Son of Shit Rationalists Say

post by Eneasz · 2012-06-01T13:47:47.451Z · score: 56 (60 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 43 comments

A long time ago, in the colder seasons, I asked for suggestions for a Shit Rationalists Say video. Due to other concerns it took me this long to put it together, and the meme has long since passed. However, here it is.

Shit Rationalists Say

It is my first time in front of a camera, so I'm shakey. But I learned, and there it is.

43 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by EternalArchon · 2012-06-02T08:35:10.373Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

"Do that and you'll wind up with the universe tiled with paperclips" cracks me up. Even hearing it out of context, its overly familiar, but to a bystander its completely nonsensical. What makes it even better, there is no jargon or uncommon vocabulary that would make someone assume they misheard you, an outsider overhearing this would be forced into a state of complete bafflement. Kind of reminds me that old Lewis Black stand-up about overhearing a girl say "If it weren't for my horse, I wouldn't have spent that year in college."

comment by Alicorn · 2012-06-01T18:49:49.132Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW · GW

You're good on camera, and this is well put together. Thanks for doing it!

Speaking as a person who wrote a lot of the lines, I think a link to the original thread in which the idea was proposed would be good metadata to add to the video.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-06-01T23:35:46.511Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

OMG CUTE PUPPY!!!!!

....um, I mean....Good job! When the original post was active, I remember that there were quite a number of submissions that I didn't understand. Looking at it now (a couple months later), I understand the vast majority of them.

comment by shokwave · 2012-06-02T05:10:33.151Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Incredible! I found it made me feel slightly awkward at first, because a lot of the things said are very close to things I actually find myself saying (this means accurate parody!). But I am so very glad I watched to the end; the meta-level joke is very amusing.

comment by lukeprog · 2012-06-01T16:19:18.253Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Pretty funny!

Reminds me of the quotes from the back of each chapter in Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, where he gives examples of what it would be like to talk to people who know some cogsci.

comment by Dr_Manhattan · 2012-06-01T14:24:06.840Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Upvote for the best EY impersonation.

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2012-06-01T17:19:40.989Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Some of my suggestions got used! Thanks! :)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-06-01T16:08:02.661Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That's very funny, but there are a couple of bits I couldn't make out.

1:00 (She's just [soundsmudge] 1:28 ([smudge ending with ts]

What's the book at 1:05? I realize that isn't the point, but it might be some typical LWish book, and I can't tell.

comment by Eneasz · 2012-06-01T16:31:14.069Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

1:00 "She's just signalling virtue" 1:28 "I'm an aspiring rationalist"

I actually wanted to use Goedel Escher Bach, but I didn't have a physical copy at hand. :/ I used "The Etched City" by KJ NOT Parker. I love KJ Parker's fiction, altho in retrospect I think the Engineer trilogy would probably be closest to rationalist fic.

ETA: Well I'll be damned... turns out that KJ Parker and KJ Bishop are not the same person! KJ Parker wrote the Engineer Trilogy. KJ Bishop wrote The Etched City. They're both good, and the writing style is so similar I had thought they were the same person and confused them. It's The Etched City that I'm holding.

comment by novalis · 2012-06-01T19:21:29.763Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The Etched City isn't by KJ Parker.

The Engineer trilogy (though excellent) is more straw-rationalist than rationalist. That is, I would like to think that nobody I know is anything like Vaatzes.

comment by Eneasz · 2012-06-01T19:33:15.730Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. :) But I meant rationalist in the sense that it is knowledge and the use of creative thinking and deep planning that drives the plot, rather than physical or political force. Those two things are certainly used, but they are used as tools rather than as plot resolution mechanisms.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-06-01T15:24:11.462Z · score: 3 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Awesome. You should hear the "shit post-rationalists say". Nick Tarleton suggested a blog be made about it. For example:

  • "My ambition is infinite but not limitless. I don't think I can re-arrange the small natural numbers."
  • "I never thought I would think there were actual facts of the matter in Christology."
  • "I'm an avatar of the same being that Nietzsche was an avatar of."

And so on.

comment by lukeprog · 2012-06-01T16:19:58.227Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

What is a post-rationalist?

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2012-06-01T17:11:42.545Z · score: 28 (30 votes) · LW · GW

If I was going to be rude, I'd say it was a rationalist who'd been hit in the head with a post. But I'm not going to endorse that statement.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-06-01T17:17:22.390Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Note that some people who are called "post-rationalist" are highly respected by almost all members of the LessWrong community.

