Open thread, Sep. 21 - Sep. 27, 2015

post by MrMind · 2015-09-21T07:19:25.692Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 134 comments

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

Notes for future OT posters:

1. Please add the 'open_thread' tag.

2. Check if there is an active Open Thread before posting a new one. (Immediately before; refresh the list-of-threads page before posting.)

3. Open Threads should be posted in Discussion, and not Main.

4. Open Threads should start on Monday, and end on Sunday.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Elo · 2015-09-21T08:48:17.875Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

This week on the slack:

  • AI - pet peeves of dealing with people who don't understand AI
  • Effective altruism - what do people think about charities spending money to fundraise. I think that if someone knew that $100 out of the $120 they donated was spent on getting the last $20 out of them, before the rest of the overhead, I think they’d quite rightly feel that that wasn’t quite what they had signed up for.
  • finance - investing in local or distant markets
  • goals of lesswrong - setting community standards, routines or rituals.
  • human relationships - poly strategies, innovation vs conformity, long distance relationships
  • lingustics - optimising information transfer is about making it easy to record information and easy to absorb information from a recorded source. Have we done that yet? Can we make technology do that easier for us?
  • objectivish - don't know how it got there but, "when instincts go wrong; like when birds fly into windows"
  • open - philosphical boogeyman,, debating IRL: the topic of is it ethical to profit off war?, meta:slack, paying out philosophy...
  • Parenting - dealing with tantrums, strategies about managing kids; treating the problem like an adult one (if an adult stood in a hallway and refused to move; eventually the police would be called to remove them)
  • philosophy - moral realism, preference utilitarianism, animals as a fraction of the value of a human, Pascal's mugging...
  • political talk - update: Australia has a new leader. we talked about history of Australian leadership and stuff.
  • programming - people asked for guides on programming and ideas for which lanugages to use,
  • real life - dealing with a death in the family. dealing with the pain of a wisdom tooth operation, discussion of work time from the poll in @adamzerner's post in the last OT.
  • resources and links - its a link-dump home for useful posts. i.e. that rationalitycardinality link, a book on NLP, guides to things, some waitbutwhy links...
  • rss feed - we have an RSS feed of any post on LW or SSC that notifies of posts if you are in the channel.
  • Science - musk and his silly publicity about blowing up mars. (hit it with a nuke to create an atmosphere or something)
  • startups - new tech startups, earlier: startup ideas
  • travelling - low cost travelling.
  • welcome - everyone answers the questions: "Would you like to introduce yourself? Where are you from? What do you do with your time? What are you working on?"

Feel free to join us. Active meetup time: A time to try to get lots of people online to talk about things is going to be chosen soon, probably a 12 hour window or so. (coming sooon)

Edit: we have over 100 people who have signed up. Not nearly that many people are active, but each day something interesting happens...

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-09-25T22:32:06.183Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Note for the curious: You have to private message him with your email to get invited.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-09-22T00:52:23.056Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What Does the Future Hold for Kim Suozzi's Cryogenically Frozen Brain?

comment by Houshalter · 2015-09-23T04:21:27.848Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is it just my browser, or does this site not allow keyboard input? I can't scroll the page with arrow keys or pg up/down.

comment by iceman · 2015-09-25T06:50:34.693Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's not just you. I can't use the arrow keys either. Chrome 45 on Windows 8.

comment by matt · 2015-11-24T09:53:44.679Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Anyone else having trouble with keyboard input on Lesswrong? (Arrow keys and page up & down work for me on OSX Chrome, Firefox & Safari.)

comment by tut · 2015-09-23T08:52:46.957Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I can.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-09-26T05:12:06.422Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I recently laid myself out on train tracks but chickened out on getting struck by a train out of concern that train might be designed to mangle trespasses without killing them. My new antidepressants don't seem to be doing particularly anything, I don't enjoy basically anything and I feel hollow constantly. I just want to feel. And the thought that motivates most things I do creeps up and says: 'why don't you try something new? maybe it will change things?'. And I blindly follow that thought into a new dilemma. Later that night (incidentally, bi awareness day) I signed up to Grindr and accepted the first invitation for sex I was offered. I received anal sex, my first time, and was potentially infected by HIV when my partner surreptitiously removed his condom. Now I'm taking post-exposure prophylaxis. A few days in it's hit me. I feel like the fog of my life, of trivial non-consequence, whim, impulse and irrationality is falling away. I can't ignore the call to rationality, nor can I passively aggressively skirt around legitimate self-improvement by lounging around a site like this without using it for its intended purpose.

I stopped taking drugs when someone I respected told me "I need to sort my life out" or something to that effect. I'm starting to realise that, although nobody here has said that broadly, specific troubleshooting over my posting history have pointed towards that verdict.

I am going to leave this place. I don't intend to delete this account. I hope I can look back upon it with maturity in the future. Clarity is dead. If I create a new account in the future I expect my posting to have radically improved grammar, subject-matter, frequency, civility and formatting.

My time with this account has helped me learn starkly unclear I was in the beginning. Ironically, as my name indicates, I thought this was my strength. I had a previous account before this where I posted non-stop for around 6 or 7 hours in one evening, mostly direct quotes from Wikipedia. It was terrible. I thought I was making a valuable contribution, haha. Before that, I had an account and couldn't even figure out how to post. It was an useful barrier to maintain the quality of the site. As is this action, voluntary self-censorship, I hope: I'm exiling myself from this place till at least the end of the year, and another. 31 December 2016. I don't what my new account name will be, or how long if ever I'll take to fess up and take responsibility for my contributions via this account. But if I do return, it will be because I want to make a positive contribution to the community, and not to use it for perceived personal gain irrespective of impact on the community.

Perhaps I'll see you in 2016, LWers, perhaps I won't. Thank you for all you've done for me, and personal messages of support I've received over time and any ways in which I might have been a negative influence on the community.

Proof of HIV PREP - 'pics or it didn't happen' - 'm3100' was written on the white tablet '4331 gilead' was written on the blue tablet.

Goodbye, whether it be forever or till next time, Clarity

Edit: exile for an arbitrary time frame is stupid. I'm back.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-24T19:44:18.111Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Some interesting information about omega-3 in the diet: it seems that the Inuit (whose traditional diet includes huge amounts of omega-3) have genetic adaptations in their fatty acid metabolism.

comment by G0W51 · 2015-09-23T04:23:19.163Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Where can one find information on the underlying causes of phenomena? I have noticed that most educational resources discuss superficial occurrences and trends but not their underlying causes. For example, this Wikipedia article discusses the happenings in the Somali Civil War but hardly discusses the underlying motivations of each side and why the war turned out how it did. Of course, such discussions are often opinionated and have no clear-cut answers, perhaps making Wikipedia a sub-optimal place for them.

I know LW might not be the best place to ask this, but my intuition suggests that LWers may care more about this deeper-level understanding, so may be able to suggest resources.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-09-23T15:59:59.442Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Read about causal inference.

comment by G0W51 · 2015-09-23T20:18:06.788Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see how this would really help unless I am trying to do original research.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-09-23T20:40:03.010Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What are you trying to do?

There are a lot of gotchas w/ causality. Lots of wikipedia info is wrong, etc.

If your thought process is "I want to learn about causes of things, but this seems like an awful lot of math..." consider that you may need to internalize some (not all!) of this math before you can talk about causes properly at all. It's like physics. Physics is handy, but there's some math. It's probably a good idea to learn a bit of physics if you are interested in the physical world, even if you aren't interested in doing original physics research.

