments for the meta is not a productive conversation for me.

This was in the context of me using it as an example of the the capricious nature of what is sometimes termed Moral Progress, the ongoing process of value drift in our civilization.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-12T22:44:59.272Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Extensive research about the harm based argument and transsexual happiness has been done and would have been done regardless of initial political decisions. This would have and probably has affected policy. Now that we have this research, why is wild speculation of historical political trajectories relevant?

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-13T19:39:54.328Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Extensive research about the harm based argument and transsexual happiness has been done and would have been done regardless of initial political decisions. This would have and probably has affected policy.

I don't think that the primary reason for giving rights to transsexuals is because of real research. It's rather the result of political activisim by a certain coaltion of social justice thinkers.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-14T01:10:59.453Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Primary reason or not, I bet the activism is easier with some research to back it. In Finland, sex change is done with taxpayer money after extensive screening for other mental disorders. It's done because it helps, not because of political advocacy.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-15T08:22:31.771Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There are hypothetical treatments that would reduce harm ("it helps") in this sense that we would not use because of our current set of ideology/values. Indeed I think it likely this is the case.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-15T11:32:35.099Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think I finally updated in your direction, just had to let the argument sink in a bit and think of other examples. Abortion laws would be fertile ground for some likely true but controversial arguments.

I think there are also lots of hypothetical disorders that could be treated, but most people would think of it as "medicalization" because it wouldn't fit their values.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-12T22:23:55.341Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So I'm making the likely controversial case that this argument is the result of post-hoc reasoning that would not convince us in the alternative timeline I also tried to make alievable, not only believable, with my language.

There's very probably extensive research on the subject, so wild speculation about historical political trajectories isn't necessary. Have you read any?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-12T09:47:23.567Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I recall making very similar arguments on pedophilia and generally being up voted. I think this is best explained by there being a stricter standard of avoiding taboo topics for main and open thread compared to the comment section.

I recall other controversial subjects such as the effectiveness of terrorism to stop Moore's law (was upvoted) and racial differences in intelligence (was downvoted) in main articles. And an upvoted article where lukeprog basically took any claim of the PUAs he found plausible and could find academic backing for and presented it divorced from the subculture, that was supposed to be the beginning of a series, but was probably seen as not desirable for the site and discontinued (despite it being upvoted).

I have made arguments about as controversial as the ones in your linked article in comments on pedophilia and have been generally upvoted for them. The same is true of my arguments in favor of there being a hereditary component to the measured racial differences in intelligence. And arguments over some PUA claims. Alas I haven't commented on terrorism.

I think there is a general norm for things you can't talk about:

"this is ok to discuss, however opening it as a topic in itself on main makes the site looks bad and may attract the wrong kinds of attention".

The lesson I think really is to bring these kinds of topics up when they are one relevant example among several. If one wants them discussed as a standalone topics, open threads seem best or discussion section topics at most (hey we need something there besides meetup threads anyway).

comment by MrMind · 2013-10-10T09:47:44.023Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Is there a sentence or a word for an English-speaker to express this concept: a thing that is supposedly a secret, but everyone knows it, but still behave as if it were a secret?
Since there's a precise term in Italian for that, I was recently wondering that I wouldn't know how to express that concisely in English.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-10T10:03:17.368Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

"open secret"

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2013-10-10T19:43:20.744Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The term you are looking for is "open secret".

comment by JQuinton · 2013-10-10T19:33:20.916Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Curious... what is the term for that in Italian?

comment by Emile · 2013-10-10T20:07:27.196Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"Segreto di Pulcinella" (the French, "secret de Polichinelle", is the same)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T14:34:32.319Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Why haven't we done an systematic investigation of drugs as means towards debiasing?

I recall some limited discussion of nootropics and microdosing on LSD but not much else. In particular I'm thinking about substances that are easily acquired such as off label use of medication, easy to synthesize substances or recreational drugs (legal and otherwise).

comment by shminux · 2013-10-08T14:52:27.918Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

There was a lively "spray cold water into your left ear for debiasing purposes" discussion.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T07:27:36.033Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Remembering how extensive that was compared to the under-exploration of the means I propose makes me cringe. Also on IRC someone corrected me LSD microdosing wasn't even discussed on LW but Yvain's blog apparently.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2013-11-21T00:28:13.492Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What microdose discussion are you talking about?

You mentioned it on LW. Just before the comment I'm replying to, Scott mentioned it, but failed to generate any discussion. Gwern has a big post, but that's probably anachronistic.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-08T15:01:05.829Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ritalin is pretty helpful for me (when I can get it) against akrasia. Dunno about bias.

comment by ygert · 2013-10-09T08:40:13.554Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Also, of course, caffeine. These example prove that it is possible in theory, and as such they strongly prompt the notion that this is a field that has not yet been fully plumbed.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-09T10:22:58.592Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why haven't we done an systematic investigation of drugs as means towards debiasing?

I have focussed my attention more on enhancing cognitive function more generally, which has some benefits with respect to debiasing but is far from explicitly targetted. There are some specific behavioural and psychological biases that I can target pharmaceutically but not all of them, not without combining drugs with training. Of course there is much that can be done to enhance the executive function, motivation and relaxed self awareness that makes training oneself out of biases much more viable.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-10T16:07:17.492Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

By systematic investigation do you mean a literature review? I hope so. Does such literature even exist, have you done any searches?

I have to take SSRIs to stay sane, but they blunt my emotions (which is usual) and kill my motivation. This has to affect my biases in some way. Then again depression would make me ridiculously biased. Nicotine and caffeine seem to make me overconfident, but help me to get things done.

comment by bramflakes · 2013-10-08T08:34:50.208Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I spent about £19 on half a year's worth of 1mg Melatonin pills. I swallowed one last night at about 2300, then went to bed at midnight.

Thoughts:

I didn't notice any extra sleepiness during that hour interval between taking it and going to sleep. This may mean that melatonin as a solution to hyperbolic discounting may not work for me. Alternatively I just went to sleep too early and had I stayed awake, the melatonin would have kicked in and made me want to go to sleep anyway.

I woke up over an hour before my alarm, feeling /much/ more refreshed than usual, and with almost no desire to sleep in. If this was the work of melatonin then it will be very useful to me in stopping my habit of turning off my alarm and then going back to sleep again.;

Obviously, this was only one night, so things like placebo and random variation in effects are there. I'll continue with this experiment and take notes. I can't be bothered to do a blinding experiment like gwern did with his nootropics experiments, but given that the effects of melatonin are well-researched and that most people react the same way to it, I'm fairly confident the effects I'm getting are real. Even if it is a placebo, I'd still be satisfied with it given how much money I paid.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-10-08T22:30:57.397Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

1mg is hitting yourself over the head with a sledgehammer. Try 200mcg or 300mcg first!

comment by bramflakes · 2013-10-08T23:01:25.411Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Considering the most common dose I found on sale was about 3mg and they even went up to 10mg, I assumed 1mg was the low end.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-10-08T23:45:26.677Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Nope. That's moderate Civilizational Incompetence; science knows well that 1mg is often way too much for a first dose, but shops have presumably found that the average customer thinks "More melatonin is better" and that informed customers are too scarce to market to. You can get correctly dosed melatonin on the Internet, as with any other niche market.

comment by kvd · 2013-10-09T02:45:26.701Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In the Netherlands you can get them as 0.1mg tablets in drug stores, which makes for easy dosing.

Interestingely enough, the package used to recommend a dose of 1 tablet, but has recently been updated and now recommends taking 10 tablets at a time!

comment by somervta · 2013-10-09T00:55:19.062Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Also, I think that at some point there was a patent or other legal issue - at some point (which might or might not still be an issue) a company managed to restrict the use of low-dosage melatonin (I'm afraid I don't recall the details)

comment by philh · 2013-10-09T01:06:24.685Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

bramflakes is in the UK; you can't buy melatonin over the counter here, and I've done a small amount of searching and haven't found anywhere online that ships to the UK and sells <1mg.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2013-10-09T21:27:15.529Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

200ug ships to UK, I think.

comment by philh · 2013-10-09T23:10:04.650Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks so much! I just ordered 600 tablets.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2013-10-09T23:35:40.383Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Are you in the UK? If so, that's confirmation that they really (try to) ship there. Or are you just happy to find a smaller dose than before? (which is why I saved the link)

comment by philh · 2013-10-10T01:08:44.876Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm in the UK, yes. (It's listed in their shipping chart, and the order went through with no problems, so I have no more than baseline expectation of it not arriving.)

comment by somervta · 2013-10-09T01:01:34.400Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But you are of course absolutely correct about the Dose Response Curve.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-10T16:54:16.834Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe you should invest in a pill splitter.

comment by philh · 2013-10-09T01:11:28.055Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If your melatonin comes in plastic capsules, like mine, you can twist them apart, discard some amount of the contents (I tend to roughly-fill the smaller of the two caps and throw the rest) and optionally put them back together, without too much hassle.

comment by somervta · 2013-10-09T01:26:51.439Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I bite my pills into thirds.

comment by Matt_Simpson · 2013-10-14T02:07:25.911Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I do this too, though in smaller bites. fitfths? fourths? I'm not sure, actually, but it seems to work.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-10T17:02:50.476Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm trying hard to imagine how that works.

comment by somervta · 2013-10-10T22:41:15.863Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Take pill.

Bit a bit off.

