On Enjoying Disagreeable Company

post by Alicorn · 2010-05-26T01:47:24.490Z · score: 52 (68 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 254 comments

Contents

  1. Reduce salience of disliked traits.
  2. Increase salience of positive traits.
  3. Reap consistency effects.
None
254 comments

Bears resemblance to: Ureshiku Naritai; A Suite of Pragmatic Considerations In Favor of Niceness

In this comment, I mentioned that I can like people on purpose.  At the behest of the recipients of my presentation on how to do so, I've written up in post form my tips on the subject.  I have not included, and will not include, any specific real-life examples (everything below is made up), because I am concerned that people who I like on purpose will be upset to find that this is the case, in spite of the fact that the liking (once generated) is entirely sincere.  If anyone would find more concreteness helpful, I'm willing to come up with brief fictional stories to cover this gap.

It is useful to like people.  For one thing, if you have to be around them, liking them makes this far more pleasant.  For another, well, they can often tell, and if they know you to like them this will often be instrumentally useful to you.  As such, it's very handy to be able to like someone you want to like deliberately when it doesn't happen by itself.  There are three basic components to liking someone on purpose.  First, reduce salience of the disliked traits by separating, recasting, and downplaying them; second, increase salience of positive traits by identifying, investigating, and admiring them; and third, behave in such a way as to reap consistency effects.

1. Reduce salience of disliked traits.

Identify the traits you don't like about the person - this might be a handful of irksome habits or a list as long as your arm of deep character flaws, but make sure you know what they are.  Notice that however immense a set of characteristics you generate, it's not the entire person.  ("Everything!!!!" is not an acceptable entry in this step.)  No person can be fully described by a list of things you have noticed about them.  Note, accordingly, that you dislike these things about the person; but that this does not logically entail disliking the person.  Put the list in a "box" - separate from how you will eventually evaluate the person.

When the person exhibits a characteristic, habit, or tendency you have on your list (or, probably just to aggravate you, turns out to have a new one), be on your guard immediately for the fundamental attribution error.  It is especially insidious when you already dislike the person, and so it's important to compensate consciously and directly for its influence.  Elevate to conscious thought an "attribution story", in which you consider a circumstance - not a character trait - which would explain this most recent example of bad behavior.1  This should be the most likely story you can come up with that doesn't resort to grumbling about how dreadful the person is - that is, don't resort to "Well, maybe he was brainwashed by Martians, but sheesh, how likely is that?"  Better would be "I know she was up late last night, and she does look a bit tired," or "Maybe that three-hour phone call he ended just now was about something terribly stressful."

Reach a little farther if you don't have this kind of information - "I'd probably act that way if I were coming down with a cold; I wonder if she's sick?" is an acceptable speculation even absent the least sniffle.  If you can, it's also a good idea to ask (earnestly, curiously, respectfully, kindly!  not accusatively, rudely, intrusively, belligerently!) why the person did whatever they did.  Rest assured that if their psyche is fairly normal, an explanation exists in their minds that doesn't boil down to "I'm a lousy excuse for a person who intrinsically does evil things just because it is my nature."  (Note, however, that not everyone can produce verbal self-justifications on demand.)  Whether you believe them or not, make sure you are aware of at least one circumstance-based explanation for what they did.

Notice which situations elicit more of the disliked behaviors than others.  Everybody has situations that bring out the worst in them, and when the worst is already getting on your nerves, you should avoid as much as possible letting any extra bubble to the surface.  If you have influence of any kind over which roles this person plays in your life (or in general), confine them to those in which their worst habits are irrelevant, mitigated, or local advantages of some kind.  Do not ask for a ride to the airport from someone who terrifies you with their speeding; don't propose splitting dessert with someone whose selfishness drives you up the wall; don't assign the procrastinator an urgent task.  Do ask the speeder to make a quick run to the bank before it closes while you're (ever so inconveniently) stuck at home; do give the selfish person tasks where they work on commission; do give the procrastinator things to do that they'll interpret as ways to put off their other work.

2. Increase salience of positive traits.

Don't look at me like that.  There is something.  It's okay to grasp at straws a little to start.  You do not have to wait to like someone until you discover the millions of dollars they donate to mitigating existential risk or learn that their pseudonym is the name of your favorite musician.  You can like their cool haircut, or the way they phrased that one sentence the other week, or even their shoes.  You can appreciate that they've undergone more hardship than you (if they have, but be generous in interpreting "more" when comparing incommensurate difficulties) - even if you don't think they've handled it that well, well, it was hard.  You can acknowledge that they are better than you, or than baseline, or than any one person who you already like, at some skill or in some sphere of achievement.  You can think they did a good job of picking out their furniture, or loan them halo effect from a relative or friend of theirs who you think is okay.  There is something.

Learn more about the likable things you have discovered.  "Catch them in the act" of showing off one of these fine qualities.  As a corollary to the bit above about not putting them in roles that bring out their worst, try to put them in situations where they're at their best.  Set them up to succeed, both absolutely and in your eyes.  Speak to any available mutual friends about what more there is to like - learn how the person makes friends, what attracts people to them, what people get out of associating with them.  Solicit stories about the excellent deeds of the target person.  Collect material like you're a biographer terrified of being sued for libel and dreading coming in under page count: you need to know all the nice things there are to know.

It is absolutely essential throughout this process to cultivate admiration, not jealousy.  Jealousy and resentment are absolutely counterproductive, while admiration and respect - however grudging - are steps in the right direction.  Additionally, you are trying to use  these features of the person.  It will not further your goals if you discount their importance in the grand scheme of things.  Do not think, "She has such pretty hair, why does she get such pretty hair when she doesn't deserve it since she's such an awful person?  Grrr!"  Instead, "She has such pretty hair.  It's gorgeous to look at and that makes her nice to have around.  I wonder if she has time to teach me how to do my hair like that."  Or instead of: "Sure, he can speak Latin, but what the hell use is Latin?  Does he think we're going to be invaded by legionaries and need him to be a diplomat?" it would be more useful towards the project of liking to think, "Most people don't have the patience and dedication to learn any second language, and it only makes it harder to pick one where there aren't native speakers available to help teach the finer points.  I bet a lot of effort went into this."

3. Reap consistency effects.

Take care to be kind and considerate to the person.  The odds are pretty good that there is something they don't like about you (rubbing someone the wrong way is more often bidirectional than not).  If you can figure out what it is, and do less of it - at least around them - you will collect cognitive dissonance that you can use to nudge yourself to like the person.  I mean, otherwise, why would you go to the trouble of not tapping your fingers around them, or making sure to pronounce their complicated name correctly, or remembering what they're allergic to so you can avoid bringing in food suitable for everyone but them?  That's the sort of thing you do when you care how they feel, and if you care how they feel, you must like them at least a little.  (Note failure mode: if you discover that something you do annoys them, and you respond with resentment that they have such an unreasonable preference about such a deeply held part of your identity and how dare they!, you're doing it wrong.  The point isn't to completely make yourself over to be their ideal friend.  You don't have to do everything.  But do something.)

Seek to spend time around the person.  This should drop pretty naturally out of the above steps: you need to acquire all this information from somewhere, after all.  But seek their opinions on things, especially their areas of expertise and favorite topics; make small talk; ask after their projects, their interests, their loved ones; choose to hang out in rooms they occupy even if you never interact.  (Note failure mode: Don't do this if you can feel yourself hating them more every minute you spend together or if you find it stressful enough to inhibit the above mental exercises.  It is better to do more work on liking them from a distance if you are at this stage, then later move on to seeking to spend time with them.  Also, if you annoy them, don't do anything that could be characterized as pestering them or following them around.)

Try to learn something from the person - by example, if they aren't interested in teaching you, or directly, if they are.  It is possible to learn even from people who don't have significantly better skills than you.  If they tell stories about things they've done, you can learn from their mistakes; if they are worse than you at a skill but use an approach to it that you haven't tried, you can learn how to use it; if nothing else, they know things about themselves, and that information is highly useful for the project of liking them, as discussed above.  Put what you know about them into the context of their own perspective.

Note general failure mode: It would be fairly easy, using facsimiles of the strategy above, to develop smugness, self-righteousness, arrogance, and other unseemly attitudes.  Beware if your inner monologue begins to sound something like "He's gone and broken the sink again, but I'm too good and tolerant to be angry.  It wouldn't do any good to express my displeasure - after all, he can't take criticism, not that I judge him for this, of course.  I'll be sure to put a note on the faucet and call the plumber to cover for his failure to do so, rather than nagging him to do it, as I know he'd fly off the handle if I reminded him - it's just not everyone's gift to accept such things, as it is mine, and as I am doing, right now, with him, by not being upset..."

This monologuer does not like the sink-breaker.  This monologuer holds him in contempt, and thinks very highly of herself for keeping this contempt ostensibly private (although it's entirely possible that he can tell anyway).  She tolerates his company because it would be beneath her not to; she doesn't enjoy having him around because she realizes that he has useful insights on relevant topics or even because he's decorative in some way.  If you don't wind up really, genuinely, sincerely liking the person you set out to like, you are doing it wrong.  This is not a credit to your high-mindedness, and thinking it is will not help you win.

 

1 A good time to practice this habit is when in a car.  Make up stories about the traffic misbehaviors around you.  "The sun is so bright - she may not have seen me."  "That car sure looks old!  I probably wouldn't handle it even half as well, no wonder it keeps stalling."  "He's in a terrible hurry - I wonder if a relative of his is in trouble."  "Perhaps she's on her cellphone because she's a doctor, on call - it then would really be more dangerous on net if she didn't answer the thing while driving."  "He'd pull over if there were any place to do so, but there's no shoulder."  Of course any given one of these is probably not true.  But they make sense, and they are not about how everybody on the road is a maniac!  I stress that you are not to believe these stories.  You are merely to acknowledge that they are possibilities, to compensate for the deemphasis of hypotheses like this that the fundamental attribution error will prompt.

254 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by LauraABJ · 2010-05-26T15:27:58.470Z · score: 28 (34 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Dear Tech Support, Might I suggest that the entire Silas-Alicorn debate be moved to some meta-section. It has taken over the comments section of an instrumentally useful post, and may be preventing topical discussion.

comment by Maelin · 2010-05-26T19:56:56.885Z · score: 22 (22 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can somebody nonpartisan give us the Cliff's Notes of the whole mess? I tried reading it. Then I tried skimming it. It seems to rely on some whole pre-existing unpleasant dynamic between several commenters of which I am currently blissfully unaware, and it also looks quite seriously dull.

It also looks pretty damn childish, despite having lots of fun mature-sounding rationalist words. A silly playground arguments is still a silly playground argument.

Are we really going to do this kind of thing on LessWrong now? Nothing is going to turn away non-committed members quite like a huge load of tedious, irrelevent drama on a front page post. I myself am, at this moment, feeling a moderate urge to say "welp, looks like LW has gone to shit now, oh well, thanks internet drama," and I've been lurking here since the OB days.

It would take a lot of evidence to convince me that this shitstorm is going to end up being productive.

comment by mattnewport · 2010-05-26T20:00:07.965Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It also looks pretty damn childish, despite having lots of fun mature-sounding rationalist words. A silly playground arguments is still a silly playground argument.

Agreed. Post-grad vocabulary, pre-school behaviour.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T20:08:22.054Z · score: -3 (17 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't disagree. My goal in all of this is to make it so that Alicorn and I don't have to treat each other like enemies anymore -- so she can reply to my comments, and I to hers. To end this drama, in other words. And that really is the long and short of it.

For various reasons I'm having trouble understanding, Alicorn is committed to not relaxing her shunning of me. I consider this inconsistent of her and unproductive, for much the same reasons you give.

I would love for the hostility to end too, because it's pretty stupid that people can't publicly reply to each other on a message board. They should try to resolve past difference. ("You first" doesn't count as trying, IMHO.) It's not that I have a reason why I want to reply to Alicorns comments specifically; it's just that the whole charade of having to take circuitous routes to posting because of the presence of the other is just ... stupid.

If Alicorn and a mediator want to come to a (private, online) bargaining table so we can understand and settle our differences, great! That would take the talk off the main, and eliminate the basis for me calling Alicorn inconsistent.

Finding a mediator is the easy part. Getting my committment to such talks is easy too. All that's left is ...

comment by cupholder · 2010-05-26T21:16:14.435Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My goal in all of this is to make it so that Alicorn and I don't have to treat each other like enemies anymore -- so she can reply to my comments, and I to hers.

I would love for the hostility to end too, because it's pretty stupid that people can't publicly reply to each other on a message board.

I suspect I'll regret getting sucked into this topic, but curiosity forces me to ask: if you think Alicorn is acting unreasonably, why not just resume replying to her comments as and when you want? She doesn't have any special editor/moderator powers to prevent you from doing so, as far as I can tell.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T21:21:33.690Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why don't you ask all the other people who have been criticizing me what they think of this advice? Or check out the last time I tried that.

comment by cupholder · 2010-05-26T21:31:36.132Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why don't you ask all the other people who have been criticizing me what they think of this advice?

I don't (at least, not yet) have much interest in what they think of this advice, although I am curious about what they did when you tried it. So if you have a link to what happened 'last time,' I'll check it out.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T21:39:34.701Z · score: -5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I made my previous comment because of the unfortunate tendency in this discussion for several people to give me contradictory "obvious" advice, and rather than justifying contradictory positions to each of them, I've been content to just point out the kafkaesque standards I'm being held to.

As for the 'last time', I've linked this several times, but here you go. Notice how unpunished the good deeds go.

comment by cupholder · 2010-05-26T22:01:41.380Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I made my previous comment because of the unfortunate tendency in this discussion for several people to give me contradictory "obvious" advice, and rather than justifying contradictory positions to each of them, I've been content to just point out the kafkaesque standards I'm being held to.

OK.

As for the 'last time', I've linked this several times,

I wasn't around for the past iterations of this discussion, and I haven't read the entirety of its latest iteration under this top-level post, so I probably missed it. If you're fed up with people prompting you to link it, I'm sorry; I hadn't realized you'd been repeatedly prompted to link it.

but here you go. Notice how unpunished the good deeds go.

Reading.

Edit - I've now read the thread, and I have some thoughts, but they're not urgent and I get the feeling you're not much interested in advice/rationalizations of advice, so I'll bite my tongue.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T21:40:11.336Z · score: 3 (15 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Futilely request rational explanation for downmod.

comment by Bo102010 · 2010-05-27T01:29:58.646Z · score: 13 (19 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Quit posting on this subject. Please. I didn't downvote you, but I will downvote any more posts on the topic by anyone.

comment by Violet · 2010-05-26T20:39:16.293Z · score: 4 (16 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The whole affair smells quite a lot like harassment and someone not being content when asked to stop.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T20:56:57.526Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Who not being content when asked to stop? Me, or Alicorn?

First link:

[Alicorn:] Since at least one person seems to agree with you, I'm genuinely curious now. Assuming I'm correct in detecting sarcasm there, can you elaborate?

[Me:] [No, because ...]

[Alicorn:] [Do it anyway.]

Later, in the second link:

[Alicorn:] Let me clarify: you think I'm immature, almost constantly in error, you won't explain my failures in enough [!] detail for me to make use of the information even when I ask, [!] [emphasis added]


It's clear to me that what's going on is:

1) Alicorn wanted me to explain something to her that had a lot of emotional significance.

2) I refused.

3) Alicorn kept asking.

4) Finally finding herself on the receiving end in one of these situations, she seeks to "get back" by withholding her replies from me.

But I'm sure there are other interpretations. In any case, whatever you might say of me at least Alicorn was being "excessively persistent" when asked to stop ... well, at least by the standards she expects out of everyone else.

comment by cousin_it · 2010-05-26T15:45:15.973Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seconded.

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-05-26T20:47:27.324Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thirded.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2010-05-26T22:20:16.520Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fourthed.

comment by Bindbreaker · 2010-05-27T20:59:33.492Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fifthed.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T18:16:58.095Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Who found the post useful? Alicorn didn't.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-05-26T18:21:37.481Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ok. I've just downvoted you for at this point borderline trolling. There are lot of people here who aren't Alicorn. I'm not going to bother discussing your claim that Alicorn didn't benefit from this since there's already enough people wasting time on that in your main subthread. So I'll simply note that I am at least one person who found Alicorn's post very useful. I've used a technique much like what Alicorn layed out here but she makes multiple points that a) allow me to consciously understand what I'm doing better and b) to improve on some aspects of that technique.

Since there are 30 upvotes for the post, I'm pretty sure that multiple other people found this useful (it is possible that some of those votes are due to perceived status but given the anonymous nature of upvoting it seems unlikely that more than a few of them are).

Please stop damaging the signal to noise ratio.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T18:26:05.883Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Comment deleted, it was not the right place to register such disagreement.

Still, you gotta admit it gave you a chance to jump on the bandwagon, get a little more karma, right? ;-)

comment by JRMayne · 2010-05-27T04:58:59.489Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure I want to like more people all that much.

I have a generally cheerful disposition, and I have no trouble with civility toward those I dislike. There have been people who clearly disliked me whom I thought well of nonetheless; I've met me, and I recognize this particular combination of attributes isn't to everyone's taste.

But I've never had a situation where I wanted to make an effort to like someone who I didn't like. I think the goals here are typically anti-productive, assuming reasonable socialization skills and some pre-existing friends.

It is useful to like people. For one thing, if you have to be around them, liking >them makes this far more pleasant. For another, well, they can often tell, and if >they know you to like them this will often be instrumentally useful to you.

Let's take a look at these advantages:

  1. More pleasant. Yes, true. Point well taken.

  2. Puppeteering. OK, maybe a bit too harsh, but "instrumentally useful," sounds like that. I certainly want people to do lots of things, but I don't usually trade in on personal relationships quite that way.

Disadvantages:

  1. Personal rot. There are qualities in people that it is unwise to overlook, because the cognitive dissonance is so strong. "He's fun, except for the light stealing," is not going to lead to healthy thinking. This is inevitably corrupting.

If you're admiring something that's interesting but maybe not admirable, you're changing yourself in some way that might not be good.

  1. Failure to change people a little tiny bit. Yeah, your view toward the other human is unlikely to change them a lot if they're adults, because people are bad at learning or attempting to learn new modes of socialization. (This is doubtless why Alicorn's posts on these topics are popular; the deliberate reinvention and aiming of self is both impressive and interesting. And quite rare.) But a little change might be brought about through social cues that recreational puppy-stomping is frowned on.

