Traditions and Rationality.

post by NatashaRostova · 2016-12-10T05:08:09.506Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 38 comments

A couple months ago I read a post on facebook about how perhaps more young female virgins should sell their virginity, if they receive a lot of money. It was based on this article about a young women selling her virginity for 120k.


What bugs me is these cases are often lazy in assuming there aren't incredibly complex systems lurking behind these simple calculations. 

 


If you wanted to be rational about this, you could map your perception of this story to dollars, take the situation as well specified, and estimate what a women ought to do (or at least seriously consider) given those circumstances. For the sake of argument let's assume that the news story is totally accurate, and it's a real decision that is available to all young women. Given this, would this analysis robust?


[Edit: Daniel_Burfoot makes a fair point that I shouldn't cite facebook posts as they are supposed to have a semblance of privacy. Since my argument doesn't rely on the specific post made by EY, I abstracted it away. This is why his name is in the comments.]


About 53 years ago Karl Popper wrote about the hostility between tradition and rationality in an essay in Conjectures and Refutations. In a passage that could have come from Less Wrong he wrote “There is a traditional hostility between rationalism and traditionalism. Rationalists are inclined to adopt the attitude: 'I am not interested in tradition. I want to judge everything on its own merits; I want to find out its merits and demerits, and I want to do this quite independently of any tradition. I want to judge it with my own brain, and not with the brains of other people who lived long ago.'”


That's kinda the tone set by some rationalists. Actually, I think more often than not it's the right way to study certain problems in rationality. Does it always work though? I'm skeptical.


Popper framed this problem as rationalists vs. traditionalists. He didn't claim to know the answer or take a side, but did argue that rationalists were sometimes too dismissive of traditional without at least critically examining it. What even is tradition though? Well, about 31 years after Popper's article a Computer Scientist, R. G. Reynolds, wrote a paper on culture as an algorithm. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's an accepted model for the crowd reading this argument. Based on my own casual observations of culture, it's easy (or at least feels easy) to intuitively understand why some cultural rules are formed. It's particularly nice when it's based on something hidden at the time, which we directly observe in the future, like how pork is forbidden by some religions, which we now know is due to trichinosis caused by parasites in pork.


Sometimes it's harder. The evolution of sexual norms is complicated. It appears to be the lowest level code both genetically and culturally. If you pull on a string you never really know what's going to happen. It seems a reasonable claim that the distributed filtering method of a cultural algorithm could, in theory, optimize over norms and dimensions that are too complicated for us to intuit or hold in our heads. I don't want to come across as too nihilistic though, once we figure out that female genital mutilation is horrible, we should encourage people to stop (that is its own challenge).


Sometimes these algorithms run crazy weird experiments. I was on vacation last year visiting the Yucatan state in Mexico, and saw the sacrificial wells of Chichen Itza. I don't remember their specific rules, but they'd drown a young virgin to encourage rain for their crops. What is creepy is that it is a very rational and reasonable experiment, even though they weren't acutely aware they were running an experiment. If killing a single person could have a low chance of improving the rain, well you need to do it or test it. At least until you're sure it doesn't work. And, hey, life is weird enough. If sacrificing people had some impact on the cosmos it wouldn't have been that much weirder than volcanoes. At least at the time. My point is there are some intensely complex dynamics at play that might be hidden to our brains.


Thinking through this stuff is hard sometimes, because we view ourselves as having an unclouded vision of sexuality as we contrast ourselves to basically everyone else who isn't a well educated person living on the West Coast of the U.S. in 2016 (and if not with us geographically, with us in spirit). And again, I'm not trying to take some post-colonialist (I can't believe I used that term) view that 'all cultures are equally valid.' If we view gay marriage or acceptance as an experiment, the prediction that “nothing bad will happen except lots of people will be happier, with some who won't be at first but will eventually move on” seems to have been the right prediction.


If everyone adopted the Less Wrong framework would sexuality drastically change? Or are we a heterogeneous group who self-selected into this because we are more capable than most to reprogram our brain? Or a hard-to-predict combination of the two?