I can generally point you in the right direction, but this will take some work from you, also.

comment by G0W51 · 2015-09-24T04:15:20.149Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Don't worry, I don't mind math. Alas, I mainly have difficulty understanding why people act how they do, so I doubt mathematics will help much with that. I think I'm going to take the suggestion someone gave of reading more textbooks. A psychology course should also help.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-09-23T13:36:47.834Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What kind of phenomena are we talking about? You should specify if you're referring more narrowly to social and historical phenomena, because that's where the biggest gaps between what one can say on the surface about them and what actually drove them are. It's also a very murky area in regards to specifying causality.

The only reasonably effective method I've tried for this is to first read the Wikipedia article, to get an overview of the objective facts, events, numbers and so on, then try to find press articles about the topic, which are less objective but include more details.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-23T20:43:02.600Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In social sciences the "causes" depend on your preferred analysis framework and are often highly contentious.

For a "deeper-level understanding" I'd recommend reading many viewpoints which disagree with each other.

comment by Dagon · 2015-09-23T19:18:37.217Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Typically academic books and papers are the only places that really try to identify cause and effect at a level of abstraction that makes you think you understand. Be aware, of course, that neither they nor you can actually understand it - human behavior is complex enough that we can't model individual choices very well, let alone the sum of billions of individual choices that add up to societal "phenomena" like wars and demographic shifts and stock market blips.

comment by iarwain1 · 2015-09-21T22:14:22.967Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly the most enthusiastic / impressive endorsement I've ever seen for a rationality-type book:

Every country should scrap a year or two of math education and require all citizens to read this book instead.

Jonathan Haidt praising Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking by Richard Nisbett

Anybody read the book? Do you agree with Haidt?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-09-21T23:01:51.485Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It doesn't pass my first test for self-help books-- none of the amazon reviewers really said that following the advice made their life better. (One or two of the reviews might be interpreted that way, but they were marginal.)

Admittedly, it's only been out for a month, so if should probably be given be given some more time/

comment by [deleted] · 2015-09-22T18:09:22.005Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, it's too early to say one way or another at this point.

comment by iarwain1 · 2015-09-21T17:33:18.239Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Very interesting paper: Eric Schwitzgebel, 1% Skepticism. What's the probability that some form of radical skepticism is correct? And can that have any practical ramifications?

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-09-25T22:40:26.733Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

[Link] Scott Adams' The Persuasion Reading List

Scott Adams' apparently has a his own version of the sequences and even has structured it into steps that bridge the inferential gap to the points he wants to get across. I notice that there is some self-promotion but overall it seems like a sensible list. What do you think?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-09-27T20:52:01.402Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The list is quite long. There probably no good reason to simply read every book on Scotts list.

Speak Ericksonian: Mastering the Hypnotic Methods of Milton Erickson - by Richard Nongard, James Hazlerig (Erickson was the father of modern hypnosis. Any book about his methods would be interesting.)

As a person who has hypnosis training this sentiments seems very strange to me. You don't choose books based on the title. Erickson was a great hypnotist but that doesn't make anybody who claims to follow his methods to be knowledgeable.

The list also contains books where Scott explictely menitons that he hasn't read them. That's not a good basis for book recomendations.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-09-27T19:53:45.971Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Considering he claims a 98% probability of Donald Trump becoming the next US President, I'll bother paying attention to what he says to say if/when that turned out to be accurate.

comment by G0W51 · 2015-09-25T00:55:53.107Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What literature is available on who will be given moral consideration in a superintelligence's coherent extrapolated volition (CEV), and how much weight each agent will be given?

Nick Bostrom's Superintelligence mentions that it is an open problem as to whether AIs, non-human animals, currently deceased people, etc should be given moral consideration, and whether the values of those who aid in creating the superintelligence should be given more weight than that of others. However, Bostrom does not actually answer these questions, other than slightly advocating everyone being given equal weight in the CEV. The abstracts of other papers on CEV don't mention this topic, so I am doubtful on the usefulness of reading their entireties.

comment by Torgo · 2015-09-21T11:25:40.088Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I'm curious which of the two major political parties in the US (and left wing vs. right wing parties more generally) people think is most likely to reduce existential risk. My current view is that the Democrats (and parties of the left) are since they're more likely to favor policies which reduce the threat of climate change (a tail end existential risk and a potential destabilizing force) and are more likely to favor nuclear non-proliferation. However, I know my own opinions might be biased by the fact that I agree with left wing parties on most other less important issues. Which party do you think would do the most to reduce existential risk and how substantial do you think the difference is?

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-09-21T17:10:13.280Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW · GW

the two major political parties in the US (...) people think is most likely to reduce existential risk

No comment on the main question, but if you really care about an issue you should try like hell to prevent it from becoming a wedge issue. There's no longer any meaningful discussion of AGW in the US, because it's now a wedge issue. Even if you observe a huge correlation between political tribal affiliation and getting the "right answer", you should never point this out. Once people start to absorb their position on a topic into their self-image, they will never change their minds about it.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-09-26T19:03:30.199Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's worth noting the success of reducing Mercury pollution without much media coverage in the Obama administration while at the same time the administration didn't went far on climate change.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-09-25T04:04:22.523Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

more to the point, it gets to be used in an endless good cop bad cop routine in which political groups hang it over the heads if captive constituencies who get threatened with 'vote for us, the other guy is WORSE', and then nobody does anything since they can always claim tbat the other guy would have done worse or they would have done better.

comment by gjm · 2015-09-21T16:53:45.622Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Answers to this are going to have to depend on politically sensitive judgements, I think, because most of the impact of politicians on existential risk will be indirect and involve things like the overall prosperity of the nation they're leading. Let's look at some classes of existential risk:

  • Asteroids and other spaceborne hazards: prefer whichever party will lead to more technological progress in, say, the next 50 years. That will depend on science and education funding (probably prefer the Democrats), on overall national prosperity (prefer whichever party you think will handle the economy better), perhaps in complicated ways on involvement in major wars (maybe too complicated to call even if you think you know which party will lead to fewer wars).
  • War (nuclear catastrophe, out-of-control biological warfare): prefer whichever party you think will lead to fewer really big wars in, say, the next 50 years. That's a very political question, and partisans of either party will surely claim that their preferred policies will produce less war.
  • Terrorism (ditto): probably not actually a credible existential threat (I'm not even sure war really is).
  • Societal collapse: well, what would cause that? Resource exhaustion? (Prefer whichever party will (a) advance technology leading to new resources and/or alternatives and (b) reduce resource consumption if necessary; the latter is probably the Democrats but your opinion on the former will probably match your party affiliation.) Social instability following from huge technology-led unemployment? (If that's coming, probably neither party will help you.) Conflict between social groups? (Political question again. There isn't clear agreement even about, e.g., the sign of the effect of increased immigration.)
  • Runaway technology such as AI: probably doesn't have much to do with who's in government. You might prefer whichever party you think will lead to less technological progress, but that leaves you more open to (a) other existential risks and (b) runaway technology developed elsewhere.

I'm seeing scarcely anything here whose answer doesn't depend on things about which people disagree along political lines.