  2. A lot of effort that might be spent better elsewhere. Overall effort's not fixed, so you might gain extra effort points by doing this, but there's still got to be a net loss.

Premise rejection:

  1. People know more about themselves than you do. As far as experiences, yes, As far as who they are and what they are good at... maybe not.

Anyway, it's a very interesting post, much as I think it's a bad idea. I note that I was and remain a big fan of niceness in most circumstances and a big fan of the niceness post linked at the top of this one. I think this is dangerous step past that.

On a side note, I apologize for failing to honor the tone norm in this thread and addressing the post. For whatever reason, I found the post more interesting than the comment thread, which I gather was moved over from Gawker.

--JRM

comment by Alicorn · 2010-05-27T05:20:34.760Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Puppeteering. OK, maybe a bit too harsh, but "instrumentally useful," sounds like that. I certainly want people to do lots of things, but I don't usually trade in on personal relationships quite that way.

It is useful to me that my family buys me Christmas presents. This is because, every year, I receive items that it is good for me to have. This in no way diminishes the warmth, affection, and sincerity of the gifts. Similarly, the fact that it is useful to like people need not diminish the warmth, affection, and sincerity of that liking.

There are qualities in people that it is unwise to overlook, because the cognitive dissonance is so strong. "He's fun, except for the light stealing," is not going to lead to healthy thinking. This is inevitably corrupting.

I don't think you should overlook dangerous qualities. For instance, I know a guy who is basically diagnoseably psychotic. He is great to have as a friend because he supplies good music recommendations and has encyclopedic knowledge of the intricacies of D&D rules and how to break them, but I do not want him to know where I live. The fact that he will never get my address if I can help it doesn't prevent me from liking and appreciating his good qualities. (Incidentally, I don't like this guy "on purpose". He's quite amusing enough to be liked naturally. But I still wouldn't have him over for tea.)

Failure to change people a little tiny bit. Yeah, your view toward the other human is unlikely to change them a lot if they're adults, because people are bad at learning or attempting to learn new modes of socialization.

Liking people is not counterproductive to changing their changeable behaviors. If I like someone, and they're busily hoisting themselves by their own puppy-stomping petard, I will do my best to help them improve themselves. This is in their interests, which I will care about furthering because I like them. If someone I don't like is practicing net negative behaviors, I'm inclined to stand back and watch them go up in flames as the backlash hits. Do you have any stories about helping folks you don't like to be better people that you couldn't have managed if you'd liked them?

comment by JRMayne · 2010-05-27T15:19:41.891Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
  1. The usefulness may not reduce the sincerity of the liking, but it certainly reduces the depth. If Steve gives me stuff, and I like him because of that usefulness, and then Steve stops giving me stuff... JRM no more like Steve. Viewing friendships as exchanges isn't evil or wrong, but if it's usefulness that's the prime driver, that's a different sort of friendship than one I really want.

  2. There are qualities that are troublesome that aren't physically dangerous. Affiliating yourself mentally with people who don't care so much about the truth is likely to rub off. I'd like to think of myself as a particularly resilient and incorruptible person, but there's a certain necessary diligence to retain that self-view (which I believe is related to actual resilience and incorruptibility.)

  3. On liking people not being counterproductive to changing behaviors: You might be right. I was considering the (perhaps) increased willingness to tolerate troublesome behavior and the reward function of friendships coming to those who are troublesome in some serious way. It may depend on the people involved. Or I might just be wrong.

  4. I think when we look at petty problems to determine dislikes (She likes the mundane and stupid American Idol, while I like the brilliant and intellectual Top Chef), that is indeed counterproductive. But most of the limited number of people I take an active dislike to.... I don't want to try to be their friends. At all. And I think the world is a better place for my lack of trying.

  5. I think the more serious and common error is to put up with malfeasing people past the point it's reasonable. I also think people tend to trust statements from others overmuch, even when that person has a track record of untrustworthiness. For most, a post on "Staying Away From Hazardous Humans You Like," would be more beneficial.

--JRM

comment by Alicorn · 2010-05-27T17:41:13.400Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
  1. I don't think this necessarily follows. If Steve stops giving you stuff, he's still the guy who gave you stuff; you can still value him for the generosity/skill at picking out gifts/thoughtfulness/etc. that he exhibited then; and you can still think kindly of him whenever you use something he gave you.

  2. Can you go into more detail on how these things may rub off?

  3. :)

  4. I don't think you should be friends with everyone. But if you find that you do want to be friends with someone, it's good to be able to.

  5. I believe or disbelieve or am suspicious of statements by others for reasons other than how much I like them. (I do factor in my model of how much they like me, as I believe people are less likely to lie to people they like; but this doesn't affect their epistemic hygiene, their background knowledge, their skills at rationality, or their susceptibility to fallacy.)

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-05-27T17:46:42.208Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

(I do factor in my model of how much they like me, as I believe people are less likely to lie to people they like; but this doesn't affect their epistemic hygiene, their background knowledge, their skills at rationality, or their susceptibility to fallacy.)

I could conceive of situations where friends would be more likely to lie than strangers. A friend may lie about their actions if they care about your opinion of them and not care as much about the stranger's opinion of them.

However, it may very well be that people who I like practice better epistemic hygiene. Indeed, I've found simply being around people who are more careful thinkers forces one to switch into a more careful thinking mode, because if you don't, they'll tear you into little tiny pieces. However, that probably doesn't matter that much since detailed interaction can probably get you a better idea of how the person thinks more than this rough heuristic.

comment by HughRistik · 2010-05-27T05:41:34.993Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'll try to explain what I view as the advantages of liking people.

It's instrumentally useful to give people the perception that you like them: they are more likely to like you, and to want to cooperate with you. Probably the best way to give people the perception that you like them is to actually like them.

There are qualities in people that it is unwise to overlook, because the cognitive dissonance is so strong. "He's fun, except for the light stealing," is not going to lead to healthy thinking. This is inevitably corrupting.

Yes, I agree. As someone with high Agreeableness and Openness, I've been burned in the past for being too trusting of people. This tendency is why people with high Agreeableness need to learn certain skills (alluded to by SarahC, including a healthy amount of suspicion. Similarly, Disagreeable people may need to learn to be more trusting and open towards people. Otherwise, even though they might avoid getting burned, they might shortchange themselves on positive interactions and connections with people.

An emotionally Agreeable person applying cognitive cynicism, and an emotionally Disagreeable person applying cognitive openness, could have the same estimates of people's trustworthiness; they are just coming from different routes.

Anyway, it's a very interesting post, much as I think it's a bad idea. I note that I was and remain a big fan of niceness in most circumstances and a big fan of the niceness post linked at the top of this one. I think this is dangerous step past that.

Well, the best way to be nice is probably to genuinely like people. I agree with you that adopting such an attitude has risks; I just think that if you can mitigate those risks, an attitude of Agreeableness combined with some cognitive caution towards people and their motives, is a powerful combination in our society.

comment by cousin_it · 2010-05-27T20:29:36.663Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's instrumentally useful to give people the perception that you like them

Hmm. I've found that it's most effective to give people the perception that you're having fun and not judging them. The best way to give a perception like that is to actually have fun and conceal any snap judgments you make. This tactic doesn't seem to have the downsides of liking the wrong people.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-05-26T02:16:49.204Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've noticed that I sometimes have this problem. However, there's a bright side that makes it slightly easier: I've found that generally if I have a pragmatic reason to enjoy someone's company that's generally some major positive trait (e.g. only expert on a certain topic around me, is a better chess player than anyone else around, is the only other Go player around, etc.) This provides a positive trait to start with.

The whole thing about the understanding that other humans have circumstances that help explain actions also is something that's been nagging at the back of my mind for a while as somewhat similar. The phrasing here about using it to actively assume that people had good reasons for their behavior made it click more. There's an old tradition in Judaism about trying to assume that people mean well and when one sees something negative one should assume extenuating circumstances not apparent to you. This idea was heavily promoted by among other people the Chofetz Chaim (he was a major Rabbi living around 1900). Sometimes this sort of view was pushed to points where something is just actively anti-rational (ridiculously contrived stories are sometimes told to Orthodox kids to inculcate this point). This also results in some very bad attitudes in the ultra-Orthodox population about not willing to accept that someone did something wrong even when there's heavy evidence (curiously this attitude occurs primarily with people of very high status). This leads to a general worry here: is the effort to try to think of explanatory circumstances here possibly against good rational thinking? In particular, there seems to be a problem if one tries to deal with the fundamental attribution error only when they are people you have a reason to try and like. This seems to easily lead to tribalism. (And again, using the comparison to Orthodox Judaism, these sorts of assumptions are essentially never applied to people outside the fold).

comment by cousin_it · 2010-05-26T03:00:11.549Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is interesting. Not knowing much about Judaism, I want to ask: do those "ridiculously contrived stories" teach you to be in denial even when a fellow tribe member does something wrong to you, or is it only about wrongs done to other people?

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-05-26T03:14:51.871Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It varies. These stories as commonly told seem to actually focus more on what would be here labeled as ritual rather than moral law more than anything else. (For example one such story is about a man is seen buying bacon at a store but it turns out he was buying it because his wife is pregnant and had a craving.) Empirically when this sort of heuristic is applied in the real world it applies generally when there are actual victims but the one engaging in the bad behavior in question is of high status (frequently either a rich philanthropist or a Rabbi) and the victims are either of low status (for example, converts, potential converts, children, mamzerim (Edit: They are a technical class of bastards who are somewhat discriminated against in ultra-orthodox settings)) or the victims are an abstract collection (frequently the government if it is say tax fraud).

It might help to give two recent concrete examples. Leib Tropper is an ultra-Orthodox Rabbi who it turned out was sexually exploiting women whose conversion he was supervising. Despite the existence of actual recorded phone conversations being circulated, repeated denial of any wrong-doing was a common refrain in the ultra-Orthodox world. Similarly, during the ongoing Rubashkin scandal with Agriprocessors, much of the Orthodox community has decided that they really aren't guilty or are not guilty of anything that major. The stories in this case they've decided to tell are conspiratorial and portray the US federal prosecutors as somewhat similar to the government of Czarist Russia.

comment by xamdam · 2010-05-26T17:45:44.429Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nice to see a fellow yeshiva bochur here ;)

I agree with your concerns about corrupting your rationality via this exercise. Even if it's instrumentally a benefit. I would require some proof that this is a good thing. I would use this in limited situation where the "lack of like" is probably due to accidental factors that do not really reflect on the the person.

To mention another famous Rabbinical story, a talmudic rabbi had a wife who, ahem, was kind of evil and always did the opposite of request. His son suggested to ask her to cook the said rabbi's Least Favorite food in order to get what he really wanted. The Rabbi was excited by the idea at first (I guess he hasn't thought of it??) but then commented that they should not do this because of "limdu lashonam dvar sheker" - "their tongues have learnt to speak falsely", so lying instrumentally will lead to further corruption, as I understand this.

BTW the original injunction of "Dan lekaf zchus" - "benefit of doubt" in approximate translation - comes from Ethics of the Fathers, and I believe one of the major commenters (R.Yonah IIRC) suggested, essentially, giving heavy weight to the prior: if the person is generally good you should try to explain an apparently bad act, and vice versa! you should explain an apparently good act of a bad person UNfavorably. Pretty sane thought.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-05-26T18:13:57.036Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

BTW the original injunction of "Dan lekaf zchus" - "benefit of doubt" in approximate translation - comes from Ethics of the Fathers, and I believe one of the major commenters (R.Yonah IIRC) suggested, essentially, giving heavy weight to the prior: if the person is generally good you should try to explain an apparently bad act, and vice versa! you should explain an apparently good act of a bad person UNfavorably. Pretty sane thought.

I'm not sure. One can see how this goes wrong in Talmudic contexts. For example, there are a lot midrashim that explain away apparently good behavior by Esau and Ishmael, and there are a lot of midrashim that explain away or try to justify apparently bad or deceptive behavior by Jacob. Yet, a simple reading of the Biblical text shows that what is actually happening is that these just aren't 1 dimensional characters. So this general tendency can be actively distorting.

Edit: For others reading, midrashim are a classical Jewish set of stories generally told in an interconnected fashion to fill in apparent gaps in the Biblical stories.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-05-26T05:56:57.765Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just ran across an interview with Patti Newbold applying the idea of assuming the best to marriage (with some caveats about not assuming the best when one is seriously mistreated).

comment by Leafy · 2010-05-26T08:31:13.053Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I read your last section ("Note general failure mode: ...") with amusement as I have found myself following almost the exact train of thought several times recently.

It was an appreciated, although unpleasant, kick-in-the-teeth to realise that my thought process actually belied negative aspects to my character rather than positive ones.

Could I ask for advice then on reversing this situation? What internal monologue, or indeed actions, should be ideally followed based on a situation identical to the one given in the article.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-05-26T18:09:05.239Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd advise redoing the entire process, carefully and methodically. Note that the monologue I wrote doesn't include a single mention of the person's positive traits; it doesn't come up with a story to excuse the person's irksome behavior; and the behavior of the monologuer is not conducive to reaping cognitive dissonance, because she has a complete explanation in mind for why she's doing as she does (she is high-minded and tolerant and good) that doesn't involve liking the person. This means that if you get to that monologue, the steps I outline didn't "stick".

comment by Vive-ut-Vivas · 2010-05-28T19:09:51.599Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't have much to add, but in the spirit of Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate, I want to state that I've found this post very insightful and very useful. Thanks for posting!

Being able to pick out positive traits in people that you might otherwise not be able to stand will help you win in several ways: 1) You'll enjoy life more; 2) You'll get more people on your side; 3) You'll have more access to different modes of thought which, while they may be wrong, can help strengthen the foundations of your own ideas.

This actually does work. I tested it out in my day job, which requires regular interaction with people whose company I do not usually like, and found myself almost enjoying it! We shouldn't be afraid to like people, and to enjoy ourselves, for fear of actually becoming like them. If you make the effort to be friendly to that disagreeable person and find something pleasant about them, you're not making their disagreeable qualities pleasant (and thereby running the risk of adopting them yourself). So, don't be afraid to be nice, and by extension, to tolerate tolerance. This is a lesson I'm still struggling to learn.

comment by DuncanS · 2010-05-26T23:05:01.444Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I liked this post - particularly the way it leads you to critique your own inner thought life. I do have some of these habits - particularly noticing interesting or admirable characteristics in people who might be difficult in other ways.

But I do disagree with the idea of making excuses for the other person. Certainly we should be rational enough to realise we don't know exactly why the other person is ignoring me, or driving like a moron, or not showing any consideration to anyone. Perhaps they have an excuse for it, but probably they don't. And in most of the really difficult cases that we all have to put up with, there is no realistic excuse. The boss really is a control freak. The mother in law really is being unreasonable. Making excuses seems to me to be an answer that doesn't work.

What I tend to do instead is stay away from "That person is" declarations. For example, "That person is thoughtless." "That person is completely unreasonable." "That person is pointless, feckless, undeserving." Whatever. Just don't say it to yourself. It's always an oversimplification anyway, and it leads straight to disliking people. Use a richer classification and understanding scheme instead.

Suppose somebody is driving recklessly. You can say "They're a reckless maniac", and you'll dislike them. Or you can say "They're driving really recklessly." And then imagine their state of mind. They are having fun. They're enjoying themselves. I can understand that. Of course I believe it's the wrong thing to do, but I can see why they're doing it. And in that process, I'm no longer disliking them for it. I'm understanding what it's like to be them, and actually it's not too bad.

And that seems to generally work. Mother in law is mean to me? Why is that? Does she have an idealised husband for her daughter in her mind - who is a rather different man? Is she disappointed that this never happened? Is she acting out her own disappointments in her own marriage? (My real mother in law is nothing like this) Does she have notions of what a husband ought to do that I don't fit? I'm not making excuses here - just looking for what's really going on in her head when she reacts as she does. It's a better level of understanding than you get from just labelling her mean. You get to appreciate why she acts like that. And you're beyond disliking them for it - you're trying to see them as they see themselves.

You can even be quite ruthless. "That car sure looks old! That correlates with low income, and lower intelligence - it may not be driven as well as most. Give it slightly more attention and space. That one has a dent in it - they may not be such a good driver." You're trying to gain knowledge, and that's a process where the emotional positive is gaining understanding, not in finding a positive category to put them into. And this is perfectly compatible with meeting that driver later, finding out how they see themselves, you, and their place in the world, and liking them for it.

comment by stcredzero · 2010-05-30T16:45:10.521Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That car sure looks old! That correlates with low income, and lower intelligence

Insufficient data, though perhaps a reasonable heuristic. Many people do this, despite being able to afford a more expensive car. Why? Driving an older model high-end car is a good way to avoid the attention of thieves, while retaining a lot of utility. My 14 year old Mercedes has a feature set comparable to a recent model Corolla, but thieves will pay more attention to the Corolla. A car is also a bad place to put one's money. It's much better to buy a cheaper car and invest the difference.

comment by DuncanS · 2010-05-30T18:10:33.114Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find it easy to agree with this as I've owned quite a few old cars myself (mostly by keeping a newer car for a long time). It really is just a heuristic. It's not even a heavily weighted heuristic for me - I take much more notice of driving errors like wandering across lane dividers than the age of the vehicle. But driving is probably the most dangerous thing I do and it's worth taking as much statistical advantage as I can get....

comment by stcredzero · 2010-05-30T18:37:51.259Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Right. It's not like the false positives are going to bite you in that context. False negatives might be pretty serious.

comment by Jowibou · 2010-05-30T18:08:01.997Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That car sure looks old! That correlates with low income, and lower intelligence.

I know plenty of very smart people who have old crummy cars that get them from A to B and act as pretty effective countersignals.

comment by loqi · 2010-05-26T08:26:07.210Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

These are useful skills to apply to everyone, if you're at all concerned with being "fair" to people. But intentionally selective application of them just strikes me as throwing epistemic hygiene concerns to the wind. Liking the target had better be important.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2010-05-26T21:56:47.365Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

These techniques don't seem to be in conflict with epistemic hygiene or epistemic rationality to me. They're modifying emotions, not knowledge.

comment by loqi · 2010-05-28T07:31:44.016Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was talking about the means, whereby one alters one's "search priorities" when seeking to understand situations involving the target. This sort of selective perception may not be a direct corruption of existing knowledge, but it still constitutes an attention bias akin to privileging a hypothesis.