Leave the rest for later.

it's not exact, of course, but it's not too tricky to get them in between 2/5 and 3/5.

comment by JQuinton · 2013-10-08T12:49:40.646Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was taking melatonin for a while, but I kept having these weird/disturbing dreams whenever I took it, so I stopped. Are melatonin induced nightmares common?

comment by gwern · 2013-10-08T16:32:36.821Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

More vivid dreams is common, and for some people the dreams are nightmares. (Not for me, though.)

comment by curiousepic · 2013-10-08T18:22:38.905Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I did have more vivid and "weirder" dreams, especially in the morning (perhaps memory bias), and a handful of them were quite disturbing, far from my norm. But, this lessened after a couple of weeks of off and on use.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-10T15:56:54.913Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've had melatonin quite a while and still have far weirder dreams than before starting. Last night, I dreamt of having a generalized epileptic seizure while conscious. Luckily I can shrug nightmares off easily these days.

comment by Nectanebo · 2013-10-09T12:48:35.097Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This was also my experience.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-10-08T19:07:21.172Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've been taking melatonin for a while. I haven't noticed any obvious improvement, but when I temporarily ran out of it and forgot to buy more for a few days, it felt like I slept worse. Might've been just a placebo effect, but then the pills are cheap and taking them feels like a nice evening ritual to do before going to bed, so I don't mind continuing it.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-10-08T09:51:52.960Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've been picking up bottles of 120 3mg pills off eBay for about £7 including P&P. FYI, in six month's time when you can't do without it.

comment by Metus · 2013-10-08T14:01:09.103Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How can I mitigate dependence? I do it by using at most a week at a time.

comment by ephion · 2013-10-08T18:25:00.018Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's not dependency in the same way that caffeine, alcohol, adderall, etc. cause dependency. Your baseline right now is "normal sleep" and when you take melatonin, you get "better sleep." Eventually, melatonin becomes "normal sleep" as you get used to it, and when you stop, you experience "bad sleep." However, you were having bad sleep beforehand, you just weren't aware as you didn't have anything to compare it to. Now that you've experienced better sleep, going back to bad sleep isn't really an option.

It's not that you become dependent. It's that you are dependent and aren't aware of it.

comment by kalium · 2013-10-08T20:14:17.315Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A clearer phrasing of the question: Melatonin is important in my existing sleep processes. Does taking exogenous melatonin reduce my body's own production of the stuff to compensate, and if so how severe is this effect?

comment by ephion · 2013-10-08T20:24:29.924Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It doesn't appear to do that.:

In regards to supplementation, oral melatonin supplements at 500mcg over a period of a week in shift workers did not influence basal secretion, as cessation for one day prior to measurements did not show differences when compared to secretion status prior to supplementation.[24] 24-hour melatonin levels in this study, when graphed, essentially overlapped suggesting next to no variance.[24] These results indicating a lack of negative feedback have been replicated with 2mg[25] and 5mg.[26]

Good question! This is definitely an important thing to consider.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-10-08T22:31:47.915Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

One week is a trivial amount of time. I've been taking it for years and have had to slowly, steadily increase the dosage.

comment by lavalamp · 2013-10-08T23:56:09.853Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have any evidence that the cause is not ordinary aging?

comment by ephion · 2013-10-08T22:39:03.893Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting! If you don't mind sharing, how much were you taking initially, and how much are you taking now?

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-10-08T22:41:23.007Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

300mcg initially. Currently at 200mcg to trigger sleep onset 6 hours before, 1.2mg timed-release, and a supplementary 300mcg timed-release or 200mcg if I wake up in the middle of the night.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-08T19:57:21.559Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's not dependency in the same way that caffeine, alcohol, adderall, etc. cause dependency.

Why not? Sure, we're talking psychological dependency, not metabolical dependency, but still

s/melantonin/cocaine/
s/sleep/energy/

and your argument still works exactly the same way.

comment by ephion · 2013-10-08T20:19:42.970Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Cocaine and melatonin aren't really comparable. There are a lot of reasons why you wouldn't want to take cocaine, including price, legality, negative side effects, undesirable neurological changes, etc. Cocaine use also develops a tolerance and has withdrawal symptoms. On the other hand, melatonin is very cheap, usually legal, rarely has side effects, doesn't develop a tolerance, and doesn't have any withdrawal symptoms.

Pretending you can assign easy numbers to "sleep quality" and "energy level," my argument goes something like: Before melatonin, sleep quality was at 4. This is perceived as normal. After melatonin, sleep quality is perceived at 6. This is initially a +2 bonus, but eventually is perceived as normal. However, sleep quality doesn't ever go back to 4 -- it stays at the new 6. When melatonin is discontinued, sleep quality goes back to 4. It doesn't drop down to 2 for a while before returning to 4.

Cocaine doesn't work like that. When you take cocaine, you get an initial boost of energy, and then a crash. If you sustain an energy level with cocaine, you'll develop a tolerance, requiring more and more cocaine to achieve the same effects. This crashes your energy systems even harder and will present you with withdrawal symptoms if you try to stop. To put it to numbers, you'd have a 5 baseline. A dose of cocaine puts you at 10, and you crash at 2. If you use cocaine to get your energy level up from the crash, you're now dependent and developing a tolerance. When you try to stop cocaine use entirely, withdrawal symptoms put you at a 1 for quite some time, and you might never return to your previous 5 baseline.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-10-08T14:36:38.317Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Gwern's melatonin piece is probably your best first port of call on this (and many other) subjects. I've been taking it pretty regularly (most nights) for coming up to a year, and can still fall asleep without too much difficulty without it. "Without too much difficulty" is a bit of a relative term, though. I keep somewhat unusual hours and have had difficulty getting to sleep for as long as I can remember.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-10T16:40:17.215Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Were the pills slow release or normal? The difference in time to fall asleep could be significant.

comment by bramflakes · 2013-10-10T17:30:07.690Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Normal.

comment by bbleeker · 2013-10-09T06:09:12.145Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've taken melatonin for a few months, and at the start I thought it did make me sleep better; but then I ran out of tablets one day and I didn't notice my sleep getting worse, so I stopped again.

comment by Coscott · 2013-10-07T17:06:33.872Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You should put tags on the open thread so it is identified as the most recent open thread.

comment by Thomas · 2013-10-07T17:22:03.292Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Done.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-11T10:01:05.178Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Civilizational competence: Biologists discover deadly new strain of Botulinum Toxin, withhold details until treatment is developed.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/10/11/230957188/why-scientists-held-back-details-on-a-unique-botulinum-toxin

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-11T16:53:23.859Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Counterpoint: They got more press that way, and only one small set of actors had to coordinate, and the answer is obvious.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-12T08:56:43.785Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A small set of smart actors that coordinate doesn't need to search their targets among things that get a lot of press. They can just go to Bruce Schneiers movie plot contest and find plenty of ideas to do harm.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-11T09:06:42.683Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Conway Hall Ethical Society has an interesting history, which shows the Christian origins of Progressive Secular Humanist memeplex.

The Conway Hall Ethical Society, formerly the South Place Ethical Society, based in London at Conway Hall, is thought to be the oldest surviving freethought organisation in the world, and is the only remaining ethical society in the United Kingdom. It now advocates secular humanism and is a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

...

The Society was formed in 1793 by a group of nonconformists known as Philadelphians or Universalists. William Johnson Fox, who had studied theology under Dr Pye Smith, became minister in 1817. In 1824 the congregation built a chapel at South Place, in the district of central London known as Finsbury

Conway Hall is named after an American, Moncure Conway, who led the Society from 1864–1885 and 1892–1897, during which time it moved further away from Unitarianism. Conway spent the break in his tenure in the United States, writing a biography of Thomas Paine. In 1888 the name of the Society was changed from South Place Religious Society to South Place Ethical Society (SPES) under Stanton Coit's leadership.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-10-11T18:35:21.996Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

the Christian origins

As opposed to, say, its Jewish origins in the Ethical Culture movement, or its academic philosophical origins in the Scottish Enlightenment?

(I think it's usually an error to talk about "the origins" of a current memeplex — they usually develop from several origins.)

comment by cadac · 2013-10-08T22:37:30.454Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I can't seem to change my password. It's 41 characters long (I don't know why I thought that was a good idea), which might have something to do with it. I've tried multiple times, and every time it says "Incorrect password" next to the "Current password" field. Any tips?

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-08T23:01:57.746Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What happens when you tell it that you forgot your password. Many system respond by sending you an email with allows you to set a new password.

comment by cadac · 2013-10-08T23:31:41.778Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, that hadn't occurred to me. It says "No email address for that user". I can't set an email address either.

comment by philh · 2013-10-09T01:01:23.963Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is unlikely (p<0.05) to help in this case, but sometimes client-side validation is stricter than server-side. I recently had to disable the max-length on a text entry box so that I could enter the reference number I'd been given (but I checked and there isn't a max-length on the old password box here); another time I had to disable javascript so that I could use an email address with a + that had been accepted before.

comment by David_Gerard · 2013-10-13T10:44:54.059Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

An anecdote on a cat that sort of passes a version of the Mirror Test. Interesting comment suggesting the mirror test is too human-centric: "Perhaps the difference in outcome is because touching your cat is a movement, which she can see in the mirror and expect; while the spot on fur is background, since it doesn’t move. This would be consistent with the tendency of hunting animals to track motion against a largely ignored background. "

comment by savanik · 2013-10-09T19:47:13.652Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've been thinking about this statement in particular: 'If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.' People naturally seem to gravitate to the logical contraposition: If P, then Q. Therefore if !Q, then !P. If you have something to hide, then you MUST have done something wrong. Drawing from this logical statement, they infer that anyone who even tries to hide anything MUST be doing something wrong.