I suspect, even if we've never considered it, we all have some hard barriers in our brain that we wouldn't cross. Most people seem to be programmed to find incest repulsive. Obviously some edge cases have existed that can override that programming, but I doubt most people could, even if they wanted to (whatever that means).


The point I'm trying to get to is we don't fully understand the limits of human rational analysis towards sex and other biological constraints. There could be strange societal unintended consequences If there was an experimental shift towards more young women selling their bodies. We don't know how their families would react on an aggregate scale.We can still ask if it's an experiment worth advocating for, as a society, but is it?


We don't know exactly why there was a cultural algorithm developed for us to want to protect our young daughters from prostitution. If a tradition intuitively sounds outdated and can be overridden by rationalist analysis, maybe it is, or maybe there is a level of complexity with societal equilibrium we are completely unable to predict. We shouldn't have hubris when dismissing tradition as clearly outdated, clearly wrong, clearly beneath us.


38 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by math_viking · 2016-12-10T09:12:00.444Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I thought contributors here tended to keep in mind ideas like Chesterton's Fence and "building institutions is hard." But I think it's important to recognize that just because people should have the right do something, doesn't mean it's good to encourage that thing. People shouldn't feel forced or trapped in unhappy marriages, but it's also not good for kids (particularly poor kids) and in some cases even the parents if we provide incentives to have lots of single parent homes.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2016-12-10T19:04:33.983Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

As a general point of internet etiquette, you should probably avoid reposting and/or citing comments people make on Facebook. Facebook is supposed to have a semblance of privacy; it's supposed to be a place where you can make joking, half-baked comments to your friends without worrying that someone on the internet is going to call you out for it.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-12T16:05:50.892Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Facebook is supposed to have a semblance of privacy

Whaaaaa..?

That looks to me like a fundamental misunderstanding of teh intertubes and, of course, FB itself.

Netiquette has rules about what/how/when you could repost, but that doesn't mean that FB has any kind of privacy.

comment by roystgnr · 2016-12-14T14:50:36.296Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Facebook has privacy settings, such that anyone who wants to limit their posts' direct visibility can.

Whether you should take someone else's settings as explicit consent should probably vary from person to person, but I think the "if he didn't want it to be widely seen he wouldn't have set it up to be widely seen" heuristic is probably accurate when applied to EY, even if it's not applicable to every Joe Grandpa.

Even in the Joe Grandpa case, it doesn't seem like merely avoiding citing and moving on is a good solution. If you truly fear that someone is sharing more to the world than they intend to, the kind thing to do is inform them and help them fix it, not ignore them and pray that everyone else who stumbles upon it shares your sense of decorum.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-14T20:05:35.169Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

EY was explicit about him posting certain views to facebook instead of posting them to LW because of the reputational cost that comes from him posting far-out ideas on LW. That why he deleted his last big post (the 1st april post).

comment by NatashaRostova · 2016-12-10T20:12:00.165Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Good point. I agree. I think the point I was making could be abstracted away from it anyway, so I edited my post accordingly.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-10T18:17:46.664Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

When talking about charged issues it's useful to be precise.

EY argued two points: 1) There shouldn't be a law that forbids this outside of Nevada. 2) There are woman for whom doing this would be a good move and who might not be thinking enough about the possibilities.

He didn't argue (3) "There should be a social norm that every woman should do this". You are lazy when you don't argue against (1) or (2) but argue (3). You argue against an argument that wasn't made. Is it because you feel like you have no good arguments against the positions that were argued by EY?

We don't know how their families would react on an aggregate scale.

Why do you think that the opinions of parents about the sexual habits of their children should be important? That's like arguing homosexuality is bad because quite often parents don't like it when their children come out as homosexual.

comment by NatashaRostova · 2016-12-10T20:11:21.053Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I want to address your specific points, but let me first clarify what I'm not saying: I'm not saying it's necessarily a bad move, EY might be right that it's good and should be considered. Maybe it's true that the sexual habits of children are unimportant to parents, and if we reach a world where they are no longer considered that would be a better one. It's also probably true that all things constant, laws that forbid this type of prostitution hurt more people than they help by building black markets. I am not disagreeing with him on any of those points.