I agree that the emotional aspect isn't relevant to my concern, though I could imagine having instrumental qualms somewhat analogous to the above.

comment by Kutta · 2010-05-26T09:31:28.405Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fair point. The logical reply to this issue would be a detailed account how to select candidates and precisely when to apply the techniques, although the differences of individuals' utility functions make it harder to convey useful advice. Perhaps Alicorn did good by presenting only the techniques, leaving us the task of weighing instrumental benefits/costs and risks of epistemic distortion.

comment by JanetK · 2010-05-26T10:50:03.717Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is my impression that people generally have an epistemic distortion already and Alicorn's advice would help them overcome it. When we justify our own actions, we place a weight on circumstances and give ourselves a fair benefit of the doubt. When we look for the reasons for other people's actions we often do not know, care to know or just plain care about what the circumstances were. No benefit of the doubt here. Reversing this bias seems a good and healthy thing to do. Judge others as you would judge yourself may sound simple but it takes the sort of persistence that Alicorn outlines.

comment by realitygrill · 2010-05-26T14:59:01.106Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The FAE is an epistemic distortion both ways (as I interpret it). Actively inducing a liking of someone appears to be shoving the lever in the other direction, replacing one bias with another.

comment by HughRistik · 2010-05-26T22:58:28.392Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

On an on-topic note, I really liked this post. I can confirm that being able to like people is instrumentally useful. Due to high Agreeableness and Openness, I like everyone by default. It's difficulty for me to explain how I do this, because it's probably done through my personality hardware. I have to try to not like people. But I'll see if I can think of any ways to articulate my cognition on this subject.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-05-27T01:02:37.179Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm the same way, in fact.

Sometimes I've deliberately amplified my dislike of people just so I can assert values of my own. I do that by noticing small irritations and internally vocalizing them -- "Man, I hate how Billy Bob takes so long to get moving. He's always double-checking every little thing. I prefer to be a little less anal-retentive." You start by noticing that you're irritably tapping your foot, and then you work it up into a whole worldview.

I do this intentionally because I've often found myself unhappy in some people's company, even when I think I like them, and the unhappiness becomes much more tolerable if I think of it as a reasonable response to irritating behavior, as opposed to a nameless flaw in myself. (Example: my parents often got under my skin. Complaining about them to friends, and believing myself justifiably irritated, made it a lot more bearable.) Irritation is actually a "high" emotion -- irritation, as well as elation, is a symptom of mania -- and in fact I've found that irritation is almost an opposite of unhappiness. It's also a cognitive emotion of a sort. Irritation is expressing your own opinions in contrast to other people's, which is something we high-Agreableness folks need to encourage in ourselves, to avoid being wimps and pushovers.

So, I'd expect, if you wanted to go the opposite direction, you'd do what I do by default -- don't vocalize the irritation. Don't regard yourself as being entitled to irritation; it's a mosquito bite, which will stop itching if you don't think about it. Billy Bob must be so slow and careful because he has a good reason for it.

Make yourself "small." That's the best metaphor I can find for it. (Actually a Pirkei Avot metaphor, as I recall.) If you're "big" then you perceive other people constantly bumping into you and intruding on your personal space, but if you're "small" then nothing anybody can do is a personal insult or irritation, any more than a bird can bump into a fly. (I'm actually trying to make myself "big," because smallness, aka humility, has its disadvantages.)

comment by kodos96 · 2010-05-26T23:56:17.599Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

On an on-topic note

Sorry, that's not allowed on this thread ;)

comment by rwallace · 2010-05-26T09:44:08.003Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would be interested in fictional examples of when you might use this technique and how you might go about using it.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-05-26T18:48:02.626Z · score: 25 (27 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, sure.

I move to a new town. I look and look and look for apartments, most of which are out of my price range, and finally find one that I can afford. Turns out, I can't stand my landlady. I have to pay her my rent in person, if I want anything in the place fixed I have to go through her, and if I have an issue with a neighbor that doesn't warrant calling the cops, I have to deal with her. Even if I wanted to move again so soon, it's been established that it's damn hard to find a place in this town - it'd take months, during which I'd have to interact with the landlady several times. It would be far more convenient and pleasant if I liked her.

So what don't I like about the landlady? Let's say she has a strong accent from her country of origin that I find challenging to understand; she's paranoid about people paying rent late and usually wants it early; she hires a plumber who leaves debris all over the place whenever he makes a repair; and she has an evil cat, which has bitten me. (Note that I made all these things up before coming up with stories about them.)

The accent represents the difficulty of learning a foreign language. I don't speak a second language at all - I've forgotten most of what I learned in school. It is hard, and must have been very threatening for her to move here, but she did it anyway. The rent - she's probably been stiffed a few times. It is, after all, a relatively cheap apartment - her tenants are likely to be less able to afford regular payments than some, and she's operating on small profit margins. The plumber is probably cheaper than his competition. And maybe she picked up the evil cat as a stray (a generous act) and its aggression is a holdover from life on the streets. Maybe it bites her too but she forgives it because she loves animals.

Now I know she knows more languages than me, and have reason to suspect that she's careful with money and kind to animals. There we have groundwork. I can ask longtime tenants to tell me (nice) stories about her and gather information about other nice traits she has - suppose I learn that she supports some relatives back in the old country, that she's good at crochet, and that she volunteers some weekends with the Humane Society (whence, it turns out, her cat. Maybe the cat was considered unadoptable because of the biting and she saved it from being put down.)

Now I have a far more well-rounded picture of the landlady than my initial one. I can start acting in ways that are consistent with liking her: I take special care to pay my rent a bit early each month, I offer to let her use my place as the show apartment, I note her birthday and get her a skein of yarn, I donate fifteen dollars to the Humane Society (with or without telling her, as long as I'm doing it because I know she'd approve), and I don't pick any fights with my neighbors that she'd have to deal with.

comment by rwallace · 2010-05-28T01:07:27.119Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks! Okay, that's pretty clear now, makes sense.

comment by mattnewport · 2010-05-26T18:31:45.685Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Me too. I have tried to think of a situation where I might find this useful and have drawn a blank. I have not had any problem in my professional life working reasonably productively with people who I do not particularly like and in my personal life I can't see why I would want to make myself like someone who I didn't 'naturally' like.

comment by oliverbeatson · 2010-05-26T15:47:57.321Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Alternative title: How not to be a protagonist in Atlas Shrugged.

To clarify, I liked the post.

comment by pnrjulius · 2012-04-22T15:48:44.721Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I know that this is the sort of question you'd precisely expect from someone whose mental defenses were resisting the exercise, but it's still a valid possibility, prior probability ~1%: What if you suspect the person you're dealing with is actually a sociopath?

Learning to like a sociopath is actually extremely DANGEROUS---it opens you up to be exploited. Most people are not sociopaths of course, and if someone cuts you off in traffic it makes a lot more sense to attribute that to ordinary carelessness rather than extraordinary malice.

But in the particular case I'm thinking of, this acquaintance of mine has already destroyed the reputation of one of my friends, and accused me of perjury in an official university hearing. Once he called me up out of the blue in order to complain about my body odor. Meanwhile, he appears capable of lying without any effort---several times I've found out that things he said were untrue when at the time they seemed completely sincere. He has exactly the sort of superficial charm that high-functioning sociopaths do, and most people like him when they first see him. I even liked him at first, until I saw that he was deceiving and manipulating people.

All of this strikes me as sufficient evidence to conclude that there is a good chance (P ~ 60%?) that he is actually a sociopath, in which case learning to like him is exactly the wrong thing to do.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-04-22T16:24:28.853Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would say the most useful thing is to learn to protect myself from being exploited by sociopaths, whether I like them or not. After all, many sociopaths are genuinely likeable; I might find myself liking them without doing any of the work Alicorn discusses here. If I can do that, then liking them doesn't make them more dangerous to me than not liking them.

comment by pnrjulius · 2012-04-23T16:22:16.342Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How do you protect yourself against a sociopath while still liking them? Also, how can you LIKE someone you know is a sociopath?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-04-23T16:56:16.185Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Assuming you meant that as a literal question...

I protect myself from a sociopath the same way I protect myself from a non-sociopath whose interests require that they act against mine: by determining their threat capacity, making my best guesses as to their likely strategies, deciding on a strategy to counter them, and implementing that strategy.

Whether I like them or not is in-principle-irrelevant, although of course it might affect my ability to do those things.

I like someone I know is a sociopath more or less the same way I like someone I don't know is a sociopath: by unconsciously deciding that a social alliance with them would be cost-effective. (Or, in more conventional terms: "I dunno, I like who I like.")

comment by pnrjulius · 2012-04-30T15:07:06.205Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your definition of "like" is apparently radically different from mine.

I could very well form an alliance with a sociopath, if necessary for some greater goal. But liking someone, as I use the word, requires you to actually respect that person and their character, and believe that the ends they seek are (basically, reasonably) worth seeking. It requires you to trust them, to engage with them without fear that at any moment they might exploit you.

I believe it was SMBC that said it best: "The enemy of my enemy is not my friend, he is my ally. The difference is you don't invite your allies out for ice cream."

So on my meaning, it is impossible to like someone you know is a sociopath; and furthermore if you like someone who is a sociopath and you don't know, you are opening yourself up to be exploited. I guess you folks are free to use some other definition of "like" that doesn't require trust or respect... but surely this is not the standard definition?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-04-30T15:29:15.886Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

With respect to sociopaths, I mostly agree that knowing that someone is a sociopath pretty much precludes my being able to engage with them without fear of being exploited. (It doesn't preclude my ability to respect them, or to consider the ends they seek worth seeking, or to trust them in certain ways.)

With respect to the meaning of "like", I frequently find myself liking people on brief acquaintance, long before I know very much about them, their character, what ends they seek, or their trustworthiness in any particular context. And it's not uncommon for me to lose respect for someone I like while continuing to like them.

As far as I can tell from observation, other people frequently have similar experiences, and frequently use the word "like" to refer to those experiences, much as I do. So I'm fairly confident that it's the usage you describe here that's nonstandard. But I could be wrong, or it might be a regional/subcultural thing.

For example, if a friend says "I met George at a party last night; I liked him" do you really understand your friend to mean that they know enough about George to make a reliable judgment about George's character and whether it merits respect, what ends George seeks and whether those ends are worth seeking, and George's trustworthiness? I would not understand them to mean that at all.

comment by CuSithBell · 2012-04-22T17:32:22.676Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

All of this strikes me as sufficient evidence to conclude that there is a good chance (P ~ 60%?) that he is actually a sociopath, in which case learning to like him is exactly the wrong thing to do.

If this person is not "actually a sociopath", would learning to like him be the right thing to do?

comment by pnrjulius · 2012-04-23T16:21:24.678Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, if he's not actually a sociopath, it's probably worth learning to like him.

But the odds of him being a sociopath are high enough that the expected utility doesn't point that way at all. The disutility of being exploited by a sociopath is far worse than the opportunity cost of not liking this one person.

comment by CuSithBell · 2012-04-23T16:47:12.609Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It sounds like the reason you'd want to not like him if he's a sociopath is that then he'd probably exploit you - but don't you already know that he'll exploit you anyway?

comment by TwistingFingers · 2012-04-22T16:47:28.018Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I thought people like Tsundere?

comment by Matt_Stein · 2010-05-26T14:57:15.029Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That footnote about working on excusing the behavior of "bad drivers"* is good advice in general, and should probably be taught in driver's ed. I imagine if it was actually followed, incidences of road rage would plummet.

It's my goal to one day be able to do this most minor irritations, and to be able "to let what does not matter truly slide", or at least to the extent that I'm able.

*(I had to go back and add those quotes after I realized that without them I was doing exactly the opposite of that advice)

comment by realitygrill · 2010-05-27T17:02:35.697Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It may be useful to catalogue our responses by our respective big 5 factor psychological profiles. I have some tentative hypotheses in mind, particularly that Openness mitigates dislike of a person. (I'm off to retake the test)

EDIT: Thanks all. Do you mind adding your individual reactions to the top-level post in your replies?

comment by Cyan · 2010-06-07T00:44:16.454Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

O0 C6 E5 A63 N37

My low Openness score is probably due to the fact that I feel like I haven't generated any truly original thoughts in a long time.

comment by simplicio · 2010-05-30T17:22:05.791Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ditto for me as for RobinZ.

Openness: 84

Conscientiousness: 41

Extraversion: 31

Agreeableness: 90

Neuroticism: 27

I would seem to support realitygrill's idea, as I have a hard time disliking even people whom I know I ought to dislike.

comment by realitygrill · 2010-05-30T20:15:58.062Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is encouraging (I have the same feeling), but I have no idea what I am supposed to do with the idea. Obviously, first try to find people who would falsify it, but then what?

I still want to know where the disagreeable LW-ers are. Come out, come out, wherever you are!

comment by pjeby · 2010-06-06T22:11:54.136Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I still want to know where the disagreeable LW-ers are. Come out, come out, wherever you are!

Apparently, I'm one: O59-C0-E37-A0-N80 - i.e. I have zero agreeability and conscientiousness.

But, being such a disagreeable person, I'm inclined to dispute the validity of the test. ;-)

After all, it directly asks you about traits, with questions that are pretty obviously correlated with the results. It therefore seems to be a test of your opinions about yourself, rather than being an actual test of yourself.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-06-07T00:53:50.676Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

After all, it directly asks you about traits, with questions that are pretty obviously correlated with the results. It therefore seems to be a test of your opinions about yourself, rather than being an actual test of yourself.

I've yet to see a test that avoids this problem. I really don't understand why tests like this and the Aspergers one, which will obviously vary dramatically with your moods, are considered to have any meaning at all.

comment by cupholder · 2010-06-07T02:43:55.710Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Psychologists tend to treat a test as having meaning when it has some form of 'validity', 'validity' being the catch-all name for the different ways a psychologist might assess if a test looks meaningful. For example, some Big Five personality scores correlate with things like job performance, suggesting predictive validity. Whether this kind of validation can prove that a test has meaning will hinge on what you feel it means for a test to have meaning.

comment by ata · 2010-06-07T04:42:33.179Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Whether this kind of validation can prove that a test has meaning will hinge on what you feel it means for a test to have meaning.

In that case we should probably taboo "meaning" (in this context) and talk directly about whatever it is we want a test to do — make clinically useful predictions, carve reality along its natural joints, etc.

comment by realitygrill · 2010-06-17T02:01:30.281Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Strangely enough, I'd only considered the 'validity' side - basically are the categories used universal? Somehow missed how biased self-reporting might be.

comment by simplicio · 2010-05-30T20:17:48.649Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I still want to know where the disagreeable LW-ers are.

Come out, come out, wherever you are... you wankers!

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2010-05-31T01:04:34.380Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It occurs to me that disagreeable folks might be less inclined to do the work of finding the test when there's no apparent benefit to them in doing so.

Here it is.

Oh, and:

  • Openness: 76

  • Conscientiousness: 8

  • Extraversion: 2

  • Agreeableness: 32

  • Neuroticism: 11

EDIT: Thanks all. Do you mind adding your individual reactions to the top-level post in your replies?

I doubt I'll actually ever use this advice, though it sounds like it would work if I did. It's pretty rare for me to actually dislike people (though it is common for me to think that interacting with people wouldn't be worth the effort), and when I do find myself disliking someone, it's usually a pretty reliable sign that I should limit my contact with them. (E.g., the only co-worker that I disliked at my last job - on the basis that she seemed to be near-sociopathicly self-centered - was caught stealing from another co-worker when invited to a party that co-worker was hosting, and was fired from the job for stealing money from one of our volunteers' pocketbooks.)

It may be noteworthy that my method of socializing is based more on openness - learning where the other person is coming from, having conversations about mutually interesting topics - rather than agreeableness, and I neither like nor dislike most of the people I consider friends.

comment by arundelo · 2010-05-31T04:57:25.316Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks!

  • Openness to Experience/Intellect 53
  • Conscientiousness 58
  • Extraversion 5
  • Agreeableness 32
  • Neuroticism 9

(Some of these results surprised me [to the extent that I put stock in this particular test].)

comment by RobinZ · 2010-05-28T23:51:24.914Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

According to the first test I found (which was short, so big error bars):

Openness: 35
Conscientiousness: 1
Extraversion: 83
Agreeableness: 79
Neuroticism: 84

...it is weird seeing how extraverted I appear, knowing I was homeschooled with few social outlets growing up.

comment by realitygrill · 2010-05-28T21:36:27.305Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Openness: 80 Conscientiousness: 1 Extraversion: 12 Agreeableness: 14 Neuroticism: 32

Hm, I remember my Openness, Conscientiousness, and (especially) Neuroticism being higher... bit distracted this time around.

Anybody else disagreeable on LW?

comment by [deleted] · 2010-06-06T21:01:52.945Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seems so. O53 C5 E37 A22 N94.

comment by Vive-ut-Vivas · 2010-05-28T19:32:19.830Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think your hypothesis is right. I just took the test now:

Openness: 84 Conscientiousness: 13 Extraversion: 95 Agreeableness: 63 Neuroticism: 93

Not that I thought the test I took was particularly accurate, but as ballpark figures they mostly make sense.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-05-27T17:38:26.733Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

me: Openness: 84 Conscientiousness: 41 Extraversion: 15 Agreeableness: 74 Neuroticism: 84

comment by Nanani · 2010-05-27T00:33:46.244Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Forgive me if this has been adressed elsewhere, but doesn't the knowledge that you are -trying- to like them get in the way of success? You will always know that you are liking them on purpose and applying these techniques to make yourself like them, so how do you avoid this knowledge breaking the desired effect?

comment by Blueberry · 2010-05-27T03:28:05.595Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why would that knowledge be a problem? Do cars stop working when you know how they work? Do you stop enjoying sex when you use birth control?

In fact, it's more likely to be the other way. You know that you're putting in the effort to like them, so your mind will backwards rationalize that to conclude that they must be worth liking (or you wouldn't put in the effort).

comment by stcredzero · 2010-05-30T16:56:47.111Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you stop enjoying sex when you use birth control?

I stop enjoying sex when the other person isn't really aroused. The mechanisms for detecting affect evolved before language and abstract cognition. There is good reason to believe that it takes a whole lot of effort to alter or falsify them. These mechanisms are tools, we are stuck with them, so it behooves us to use them optimally. I think trying to like someone is suboptimal.

Someone trying to like me is like a rapid-onset smile. Someone who simply likes me is like a slow-onset smile.

Instead of trying to like things because it's instrumentally useful, I think it's far better to strive for optimal instrumentality from one's liking.

The former would be like learning about a genre of music because it's popular. The latter is like delving into a genre of music because one finds it moving. Great things come out of the latter. Mediocrity comes out of the former.