It seems obvious to me, however, that not all people who attempt to hide things have done something wrong. Where is the logical error? Is it in the inversion of 'nothing' and 'something'? It's been a long time since my symbolic logic courses involving the negation of universal quantification.

comment by Emile · 2013-10-09T20:20:11.111Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If you disagree with "anyone who even tries to hide anything MUST be doing something wrong.", then you disagree with it's logically equivalent contraposition 'If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.'. And indeed you do, you say there are people who've done nothing wrong but do have something to hide. There's no logical error, you just disagree with a premise.

comment by savanik · 2013-10-10T17:20:43.422Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's not so much a matter of disagreement as being able to come up with solid counterexamples that a theoretical 'common person' would agree with.

For instance: If you want to get someone a gift for a birthday, it is a common social convention that the exact gift should be kept a secret from the receiver until their birthday.

As ChristianKI indicated, sometimes you must keep secrets either for social or professional obligations. A good example would be where doctors are required to keep patient records from unauthorized access (by law, no less).

Normally, people dismiss these sorts of arguments with a simple, 'Well, of course except for that.' As we move into the future, however, where technology increases to the point where surveillence is pervasive, is the only privacy we're going to have remaining going to occur in doctor's offices?

comment by Emile · 2013-10-10T20:25:53.426Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I thought your main concern was about the logic, not the propositions.

Cases where you done nothing wrong yet have something to hide:

  • The bathroom window of my house doesn't close well, just push the top from outsides and it'll come open. Also I'm on holidays the first two weeks of November.
  • Harry Potter dies in the next HPMOR chapter
  • I'm actually really desperate for this job and would actually accept half the salary I'm asking for
  • I actually find your conversation extremely boring
comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-11T00:39:01.045Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Normally, people dismiss these sorts of arguments with a simple, 'Well, of course except for that.'

I don't think it's that easy. I want the right to take note about secrets that my friends tell me in my evernote account. I want to be able to take those notes without violating a promise that I gave my friend to keep his secret.

Let's say Alice confines her friends Bob and Coral that she has a drug problem. She's a cocaine addict. She gets them to promise to keep the information secret. In the current situation the two would violate that promise if they would talk about the problem on the telephone.

I think you could argue that there an implicit demand for that secrecy even if Alice doesn't specifically ask for secrecy.

Communicating the information on an unencrypted channel is morally questionable. Bob is not allowed to just call Alice and ask her whether she succeeded in being clean for the last days.

Bob has the choice between, establishing an encrypted channel to talk to Alice, not help her by providing social support on the issue over the telephone or violating his secrecy promise. If Alice wants to get a security clearance for her job she might be out of luck if the conversation with Bob is captured by government computers.

When talking about people who claim they have nothing to hide, I think that's the best strategy. Showing them how they potentially hurt other people or at least break promises they make to other people.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T20:27:57.327Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think the question is poorly formulated. If you say:

P: you have done something wrong

Q: you have a reason to hide something

P->Q: If you have done something wrong, then you have a reason to hide something

!Q->!P: If you do not have a reason to hide something, then you have not done something wrong

Which seems quite consistent to me, as it makes it possible to have a reason to hide something without having done something wrong. The negations of the original are throwing me, and I think the if-then phrase might be backwards as the causality should be doing something wrong causes you to have something to hide, rather than the reverse. My logic course was long enough ago that I can't pin it exactly.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-10-10T03:47:22.350Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Part of the problem turns out to be equivocation on "wrong". Consider the position of a chocolate-lover living in a hypothetical society where 1% of people are chocolate-lovers, 89% of people are not chocolate-lovers but are tolerant of people who are, and 10% of people think that anyone who eats chocolate should be shunned, persecuted, fired, exiled, tortured, or what-have-you.

Eating chocolate is not wrong according to our standards, nor by their own, nor by those of the majority of their society. However, many chocolate-eaters in this hypothetical society would prefer to cover up their actions, not out of shame but out of risk avoidance. They don't want to be mistreated by the anti-chocolate people who outnumber them ten to one. In the 1 in 10 chance that their boss is anti-chocolate, they don't want to be fired or mistreated on the job. And so on.

In effect, the saying should be, "If you haven't done anything that anyone anywhere disapproves of, you have nothing to hide."

comment by Vaniver · 2013-10-10T03:34:22.788Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Note the difference between "If you don't have a reason to hide something, then you have done nothing wrong" and "if you have done nothing wrong, then you don't have a reason to hide something." A person who is totally open has no skeletons in their closet- but the fetishist has something in his closet that isn't skeletons (unless it's skeletons).

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-10T11:03:35.164Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This assumes that there are two categories of things: Right and wrong. In real life that's not the case. If someone tries to judge us their is information that makes him think very highly of us and information that positive but doesn't have such a big impact. If you can control that someone only get's to see the information that makes you look really awesome you achieved something by hiding the information that makes you look medicore.

Nothing you have done needs to be below some threshold that makes it wrong for you to have an advantage by hiding the worst things that you did. As the quality of the things you did naturally fluctuates there will always be worst things.

You could also have done something that a AI that analyses your habits likely pattern matches as suspicious. Given modern technology that means that you will less likely get a good rate when you want to get your mortgage.

Government can also give you trouble with extra inspections when you pattern match to be a dangerous person. It's not directly punishment but when you run a restaurant and you get more food safety inspections than your competitors because you pattern match to be a dangerous person it still hurts you.

If you fly the TSA will bug you if you score highly on some metric. An AI analyses all communication data and those people who look suspicious will get flagged for extra scrutiny.

In our society we also have a concept that it's okay to speak with friends in confidence. If you tell a friend that you protect a secret that he tells you, you have something to hide. I don't think anyone would argue that it's morally wrong to promise a friend that you will protect a secret he tells you.

If someone asks you whether you are feeling alright, you might not want to talk about a problem that you are facing with that person and hide the problem from them. That in no way implies that you think having the problem is "wrong" it just means that you don't think that you will profit from discussing the problem with them.

If you made a new invention and haven't yet patented it, you might want to hide that invention for some time till you are ready to bring the invention to market or patent it. Businesses also have various other forms of trade secrets that they hide. Most busineses don't want to give a competitor their customer list.

If you are in a negotiation having more information than the other party can give you an advantage. As a result you don't profit from sharing all information with them.

If you follow TDT you have to hide certain information, because otherwise someone could infer from the fact that you don't talk about an issue that you feel badly about the issue. You don't want that political dissidents, who share your views, can be distinguished by a government from yourself, because you don't want that the government has the power to go after every political dissident.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-09T20:03:06.733Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Um, the statement "If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide" is wrong to start with.

EDIT: Deleted the mistaken part of the post -- was reading too fast and screwed up the formal logic counter-example. Mea culpa

comment by Emile · 2013-10-09T20:16:55.559Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If P, then Q. Therefore if !Q, then !P.

...this is quite wrong as well. E.g. If you are a man, you're a human. Therefore if you're not a man you're not a human :-P

No, it would be "Therefore if you're not a human you're not a man", which does follow. The formal logic is fine.

comment by shminux · 2013-10-12T16:43:48.250Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

SMBC on the human need for mystery.

comment by JoshuaFox · 2013-10-09T12:38:38.112Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Nikola Danaylov interviewed Noam Chomsky on his Singularity 1 on 1 podcast.

Chomsky is smart, but in discussing the future of AI, he is stuck on something -- he never quite steps up to answer the questions.

Can someone figure out the nature of Chomsky's mental block? What is he missing here?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-10-09T16:49:38.354Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think his problem is he assumes an AI has to closely resemble a human mind to be powerful enough to be dangerous.

comment by shminux · 2013-10-09T16:47:15.018Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is there a transcript of the interview somewhere? The youtube auto-generated one mangles Chomsky's replies horribly.

comment by cousin_it · 2013-10-07T20:56:30.500Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A decision theory idea I just had, which may or may not grow into something interesting.

Sometime ago I proposed to evaluate logical counterfactuals by their proof length. At the September workshop we managed to develop that idea into a full candidate solution to the problem of logical counterfactuals. Another long-standing open problem is "who moves first" in timeless negotiations. Could that problem also be solved by proof lengths? For example, do we feel that a "defecting rock" is impossible to manipulate because there are short proofs about it?

comment by Manfred · 2013-10-07T23:14:33.844Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hm. I feel like "impossible to manipulate" just means that you can prove that it will never cooperate when the opponent will defect.

But yeah, if we equate "acting first" with acting in ignorance of the other person's move, then we get something interesting.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-12T12:36:51.021Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Assertion: Child porn availability does not increase child sex abuse

There are a few different reasons why people oppose the existence of child pornography. One is the harm to the children when it is made. This is a valid objection. I think that putting children in sexual situations should remain a serious crime. It does not apply, however, to virtual child porn, made with young-looking actors or any of the variety of animation-related techniques.

I believe one major objection to all forms, including the virtual, is rarely formulated: people find it gross and disgusting. That's a reasonable reaction, and one I expect I would share to some of this material, based on descriptions I've read.

The main objection to such materials is that they might incite pedophiles into doing bad things. Courts have cited it as justification for these laws. (This is a dramatic step with regard to civil liberties, but that's not my topic here. See http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/ilaw/Speech/Adler_full.html). Regardless of whether it should influence policy, is it true?

One argument in favor of it is intuition. Looking at pictures of forbidden things might reasonably make it more likely you'd do those things. There is resistance in many quarters to applying this reasoning to the parallel situations of fictional violence in movies and to the degradation of women in pornography, in part because there is no convincing data.