I'm trying to make a much more subtle point, which is that when thinking through the possibilities we are often unable to decompose or understand some tradition, which doesn't mean it isn't still founded on a real and still actively useful reason.

To go back to why parents should care about the sexual habits of their children, I don't think what I personally think matters. I think the reason parents care is due to very complex set of evolutionary and cultural systems, and they may be outdated and ready for us all to move past, or they may be achieving a purpose we aren't aware of. I don't think I can just invoke some philosophy and state "Based on my moral tenants of individual rights parents ought not to care about their children's sexuality." I think it's a question of measurement and the pros/cons of a counterfactual world where they care less or more, and how that turns out.

I agree that in the past it seemed to be common to be unhappy (to understate it) if your child was homosexual, and the world seems better the more accepting parents are of their gay children. But I don' think that's sufficient evidence to predict they shouldn't ever care.

In the "10,000 Year Explosion" Greg Cochran tracks how small selection pressures between genetics and culture resulted in crazy different outcomes for Ashkenaz Jews. It is possible small tweaks to complex systems can have outcomes nearly impossible to predict.

To go back to your point 2, as you note '[He] argues that there are women for whom doing this might be a good move, and aren't thinking enough about the possibility." That's what I was trying to disagree with. For some reason they aren't considering it, there is a taboo or a cultural more that blocks them from consideration. It could be true that this is based on an outdated view of sexual morality, and all would be better if it were removed. That, honestly, could be the case. It could also be true that there is a good reason, but it's embedded in this complex cultural system that doesn't reveal itself to us. The point I wanted to make was that we need to be very careful when decomposing tradition, because it's built on a complex system that makes understanding our impulses and societal moral institutions very hard.

Thanks for your comment though. I agree with you that I could have been clearer, and was not sufficiently charitable in arguing against and for his simpler and best points, and didn't expand on the scenarios where he could be right, and the points I agreed with. I didn't intend to make it seem as though he suggested all women should be considering this, but I do agree that's how it came across. I'm trying to improve as a writer, so I do sincerely appreciate your feedback.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-10T20:39:54.826Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe it's true that the sexual habits of children are unimportant to parents

I'm not saying that there are no parents who care about the fact that their children aren't homosexual or that it's unimportant to them.

It seems to me like homosexuality is a much better example if you are sincere about exploring how traditional morality has advantages then deciding how a woman spends single day of her life. Yes, the woman might be more independent if she self funds university then being dependent on her parents funding her but the fact that homosexuals don't pass on their genes to their children mean that parents don't pass on their genes to grandchildren.

Instead of being clear and making that argument you talk about weird rationalists who are strange.

That's what I was trying to disagree with. For some reason they aren't considering it, there is a taboo or a cultural more that blocks them from consideration.

It seems like you don't treat woman as individual people instead of some general abstract group. It possible that a rationalist woman who reads the post makes the decision that her life is better of if she makes the choice.

The post doesn't say that any such woman should make the choice but just raises the awareness about the fact that it's a possible choice.

Pointing to possible actions that individuals can take that have the possibility to produce massive value for the person is a good habit.

Thanks for your comment though. I agree with you that I could have been clearer, and was not sufficiently charitable in arguing against and for his simpler and best points

Not being charitable in arguing against and for his simpler and best points is especially problematic given the privacy violation of taking a statement from facebook into a more public forum.

comment by sen · 2016-12-11T13:33:50.792Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It seems like you don't treat woman as individual people instead of some general abstract group.

No kidding.

The whole point of the thread is to point out that humanity rationality might be better than human rationality in certain cases, and that we should be careful when throwing one out the window in favor of the other. Talking about people in the aggregate is unavoidable.

comment by NatashaRostova · 2016-12-10T21:16:48.919Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't really understand what you're trying to say about homosexuality. I don't want to explore how traditional morality has advantages, because that's a hard question and not something I have any reason to think I'd be all that good at. I do think that morality and tradition is complicated, so we have to be careful not to assume that we can reason through or against certain phenomena.