(Underlying this debate is the erroneous notion of the "blank slate." Our emotions are not a blank slate. They are a finely tuned processing and guidance mechanism, just not tuned for our present circumstances.)

comment by Jowibou · 2010-05-30T18:04:18.009Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Instead of trying to like things because it's instrumentally useful, I think it's far better to strive for optimal instrumentality from one's liking.

Ideally wouldn't this be a loop, rather than either/or?

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-05-27T03:48:36.718Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why would that knowledge be a problem? Do cars stop working when you know how they work?

That isn't a good analogy. Many humans have trouble actively trying to change their own emotional or belief states. The analogy that might be more appropriate is trying to deceive oneself into believing a false statement. I don't think that the analogy quite holds either liking someone is much closer to an emotional setting. It is thus closer to someone say deliberately conditioning themselves in some way. Even if you know, you are doing it, you can still use fairly primitive conditioning. But Nanani's question is one that still requires some response: the car analogy is not sufficient.

comment by realitygrill · 2010-05-26T03:34:54.798Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find it very hard to actually dislike any particular person in a concrete sense. Abstractly, a trait or a group? Sure. Otherwise, "tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner", right? I might actually lean too far in this direction.. my mind immediately jumps to defend perceived faults by inventing possible reasons for them.

However, I've never been able to cultivate admiration, just grudging respect.

Having a whole project around liking someone seems like too much effort to me. Why do it? I'm more likely to find a less perception-based solution. (I am loathe to change my perceptions for instrumental reasons. It may also be partly that I score very low on Agreeability, and don't particularly value social harmony.)

Perhaps I've already sidestepped most of the disutilities? I can't think of anyone I actually truly dislike. It's an interesting (and impressive) exercise, but I don't see it as very relevant to my own life. Something like how I trained myself not to be ticklish when I was young.

comment by apophenia · 2010-05-26T12:47:31.977Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How did you train yourself not to be ticklish? My life would benefit if I weren't ticklish.

comment by realitygrill · 2010-05-26T21:27:18.685Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Story, then tl;dr follows -

Tickling was a major weapon amongst kids I played with back when I was in elementary school (along with pinching, but only girls did that). I had the notion that "this would never do!" and "I have to worry about this all the time!" Somehow that got it in my head to try to desensitize myself to tickling.

I'd heard that it was impossible to tickle yourself, and after TRYING it, I took a guess: maybe it was because you already knew where and how you were going to be tickled?

Iteration 1: Quickly tickle myself by randomly flailing my arms at various places on my body. No dice.

Iteration 2: Notice that I'd synchronized my arms in the first iteration. Tried desynch-ing them. Still no good.

Iteration 3: Tried also using a feather in one hand. Nope.

Iteration 4: Closed my eyes in the process. I could feel the ticklish feeling!

Iteration 5: Did all of the above in an extremely dark, closed closet. Worked!

After I figured this out, I repeated the process a few times while gradually slowing down the speed of tickling. I've been non-ticklish since then. Caveats: some sensitivity has come back in my feet; less so around my stomach; I do not recall how ticklish I was before this desensitization.


tl;dr - I sat in a dark closet, with a feather in my hand, closed my eyes, and proceeded to flail my arms/fingers randomly at myself

comment by apophenia · 2010-05-28T06:41:39.704Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Like RichardKennaway, I can already tickle myself on Iteration 1. I'm not sure I would normally want to try this method, since my initial goal is not to be tickled as I find it unpleasant. (I can't sit through a massage either because it tickles.) In the interest of self-experimentation, I'll give it a go. Richard, as a control could you stand in a dark closet and lift your shirt for ten minutes? I am at least half kidding.

comment by realitygrill · 2010-06-02T23:25:34.239Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wish I had a better suggestion besides, "try going very very slowly at first - maybe just one finger." I mean, surely you can touch yourself without bursting out laughing?

comment by RichardKennaway · 2010-05-26T13:46:33.110Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seconded. I'd like to hear this as well. I am ticklish enough to be able to tickle myself, popularly supposed to be impossible.

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2010-05-26T12:48:14.626Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Anyway probably my biggest concern with cryonics is that if I was to die at my age (25), it would probably be in a way where I would be highly unlikely to be preserved before a large amount of decay had already occurred. If there was a law in this country (Australia) mandating immediate cryopreservation of the head for those contracted, I'd be much more interested.

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2010-05-26T12:47:11.751Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Speaking of abnormal and cyronics:

Britney Spears allegedly wants to sign up with Alcor: http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/entertainment/britney-spears-wants-to-be-frozen-after-death_100369339.html

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T02:32:14.789Z · score: -7 (37 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

ETA: Why haven't you applied this advice to me?

comment by Larks · 2010-05-26T21:53:06.955Z · score: 24 (20 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I hope you’ll all forgive the pedantry, but it seems clearly laying out the argument might be the best way to avoid a flame war that isn’t making anyone look good, or encouraging rationality particularly. If this post is downvoted, I'd suggest we leave the topic.

NB: I don’t know enough of the history to judge who is more/less right/wrong between Alicorn and SilasBarta, and even if I could, probably wouldn’t say. I solely intend to attempt to clarify what SilasBarta meant.

Summary of what I take to be SilasBarta's argument:

  • SilasBarta replying to Alicorn causes Alicorn psychological damage because Alicorn dislikes SilasBarta.
  • If Alicorn did not dislike SilasBarta, Alicorn would not incur psychological damage when SilasBarta replied to her.
  • There are advantages to Alicorn of being able to freely discuss with SilasBarta.
  • If Alicorn did not dislike SilasBarta, these advantages would outweigh the costs (e.g. time taken reading his replies).
  • Alicorn doesn’t get any benefit from disliking SilasBarta.
  • Hence it would be beneficial for Alicorn to cease disliking SilasBarta.
  • Alicorn is (as reasonable an approximation as a human fairly expect to be) rational.
  • Hence if something would be beneficial for Alicorn to do, she would do it.
  • Hence if Alicorn could stop disliking SilasBarta, she would do so/would have done so.
  • Alicorn has not ceased disliking SilasBarta, and does not appear to be doing so.
  • 11) Hence Alicorn does not have a general method for stopping disliking people.

Possible counter-arguments:

  • Alicorn’s method relies on focusing on positive aspects; SilasBarta has no/too few positive aspects for this to work.
  • SilasBarta’s comments have no interest to Alicorn.
  • Alicorn has better things to be doing with her time than building a good relationship with SilasBarta.
  • Alicorn thinks there are lower-hanging fruit than SilasBarta.
  • To start liking SilasBarta would signal that her threats weren’t credible.
  • Alicorn’s method has to be used before a deep dislike has set in.
  • SilasBarta is undermining her attempts by posting comments about her, which she finds upsetting. In this situation, containment (e.g. asking him not to reply to her) is better than cure (creating a positive relationship).
  • Alicorn rarely gets to see SilasBarta at what she would consider ‘his best’ – she is most aware of his posts about her, which she doesn’t enjoy.
  • Alicorn thinks SilasBarta is very rational, and thus attributes his acts to him, rather than his environment.

Edit: list formatting.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2010-05-26T02:39:15.883Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Downvoted for needlessly snarky tone, especially when you already have a history of causing negative emotional reactions in Alicorn and from the tone it seems like you're trying to cause more. A neutral "why haven't you applied this advice to me?" would have been a reasonable query.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T02:43:26.873Z · score: -1 (17 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A neutral "why haven't you applied this advice to me?" would have been a reasonable query.

No, it wouldn't have been, but let's try that just so you're convinced.

ETA:

you already have a history of causing negative emotional reactions in Alicorn and from the tone it seems like you're trying to cause more.

When someone, to the best of my knowledge, isn't practicing remotely close to what she preaches (and I've held silent on the first several times she preached this), and claims special insight on it, my obligation to point this out overrides most other obligations. That, and nothing else, motivates my comment.

ETA2: And before you suggest another brilliant idea like, "At least you should have kept this to PM": no, Alicorn's made pretty clear that's not an option either.

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-05-26T05:16:02.699Z · score: 22 (32 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

EDIT: I've reconsidered this, and what I wrote here is unfair to SilasBarta. What really happened here, I think, is that Alicorn's actions inadvertantly set up a feedback loop, which no one understood well enough to shut down before it blew up here. In this post, I chided Silas for not recognizing and disarming that feedback loop - but the truth is, there were plenty of people, including both Alicorn and myself, who could've repaired the situation with a little more awareness, and this comment really didn't help.

And to clarify - what started this whole thing was Alicorn asking Silas not to respond to any of her comments, which was a strange and hostile thing to ask. In this comment, I interpreted that request by rounding it to the nearest non-strange request, which more than I thought. Unfortunately, when asked to clarify, Alicorn clarified it as literally "don't reply to comments", rather than "don't try to initiate conversations", as she should have.

Original comment below:

Ok, this has gotten painful to watch, and since no one has explained it properly, I feel I ought to overcome the bystander effect and step in. SilasBarta, you have dramatically misunderstood what is happening here. You are flagrantly violating a social norm that you do not seem to understand. Alicorn has acted in a way that is fully determined by your behavior towards her, and anyone else would do the same in her place.

When you speak someone's name and know that they can hear you, you are, in effect, attempting to summon them. It effectively forces them to listen; if in public, they may need to step in to defend their reputation, and if in private they know they're specifically being addressed. Attempts to initiate conversation are a social primitive; neurotypicals track a statistical overview of the nature, frequency, and response given to conversations with each person, and expect each other to do the same.

If you attempt to initiate conversation with someone, they give you a negative response, and you knew or should have known that they would give you a negative response, then you are pestering them. By "negative response", I mean visible irritation, anger, or an attempt to push you out of their sphere of attention without using a pretext. If you repeatedly pester someone who has specifically asked you not to, and you don't have a sufficiently suitable and important pretext, then you are harrassing them. Pestering someone is frowned upon. Harrassing someone is frowned upon, and can also be illegal if it either carries an implied threat or is sufficiently flagrant. Also, our culture assigns additional penalty points for this if you are male and the person you're harrassing is female.

So here is the story, as I understand it. After an interaction that did not go well, Alicorn asked you not to reply to her comments. This means "don't pester me" (or more succinctly, "go away"). This is one of a small number of standard messages which all neurotypicals expect each other to be able to recognize reliably and to pick out of subtext. You continued to participate in conversations Alicorn was involved in, by responding to other commenters, but every time you did so you spoke Alicorn's name, even when you had no pretext for doing so. You interpreted her request in a literal-minded but incorrect way; you failed to generalize from "don't respond to my comments" to "don't try to pull me into a conversation with you by any means".

comment by Blueberry · 2010-05-26T14:30:45.383Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm curious now about this community's perceptions of a person A's requests for a person B not to reply to A's comments. (Note: I'm using letters A and B because this isn't about the particular situation or the individuals in question, and I don't want the individuals' identities to distract from the issue here.)

I posted a comment stating that it wasn't reasonable to ask someone not to reply, which got downvoted. I'm assuming this got downvoted because people disagree.

One person replied stating that A's original request was not to avoid replying to any of A's comments, but to stop making comments that specifically single A out. However, this was not B's interpretation of the request. B seems to think, possibly incorrectly, that A asked B not to reply to any of A's comments on LW.

For people who think this is a reasonable request, here's a hypothetical: suppose C and D are enrolled in a philosophy class together. C and D have an unpleasant interaction, and C requests that D not raise her hand in class and participate in class discussion after C has made a comment. Do people agree that this would be an unreasonable request, unlike, say, "please don't call or email me"? If so, why is a request to not reply to someone's LW comments substantially different?

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-05-26T15:03:48.362Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In a classroom setting, the right to ask people to leave or to not participate is reserved exlusively for the professor; a student could not ask another student to shut up without the teacher's express consent. On a blog, however, no such authority exists, so anyone can make such requests - but only in response to breaking certain social norms without a good excuse.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-05-26T15:23:33.935Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

On a blog, however, no such authority exists

Well, blogs do have administrators, who hold a similar authority. I believe Eliezer has banned several people from LW for making only poor quality or trollish posts, for instance.

anyone can make such requests - but only in response to breaking certain social norms without a good excuse.

Well, yes, anyone can make such requests, just like I can request that LW commentors refrain from using the word "the" because I find it incredibly offensive. The point is that it isn't a reasonable request. If someone's violated enough of the community norms to be banned, that's a matter for the administrator, but that's different than an individual requesting "please don't reply to my comments in a public discussion forum" as if it were comparable to "please don't email or call me."

comment by RichardKennaway · 2010-05-26T14:51:44.454Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

suppose C and D are enrolled in a philosophy class together. C and D have an unpleasant interaction, and C requests that D not raise her hand in class and participate in class discussion after C has made a comment. Do people agree that this would be an unreasonable request

It depends on whether D's intention in responding to a comment of C is to contribute to the class discussion or to needle C.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-05-26T15:05:11.528Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, the request we're talking about is "don't comment at all in reply to my comments."

Edited to fix link.

ETA: Also see here

comment by Larks · 2010-05-26T12:31:47.013Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Upvoted for the good explanation of the social norm of name-speaking; not necessarily because of the criticism of SilasBarta.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-05-26T05:48:49.483Z · score: 6 (16 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

After an interaction that did not go well, Alicorn asked you not to reply to her comments. This means "don't pester me" (or more succinctly, "go away"). This is one of a small number of standard messages which all neurotypicals expect each other to be able to recognize reliably and to pick out of subtext.

Ok, that's ridiculous. Comments on LW are part of a large group discussion. A person can tell someone else to stop bugging them or emailing them or calling them, but it is not reasonable to ask someone to not make public comments on LW. No one has the right to do that, any more than I have the right to say "stop using the Internet; it bugs me."

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-05-26T06:12:23.821Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A person can tell someone else to stop bugging them or emailing them or calling them, but it is not reasonable to ask someone to not make public comments on LW.

True, but that's not the request that was made. She asked him to stop making comments which specifically single her out.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T15:10:27.119Z · score: -2 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sorry, jimrandomh, but you are flatly wrong here, and this misunderstanding underpins your entire criticism. Alicorn has asked that I not post any comments as a reply to hers, even if they don't single her out, and even if they involve asking others not to mod her down because of the context of her comment! See here, and here.

Now, please revise your diplomatic comments in light of this new information.

(The funniest part is how Alicorn keeps appealing to her own non-neurotypicality, despite my being the only one accused of missing something due to non-NT. Go fig.)

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-05-26T19:13:28.839Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The most accurate phrasing of the intended meaning of Alicorn's request is the one I wrote in my first post: "do not try to pull me into a conversation with you by any means". A direct reply does that; it singles out the author of the parent, to a degree that depends on how easily someone else could step in and take their place in the conversation. Non-reply comments also do that if they name her; she didn't explicitly say that wasn't allowed, but "leave me the fuck alone" should've covered it.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T19:23:34.412Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The most accurate phrasing of the intended meaning of Alicorn's request is the one I wrote in my first post: "do not try to pull me into a conversation with you by any means".

Except that I stated what I took the request to mean, and she agreed with that. And "do no try to pull me into a conversation ..." just ain't part of it. Take, for example, this comment and this one. Off limits? Well, Alicorn certainly reserves the right to make such comments on my top-level posts. And it doesn't obligate her to respond directly.

So you still appear very confused about the topic you're opining on so strongly and confidently.

A direct reply does that;

Not even close: see here, another major example of Alicorn saying what is and is not okay. The comment I made, though nested under her comment, does not in any way draw her into a conversation, because it is a remark about someone else. It is not addressed to her, but to the group in general, regarding a different poster. Still off limits, for some reason.

Is it starting to dawn on you how you've misinterpreted Alicorn's past demands, and why you should maybe withdraw your misconception -rounded, "noble" criticism of me from earlier?

comment by RobinZ · 2010-05-26T20:17:31.745Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A direct reply does that;

Not even close: see here, another major example of Alicorn saying what is and is not okay. The comment I made, though nested under her comment, does not in any way draw her into a conversation, because it is a remark about someone else. It is not addressed to her, but to the group in general, regarding a different poster. Still off limits, for some reason.

I see two problems with your selected case.

First, you appeared to violate the stated version of the rule. You need a better reason just to create that appearance than wanting to make a jocular remark.

Second, jocular remarks are drawing people into conversations - they're probably the number-one way to draw someone into a conversation. People joke around with people that they like, and Alicorn does not like you.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T20:32:20.626Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I had no idea the concept of "jocular" even applied at the time (and remember, the aspie defense can only be used by Alicorn, not me!) I still don't see how such a remark somehow draws Alicorn to post further (maybe in real life, in-person situations that might be true?).

Does anyone really see why that general, light-hearted jab at Mitchell somehow gives Alicorn a social obligation to continue?

As for violating the stated rule, my (quite reasonable) understanding at the time (though not anymore) was that the mere nesting of the comment doesn't matter; what matters is who it's directed at. And from context, it's clear it's a general, big-picture remark bout Mitchell's theory's inadequacy. (And a bit of a rude one, but not to Alicorn.)

So it's far from obvious I was doing anything wrong at the time -- but apparently, even defending Alicorn for saying "leave me the fuck alone" is blatant disregard for her -- go fig!

comment by RobinZ · 2010-05-26T21:04:25.074Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your defense of Alicorn is at +1. Your original remark is at -6. This is because the former comment was appropriate, and the latter not.

Edit 5/27: I have been reminded that the primary reason given for downvoting the original comment was that it was rude, not that it was a reply to Alicorn - I had forgotten this, and left a misleading impression as a consequence.

I hope you know this already, but your social coprocessor is crap, dude. You really need to put in some hard work developing a better set of heuristics, because you've been making a lot of blunders, and it's turning people off.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T21:14:47.539Z · score: -1 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your defense of Alicorn is at +1. Your original remark is at -6. This is because the former comment was appropriate, and the latter not.

The defense of Alicorn was at 0 earlier today, and long ago it went negative very quickly. It has nothing to do with appropriateness and everything to do with Alicorn wanting to impose unreasonable rules on me out of some misguided spite.

I hope you know this already, but your social coprocessor is crap, dude.

Thanks -- I'm glad that won't work as a self-fulfilling prophesy or anything, and it's not the kind of thing you could have said privately -- very thoughtful of you.

You really need to put in some hard work developing a better set of heuristics, because you've been making a lot of blunders, and it's turning people off.