Another argument in favor is the experience of clinicians. Here the sample bias is huge. The only population being studied is people who have offended against children. They may well find that a man went from thoughts about children to looking at child pornography to offending against children. It's reasonable to think that if he does not look at child pornography, the chain will be broken. But of course this doesn't address causality. Increasing desire and lowered inhibitions may cause both the child porn viewing and then the offense. And it leaves open the logical possibility that of two men who felt attracted to children, one looked at child porn and went on to offend against a child. A similar man might have had more and better child porn, satisfied his desires with it, and not gone on to offend against a child.

However, there is also a line of research that bears on this question directly. http://www.hawaii.edu/PCSS/biblio/articles/1961to1999/1999-effects-of-pornography.html Milton Diamond and colleagues examined several societies in which child pornography was very difficult to obtain, but then due to societal changes it became very easy to obtain. He looked at how the number of child abuse case reports changed in the society. One thing he never found was an increase in sex crimes against children -- if anything, they went down. Now, there are confounding factors in all these cases, but finding the same result across several societies makes them more convincing. They are avoiding the sample bias problem and looking at the society as a whole. This is the measure we care about.

There are implications here beyond child pornography. In related discussions here, for instance http://lesswrong.com/lw/it3/assertion_a_large_proportion_of_pedophiles_are/9vv9?context=3 some people have suggested that pedophiles would do better to think as little about their attraction as possible as a way of protecting children. But consider: If a pedophile views child porn, he sees people actually doing the things he would like to do; often the children seem not to mind. If that doesn't increase offending against children, why would thinking about it do so?

A reasonable analogy might be sex education. Some conservatives oppose it because they think it will make kids (teens especially) think about sex and become sexually active. The data doesn't support that, of course, and the explanation is that kids are thinking about sex already. Pedophiles are also thinking about sex; the fact that the people they are attracted to are always inappropriate partners doesn't change this aspect of the situation.

Few people suggest that child porn made with real children should be made legal, even if it became established that its availability decreases child sex abuse as opposed to not changing it. Non-consequentialists don't want to sacrifice the welfare of a few children to help the many. Even if that doesn't bother someone, the alternative of virtual child pornography should be tried first.

I might appear to have a vested interest in the availability of such materials. I don't, personally, though the number of men who are given years in prison for looking at pictures does distress me deeply. In any case, one of the rationality principles does say that arguments should be evaluated on their own merits, not the attributes of the person making them.

comment by BarbaraB · 2013-10-12T18:19:33.306Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Josh,

  1. My intuition is, that viewing pictures is more a tension relief and prevents the real offence, rather than stimulating the crime. I would prefer to have hard scientific data. However, without those data, I would bet money on my stated hypothesis, rather than the opposite.

  2. You should cite more sources, preferred are the research paper, and among them, metaanalyses, as ChristianKI correctly says.

  3. I am not from USA, but worked there for 2 years in the past. I remember hearing about people facing prison for the possession of children pornography, and was genuinely surprised and sorry for the offenders (although I am a standard heterosexual woman). We had a long discussion with my that day US boyfriend, why is the possession punished so severely. I was surprised by the unproven, but unquestioned assumption, that having pictures stimulates the owner to commit the actual crime. Of course, pictures of children molested or having sexual intercourse should not be taken, because children should not have sexual intercourse or be molested. However, some people define children pornography very broadly, even children taking a bath, running around naked in the garden etc. Some 35 years ago, my parents photographed me naked on the beaches of Yugoslavia and it was pretty normal at those times. I would not be happy, if they were selling those pictures to strangers for pornography. However, I believe, selling their own old pictures when the child becomes adult could become legal once - if it is proven that the pictures do not increase the crime.

comment by pragmatist · 2013-10-12T18:28:25.301Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

However, some people define children pornography very broadly, even children taking a bath, running around naked in the garden etc.

In the United States, at least, an image has to depict "sexually explicit conduct" in order to qualify as child pornography, so I don't think most images of the sort you describe would qualify. It is probably true, however, that "sexually explicit conduct" is quite often interpreted by the judiciary in an implausibly broad manner.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-12T19:56:49.816Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm with you all the way on this. Your views are pretty far from the mainstream of US public opinion, though.

selling their own old pictures when the child becomes adult could become legal

That view in particular would make you a pariah in many social circles.

  • if it is proven that the pictures do not increase the crime.

All I want is the absence of proof that it increases the crime. Since Diamond has evidence that it decreases the crime, that's pretty clear.

comment by pragmatist · 2013-10-12T17:23:59.082Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Did you intend to talk exclusively about virtual child porn? If so, you might want to change the wording of your initial assertion, since "virtual child porn" is not what people think when they read "child porn".

If not, I don't think you've adequately supported your assertion. It may be the case that viewing child porn does not increase the probability of committing child abuse once you've conditionalized on relevant common causes. But it is the case that producing child porn (actual, not virtual) requires child sex abuse. Since increased availability would presumably be causally linked to increased production, ceteris paribus increased availability should be causally linked with increased abuse. Now it may be the case that there is some countervailing causal mechanism leading from increased availability to decreased abuse, but you haven't really provided adequate evidence for the existence of this mechanism, or that it fully compensates for the increased abuse associated with production even if it does exist.

Also, when you say that child porn with real children should be illegal, do you mean that just production should be illegal or that possession should be illegal as well?

And this:

In any case, one of the rationality principles does say that arguments should be evaluated on their own merits, not the attributes of the person making them.

This is not right. The attributes of the person making an argument are often valuable evidence regarding the validity of the argument, especially in an area where one is not an expert. For instance, I don't know much about the research about the relationship between child porn and child abuse. You haven't presented a comprehensive meta-analysis of this research, merely a selection. If I'm trying to evaluate whether your framing is representative of the actual state of the research or whether it is cherry-picked to favor a particular position, my beliefs about your personal attributes are very relevant.

As an aside: I'm really not comfortable with a single-issue poster whose single issue is pedophile rights, especially if this slides from advocacy for celibate pedophiles (which I don't consider objectionable) to advocacy for consumers of child porn (which I do consider objectionable). Consider participating in other discussions on this site as well, so that people don't get the impression that you're on here just to push this, shall we say "provocative" agenda. I feel somewhat bad about saying this because I dislike the idea of piling on to posters who voluntarily identify themselves as low status, and also I do think your commitment to celibacy and the avoidance of child porn in the face of your unfortunate desires is commendable (although I don't like your attachment to pedophilia as an identity). Still, I haven't downvoted you yet, but if every top-level comment or post you make ends up being about pedophilia, I might start doing so.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-12T20:18:27.236Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Since increased availability would presumably be causally linked to increased production,

Given how easy it is to make copies in this day and age, I don't think that's a necessary link -- but you're probably right. My assumption in any case is that a given child porn image is consumed thousands of times, so the effect on the consumer end would dwarf the effect on the producer end.

Also, when you say that child porn with real children should be illegal, do you mean that just production should be illegal or that possession should be illegal as well?

The production should be illegal. From descriptions I've read, I think that much of it is disgusting and I would urge people not to possess it or look at it. But there are many things that I don't like that I don't think should have criminal penalties attached, and child porn possession is one of those things.

The attributes of the person making an argument are often valuable evidence regarding the validity of the argument, especially in an area where one is not an expert.

You are right. I was mistaken about this. I guess rationality doesn't generally call for eliminating any source of information, though it may suggest downgrading some.

Consider participating in other discussions on this site as well, so that people don't get the impression that you're on here just to push this, shall we say "provocative" agenda.

Of course, if I want to have my comments taken seriously on other topics, it helps not to be linked to a low-status identity. Would you be any more comfortable thinking that I as a person participate more broadly under another identity? I'm not saying whether I do or not, but I'm asking.

advocacy for consumers of child porn (which I do consider objectionable).

To clarify, I am opposed to its production, which I think should remain illegal. I am opposed to criminal sanctions for the possession of child pornography. I suspect I would find much of it (both real and virtual) disgusting and revolting. It is advocacy for the consumers to the extent of not wanting them to face years in prison. It is definitely not approval for disgusting material.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-13T00:03:08.170Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

But there are many things that I don't like that I don't think should have criminal penalties attached, and child porn possession is one of those things.

Legalizing possession would create huge demand for commercial child porn.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-13T04:41:28.768Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

First, if this were true, I would rethink my position -- I agree it is a worrisome consideration..

I am not at all sure it is true. The 'ordinary' porn market is not so profitable any more because there is so much amateur material available for free. Virtual child porn might well crowd out a market for real porn. It should still be possible to follow the money to the producers. One could consider making the purchase of such material illegal but not its possession. Or one could change the penalties to a fine instead of prolonged imprisonment. One could also try various of these things in pilot experiments and see what happens.

All that said, in this one case we go to extraordinary lengths to suppress a market for something. For comparison, suppose someone stages a murder of a half dozen people. No one disputes it is a horrible crime. But to my knowledge, making a video of it which a person uploads or sells is not an additional crime, and possession is not a crime. Consider real, existing video of hostages being executed. People watching them creates the demand for their creation, but we don't even think about banning possession of such things.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-13T19:20:41.857Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

One could also try various of these things in pilot experiments and see what happens.

No, making localised experiment about such a topic is hard. You can't effectively run localised experiments on the internet.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-15T21:21:21.425Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You can run an experiment in a single large nation, such as the US. Policies are set at the national level in any case.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-15T21:35:02.419Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's n=1. You won't learn from a n=1 experiment about the exact effects of the policy.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-15T22:20:11.764Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes a sample is also a population. We might not be able to generalize to all nations, but knowing the effect on the US would be very interesting in and of itself.