My own answer to your question is: the difference might be quite large but it's very indirect and complicated, so I see rather little prospect of figuring out which way it goes, so I'm going to carry on voting on the basis of things I actually have (or at least fondly imagine I have) some prospect of understanding. I have (or think I have) some ability to predict, on a timescale of a few years, the effect of one party's victory on my own household finances, the risk of some possible near-future wars, the welfare of poor and vulnerable people, the competitiveness of the nation's businesses, etc., and looking at those is probably more effective than trying to guess their very indirect effects on x-risk.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-09-21T15:23:09.135Z · score: 5 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Democrats...are more likely to favor nuclear non-proliferation

Strongly disagree. Both parties verbally oppose nuclear proliferation, but Republicans are willing to go to war to stop it (the last President Bush reasonably thought Iraq was developing nuclear weapons) whereas Democrats are not. (Clinton let North Korea get nuclear weapons and Obama has been unwilling to attack Iran's nuclear program.)

Which party is better comes down to if you most fear a WWI (where everyone acting tough caused war) or WWII (where the failure of the good guys to act tough caused war) type failure.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-09-21T16:24:03.497Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I would also add the Cuban Missile Crisis to the list of things to fear, where (as I perceive it) the Soviets thought the Americans would fold, and then the Americans escalated. Being tough but not being perceived as tough is a serious failure mode!

comment by James_Miller · 2015-09-21T17:23:09.052Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, and it's a common failure mode because people who are not tough often try to convince others that they are tough.

comment by username2 · 2015-09-21T21:54:35.380Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Clinton let North Korea get nuclear weapons

In 2002-2006?

comment by James_Miller · 2015-09-21T22:58:45.523Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW


comment by satt · 2015-09-22T04:23:16.166Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I made a grab for some low-hanging knowledge on the counterfactual question by looking at the first couple of pages of a Google Scholar search for articles I could access which offered background on the topic. (I don't have the time or the interest to do anything like a real literature review, but I expect even a cursory Google Scholar search to be more reliable than a lone NewsBusters article.) Ignoring the books and paywalled Foreign Affairs articles I can't read, I got

I haven't perused these from start to finish, and even if I had I couldn't discuss them comprehensively in a blog comment. So I have to give a radically compressed (hence necessarily selective) digest of the bits I saw which shed light on the counterfactual question.

First, Mazarr's essay. It summarizes itself, but even the summary won't fit here, so I skip to its p. 104, where Mazarr referred to NK's "alleged one or two nuclear weapons" (fitting NBC's report that NK had a nuclear weapon), and quote a longer block from the same page:

Down one road lies an ultimatum—a demand for perfect confidence and complete disarmament; its way-stations are confrontation, an end to IAEA inspections and other forms of international control [...] sanctions, and possibly war. The other road holds a more accommodating approach, lessened tensions, expanded international monitoring [...] and the hope of eventual disarmament; its price is a greater near- to medium-term risk that the proliferant might be able to hide a rudimentary nuclear program.

Mazarr adds that, in practice, the US "always resorts" to the softer approach "in cases of hard-core proliferation", having "accepted ambiguous proliferation in India and Israel for many years", and likewise didn't pursue an all-out approach against India & Pakistan. Further along, on p. 110, in the section on sanctions:

Even had a tougher approach been more appealing, there was little chance it would have worked. North Korea had a long history of rejecting international opinion when phrased as a demand and accompanied by sanctions or the threat of them. Nor could economic sanctions have been effective without the participation of China, South Korea, Russia, and Japan, each of which expressed some degree of unease with a confrontational approach to the North, and reluctance to take any steps that might spark a rapid collapse of the North Korean system.

The section on sanctions was generally pessimistic, though Mazarr granted that "the de facto sanction of existing trade restrictions" could help shape "a proliferant's motives" (p. 111), and that NK seemed to have an interest "in avoiding condemnation and sanctions as voted by the Security Council" (p. 112). Mazarr was even more doubtful that military action would "have offered a definitive answer to the North Korean nuclear challenge" because it could have "led directly to a Korean war" and "military strikes [...] probably would not work" anyway (p. 113).

Mazarr's essay was most optimistic about the kind of approach represented by Clinton's '94 agreement: "a broad-based policy of incentives built around the offer of a package deal" (p. 114). Even a rejected package deal "would have its uses" because it "would force North Korea to make a clear choice, deprive it of excuses, and seize the political high ground, firming up a political consensus (including China) for UN sanctions" (p. 117).

Niksch's report doesn't seem useful for the counterfactual question at issue, because the report is mainly about the (second) Bush administration's goals & actions. My skimming revealed a description of the US's obligations under the '94 Agreed Framework, but no substantial, explicit evaluation of alternatives to the Framework.

Walt's article is a general assessment of Clinton's foreign policy. From its paragraph about the 1994 NK deal, on pages 72-73:

Hard-liners have criticized Clinton for rewarding North Korea's defiance of the nonproliferation regime, but they have yet to offer an alternate policy that would have achieved as much with as little. A preemptive air strike might well not eliminate North Korea's nuclear capability. Moreover, both South Korea and Japan opposed the use of force. [...] the situation called for flexibility, persistence and creativity; the administration displayed them all. Without the 1994 Agreed Framework, North Korea would almost certainly have obtained enough fissile material for a sizable number of nuclear bombs. [...] Given the limited array of options and the potential for disaster, Clinton's handling of North Korea is an impressive diplomatic achievement.

Mack's essay reminds me of Mazarr's in its scepticism about sanctions (e.g. p. 32: "What all this suggests is that imposing sanctions will be far more problematic than their more naive proponents in the West realize"), and Mack was at least as negative as Mazarr about military action, writing on p. 33 that "[t]he idea of resolving the nuclear issue by 'taking out' the Yongbyon nuclear facilities suffers from three fatal defects". Those three, briefly: (1) "it is by definition impossible to hit unknown targets" potentially kept secret by a "paranoid" regime; (2) "'surgical strikes' against Yongbyon might not only fail to destroy all of the North's nuclear program, they would also unleash a very unsurgical war against the South"; and (3) "it would be politically impossible to pursue the military option until the less risky alternatives of persuasion and sanctions had [...] failed. But sanctions would likely take years to have the desired effect". Ultimately, Mack was not sure anything would work. From p. 35:

Given the very real possibility that neither persuasion nor bribery, economic coercion, military action, or even unilateral reassurance will divert Pyongyang from its nuclear path, the international community needs to start thinking about what this may mean for regional—and global—security.

The 1999 Perry et al. review reads to me as broadly positive about the Agreed Framework, asserting on p.2 that it

succeeded in verifiably freezing North Korean plutonium production at Yongbyon — it stopped plutonium production at that facility so that North Korea currently has at most a small amount of fissile material it may have secreted away from operations prior to 1994; without the Agreed Framework, North Korea could have produced enough additional plutonium by now for a significant number of nuclear weapons.

The review team behind the report recommended on p. 6 that the Agreed Framework "be preserved and implemented" as one recommendation of six:

With the Agreed Framework, the DPRK's ability to produce plutonium at Yongbyon is verifiably frozen. Withou the Agreed Framework, however, it is estimated that the North could reprocess enough plutonium to produce a significant number of nuclear weapons per year. The Agreed Framework's limitations, such as the fact that it does not verifiably freeze all nuclear weapons-related activities [...] are best addressed by supplementing rather than replacing the Agreed Framework.

Insofar as these sources are accurate and I've understood and digested them properly, it's not only possible but likely that Clinton did about as well on this count as a different president could've. If so, then (even if NK didn't already have a nuclear weapon in '94) I'd think it unfair to assert that "Clinton let North Korea get nuclear weapons" as if there were an alternative decision Clinton could've taken to delay North Korea's first nuclear test for 13+ years.


comment by username2 · 2015-09-22T06:39:19.415Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The argument here seems to be: North Korea built nuclear weapons, the 1994 treaty was supposed to prevent that, therefore let's blame the guy who was President in 1994 for North Korea building nuclear weapons.