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2012-06-01T17:21:08.176Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Cool, who?

Full disclosure: I actually have no idea what a post-rationalist is. I was just making fun of your sample quotes and I can't resist an opportunity to make a bad pun.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-06-01T17:24:41.286Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

E.g., Nick Tarleton, Peter de Blanc.

I appreciated the pun.

comment by gjm · 2012-06-02T10:26:54.256Z · score: 26 (30 votes) · LW · GW

I hereby declare that "gugglefweeps" mean people like Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein, me, Carl Friedrich Gauss, and Johann Sebastian Bach. It's great being a gugglefweep.

Less obliquely: Where does this term "post-rationalist" come from, who applies it to all these people, and is there meant to be any sort of suggestion that there's much in common between the thinking of the people allegedly described by it? (From what you've said so far, there's little reason to think there is.)

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-06-01T17:13:10.458Z · score: 4 (16 votes) · LW · GW

It's a loose family resemblance term. Characterizes what might be called "Vassarian epistemology", as well as the approaches to rationality of Will Ryan, Divia Melwani, Nick Tarleton, myself, and others. Used to distinguish from Eliezer's style, which could be called rationalist or x-rationalist. Common emphases are understanding human psychology and an appreciation of cultural wisdom, e.g. religious and mystical practices.

comment by lukeprog · 2012-06-01T17:27:27.669Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Is "understanding human psychology" supposed to be something that distinguishes post-rationality from "x-rationality"?

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-06-01T17:47:52.627Z · score: 11 (29 votes) · LW · GW

No. The approach to understanding human psychology, though, tends to be broader—because post-rationalists draw on old cultural wisdom, and also because some of them read people like Freud who are often considered useless by x-rationalists. More of an emphasis is also placed on neurochemistry and nutrition. Both kinds of rationalists study neuroscience, cognitive science, social psychology, &c.

(ETA: Downvoter, fuck you, I'm going out of my way to answer a question. 'Course, now that this is here further downvotes are justified and won't be responded to with "fuck you"s, don't worry.)

comment by wedrifid · 2012-06-02T00:36:36.803Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

No. The approach to understanding human psychology, though, tends to be broader—because post-rationalists draw on old cultural wisdom, and also because some of them read people like Freud who are often considered useless by x-rationalists. More of an emphasis is also placed on neurochemistry and nutrition. Both kinds of rationalists study neuroscience, cognitive science, social psychology, &c.

What snazzy label do I get if I:

  • draw on old cultural wisdom (selectively, depending on to what degree the cultural knowledge is relevant and often after passing it through a "social speak -> literal map" filter).
  • Dismiss people like Freud out of hand because there are other books to read that can be expected to be far more reliable and less annoying.
  • Place an excessive amount of emphasis on neurochemistry and nutrition
  • Don't believe any whacked out shit like that there are gods and soforth.

To be honest I had assumed "post-rationalists" had to do something rather distinctly irrational (or take an arational interest to the extreme) before they qualified for the title.

(ETA: Downvoter, fuck you, I'm going out of my way to answer a question.

One of the most obnoxious voting behaviors out there. I honestly prefer a systematic down-voters downvoting the first three pages of the user-comment thread than to downvotes when I'm going out of the way to answer a question for someone else.

'Course, now that this is here further downvotes are justified and won't be responded to with "fuck you"s, don't worry.

Like it.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-06-04T12:34:57.114Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

What snazzy label do I get if I: Dismiss people like Freud out of hand because there are other books to read that can be expected to be far more reliable and less annoying.

Usually I see people dismissing Freud without explaining. How am I supposed to know why? It's obvious that they prefer some other explanation, but I don't know which one.

As an analogy, imagine that you live in a country where many people don't believe that objects heavier than air could fly. Then you hear someone saying "Wright brothers' airplane design is really stupid". One possible interpretation is that you shouldn't use a century old airplane design, when better and safer alternatives exist. Other possible interpretation is that the person is one of those who believe that objects heavier than air cannot fly. From merely saying this (and getting a lot of applause) it is impossible to guess which variant it correct. (Actually different people may be giving applause under different interpretations.)