Well, I'm glad to know that on a site like LW, I will be given more patience because of the understanding of non-neurotypicality, so long as you use Alicorn rather than SilasBarta as your handle.

comment by RobinZ · 2010-05-27T03:53:53.643Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks -- I'm glad that won't work as a self-fulfilling prophesy or anything, and it's not the kind of thing you could have said privately -- very thoughtful of you.

SilasBarta, let me tell you something. I am bad with names. Very, very bad with names. So bad that I know a guy who made bet that I wouldn't know the name of his friend, who I had been hanging out with for years - and won the bet. If someone tells me in public, "Robin, you are terrible with names", I have no grounds whatsoever to take that as an insult. It would be like being insulted that people thought I was a man. I have a beard, no breasts, and worse recall for names than the average parakeet, and all these things are painfully obvious in a short period of time.

SIlasBarta, you get caught up in more flamewars than almost anyone on Less Wrong. Drop the conspiracy theorists and you're a lock. That's a warning sign, man, just as much as the crazy differential between people knowing my name and my knowing theirs - it's a clue that you're in the wrong tail of the distribution. If you want to say that Alicorn is on the same side of the peak, I won't argue with you, but that's Alicorn's problem, not yours. You need to figure out what you're doing that can explain why the population gets peeved at you more often than it does at other people, because the difference is too large to explain by chance.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T21:22:19.926Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Request reason for downmod.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T15:38:58.021Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Alicorn has acted in a way that is fully determined by your behavior towards her, and anyone else would do the same in her place.

No, everyone else who's voiced an opinion on this has said that they would never ask someone what Alicorn has asked of me: that I never post a reply to her comments, even if it's not directed at her.

When you speak someone's name and know that they can hear you, you are, in effect, attempting to summon them. ... If you attempt to initiate conversation with someone, they give you a negative response, and you knew or should have known that they would give you a negative response, then you are pestering them.

I think that's a large part of why I didn't do any of that in the original comment, just in the version that Kaj asked me to post instead! Who should I listen to here, you or Kaj? Which is the real neurotypical standard that I violated?

So here is the story, as I understand it. After an interaction that did not go well, Alicorn asked you not to reply to her comments. This means "don't pester me" (or more succinctly, "go away").

No, as I said in my other reply to you, this isn't Alicorn's request at all. It's:

-Don't post any comments nested under Alicorn's, irrespective of content or who the comment is directed at.
-Don't PM Alicorn, even and especially if it's something she would want to know but prefer not be said publicly. (?)
-But posting comments in reply to top-level posts is okay, because Alicorn wants to do so on my top-level posts.

You continued to participate in conversations Alicorn was involved in, by responding to other commenters, but every time you did so you spoke Alicorn's name, even when you had no pretext for doing so.

Which comments are you talking about? Be specific. I don't recall violating what Alicorn's request actually was until this conversation, and even then, it wasn't until I substituted my comment for what Kaj asked me to say, and I warned of this at the time!

You interpreted her request in a literal-minded but incorrect way; you failed to generalize from "don't respond to my comments" to "don't try to pull me into a conversation with you by any means".

That's certainly the narrative you want to put on it, sure, but if you actually look at the history of what exactly she asked for (including the very specific clarificaitons), your interpretation is mistaken.


And while I'm believably non-NT, I think I can safely guess there wasn't a lot of nobility in your intent to reply to this comment -- not when anything I could have done would have given you a pretense to build yourself up by pointing out the "obvious" error on my part.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2010-05-26T22:11:24.165Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think that's a large part of why I didn't do any of that in the original comment, just in the version that Kaj asked me to post instead! Who should I listen to here, you or Kaj? Which is the real neurotypical standard that I violated?

For the record: I wasn't fully aware of the history and magnitude of this conflict, and I didn't realize Alicorn had specifically asked for you to not reply to her at all.

Regardless, as I remember, both versions of the comment were (are) addressed to Alicorn. It was just more implicit in the first one ("I know someone this advice hasn't been applied to" or something along those lines, I think), but it was still pointing out that Alicorn hadn't applied the technique to you. Therefore it was referencing her, just as strongly as if you'd mentioned her.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-05-26T05:18:53.521Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To be fair, I'm not a neurotypical and have advertised this on the Internet.

comment by RobinZ · 2010-05-26T15:47:17.096Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think jimrandomh may be mistaken in selecting "neurotypical" as the relevant criterion - the correlated criterion of "well-socialized" may be nearer the mark.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T16:01:00.912Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good point; that terminology would do a better job of hiding the dissonance in scolding me for my autistic errors, even as Alicorn alone gets the sympathy for being non-NT. Make sure to tell Jim!

comment by RobinZ · 2010-05-26T16:06:49.894Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Well-socialized", like "real number", is a perniciously misleading term.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-05-26T22:35:45.043Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why?

comment by RobinZ · 2010-05-27T03:29:38.830Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Because society is not particularly well optimized, the implication of goodness in the modifier "well" is deceptive - a well-socialized person is quite likely to be tribalistic and repressed, for example.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-05-27T03:40:10.594Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

a well-socialized person is quite likely to be tribalistic and repressed

They are? I would expect a well-socialized person to be secure and comfortable and friendly.

comment by aleksiL · 2010-05-28T06:21:40.672Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sounds like your definition of "well-socialized" is closer to "well-adjusted" than RobinZ's.

As I understand them, skill in navigating social situations, epistemic rationality and psychological well-being are all separate features. They do seem to correlate, but the causal influences are not obvious.

ETA: Depends a lot on the standard you use, too. RobinZ is probably correct if you look at the upper quartile but less so for the 99th percentile.

comment by RobinZ · 2010-05-28T14:41:34.860Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As an aside, I would say that jimrandomh's point relies upon describing a substantial population - more like the set of those above the upper quartile than those above the 99th percentile.

comment by RobinZ · 2010-05-27T03:57:45.881Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know nearly enough to defend my original stance. Consider me confused.

comment by xamdam · 2010-05-26T17:26:49.250Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the point was that Silas is and he should have responded appropriately. Personally I think NT issue is irrelevant here unless the person receiving the message is not NT, in which case not getting it is a somewhat valid excuse.

Since you advertised it, which "bucket" are you in? My son is on the spectrum, somewhat high functioning, so potential development branches are of personal interest.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-05-26T17:32:09.281Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have an Asperger's diagnosis. People who know me in person and know the details of autism symptoms find it entirely credible. People who wouldn't know an autie from any other neuroatypicality are surprised when I tell them (I'm high functioning and have decent social heuristics, and in the minds of the completely uninformed, autism = retardation plus rocking and hand flapping).

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T17:31:37.863Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Show of hands: who thinks I'm neurotypical?

comment by xamdam · 2010-05-26T17:54:53.807Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My hand is horizontal; I think Jim's assumption is that you are. If you are credibly not, and feel you did not get Alicorn's signal due to this you should say so - I think it will create an good case to smoke some peace pipes. Personally, I like you both and wish to see this settled.

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-05-26T18:07:23.714Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, my assumption was that he isn't, although this was not based on any strong evidence.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T18:14:13.816Z · score: -3 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Whoa, when was evidence a pre-requisite for you to post strongly about something? Since two minutes ago?

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you put full credence in Alicorn's self-serving, unverifiable claim to having been diagnosed with Asberger's, despite her infamous, "Why not just meet women on the internet?" line ... am I right?

And yet the very basis for your criticism of me was that I'm making a non-NT-characteristic mistake in interpreting a social situation? Did your arguments come before or after your conclusion?

comment by LucasSloan · 2010-05-26T18:34:26.627Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

unverifiable claim to having been diagnosed with Asperger's

I, Lucas Sloan, do solemnly swear that Alicorn is not neurotypical, and very probably has Asperger's. I further attest that the information this comment is based on is the result of having physically interacted with her.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T18:42:32.547Z · score: -4 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Are you also solemnly swearing to ignorance of Alicorn's long-time inarticulable ease with which she makes long-term friendships, a strong non-Asperger's indicator?

comment by LucasSloan · 2010-05-26T20:04:26.635Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I did not know of her ability to purposefully create friendships in any way.

a strong non-Asperger's indicator

Systematizing something which most people do naturally (ie making friends with people) is an indicator of Aspergers.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T20:08:17.212Z · score: -3 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Except that she'd done it naturally all her life without any rigorous systematization -- which is why she finds her methods so inarticulable ("why not just meet girls/friends on the internet?"). Someone who's systematized it has gone through all the steps (the "nuts and bolts") explicitly and has no trouble telling others how to do it -- yet Alicorn has spectacularly, laughably failed at that.

(Good for her if she can make friends -- but she can't seem to pass that skill on.)

So the evidence suggests that this friendship ability did not originate from Asperger's-type systematization, rendering it unable to substantiate claims of Aspberger's.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2010-05-26T20:26:44.569Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

:\

I know you saw this, you replied to one of the replies to it.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T20:38:35.947Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, to criticize the advice's actual vacuousness.

[Alicorn:] Cultivate social spontaneity. This one is hard to define, so I'll give an example. I was waiting for a bus and a woman I'd never met before in an awesome homemade knitted cloak tottering along on crutches said she loved my jacket.

[Crono:] WARNING. If you're male and you attempt to talk to a woman on public transportation, you may very well end up making her extremely uncomfortable. This xkcd comic triggered a major backlash.

[me:]The way you avoid negative outcomes or ill will in such situations is to only approach people who will appreciate being approached by you.

And how do you determine that? Um, implementation issue. Yeah.

The advice requires you to know things that, as an AS type, you wouldn't know to begin with. Her advice is just another form of "do what the other person believes is okay for you to do, and do it right and stuff" -- this shows serious lack of systematization.

And what kind of advice is it anyway, to say, "Um, okay, first assume the other person has started the conversation..."

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2010-05-26T21:05:36.362Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've read everything that Alicorn wrote in that thread four times now, and don't see anywhere where she said to assume that the other person has started the conversation. She didn't give explicit advice on how to start a conversation, but note that the original comment is marked "some tidbits", not "everything you need to know about having a conversation".

She does give a useful, if rough, heuristic for determining when one shouldn't try to start a conversation with a stranger:

If you do not have practice using social spontaneity to good effect it is ideal to try it in situations where the other party may both physically and socially escape, just as a general rule.

Further, auties can learn heuristics that mitigate some of our social skills deficits, and Alicorn's advice is generally within the realm of such heuristics; she doesn't suggest reading the other person's body language, for example, but gives advice that is likely to work without the knowledge that body language gives. Also, as a strong extrovert, Alicorn is more likely than most auties to have developed those heuristics to the point where they can be built on to create more advanced heuristics that go well beyond what is stereotypically expected of an autie.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T21:18:37.621Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've read everything that Alicorn wrote in that thread four times now, and don't see anywhere where she said to assume that the other person has started the conversation.

What about the thing I just quoted:

[Alicorn:] Cultivate social spontaneity. This one is hard to define, so I'll give an example. I was waiting for a bus and a woman I'd never met before in an awesome homemade knitted cloak tottering along on crutches said she loved my jacket.

Next:

She does give a useful, if rough, heuristic for determining when one shouldn't try to start a conversation with a stranger:

If you do not have practice using social spontaneity to good effect it is ideal to try it in situations where the other party may both physically and socially escape, just as a general rule.

Except that's not useful, because socially-adept people violate that in spades.

Also, as a strong extrovert, ...

Wait, I thought she was autistic?

comment by Airedale · 2010-05-26T21:32:13.146Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, as a strong extrovert, ...

Wait, I thought she was autistic?

As I discussed here, I don't think being autistic and being extroverted are mutually exclusive, although they may co-occur in many individuals. Alicorn was actually one of the people I had in mind as someone whom I've met who has AS and is also extroverted.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T21:34:34.593Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, I'm quite aware of that. And be that as it may, the experience of an extroverted autistic is going to be significantly different from that of a normal autistic, questioning the usefulness of the former's insight into the latter.

comment by Airedale · 2010-05-26T21:59:47.249Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree with you on this point. To the extent that Alicorn has presented her socialization/luminosity advice as being applicable to all people (or all autistic people), she has certainly overstated her case. Indeed, I would guess the reason her comment about meeting people on the Internet was downvoted was that it appeared to promise universally applicable advice, and as HughRistik ably pointed out, it did not fulfill that promise.

But my guess, based on Alicorn's posts, would be that at this point, even Alicorn would agree that her advice may not work for all people. She backed off somewhat on the universal applicability of her Internet-socializing advice in response to HughRistik’s comment (“It is possible I was overgeneralizing”). And I think her more recent posts have mostly recognized that her advice may not be helpful to all people. For example, in the introduction to the luminosity sequence, she wrote:

I'm optimistic that at least some of [these techniques] will be useful to at least some people. However, I may be a walking, talking "results not typical". My prior attempts at improving luminosity in others consist of me asking individually-designed questions in real time, and that's gone fairly well; it remains to be seen if I can distill the basic idea into a format that's generally accessible.

comment by HughRistik · 2010-05-26T22:38:53.807Z · score: 17 (21 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, she backed down in response to my comment, which I noticed and greatly appreciated. But she never made any personal admission of fault or retraction to Silas, so I understand why he held a grudge. After all, she did tell him:

If they [women Silas knows] have not invited you to any social functions where you could meet any of their friends, I doubt they like you very much. If you'd like to add a less polite data point, I'd neither date you nor introduce you to my single friends based on what little I know of you.

At this point in the conversation, I really don't see what Silas had done to deserve such as assessment, other than proclaim frustration at his dating situation, and point out that her advice wasn't helpful to him.

If Alicorn had given Silas some kind of personal apology or retraction, admitting that it was premature to try to give him advice without understanding his situation, and imputing negative characteristics to him because of his difficulty accepting that advice, then perhaps the whole communication breakdown might not have happened.

While Silas has handled the interpersonal aspects of their interaction badly, so has Alicorn. I understand why he was frustrated, and felt motivated to point out seeming contradictions between the way she treated him and his arguments, and some of the other posting she did on LessWrong (I also noticed a contradiction between her excellent post on problems vs tasks, and her "let them eat cake" style dating advice to Silas). Along the way, Silas dug himself into a deeper and deeper hole with sarcasm and abrasiveness (despite the urging of me and many others to cool down) and convinced Alicorn and a bunch of other people that he is a jerk, even though he also seems to have made good faith efforts to have discussions with Alicorn on other subjects.

As a result, judgments of Silas by Alicorn or others based on his recent behavior risk falling prey to the fundamental attribution error that Alicorn correctly warns against in the original post. He does have (in my mind) a valid, unresolved beef with a certain lack of charity and hasty negative conclusions that Alicorn displayed to his arguments and character in the past. I strongly, strongly disagree with how he has been expressing it, but he does have a valid beef that people need to realize before piling on him (it's a testament to the failure of his communication skills that he has slowly managed to alienate a large segment of the community even when he started out being in the right.)

comment by Airedale · 2010-05-26T23:07:44.244Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Indeed with this single post you are a much better advocate for Silas than he has been with his many posts. I had not previously seen that post from Alicorn, and I suspect I am not the only one. I agree that Silas, while he has made some good points here and there, has mostly just dug himself a deeper and deeper hole. Whereas Alicorn's radio silence, particularly in comparison with the frequency of Silas's posting, has been the wiser move, whether or not it was calculated to be so.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2010-05-26T21:36:38.252Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I concur with Lady Airedale, but from what I understand Alicorn is mostly extroverted in one-on-one settings and less so in large groups. I'm not sure how common this is for extroverts generally.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T21:41:35.173Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

So then she is like most autistics, but still hasn't actually systematized the problem in a way that she can articulate the solution to other real autistics.

I'm planning an article/series on how to explain, and I can definitely see more and more people every day who need it.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-05-26T21:27:09.338Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Except that's not useful, because socially-adept people violate that in spades.

Yes, they can afford to violate it because they can pick up on the relevant subtle cues. Any attempt at systematization in this sort is going to require having a more restrained set of options than that used by socially-adept people. That's because the rules for how humans interact are really complicated. So even if you did have a decent descriptor for how they all worked, keeping track of all those rules would be really difficult.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T21:45:22.183Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, they can afford to violate it because they can pick up on the relevant subtle cues. Any attempt at systematization in this sort is going to require having a more restrained set of options than that used by socially-adept people.

And adhering to this rule will so constrain you and mark you as unusual, that it's no different from just doing aspie SOP (what you'd do anyway).

If I could afford to only talk to people in these circumstances, I wouldn't be asking for social advice.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2010-05-26T22:26:38.895Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And adhering to this rule will so constrain you and mark you as unusual, that it's no different from just doing aspie SOP (what you'd do anyway).

It's different in that it's a kind of unusual behavior that helps one learn skills that can then be used to make one appear less abnormal.

Isomorphically, someone who was just learning to drive would not immediately try to drive on a busy highway; they would start by practicing in an empty parking lot, even though that's not a normal venue for driving. Once they were confident in their ability to get the results that they wanted from their car, then they'd try driving on roads.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T20:16:55.692Z · score: -2 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Downvote explanation requested.

comment by xamdam · 2010-05-26T20:27:43.175Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sorry, first hand knowledge wins.

comment by Airedale · 2010-05-26T20:33:27.566Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not familiar with this “infamous” remark and I'm not sure what you're suggesting it proves or even implies. I recently read the book Born on a Blue Day, which was written by Daniel Tammet, a man with Asperger's. He writes at one point:

There is something exciting and reassuring for individuals on the autistic spectrum about communicating with other people over the Internet. For one thing, talking in chat rooms or by email does not require you to know how to initiate a conversation or when to smile or the numerous intricacies of body language, as in other social situations. The use of “emoticons” . . . also makes it easier to know how the other person is feeling because he or she tells you in a simple, visual method.

Tammet met his partner on the Internet. His reasoning makes sense to me. Is there something ridiculous that I am missing about the suggestion that people, especially those with autism spectrum diagnoses, meet other people on the Internet, as opposed to real life?

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T20:42:56.001Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Of course. Just check out HughRistik's detailed explanation of how such a suggestion, like "let them eat cake" completely misunderstands the state of an AS male.

Yes, in some time and place it was possible for these internet chats to easily translate into dating for aspies, but apparently, everyone on the site seemed to disagree with Alicorn's assessment.

comment by Airedale · 2010-05-26T20:50:42.657Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But taking it as a given that Alicorn's comment completely misunderstood the state of an AS male, how does it show that she also completely misunderstands the state of an AS female, and how does the comment therefore provide support for your suggestion that Alicorn's AS is in doubt because she made that comment?