Similar reasoning could just as easily place the blame on the Reagan administration.

Unless I'm missing something, and there is some reason why that 1994 treaty left the US in a hopeless position in 2002, unable to intervene while North Korea kicked out IAEA inspectors, unsealed its fuel rods, and built nuclear weapons.

comment by satt · 2015-09-22T04:23:01.689Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The linked article does an OK job of documenting that contemporary news reports were too optimistic about how much Clinton's 1994 deal would constrain North Korea's bomb seeking. However, I don't think that's an adequate basis for "Clinton let North Korea get nuclear weapons" — not least because the article itself echoes, in apparent agreement, NBC's contemporary claim that NK already had a nuclear bomb.

Even setting aside that claim, I wouldn't be confident in inferring that "Clinton let North Korea get nuclear weapons" merely because Clinton made a deal and 12 years later (and 6 years after Clinton left office) NK set off a nuke. Given my original state of ignorance (I didn't know anything about this 1994 deal before this thread), I can't rule out the possibilities that (1) Clinton actually made smart moves which were later vitiated by Bush or a lower-ranked politician, or that (2) Clinton made the best of a bad hand, there being no reasonable counterfactual where a US president in 1994 could've ensured, without triggering some patently worse consequence, that NK's first nuclear explosion happened substantially after 2006.


comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-09-21T16:25:54.107Z · score: 3 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Bush reasonably thought Iraq was developing nuclear weapons

Rather, he tried to make everyone think that.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-21T16:57:41.727Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Can we please not regurgitate the zombie soldiers from old political battles onto LW..?

comment by MrMind · 2015-09-22T08:10:21.782Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Obama has been unwilling to attack Iran's nuclear

Not directly, true, but it's highly probable that it was his administration which greenlighted Stuxnet and its successors. It's still a subject of debate how much that worm was able to slow down Iran's program, but it was nonetheless an act of aggression (and the first salvo in the incoming cyber-war).

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-22T16:14:15.750Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

it's highly probable that it was his administration which greenlighted Stuxnet and its successors.

Stuxnet was developed and launched under Bush. Obama just continued with the program (that is, if the three-letter agencies even bothered to tell him).

comment by MrMind · 2015-09-23T07:05:46.786Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, that's weird. Yesterday I would have sweared to have read in Wikipedia that Stuxnet was developed in 2010. Now in the Stuxnet page it's written "under Bush administration". I guess my sources were incorrect.

comment by Sherincall · 2015-09-26T13:14:21.890Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

FYI: There was indeed a 30 minute period on 2015-09-21 where it said " during the administration of George W. Bush and Barrack Obama", you're not crazy. Though 2010 is the year it was discovered, the development is assumed to have been as early as 2005, it never said "developed in 2010"

comment by MrMind · 2015-09-28T07:16:13.946Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you, both for the precision and for confirming my sanity!

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-09-26T19:08:25.092Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Democrats (and parties of the left) are since they're more likely to favor policies which reduce the threat of climate change

Bush did manage to get North Korea nuclear under his tenure by not engaging in dialog with the North Korean leadership the way the late administration of Clinton did.

The actual record of his actions matters more than an intention to go to war to stop nuclear weapons.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-09-26T19:03:54.153Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

climate change (a tail end existential risk

What kind of scenario are you thinking of when you argue that climate change is an existential risk? How do you think it might kill all or even 90% of the population?

Democrats (and parties of the left) are since they're more likely to favor policies which reduce the threat of climate change

While the Obama administration did a few symbolic actions for climate change it didn't move significantly on the issue. I don't think there good reason to assume that things would be different under another Clinton.

Nixon went to China and the Obama administration waged it's war against whistleblowers. There might be more political room for a Republican government to make substantial action on climate change than for a Democrat government.

comment by Torgo · 2015-10-01T11:38:23.973Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Some Climatologists, such as James Hanson, believe that a runaway greenhouse effect large enough to potentially distinguish all life on earth is possible Obviously this is not a likely extinction event, but I believe it is still worth considerable resources to reduce its probability.

While little has been done legislatively to combat climate change, the Obama administration is pursuing regulatory action through the EPA to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that will make the construction of new coal fire power plants very difficult.

Additionally, the administration has benefited alternative energy industries through subsidies (in large part through the initial stimulus). Some Republicans do support such subsidies, so admittedly the difference between parties isn't as stark on this point (though this may change with increasing polarization as described below).

Additionally polarization on climate change has increased in recent years. It's less and less likely that a Republican president would pursue policy aimed at substantially reducing green house gasses. They might also appoint a supreme court member who would rule against the regulations the EPA is attempting to implement now.

I don't think that the party who holds the presidency is the most important factor in whether we reduce carbon emissions, but it likely contributes.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-10-02T15:23:52.837Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

While little has been done legislatively to combat climate change, the Obama administration is pursuing regulatory action through the EPA to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that will make the construction of new coal fire power plants very difficult.

The question is not whether they are persuing action but whether they are engaging in action that has a significant effect given the scale of the problem.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-10-01T15:05:00.466Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Obviously this is not a likely extinction event, but I believe it is still worth considerable resources to reduce its probability.

The second part of that sentence oh so does not follow from the first part.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-10-01T16:12:54.557Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's very hard to say without quantifying "likely" and "considerable". One could say the same about most extinction events, for certain definitions of those two words.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-10-01T16:23:52.960Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I find mood affiliation to be a much more convincing explanation than convoluted definitions of "not likely" and "considerable".

comment by [deleted] · 2015-10-01T16:40:50.809Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Convincing explanation for what? I thought we were discussing whether or not it was worth spending resources to prevent global extinction from global warming... which is more of a question than an explanation.

How is putting a numerical amount to "not likely" and "considerable" convuluted. That's the basis of any decision probelm.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-10-01T16:46:15.924Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Convincing explanation for what?

For Torgo's belief. He didn't ask a question, he stated his belief upfront.

comment by tut · 2015-10-02T09:41:08.054Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's why they are separated by the word "but". If I were to say "it rained yesterday, but today it looks like it will be sunny", would you object that "sun today doesn't follow from rain yesterday"?

comment by Torgo · 2015-10-02T00:38:57.184Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I believe we should be spending resources to avoid many unlikely existential risks, even those I believe are less likely to be existential risks than climate change (eg. tracking asteroids).

comment by username2 · 2015-09-27T18:14:08.589Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Methane bursts

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-09-27T18:18:09.125Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Could you specify how human caused climate change would lead to such a result?

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-09-21T18:18:08.973Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I would say generally Democrats, since the evangelicals are mostly Republicans and I somehow doubt that they could think clearly about AGI, instead getting stuck in arguments about "AGI is impossible, because it wouldn't have a soul".

However, there is more to the Republicans than religion, and this criticism wouldn't apply to a business-focused Republican.

The right-wing would argue that immigration is a destabilizing force, and there are rationalists who believe that most of western society is likely to collapse within 50 years, perhaps to the point of a new dark age, analogous to the dark age after the fall of the Roman empire. I think this is rather paranoid, but given Aumann's agreement theorem its worrying.