It's always awkward talking about complex systems involving humans, because either you abstract away from individuals or you never talk about them. It's even more difficult when trying to discuss why an individual should/shouldn't take some self-interested action based on how other people may react, based on other peoples traditional views, which may be sensible or may be insane. Over time we enter an equilibrium based on the costs/benefits an abstract community places on certain actions. So, I think, the question becomes are individuals responsible for trying to keep a good equilibrium in place? And is it possible to easily predict how shifts will change the equilibrium for better or worse? I don't know the answer to that, or that there even is an answer.

I get the point you're making, and it's an important one that I did not address, and thinking back I should have thought about it and admitted I don't know the answer. That at the individual level people should weight their own cost/benefit with respect to their own life, not as part of some abstract group.

To your final point, I edited my post based on Daniel's comment to remove the facebook link. I didn't see it as a privacy violation, but since people think it's bad etiquette I'm happy to adjust.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-11T21:23:28.355Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think the progressive default is that individuals don't have the burden to lead their sex lives in way their family approves of.

When you present "We don't know how their families would react on an aggregate scale" as an argument you question that progressive default.

Homosexuality is as good of an example where parents can object to the sexual habits of their children as this example is.

So, I think, the question becomes are individuals responsible for trying to keep a good equilibrium in place?

I do think it makes sense to follow clearly beneficial social norms for the sake of society as a whole.

In this case you don't make any specific case of why the social norm is worth protecting and a huge part of why the norm exists is due reasons that became obsolete with the introduction of birth control.

I don't want to explore how traditional morality has advantages, because that's a hard question and not something I have any reason to think I'd be all that good at.

Isn't your whole post about how rationality leads to the violation of the morality that traditions prescribe?

comment by NatashaRostova · 2016-12-13T20:43:06.719Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You're not saying my post was homophobic, are you? I don't think anyone here has been homophobic, or close.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-13T18:21:03.687Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Even in that the case it's bad form to bring up an example from Facebook that's also outside the Overton window.

comment by gjm · 2016-12-13T15:17:16.330Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

LW generally isn't in the business of forbidding content. Some kinds of content that the readership strongly dislikes get downvoted into oblivion -- except that at the moment downvoting is disabled, as an interim measure against one person who has lots of sockpuppets and uses them aggressively against people whose politics he doesn't like.

But what, in particular, are you suggesting should be forbidden?

(... I'm taking your comment at face value, but I wonder whether perhaps this is some sort of false-flag thing. LW's leftist/SJish contingent has not hitherto been much interested in banning things here.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-13T18:22:32.635Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(... I'm taking your comment at face value, but I wonder whether perhaps this is some sort of false-flag thing.

Given the username it seems pretty clear that it's not a sincere comment.

comment by Bound_up · 2016-12-10T15:28:30.512Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think there are sufficiently obvious reasons that no longer apply for traditional sexual mores that most rationalists think they understand why the fence is there, and see why it's now worth removing.

Lack of birth control and danger of sickness are now trivial concerns, so there is less reason for traditional sexual mores.

comment by Viliam · 2016-12-12T10:22:04.230Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Lack of birth control and danger of sickness are now trivial concerns, so there is less reason for traditional sexual mores.

For the people who don't want to have children, and who won't change their minds later, maybe this is indeed the whole story.

For the rest of us, it's a bit more complicated. It could be politically difficult to discuss, because male sexuality is nowadays usually shamed or dismissed as "patriarchy", but the short version is that many men have a preference for things that in the ancient evolutionary environment would be evidence that the child is biologically theirs... and let's just say that a history of sex with strangers for money feels like an evidence in the opposite direction.

RE: danger of sickness being a trivial concern, let me look at Wikipedia:

Genital HPV infections have an estimated prevalence in the US of 10–20% and clinical manifestations in 1% of the sexually active adult population. (...) About 80% of those infected are between the ages of 17–33. Although treatments can remove the warts, they do not remove the HPV, so warts can recur after treatment (about 50–73% of the time). Warts can also spontaneously regress (with or without treatment).