Just like this, when someone just says "Freud's psychoanalysis is stupid" without more details, I have two explanations. One is that human thinking and sexuality is best explained by evolutionary psychology, so we should get ideas from there, and not from Freud's speculations. Another possible explanation is that given person just doesn't believe that reproduction could play significant role in forming human mind, because [insert religious or politically correct belief]. Or perhaps the person does not believe in "unconsciousness", because they believe that their decisions are always 100% rational. (Again, different people responding "me too" can use different interpretations.)

I'm just speaking for myself here, but if you say "don't read Freud, read evolutionary psychology instead", I know what you say, and I agree with you. If you just say "don't read Freud", we don't have a communication, just an illusion of transparency. There are still many people around, who consider Freud wrong for the wrong reasons (hate him for saying that something as low as reproduction could have a role in something as noble as a human mind).

comment by wedrifid · 2012-06-04T19:41:47.916Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm just speaking for myself here, but if you say "don't read Freud, read evolutionary psychology instead", I know what you say, and I agree with you. If you just say "don't read Freud", we don't have a communication, just an illusion of transparency.

That is a communication. It suggests that instead of reading Freud you do whatever other things in life that you like to do, including nothing. You can disagree with the communicated recommendation of not reading Freud without a suggested alternative but you cannot (correctly) claim that nothing has been communicated.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-06-05T07:42:41.128Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

See my analogy -- by suggesting that "instead of studying Wright brothers' airplane do whatever other things you like to do, including nothing" something is communicated, but.... I guess I would say I agree denotationally, but I am unable to decipher the connotation, though I feel pretty sure there is one.

Human communication isn't just about communicating, it is also about signalling; in this case signalling loyalty to some virtual tribe, also known as "mindkilling".

Another analogy: If I said repeatedly "don't ever bother listening to Obama", and after requests for clarification I explained that I did not mean to express any political argument whatsoever, only completely neutrally and rationally suggested that "doing what you want, including nothing, will bring you more utilons that listening to Obama", would you say that this manner of speach is acceptable by LW social norms?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-06-05T08:18:09.960Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

but I am unable to decipher the connotation, though I feel pretty sure there is one.

That saying "reading Freud is a waste of time" is perfectly fine because reading Freud really is a waste of time (except for signalling affiliations). It isn't required that a further statement also be made about which psychologist should be read instead. That is a separate piece of information that may also be communicated.

If you happen to disagree that reading Freud is a waste of time that still doesn't make the claim not communication. It is communicating something that you disagree with and to say that it is "not communication" is just false.

Another analogy: If I said repeatedly "don't ever bother listening to Obama", and after requests for clarification I explained that I did not mean to express any political argument whatsoever, only completely neutrally and rationally suggested that "doing what you want, including nothing, will bring you more utilons that listening to Obama", would you say that this manner of speach is acceptable by LW social norms?

People prefer talking about psychology than talking about politics here. If you chose an example that wasn't so loaded then yes, I would say the general form was perfectly acceptable.

comment by lukeprog · 2012-06-01T18:17:19.074Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the clarification. No downvotes from me.

comment by Dr_Manhattan · 2012-06-02T00:42:29.677Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Freud who are often considered useless by x-rationalists

Freud had some very good ideas; some sort of symbolic unconscious clearly exists, and he deserves the credit for formalizing it. But I think he lacked empiricism and his more detailed theories appear farfetched and therapy seems clinically useless, placebo effect aside. Do you have evidence to the contrary? Or is this an x-rationalist thing to ask :)?

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-06-02T00:49:47.814Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Freud had some very good ideas; some sort of symbolic unconscious clearly exists, and he deserves the credit for formalizing it.

Also important are some of the other things that culture has completely taken for granted, like the id/ego/super-ego distinction, the idea of a neurosis, defense mechanisms, and an emphasis on the fundamental-ness of sex for human psychology.

But I think he lacked empiricism

Many people write speculative books that lack empiricism. Freud was incredibly popular because his work resonated with the experience of millions of people. Clearly he's been validated: he didn't need empiricism. Sometimes that happens with smart people. Not all of his ideas are right, but come on, it's psychology, and much of biology isn't right either.

therapy seems clinically useless, placebo effect aside. Do you have evidence to the contrary?