Generally, its too early for any policies to impact existential risk directly, except for preventing nuclear war, and so in general it is best to just pursue good government.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-21T15:20:04.045Z · score: 2 (14 votes) · LW · GW

which of the two major political parties in the US (and left wing vs. right wing parties more generally) people think is most likely to reduce existential risk.


comment by username2 · 2015-09-21T18:42:46.284Z · score: 6 (14 votes) · LW · GW

This is signalling and not an actual attempt to answer.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-21T19:23:23.925Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Two more ways of saying the same thing:

  • The success of a particular mainstream political party in the US is not a variable that noticeably affects existential risk. None of the parties would do much anything to reduce the existential risk.

  • Mu

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-09-22T12:12:58.657Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Would any of them tend to increase existential risk more than the others?

comment by gjm · 2015-09-22T15:58:25.911Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Surely not if

[t]the success of a particular mainstream political party in the US is not a variable that noticeably affects existential risk.

comment by MrMind · 2015-09-22T08:00:45.745Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't seen "mu" in a while and I find it to be often one of the most useful answers. Upvoted.

comment by drethelin · 2015-09-21T19:07:25.881Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The correct answer is: If you care about existential risk you should not pay any attention to politics.

comment by username2 · 2015-09-21T19:23:08.680Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

A lot of attempts to avert existential risks will require a lot of resources and no company or charity have as much resources as US government and US military (or governments of other large countries).

comment by drethelin · 2015-09-21T23:39:01.275Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but political campaigning is not how the government pays attention to existential risks. Whether a Democrat or a Republican is in the oval office has little bearing on whether NORAD is getting re-purposed to track asteroids.

comment by Panorama · 2015-09-25T15:28:28.252Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How Soylent and Oculus Could Fix The Prison System

here’s one way we could rebuild the prison system:

Step 1: Soylent

Step 2: Oculus Rift

Step 3: Health and hygiene

Step 4: A simulation that rewards good behavior

Step 5: Administration


Prisoners have cellmates and gym time and free time in the prison yard because solitary confinement makes you go nuts. You need human contact if you don’t want to pop out of prison a crazy person. The problem is these places are where all the violence happens.

However, you could take the fear factor out of prisons by simply making all socialization happen through virtual reality. Bonus, you could deliver rich education through VR as well.

Virtual reality headsets are so good now (and getting better) that they can make your brain feel like you’re actually somewhere else. I get the same feeling in the pit of my stomach when I’m standing on a cliff in virtual reality as I do when I’m experiencing heights IRL.

By equipping every inmate with an Oculus Rift headset in his or her own cell, you could isolate prisoners from violence without isolating them from people. Put all the prisoners inside Second Life, Prison Edition, give them all a headset, and let them build virtual characters. You could design an awesome system for rehabilitation, give access to e-learning tools, Kindle books, Minecraft and other digital tools for creativity (prison is boring), psychologist sessions (the psychologist could log in remotely from anywhere in the world), and even handle all correspondence and prison visits from relatives and friends electronically.

What this eliminates: prison yards, prison libraries, packages and letters secretly containing drugs or shanks.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-25T15:32:16.661Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

LOL. You don't often see proposals that far removed from reality.

comment by gjm · 2015-09-25T16:23:27.857Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Your comment could mean "obviously this wouldn't work" or "obviously this is politically infeasible" or even "I find it convenient to be vaguely derisive at you for some reason". Would you care to be more specific?

(I think it is fairly obviously politically infeasible and probably wouldn't work; my objection to what you wrote isn't that I think it's terribly wrong.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-25T16:28:18.262Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

All of the above :-) It would neither work, nor is politically feasible. I am vaguely derisive because one doesn't spend too much time disproving claims that a rainbow-producing perpetuum mobile strapped to a unicorn will convert the entire world into a happy place.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-09-26T07:33:20.158Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'll bet you 10$ that within 5 years there will be a test for virtual reality in prisons, and that it will have some statistically significant positive effects.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-09-27T19:51:45.430Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know about Lumifer, but I'd certainly be willing to take that bet.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-28T15:36:18.996Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

a test for virtual reality in prisons

I am not sure what that means.

In any case the my point is a bit different. I am rather amazed at the suggestion that locking someone up in a solitary cell so that she sees no human beings, not even a patch of sky or a blade of grass for her entire sentence can be compensated by a pair of VR goggles.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-09-28T16:18:03.749Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I mean, right now, no. But that's not really the point the post is trying to make (I think). The point is that in 50 years when VR has gone through the adoption curve and become ubiquitous, when as many people are on a metaverse as are one facebook, when haptics are mainstream and computing power has improved enough that we can render near photoreal experiences, then maybe, a proposal like the one in the post will be feasible.

The point of my bet (which, after reflection, was probably overconfident), is that there are dozens of steps to the future above, and that just because the end results seems unimaginable, it's not hard to imagine other, smaller things that are likely, and which when added up will lead to the unimaginable future of the post.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-28T16:31:09.620Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

that's not really the point the post is trying to make

I think the OP wasn't trying to make a point. I think he is afraid of prisons (and specifically afraid of prison rape), so he decided to design a prison system which he, personally, would find tolerable. The only solution to his fears that he found was full isolation -- and the rest follows from there.

then maybe, a proposal like the one in the post will be feasible.

None of what you list will make this proposal feasible.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-09-28T16:44:53.520Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

None of what you list will make this proposal feasible.

This seems non-obvious to me (obviously, otherwise I wouldn't have said it).

What's needed to make the proposal feasible is that VR is seen as a plausible substitue for in-person interaction, and that the cost of VR for every prisoner is less than the cost of the correspending physical actions. All of what I mentioned in the post goes towards those two things.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-28T16:51:05.542Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

VR is seen as a plausible substitue for in-person interaction

Not "seen", but "is". Do you think photorealistic VR can be a full and complete substitute for human interaction? Is it a problem that can be solved by pushing more pixels through the goggles?

Don't forget that your prison population isn't particularly smart, tends to have mental health issues, and you would like them to adequately function in the real world after release.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-09-28T16:53:05.169Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not "seen", but "is"

Why? All that it takes for policy change is perception, not reality.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-28T16:53:57.336Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What do you mean?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-09-28T16:56:40.205Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I mean, if a buerecrat thinks that VR is as good as normal social interaction for prisoners, and they think that it's cheaper, and they think that they'll get public support for this, they'll implement it as a policy. It doesn't matter whether VR is actually as good as normal social interaction, only the perception of it.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-28T17:01:12.206Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So are you arguing that it's a good idea, or are you just arguing that this passes the very low threshold of being an idea that some idiot will try once?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-09-28T17:04:29.898Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The latter.

The former I wouldn't rule out, but we don't really have enough data on VR's psychological effects right now to know either way.

comment by gjm · 2015-09-25T18:49:44.531Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Come now, it's not that bad. I mean, it might be politically possible to get it done at least as a small experimental project, and it might at least achieve some of the things it says it would. Admittedly, I wouldn't be much more optimistic than that about it.

(It was not I who downvoted you.)

comment by Gram_Stone · 2015-09-25T21:41:28.079Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This isn't far off from how Nordic prisons work. And they have amazing crime statistics.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-25T23:23:02.039Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This isn't far off from how Nordic prisons work.

This is VERY far from Nordic prisons.