Other times it seems reasonable to draw conclusions without a sample, if we expect little variability in the population on the measure in question. For instance, if Obamacare has been in effect in Massachusetts for a few years, you don't say "n=1" and that the results have no bearing on what will happen in other states. You might argue that there are reasons it won't apply due to differing conditions, but few would say that it is as irrelevant as "n=1" would imply.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-13T08:11:31.029Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The 'ordinary' porn market is not so profitable any more because there is so much amateur material available for free.

Amateur or professional, the demand is there. The payment might not be money, but other goods like reputation or porn. What's the difference?

Virtual child porn might well crowd out a market for real porn.

This speculation seems unfounded, considering this has not happened in adult porn.

It should still be possible to follow the money to the producers. One could consider making the purchase of such material illegal but not its possession.

No. Cryptography and covering your tracks by using anonymization services is trivial.

But to my knowledge, making a video of it which a person uploads or sells is not an additional crime, and possession is not a crime. Consider real, existing video of hostages being executed. People watching them creates the demand for their creation, but we don't even think about banning possession of such things.

I don't think legalizing one harmful thing because other harmful things are legal is a good argument.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-01-17T03:40:55.430Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm a little amazed that you're managing to lose this argument, Hypor.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-16T01:08:21.876Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Cryptography and covering your tracks by using anonymization services is trivial.

It is many things, but trivial is definitely not one of them.

As a related example, consider Bruce Schneier's opinion that it is non-trivial to maintain as simple a thing as an air gap.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-16T02:29:24.510Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think if you have a good reason to suspect you're under active surveillance (by the NSA?), you've already failed.

Establishing perfect protection is impossible, but getting very good protection is trivial and accomplished by using simple to use software. That is, if you know what you're doing. I admit that is a very special kind of trivial.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-15T21:32:53.333Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Virtual child porn might well crowd out a market for real porn.

This speculation seems unfounded, considering this has not happened in adult porn.

The production of real adult porn is as legal as virtual adult porn. Since the production of real child porn would remain illegal, one might expect a difference.

It should still be possible to follow the money to the producers. One could consider making the purchase of such material illegal but not its possession.

No. Cryptography and covering your tracks by using anonymization services is trivial.

These methods are available in today's environment too where child porn possession is illegal. There are still a lot of convictions. If we divide the world into "those who can use tracks-covering services reliably" and "those who can't", we could argue that the first group is already consuming its fill of child porn and the second group would be as uncertain in covering financial dealings as they are in covering downloads today.

But to my knowledge, making a video of it which a person uploads or sells is not an additional crime, and possession is not a crime. Consider real, existing video of hostages being executed. People watching them creates the demand for their creation, but we don't even think about banning possession of such things.

I don't think legalizing one harmful thing because other harmful things are legal is a good argument.

That's fair enough, but we can also consult our intuitions about how we'd like to handle that case. Would you with enthusiasm support efforts to make possession of such videos illegal? My reaction is, "Let's not go there, and just let people possess those videos."

comment by pragmatist · 2013-10-13T11:34:09.764Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My assumption in any case is that a given child porn image is consumed thousands of times, so the effect on the consumer end would dwarf the effect on the producer end.

That assumes there is a non-negligible inhibiting effect on the consumer end. I don't think this has been established. I realize you think the Diamond research is good evidence for this, but I'm not so sure. I admit I haven't perused that research in any detail, but as far as I can tell, their claims are based on very basic correlations between time series. Moreover, in each case the time series in question change monotonically in the same direction (greater availability of child porn as time goes on, and fewer cases of child sex abuse as time goes on). So it's not even like there are ups and downs in the two time series that track each other. The researchers also don't offer examples of countries with the opposing trends (less access to child pornography coupled with increased child sex abuse), or even offer control data from countries with no change in child porn availability. Drawing straightforward causal conclusions from this research is questionable.

Would you be any more comfortable thinking that I as a person participate more broadly under another identity? I'm not saying whether I do or not, but I'm asking.

I would be more comfortable if I had reason to believe this. I don't like the idea of this forum becoming a haven for well-spoken advocates of taboo causes (in fact I'm unhappy with the extent to which it already is something of this sort), especially taboo causes I think are taboo for good reason. If there were evidence that you were participating in the forum out of a general interest in rationality rather than just because you think rationalists would be a receptive audience for your cause, I'd be less perturbed by your posts.

To clarify, I am opposed to its production, which I think should remain illegal. I am opposed to criminal sanctions for the possession of child pornography. I suspect I would find much of it (both real and virtual) disgusting and revolting. It is advocacy for the consumers to the extent of not wanting them to face years in prison. It is definitely not approval for disgusting material.

To what extent does your belief that consumption of child porn should be decriminalized hinge on the assumption that decriminalizing consumption will not lead to an increase in production? Is there, to your mind, some level of increased production given which it would be OK to criminalize consumption, or do you maybe believe that no realistic amount of increase in production could justify imprisoning people only for looking at pictures? And can you give an estimate of the probability you assign to the proposition that production will increase if consumption is decriminalized?

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-13T16:32:17.903Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't like the idea of this forum becoming a haven for well-spoken advocates of taboo causes (in fact I'm unhappy with the extent to which it already is something of this sort), especially taboo causes I think are taboo for good reason.

Are these reasons because of the damage to reputation caused by the reaction of others, or do you see good reasons for the taboo that are more inherent to the subject itself?

If there were evidence that you were participating in the forum out of a general interest in rationality rather than just because you think rationalists would be a receptive audience for your cause, I'd be less perturbed by your posts.

I participated in the past. I was very excited by the basic concepts. I believe I read or at least skimmed all the major sequences. When it came to the details, I began to have a lot more questions. The interest in the AI singularity and cryonic preservation seemed like topics that were discussed a lot because of the interest people had in them, and did not in any sense proceed out of rationality considerations themselves. They didn't interest me personally. There was also a tendency for conversations to focus on the concerns of teens and 20-somethings.

I was in part hoping that the insights of people here could help me refine my own thinking, and to a small extent this has happened. Although I do not think as clearly as I would like (and there are probably limitations in my thinking others can see and I cannot), I hope my posts give evidence of an attempt to follow the LessWrong approach that goes beyond merely being well-spoken.

Is there, to your mind, some level of increased production given which it would be OK to criminalize consumption, or do you maybe believe that no realistic amount of increase in production could justify imprisoning people only for looking at pictures?

And can you give an estimate of the probability you assign to the proposition that production will increase if consumption is decriminalized?

Presumably what we want is instead a series of probabilities covering different values of how much the production would increase. I would estimate the probability of it doubling as 0.1 or less. There are, as I said, a number of parameters that could be adjusted. It is an experiment one could try and then reverse if parameters could not be found that yielded acceptable results.

Reasons for thinking the probability would be low is that the production is global, and criminal penalties are adjusted on a national basis. Another is that possession is already widespread due to a perception that anonymization protects people from detection.

Other reputable organizations like the ACLU also support decriminalization without thinking about issues of increased demand. Perhaps I am letting conventional wisdom influence me too much in wavering from that view.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-13T19:15:05.664Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Other reputable organizations like the ACLU also support decriminalization without thinking about issues of increased demand.

The sounds like you want to think about the issue of increased demand because you already made up your mind about the issue.

I think the ACLU positions is that even if there is increased demand and thus more production the harm that it causes doesn't outweight the good of legalisation. Arguing such a position however needs analysis of the good that you create.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-15T21:45:38.254Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Other reputable organizations like the ACLU also support decriminalization without thinking about issues of increased demand.

The sounds like you want to think about the issue of increased demand because you already made up your mind about the issue.

I have no idea how your comment relates to anything I said.

I think the ACLU positions is that even if there is increased demand and thus more production the harm that it causes doesn't outweigh the good of legalisation. Arguing such a position however needs analysis of the good that you create.

I think that's a fair summary of their position. I (and I think they) would defend the good of legalization as keeping the government from looking through people's private computer files and sending them to prison for years based on what's there. Another is avoiding the anxiety a lot of people feel constantly wondering if some download they made might have a bad image in it that they're not aware of, or there's something in the background of a shot they didn't notice, etc.

In contrast, the good of reducing demand is a long, tenuous, and indirect chain.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-13T12:40:53.992Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Given how easy it is to make copies in this day and age, I don't think that's a necessary link -- but you're probably right. My assumption in any case is that a given child porn image is consumed thousands of times, so the effect on the consumer end would dwarf the effect on the producer end.

This argument is easy to turn on its head (just goes to show how easy these kinds of arguments are to make). If copying cp is easy, the same item is more difficult to sell multiple times. This creates an incentive to produce more material, because nobody is going to buy material that is easy to copy for free. Old material is more available for copying than new material. As was already argued, producing cp creates more abuse. In any case, there's always going to be demand for novelty.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-13T16:44:46.096Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Through all of this, the profit margins are going ever downward. Producers want a good expected payoff to cover the risks of detection and criminal prosecution. Market forces should depress production for profit.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-13T17:07:45.197Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Some kind of an economic equilibrium between production and copying would develop. You could look into examples of other pirated media to get an idea how it would settle.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-14T00:49:02.656Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For those who want some interesting information about the background of child pornography industry Wikileaks made the decision to publish one letter that they got on the topic. Usually Wikileaks only publishes source documents but they made an expection because of the value of information to understand what going on with regards to filter the infernet from child pornography. http://wikileaks.org/wiki/An_insight_into_child_porn

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-12T16:19:38.013Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

One argument in favor of it is intuition. Looking at pictures of forbidden things might reasonably make it more likely you'd do those things. There is resistance in many quarters to applying this reasoning to the parallel situations of fictional violence in movies and to the degradation of women in pornography, in part because there is no convincing data.