I'm extremely suspicious of studies by people like Dawes that claim psychotherapy is clinically useless. I could provide evidence that Dawes and related researchers are extremely spotty. Too lazy at the moment, but in order for you to update on expected evidence, I'll alert you that my evidence is a comment showing serious concerns about some of Dawes' studies that got over 50 upvotes on LW.

comment by Dr_Manhattan · 2012-06-02T01:15:44.401Z · score: 20 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Freud was incredibly popular because his work resonated with the experience of millions of people. Clearly he's been validated: he didn't need empiricism. Sometimes that happens with smart people. Not all of his ideas are right, but come on, it's psychology, and much of biology isn't right either.

Sorry if I'm being naive, but by this standard L. Ron Hubbard has been 'validated'

I'll tentatively accept that Dawes' work has been spotty (I do suspect that there might be some side-effects from psychotherapy, not related to the main theories, that should have been picked up). My problem with Freud that some of his core theories (sexual desire for the mother being the prime example) might well be bunk (strongly suspect this due to evolution having no reason at all for such a thing), and he never cared to check.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-06-02T09:30:50.295Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

(ETA: Downvoter, fuck you, I'm going out of my way to answer a question. 'Course, now that this is here further downvotes are justified and won't be responded to with "fuck you"s, don't worry.)

Take negative karma less seriously. Currently LessWrong is pretty fair in the long run, if anything people are too lenient with down voting overall.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2012-06-01T19:34:04.240Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I tend to think that making up my own theories is just as good a use of time as reading the theories of others if the theories of others aren't based on empirical evidence or rigorous arguments.

For example, I consider making up my own theory of status an equally good or better use of time compared with reading about Max Weber's theory of status.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-06-02T00:16:18.820Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

One should do both, ideally. And of course Freud's theories are based on tons of empirical evidence. Weber's likely is too. These people had senses and brains.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-06-02T15:52:41.511Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

These people had senses and brains.

So did Gurdjieff, Crowley, Korzybski, Ayn Rand, Tim Leary, Bill W., Ron Hubbard, Inayat Khan, James Dobson, Zig Ziglar, Anton LaVey, and the Dalai Lama.

Out of all the possible theories in theory-space, or even all those that have been proposed by some famous dude you've heard of, why single out Freudianism for special attention?

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-06-02T16:05:55.385Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's become a fundamental part of our culture, unlike those others. Everyone's culture, it's not like Christianity. It's like fish in water at this point. The evidence suggests he's done something right -- we're not privileging the hypothesis here. Western civilization as a whole has spoken, people of all intelligences and creeds. Well, except the devout religious people, but they're close-minded. LessWrong would agree.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-06-02T21:42:26.523Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

This sounds almost like a claim of literary relevance, akin to that of Shakespeare, rather than scientific significance.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-06-03T04:35:28.407Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It's become a fundamental part of our culture, unlike those others. Everyone's culture, it's not like Christianity. It's like fish in water at this point.

I would argue our culture is in the process of rejecting Freudianism. Seriously, you have to allow more than a century for the culture to make these kinds of judgements. I mean, I could make the same argument in favor of modern art.

comment by CasioTheSane · 2012-06-02T07:14:47.724Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The term "post-rationalist" seems to suggest an abandonment of rational thought. Eliezer doesn't own the word "rational," you can still use it even if you disagree with him on how to approach rationality.

I also agree that traditional knowledge, even when wrong is often based on some real observation and is worth serious consideration and investigation. Baseless superstitions and paradigm shifting phenomena both look the same until carefully investigated.

comment by Procrastinus · 2012-06-06T18:45:46.482Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Too good. Trying to think up new ones that would belong, but I can't verify my own predictions. Heh, maybe that is one right there. Some more (?):

"Well, essence does precede existence." "Total spaghetti monster." "You have to make your cognitive biases work for you." "What's the citation count on that?" "I'll wait for the meta-analysis, thank you very much."

comment by Karmakaiser · 2012-06-05T18:12:42.718Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For some reason my elephant desperately wants a Portlandia type series set in SI headquarters.

comment by timtyler · 2012-06-02T01:05:56.988Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It looks based on the Shit Girls Say meme.

comment by Eneasz · 2012-06-02T01:35:43.655Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That was the origin of the meme, yes. Mine was specifically modeled off Shit Skeptics Say.

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-06-02T00:56:44.807Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I liked the video.