Certainly better than dying, but some people may feel like their lives (including their sexual lives) would be better without having itchy genitals.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2016-12-13T23:08:15.382Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For the rest of us, it's a bit more complicated. It could be politically difficult to discuss, because male sexuality is nowadays usually shamed or dismissed as "patriarchy", but the short version is that many men have a preference for things that in the ancient evolutionary environment would be evidence that the child is biologically theirs... and let's just say that a history of sex with strangers for money feels like an evidence in the opposite direction.

But, if some men have a politically incorrect preference for virgins, how is a history of whoreing any different from a history of casual sex?

comment by Viliam · 2016-12-14T10:42:42.961Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There seems to be a general rule that interactions involving money feel different than interactions not involving money. Not sure what exactly is the mechanism of the underlying feelings.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-14T15:39:17.515Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

An interesting point. Off the top of my head I would probably say that money interactions are associated with interactions with strangers, while no-money ones are associated with family/friends, but I'm not sure about this.

comment by Viliam · 2016-12-15T13:20:34.627Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, it's about whether the transaction has (also) a social dimension, or whether it is the kind of interaction we do with faceless strangers.

It would be misleading to try divide the transaction into economical and non-economical. Because many social interactions are on some level economical, at least in a wider sense of the word. We build relationships with people, because we expect to get some value back, but there are many different types of value. People can provide goods (food) or services (advice, emotional support, babysitting); either on regular basis on in case of emergency (i.e. insurance).

But by interacting with someone socially, we accumulate social capital in form of "things we could reasonably expect from these people in the future". It's the difference between "what you can expect from your friend" and "what you can expect from a random stranger" that we build when we build a friendship. If today I bring you a plate of my home-made cookies, and tomorrow you bring me a plate of your home-made cookies, on the economical level it balances out, but on social level we both gained something.

On one hand, there needs to be a balance: despite the plate of cookies nominally being a gift, if I keep bringing you the cookies and you never reciprocate in any form, I will probably stop bringing you the cookies, and probably also stop trying to initiate other forms of social interaction. But when a balance is achieved, both sides gain an information that "the other side is able and willing to engage in social interactions with me". This opens a door to more complex interactions between us in the future. The fact that you reciprocated my gift of cookies is a Bayesian evidence that if tomorrow you borrow my hammer, you are likely to return it; and for the same reasons, if I need a hammer, it will be less awkward to ask you for help, than to ask a person I don't have such history of interactions with. Today a cookie, tomorrow a hammer, next year it could be a car; as long as neither of us breaks this chain of mutual trust, or we reach a level where one of us is not comfortable with going further.

With money, the general rule is that the money captures all value of the transaction, now. If I sell you cookies, and I see that you like them too much, the price goes up. If a competitor starts selling better or cheaper cookies next door, you stop buying my cookies. If you prefer my cookies to my competitor's cookies, e.g. because based on previous experience you believe I am more careful at baking them, or because you like my face, then again, the price goes up. I am trying to capture all the value of my cookies, because even if I wouldn't, you would have no obligation to cooperate with me tomorrow.

(And yeah, some companies try to subvert this process using various tricks such as member cards. Which only proves that these relations are supposed to be one-off by default.)

Back to the cookies example: if I sometimes give you a plate of cookies, and you sometimes give me a plate of cookies, the balance doesn't have to be exact. Maybe one of us brings the cookies more often. Maybe one of us bakes better cookie. As long as the perceived value of having the social relationship exceeds the differences in the cookies, it's okay. So, within certain limits, the exact value of the cookies remains unknown.

But if I'll try to sell you the plate of cookies for $5, you will judge harshly whether $5 is the right price, or whether you could buy the same kind of cookies for $4 at next door. Now the exact value of cookies is explicitly debated and made public knowledge.