If you care about the issue you are pushing, don't make assertions like that without linking to relevant meta studies.

I might appear to have a vested interest in the availability of such materials. I don't, personally, though the number of men who are given years in prison for looking at pictures does distress me deeply.

Motivated reasoning doesn't score you points on Lesswrong. In a case like that you would profit from keeping your language as academic as possible.

It might be okay to make a joke about suffering that those men who are imprisoned face but making jokes in contexts like this isn't easy so I wouldn't recommend you to try.

In any case, one of the rationality principles does say that arguments should be evaluated on their own merits, not the attributes of the person making them.

You yourself say that you are in the emotion of distress that indicates that you aren't thinking clearly about the issue and it helps people to draw conclusions about your argument.

A reasonable analogy might be sex education. Some conservatives oppose it because they think it will make kids (teens especially) think about sex and become sexually active. The data doesn't support that, of course, and the explanation is that kids are thinking about sex already. Pedophiles are also thinking about sex; the fact that the people they are attracted to are always inappropriate partners doesn't change this aspect of the situation.

If that analogy is correct there little we can do with regards to pedophiles besides locking them up. Cyberporn legislation would be a tool to do so.

Besides you fail to provide any reason why this analogy should hold. Shall we believe that being a pedophile is genetic and the enviroment to which a person is exposed has nothing to do with them becoming a pedophile?

I believe one major objection to all forms, including the virtual, is rarely formulated: people find it gross and disgusting.

The fact that you think it's rarely formulated says more about you than about the position against which you are arguing. There are plenty of people who do consider all forms of pornography to go against human dignity and to objective the objects that pornography shows.

Even if that doesn't bother someone, the alternative of virtual child pornography should be tried first.

That leaves the question of how to decide if a given image is virtual or isn't.

Non-consequentialists don't want to sacrifice the welfare of a few children to help the many.

That no sentence that you should write in a context like. It raises emotions that you don't want to get raised.

You also haven't identified what welfare you care about. Is it about the pleasure of consuming child pornography? If so, is it basically about providing a way for pedophiles to wirehead themselves? If that isn't the goal what is?

You also muddle your goal. You start by pretending that you just want a discussion about whether child porn availability increases child sex abuse and end by calling for legal changes.

PS: Lean to format your links correctly. Not knowing how to format links signals your outsider status.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-12T17:05:39.401Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the tips on how to make more persuasive arguments. One reason I don't source many things is because I don't know what is controversial and what isn't. I sort of rely on a (politely) adversarial process. If someone questions an assertion I make, I can see if I can find a source.

A reasonable analogy might be sex education. Some conservatives oppose it because they think it will make kids (teens especially) think about sex and become sexually active. The data doesn't support that, of course, and the explanation is that kids are thinking about sex already. Pedophiles are also thinking about sex; the fact that the people they are attracted to are always inappropriate partners doesn't change this aspect of the situation...

If that analogy is correct there little we can do with regards to pedophiles besides locking them up. Cyberporn legislation would be a tool to do so.

Few ordinary kids rape other kids or otherwise break the law with regard to their sexual activity. Pedophiles following that pattern would mostly not abuse children.

Besides you fail to provide any reason why this analogy should hold. Shall we believe that being a pedophile is genetic and the environment to which a person is exposed has nothing to do with them becoming a pedophile?

There is considerable evidence that it is determined early in life, perhaps in utero.

The wikipedia article suggests this.

Here's a video

As for abuse, what I've heard is that a rough childhood (which includes sexual abuse) is associated with criminal behavior of all sorts in adulthood (including sexual abuse) but the link is not specific. The preferential attraction to children is not caused by abuse. No, I don't have a source on that I can easily find.

You also haven't identified what welfare you care about. Is it about the pleasure of consuming child pornography? If so, is it basically about providing a way for pedophiles to wirehead themselves? If that isn't the goal what is?

The hypothesis for this discussion was a hypothetical finding that child porn possession reduces child sex abuse.

If it merely doesn't increase such abuse, a couple questions arise. One is the civil liberties goal of leaving people alone when they're not hurting anyone. "Wirehead" isn't a term I use, but as I understand it, people should be delighted if pedophiles did that instead of abusing kids.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-12T18:27:54.611Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

One reason I don't source many things is because I don't know what is controversial and what isn't.

If you write a post about a controversial topic you benefit from backing up as many of the claims that you make that you can.

Few ordinary kids rape other kids or otherwise break the law with regard to their sexual activity.

That's not true. Having a strict age of consent at 18 doesn't stop 15 year olds from having sex with each other. In addition parents ban children frequently from having sex and they still have sex. The church in which a child is might forbid them from having sex before marriage but they still have sex.

Laws that regulate the sexual behavior of children have roughly the same effect as laws that regulate drug use.

One is the civil liberties goal of leaving people alone when they're not hurting anyone.

Civil liberties are usually given to achieve some end. You give people the right for free speech to further political debate. You might convince a free extreme libertarians with that argument but not many people.

"Wirehead" isn't a term I use, but as I understand it, people should be delighted if pedophiles did that instead of abusing kids.

Nothing in the argument you made provides evidence for child porn reducing the abuse of children by pedophiles.

There is considerable evidence that it is determined early in life, perhaps in utero.

The wikipedia article suggests this.

Here's a video

The wikipedia articles talks about a link to testosterone. Not mastrubating increases testosterone. Watching porn often comes with masturabtion so the data that the wikipedia article doesn't suggest that increasing porn availability is a good thing.

Videos are not as good for sources because you can't simple get the information. The best thing are peer reviewed meta studies.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-12T19:50:27.458Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Few ordinary kids rape other kids or otherwise break the law with regard to their sexual activity. That's not true. Having a strict age of consent at 18 doesn't stop 15 year olds from having sex with each other.

If there are jursidictions where two 15-year-olds having sex with each other is breaking the law, they are rare.

In addition parents ban children frequently from having sex and they still have sex. The church in which a child is might forbid them from having sex before marriage but they still have sex. Laws that regulate the sexual behavior of children have roughly the same effect as laws that regulate drug use.

It is certainly true that children often break parental rules regarding sex -- many others choose not to have sex. But having sex with another person against their will is something that most people don't do -- I speculate because they think it isn't right. There is a danger with pedophile attractions, in that it is comparatively easy for an abuser to convince himself that the child really is inherently interested and enthusiastic. But I think a lot of pedophiles do understand that very well and so they abstain, a lot are deterred by not breaking a serious taboo, and many don't want to face prison.

Civil liberties are usually given to achieve some end. You give people the right for free speech to further political debate. You might convince a free extreme libertarians with that argument but not many people.

Whoa, do you have a source on that? In the US, I think a lot of people take civil liberties very seriously. We don't dole out freedoms for a specific purpose, we assume we have freedoms unless there is a compelling reason to take them away.

Nothing in the argument you made provides evidence for child porn reducing the abuse of children by pedophiles.

It is in the Diamond paper that I referenced before: "It is certainly clear from the data reviewed, and the new data and analysis presented, that a massive increase in available pornography in Japan, the United States and elsewhere has been correlated with a dramatic decrease in sexual crimes and most so among youngsters as perpetrators or victims."

Not all professionals agree with that, so I don't take it as established fact, but the idea that it does not increase child sex abuse is more firmly established.

If there is a decrease, we don't know the exact mechanism behind it, but the idea that pedophiles are looking at it is a very plausible hypothesis.

The wikipedia articles talks about a link to testosterone. Not masturbating increases testosterone. Watching porn often comes with masturbation so the data that the wikipedia article doesn't suggest that increasing porn availability is a good thing.

I was citing the Wikipedia article in answer to your comment "Shall we believe that being a pedophile is genetic and the environment to which a person is exposed has nothing to do with them becoming a pedophile? ", and I think the section I linked to does a decent job of showing very early effects.

The way you've used testosterone level as a mediating variable seems very weak and questionable. The relevant data there is the societal experiments studied by Diamond: If you make child porn freely available, what happens to society-wide levels of child sex abuse?

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-13T00:08:35.271Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Whoa, do you have a source on that? In the US, I think a lot of people take civil liberties very seriously. We don't dole out freedoms for a specific purpose, we assume we have freedoms unless there is a compelling reason to take them away.

When it comes to doling out freedoms that historically means in the US the rights that God gave men. I don't think many Christian would say that God gave men the right to enjoy child pornography but democratic society took that right away from men to reduce the amount of child abuse by pedophiles.

I also don't think you can reasonable argue that the founding fathers had in mind to protect child pornography when they wrote the first amendment.

To turn to the present, given the current way the US works saying that it's citizens value civil liberties it sounds like a joke.

A lot of people here count themselves as utilitarian. The idea of civil liberties is nice but for most people it's an means to an end and not an end in itself.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-12T23:22:04.994Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It is in the Diamond paper that I referenced before: "It is certainly clear from the data reviewed, and the new data and analysis presented, that a massive increase in available pornography in Japan, the United States and elsewhere has been correlated with a dramatic decrease in sexual crimes and most so among youngsters as perpetrators or victims."

n=4 (countries) is not enough to draw any robust conclusions. That not even enough to run a linear regression. Even conclusions drawn through linear regressions don't replicate well.