For example, note that the proposal puts everyone into permanent solitary confinement and assumes that playing a MMORG in VR glasses is sufficient to satisfy all needs for human interaction.

comment by Gram_Stone · 2015-09-25T23:38:09.021Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Given this:

I am vaguely derisive because one doesn't spend too much time disproving claims that a rainbow-producing perpetuum mobile strapped to a unicorn will convert the entire world into a happy place

it seemed like you were scoffing at not punishing prisoners as opposed to scoffing at the VR; that's what I was addressing.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-25T23:39:47.958Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was scoffing at the OP's map being hilariously far away from territory -- in more than one aspect.

comment by Gram_Stone · 2015-09-26T00:27:28.358Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That seems unnecessarily cryptic. Are you really a retributive justice kind of guy? Do you really think punishment is the way to go? How do you fit the Nordic example into your map?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-26T00:38:52.734Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I did not intend to be cryptic and I don't see what any of that has to do with punishment. The proposal is funny stoopid not because it picks a particular approach to incarceration -- but because it makes assumptions that are very far away from reality.

It's like attempting to deal with poverty in Africa by air-dropping an iPad for everyone and going "now that they are plugged into the global information economy, they would rapidly lift themselves to the first-world level".

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-09-25T19:34:39.519Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It would be hilarious if it weren't serious.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-25T20:30:54.545Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The best lulz are produced by very very serious people :-D

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-25T14:18:18.048Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

All y'all should like this.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-09-24T20:34:41.108Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Brave New World, Chapter 17:

ART, SCIENCE–you seem to have paid a fairly high price for your happiness," said the Savage, when they were alone. "Anything else?"

"Well, religion, of course," replied the Controller. "There used to be something called God–before the Nine Years' War. But I was forgetting; you know all about God, I suppose."

"Well …" The Savage hesitated. He would have liked to say something about solitude, about night, about the mesa lying pale under the moon, about the precipice, the plunge into shadowy darkness, about death. He would have liked to speak; but there were no words. Not even in Shakespeare.

The Controller, meanwhile, had crossed to the other side of the room and was unlocking a large safe set into the wall between the bookshelves. The heavy door swung open. Rummaging in the darkness within, "It's a subject," he said, "that has always had a great interest for me." He pulled out a thick black volume. "You've never read this, for example."

The Savage took it. "The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments," he read aloud from the title-page. "Nor this." It was a small book and had lost its cover.

"The Imitation of Christ."

"Nor this." He handed out another volume.

"The Varieties of Religious Experience. By William James."

"And I've got plenty more," Mustapha Mond continued, resuming his seat. "A whole collection of pornographic old books. God in the safe and Ford on the shelves." He pointed with a laugh to his avowed library–to the shelves of books, the rack full of reading-machine bobbins and sound-track rolls.

"But if you know about God, why don't you tell them?" asked the Savage indignantly. "Why don't you give them these books about God?"

"For the same reason as we don't give them Othello: they're old; they're about God hundreds of years ago. Not about God now."

"But God doesn't change."

"Men do, though."

"What difference does that make?"

"All the difference in the world," said Mustapha Mond. He got up again and walked to the safe. "There was a man called Cardinal Newman," he said. "A cardinal," he exclaimed parenthetically, "was a kind of Arch-Community-Songster."

"'I Pandulph, of fair Milan, cardinal.' I've read about them in Shakespeare."

"Of course you have. Well, as I was saying, there was a man called Cardinal Newman. Ah, here's the book." He pulled it out. "And while I'm about it I'll take this one too. It's by a man called Maine de Biran. He was a philosopher, if you know what that was."

"A man who dreams of fewer things than there are in heaven and earth," said the Savage promptly.

"Quite so. I'll read you one of the things he did dream of in a moment. Meanwhile, listen to what this old Arch-Community-Songster said." He opened the book at the place marked by a slip of paper and began to read. "'We are not our own any more than what we possess is our own. We did not make ourselves, we cannot be supreme over ourselves. We are not our own masters. We are God's property. Is it not our happiness thus to view the matter? Is it any happiness or any comfort, to consider that we are our own? It may be thought so by the young and prosperous. These may think it a great thing to have everything, as they suppose, their own way–to depend on no one–to have to think of nothing out of sight, to be without the irksomeness of continual acknowledgment, continual prayer, continual reference of what they do to the will of another. But as time goes on, they, as all men, will find that independence was not made for man–that it is an unnatural state–will do for a while, but will not carry us on safely to the end …'" Mustapha Mond paused, put down the first book and, picking up the other, turned over the pages. "Take this, for example," he said, and in his deep voice once more began to read: "'A man grows old; he feels in himself that radical sense of weakness, of listlessness, of discomfort, which accompanies the advance of age; and, feeling thus, imagines himself merely sick, lulling his fears with the notion that this distressing condition is due to some particular cause, from which, as from an illness, he hopes to recover. Vain imaginings! That sickness is old age; and a horrible disease it is. They say that it is the fear of death and of what comes after death that makes men turn to religion as they advance in years. But my own experience has given me the conviction that, quite apart from any such terrors or imaginings, the religious sentiment tends to develop as we grow older; to develop because, as the passions grow calm, as the fancy and sensibilities are less excited and less excitable, our reason becomes less troubled in its working, less obscured by the images, desires and distractions, in which it used to be absorbed; whereupon God emerges as from behind a cloud; our soul feels, sees, turns towards the source of all light; turns naturally and inevitably; for now that all that gave to the world of sensations its life and charms has begun to leak away from us, now that phenomenal existence is no more bolstered up by impressions from within or from without, we feel the need to lean on something that abides, something that will never play us false–a reality, an absolute and everlasting truth. Yes, we inevitably turn to God; for this religious sentiment is of its nature so pure, so delightful to the soul that experiences it, that it makes up to us for all our other losses.'" Mustapha Mond shut the book and leaned back in his chair. "One of the numerous things in heaven and earth that these philosophers didn't dream about was this" (he waved his hand), "us, the modern world. 'You can only be independent of God while you've got youth and prosperity; independence won't take you safely to the end.' Well, we've now got youth and prosperity right up to the end. What follows? Evidently, that we can be independent of God. 'The religious sentiment will compensate us for all our losses.' But there aren't any losses for us to compensate; religious sentiment is superfluous. And why should we go hunting for a substitute for youthful desires, when youthful desires never fail? A substitute for distractions, when we go on enjoying all the old fooleries to the very last? What need have we of repose when our minds and bodies continue to delight in activity? of consolation, when we have soma? of something immovable, when there is the social order?"

"Then you think there is no God?"

"No, I think there quite probably is one."

"Then why? …"

Mustapha Mond checked him. "But he manifests himself in different ways to different men. In premodern times he manifested himself as the being that's described in these books. Now …"

"How does he manifest himself now?" asked the Savage.

"Well, he manifests himself as an absence; as though he weren't there at all."

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-09-21T16:42:34.316Z · score: -2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I forgot to add to the post below another source of my science-fictional view of sexual relationships: Robert Ettinger's nonfiction book Man Into Superman, which I read at the impressionable age of 14 in 1974. Scroll down to page 68, "Transsex and Supersex":

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-09-24T18:09:59.882Z · score: -3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I have a casual interest in religious conversion as an empirical psychological phenomenon. The philosopher William James makes the case for studying religious experience empirically in one of his books published over a century ago - The Varieties of Religious Experience - so the idea has circulated for quite a while.