...returning to the original example, once a girl sells her virginity for $120k, it becomes public knowledge that the value of her virginity is $120k and not a penny more. Now we have an anchor for further thinking about sex with her. Actually, maybe it is an upper bound of the value. It shows that there was exactly one customer willing to pay $120k; but it also shows that other potential customers thought the price was too high. (We don't even know whether the customer was satisfied afterwards.) How many potential candidates there were (i.e. how many heterosexual men have heard the offer)? What did the bell curve of their perceptions of the value look like? It is subjective, so probably the variance was very high. Is it plausible that the average was e.g. $10k, and the $120k value was an outlier? How does the fact she is no longer a virgin change the value? Does it drop to a half, i.e. $5k? If I invite her for a date, what is the probability she will afterwards have sex with me? It's just one date and I am not trying too hard, so maybe 1%. Then, mathematically speaking, my total expenses for the date (the money paid, the value of my time, etc.) should not exceed $50. Hey, I am just taking publicly known information and making some Fermi estimates with it. But it seems like spending an hour dating the girl and buying her more than one Big Mac might be more than she's worth. (Btw, if I look attractive and give her an orgasm, do I get a discount? I mean, she also received some value from the interaction. Maybe she should also buy me a Big Mac.)

This could be the reason why many girls don't want to start this chain, and prefer to keep the whole "value of sex and other related interactions" deep in the realm of mystery and plausible deniability.

EDIT: And we could go even further than this. Would you marry this girl? Suppose that marriage means repeated sex, but also with the novelty gone, suppose the value of sex with her drops from $5k to maybe $500 or less per intercourse. On the other hand, she may be a great cook! You know that about 50% of marriages end up with divorce. You own a $200,000 house, and it is realistic to expect that in case of divorce she will get a half; or maybe not, but on the other hand, maybe you will have to pay her alimony. How often do you expect to have sex with her after the wedding? You should be aware that it is in her interest to try to exaggerate this number, but after the wedding she has no obligation to make it greater than zero, and there is nothing you can legally do about it. All numbers considered, how do you feel about rationality of this transaction?

Again, it's better not to go there, and keep the whole thing in the realm of social interactions. But it takes two to tango. Let's say you prefer the long-term building of social capital. Does she, though? What is your evidence in either direction? "All I know is she sold her virginity on eBay." Uhm, let me think about it for a minute...

(Disclaimer: Just in case it isn't obvious, there are also things men can do that can irrepairably fuck up their value on the dating market. But here I react to a specific proposal aimed at women.)

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-15T17:32:08.843Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

on the economical level it balances out, but on social level we both gained something

Yep. You basically gained trust and goodwill.

But I'm not sure that the defining characteristic of money transactions is that the money captures all the value. I have a feeling it has more to do with establishing (or not) some obligation for the future.

If you come to my door with a plate of cookies, by accepting it I signal that (1) I am willing to enter into a social relationship with you and (2) I now have a tiny social debt to you. Rejecting a gift is rejecting an offer of a relationship, that's why it's an insult in most cultures.

Notice, however, that all this does not apply when money is involved. If I buy something for money, I neither enter a relationship, nor incur a social debt. It's a transaction without first-order social consequences.

once a girl sells her virginity for $120k, it becomes public knowledge that the value of her virginity is $120k and not a penny more

I don't know about that. It's an illiquid market for an idiosyncratic good, not sure you can trust the values to be exact X-D A more important point is that it's a consumption good so its value post-sale is irrelevant: it does not exist any more.

I think the issue has more to do with the concept of things (and services :-D) that money can't buy. If you look at it from meta heights, this concept functions as a limit on the power of money in a society. If you can buy everything, a sufficiently rich person can have everything. But if there are things money can't buy, the power of the super-rich is constrained. This operates on both the legal level and the Overton window levelsl.

It would be wise to think carefully about consequences before saddling up to go tear down that constraint.

comment by Viliam · 2016-12-16T09:52:22.190Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Another funny detail is that -- although not everyone agrees with this -- when something is in the category "a service provided for money to strangers", various anti-discrimination laws can apply.

Like, if I bring cookies to some randomly selected neighbors, but I "coincidentally" ignore all black people... people may notice, but there is nothing they could legally do about it. On the other hand, if I start selling the cookies on the street, and then refuse to sell them to black people, there may be a problem.