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T20:58:27.805Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Because if she had AS, she would be approaching sociality from (more of a) blank slate, and would have to get explicit, conscious knowledge of the rules of sociality she learned, which could then be explained to other AS blank slates, male or female. But her advice is spoken from the perspective of someone who never had to systematize, but only had tacit understanding of sociality -- and hence sounds vague to those who really need the advice.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T18:06:25.199Z · score: -2 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it will create an good case to smoke some peace pipes

Sorry, that ship has already sailed. Alicorn's not interested until first I follow a divaesque list of demands, including "justifying the [probably fake] psychological stress" of having to deal with me, the same stress that somehow manages to disappear when higher-status members do the exact same things she doesn't like.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T18:59:22.169Z · score: -4 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

psst! I'm still waiting for you to revise this comment in light of the demonstrable misconceptions you grounded it on.

Though if retracting some of your bold, noble statements would cost you a little status here and there, I just want to let you know, I completely understand why you wouldn't want to step down from your position on the bandwagon. That's just a decision you have to make between you and your god (or Omega, as the case may be).

comment by kodos96 · 2010-05-26T02:58:44.658Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

She's not necessarily failing to practice what she preaches.... after all, she never said that it's a good idea to like everyone, only that it's possible to like someone intentionally, and that this can be instrumentally useful in some circumstances. It's entirely possible, however, that she simply has no desire to like you - on purpose or otherwise.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2010-05-26T03:29:34.489Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Much better, thank you. Changed my downvote to an upvote.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T03:35:58.991Z · score: -2 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, but keep in mind I can't even reply to this comment, where she tries to explain herself, as she will consider it an atrocity (much like terrorism is an atrocity), simply because she categorically demands that I not post a reply to any of her comments.

Considering that we talk about things other than "the history of Alicorn and Silas" on LW, and that I occasionally have good reason to reply to her comments, this gets to be very inconvenient, very quickly.

I hope it's starting to become obvious why refusal to apply her own advice seems rather inconsistent and unbecoming of someone who would offer such advice.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T03:39:16.817Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

she will consider it an atrocity (much like terrorism is an atrocity)

Can you substantiate this claim about what she considers to be morally equivalent better than you did in this conversation?

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T03:41:30.685Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Re-read my comment above and note what it does and does not allege; and if "Alicorn deems violation of her demands to be an atrocity" is a reasonable characterization of where she stands.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T04:07:33.417Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The narrowest way that I can read your comment is as follows:

"There is badness level x such that Alicorn calls any act with badness level at least x an 'atrocity'. Alicorn thinks that responding to her would have badness level at least x and that terrorism also meets or surpasses this level."

Is that, and no more, all that you meant to imply? You intended no implication that Alicorn considers responding to her and terrorism to be anything remotely close to morally equivalent? Do you believe that terrorism is a representative example of the kinds of acts that Alicorn believes are worse than x? If not, why did you choose that example?

And did she actually use the word "atrocity" to describe your responding to her?

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T04:22:22.252Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

1) When paraphrasing others' views, it's not necessary that they have used the exact words before that you use in the paraphrase. That's what makes it a paraphrase.

The question that matters is: are her actions consistent with classifying my (unapproved) replies to her as an atrocity? I say yes. For one thing, she brooks no excuse whatsoever for violating her demands, even when it goes against her interests. One time:

-She says it's okay to post replies to her top level comments, but not by PM.
-I realize that one such "okay" comment would cause her to lose face, so I say it by PM.
-She accepts that it would cause her to lose face, but that PMing her was just as bad, but would have been okay if I said it publicly.

2) I invoke terrorism to emphasize her over-the-top responses to minor offenses (as she ignores them in others). (And also to remove the sting from the word, but that's a different story.)

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T04:48:11.083Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

1) When paraphrasing others' views, it's not necessary that they have used the exact words before that you use in the paraphrase. That's what makes it a paraphrase.

Then it sounds like "atrocity" is a prime candidate for tabooing. You made a step towards unpacking "atrocity" by saying that "she brooks no excuse whatsoever for violating her demands".

But your evidence does not show that she brooks no excuse. It shows only that saving her face is an insufficient excuse. Saving her face sounds like a pretty small payoff for getting a PM, at least on a scale that includes terrorism. Therefore, the fact that saving face is an insufficient excuse is weak evidence for the claim that all excuses are insufficient. (Suppose you knew that there was a carbon monoxide leak in her room, and you could only tell her by PM. Do you really think that she would be upset with you if you did?)

2) I invoke terrorism to emphasize her over-the-top responses to minor offenses (as she ignores them in others). (And also to remove the sting from the word, but that's a different story.)

But, I gather, you did not mean to imply that her moral evaluation of these "minor offenses" is actually equivalent to her moral evaluation to terrorism. Is that right?

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T04:53:59.511Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Then it sounds like "atrocity" is a prime candidate for tabooing.

Already done, as you mention, so you don't need to belabor the issue of tabooing.

You made a step towards unpacking "atrocity" by saying that "she brooks no excuse whatsoever for violating her demands". But your evidence does not show that she brooks no excuse.

Okay, now re-interpret everything I've said or will say under standard conventions, in which one does not expect statements to be perfectly exceptionless.

It shows only that saving her face is an insufficient excuse. Saving her face sounds like a pretty small payoff for getting a PM, at least in a scale that includes terrorism.

No, it shows intransitive values, which suggests simplistic, trigger-happy moral evaluations.

But, I gather, you did not mean to imply that her moral evaluation of these "minor offenses" is actually equivalent to her moral evaluation to terrorism. Is that right?

Of course? The point was the hyperbole she uses in describing my affect on her, emphasized by reference to terrorism.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T05:07:31.180Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, now re-interpret everything I've said or will say under standard conventions, in which one does not expect statements to be perfectly exceptionless.

Why do you think that I took you to mean that your statement was "perfectly exceptionless"? If it is only because I used the phrase "no excuse", then you are failing to extend to me the consideration that you are requesting.

No, it shows intransitive values, which suggests simplistic, trigger-happy moral evaluations.

This is not relevant, because I am not challenging your contention that she ought to like you. I am challenging the following contentions:

(1) It is appropriate to say "I can't even reply to this comment . . . as she will consider it an atrocity (much like terrorism is an atrocity)".

(2) Her decision not to like you shows that she is unqualified to give the advice in the OP.

The point was the hyperbole she uses in describing my affect on her, emphasized by reference to terrorism.

You know that her description of psychological stress is hyperbole? That doesn't seem like the kind of thing that you could establish reliably over the internet. Not without some smoking gun like her saying, "You know, Silas, I really like interacting with you."

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T15:50:32.202Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why do you think that I took you to mean that your statement was "perfectly exceptionless"?

Because you base your entire reply to it on the assumption that it is substantively refuted the moment you find one atypical exception?

You know that her description of psychological stress is hyperbole? That doesn't seem like the kind of thing that you could establish reliably over the internet. Not without some smoking gun like her saying, "You know, Silas, I really like interacting with you."

Second time: I do have solid proof for this in that she very much enjoys my contributions and even makes non-specific comments attempting to draw me out, so long as she doesn't know it's me. I have the smoking gun, however implausible you might think that to be. (Though I assure you I did not seek out such a gun, as no amount of effort would have reliably gotten Alicorn to do this; it's too improbable.)

I will reveal who Jocaste is[1] once enough people can agree this would be sufficiently informative evidence.

[1] "reveal who Jocaste is" = an term I just made up which should make sense if you're familiar with the story of Oedipus.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T17:19:44.673Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why do you think that I took you to mean that your statement was "perfectly exceptionless"?

Because you base your entire reply to it on the assumption that it is substantively refuted the moment you find one atypical exception?

No, that was not the assumption of my reply. The assumption of my reply was that the excuse I gave (carbon monoxide leak) would not justify committing an atrocity. Therefore, if the excuse is an exception, then PMing her would not be an atrocity.

You know that her description of psychological stress is hyperbole? That doesn't seem like the kind of thing that you could establish reliably over the internet. Not without some smoking gun like her saying, "You know, Silas, I really like interacting with you."

Second time: I do have solid proof for this in that she very much enjoys my contributions and even makes non-specific comments attempting to draw me out, so long as she doesn't know it's me. I have the smoking gun, however implausible you might think that to be. (Though I assure you I did not seek out such a gun, as no amount of effort would have reliably gotten Alicorn to do this; it's too improbable.)

Suppose she said, "You know, Jocaste*, I really like your comments. I wish that you would post more often, especially in reply to my comments."

That would not prove that her claims of psychological stress were hyperbole. The stress evidently arises from interacting with an entire picture of a person built from an entire comment history, not from any arbitrary subportion of that comment history.

* Here I'm using "Jocaste" as a place-holder.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-05-26T15:58:11.056Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I did not seek out such a gun,

Then why did you make this alternate identity?

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T16:06:46.433Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

For all of the reasons anyone would make a separate account here: to make an (unrelated) point, to see if my comments are modded differently if people don't know it's me, to pose questions I wouldn't want to ask under my real name, etc. etc.

Again, Blueberry, I could have gotten CIA covert ops to help me trick Alicorn into making the comments I have in mind; it still wouldn't have done any good. These are remarks you just can't reliably lure people into saying.

comment by Blueberry · 2010-05-26T16:19:42.457Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm really curious now who it is. So why don't you just switch over to your new identity?

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T16:49:34.615Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Enough. If you really want to know, then add your name to and promote this petition,

"We, the undersigned, are prepared to believe Alicorn has been deliberately and unnecessarily vindictive toward Silas, as judged by her treatment of Silas when she doesn't know it's him; and that this behavior casts doubt on the merit of her interpersonal advice, once we learn who Silas's alternate identity is and see Alicorn's relevant posts regarding that person."

which is one of the few reasons I'd couple myself to the other screenname. (And I suspect Alicorn is taking a long walk through her comment history right about now...)

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-05-26T17:50:49.924Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's ridiculous and insulting. If she reacts differently to your other identity, it's because your other identity has acted differently. And if you want a person to like you, then circulating a petition saying bad things about them, as you are doing now, is among the very worst things you could do.

Furthermore, creating an alternate identity and interacting with Alicorn under it is extremely threatening behavior; it demonstrates both an unhealthy obsession and a willingness to deceive.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T19:17:27.986Z · score: 3 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

By the way, regarding this:

Furthermore, creating an alternate identity and interacting with Alicorn under it is extremely threatening behavior; it demonstrates both an unhealthy obsession and a willingness to deceive.

I think you could really benefit from a hot cup of "get some perspective". Despite all the flak I get for characterizing Alicorn et al's reactions to me as calling them "atrocities" and "terrorism", it's comments like yours here that show that people really dive into the hyperbole when talking about what I did.

"Extremely threatening behavior"? Um, hello? I don't know who Alicorn is, or what she looks like, and only sketchy information about where I'd find her. If you believe that anything about my behavior here, anything whatsoever, is "extremely threatening", then start acting like it -- go get the police involved, since you think such a severe threat is going on.

And after the police laugh in your face, you could take a deep breath, drop the hyperbole, and stop looking for reasons to smear me. Sound like a plan?

It's easy to throw off a damaging, irresponsible allegation that someone else is dangerous. The hard part is to actually substantiate that chest-beating. And it's yet harder to unring the great "evil" bell you've just rung over my head. An apology is in order -- but I've learned long ago not to expect that, from anyone here, once they've comitted to a position publicly.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T19:27:06.876Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Very true. And since I was the one giving you a hard time for the "atrocity" and "terrorism" remarks, I feel bound to point out that accusing you of "extremely threatening behavior" is not only hyperbolic, but also more damaging to discourse because it amounts to accusing you of a crime. Definitely not cool.

comment by kodos96 · 2010-05-26T19:31:28.808Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"threatening" doesn't necessarily imply threats of violence or criminality, it can simply refer to threats of further harassment.

But how about we remove the word "threatening" and replace it with plain ole "creepy".

creating an alternate identity and interacting with Alicorn under it is extremely creepy behavior; it demonstrates both an unhealthy obsession and a willingness to deceive.

Does anyone disagree with this statement?

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T19:37:53.621Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It would be creepy for someone to create an alternative identity and use it to interact intentionally with Alicorn in a way that they couldn't with their original identify.

But that's not what Silas did.

comment by kodos96 · 2010-05-26T19:45:14.736Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

OK. I have no idea what Silas did, beyond what's been said in this thread. I was just trying to rephrase the statement in a way that removed the connotation of criminality that was alleged to be embedded in the word "threatening"

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T18:02:44.460Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's ridiculous and insulting. If she reacts differently to your other identity, it's because your other identity has acted differently.

But when this identity acts like that identity, somehow, that's not enough to change her reaction! Go fig.

And if you want a person to like you, then circulating a petition saying bad things about them, as you are doing now....

What a crock. Even when the comment was up (which it hasn't been for 15+ minutes), it wasn't doing that. But I guess deleted comments are the easiest targets for misrepresentation.

Seriously, are you capable of having all the facts before you criticize someone? Is that just not in your job description?

Furthermore, creating an alternate identity and interacting with Alicorn under it is extremely threatening behavior; it demonstrates both an unhealthy obsession and a willingness to deceive.

Except a) I didn't seek to "interact with Alicorn". Rather, Miss "I'm terrified of Jocaste" replied to Oedipus's mother!

and

b) alternate screennames, in and of themselves, are acceptable behavior on LW and do not count as deception for the numerous justifiable reasons for using them.

Wait, I forgot -- this is Silas we're talking about. Screw the rules.

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-05-26T19:29:32.084Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ok, there's some unfortunate timing here in that I saw and replied to the post above without knowing that it was deleted. I infer from the fact that you deleted it, that you realized the subtext was saying something you didn't mean to say. So, I applaud your discretion and will delete my criticisms in the grandparent. I also had wrongly assumed that you had used your alternate identity to post replies to Alicorn rather than the other way around, which would have very different significance.

I do think you ought to take a lesson from Prof Quirrell on backing down gracefully, though.

comment by kodos96 · 2010-05-26T03:53:14.730Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, you just explained why it would be instrumentally useful to YOU for her to decide to like you.

comment by kodos96 · 2010-05-26T03:47:50.778Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Once again, how is it that she's failing to apply her own advice? Several people now have offered a retort to this claim - either rebut it, or stop making the claim.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T03:50:07.310Z · score: -2 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I did rebut those retorts. Now, respond to those rebuttals, or stop making the same claim (and starting an information cascade).

comment by kodos96 · 2010-05-26T03:54:34.574Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, you just explained why it would be instrumentally useful to YOU for her to intentionally like you.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T04:01:06.678Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, she clearly gains from being able to post impersonal replies nested under my comments -- just as she gains from making posts replying to my top-level posts, even though I could revoke this privilege, and she would be obligated, by symmetry, to honor it.

So, even if she really, truly doesn't care about having to avoid my comments, and even she doesn't get "peripheral psychological" damage from seeing the existence of my comments (which, truth be told, she probably doesn't), then this state only exists because of diplomacy on my part -- not from following the advice in this article.

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2010-05-26T08:09:55.779Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

she will consider it an atrocity (much like terrorism is an atrocity)

You keep using this analogy to terrorism. Where does it originate?

comment by Alicorn · 2010-05-26T03:00:55.289Z · score: -2 (30 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A story for curious onlookers:

On March 25 I received a PM from Morendil. Its full text follows.

Hi Alicorn,

Silas has asked me to inquire with you if you would now be "able to return to dialogue with (him)". This comment of yours was the trigger for thinking the question was timely.

After an hour or so of dithering, I've decided to grant the request, on limited terms: I've promised to ask you a question, and that is all.

Please feel free to answer me, or not answer as you see fit. Please feel free to provide any message you'd like me to pass back to Silas, or not. I will not relay anything back unless you ask me explicitly.

My motivations are, mainly, curiosity as to what's going on, and a desire to be a cooperator when asked for help explicitly.

I hope my decision causes no future ill feelings between us, though I accept full responsibility if it does.

I replied:

First of all, you've engendered no ill will for yourself; I can understand why you chose to relay the message.

However, I need more information before I can proceed. Specifically, I need to know how said dialogue would take place (format, presence of third parties, time, topic, ostensible goal of the conversation); I need to know something about Silas's motivations for making this attempt (because he finds it annoying to coexist on LW with someone who won't talk to him? because he looks at it as a challenge? because he finds me scintillating and admirable and regrets not being able to bask in my company? because he wants to look magnanimous and charismatic upon publicly interacting with me again?); and I need to know whether it's going to take the form of "Silas said X and Y and acknowledges why this led to shunning but is sorry now and wants to apologize" or the form "gosh, hasn't it been long enough, won't Alicorn just let bygones be bygones already?" The latter form of "reconciliation" is neither useful nor, as a general heuristic, safe, and I won't undertake it. I could likely be persuaded to receive an attempt at the other, although the answers to the other questions would have to be satisfactory. (Kindly don't prime him with my specific examples, as they're rather obviously connotatively tagged and they lose a lot of informative power if he doesn't come up with them himself.)

One thing to note is that nothing in that comment is new since I stopped talking to Silas. I stopped talking to him in spite of the fact that I was reasonably sure I could make myself like him, simply because I judged the tradeoff to be not worth it. Liking somebody on purpose is time-consuming and hard. In order to reverse the decision, it has to be shown both that it was worth trying to like him at the time, and that it is additionally worth the cost of reversal now in the form of a weakened consistency effect the next time I'm invited to return to talking to someone I've previously written off. (Note that I may be forced to rely on this exact consistency effect if, for example, I'm ever abused by a loved one and manage to leave once and am then pressured to return. It is not trivial for me to have a self-image of someone who stays gone after leaving.)

Morendil's reply (including a minor edit he clarified in a separate message):

Thanks for replying. I'm now feeling nearly discharged of the obligation I've taken on voluntarily: it seems to me that I've delivered the key message I've been asked to get across, i.e. that Silas would like to be at least able to offer peace talks.

As I said earlier, I intend to pass nothing back that you don't explicitly ask me to, and I prefer to err on the safe side and look for something in quotes with a request from you along the lines of "tell Silas the following". (And again, replying is optional.)

Ideally, this would be something that I can pass back to Silas such that from that point on, the two of you can either continue with the status quo or negotiate further on mutually agreeable terms. I have no burning desire to see this go one way or the other; I do have a preference for being a go-between only so long as necessary.

I said:

You may tell Silas the following:

I am tentatively willing to engage, preliminarily through a go-between, whom it is your responsibility to find and keep interested if Morendil declines to continue providing the service. This exchange's continuation is dependent on satisfactory explanations from you through the go-between about your motives for wanting to resume being on speaking terms with me, and a summary of why it ought to be considered worth both my time and some undesirable peripheral psychological effects.