I think we might have an example of an internet figure undergoing an Augustinian sort of spiritual crisis documented online, namely the pickup artist Roosh Valizadeh. Roosh has posted and said lately that he doesn't enjoy his sexual conquests as much as he used to. Just the other day he posted "Junk Food Sex," where he recounts his reaction to one his Polish pickups:

Early in the summer I met a Polish girl on a weekend night. I convinced her to have a drink with me in a different bar and then two hours later I invited her back to my place. We had sex all night long. I had four orgasms with her, and each one felt immensely pleasurable, but the following day I had a weird feeling, almost as if I did something wrong. I ignored this feeling and contacted her again one week later. She returned to my apartment, and during the sex act I felt powerful bodily satisfaction. While I was laying my strokes inside her, I savored the fact that I could sleep with a girl 13 years younger than myself, but after my orgasm completed, and our bodies remained still, the same negative feeling came forth within me.

Now, this sounds familiar if you have read autobiographical accounts of religious conversions, like the ones quoted in James's study. And especially if you have read Augustine's Confessions, where Augustine after having several sexual relationships in his youth, famously prays, "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet," because he feels the conflict between his waning sexual desires and his growing "spiritual" yearnings in his middle age.

If Roosh does "go Augustine" on us after his youth of debauchery, I will find that fascinating to observe.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-24T18:16:44.122Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Are there any indications that Roosh is interested in religion or high-end spirituality? If anything, I'd expect him to go not Augustine, but Ecclesiastes.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-09-25T16:06:52.275Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Roosh has posted essays about the classical literature he has read and thought about, which shows an openness to a philosophical view of life. That can overlap with spiritual thinking to some extent.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-09-26T18:47:39.366Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Reading books is a quite different activity than seeking spirtual experience.

comment by bogus · 2015-09-24T22:04:50.381Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Roosh has posted and said lately that he doesn't enjoy his sexual conquests as much as he used to

Yup, that's pretty normal. People tend to pursue casual flings out of a desire for sheer novelty, and plenty of them start pursuing longer-term goals after that desire is fulfilled. This is one reason why the widespread fear that casual sex might "ruin" folks and deprive them of any enjoyment of long-term relationships is almost certainly misguided.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-09-25T16:13:00.693Z · score: -3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Actually we have empirical evidence that women's premarital sexual adventures damage their ability to form stable marriages:

When our allegedly unenlightened ancestors shamed sluts, shunned bastard kids and married their daughters off as young virgins, it turns out that they knew their business after all.

BTW, I find it curious that at least some of us consider paleonutrition a guide towards a modern healthy diet, but then turn around and call paleocognition bad names like "cognitive biases."

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-25T16:34:27.369Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

we have empirical evidence

No, we have only some correlations where obvious third factors (e.g. IQ) are involved. If you want to take this approach, just being black strongly "damages ... ability to form stable marriages".

It seems that "correlation != causation" hasn't been repeated enough X-/

P.S. Not to mention that "stable marriages" doesn't look like a terminal goal to me. If that's all you want, just forbid divorce.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-09-28T23:16:21.482Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No, we have only some correlations where obvious third factors (e.g. IQ) are involved. If you want to take this approach, just being black strongly "damages ... ability to form stable marriages".

There's evidence for that as well, but notice that ~60 years ago blacks were much better at forming stable marriages than today.

If that's all you want, just forbid divorce.

And it used to be forbidden, or at least much harder. Once widespread premarital sex started undermining marriage, pressure was exerted that made divorce no longer forbidden.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-28T23:48:33.185Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

And it used to be forbidden

Yep. I have no wish to go back to those times.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-09-29T00:04:19.246Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yep. I have no wish to go back to those times.

Any particular reason? General belief that all change is progress and hence good? A dislike of stable marriages?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-29T00:11:17.161Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Any particular reason?

I'm a very big fan of freedom defined as "ability to make meaningful choices".

Specifically with respect to divorce, I think that its absence makes for stable marriages where two people hate each other. Sometimes loudly and violently, sometimes subtly and poisonously.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-10-06T02:59:18.439Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm a very big fan of freedom defined as "ability to make meaningful choices".

Even if those choices ultimately lead to less freedom as society is forced to deal with the resulting mess?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-10-06T17:31:15.596Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am also a big fan of NOT black-and-white worlds.

"Ultimately lead to less freedom" -- how do you know that? Can you show me some probability distribution of outcomes? How certain are you of it? What is the probability that you are making a sign error?

At the moment all I see is mood affiliation.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-10-12T21:11:31.373Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Ultimately lead to less freedom" -- how do you know that?

Broken homes means the government winds up having to resolve issues that should have been dealt with in-family, e.g., now the government must decide a lot more child custody disputes. Not to mention that children growing up in broken homes are likely to wind up on welfare and other government assistance.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-10-12T23:40:11.807Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I am entirely unconvinced.

children growing up in broken homes are likely to wind up on welfare and other government assistance.

Is that true for normal-IQ reasonably financially successful (former) families? I don't think so.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-10-18T21:32:26.617Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What do you consider "normal"-IQ and "reasonably" financially successful? Yes, high IQ and wealth can mitigate the problems of growing up in a broken home. However, putting most below-average IQ people on welfare is no something that is compatible with maintaining a high-freedom state.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-10-19T15:41:53.962Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This slo-mo poking isn't terribly exciting. Do you have a position you want to take, maybe quote some facts in its support? It's not like this discussion will affect real-life policies, so can we at least make it a bit more interesting?

comment by gjm · 2015-09-25T16:20:27.615Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"were doing something that, according to some evidence, has one positive consequence" is not the same as "knew their business".

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-09-24T04:15:33.352Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Richard Spencer interviews Roger Devlin, author of Sexual Utopia in Power:

comment by MrMind · 2015-09-25T09:56:02.903Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I admit that I've tried to dig up why that site should matter on LW and came up empty handed. Like a gruesome car crash, from which you cannot avert your eyes, I've discovered these pearls:

"Racism is a wonderful institution that should be rejuvenated and inculcated in schools."
"Nothing is as damning to productivity as a visit from Rosie Palms and her five lovely sisters."
"Women generally either lack, or fail to develop, that ability [to think abstractly], so they don't think about right and wrong in the way men do." (guess who said this)

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-09-28T23:05:35.618Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"Racism is a wonderful institution that should be rejuvenated and inculcated in schools."

Yes, having beliefs that correspond to reality and understanding Baysian priors and that it's not immoral to apply them to people should be more widely known.

comment by MrMind · 2015-09-29T07:23:02.747Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's interesting. 'Racism' in my mind is a set of beliefs that is all but corresponded to reality. Which are the ones that comprise your definition?
Also 'apply them to people' hides some complexity: do you consider any decisions that comes from a prior on people to be moral?

comment by entirelyuseless · 2015-09-29T13:22:48.552Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, many decisions that come from a prior on people are moral. For example, if you see someone charging you with a knife, it is moral to evade, based on the prior that many people charging you with a knife are going to harm you.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-09-29T07:58:32.191Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Which are the ones that comprise your definition?

For example: blacks have lower IQ and a higher propensity to commit crimes than whites. Furthermore, there is good reason to believe that the cause of the difference is genetic.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-10-06T15:14:01.941Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You'd need to compare populations of similar social status, income, and education for the difference to be meaningful.

comment by gwern · 2015-10-06T15:50:19.617Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No, you wouldn't, because intelligence is causally driving outcomes of social status, income, and education. (Think about what it would mean to compare two populations with different genetic potential but who still somehow wind up with identical income & education...) Like the fallacy of controlling for intermediate variables, controlling for outcomes is controlling away the effect. It would be like running a drug trial in which you controlled for deaths.