Similarly, a girl who dates a few guys who all happen to be white is nothing to be debated. But if she happens to have a prejudice against black guys, and she publicly offers to provide sex for money, and a black customer shows interest in the offer, and she refuses... it could become quite interesting, if the offended customer decides to take legal action. (Or, what if the customer is a lesbian?)

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-16T16:18:49.331Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

when something is in the category "a service provided for money to strangers", various anti-discrimination laws can apply.

Depends on the local laws, obviously, but I don't think it's a function of "for money", instead it's a function of being a public business. To clarify, I believe that in the US a private club can discriminate as much as it wants -- it's perfectly legal for a private club to admit, say, only black Christian women under the age of 30. And the club can charge money for what it does. The critical difference is that it doesn't offer its services to the general public.

it could become quite interesting, if the offended customer decides to take legal action

So if the customer is a dick... X-D

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2016-12-15T02:53:53.578Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Except some people do sleep with strangers without charging money.

comment by CronoDAS · 2016-12-10T17:26:26.790Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's also this theory, which suggests that prostitution and marriage tend to be incompatible alternatives - prostitution is relatively lucrative because the marriage "market" provides a competing option that puts a floor on the prices women are willing to accept.

(Sorry about the paywalled article.)

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-12-11T17:16:23.840Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that this is the common "rationalist" attitude to this question, but I think it is nonetheless extremely naive. Rather like saying, "The dangers of drunk driving are sufficiently well known that we can solve them with the simple expedient of driving slowly when you are drunk."

comment by whpearson · 2016-12-10T09:58:49.441Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you abstract more you can see it as a case of selling a form of snake oil.

Should rationalists win at the expense of solidifying the irrationality of others?

On your point, I'm not sure I get what you mean by .

We don't know how their families would react on an aggregate scale

I think I would be more worried about solidifying the objectification of women in society as a whole.

comment by NatashaRostova · 2016-12-10T20:21:23.771Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah I should have phrased that better. It goes hand-in-hand with your last sentence. Lots of our impulses and feelings are based on a cultural programming that encourages us to build outcomes that's best for society.

I have a close friend for example who just finished his MD/PhD. He makes less money than all his peers who he went to Stanford (much less money) and works way harder hours. While his friends get piles of money and free lunches at Google, he sleeps on a cot in an old hospital with a broken AC unit doing 20 hour shifts. Why?!

Well, it's indisputable that his job is more prestigious. An MD/PhD at a top hospital in the world doing cancer research? That's about as high as you can go in terms of societal respect and prestige. We all were raised to understand his sacrifice, and as a result by entering that field he gets this 'bonus payment.' That bonus payment encourages our best and brightest to do really shitty things. Here we are able to decompose and understand why that's happening. Still, when he made the choice to get his MD/PhD I suspect he felt it was an individual choice, and it was, but it was also guided by this greater way society rewards him.

So why do women (and families) not want to go into or encourage prostitution? Surely they will get some benefit from it, but they avoid it because society places a huge cost in terms of shame/disappointment/self-hate. Now, maybe this is an outdated societal cost we're building, and it's time to try to get rid of it. That could totally be the case. But it could also be the case that this cost is serving a purpose that isn't obvious to us. You give one example that it could lead to more objectification, which societally we decide is bad.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-12-13T08:03:27.143Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Probably because adjectives are as bad as irregular verbs.

But then again, I think "variance" is a curiosity stopper.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-12T16:15:03.233Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There is a bog-standard libertarian argument against laws which prohibit consenting-adults activities. There is a bog-standard feminist argument that women can do whatever they please with their bodies ("Your body might be a temple, but mine is an amusement park"). So what exactly is the point EY is trying to make? I am doubtful he is dispassionately giving sage advice to young cute heterosexual female virgins :-/

Smells like trolling, man...

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-12T07:41:59.904Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You keep using this example in this thread, but you've never actually given the implied argument against this.

As far as argumentation goes, there's a difference between arguing with a person intellectually who thinks that traditionally morality has it's advantages and who's willing to argue the position and a person who says they believe tradition is important but who's only willing to point to examples generally considered weird.