Counting the reported amount of sexual abuse is problematic. It can a sign that people are less likely to report crimes that is in the case of the data for Japan particularly concerning as he suggests: "in these latter years the rapist was less likely to be known to the victim; proving lack of consent became easier."

The paper doesn't look like a regular academic paper. It has no abstract. The journal in which is published is named: "Porn 101: Eroticism, Pornography, and the First Amendment". 101 isn't a usual name for a journal. The fact that first amendment comes up in a journal name suggest that the journal is politically motivated. If I google the journal name + "imprint factor" I get no results.

Even if you would grant that increased pornography as such doesn't increase child abuse by pedophiles, it might be still better to have the pedophiles being exposed to adult porn than child porn.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-13T08:44:24.999Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If I google the journal name + "imprint factor" I get no results.

A friendly nitpick: I think you meant "impact factor". That doesn't yield results either, of course.

comment by pragmatist · 2013-10-13T11:20:26.969Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you're looking for a regular academic paper, this paper publshed in the Archives of Sexual Behavior appears to make the same point Josh was making. And that journal does appear to be a legitimate peer-reviewed academic journal.

comment by BarbaraB · 2013-10-14T14:28:03.073Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Usually, the more relaxed law on pornography is a result of general sexual liberation of the society and, consequently, there is also higher avaibality of real "non video" adult partners. So, thoretically, the porn could intensify lust, but bigger pool of available real-life adult partners can counter the effect. Some abusers, which are not really pedophiles, but use children as substitute object, are also removed from the game by availability of real-life adult partners.

However, what is the situation with child porn specifically ? Is it a stimulant or inhibitor of the crime ? Are there any countries, which first had availability of adult pornography only, and later lifted the ban on child pornography as well ? What were the statistics of child abuse before and after ?

All I am trying to say is, that the 2 papers from Diamond are not a proof for me, that the availability of child porn leads to lower rates of real-life child abuse. (Intuitively, I guess it is probably so, but it is not proven.)

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-13T05:10:28.561Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

n=4 (countries) is not enough to draw any robust conclusions.

That's pretty good for studies where we are counting "nations" to come up with our N.

Counting the reported amount of sexual abuse is problematic. It can a sign that people are less likely to report crimes that is in the case of the data for Japan particularly concerning as he suggests: "in these latter years the rapist was less likely to be known to the victim; proving lack of consent became easier."

He is certainly aware of the issue. I think the passage you quote strengthens rather than weakens his conclusion in that case.

The paper doesn't look like a regular academic paper. It has no abstract. The journal in which is published is named: "Porn 101: Eroticism, Pornography, and the First Amendment". 101 isn't a usual name for a journal.

Right, it's a book, not a journal. When access to journal articles requires payment, citing them is problematic.

The fact that first amendment comes up in a journal name suggest that the journal is politically motivated.

There may be some bias in the book. Social science research in general is very politicized, and sex research more than most. Since these findings have potential implications that run counter to received wisdom on child pornography, the most eminent researchers who don't want to lose their grants might be reluctant to do this sort of work. All sex research has to be examined keeping in mind the political goals of the authors, including all the work on the harm done by pornography.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-13T13:12:23.162Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's pretty good for studies where we are counting "nations" to come up with our N.

Putting in effort in no way implies that you end up with the truth. If you want to know the truth you have to look into the underlying statistics. The underlying statistics don't care that it's hard to get data about multiple countries.

There no reason to look at countries. Crime statistics are available for US states. You have 50. Maybe you can also find data about pornography sales for each of those states. There's Google Trend data that you could use to find out how pornography distribution differs between US states. Google Trend data might even tell you something about the amount of child pornography in relation to other pornography.

You could add some sort of crime like theft to control for difference in the crime rate that aren't sex related.

You could also control against factors that people frequently use to explain changes in amount of sexual assault. I'm sure the literature on that topic will suggest a few ideas that you should control for.

When access to journal articles requires payment, citing them is problematic.

Usually journals have freely available abstracts of their articles.
There are also resources such as http://www.reddit.com/r/Scholar that provide access to articles for everyone.

Reading acadmic papers is a good way to increase one's understanding of how the world works, even if they aren't always perfect.

comment by JoshElders · 2013-10-15T22:03:41.121Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I believe that they did look at crimes like murder and assault as a control for sex crimes in at least some cases.

I did hear of a study once (no, I don't have a citation) tracking US sex crime rates in relation to when the internet (broadband?) became widely available in different parts of the country, finding some tendency for rape to go down after the internet was available.

In any case, those are all helpful ideas for professional sex researchers but go beyond my competence.

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-13T13:43:05.172Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

He looked at how the number of child abuse case reports changed in the society. One thing he never found was an increase in sex crimes against children -- if anything, they went down.

Assertion: If cp possession is suddenly made legal, there will be less clues of abuse to follow because less legal searches can be made. The crimes might even increase, but less will be reported.

comment by Protagoras · 2013-10-13T18:37:14.175Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In the countries in question, during the period in question, there is little reason to think that reporting rates went down; indeed, there were quite a lot of efforts at increasing awareness and encouraging reporting which seem to be widely regarded to have had some success. I expect that is why Diamond's critics have generally not tried to use this approach to criticize his results; certainly I am not aware of any evidence in favor of this explanation.

comment by jkaufman · 2013-10-10T16:56:19.172Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"I am convinced, from many experiments, I could not study, to any degree of perfection, either mathematics, arithmetic, or algebra, without being a Deist, if not an Atheist" -- John Wesley founder of Methodism.

Not sure what to make of this.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-10-10T18:16:39.198Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It's from a sermon in which Wesley advocates that Christian should "gain all you can", "save all you can", and "give all you can" — a teaching somewhat similar to efficient altruism. Wesley has slightly different priorities, though: he emphasizes providing for the local community first rather than distant humans.

The line you quote comes from the provisos he puts around "gain all you can" — in gist, don't earn money at the expense of your bodily or mental health or your neighbor's well-being.

Some context for the quote:

We are, Secondly, to gain all we can without hurting our mind [...]. We must preserve, at all events, the spirit of an healthful mind. [...] There are yet [other trades] which many pursue with perfect innocence, without hurting either their body or mind; And yet perhaps you cannot: Either they may entangle you in that company which would destroy your soul; and by repeated experiments it may appear that you cannot separate the one from the other; or there may be an idiosyncrasy, — a peculiarity in your constitution of soul, [...] by reason whereof that employment is deadly to you, which another may safely follow. So I am convinced, from many experiments, I could not study, to any degree of perfection, either mathematics, arithmetic, or algebra, without being a Deist, if not an Atheist: And yet others may study them all their lives without sustaining any inconvenience. None therefore can here determine for another; but every man must judge for himself, and abstain from whatever he in particular finds to be hurtful to his soul.

The key is the use of the word "experiments". Wesley is saying that he found that studying mathematics would "entangle [him] in that company which would destroy [his] soul" — that is, the company of deistic and atheistic mathematicians — and that he could not separate mathematical studies from association with those (to his view) corrupting influences.

comment by Emile · 2013-10-10T20:12:50.854Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's from a sermon in which Wesley advocates that Christian should "gain all you can", "save all you can", and "give all you can" — a teaching somewhat similar to efficient altruism.

doesn't look very similar to me - it's missing the "efficient" part; focusing on "how much do you give?" instead of "is it doing any fricking good?"

comment by Quinn · 2013-10-10T21:52:08.705Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

While you're certainly technically correct, it's an easy/common mistake for people to focus on the "save all you can" part, overlooking "gain all you can" opportunities. The EA movement is notable for proactively trying to counter this mistake, and apparently so is John Wesley.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-10-11T15:21:38.840Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

doesn't look very similar to me - it's missing the "efficient" part; focusing on "how much do you give?" instead of "is it doing any fricking good?"

The closer analog is 80,000 hours, not EA as a whole.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-10-11T18:37:03.018Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Good point — that is indeed what I was thinking of.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-11T09:01:39.071Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not quite sure what is surprising about this? The 19th century sees plenty of Churches take similar steps along the transition to secular humanist Progressivism, and the beliefs and ethics espoused by the latetter today show clear signs of Christian origins. See Conway Hall Ethical Society for an example.

The Conway Hall Ethical Society, formerly the South Place Ethical Society, based in London at Conway Hall, is thought to be the oldest surviving freethought organisation in the world, and is the only remaining ethical society in the United Kingdom. It now advocates secular humanism and is a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

...

The Society was formed in 1793 by a group of nonconformists known as Philadelphians or Universalists. William Johnson Fox, who had studied theology under Dr Pye Smith, became minister in 1817. In 1824 the congregation built a chapel at South Place, in the district of central London known as Finsbury

Conway Hall is named after an American, Moncure Conway, who led the Society from 1864–1885 and 1892–1897, during which time it moved further away from Unitarianism. Conway spent the break in his tenure in the United States, writing a biography of Thomas Paine. In 1888 the name of the Society was changed from South Place Religious Society to South Place Ethical Society (SPES) under Stanton Coit's leadership.

comment by Metus · 2013-10-09T12:25:30.789Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am not particularly interested in the answer to this question but this community's answer: I know English and German. Should I learn another language and if yes which? Please explain your reasoning.

comment by Emily · 2013-10-09T13:26:27.607Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is probably really hard to answer sensibly without some more information about you and your goals.

comment by MrMind · 2013-10-10T09:40:44.995Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed.