Apart from a mis-addressing of the passing on of this message, I heard nothing more on the topic from anyone thereafter.

comment by xamdam · 2010-05-26T17:09:35.737Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not enough context - where is the fight itself?

comment by Alicorn · 2010-05-26T17:34:34.116Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There was an extended series of interactions, not all of which I can remember well enough to dig up via search; the bit where I told him to leave me alone is here.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T02:58:22.538Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Evidently, she doesn't think that it would be instrumentally useful to like you. Perhaps you can sympathize, since you don't seem to think that it would be instrumentally useful to like her.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T03:26:00.478Z · score: 1 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but at least I want to lift off the albatross of having to avoid replying her comments (and her mine) even when it adds to the discussion and is not specifically directed at her. The advice she's given in this article (and past ones) show she believes herself to be an expert on this, but won't take even this reasonable step.

comment by Mass_Driver · 2010-05-26T14:04:47.825Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but at least I want to lift off the albatross of having to avoid replying her comments (and her mine) even when it adds to the discussion.

In my opinion, you are a poor judge of when a reply to Alicorn's comments will add to a discussion. Your judgment seems to me to be biased strongly in favor of deciding to reply to Alicorn's comments so as to highlight what you see as their shortcomings, possibly because you wish to lower her status. Thus, what you see as a useful contribution might be seen by others as the latest in a series of unwarranted snarky put-downs.

Therefore, if your primary desire is to discuss general issues that Alicorn also contributes to, you should take great pains to make it clear that you are not attempting to interact with Alicorn, much less disparage her. Concretely, this means that you would:

(1) not address Alicorn in the second person (2) not state or imply that Alicorn's posts are worthless or nearly worthless (3) not ask, directly or indirectly, what Alicorn's opinion on a subject is

but would instead

(4) make assertions about an abstract topic, using the third person (5) use polite phrases like "no offense," "nothing personal," or "in my opinion" (6) ask for the opinion of other LW commenters in general or for the opinion of specific named LWers who you get along with.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-05-26T15:04:59.806Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Minor note- the phrases "nothing personal" and "no offense" can often have the exact opposite of the intended result. Tthey can come across as condescending and very often when people use them they really are trying to be offensive, although they may not realize it. (A relevant quote from me from about 10 years ago "No offense, but the only thing saving that argument from being completely stupid is that sections of it are incoherent." (Yes, I'd like to think I don't say things like that now)). And "in my opinion" is very rarely useful unless the point being made is that one is a subject matter expert. It also personalizes things unnecessarily in the same way that the 2nd person does, just to a lesser extent.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T21:37:03.332Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In my opinion, you are a poor judge of when a reply to Alicorn's comments will add to a discussion. Your judgment seems to me to be biased strongly in favor of deciding to reply to Alicorn's comments so as to highlight what you see as their shortcomings, possibly because you wish to lower her status.

It probably appears that way because in all the cases since ~Nov '09 when I have a substantive reply to an Alicorn comment, I just don't make it because of this ban. So all the remaining ones you see will be less engaging and productive. Hey -- maybe we should lift that ban ... oh, wait.

Therefore, if your primary desire is to discuss general issues that Alicorn also contributes to, you should take great pains to make it clear that you are not attempting to interact with Alicorn, much less disparage her.

I feel I have already demonstrated mastery of this in such comments as these. I don't see how any reasonable person would find those offensive, even as they violate your extensive standards.

As for your (1) to (4) -- yeah, that's an inconvenient, ridiculous set of hoops to jump through, which is why I want to get to the root of our disagreement, and eliminate the need to have to walk through a minefield to exchange ideas. Why doesn't Alicorn want the same? You tell me.

comment by Mass_Driver · 2010-05-27T04:17:15.150Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am not going to vote on or address the content of this post because, in my opinion, it engages in doublespeak and straw-manning. I have a blanket policy of not responding to such tactics on an Internet forum. I am extremely unlikely to make further public comments on the Alicorn-SilasBarta dispute(s).

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T03:35:42.128Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The advice she's given in this article (and past ones) show she believes herself to be an expert on this, but won't take even this reasonable step.

She is not claiming to be an expert on recognizing when it would be good to like someone. Here is her claim of knowledge:

As such, it's very handy to be able to like someone you want to like deliberately when it doesn't happen by itself. There are three basic components to liking someone on purpose. . . .

There is really no contradiction or hypocrisy here unless you are someone whom she wants to like deliberately.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T03:43:41.872Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's not necessary that I be someone she wants to like; the advice is just as relevant for canceling out dislike. And the extensive demands she makes out of that dislike suggest she doesn't actually use this advise in at least one clear case where the dislike is having severe consequences.

Seriously, if the mere sight of a comment of mine replying to her -- no matter what it says, no matter how impersonal -- causes "undesirable peripheral psychological effects", effects that must be elaborately justified by others in order for her to consider enduring them ... you fill in the blank.

comment by kodos96 · 2010-05-26T04:18:01.357Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seriously, if the mere sight of a comment of mine replying to her -- no matter what it says, no matter how impersonal

Look, I don't claim to know the entire history of Silas v Alicorn... but I think you would have a much easier time making your case if the comments you made in this very thread hadn't been so unnecessarily antagonistic.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T04:26:10.607Z · score: 0 (14 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Alright, so having been convinced I have something important to add, you decide that whatever I did to get you to that point was inappropriate. Fair enough.

But tell me, where would be the appropriate place to point out that this Alicorn is completely different from the one I've come to know? As far as possible from where she promotes her deep wisdom? Or near?

comment by kodos96 · 2010-05-26T04:45:06.836Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I honestly have no idea what you're trying to say here.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T04:48:08.489Z · score: -3 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Rhetorical question: Is here the best place to bring up the failures of her advice?

Non-rhetorical question.If I have evidence that suggests Alicorn acts completely differently than implied by this article, what is the best way to go about it, that would have (potentially) convinced you of its merit?

comment by kodos96 · 2010-05-26T05:10:06.342Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Rhetorical question: Is here the best place to bring up the failures of her advice?

I'm not sure how this question is rhetorical, since it seems to have a perfectly straightforward answer: here would be a perfectly suitable place to bring up failures of her advice, if such failures actually existed.

We've made this point so many times now I feel silly even typing it again, but maybe one more time will do it: her advice has not failed. She wrote an article about how to go about intentionally liking someone. The fact that she's chosen not to intentionally like you is not evidence that she is incapable of doing so in other cases, nor that the advice may not be useful to others.

Non-rhetorical question.If I have evidence that suggests Alicorn acts completely differently than implied by this article, what is the best way to go about it, that would have (potentially) convinced you of its merit?

Since she makes no claims about when or under what circumstances she makes use of the described method, the only thing I read the article to imply about her behavior is that she has had, on at least one occasion, some success in applying this method. So convincing me of the merit of the proposition that this is false would require documentary evidence of her entire life, exhaustively showing a complete absence of any instance of success with this method. Yes, that's a tall order, but you're the one who's trying to prove a negative.

comment by HughRistik · 2010-05-27T05:12:55.067Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

She wrote an article about how to go about intentionally liking someone. The fact that she's chosen not to intentionally like you is not evidence that she is incapable of doing so in other cases, nor that the advice may not be useful to others.

Isn't Alicorn choosing not to try to like him based on an existing negative impression of him? In other word, she has decided not to try to like him... because she doesn't like him in the first place...? Isn't this exactly the kind of error that her post warns against? [Edit: I retract this particular paragraph for making assumptions about Alicorn's motives that I can't verify.]

I wonder if the whole breakdown between the two could have been minimized if Alicorn (and Silas) had been applying the type of strategies she mentions in the post from the start. She did mention avoiding the fundamental attribution error (emphasis mine):

When the person exhibits a characteristic, habit, or tendency you have on your list (or, probably just to aggravate you, turns out to have a new one), be on your guard immediately for the fundamental attribution error. It is especially insidious when you already dislike the person, and so it's important to compensate consciously and directly for its influence. Elevate to conscious thought an "attribution story", in which you consider a circumstance - not a character trait - which would explain this most recent example of bad behavior.

In this case, there actually is a relevant circumstance (which I attempt to recount ): Alicorn was kind of a jerk to him in both intellectual and personal ways without any retraction or apology. He followed her around being increasingly sarcastic, and she wrote him off as a jerk, resulting in him becoming even more abrasive. [Edit: This is my perception as an observer with (a) significant agreement with Silas on substantive issues, (b) significant disagreement with Silas' communication style, and (c) significant disagreement with Alicorn on certain issues.]

Alicorn doesn't seem to have acknowledged the circumstance in which Silas was being abrasive and sarcastic towards her. People recently seeing their exchanges won't know the circumstance, either. As a result, his comments may read as more hostile to them, when to me many of them read like frustration at being treated unfairly by someone and then being made into the bad guy when attempting to seek redress with them. Yes, many of his comments sound flat-out hostile to me, too (and I've told Silas in the past to tone it down), but these mainly started appearing after communication between the two of them had broken down, which seems a lot due to communication errors on Alicorn's end, also.

When judging how much of a jerk someone is and deciding whether it's worth trying to like them, it's probably an example of the fundamental attribution error to judge them a jerk for being consistently sarcastic to you after you were a jerk to them and didn't apologize. Alicorn's assessment of Silas seems, to a large degree, a self-fulfilling prophecy (which also implies that there is a degree to which Silas' sarcasm level isn't justified by the way Alicorn treated him... though I do have sympathy for him for reasons I explain below).

Now, normally, I wouldn't feel motivated to point a contradiction I perceived between a top-level post, and the behavior of a poster. I tend to treat people's arguments in isolation. However, I'm not in Silas' shoes. I know that I would feel frustrated and helpless if I was treated unfairly by a higher status member of a community, and then notice that person receiving acclaim from the community for advocating virtues that seemed absent in their treatment of me. I would start to feel a bit bullied if, when I had tried to point out the contradiction at various points and seek some updating from the high status person, members of the community sided with the high status person, rather than with me. I hope I would be able to just get over it, or communicate my frustration in a constructive way that put people on my side.

I have a decent level of social support, so I can handle someone giving me poor advice that is ignorant of my experience. I can handle people telling me something like what Alicorn told Silas (see my first link): that my female friends must not like me very much because they aren't introducing me to more women. I could even handle someone saying: "If you'd like to add a less polite data point, I'd neither date you nor introduce you to my single friends based on what little I know of you" (Alicorn's words to Silas, which were not justified by anything he had said at that point).

To me, I can shrug these things off; they aren't a big deal... because I have social support. But it's important to realize that to someone who has a below average level of social support, such presumptions are a big deal. People, including me, kept telling Silas to "get over" his issues with Alicorn, but perhaps what she said might have been disproportionately hurtful or angering to him than it would have been to any of us, and consequently harder to just "get over." Silas still should have followed our advice, but our judgments of him based on the fact that he didn't must take this potential background into account.

For people with lower social support, being asked to "get over it" can trigger past issues of bullying: being bullied by a more popular bully and then being told that it isn't a big deal, and people judging you as more uncool for making a big deal about it than they judge the bully uncool for originally mistreating you. I am not saying that Alicorn was bullying Silas (though she may owe him some sort of apology or retraction), only presenting a hypothesis that her treatment of him, and our insistence that he "get over it" without any kind of apology or retraction from her, could well trigger a less-than-graceful response from someone with lower than average social support who have suffered interpersonal maltreatment in the past. If Silas belongs to such a class of people, it would explain a lot of the sarcasm and abrasiveness he has been flinging around towards people.

The ability to "just get over" people being a jerk to you and devaluing your social desirability is a privilege of people with social support. Since many of the people here might experience lower-than-average levels of social support, it's a bad precedent on LessWrong if the norms allow someone to be a jerk to someone with a low level of social support, and then write the victim off as a jerk because they get mad and don't respond as gracefully as someone with high social support would. It's also a bad norm to allow poster A to be a jerk to poster B, and then accept that poster A can demand that poster B stop replying to them after poster B acts like a jerk in return.

For various reasons, Alicorn herself may not have realized that Silas felt maligned in that original discussion, or that she owed him an apology/retracion, and perhaps thought the updating she showed towards my explanation of where he was coming from was enough (again, see the first post I link to). As a result, she might have been mystified by why he was consistently being sarcastic to her, and imputed his behavior as a negative reflection of his character, such that he wasn't worth communicating with or even trying to like. [Edit: Although these potential explanations of Alicorn's thought processes are charitable, I acknowledge them as speculation.] This would be an example of the fundamental attribution error, even though it might have been an unknowing one.

comment by kodos96 · 2010-05-27T05:56:59.738Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Upvoted for being constructive and evenhanded. But I think a consensus has emerged that we should stop talking about this, or at least move it off this comment thread.

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2010-05-27T06:20:37.625Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Upvoted for being an accurate and fair summary of the kerfuffle.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T15:34:45.811Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

here would be a perfectly suitable place to bring up failures of her advice, if such failures actually existed.

Please reconcile your obvious advice with jimrandomh's equally-obvious but opposite advice given here. Specifically, on the issue of whether I should have made a comment in this discussion that implicitly requests a response from Alicorn.

Moderators: please withdraw your upvotes from the parent until you can come up with a course of action that would have satisfied both kodos96 and jimrandomh's constraints; otherwise, you're venturing deep into politicsland.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T18:42:09.169Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please reconcile your obvious advice with jimrandomh's equally-obvious but opposite advice given here. Specifically, on the issue of whether I should have made a comment in this discussion that implicitly requests a response from Alicorn.

This is a fair point. Following jimrandomh's advice would imply never criticizing Alicorn's comments or posts. The letter of your "agreement" with Alicorn doesn't require that, but jimrandomh's advice does. I've upvoted this comment of yours and removed my upvote from jimrandomh's. (I hadn't upvoted kodos96's.)

Merely being you and criticizing Alicorn ought not to be counted as pestering by this community. (Of course, certain kinds of criticism can count as pestering. And context, such as the poster's identity, does count.)

comment by kodos96 · 2010-05-26T18:31:01.632Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please reconcile your obvious advice with jimrandomh's

My understanding of your agreement with Alicorn was that you were allowed to comment on each other's top level posts, just not address each other directly. It may be that my understanding is incorrect (I don't really care). The important part of what I said was the conditional, "if such failures actually existed." If you're pulling your claims of hypocrisy out of your ass, then there is no appropriate place for them.

Moderators: please withdraw your upvotes from the parent

And how's that working out for you?

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T18:53:25.512Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My understanding of your agreement with Alicorn was that you were allowed to comment on each other's top level posts, just not address each other directly. It may be that my understanding is incorrect (I don't really care).

Well, it is indeed incorrect. The agreement's not supposed to make sense -- I found out the hard way what Alicorn is demanding.

The important part of what I said was the conditional, "if such failures actually existed." If you're pulling your claims of hypocrisy out of your ass, then there is no appropriate place for them.

Well, that's subjective. If I have a good-faith suspicion of Alicorn not following this advice when in critical cases where it actually matters, surely, it obviously belongs here. Except that to jimrandomh, it obviously does. Which of these two contradictory obvious positions is right? And what inference should I draw from this kafkaesqueness?

comment by kodos96 · 2010-05-26T19:09:18.288Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I have a good-faith suspicion of Alicorn not following this advice

... I don't know how many more ways we can rephrase this till you get it: her advice is solely about how, not when or whether, to go about liking someone. So even if everything you're saying is absolutely true, it does not refute the claims in the article.

Which of these two contradictory obvious positions is right?

Our positions aren't contradictory. His is that you should refrain from commenting at all. Mine is that as long as you're making personal accusations irrelevant to the OP, you should refrain from commenting. Since, in this case, you're making personal accusations irrelevant to the OP, both our positions recommend the same course of action.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T04:31:32.364Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's not necessary that I be someone she wants to like; the advice is just as relevant for canceling out dislike.

Granted, her advice is also relevant to canceling out dislike of someone whom you've already decided that you don't want to dislike. But since she evidently has not made that decision with regard to you, it wouldn't be appropriate for her to use her advice in this case. The relationship that you two have is not in a state where her advice is relevant. If Alicorn started writing posts about when one ought to like someone, then your criticisms would be relevant.

But her advice here is just not relevant to cases where one has decided that one really ought to dislike the other person.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T04:40:51.121Z · score: -4 (14 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have already provided more than enough reasons why, by her own actions, she reveals that she believes she loses significantly (note those psychological stresses) by not counteracting her hatred. When you start addressing those points, you'll have a case.

As it stands, Alicorn speaks as if from a different world than the one any named witness has seen her in.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T04:55:11.515Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have already provided more than enough reasons why, by her own actions, she reveals that she believes she loses significantly (note those psychological stresses) by not counteracting her hatred. When you start addressing those points, you'll have a case.

Such a case would be for the claim that she ought not to like you. But I never made that claim, and I have no desire to make such a case. I like you and I think that she should, too.

But her wrong decision to dislike you does not imply that she is unqualified to give the advice in the OP, because the advice in the OP doesn't concern the question of when one ought to dislike someone. The OP concerns the question of what to do after you have decided, by whatever means, that you ought not dislike someone whom you dislike.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T05:01:39.418Z · score: -3 (15 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Haven't I shown that, by any reasonable measure -- like the psychological stresses she claims (questionably) to get from merely noticing my comments -- Alicorn ought to try to reverse this dislike, by her very own values?

Given that she does not apply the advice she gives here to this very real-world scenario, and I'm the only one so far with a name to go on record stating the impacts of these heuristics of engagement ...

comment by wedrifid · 2010-05-26T09:01:58.745Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I too have observed a certain ironic discordance between some of Alicorn's top level posts (including the luminosity series) and her observable behavior.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T05:11:24.719Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you get the distinction between (1) knowing how to do something, and (2) knowing when you ought to do that thing?

If you do get the distinction, do you recognize that Alicorn's OP is entirely about (1), while your criticisms are entirely about (2)?

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T15:43:09.161Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you get why demonstrating (2) shows why someone giving advice on (1) should, for consistency, have applied (1)? And therefore why (2) is relevant?

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T16:14:05.795Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm actually am having a little trouble grasping your meaning with these questions. I agree that someone giving advice on (1) should have applied (1). Otherwise, they don't have a justified claim to the knowledge in (1). But this is the case whether or not they demonstrate (2), which is why I'm confused by the wording of your question.

What I don't get is why it is relevant if the advice-giver failed to realize that they should have applied (1) in some particular case, even if they ought to have known that they should have applied (1).