If you are, for some improbable reason, deeply concerned that your genetic correlates are some sort of very subtle population stratification that your PCA missed, you can check using a within-family design, which by construction keeps many variables constant without illicitly controlling for outcome variables; and we already know that the IQ hits survive this test because Rietveld et al 2013 checked the original hits ("The polygenic score remains associated with educational attainment and cognitive function in within-family analyses (table S25)"), "Polygenic Influence on Educational Attainment: New Evidence From the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health" Domingue et al 2015 replicated it in the USA, and the still-upcoming SSGAC paper also finds no residual confounding.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-10-06T16:15:10.879Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How do you handle a scenario where the causal arrow goes both ways, i.e. intelligence drives employability and wealth, while nutrition and prenatal care drive intelligence?

comment by gwern · 2015-10-06T19:34:25.137Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You might handle it with a longitudinal SEM or causal net since you have time separating effects (parental intelligence comes before wealth which comes before nutrition/prenatal-care which comes before childrens' intelligence); but for that specific case, nutrition & prenatal care are already largely ruled out as causally relevant since they fall under 'shared environment', which for IQ in the West is very low.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-09-24T18:10:38.749Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

While I agree with very little of it, I got at least one thing from listening to it-- a better understanding of the people who are revolted by claims of victimhood. There's a lot of "Women say they are victims, but men are the victimiest victims!".

I would love to see more of "there are a lot of predatory people and social structures that make predation easier, but it doesn't shake out in simple ways by group." I'm going to have to look for that sort of thing somewhere else.

It's possible that the meek will inherit the earth in the sense that those who are most susceptible to superstimuli and status-seeking will be bred out, and people who settle for moderately attractive mates, avoid all-consuming activities, and raise children will have a large reproductive advantage. It won't be the meekest of the meek, either-- they're the ones who give up because they aren't winning at the superstimuli games.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-09-21T14:13:53.601Z · score: -5 (27 votes) · LW · GW

To me sexual relationships have always had this weirdly science-fictional aspect about them. During my teenage years in the 1970's, I read science fiction novels which depicted sexual situations - notably Brave New World and Stranger in a Strange Land, along with novels like Asimov's The Gods Themselves and Clarke's Imperial Earth. I also saw the science fiction film Logan’s Run when it came out in theaters, with its depiction of a sexual utopia, including a hooking up technology which combines features of Tinder and Star Trek-like transporters.

Like it does for most teenage boys, to me sex sounded like an incredibly cool thing to try to experience as soon as possible, especially given how the novels I read and how at least one movie I saw portrayed it in "futuristic" settings. But because I had no access to sexual opportunities at the time, I had to postpone sex to some indefinite date in the future. Sex for me eventually turned into a vague science-fictional aspiration like, oh, visiting Mars or something.

Science fiction writers tend to know their readership – mainly nerdy boys like me who don’t attract girls – so I wonder if some of them portray sex as an implicitly futuristic experience on purpose. I ran across an example a couple years ago in A. Bertram Chandler’s novel, The Road to the Rim, originally published in 1967. I could have read this novel as a teen, I suppose, but it escaped my notice at the time. Chandler in this work introduces a recurring character named John Grimes, an interstellar explorer whom I have seen described as “Horatio Hornblower in space.” Baen has recently republished all of Chandler’s Grimes novels in several omnibus editions.

Anyway, the first novel shows Grimes as a young recruit into the Federation Survey Service going on his first interstellar voyage. The plot involves another officer on the starship named Jane Pentecost. The following happens between these two characters:

Suddenly she bent down to kiss him. It was intended to be no more than a light brushing of the lips, but Grimes was suddenly aware, with his entire body, of the closeness of her, of the warmth and the scent of her, and almost without volition his arms went around her, drawing her closer still to him. She tried to break away, but it was only a halfhearted effort. . .

Somehow the buttons of her uniform shirt had come undone, and her nipples were taut against Grimes’ bare chest. Somehow her shorts had been peeled away from her hips – unzippered by whom? and how? – and somehow Grimes’ own garments were no longer the last barrier between them.

He was familiar enough with female nudity; he was one of the great majority who frequented the naked beaches in preference to those upon which bathing costumes were compulsory. He knew what a naked woman looked like – but this was different. It was not the first time that he had kissed a woman – but it was the first time that he had kissed, and been kissed by, an unclothed one. It was the first time that he had been alone with one.

What was happening he had read about often enough – and, like most young men, he had seen his share of pornographic films. But this was different. This was happening to him.

And for the first time.

Keep in mind that Chandler published this in 1967. I find it interesting that Chandler postulated in his imaginary future that porn would become plentiful and socially acceptable – a shrewd prophecy on his part, given the emergence and pervasiveness of internet porn in the early 21st Century. This passage shows a kind of male adolescent fantasy-fulfillment, and I think Chandler wrote it that way deliberately to appeal to the young nerds he knew would read this novel.

If I had read this story back as a teenager, it would have fit into the pattern of the other science fiction I read in those years about sex as a “futuristic” experience, and not as a real, ordinary possibility in the here-and-now, grounded in biological reality. I might have thought that if I couldn’t have my “first time” with my unrequited high school crush Shelley Conrad in the back seat of my parents’ Ford Maverick, I would have to wait until I became a space colonist in my 20’s, or later, where I would meet some Jane Pentecost-like woman on a space ship or orbital colony who would obligingly initiate me into an adult sex life.

Forty years later, my Jane Pentecost and I still haven’t crossed paths that I know of.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-09-21T20:14:30.264Z · score: 29 (37 votes) · LW · GW

... Do you ever talk about anything else other than your lack of sexual success? Alright, granted – I saw a few posts from you on cryonics. What would it take to steer you towards posting more of that and less of this? It's largely off-topic for LW, off-putting as well, and irrelevant to anyone who is not you. I get that it's something that concerns you deeply, but seriously, try getting advice on that one on a specialised forum.

comment by bogus · 2015-09-21T15:06:59.826Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Well, science fiction itself is futuristic and sex is a popular topic. It's not clear that futuristic portrayals of sex in SF need to be explained, any more than futuristic portrayals of eating/food, travel, politics or society.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-09-22T13:28:15.520Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Or portrayals of sex in historical fiction, epic fantasy, classical mythology, spy novels...

It is interesting, though, to note that while this is true, humans are very complicated creatures insufficiently specified by our genes and are readily able to tie sex mentally with all kinds of things given the proper circumstances.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2015-09-21T21:24:18.497Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I see that your being an incel bothers you greatly. If its any consolation, there are asexuals who think they are better off being asexual, because they don't have the heartbreak which comes with romantic relationships inevitably going wrong. Some people choose celibacy, and achieve great things because they have more free time. Many people say that masturbation feels almost as good, or even better, than sex, and sex is only better with a strong emotional connection, which as perviously mentioned, leads to heartbreak. Finally, if cryonics and transhumanism works out, then in our billion-year lifespans, sooner or later you are bound to get laid. So maybe things aren't that bad?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-09-21T16:25:30.060Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly of interest: Among Others-- a fantasy version of the author's life. Among other things, she was an sf fan during the 70s, and got some of her ideas about sex from science fiction.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-09-26T18:52:44.202Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Science fiction writers tend to know their readership – mainly nerdy boys like me who don’t attract girls

What percentage of readers of Sci-Fi do you believe to never had sex?

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-09-28T23:01:17.594Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Seriously, if you want to get more sex, you are better off going to PUA/neomasculinity sites and following their advise than constantly whining about it. One thing girls find extremely unsexy is whining, especially whining about not being able to get sex.