Chinese seems to be a good general choice, just because so many people on the planet speak it and because China is/will be an important actor in the global theater.

In spite of this, I'm studying japanese just because it's at the crossroads of three things I find supremely fascinating: go, anime/mangas, and japanese culture (with the implicit plan of a trip to Japan in the near future).

Other examples: if you think you'll have to deal with european beureaucracy, French might be a good choice, or Spanish if you want to have anything to do with dancing, etc.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-16T13:19:18.096Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

OTOH see this. (Some things have changed in the last 18 years, but most haven't.)

comment by MrMind · 2013-10-17T08:44:32.244Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm surprised to see French so much higher in many of the charts.

comment by Emile · 2013-10-09T16:26:11.808Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I like learning languages (Esperanto, German, Chinese, Japanese), but consider it as more of a hobby than a useful skill, unless you're planning to move abroad, or have a job that involves a lot of travelling, or marry someone from there.

More useful than video games, reading fiction, surfing on reddit, playing chess.

Less useful (marketable) than programming, self-marketing, public speaking, fixing up your house, negotiating a salary, driving a car, fixing a car...

Probably about as useful as drawing, or doing advanced maths.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-09T16:30:15.386Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What exactly do you mean by "marketing" in this context? Marketing in a business sense is not something I'm familiar with people learning as a self-taught skill, and I'm not sure how seriously employers would take it, but self-marketing as a general skill is broad enough to seem like the odd one out among those options.

comment by Emile · 2013-10-09T16:44:17.576Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

self-marketing then. Why would it be the odd one out, that one is the list of useful things.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-09T16:59:55.611Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not disputing that it's useful, but it's like seeing a list of "fun" things which includes "watching videos," "playing solitaire," and "doing things with friends." One is so much broader than the others that it could easily be separated out into useful subcategories and take up more space than the rest of the list.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-09T13:43:18.421Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

For people who spend a lot of time in the United States I often recommend learning enough Spanish to curse plausibly, make casual smalltalk, ask for directions, and order lunch in, because it's not rare to find communities here where doing so gets you marked as an insider, or at least a potential ally, with all the associated benefits of that marking.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-16T14:00:21.098Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

(Warning: much of this comment is wild speculation.)

Pros:

  • Knowing many languages is fucking awesome.
  • You'll be able to consume media in the original language. (Translations exist but Sturgeon's Law applies.)
  • Like TheOtherDave says, in some places not knowing the local language may mark you as an outsider. And in some other places (basically anywhere other than Northern Europe and capitals), if you don't know the local or national language it may be much harder than you might think to get by, whether or not you mind being seen as an outsider.
  • Learning an n-th language now may make it much easier to learn an (n + 1)-st language later on (IOW, learning languages may itself be a learnable skill), especially if the two are related or otherwise similar; this may be useful if you think there's a large chance you'd need to learn a new language in the future but don't know which one yet.
  • Knowing several languages which carve up thingspace in different ways may prevent certain failure modes.

Cons:

  • Learning a language takes up time that you could use for something else. (But then again, so does watching TV or reading Cracked.com.)
  • Certain people (namely, those who resent being made to learn a language in school which they haven't ever since had any practical use for) will think of you as a geek and dislike you.
comment by ChristianKl · 2013-10-09T16:17:19.393Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you don't have a need for learning a specific language then I think that you should put your learning efforts elsewhere.

There are many areas where effort gets higher returns.

comment by Dorikka · 2013-10-11T17:57:56.637Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am not particularly interested in the answer to this question but this community's answer:

I am curious what you mean by this. If someone/we find a more optimal solution, we should adopt it, no?

comment by Metus · 2013-10-11T22:08:46.503Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wanted to indicate that it is not very important for me to know what language I should learn if any at all as I already have a particular interest in some languages but that I am curious about how this community would go about answering this question which rises up from time to time with various answers.

comment by Metus · 2013-10-08T18:03:21.004Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Cautiously playing around with supplements I found melatonin to be effective in aiding sleep quality, though not with time to fall asleep. Any suggestions to that effect?

I want to try vitamin D3 in the morning before my coffee or green tea. Any suggestions for specific brands?

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-08T19:51:57.479Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was under the impression that vitamin D is absorbed much better if taken together with fats or oils. I would take it with food, not on an empty stomach.

comment by VincentYu · 2013-10-08T18:47:06.271Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Cautiously playing around with supplements I found melatonin to be effective in aiding sleep quality, though not with time to fall asleep. Any suggestions to that effect?

Have you tried taking melatonin sublingually? The rapid absorption leads to a faster onset of sleepiness, which might help (I get extremely sleepy about 10 minutes after sublingual administration). Sublingual melatonin tablets can be found on Amazon.

comment by ephion · 2013-10-08T18:41:30.938Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's very interesting -- I noticed the exact opposite effect. Melatonin helps me fall asleep faster, but sleep quality doesn't appear to be much better. I did notice an improvement in sleep quality with ZMA (zinc+magnesium+vitamin B6), and the melatonin+ZMA combo works wonders for sleep.

I've not noticed a difference with generic Kroger brand and other brands of Vitamin D3. Seems to be about the same effect. 5,000IU and 10,000IU aren't noticeably different in my experience, but either are a marked improvement over no supplementation.

comment by Andreas_Giger · 2013-10-08T04:24:19.106Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There used to be a thread on LW that dealt with interesting ways to make small sums of money and ways to reduce expenditure. I think among other things going to Australia for a year was discussed. Does anyone know which thread I'm talking about and can provide me with the link? I can't seem to find it.

comment by banx · 2013-10-08T05:05:32.656Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Here's Optimal Employment, where the working in Australia idea is discussed, and here's the Optimal Employment Open Thread.

comment by kvd · 2013-10-08T01:55:08.387Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm currently in the US for a research internship (I'm from the Netherlands) and I'd like to travel a bit on the weekends while I'm here. At the moment I'm thinking of visiting Montreal (I've heard it's nice this time of year?) and New York in the near future. Does anyone have any travel recommendations? I could especially use recommendations for (cheap) places to stay overnight.

Note: I do not have a drivers license so will be depending on public transport.

comment by palladias · 2013-10-08T05:55:55.505Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Here are two options for cheap(er) theatre tickets in NYC:

Also, the Staten Island Ferry is free to ride, and gives you pretty views of the city from the water. Just be sure that when you land in Staten Island, you hurry through the terminal to reboard the boat immediately to go back. There's little to visit in Staten Island.

comment by kvd · 2013-10-09T02:47:15.833Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! That's exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for!

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2013-10-15T21:18:21.025Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm trying to find a post by Eliezer where he comments that people who want to believe something will arguing that believing it isn't forbidden, while people who don't want to believe something will argue that believing it isn't required. Does anyone know what post I'm talking about?

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-10-16T01:39:00.460Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is most likely the one you're thinking of.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2013-10-16T02:49:05.588Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Close. But I think there may have been something in that sequence, closer to what I was thinking...

comment by Thomas · 2013-10-08T14:05:32.675Z · score: -13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

This XKCD guy, very popular here, is wrong again:

http://what-if.xkcd.com/58/

Reaching orbital speed takes much more fuel than reaching orbital height.

Hogwash.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-10-08T22:33:55.445Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoted for calling math 'hogwash' without pointing out a math error.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-10-08T14:32:44.900Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Taking his 8km/sec speed and 100km height as accurate, the energy to lift one kilogram that high on a ballistic arc (ignoring air resistance and the motion of the Earth's surface) is mgh = 1kg100km \ (1000m/km) * (10 m/s^2) =1e6 J. The energy to accelerate it to orbital speed is 0.5mv^2 = 0.5*1kg*(8000m/s)^2 = 32e6 J. First pass, then, his reasoning seems accurate. Am I oversimplifying? What is your calculation?

comment by Thomas · 2013-10-08T16:32:00.140Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The most fuel is spent relatively low in the atmosphere. For Saturn V or for Space Shuttle, doesn't matter.

With just a fraction of the whole Saturn V mass in Earth's orbit, Apollo managed to:

1 - accelerate to the Moon - from 8 to 10 km/s

2 - decelerate to Moon orbit - from 10 to 2 km/s

3 - land on the Moon

4 - orbit the Moon again

5 - accelerate to 10 km/s again

6 - re-orbit the Earth

7 - break for the reentry

The ideal numbers this guy is still using are useless.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-09T16:20:08.364Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You'd probably have greater success challenging the "XKCD guy's" assumptions if you adopted a less belligerent tone. I don't know nearly enough to verify who's right here, but some things that strike me as questionable:

The most fuel is spent relatively low in the atmosphere.

This is consistent with most fuel going into producing kinetic energy.

1 - accelerate to the Moon - from 8 to 10 km/s

Generate a delta-v a fraction of the one you needed to reach orbit, in vacuum, with an engine with a higher specific impulse than that of the Saturn V's first stage, for a small fraction of the launch mass. Yep, shouldn't take that big of a rocket.

2 - decelerate to Moon orbit - from 10 to 2 km/s

It is seriously more complicated than that. Same for returning to Earth orbit.

comment by ZankerH · 2013-10-11T17:10:36.743Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So, in other words, you've just discovered a fascinating physical law that says bodies of higher mass require more energy to accelerate?

The key point here is the delta-V budget, not fuel expenditure.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-08T14:49:54.192Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Reaching orbital speed takes much more fuel than reaching orbital height.

Hogwash.

Explain. The XKCD guy is usually quite competent at what he does. Are you sure that you are talking about the same thing as he is? If so, what precisely is his mistake?