To give a gruesome example, a professional hitman might be able to give very good advice on how to kill someone you've decided to kill, even if his advice on when to decide to kill someone is spectacularly bad.

Similarly, your evaluation of Alicorn's advice on how to like someone you've decided to like should be independent of your belief that she's very bad at deciding when to like someone.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T16:31:11.525Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

So that's what your entire criticism amounts to? That maybe Alicorn just didn't recognize this as an opportunity to use her skills, even as she goes through the terror of seeing my comments pop up all over the place?

That would kind of require you to believe that Alicorn was lying about the whole psychological stress thing, which is a spectacularly nasty thing to lie about. If you're fine with that if it proves me wrong ... I guess that's a call you have to make.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T16:33:54.789Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That would kind of require you to believe that Alicorn was lying about the whole psychological stress thing. . .

I don't follow this inference at all.

I would guess that she "didn't recognize this as an opportunity to use her skills" because of the psychological stress.

That is, because of the psychological stress of interacting with you, she came to the mistaken conclusion that she ought not to like you, so she never tried to apply her advice. That would be my guess.

ETA: Maybe this is your reasoning (please confirm or deny): A person with the ability to choose to like anyone would choose to like everyone, especially the people that he or she really, really doesn't like. This is because disliking someone is unpleasant, and it's more unpleasant the more you dislike them. But liking someone is pleasant, so that is what someone with the power in the OP would choose to do. Therefore, someone who claims to have the power in the OP, but who also evidently doesn't like someone, is probably lying or deluded.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T16:45:05.264Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fourth time: the advice applies to canceling dislike, just as much as changing to like.

So, your position is now that Alicorn suffers psychological stress from seeing my name all over her favorite[1] discussion site, but feels this is just "something she has to live with" (though it has disadvantages of its own), becuase of the severe wrongness of turning off her dislike of me?

It's okay to say "oops".

ETA:

Maybe this is your reasoning (please confirm or deny): A person with the ability to choose to like anyone would choose to like everyone, especially the people that he or she really, really doesn't like. ...

Not even close: I listed the reasons Alicorn unnecessarily adheres to a dislike that are specific to this situation, and how the unpleasantness can be good for and the site by switching to non-dislike ... already it looks nothing like the reasoning you posited.

[1] please, please don't nitpick this one -- you get the point, I hope

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T17:55:46.356Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not even close: I listed the reasons Alicorn unnecessarily adheres to a dislike that are specific to this situation, and how the unpleasantness can be good for and the site by switching to non-dislike ... already it looks nothing like the reasoning you posited.

Okay, how about this*:

Alicorn knows** that she ought to like Silas. Therefore, if she had the power to like whomever she wanted, she would have chosen to like Silas. Since she hasn't chosen to like Silas, she must not have the powers she claims in the OP. Therefore, she was deluded or lying when she wrote the OP, so we can dismiss her advice

* I'm honestly just trying to understand your view. I expect that my picture of your view is still wrong in significant respects. But the best way that I know to improve my understanding is to give you my picture so far, so that you can correct it. I am not trying to characterize your view for rhetorical purposes. Again, I know that my picture is probably wrong.

* It is not enough that she ought to know, any more than we should dismiss the hitman's advice on how to kill just because he is so clearly wrong about when* to kill.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T16:56:03.695Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's okay to say "oops".

You know, I've been thinking the same thing :).

So, your position is now that Alicorn suffers psychological stress from seeing my name all over her favorite[1] discussion site, but feels this is just "something she has to live with" (though it has disadvantages of its own), becuase of the severe wrongness of turning off her dislike of me?

Yes, I think that that is a fair description of my position. (ETA: However, the "severe wrongness" need not be moral wrongness. Humans often want to do unpleasant things and very much don't want to do something that would increase their pleasure. It's not all that unusual. Usually this is for moral reasons, as conventionally understood, but not always.)

Did you read my edit to my last comment? Does it capture your reasoning (with "like" replaced with "not dislike", if you like)?

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T17:23:02.462Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's okay to say "oops".

You know, I've been thinking the same thing :).

Cute, but considering how contorted your position has turned out to be, you can forgive me for wondering if you wanted to stick with it.

Yes, I think that that is a fair description of my position. (ETA: However, the "severe wrongness" need not be moral wrongness. Humans often want to do unpleasant things and very much don't want to do something that would increase their pleasure. It's not all that unusual. Usually this is for moral reasons, as conventionally understood, but not always.)

And that's what I mean: on top of the already contorted position I attributed to you, you're adding this moral-or-maybe-something else wrongness, which has no precedent in your earlier justifications. Do you think it's probably one of the non-moral-wrongness things? Is that just a matter of terminology?

My earlier comment has been revised to respond to your addition, but it's just an elaboration of "wtf? no".

comment by Will_Newsome · 2010-05-26T17:30:25.418Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you take enjoyment in participating in these long, often repetitive arguments? Do you not find the antagonism consistently grating or stressful? If you have been wronged, surely from experience you can see that repeatedly bringing it up is simply not going to change anything. I'm curious as to whether this apparent futility bothers you in the same way that I know it would bother me.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T17:45:13.874Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you take enjoyment in participating in these long, often repetitive arguments?

No.

Do you not find the antagonism consistently grating or stressful?

I do find the antagonism grating and/or stressful. (The same with questions posed in the negative, but I digress.)

If you have been wronged, surely from experience you can see that repeatedly bringing it up is simply not going to change anything.

It's definitely going to change the cardinality of the set of non-anonymous people who can indepently confirm or disconfirm being on the receiving end of Alicorn's wisdom, which is what I was mainly hoping for.

To your broader, implied query: I'm between a rock in a hard place. I've wanted to point out what a crock Alicorn's supposed insight on the matter is since her luminosity series (this isn't the first time she's posted advice in direct contradiction of how all evidence reveals she handles situations). After about the ~8th article, I couldn't let her go on promoting this two-faced act, so I spoke up.

No, I don't enjoy becoming LW's whipping boy every three months. But what can I say -- no good deed goes unpunished.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2010-05-26T20:40:24.057Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

(The same with questions posed in the negative, but I digress.)

This doesn't work online, but Steve Rayhawk has cultivated the habit of consistently responding to questions in the negative with an affirmative response ('Yes, I do not believe that', or simply 'Yes') and thus I feel I do not have to sacrifice meaning for ease of conversational flow. I really wish this would become a more common disposition. Anyway, sorry for doing that.

I think you discount the possibility (I have no idea how probable it is, by the way) that Alicorn is actually a generally luminous and thoughtful person and that for some reason you seem to be an especially rare and difficult case for her. Maybe she has legitimate things to say to help people generally, even if she messed up (or you messed up for her) the dynamic between you two specifically. I know Alicorn. She can be critical, but she's genuinely a good person. It could be that you've been wronged, but it could also be that this is an an atypical result for people who interact with Alicorn, as most of the evidence seems to suggest. Generalizing from one example, although it probably feels justified, might actually be the wrong thing to do here. It might be impossible for you, but I'd suggest letting it go. All of the writing time you've spent on comments in this thread could have been spent on a good post, which is your strong point. One should generally not spend their time optimizing for cold harshies.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T20:46:43.274Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not generalizing from one example, and my reaction is not atypical. Looking at the moderation difference between Alicorn and HughRistik regarding her advice here, and the numerous other times she posts dating/meeting friends advice in the comments section (rather than as an article), it seems that most men here aren't benefitting from what she has to say in their daily lives -- though they may certainly find the advice intellectually stimulating.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2010-05-26T21:01:58.488Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not generalizing from one example, and my reaction is not typical.

Point taken (and I think you meant atypical?). It's funny, because I know Hugh and I know Alicorn, and I bet they'd make decent friends in person (if they haven't met already at a Less Wrong meetup while I was on vacation or something). Anyway, your claim here seems way more reasonable than the dramatized ones above. ("I couldn't let her go on promoting this two-faced act".) It seems you have narrowed your argument specifically to relationship advice, in which case I'm much more tempted to agree that your point has merit. But I think her luminosity sequence got a lot of upvotes for a reason. I personally found some useful concepts in there, and looking at the comments it seems many others also discovered her ideas about luminosity to be useful. First, I don't think shouting 'hypocrisy' is a good argument against the usefulness of a post; second, I don't think that shouting 'hypocrisy', or attempting ad hominem attacks, is going to get you anywhere anyway. If you want to make people think Alicorn is a bad person, fine, but why the heck would you want to do that? Vengeance? It seems you take the more reasonable position that Alicorn might be being trusted as an expert where she lacks skill, but continuing to attack her in areas where skill has been demonstrated erodes Less Wrongers' ability to believe you are acting in good faith.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T17:36:00.314Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cute, but considering how contorted your position has turned out to be, you can forgive me for wondering if you wanted to stick with it.

Hmm. I thought that I laid it out very cleanly here.

And that's what I mean: on top of the already contorted position I attributed to you, you're adding this moral-or-maybe-something else wrongness, which has no precedent in your earlier justifications. Do you think it's probably one of the non-moral-wrongness things? Is that just a matter of terminology?

I think that it's probably moral wrongness, but I'm less certain, so I'm more cautious about attributing that view to her.

But, at any rate, I honestly don't see the contortions to which you refer. Perhaps she would experience a certain increase in pleasure if she modified herself not to dislike you. If she has this power, but chooses not to use it, then you may conclude that she cares about something more than that pleasure. It's sort of like how Ghandi wouldn't take a pill to make himself like to kill people, even if he knew that he would have lots of opportunities to kill people at no cost. There is a very standard distinction between what you think you ought to do and what you think will give you the most pleasure. I would expect the inferential distance on LW for this to be very short. That is why I don't see my position as contorted.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T17:50:15.978Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Give me just a little credit here: yes I do understand the difference between "this increases my pleasure" and "I should do this"; and yes, there should be low inferential distance on explaining such a point on LW. That's wasn't in dispute. What's in dispute is how much contortion you have to go through to justify why that distinction would be relevant and applicable here (which even the contortion leaves out).

And you didn't lay it out very cleanly in the linked comment: you just made one distinction that is a very small part of what you have to say to specify your position.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T18:06:34.301Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My view is that Alicorn probably perceives certain benefits from not disliking you, such as the ones you've enumerated. But evidently she also sees other costs from not disliking you (costs which are probably moral). In her estimation (which I think is incorrect) the costs outweigh the benefits. Therefore, she has chosen not to apply the advice in the OP.

What's contorted about that? As I see it, I'm just taking her revealed preferences at face value, while giving her the benefit of the doubt that she has the powers described in the OP.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-05-27T13:08:29.729Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you do get the distinction, do you recognize that Alicorn's OP is entirely about (1), while your criticisms are entirely about (2)?

From the very first sentence the underlying premise supporting that 'how' is that the author can, in fact, do the thing in question. It isn't presented as something known in theory, were that the case external evidence would be required, not implicit reference to personal experience. This being the case either a demonstrated strength in the area or a description of specific improvement in a weakness is required to give support to the 'how to guide' in question.

(The above is independent of whether Alicorn is hypocritical or otherwise a worthy subject of moral sanction. It is just a rejection of the claim of Tyrrell's that observations of the poster is 'entirely' irrelevant to the credibility of the advice given. With extra rejection given to the condescending tone.)

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-27T16:22:58.755Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

From the very first sentence the underlying premise supporting that 'how' is that the author can, in fact, do the thing in question. It isn't presented as something known in theory, were that the case external evidence would be required, not implicit reference to personal experience.

I don't see what you're saying here beyond what I myself said here, when I wrote,

I agree that someone giving advice on (1) should have applied (1). Otherwise, they don't have a justified claim to the knowledge in (1).

To be a little more explicit, I meant "applied (1) successfully". As I go on to say, this does not contradict the distinction between (1) and (2), because:

What I don't get is why it is relevant if the advice-giver failed to realize that they should have applied (1) in some particular case, even if they ought to have known that they should have applied (1).

To give a gruesome example, a professional hitman might be able to give very good advice on how to kill someone you've decided to kill, even if his advice on when to decide to kill someone is spectacularly bad.

Similarly, your evaluation of Alicorn's advice on how to like someone you've decided to like should be independent of your belief that she's very bad at deciding when to like someone.

(I'm quoting myself at length here because someone downvoted me earlier for giving just a link to another comment when I thought that the other comment said all I would want to say.)

You go on to say,

This being the case either a demonstrated strength in the area or a description of specific improvement in a weakness is required to give support to the 'how to guide' in question.

I think that this is a form of asking for impossible evidence. Of course, the evidence you request is not really impossible. Alicorn could have given all sorts of identifying details of the people she forced herself to like, and she could have described at length the circumstances under which she did so.

However, it's not reasonable to have expected her to do this in the OP. The social sanction against doing that kind of thing is too great, and with reason. It would not have helped the reception of her article to drag forth all of her grievances and peeves against someone, just to describe how she overcame all these issues and learned to like the person. To expect this of her is to have an unrealistic picture of human interaction.

Therefore, Alicorn's lack of "description of specific improvement" is not Bayesian evidence against her ability to do what she advises, nor against the possibility that she has applied her advice with success. We just have to evaluate the plausibility of her hypothesis by other means, such as consistency with our prior knowledge and our own experimental tests.

With extra rejection given to the condescending tone.

My blunt tone is intended to be a sign of respect to Silas. One of the things that I admire about him is that, when he disagrees with someone, he says so plainly, often without expressing contempt (though not often enough). He does not obscure his position by softening it to save feelings. I extend to him the same courtesy.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T03:55:22.546Z · score: -2 (18 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, there's one more important thing I should add: I have conclusive evidence that Alicorn has much to gain from getting over this dislike, by her very own standards. I can prove this by showing that she enjoys my posting, and wishes to reply to -- and even provoke -- my posting, just so long as she knows it's not me. That shows a critical failure to apply her advice when could actually do some good, or at least a failure to recognize a set of heuristics that correctly indicate when the advice should be used.

So why is Alicorn's advice particularly insightful on this subject?

comment by loqi · 2010-05-26T07:32:19.987Z · score: 29 (37 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

One possible reason Alicorn hasn't applied her technique to you is that it simply isn't powerful enough to overcome your unpleasantness. FWIW, I perceive you as a lot less civil than the LW norm, you seem possessed of a snarky combativeness. You also appear to have a tendency of fixating on personal annoyances and justifying your focus with concerns and observations that pop out of nowhere, context-wise.

In this case, your supposed insight into what would really be best for Alicorn plays that role. And then, having established this "lemma", you carry through to the conclusion that... Alicorn's behavior is inconsistent. Take a step back, and look at what you're saying. You're basically claiming to have reverse-engineered someone else's utility function, as the premise of an argument which concludes that they're being a hypocrite.

I hope you'll come to see this sort of behavior as embarrassing.

comment by aceofspades · 2012-04-23T17:38:11.143Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"FWIW" == "For What It's Worth," to save a few person-minutes for other passive readers here.

comment by kodos96 · 2010-05-26T07:40:08.081Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wish I could upvote this 10 or 20 times

comment by JanetK · 2010-05-26T11:37:24.879Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I do not know you and I do not know Alicorn. I do not know who I would have the most sympathy for if I did know both of you. I find this whole discussion off topic. Alicorn gave some advice and I find the advice interesting whether she follows it or not, whether she even believes it or not.

It is very good advice (if and only if you may want from time to time to like someone that you have come to dislike). I personally have tried to develop ways to not start to dislike people in the first place and not worry about whether liking them is to my advantage. However, it has not always been the case that I could like someone and it was sometimes to my disadvantage - so I appreciate the advice.

I suggest that you judge the advice and not the person who gave it. The 'others of us' are not interested in this fight.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T04:10:24.257Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

So why is Alicorn's advice particularly insightful on this subject?

Again, because she's not giving advice on knowing when you ought to like someone. She's giving advice on what to do after you have decided that you ought to like someone, even though you don't like them automatically.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T04:21:15.190Z · score: -8 (28 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, she's listing advice that can be used to like someone or remove dislike. And yet she's shown a solid history of the advice's complete ineffectiveness (or her belief in its ineffectiveness) when a frequent commenter on her favorite message board is causing her "undesirable peripheral psychological" harm by virtue of her extreme dislike!

If that's not relevant to showing her advice to be phony, what would be? And why should I have stayed silent on the existence of these two Alicorns?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-05-26T06:08:43.803Z · score: 11 (27 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Alicorn's time and attention and energy belong to her, not to you.

You're free to have opinions about how she uses them, but you aren't the final arbiter of what she's doing.

If you're trying to get people to think worse of her and better of you, you don't seem to be succeeding.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T17:25:53.136Z · score: -6 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Alicorn's time and attention and energy belong to her, not to you.

That forms a large part of why I've never suggested otherwise, and of why you figured it would be so hot-shot to pretend I meant otherwise.

Alcorn's time/etc. do belong to her. The right to exclude my comments from public discussion does not. The right to lie about the tremendous psychological terror I'm inducing in her doesn't belong to her either.

*Hence the disagreement.*

If you're trying to get people to think worse of her and better of you, you don't seem to be succeeding.

If I can be the one person willing to go on record on her "masterful" control of her dislike, I'll gladly take the minor karma hit ... though mine's actually gone up since I started posting in the discussion, if you can even fathom that.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T04:33:47.755Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, she's listing advice that can be used to like someone or remove dislike.

I reply to this point here.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T04:55:38.641Z · score: -4 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Since you're being so thorough, want to reply to the rest of the comment? Or do you feel that was done adequately elsewhere?

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2010-05-26T05:16:34.847Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And yet she's shown a solid history of the advice's complete ineffectiveness (or her belief in its ineffectiveness) when a frequent commenter on her favorite message board is causing her "undesirable peripheral psychological" harm by virtue of her extreme dislike!

Of course her advice is ineffective if one has decided to dislike someone. But this is no mark against her, because her advice is entirely about what to do after one decides not to dislike someone.

If that's not relevant to showing her advice to be phony, what would be?

What would be relevant would be a case where she had decided to like someone, applied the advice in the OP, and yet failed to like the other person. Also relevant would be a general theoretical argument that the techniques in the OP wouldn't get you (the general you) to like someone even after you had decided that you ought to.

And why should I have stayed silent on the existence of these two Alicorns?

Because your criticisms do not address the OP.

comment by SilasBarta · 2010-05-26T03:46:01.333Z · score: -13 (21 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wow! Promoted already! Pretty good for advice where the only evidence for its efficacy is from a "dissatisfied customer"! (Wonder why it's so hard to get people to go on the record saying how diplomatic Alicorn is in tense situations like the ones she went through...)